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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

EDITORIAL 17.08.11

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Editorial

Month August 17, edition 000813, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

For ENGLISH  EDITORIAL  http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

 

THE PIONEER

  1. DEMOCRACY MAULED
  2. CHINA STEALS A MARCH
  3. SAM BAHADUR IS BHARAT'S RATNA - ASHOK K MEHTA
  4. COMMUNIST CHINA IS CHANGING - B RAMAN
  5. AFTER ARAB SPRING, IT'S ENGLISH SPRING - GWYNNE DYER
  6. AFTER ARAB SPRING, IT'S ENGLISH SPRING - GWYNNE DYER
  7. EVERYBODY AT NOTW KNEW WHAT TABLOID WAS UP TO

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. WRONGFUL ARREST
  2. CESS POOL
  3. THE IMPORTANCE OF NOT BEING EARNEST - SRIJANA MITRA DAS
  4. 'RIOTING CAN'T GO BEYOND TWO HOURS WITHOUT POLICE CONNIVANCE'
  5. STATE VS ANNA - JUG SURAIYA
  6. POLITICS OF SLANDER

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. TEAM ANNA: 1 GOVERNMENT: 0
  2. IT DOESN'T REALLY NATTER
  3. NO PLACE IN THE SUN - SUMIT MITRA
  4. LIGHT UP YOUR DREAMS - ASHOK ASHTA

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. NO MIDDLE GROUND?
  2. GOOGLEMOTO
  3. SOME MORE VIGILANCE - PAUL ZACHARIA
  4. CIVIL OBEDIENCE - JAITHIRTH RAO
  5. THE BLIND SPOTS OF INDIA SHINING - VINAY SITAPATI
  6. BACKPACKING ENVOY - C. RAJA MOHAN  
  7. FALLING OUT OF THE SKY, INTO THE RED - SMITA AGGARWAL
  8. CAPITALISM COMBAT - MANOJCG

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. PARE THOSE EARNINGS NOW
  2. ANOTHER GOOGLE(Y) FROM GOOGLE - ANDREW ROSS SORKIN
  3. OF POROUS PORTS AND UNMANNED RAILS - DARLINGTON JOSE HECTOR

THE HINDU

  1. U.N. SAYS AID TO SOMALIA WON'T DECREASE DUE TO FRAUD
  2. CORRUPT, REPRESSIVE AND STUPID
  3. LAST CHANCE FOR AIR INDIA
  4. SAUDI ARABIA WAKES UP TO ITS HERITAGE - JASON BURKE
  5. A STRATEGY TO COMBAT ISLAMIC TERRORISM IN INDIA - SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY
  6. SOARING FOOD PRICES INTENSIFYING AFRICA CRISIS - SUZANNE GOLDENBERG
  7. CLASSICAL MOVES IN KIEV – VLADIMIR RADYUHIN

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. PM ADDRESSES NATION
  2. STATE CELEBRATES
  3. ARE 'WE' A NATION AT LOSS? - BY DHEERAJ JANDIAL
  4. DEMOCRACY AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE - BY RAHUL SHARMA
  5. TAPPING THE HUGE POTENTIAL OF FOOD PROCESSING SECTOR  - BY RAKESH KACKER

THE TRIBUNE

  1. THE ESCALATING STANDOFF
  2. PAIN OF THE RAIN-HIT
  3. INDIAN CRICKET DETHRONED
  4. MISGOVERNANCE IN INDIA, PAK - BY KULDIP NAYAR
  5. 'EK CHHOTI SI' LOVE STORY - BY JUPINDERJIT SINGH
  6. NO SINGLE STEP CAN ERADICATE CORRUPTION: PM

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. ANOTHER EMPTY CAMPAIGN PROMISE

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. STEAM ANNA
  2. SUGAR, SUGAR
  3. WHERE IS THE G20? - SHYAM SARAN
  4. RAHUL GANDHI VS NITISH KUMAR IN 2014? - SUBIR ROY
  5. PROPERTY RIGHTS RIDDLES - M J ANTONY
  6. IS THE BPL CENSUS CORRECTLY STRUCTURED?

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. SHOW YOUR HAND
  2. GOOGLE'S GREAT LEAP
  3. CRICKETING MODELS
  4. WHEN GOVERNMENTS CAN'T PRINT MONEY
  5. ARE INDIA'S EXPORTS REAL?
  6. ANNA: FROM TRIUMPH TO FOLLY  - C L MANOJ

BUSINESS LINE

  1. A HOBSON'S CHOICE
  2. RATE HIKES SANS COMFORT
  3. ENGAGE MORE WITH SRI LANKA - M. RAMESH
  4. CHINESE CURBS DENT METAL NEEDS - ARPITA ASHA KHANNA
  5. GAAPS IN INDIAN REGULATION - K.V. KURMANATH
  6. CHALLENGES BEFORE FOREIGN SERVICE - BHASKAR BALAKRISHNAN

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. TIGHT SECURITY THE ANSWER, NOT ARRESTS
  2. DEMOCRACY ARRESTED
  3. DON'T BAN AARAKSHAN, IT'S JUST UPPER CASTE
  4. HOW GREEN IS OUR ECONOMY?

THE STATESMAN

  1. COWARDLY PANIC
  2. ON THE BACKFOOT
  3. UNCERTAIN NEPAL
  4. ETERNAL DIVIDES - BY SAYANTANI JAFA
  5. REALITY AS IT IS  
  6. RESPONDING TO AMERICAN INSULTS
  7. TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN?

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. PRIME TALK
  2. MUSICAL CHAIRS
  3. MAKE PEACE, NOT WAR  - K.P. NAYAR
  4. WITHOUT A MARK  - STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

DECCAN HERALD

  1. AUTHORITARIAN ACT
  2. UNFAIR DELAYS
  3. JUDICIAL RESTRAINT  - RAJINDAR SACHAR

OHERALDO

  1. WANTED: FREEDOM FIGHTERS IN GOA'S VILLAGES
  2. SUPPORT THE INDIAN CRICKET TEAM

 HAARETZ

  1. NETANYAHU NOT SERIOUS ABOUT SOCIOECONOMIC CHANGE
  2. THE DEATH OF THE JINGLE  - BY YITZHAK LAOR
  3. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS RUSSIANS IN ISRAEL - BY MAYA ZINSHTEIN
  4. THE TIME HAS COME FOR SQUATTING  - BY SHARON LUZON
  5. U.S. IMPOTENT IN FACE OF MIDDLE EAST EVENTS - BY ZVI BAR'EL

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. HIS ANGER IS A START
  2. FIGHT FOR A JOBS AGENDA
  3. A FARM AROUND THE CORNER
  4. SWISS BANKS, AIDING AND ABETTING
  5. NEW FARMERS FIND THEIR FOOTING - BY MARK BITTMAN

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. 2012 PRESIDENTIAL RACE GETTING CLEARER
  2. GAS PRICES AN ECONOMIC SILVER LINING
  3. UNCIVIL 'CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION'

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. A CRITICAL SECURITY MEETING IN ANKARA
  2. TRANSFORMING TURKEY…
  3. LIVING HAPPILY, AND TURKISHLY, EVER AFTER
  4. EGYPT'S 'AKP' ON ITS WAY?
  5. FAMINE AND NEO-COLONIALISM IN SOMALIA
  6. STOP DITHERING IN IRAQ - H.D.S. GREENWAY
  7. CHARTER OPTIMISM CAN BE HIT BY SYRIA QUAGMIRE
  8. 167 DAYS IN JAIL AWAITING AN INDICTMENT

THE NEWS

  1. PAYMENT AND PERFORMANCE
  2. AGAINST CORRUPTION
  3. GONGS GALORE
  4. INVICTUS, MICHAEL JACKSON AND THE INDEPENDENCE SPIRIT  -  MOHAMMAD MALICK
  5. BASKET CASE  -  CHRIS CORK
  6. CHANGE IS COMING  -  IJAZUL HAQ
  7. WHY AZAD KASHMIR LAGS  - ZULFIQAR ABBASI
  8. RAMAZAN'S LOST CHANCE FOR AN AFGHAN TRUCE  -  DR MALEEHA LODHI
  9. SINNING AGAINST SINDH  - TANVIR AHMAD KHAN

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE US CONDITIONALITIES
  2. BELATED BUT GOOD NEWS ABOUT DAMS
  3. DEGRADATION OF OUR VALUES
  4. US BLUNDERS IN AFGHANISTAN - ASIF HAROON RAJA
  5. LESSONS FROM AFGHAN WAR - SAJJAD SHAUKAT
  6. ANIMAL RIGHTS IN ISLAM — 16 - SIRAJUDDIN AZIZ
  7. IGNORANCE IS NOT A BLISS - YAHYA AHMAD
  8. WHAT IS NOT BLAMED FOR BRITAIN RIOTS? - JONATHAN FREEDLAND

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. RESTORING PRIDE AND ORDER IN A DEMORALISED SOCIETY
  2. NO SURPRISES IN DIRECT ACTION
  3. A CHILLING CLIMATE ON FOI

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. SAVING LIVES IN HOSPITALS
  2. PARLIAMENT FACES TEST OF POLITICAL PRIORITIES

THE GUARDIAN

  1. ENGLAND RIOTS: THE NEED TO KNOW
  2. PHONE HACKING: ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
  3. IN PRAISE OF… CESC FÁBREGAS 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

DEMOCRACY MAULED

CONGRESS DENIES ANNA RIGHT TO PROTEST


The Government has grievously erred by arresting Anna Hazare and senior members of his team in order to prevent them from protesting against the official version of the Lok Pal Bill which they insist is inadequate to combat corruption. Irrespective of the Government's views on the alternative Bill proposed by Anna Hazare, it cannot prevent legitimate protest so long as it is peaceful and orderly. Nor can it defend its indefensible action of arresting Anna Hazare early Tuesday and sending him to Tihar Jail (and offering to release him late evening provided he agreed to a set of tough conditions which he has refused to accept) by citing lawlessness during the course of the protest because the civil society leader was yet to sit on his proposed dharna. Preventive detention may be legally tenable in situations where authority expects outbreak of widespread violence; its application in this case is entirely unacceptable because there was nothing to indicate that Anna Hazare's protest fast would result in such disorder or pose a challenge to the police. Indeed, the sequence of events of the past week clearly indicates that the Government was determined not to allow Anna Hazare and his followers to stage their protest in Delhi.


That this amounted to denying them their right to dissent does not appear to have bothered either the Prime Minister or his Home Minister, to whom Delhi Police reports, while they went about plotting their strategy to thwart the civil society protest. It is shameful that the Government, more so the Congress, did not view this to be in conflict with the basic principles of our democracy — or, for that matter, democracies anywhere in the world — which guarantee the citizen's right to protest. The Government's callous response and cynical deed is not only reflective of the contempt with which the Congress views democracy and treats the democratic rights of the people of this country, it is also a measure of the party's arrogance when in power. The uncouth manner in which senior leaders and official spokespersons of the party have heaped calumny on Anna Hazare and deliberately sought to defame him leave little to the imagination as to how far the Congress can go and how low it can stoop to snuff out dissenting voices and trample upon fundamental rights. Tuesday's crackdown has served to revive memories of Mrs Indira Gandhi's Emergency; it has also underscored the fact that at heart Congress leaders remain unreformed. This is not how Governments function in democracies; this is how authoritarian regimes impose their writ.


The Government's claim that Delhi Police acted according to guidelines set by the Supreme Court is nothing but unadulterated bunkum. Delhi witnesses mass protests every few days; rarely if ever have the police been seen strictly enforcing the Supreme Court's guidelines. Anna Hazare should have been allowed to sit on dharna, his followers should have been allowed to join him. It is the job of the police to facilitate such protests while ensuring law and order is maintained. This is the second time the police have failed in this task and acted in consonance with the unethical orders of their political bosses: Baba Ramdev's protest at Ramlila Maidan was brutally disrupted; Anna Hazare was disallowed to stage his protest. It is no coincidence that on both occasions the purpose of the protest was to force the Government to act against corruption in high places.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

CHINA STEALS A MARCH

VARYAG ADDS MUSCLE TO ITS POWERFUL NAVY


When the USSR's last naval commission, an aircraft carrier called Varyag, was left incomplete and abandoned in 1992, it marked the collapse of a global superpower which then disintegrated into 15 satellite states. Today, a refurbished Varyag which has just completed its first set of trial runs and is now owned by China undoubtedly stands as the sign of an emerging global superpower. On August 10, when Varyag set sail from China's north-eastern port city of Dalian for its first trial run, it forced the world, or at least its military experts, to take notice not only of the state-of-the-art aircraft carrier but put the spotlight once again on China's growing naval might and expansionist tendencies fuelled by a tremendous surge of nationalism. As Beijing strives to put up a show of power while consistently strengthening its own military prowess, particularly its command over contentious waters of the region and the Indian Ocean, the presence of the gargantuan 300-metre-long Chinese aircraft carrier fits perfectly into the larger picture of an emerging superpower. Expectedly many of China's neighbours have found the aircraft carrier to be rather intimidating and in conflict with their own national interests. For example, many in the region believe that China may use the warship to assert its territorial supremacy over South China Sea which is believed to be rich in oil and natural gas deposits.

The Philippines and Vietnam have especially not taken very kindly to what they perceive to be Chinese bullying. Yet, the fact remains that the 26-year-old hull cannot possibly be a huge military threat at least in the immediate future. It will take at least another five years for Varyag to be operational and even then it will possibly be used only for training purposes as the Chinese still have no experience with this kind of a warship.

Meanwhile, as China prepares to unveil its new warship on its next Army Day, India is still awaiting its own aircraft carrier that should have been commissioned by now. Back in 2004, India had signed a $947 million deal with Russia to refurbish its Admiral Gorshkov and convert it into a full carrier which was to be re-named INS Vikramaditya. The ship was to have been delivered by end-2008 and put into service by 2009, just in time for its predecessor, INS Viraat, to retire. But the planned schedule was too good to be true. In 2009, INS Viraat was refitted and now there are reports that it will be in service till 2020 by which time it would have served for more than double its estimated lifetime; hopefully at least by then Admiral Gorshkov, which is now not expected until 2012, and India's indigenously built escort carrier (scheduled for 2015) will be both be in use. Sadly, these delays have placed us behind China once again.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

SAM BAHADUR IS BHARAT'S RATNA

ASHOK K MEHTA


It's time for Government to make up with Sam Manekshaw by posthumously awarding him the Bharat Ratna. Sachin Tendulkar should propose his name.

Around Independence Day each year, military heroes are remembered mainly due to the prodding by the media (one news channel did a special show, remembering the armed forces). Grudgingly the Government commemorates Vijay Diwas and only the Army celebrates the victory in Kargil, one of the most difficult and self-disadvantaged Infantry battles won by our soldiers. Yet warriors are forgotten quickly.

Cricketers on the other hand, are adulated 24x7, making cricket the de facto national sport and its players the idols of the country. Government Ministers, officials and others yearn to be associated with the game and its heroes as it brings fame, money and power. Cricket has been besmirched with corruption and market forces have overwhelmed the game. A young first time politician and potential Foreign Minister became its first hit-wicket casualty.

The disproportionate time and space provided to cricket has disoriented the priorities of the nation to the detriment of other sports and activities. One name that has gained folklore status is Sachin Tendulkar who is chasing his hundredth hundred. A campaign to make him a Bharat Ratna has been launched prematurely before other more deserving cases are recognised. The stunning series defeat of the Indian Test team in England should bring them down to earth. It's time to rethink cricket.

The nation and Government have been particularly ungrateful to soldier and gentleman Sam Manekshaw who conferred on the country, in 1971, its first military victory in more than a thousand years. While Sam was made Field Marshal in 1973, he was sent home unceremoniously. Defence Minister Jagjivan Ram, with whom he had differences, ordered that no one would go to see off the special train taking Sam and his wife Silloo to Coonoor in the Nilgiris.

The civil service had done the first Field Marshal of India a signal dishonour by placing him number 12 in the Warrant of Precedence, clubbed with the Chiefs of Staff holding the rank of full General or equivalent rank. At the very least, he ought to have been above the Cabinet Secretary, if not in Block 11 with Ministers of State.

But this slight was deliberate. His pension was fixed at Rs 1,200 and a measly Rs 400 allowance was given for being Field Marshal. When terminally ill at Wellington Military Hospital, Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt went to cheer him with his arrears of enhanced pension amounting to about Rs 1 crore. Typically Sam, he looked at the cheque and told Mr Dutt: "I hope the cheque won't bounce."

The biggest ignominy was reserved when the Field Marshal died. At the funeral ceremony the Government was not adequately represented. Nor were the Services, the slip-up being attributed to "confusion in Warrant of Precedence". The Ministry of Defence failed to put out an obituary matching the contribution of Sam Manekshaw: Winning decisively a war and creating a new country, Bangladesh.

Mrs Indira Gandhi was fond of Sam and went out of her way at least twice to get him elevated to Chief of Defence Staff. But the nexus between civil bureaucracy and the IAF killed the proposal on both occasions. She then tried to get him as Member (Defence) in the Planning Commission, but this appointment did not take off. In 1978, the then Prime Minister, Morarji Desai, called on Sam to head the Sports Authority of India but nothing came of it.

The Government's loss was the corporate world's gain. He was invited to become a member of the boards of a dozen companies across India and a director of several others. Being a member of the Oberoi Group, he had his chosen room in all Oberoi hotels as well as, courtesy the Army, a vintage car in Kolkata complete with five stars, the Field Marshal's flag and driver Yum Bahadur. His intense association with the Gurkhas earned him the legendary title of Sam Bahadur and a lifetime's passion for them.

Sam's lectures on leadership and man-management were unrivalled. In one, he talked about chronic shortages, power cuts, corruption, bribery, smuggling and said: "People ask me why is this happening. The answer is: Lack of leadership, not just political but administrative, in industry… everywhere." He enumerated his famous nine attributes of leadership to which he added: "He must have manly qualities" (at another place he had said, "He must be a bit of a lad").

At another lecture he said: "A lot has changed in the 60 years since I joined the Army, including the English language. When in my days someone said that Captain Manekshaw was gay, he meant that he laughed and joked. If an officer was queer, it meant he would rather read Milton than join his friends for a hunt. And General Officers were the only ones who had Aides."

The military, which still commands the top slots in probity, integrity, dedication and continues to put its life on the block, feels it has been unfairly marginalised. Civil servants have ensured the post-retirement exclusion of valuable military expertise, even in appointments dealing with defence and national security. Why is it that National Security Advisers and their deputies are only from the police, foreign and administrative services ? In the US 80 per cent of these appointments are held by serving or retired Armed Forces officers. The need for CDS was felt in 1972. We are still dodging the inevitable.

Sam Manekshaw told cadets at a passing out parade at the Military Academy in Dehradun shortly before he died at the ripe young age of 95: "In war, there are no runners-up and the nation has no room for losers. If you are defeated, and should you come back, you would be a disgrace to the nation. Even your gharwali (wife) will despise you," he growled.

You can be thrashed in a cricket series and sulk. The scars of defeat in war do not heal easily. The country carries a collective guilt for the self-inflicted national shame of 1962. Victor China has maintained its psychological domination and fear till this day.

Soon after taking over the ill-fated 4 Corps in Tezpur after the Chinese drubbing. Lt-Gen Sam Manekshaw told his staff: "I have arrived. There will be no withdrawals." He went on to lead the Army to a resounding victory in 1971. It's time for the Government to make up with Sam Bahadur by posthumously awarding him the Bharat Ratna 'in recognition of public service of the highest order'. Sachin Tendulkar should propose his name.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

COMMUNIST CHINA IS CHANGING

B RAMAN


China has shown a new style of political management by responding positively to public demands. After netizens disseminated information on the possible threats and dangers of a toxic spill at the Fuija chemical plant in Dalian in north-east China, popular demonstrations were organised in the port city. Instead of suppressing the protests, local authorities accepted the people's demand

Recent events in the port city of Dalian in north-east China, where public protests forced the local Government to accept a demand for closing down a chemical plant following an accident and for re-locating it elsewhere, show a new style of political management. This new style is marked by sensitivity to public opinion and a willingness to respond to reasonable public pressure instead of trying to suppress it as used to be done in the past.

The plant produces paraxylene, a petrochemical used for the production of polyester film and fabrics. Last week, huge waves caused by a storm breached a dike built to protect the plant from floodwaters. Residents were concerned that a flood could damage the plant and cause it to release toxic chemicals.

Details of the breach and the dangers that could be posed to the environment of the city and the lives of its residents by any damage to the plant were disseminated by many netizens through Weibo, a Chinese microblog service similar to the Twitter. This led to a large number of residents — about 12,000 according to one estimate — demonstrating on the streets and outside the local municipal office on August 14, demanding that the plant should be immediately shut down and re-located elsewhere.

Instead of seeking to suppress the demonstration as they would have normally done, the local authorities accepted the public demand for shutting down the plant to prevent any damage and eventually re-locating it elsewhere. Initially, the authorities did try to prevent the dissemination of the information about the breach and the call for demonstrations through Weibo, but subsequently gave up the attempt.

In a refreshing departure from past practices, the Government-controlled Xinhua news agency itself disseminated details of the breach and the demonstrations in an apparent attempt to prevent the circulation of exaggerated rumours. There was a greater transparency in the coverage of the incident and the public demonstrations and a greater willingness on the part of the authorities to accept the reasonableness of the public expression of concern and to respond to it.

Commenting on the way the local authorities dealt with the incident, the Party-controlled Global Times wrote as follows on August 15:

"The Dalian incident indicates social progress, as it shows the public has more opportunities to be heard. In Dalian, their opinion was treated with respect. But it is worth mentioning that while there are more channels for individuals and groups to express their opinions, it is essential that a distinction be made for rational opinion. There should also be channels for other voices to prevent a single opinion from being regarded as the mainstream.

"The incident showed that the demands of the public are taken seriously by the Chinese Government. The pace of information disclosure and releasing of the official statement may not have been quick enough, but the adjustments that the Government made were swift. Both the public and the Government have begun adapting both their language and actions to a more democratic time.

"It should not be simply seen as a victory of a 'protest'. In fact, in China, reasonable public appeals will eventually be accepted by the Government. New technological tools, such as Weibo, have strengthened communication between the public and the Government. Protest, as a means of expressing opinions, will not likely become the main way Chinese people will make their voices heard.

"China's reform is being advanced by various minor incidents, and this reform has, in turn, created more room for understanding and tolerance.

"What the Dalian incident has shown is China's adaptability and problem-solving capability, not the risk that it may flounder over an emergency."

In a report on the increasing role of microblogs in mobilising public opinion in China disseminated on August 14, the Xinhua said:

"A decade ago, the most favoured medium for Chinese people to air their complaints was perhaps through the state-owned China Central Television network.

"However, the Internet has superseded television as the most popular means for the airing of discontent, with microblogs leading the charge.

"Microblogs came to prominence in China just two years ago, but have exploded in popularity. Sina Weibo, one of the country's most popular microblog providers, has allowed the country's citizens to supervise — and criticize — China's Government in ways that were never thought possible before.

"In comparison to microblogs, traditional media entities face technical and systematic restrictions in their efforts to observe and supervise the Government. The Internet and its vast number of microbloggers are now able to make up for this deficiency, according to Zhan Jiang, a professor of journalism at the Beijing Foreign Studies University.

"Microblogs make it easy for people to speak their thoughts in real-time, essentially making their public voices louder, according to Professor Zhan.

"Sina Weibo was launched in August 2009. Since then, it has attracted more than 140 million registered users, with the number expected to exceed 200 million by the end of this year, according to the company.

"Microblogging services enjoyed 'explosive growth' in the first six months of this year, with the number of registered microblog users surging by 208.9 per cent to reach 195 million, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

"A 2010 report quoted by the Beijing-based newspaper International Herald Leader said that more than one-fifth of the 50 most-discussed public events in 2010 were first reported on by microbloggers.

"Traditional media outlets have blind spots in performing their role as 'society's watchdog'. However, microblogs have allowed ordinary citizens to fill in these gaps.

"The general offices of the State Council, or China's Cabinet, and the Communist Party of China Central Committee have issued a circular stating that information on major emergencies and items of public concern, such as Government efforts and the results of official investigations, should be released to the public in an 'objective and timely manner'.

"The People's Daily, the CPC's flagship newspaper, has urged officials to answer questions from Internet users in a timely and accurate fashion and to brush up on their online communication skills in a recent article titled 'How to Speak in the Microblog Era'.

"The article encouraged officials to address public concerns through online platforms and not to shy away from answering thorny questions. Online performance reflects an official's all-around capability."

While adapting themselves to the role of netizens as watchdogs and supervisors of the performance of the Government, the Chinese authorities have at the same time noted with concern the role played by social media networks in facilitating anti-Government mobilisation in Egypt and in helping those who violated law and order during the recent riots in the UK in exchanging information with each other in matters such as the deployment of the police.

The fear that the mushrooming of the netizen community and the emergence of a new wired civil society may result in a dilution of the control of the Communist Party and its leadership role and lead to political destabilisation is palpable. How to use the microblogs in the interest of public welfare and better governance without letting them become detrimental to political stability and public order is a question that has been engaging the attention of the authorities. They still do not have a satisfactory answer to this.

Political and social activism by netizens is slowly changing China in ways unanticipated even a couple of years ago and could pave the way for a greater democracy through the Net instead of through the ballot box.

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

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THE PIONEER

OPED

AFTER ARAB SPRING, IT'S ENGLISH SPRING

GWYNNE DYER


The outbreak of rioting and looting in Britain has been construed as a response by the underprivileged Black youth in Britain. But the real issue is the despair of the underclass that led to the insurrection of the deprived masses

I don't call it rioting, I call it an insurrection of the masses of the people. It is happening in Syria, it is happening in Clapham, it's happening in Liverpool, it's happening in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and that is the nature of the historical moment," said Darcus Howe, a black British journalist, in an interview with BBC television on Tuesday. The revolution has finally arrived: After the "Arab Spring", here comes the "English Spring".

And the revolution is going to spread. There's apparently a "Trinidadian Spring" too (although it's also possible that Howe only mentioned Port-of-Spain because he grew up in Trinidad). Whatever. In any case, the English Spring is certainly an earth-shaking event.

With London in flames, thousands dead, and the British Government trembling before a full-scale insurrection of the masses, the collapse of the entire capitalist order is only moments away. As the Tunisian revolution led to the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt and then to a non-violent revolutionary movement in Syria, so the overthrow of the British Government will quickly lead to the destruction of the US Government and the Chinese Communist regime.

Wait a moment! This just in! London isn't in flames after all. Some dozens of buildings have been burned in various residential parts of London, but none in the centre. Apart from the original demonstration outside a police station in the London suburb of Tottenham by relatives of a suspected drug dealer who was shot by police on Sunday, it's opportunistic looters who have been out on the streets, not political protesters.

In the inner London district of Camden Town, for example, the social media on Monday night were full with rumours of local landmarks in flames. However, Tuesday morning revealed that a few phone shops in the high street had been looted overnight, and an iconic (but rather grubby) rock venue called the Electric Ballroom had been vandalised. Nothing else to report.

We in the media love stories of death and destruction, but it turns out that there aren't thousands of dead either. As of Wednesday, there had been only five deaths that might be linked to the turmoil: Three people killed in Birmingham by a speeding car probably driven by looters, one man found shot dead in a car in London for unexplained reasons, and the drug dealer, Mark Duggan, whose death at the hands of the police unleashed these events.

There are certainly questions to be answered about Duggan's killing (it appears that the gun he was carrying was never fired), and further questions to be asked about the way that the police dealt with his family afterwards. The demonstration outside Tottenham police station was genuinely political, and there are plausible claims that the police response was excessive.

But after that, everything changed. On the second night, there was no rioting, in the sense of demonstrations with a political motive or goal. There was just looting, as disaffected youths from the under-class seized the opportunity to acquire a little property from the rest of the population and damage a lot more. They feel that they have been abandoned by the society, and they are right.

Every post-industrial society has a large and growing minority of permanently unemployed or under-employed people who would once have grown up into the good working-class jobs that no longer exist. They are present in significant numbers in Britain and in France, in the United States and in Russia, even in Japan. It's those bored and angry youths who are looting in England now.

Some people want to impose an ethnic explanation on this phenomenon. They try to define the looting and violence as a response by underprivileged black youths in Britain (or by underprivileged Muslim youth in the 2005 and 2007 riots in France). But the truth is that rioting and looting have always been equal-opportunity activities in both countries.

In the past 30 years of sporadic rioting and looting in England, every outbreak has included a large, probably majority participation by young whites from the under-class. The same was true of France in 2005 and 2007, where the young "Muslim" rioters were quite happy to be accompanied by their white and Asian friends from the same tower blocks.

For complex cultural reasons, the looters in England are disproportionately Afro-Caribbean youths, but it is not a particularly racist society. Afro-Caribbeans come last in school performance in England, but the children of immigrants from Africa come first. Fifty per cent of second-generation Afro-Caribbeans in England end up in inter-racial relationships — but often in relationships with people of the white under-class. No escape there.

The real issue here is class — or to be more precise, the despair of the under-class. Less brutal and insulting behaviour towards the under-class by the police in normal times would reduce the level of resentment and the frequency of rioting and looting, but it wouldn't stop it.

So there will probably be at least a few days' more looting in England, until the under-class youths in every city and neighbourhood have had a chance to vent their anger and fill their pockets. And then it will stop. For a while.

--Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.

 

 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

AFTER ARAB SPRING, IT'S ENGLISH SPRING

GWYNNE DYER


The outbreak of rioting and looting in Britain has been construed as a response by the underprivileged Black youth in Britain. But the real issue is the despair of the underclass that led to the insurrection of the deprived masses

I don't call it rioting, I call it an insurrection of the masses of the people. It is happening in Syria, it is happening in Clapham, it's happening in Liverpool, it's happening in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and that is the nature of the historical moment," said Darcus Howe, a black British journalist, in an interview with BBC television on Tuesday. The revolution has finally arrived: After the "Arab Spring", here comes the "English Spring".

And the revolution is going to spread. There's apparently a "Trinidadian Spring" too (although it's also possible that Howe only mentioned Port-of-Spain because he grew up in Trinidad). Whatever. In any case, the English Spring is certainly an earth-shaking event.

With London in flames, thousands dead, and the British Government trembling before a full-scale insurrection of the masses, the collapse of the entire capitalist order is only moments away. As the Tunisian revolution led to the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt and then to a non-violent revolutionary movement in Syria, so the overthrow of the British Government will quickly lead to the destruction of the US Government and the Chinese Communist regime.

Wait a moment! This just in! London isn't in flames after all. Some dozens of buildings have been burned in various residential parts of London, but none in the centre. Apart from the original demonstration outside a police station in the London suburb of Tottenham by relatives of a suspected drug dealer who was shot by police on Sunday, it's opportunistic looters who have been out on the streets, not political protesters.

In the inner London district of Camden Town, for example, the social media on Monday night were full with rumours of local landmarks in flames. However, Tuesday morning revealed that a few phone shops in the high street had been looted overnight, and an iconic (but rather grubby) rock venue called the Electric Ballroom had been vandalised. Nothing else to report.

We in the media love stories of death and destruction, but it turns out that there aren't thousands of dead either. As of Wednesday, there had been only five deaths that might be linked to the turmoil: Three people killed in Birmingham by a speeding car probably driven by looters, one man found shot dead in a car in London for unexplained reasons, and the drug dealer, Mark Duggan, whose death at the hands of the police unleashed these events.

There are certainly questions to be answered about Duggan's killing (it appears that the gun he was carrying was never fired), and further questions to be asked about the way that the police dealt with his family afterwards. The demonstration outside Tottenham police station was genuinely political, and there are plausible claims that the police response was excessive.

But after that, everything changed. On the second night, there was no rioting, in the sense of demonstrations with a political motive or goal. There was just looting, as disaffected youths from the under-class seized the opportunity to acquire a little property from the rest of the population and damage a lot more. They feel that they have been abandoned by the society, and they are right.
Every post-industrial society has a large and growing minority of permanently unemployed or under-employed people who would once have grown up into the good working-class jobs that no longer exist. They are present in significant numbers in Britain and in France, in the United States and in Russia, even in Japan. It's those bored and angry youths who are looting in England now.

Some people want to impose an ethnic explanation on this phenomenon. They try to define the looting and violence as a response by underprivileged black youths in Britain (or by underprivileged Muslim youth in the 2005 and 2007 riots in France). But the truth is that rioting and looting have always been equal-opportunity activities in both countries.

In the past 30 years of sporadic rioting and looting in England, every outbreak has included a large, probably majority participation by young whites from the under-class. The same was true of France in 2005 and 2007, where the young "Muslim" rioters were quite happy to be accompanied by their white and Asian friends from the same tower blocks.

For complex cultural reasons, the looters in England are disproportionately Afro-Caribbean youths, but it is not a particularly racist society. Afro-Caribbeans come last in school performance in England, but the children of immigrants from Africa come first. Fifty per cent of second-generation Afro-Caribbeans in England end up in inter-racial relationships — but often in relationships with people of the white under-class. No escape there.

The real issue here is class — or to be more precise, the despair of the under-class. Less brutal and insulting behaviour towards the under-class by the police in normal times would reduce the level of resentment and the frequency of rioting and looting, but it wouldn't stop it.

So there will probably be at least a few days' more looting in England, until the under-class youths in every city and neighbourhood have had a chance to vent their anger and fill their pockets. And then it will stop. For a while.

--Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

EVERYBODY AT NOTW KNEW WHAT TABLOID WAS UP TO


A convicted phone hacker from the UK tabloid has claimed that paper's leadership knew of the illegal eavesdropping, write Jill Lawless & Raphael G Satter

Convicted phone hacker Clive Goodman warned more than four years ago that illegal eavesdropping was widely used at the News of the World and its senior journalists had approved the practice, according to a letter published by British lawmakers on Tuesday.

Clive Goodman claims in the letter addressed to the human resource director at the Sunday newspaper's parent company that phone hacking was carried out with "the full knowledge and support" of the paper's leadership.

The claim is particularly damning because both News of the World and parent company News International have long insisted that Clive Goodman — who was fired, convicted and jailed for his role in the scandal — was the only reporter involved in intercepting voicemail messages.

Clive Goodman's letter, addressed to Daniel Cloke and dated March 2, 2007, directly contradicts that.

Clive Goodman said he was acting with the backing of senior journalists, that other staff at the News of the World were also hacking phones, and that "this practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the editor."

The names of those involved have been obscured in the letter. The Guardian newspaper, which first published the correspondence, said this was done by police, who are investigating wrongdoing at the newspaper.

The letter is among a batch of documents published by the House of Commons' culture, media and sport committee.

Ahead of the publication, members committee said they were likely to recall James Murdoch to answer more questions about phone hacking at the News of the World. James Murdoch, who runs the European division of his father Rupert Murdoch's media empire, testified last month that he was unaware of evidence of widespread phone hacking at the newspaper. His testimony was disputed two days later by former News of the World editor Colin Myler and ex-company lawyer Tom Crone.

Members of the Culture, Media and Sport committee said they have not managed to reconcile the contradictions between those statements. Committee Chief John Whittingdale said it "may wish to put further questions to James Murdoch."

He also said Colin Myler and Tom Crone would give evidence to the lawmakers next month. Committee member Tom Watson said, "it is likely we will take Murdoch back."

"There seems to be a question as to whether James Murdoch himself misled the committee," Tom Watson said. "We have not reached a conclusion on that."

Whittingdale said there are no plans to recall Rupert Murdoch, who gave evidence to the committee alongside his son on July 19.

Police are investigating claims the News of the World illegally accessed cell phone messages and bribed police to get information on celebrities, politicians and crime victims.

News International said on Tuesday it is "cooperating fully" with the police investigation. "We recognise the seriousness of materials disclosed to the police and Parliament and are committed to working in a constructive and open way with all the relevant authorities," it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp shut down the 168-year-old newspaper last month.

--AP

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

WRONGFUL ARREST

 

In arresting Gandhian social activist Anna Hazare even before he started his second protest fast for a strong Lokpal Bill, the UPA government has isolated itself. Having been denied permission for the protest in the national capital, Hazare had made it clear that he was willing to defy the prohibition orders and court arrest. By arresting him and his aides under preventive detention rules, the government has not only played into the hands of the civil society activists but also irked the common man, disgusted with perceived government apathy towards widespread graft.

Whether the government likes it or not the arrest of an elderly activist who takes Mahatma Gandhi as his model and has appropriated many of the symbols of nationalism, preceded by barely credible attacks on his probity, is going to play badly. Given the public mood, it is little surprise that the action against Hazare and his supporters - more than 1,000 people were detained - is being construed as an attack on civil liberties. Protests by political parties are far uglier in comparison to the ones planned or executed by Hazare. Further, the Congress left no stone unturned to criticise the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh for cracking down on a farmers' protest led by its leader. Yet, Hazare and his aides are deemed a threat to law and order. The failure to understand popular sentiment will cost considerable goodwill to the government.

While aspects of Hazare's Jan Lokpal draft are problematic - it would create an all-powerful ombudsman akin to a supercop - the government has done itself no favours by introducing in Parliament a toothless Lokpal Bill. Had the latter used its parleys with the Hazare group to produce a strong legislation with adequate safeguards, it would have taken the wind out of the sails of the civil society movement. But the government's version, while conferring immunity on most people within the administration, leaves whistleblowers exposed and vulnerable. In its present form, it will do very little in terms of addressing the systemic weaknesses that make graft a cause for concern.

The opposition parties also deserve their share of blame for failing to properly debate the Lokpal issue in Parliament. They have reduced it to the issue of whether the prime minister should fall within the jurisdiction of the proposed ombudsman, when the common man is more concerned with day-to-day corruption. With the government now stonewalling meaningful action against graft and muzzling those questioning its sincerity, it rightly stands accused of high-handedness and moral bankruptcy. ***************************************


THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

CESS POOL

 

After an education cess of 3% on income tax, another one is on the anvil if the Planning Commission has its way - a 1% health cess. It's all for a noble cause, we are told - the levy will provide free healthcare to every citizen in the country. But the very premise of collecting more and more cesses and surcharges is questionable. What does the government collect normal tax revenues from citizens for, if not providing for public welfare? And shouldn't any definition of public welfare include the provision of such basic public goods as education and health? If those funds are being misspent or otherwise not reaching their intended beneficiaries, what's the guarantee the same won't happen to additional cesses and surcharges imposed by the government?

It's not that India doesn't spend sufficiently on public welfare programmes. For instance, the
public distribution system (PDS) alone swallows up 1% of the country's GDP. Nevertheless millions go hungry in the country, because the PDS - like most other welfare programmes - is predicated on inputs (how much is spent on a particular programme) rather than outputs (what is the net welfare effect per rupee spent). In sharp contrast to the government's readiness to keep imposing cesses and surcharges on the hapless taxpayer who's already struggling with inflation, there is hardly any discourse about plugging leakages, targeting of welfare schemes, or curbing unproductive expenditures. It's noteworthy how seldom Indian political parties take up public causes such as education and health, when those are staples of political discussion in other countries. In the circums-tances cesses and surcharges - even if imposed in the name of improving education and health - are simply a deceptive move to hike taxation by the back door.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 THE IMPORTANCE OF NOT BEING EARNEST

SRIJANA MITRA DAS

 

With a twist and shake, he broke novel ground in Hindi cinema. Shammi Kapoor's movies were completely unlike what preceded or followed them. Stepping away from the ponderous themes of patriotism, politics and pathos, Shammi unleashed onto cinema screens the sheer joy of India as a vibrant teenager - excited, optimistic, up for fun. No one did it better.

Shammi shared space with a range of contemporary heroes. In headily political times, with the Nehruvian state expanding as forces of tradition - landlords, princes, patriarchs, priests - tried holding their own, each hero personified a particular kind of ideology, a leaning that translated into broadly corresponding film characters. Shammi's elder brother, Raj Kapoor, was typically the angst-ridden wanderer, an awara with a hard-luck story and blue-eyed charm, ill treated, then redeemed by the Nehruvian state.
Dev Anand brought a happier face to the Nehruvian persona, playing fleet-footed characters knee-deep in mystery, modernity and mischief.

Eschewing modernity,
Rajendra Kumar was an old-fashioned 'tragedy king' drawn from bards' tales and folklore, whose films framed three hours of perfect sorrow, expressed in shrieking shehnais, teary eyes and tragic accidents twisting lives out of shape. Dilip Kumar was a silken-voiced thespian around whose heavy talent epics had to be spun, extending from the splendour of Mughal India to the griminess of rural India, cowering before dacoits and moneylenders alike, finding respite in just a little jig by the waterfall.

Against this, Shammi's movies were an entirely new breeze blowing in from the four corners of the world. They carried to India the sexiness of Hollywood, the pulsations of pop, the verve of Italian fashion, the poutiness of French love-making. Dhotis, kurtas, guns and speeches went out of the window. Shammi shook the rafters with his gags and stormed the dance floor, sax in his mouth, babe by his side, shimmying and shaking before sophisticates in a nightclub seated at tables glimmering with cocktails.

But despite its blazing cabarets, skin-tight kameezes and bathtubs of foam, this was no world of moral decadence. Shammi's films were a triumph of innocence; a universe where grown-ups pulled tricks on each other, picnicked incessantly, sang of love on wobbling boats and faced parents quivering with rage in scarlet dressing gowns. Everyone cried for a mandatory minute before a car chase took over and all was righted. Despite the rock and roll, there was little question of shaking the established order - Shammi's films only lightly, smilingly, suggested how much fun it would be if everyone chilled out a little.

In this frame, serious politics took a decided backseat. Despite embracing international culture in the form of Elvis, sunglasses, trousers and travel, Shammi kept his films free of overt politics, whether that of modernity or tradition. He personified the quirkiest combination of the 'swinging sixties' in India - the joyful energy of youth without its intense debates or demonstrations. Its liveliness was instead bounded to the inside of a disco, the openness of a convertible car, the tantalising dilemma over whether to kiss or not on top of the Eiffel Tower. No more.

But this was no less. Shammi's films were amazingly progressive in their treatment of gender and class. His screen dynamics with his leading ladies were a leap ahead of the times. Each of his heroines had a strong persona, given space to express annoyance at the 'junglee' following her, raise eyebrows with cold elegance as he sang from 'teesri manzils', plan elaborate - often heavily sexual - ruses on him, 'rajkumar' or not. Few preceding or successive heroes shared such confident spaces with their heroines. Shammi did and the gamble paid off, his films achieving sparkling balances between banter, chemistry and a deep - and equal - love. There were no despairing Devdases here, no brooding Shehzada Salims, no courtesans battered by social norms. Like him, Shammi's leading ladies symbolised youthful progress. Like him, they made light of obstructions, treating them as delightful challenges to overcome, not weep over.

Intriguingly, Shammi's characters weren't always ramrod straight. He often played protagonists performing vivid impersonations. Think
Kashmir Ki Kali, Bluff Master, Prince, Professor et al. Shammi frequently played a character taking on the disguise of the diametrically other; patrician to peasant, employer to servant, youth to geriatric, even male to female. In this way, his films presented a strange, colourful and exciting world located somewhere between Vyasa and Wilde, Wodehouse and vaudeville. Characters interchanged identities, fell in love, fell out, swallowed their differences and united - while having a whole lot of fun along the way.

In his own manner, thus, Shammi too was political. He took differences of class and creed in his hands and crumpled them up into a paper ball, making light of such pettiness under the clear skies of modern India. With a jazzy step and a smile on his face, he threw the ball high up in the air, to where few could see it anymore - and all with a great yahoo. Shammi taught a delighted nation that it was possible to be political without anger or angst. It was possible to not be earnest - and still be deadly serious. It was possible to say it with a song, not a speech. Few others made that point quite as wonderfully.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                                        Q&A

'RIOTING CAN'T GO BEYOND TWO HOURS WITHOUT POLICE CONNIVANCE'

 

R B Sreekumar , former superintendent of police in Gujarat, was the first policeman to challenge Narendra Modi's government over the 2002 riots. His promotion withheld in 2005, dismissal proceedings starting instead, Sreekumar took the administration to court. He spoke to Humra Quraishi:


You were the first IPS officer who spoke about the Modi administration's role in the 2002 riots. Why did you do so?

I was additional DGP (intelligence) of Gujarat from April to September 2002. I'd been reporting the sangh parivar's and Modi government's role in that carnage. My reports to the government were submitted in four affidavits of 600 pages whilst i was still in service. Later, i submitted two more affidavits. I did so in keeping with my duty as a civil servant and my oath to uphold the Constitution of India.

Did you realise there'd be consequences?

Expectedly, i was superseded in February 2005. The Modi government served me a nine-point chargesheet with the aim of dismissing me from the service. Though the
Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) quashed all charges against me, and the Gujarat high court upheld CAT's order, the Modi government appealed against that. Till date, the case is pending in the high court. Even after my retirement, i'm not free from agony.

You continue living in Gandhinagar. Is that risky?

I decided to stay on to help the riot victims. My affidavits constitute core evidence for litigations filed by victims, including Ehsan Jaffri's widow Zakia, against the government. On the NHRC's direction, i'm provided security but i firmly believe God protects you if you are fighting for truth and justice. I'm a practising Hindu and believe in the message of the Bhagavad Gita, upholding truth and justice at any cost.

Other IPS officers - Sanjiv Bhatt, Rahul Sharma, Rajnish Rai - have been targeted by the administration. How does this impact morale?

It's heartening that more officers are showing the courage to speak out. The victimisation of these officers by the state government will certainly demoralise civil servants. That's why the central government ought to intervene as it's the guardian of the all India service officers and implementer of the all India service rules.

Could riots be tackled differently at the police level if the Communal Violence Prevention Bill was applied?

Specific rules in this Bill should be incorporated in the state police manual. These should be made unambiguous so that responsibility for prolonged riots can be immediately fixed on erring officers.

Many say we have existing laws to halt communal rioting - if the government wants to. What's your view?

Yes, it's a fact that rioting cannot continue beyond two hours without the administration's and police's connivance. Even at the peak of the
2002 Gujarat riots, violence was immediately controlled in Surat by then city police commissioner V K Gupta. That's why Surat reported only three deaths as against hundreds getting killed in Ahmedabad. In Bhavnagar, where Rahul Sharma was heading the police force, the rioting was controlled. He saved hundreds of innocent lives. Similarly, in districts of Saurashtra where upright police officers were posted, rioting was contained.

Many claim all's well in Gujarat now. Is that right?

The Human Development Report of Gujarat will show how in several aspects, the state is on par with some very backward states. There's rampant corruption and backwardness...in fact, some months ago, when Anna Hazare had spoken about Gujarat's so-called 'development', i met him and told him about the ground realities in Gujarat.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                SECOND OPINION

STATE VS ANNA

JUG SURAIYA

 

Is Anna Hazare a saviour of democracy or is he sabotaging it? This is the crucial question facing India days after it celebrated the 64th year of its independence from foreign rule.

The Congress party and the government have attacked Anna Hazare and his Lokpal movement on personal and constitutional grounds. Referring to Team Anna as 'A Company', Congress spokesperson
Manish Tewari accused Hazare of being "steeped in corruption from head to toe". Tewari's over-the-top outburst reveals just how desperate the government is to discredit Hazare and his followers and defuse the political crisis they are precipitating. The charges of corruption against Hazare - which the Gandhian has challenged his detractors to prove - are baseless. In 2005 the Sawant commission had indicted a trust headed by Hazare of having spent Rs 2.20 lakh on a birthday bash for him; a subsequent task force cleared the activist of all charges.

While the Congress allegations about Hazare's personal probity are bad, both in law and in taste, the constitutional objections raised against his agitation are more serious and involve fundamental constitutional issues.
Pranab Mukherjee, among others, has described Hazare's tactics as challenging the authority of Parliament, which is a breach of constitutional sovereignty and undermines the foundations of India's democracy. Parliament embodies the will of the people through their duly elected representatives. If you bypass Parliament - as Hazare's critics say he is trying to do - don't you bypass the will of the people and subvert the basic concept of democracy, that it is a government of the people, by the people and for the people?

Some years ago, commentators coined the term 'judicial vigilantism' to des-cribe activist judges who seemed to be overstepping their constitutional jurisdiction by intervening in legislative matters which are the constitutional prerogative of Parliament. Today - when several senior judges have been charged with corruption and bringing the judiciary within the Lokpal's ambit is one of the points of contention between Hazare and the government - 'judicial vigilantism' seems like an exhibit in a museum of ancient history. But has the spirit of vigilantism manifested itself in the avatar of activists like Hazare and his followers?

Critics - and these include not just those in the Congress party or in the government, but also those who while sympathetic to Hazare's professed ideals of cleansing corruption from our society have doubts about his methods - have pointed out the danger to democracy posed by what might be called 'ad hoc vigilantism'. Today it is Anna with his campaign against corruption. Tomorrow it could be another rebel, with or without a cause. If constitutional institutions like Parliament are bypassed how long will it be before our much-touted democracy becomes a mobocracy, presided over by demagogues with self-assumed power?

Hazare and his followers would counter such arguments by declaring that what President Pratibha Patil has called the "cancer" of corruption has become so deeply and widely rooted in our constitutionally created system itself that it requires radical, extra-constitutional remedies to effect a cure. If the system itself is diseased, you have to find out-of-the-system methods of treatment.

And if non-violent dissent is shackled by Anna's peremptory arrest, how different is 'democratic' India from totalitarian China and its infamous Tiananmen Square?

In the battle between the state and Anna, however, both sides appear to overlook a basic point. The niceties about the constitutional improprieties and the growing public anger against rampant corruption are largely confined to urban India. Concepts like the Constitution, democracy and justice remain cruel mirages in the Bharat that is rural India. Perhaps nothing exemplifies the gulf between the two Indias than the idea of the fast. In the privileged urban India of Hazare and his fans, fasting is a legitimate form of neo-Gandhian protest. In the other India, fasting is not a morally superior form of dissent; it's a brute necessity and its name is starvation.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                            COMMENT

POLITICS OF SLANDER

 

The government may well have a bone to pick with Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement. But it has made a strategic and moral error by heaping unmerited abuse on the Gandhian activist and his associates, going to the extent of describing them as 'A Company' (suggesting an analogy with 'D Company', or Dawood Ibrahim's gang). Everyone may not agree with the version of the Lokpal Bill championed by Anna and his team, or even the form of protest chosen by them. But few doubt the personal probity of Anna Hazare and most members of his team, which includes Magsaysay Award winners Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal. Going by the scurrilous imputations made against them with little supporting evidence, it certainly looks as if the government is nervous and has something to hide.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did well by addressing the issue of corruption frontally in his Independence Day speech, and outlining the steps the government is contemplating on this front. His case would have been more robust if the government had presented a stronger version of the Lokpal Bill in Parliament, or if it had found a way to engage civilly with the many alternative versions being proposed, without necessarily agreeing with them.


Instead the rhetoric engaged in by spokesmen for the government sounds like a throwback to the 1970s, when nebulous enemies - "forces of right reaction", "funded by invisible donors", "destabilising forces" and so on - would be invoked to strike down one's political adversaries. If the government indeed has evidence of corruption on the part of Anna Hazare and his associates, it has the power to bring them to book after presenting the evidence in a court of law. It has dredged up corruption charges against Anna in the Justice Sawant commission report, dating back to 2003. If the charges are valid, why has the government not acted on them or the party spoken out about them for so long?


Such a politics of insinuation is precisely the reason that politicians have acquired the reputation of speaking with a forked tongue. Neither is it going to help by insisting that because the matter is in Parliament, civil society groups have lost the right to speak their mind on the issue. Anna Hazare has the backing of a substantial section of the middle class. By making a martyr out of him, the UPA government could lose the support of this influential section of society.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

TEAM ANNA: 1 GOVERNMENT: 0

The government's ham-handed response has allowed Hazare and co to get the upper hand.

The Team Anna vs the government drama has assumed the proportions of a World Cup cricket final. The captains of the two teams seem to have worked out their strategies but it is quite clear who is more proactive here.

It is Anna and his followers.

In recent times, they have played it pitch perfect. From Anna's tearful television appearances in a children's dance programme to prime time news, he has had audiences eating out of his hands. His more abrasive fellow travellers like Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal have stayed in his shadow stirring out occasionally to shadow box with the government.

Then we had the moving picture of Anna sitting in quiet contemplation near Mahatma Gandhi's samadhi, invoking comparisons with the greatest Indian who walked this earth. The cyber world is aflame with support for a cause most people know little about, even less identify with.

It has become all about humble Anna taking on a mighty government, asking it to put in place structures to eradicate corruption. The government which should have played this with the finesse of a Zen master has instead opened up the metaph-orical water cannons on Anna and co.

Before he could begin his fast-unto-death in Jayaprakash Narayan Memorial Park, he was rounded up and whisked away to angry protest against State highhandedness.

Undemocratic, unconstitutional, intolerable, the words of condemnation came thick and fast as the government notched it up further with the police first remanding Anna to seven days in judicial custody in Tihar jail. This was quickly followed by the decision to release him.

The irony could not be lost on anyone. Anna in a jail, even though for a short time, where such symbols of corruption like former telecom minister A Raja and former Commonwealth Games Organising Committee boss Suresh Kalmadi are cooling their heels.

The government has every right to insist that law and order be maintained, that thoroughfares are not blocked and that those who are not part of the Anna campaign have the right to go about their business unhindered.

But to stoop to a war of words with people which the government itself insists have no constitutional legitimacy is to undermine its own cause. This ham-handed response has allowed Team Anna to get the upper hand with other political formations coming to its support.

If ever the government needed some advice on how to play this out well, it is now. It has certainly lost the advantage with its iron fist in an iron glove approach.

So far, it is Team Anna which has hit the ground running.

Perhaps, like a good cricket team, it is time the government went into a huddle and came up with Plan B before it crashes out of the game.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

IT DOESN'T REALLY NATTER

The obvious has just been reaffirmed. Yes, girls gossip. At home or work, it is impossible to tone down their incessant, mindless chatter, says the findings of a latest British survey.

Before you fault the survey on reinforcing popular stereotypes, it goes a step further: it informs us that an average female of the human species spends 298 minutes or approximately five hours every day in glib gal talk.

Greater horrors are to follow: not only do women talk, but most of the conversations hover around trivialities like sex, shopping, weight issues, diet and clothes, often plumbing the depths with discussions on cosmetic surgeries or the mother-in-law.

As you might have guessed by now, it is up to the men — the other half of this worthy species — to thwart the imbalance caused by all this fine talking.

Heaven forbid if you find the male of the species in a huddle around the office water cooler, or in street corners, or shop fronts, gratifying their desire for small talk. And a pox on the future of the blessed race if you happen to walk into a popular watering hole and overhear them wasting their time, energy and precious breath bantering about colleagues or sex or food or cars.

With the burden of generating meaningful human thought resting on their shoulders, men maintain a studied silence most of the time and open their mouth only to debate the particulars of particle physics or maybe the hermeneutic consistency of texts.

Behavioural experts, always eager to dampen such exuberant social observations, have, however, long argued that a woman jawing more is a myth that was probably invented in a marriage counsellor's office, since women are more forthcoming on 'relationship issues' where men tend to clam up.

In fact, several studies that count the number of words spoken during the course of the day have proved that men and women fare almost equally, though the inanity being discussed might vary.

But not willing to be robbed of the guilty pleasure of wallowing in stereotypes, we say: let the silly patter continue.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

NO PLACE IN THE SUN

SUMIT MITRA

Since the economy began its downward push three years ago, our economic pundits, particularly those in the government, are not very forthcoming with facts about its impact on jobs and employment in  ordinary middle class households.

When asked, one hears the usual chatter about how the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is uplifting the rural poor with 100-day work, but hardly anything about the Kapoors and Srinivasans and Chatterjees next door, who have already spent lakhs of rupees to put their children in one of those mushrooming engineering colleges or business schools.

They have gambled on what starry-eyed journalists call the 'India story'. It has been a bad gamble, which will surely hurt just too many losers.

In 2009 alone, a total of 1.66 million boys and girls were enrolled in the country's mostly private engineering colleges and another 181,277 in B-schools. The number is still growing.

Unfortunately, as they have been flooding the job market in ever enlarging waves, the doors of factories and businesses are shutting down everywhere, be it at home or abroad. In the 'socialist 70s', the jobless BAs were so commonplace that they weren't even noticed.

However, college degrees in that era were both useless and inexpensive. But now the BTechs or MBAs are proving to be equally 'useless', that too after humungous parental investments.

The ministry of labour has calculated that, leaving alone dole-seekers under various welfare schemes, the labour force should go up from 520 million in 2009-10 to 574 million in 2014-15.

That calls for an addition of 11 million jobs each year. It includes all kinds of workers — from engineers to skilled workers and even the unskilled.

The 'Annual Report to the People on Employment,' published by the ministry, says that for so many jobs to be added annually, which works to a 2.5% employment growth on an average, there are two conditions that must be met: (a) the GDP must grow at 9%, and (b) the employment elasticity (the proportionate change in employment after a unit proportionate change in economic growth) must be 0.29, as it was in the period between 1993-94 and 2004-05.

But India seems to have long since turned the page on sustaining growth at 9%. While the Prime Minister's Office has cut its forecast to 8.2% this year, US investment banker Morgan Stanley has given only 7.2%.

Nor is employment elasticity expected to hit the 0.29 mark, as there is little hope of revival of the labour-intensive and export-oriented sectors like textiles and garments or diamond cutting and polishing, badly hit as they are by the severe credit crunch in Europe and the US.

The report's authors have worked out contingencies for declining employment elasticity. If it falls to 0.25, it is said, the economy must then grow 10% to accommodate the newcomers to the labour market. If it drops as low as 0.20, the economy must then zip 12%.

In short, to keep India's growing numbers of skilled youngsters in employment, the government must do a Deng Xiaoping act now. It will be of no use to avoid the crisis in middle class existence by pontificating about 'inclusive growth'.

Till recently, the phenomenon of jobless engineers and MBAs was somehow masked by continuing growth of Information Technology (IT) and BPO jobs. Of the total salaried jobs of 979,000 created in 2010-11, IT and BPO accounted for 665,000. For these jobs, there is only bad news now.

Many foreign banks (like Santander, the British bank) are now refusing to renew their call centre contracts with firms in Bengaluru or Pune. Instead, they are hiring companies in their own countries.

In the US, rising unemployment has brought down the hourly call centre wages to $14 which, with the extra value for the customer hearing the familiar twang from the other end, is much for employers to celebrate about. For voice BPOs still offshore, the destinations are the Philippines and Cairo, both known to be offering good language skills at affordable price.

It is difficult to guess when the steep admission fees and tuition at private engineering colleges and B-schools will start dropping to keep pace with the falling returns.

But a lag is expected before the market corrects itself. If India fails to capture the high growth trajectory anytime soon, it will have to live with a middle class having its hope belied of becoming an achiever from an aspirer, all in a single generation.

It amounts to asking the mall scouting youth today to imitate their papa's and mom's ways of saving the last coin for the rainy day and not knowing if Versace is a cat or a dog.

A drastic fall in people's self-esteem breeds anger in the public mind that may express itself in several ways. Historians (CA Bayly) have shown how the loss of status of the Bais Rajputs of Awadh or the Muslim Rohillas from the north of Delhi, who had served in the Muslim armies for centuries, drove them to rebellion in 1857.

In the context of modern India, the urban petit bourgeoisie tasted its hour of glory for the first time in the past decade when, thanks to a respectable economic growth of around 7% in the first decade of the 2000's, its children grew into affluent adults.

Maintaining the pace requires even faster growth. But instead of pressing harder on gas, we've jammed the brakes. It has created a middle class discontent more widespread than ever, with everything heard in the street about corruption in places high and low sounding absolutely credible.

(Sumit Mitra is a Kolkata-based political commentator. The views expressed by the author are personal)

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

LIGHT UP YOUR DREAMS

ASHOK ASHTA

Of late, there have been almost daily reports about power shortages, even in the Capital. To survive and thrive in a globalised society, a developing country needs to construct, collaborate and clean up.

India is an emerging player in this fast-changing world and, therefore, it has to upgrade the quantity and quality of its infrastructure. The peak power deficit is now 13%. Even sunny Rajasthan that should have abundant access to solar power is facing shortages.

The Central Electricity Authority (CEA), in its annual load Generation balance (LGB) report, has cautioned the state regarding power deficit in the coming months. The report released last month has estimated a total deficit of 7% in demand and supply of electricity in the state for 2011-12.

The increasing use of technology-driven applications has become necessary. When it comes to technology, Japan can be a wonderful partner.

Earlier this year, Japan announced that it was planning to make it compulsory for all new buildings to come fitted with solar panels. Given the still expensive nature of solar technology, this might not yet be an immediate solution on a pan-India basis.

However. appropriate technologies can be developed to reduce the use of diesel generators where the public grid remains elusive.

With conventional sources of energy depleting, India is waking up to the need for tapping into its huge renewable energy pools. With the announcement of the National Solar Mission, India has taken a step toward utilising these pools.

But India's solar power technology know-how is still in its nascent stage; Japan can lend a helping hand in boosting that know-how to the next level. Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Develo-pment Organisation is considering testing state-of-the-art, next generational smart grid micro grid technology for the use of solar energy in industrial parks.

India should cooperate with this technology transfer to reduce the use of diesel-based power generation.

The future for India looks bright in terms of solar energy. This country experiences almost 300 days of sunshine in most regions. It has the resources and the will; now it needs the knowledge. Japan can provide that knowledge.

Collaboration in this sector would be fruitful for both countries. While Japan can provide the methods, India can provide the mind power to adopt those methods for its own conditions. The National Solar Mission aims to create this potentially powerful synergy.

The saying goes that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Yokkaichi asthma is named after the highly polluted city in Japan of the 60s and is caused by sulphur oxides. Burning diesel for power will cause the same problems here. Alternatively, India can take a lesson from Japan's history and preempt such health hazards.

In turn, Japan will gain a global trading partner that is an emerging powerhouse. Shining examples exist in present day Kitakyushu, Yokkaichi and Yokohama. An energetic Indo-Japanese alliance could truly be a win-win situation.

(Ashok Ashta is general manager with Hitachi. The views expressed by the author are personal)

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

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

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

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NO MIDDLE GROUND?

 

Once Anna Hazare had been taken into preventive custody early on Tuesday morning, government spokespersons laboured hard the rest of the day to take the sting off charges of dictatorial arbitrariness coming their way. These arguments, predictably, found little purchase in the sporadic demonstrations that broke out across the metros in support of Hazare and among non-UPA political parties, who stalled Parliament before their leaders went into a huddle to chalk out a future course of action. They demanded a statement in both Houses by the prime minister.

If the Central government looks outmanoeuvred for now, it need only recap its missteps to see why. Because, how did the debate shift from an assertion of Parliament's democratic sovereignty in law-making to what Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar called, in a feat of wild exaggeration, a "rehearsal for emergency"? The first misstep, of course, was the government's capitulation this April, when it met the arbitrariness of Team Anna's demand on setting Parliament's legislative agenda by arbitrarily assigning membership of the drafting committee for the Lokpal bill. It was, as has become evident these past days, always going to be a fragile truce. It was, more importantly, one that shifted the government away from the middle ground. Instead of rationalising the rules of membership, the government put five of its own and five of Hazare's on the panel. Team Anna was not looking to be co-opted. But it revealed the nerviness at the heart of government about meeting a crisis with action based on reasoned argument — a nerviness that the opposition is now trying to exploit by stressing its demand for a free-wheeling debate in Parliament. The wobbliness in Hazare's demand that his version of the Lokpal bill be passed, or else, was that it sought to undermine the legislature, and thereby the Constitution's delicate balance that underwrites India's parliamentary democracy. Yet the government has been less than artful, engaged or responsive to meet that challenge by doing its bit to assert Parliament's unique place in the scheme of the Constitution. It has failed to initiate debates on the subjects of the day, and it has failed to initiate the transactions of give-and-take with the opposition on productively setting an agenda for the session.

There is a lesson from the pointlessness of the confrontations this new turn in the Hazare agitation has provoked, and it is this: the Congress, as the party leading a coalition at the Centre, cannot get on by dicing its plan of action into neat capsules. Progress will not come through arbitrariness, whether in taking up political causes in the states without considering the larger implications or in engaging with civil activists of one's liking by bypassing institutional norms.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GOOGLEMOTO

 

Google's purchase of Motorola Mobile seems so obvious in retrospect: Google's Android operating system is what runs half the smartphones sold today, but the iron laws of the 21st century digital world were being ignored. One: that the real profits go to the hardware guys, not the software guys. Two: that a company needs to control an entire ecosystem of products: the operating system, the applications, the hardware they run on. Google's Android — less buggy than Windows Mobile, more adaptable than the BlackBerry, more adult than Apple's iOS — only has two of those three. Google finally went for the third.

Indeed, back when the Google phone was first being talked about, most people thought that it meant an actual, physical phone, not an operating system. We might finally get what we expected. Questions, too, will be asked. Many argue that this will send the other two major Android phonemakers, Samsung and HTC, sniffing around Microsoft's operating system, for example. But they were quick to release statements in support of Google's purchase of a competitor — insisting it meant that Google was "deeply committed to defending" Android. What was that all about? It was because the smartphone world now is all about who can amass the most patents, and who can most effectively defend those patents in court. Apple, with its well-known corporate rapacity, has been the most ferocious and litigious defender of its patents, scoring a notable victory against the Android/ Samsung Galaxy in European courts just last week. This is how Google has struck back: through purchasing Motorola's 17,000 patents, which allow its cash-rich team of lawyers enough ground with which to defend Android against patent-heavy Apple and Microsoft.

How does this leave the rest of us? Even if Larry Page and Sergey Brin have scored again — "What an idea, Sergey!" as the SMS joke doing the rounds on Monday had it — will it affect the phones we buy? Certainly. Because the patent wars were reducing the chances that we got cheap, innovative phones. The quicker they end — and Google's warchest means they won't last long — the better for those of us who buy phones.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SOME MORE VIGILANCE

PAUL ZACHARIA

 

Frankly, even the heart of a politically hardened Malayali like me goes out to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. He is in no enviable place, despite being a decent person, a workaholic chief minister and, untypical for a Congressman (and the CPM comrades too), a democrat. He has a secular reputation, a sense of fairness, no airs, a remarkable capacity to listen patiently to hundreds of people at a stretch and take pains to redress grievances. Unlike his predecessors in the Left Democratic Front (LDF) ministry who wouldn't go about without terrorising the common man with an obscene parade of armed policemen at back and front, he moves around without fanfare.

A webcam installed in his office opens it up worldwide 24x7. His office has become so accessible that recently an intruder seated himself in the CM's chair and made a few phone calls. A CPM comrade would have got the man beaten up, labelled the act a CIA conspiracy and called for a one-day bandh. The intruder in Chandy's chair just went home. I, for one, immensely appreciated the fact that a citizen could walk into the CM's room and sit in his chair. It almost seemed like democracy was going places even amidst Kerala's wretched political megalomaniacs.

Chandy's plate is full with a thousand things that need to be urgently done for Kerala's survival as a viable society, but his cup of sorrows is not only brimful but overflowing. Chandy is hemmed in from almost all sides. To start with, his government lives on a grand majority of a single digit — two. (It used to be one, but the nominated Anglo-Indian representative makes it a whopping two.) The splinter parties who partner Chandy's United Democratic Front (UDF), like the Kerala Congress factions, are notorious for slick treachery and stark opportunism. There is no saying when they will strike. The silver lining, however, is that the CPM is not yet ready to strike. It stands near-paralysed under V.S. Achuthanandan's stony gaze. But things may change after the CPM state conference, scheduled for early February 2012.

Perhaps Chandy's greatest foes are, as is normal in Congress culture, within the party itself. It's not only the various groups and factions at work for their own ends. Nor the seedy fortune hunters who haunt the KPCC office for candy-postings. (The candy-hunt is so heartless that even a model organisation like the State Institute of Children's Literature is not spared. It brought a state-of-the-art dimension to children's publishing in Malayalam in the last five years. But a scurrilous attack is on for its capture, plunder and inevitable destruction.) The Congressmen who have been eyeing the CM's chair have not forgiven Chandy. Back-stabbing is a natural-born act in politics and Chandy actually needs a second webcam to cover his back from Congressmen.

All this has been topped now by a court order by the special judge handling a vigilance case, celebrated in Malayalam media as the "Palmolein case", in which Chandy is Court Witness No 23. It relates to the import in 1992 of palmolein (a cooking medium) when Kerala had experienced a cooking oil shortage. With the late K. Karunakaran as CM and Chandy as finance minister, the import was conducted by the civil supplies ministry headed by T.H. Mustafa, based on a cabinet decision. The prosecution's case is that the deal caused illegal pecuniary gain of Rs 2.32 crore to the suppliers.

When trial proceedings began in early 2011, the LDF government, then in power, asked for a further enquiry into the involvement of Chandy as finance minister in the palmolein import. The investigating agency's report of May 13, 2011, exonerated the finance department of any irregularity in the import. On August 8, the special judge rejected the report, pointing out that the original purpose of the inquiry was to investigate Chandy's involvemet, but the report only refers to the finance department. He has asked the agency to, again, investigate the role of CW23 (Oommen Chandy) in the import and submit a report within three months.

The cry has gone up for Chandy's resignation. In a very un-politician-like manner Chandy hadn't shifted out the public prosecutors — read comrades — appointed by the LDF government. That puts him on a sticky wicket indeed. Well, when you are living on a majority of two, can anything look harder?

Zacharia is a Malayalam writer
express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

CIVIL OBEDIENCE

JAITHIRTH RAO

 

Many people who are otherwise humane and reasonable seem to be very happy that allegedly corrupt politicians (note the word "allegedly"; emphatic proof is months or even years away) are denied bail when these folks are still undertrials. The argument goes that since they are likely to be let off finally, let them at least cool their heels for now in Tihar and other centres of incarceration. This casual acceptance of an utterly unfair and inhuman situation has arisen precisely because everyone feels that the corrupt get away all too easily. Instead of looking for a systemic fix, once again we are descending to the level of becoming ghoulish mobs who take delight in the discomfiture of the rich and the powerful even if this means a violation of the well-established rights of habeas corpus and bail. This approach is a perilous one indeed and needs to be resisted by all of us who are committed to a sober justice system .

Corruption at the end of the day is a white-collar fraud. People are corrupt in order to make money and get ahead in this world. And white-collar fraud is not at all easily susceptible to criminal prosecution and punishment. Let us not forget that a criminal conviction needs that the offence be proved "beyond all reasonable doubt". Paper trails and witness testimony in the case of white-collar frauds and embezzlement are inherently subject to multiple interpretations, unlike in cases of physical violence like murder, rape or assault. After all, one Monday morning I might wake up and for no reason in particular want to give a loan to a minister or make a donation to a charity sponsored by a minister's spouse or, for that matter, write out a cheque to an NGO set up by a retired bureaucrat. How can a court not accept the argument that these acts were based on voluntary large-heartedness and not for any sinister reason? Even if the judge strongly suspects a sinister reason, is the judicial tradition not bound to agree that there is "some reasonable doubt"? On this ground alone, many corruption trials are bound to flounder.

Now, if we were to look at corruption through the lens of a civil rather than a criminal action, we are immediately on a stronger wicket. In a civil proceeding, one need not prove something "beyond all reasonable doubt". It is sufficient if "the preponderance of evidence" points in a direction. If my company or I have never given loans in the past or never given large donations, and if a week before or after my generous action, I have benefited directly or indirectly by receiving a government licence, contract or lease, that would constitute "preponderance of evidence". Now the onus will be on me to prove that I had a fit of large-heartedness one Monday morning! This has always been the case in income-tax matters. If there is an unexplained credit in my account, the income-tax officer calmly proceeds to assume that the credit constitutes income, levies tax on the credited amount and also interest and penalty if I have not paid tax in advance. Now I have to run around proving that the credit was legitimate and perhaps a gift from a sibling and not liable to tax.

With or without the Lokayukta and the Lokpal in place, this columnist would like to submit that civil action is the best way to proceed against corruption. It takes us away from the present inefficient process of 10,000-page CBI chargesheets which finally fail to result in convictions; it eliminates the need for perversion of justice by denying bail to the powerful merely to satisfy the vengeful instincts of the mob. What we need is an anti-corruption agency, call it what you will, which behaves like an income-tax officer. All suspicious accounting entries will result in back taxes, interest and penalty charges that pretty much wipe out the illicit gains of corruption. And an entry will be established as suspicious before a tribunal or a court using the test of "preponderance of evidence", not that of "beyond all reasonable doubt". Benami transactions should have extra penalties imposed on them and facilitators of the same, including banks who are negligent in their Know Your Customer operations, should be made liable for a notional TDS and slapped with tax liabilities and fines. Individuals and companies who accept loans from persons without a reasonable business nexus would automatically be assessed for incomes as well as trusts that accept strange donations. The onus to prove that these are not "inexplicable" or "strange" will no longer be with the prosecution. Corrupt persons who now live with the fear that their ill-gotten wealth may be snatched away by civil action will have less incentive to be corrupt. And their ability to hide behind the cloak of "innocent till proved guilty" will be of no help in hanging on to their wealth. The mighty Al Capone was able to subvert the police and terrorise many judges. But he too had to quail in front of a methodical income tax officer. He was sent to jail for tax evasion (an inability to explain accounting entries) and not for gangland killings!

As the nation debates the issue of corruption and how best to minimise it (eliminating it is not a realistic prospect unless you believe in fairies), while we are entitled to consider new laws and new institutions, let us also spend time and quality thought on figuring out the most optimal process to deal with it. We must avoid summary proceedings, like prolonged denial of bail; we must move away from the cynical assumption that the corrupt will get away; we can and we should move to a process where the corrupt will not be able to enjoy the fruits of their corruption. The secret may lie in civil procedures seeking "preponderance of evidence" rather than criminal ones seeking evidence "beyond all reasonable doubt".

The writer is chairman, Nasscom Foundation
express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE BLIND SPOTS OF INDIA SHINING

VINAY SITAPATI

 

This "activist" was quite different from the suit-wearing PIL litigant or the Left-leaning jholawala. In the run up to Anna Hazare's first fast over an anti-corruption law in April, a communications company provided the technical support to a service in which, if mobile users called a toll-free number, they would then receive free alerts on the protests. The service was one of an array of technologies — from Twitter updates and Facebook pages to made-for-television candle-light vigils — that civil society activism around the Lokpal Bill showcased. The technology also symbolised a new kind of middle class "activism". Their ease with technology is coupled with a visceral dislike for politicians and disdain for representative democracy. Hence their comfort with a version of the bill that is both unrepresentative and raises fears of an unaccountable Lokpal. Who are these new "activists"? Why are they so ignorant of democratic politics?

The answer lies in a fundamental shift in the middle class, starting with economic liberalisation in the early 1990s. The pre-liberalisation middle class was typically from professions that grew around the state — such as lawyering, accountancy, medicine, and of course, government service. This relationship mattered: it meant that the earlier middle class understood the Indian state; they were less ignorant of the processes of democracy that characterise parts of the Anna Hazare movement.

The opening of the Indian economy in the '80s and early '90s dramatically changed this. A 2005-6 study found that of India's current middle-class, 56-62 per cent is privately employed. This is significant. It indicates the growing ability of Indians to imagine social mobility in private ways, outside of the state. The most successful of this middle class are those who have succeeded in the private enclaves of India Inc — the rapidly expanding corporate sector. In a recent article in the Economic & Political Weekly, I term this new corporate middle class "India Shining".

India Shining is confronted with an obvious paradox — while India Inc is providing cutting edge services and products to the rest of the world, the roads that lead up to it are potholed, electricity is patchy, and water supply erratic. In short, while corporate India is a model of efficiency, the Indian state is a model of chaos. It is this dissonance that colours its views of the Indian state, and connects it to the Jan Lokpal Bill. As the director-general of industry lobby FICCI, Rajiv Kumar, put it: "We completely support Hazare in his fight against corruption, which has been denting India."

The new corporate middle class has little patience with the politics of dignity and identity that are — for better or worse — central to Indian politics. For them, the state is about providing services for which they pay with their tax money. Representation and social justice have little meaning. Consequently, they have contempt for electoral politics and politicians and are deaf to the two biggest criticisms of the Jan Lokpal Bill: that the movement is unrepresentative, and that an all-powerful Lokpal might endanger democratic rights. This troubling mix of disdain for Parliament coupled with an authoritarian streak harks back to what some critics felt was middle class support for the 1975-77 Emergency.

These are some concerns over the new corporate middle class shaping the Anna Hazare movement. But three caveats are necessary. First: corporate involvement in the anti-corruption movement has politicised a number of well-off Indians whose words carry weight. Early this year, even before Hazare's April fast, prominent industrialists Keshub Mahindra, Jamshyd Godrej, Anu Aga, and Azim Premji wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, pressing for an anti-corruption ombudsman. Second, India Shining is only one component of the Anna Hazare movement. Others include lawyers who, since the 1980s, have allied with an activist Supreme Court in influencing policy. It is telling that three of the five "civil society" representatives on Lokpal drafting committee were lawyers. Finally, Anna Hazare has captured the imagination of more than just the urban middle class; it would be unfair to reduce the entire movement to the interests of a single group. Yet, the peculiar demands and methods of the Jan Lokpal movement owe much to the vision of the new corporate middle class.

In the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, the corporate middle class swarmed Gateway of India, cursing politicians and vowing revenge. That protest ended as swiftly as it began. In the Lok Sabha elections held just five months after, voter turnout in south Mumbai was a measly 40 per cent. The more sustained activism over the Lokpal Bill is heartening. India's new corporate middle, loud and self-righteous, is also learning and growing. These are qualities that make for robust civil society. But it remains to be seen if their Singapore-style vision of efficient government can make space for the complexities that social change in India requires.

The writer is at the department of politics, Princeton University

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

BACKPACKING ENVOY

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

Backpacking envoy

As the first Chinese-American to represent the United States government at the Beijing court, it was inevitable that Gary Locke would draw much local attention and interest when he arrived in Beijing over the weekend. A picture of Locke, carrying a backpack as he bought a coffee at Seattle's airport en route to Beijing, snapped and posted on the Net by a Chinese traveller, quickly earned the new envoy the nickname "backpacker" from the Xinhua news agency.

Locke, who is a third generation Chinese-American, served as the secretary of commerce in the Obama administration before he was appointed envoy to China. Earlier, Locke was elected governor of Washington in the western US in 1996 and 2004.

As realists, Chinese analysts know that Locke is bound to serve American interests at a time when the relations between the two countries have entered a difficult state. But they can't deny the palpable excitement around Locke's Chinese ethnicity. Finding the middle ground, a commentary in China Daily said Locke's ancestry could help him become a "bridge between China and the United States and between the two peoples."

At a press conference in Beijing on Sunday, Locke told reporters that he was both "humbled and honoured to stand here before you as a child of Chinese immigrants representing America, the land of my birth, and the American values my family holds dear."

One Chinese blogger wondered if those "American values" included 'paying back" the money Washington owes Beijing. With nearly $1,200 billion worth of Chinese money invested in US treasury bonds, Beijing has recently stepped up criticism of Washington's financial management. At his Sunday press conference, Locke told journalists that the US was "committed to getting our fiscal house in order", and pointed to the fact that more people were buying US bonds these days. ""So it's a clear indication that investment in the United States is safe, secure, and that the economy, while having its challenges, is still strong," Locke insisted.

US-Vietnam bonds

As China's first aircraft carrier completed its initial sea trials on Sunday, the USS George Washington showed up off Vietnam's coast. The nuclear powered Nimitz-class US aircraft carrier, based in Japan, was said to be on a routine goodwill visit in Asian waters.

This is the second time in two years that the George Washington has been enthusiastically welcomed by Vietnam. Seen from Beijing, there was nothing routine about the carrier's visit. Naval contacts between Washington and Hanoi, which handed the United States a big military defeat in the 1970s, have begun to grow as Vietnam finds itself increasingly at odds with its fellow Communist neighbour.

Vietnam and others among China's neighbours in Southeast Asia oppose Beijing's expansive maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea and resent the muscular tactics of the PLA navy.

China in turn has declared South China Sea as one of its "core interests", suggesting there is little room for compromise on its claims in a littoral that connects the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The first to leave?

While China watches US military ties with its neighbours like a hawk, Beijing is not unduly concerned with India's own expanding security engagement with ASEAN countries, especially Vietnam. Chinese media reports have claimed that Vietnam has offered the Indian navy berthing rights at Na Thrang port on its southern coast.

Questioned by media earlier this month on Vietnam's naval outreach to India, a scholar from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Ye Hailin, said, "Vietnam hopes to establish military ties with many other countries so that it can counter China in the South China Sea with more confidence."

While India might like to play a role in South China Sea, Ye said, Delhi does not have the wherewithal for it. "To India, the Indian Ocean and the waters from the Arabian Sea to Hormuz Strait are more important", Ye argued. "India is neither willing to nor has the ability to extend to the South China Sea and build a military presence there," Ye insisted.

The Chinese analyst was confident that Hanoi, despite its best efforts to mobilise international support, will not be able to balance Beijing. If Vietnam chooses to resolve the South China Sea disputes by force, Ye continued, its friends would not be able to protect it. India, according to Ye, likely formed its alliance on the understanding that China and Vietnam will not likely enter into large-scale armed conflict.

But if Vietnam were to go too far and engage China militarily, "India would likely be the first to leave," Ye concluded.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

FALLING OUT OF THE SKY, INTO THE RED

SMITA AGGARWAL

 

The government has now brought in an IAS officer, Rohit Nandan, to head Air India and fix the airline, replacing Arvind Jadhav. Nandan has a Herculean task ahead of him; the airline's balance-sheet makes turning it around extremely difficult. Indeed, if not for successive government bailouts, the company would have failed long ago, explains Smita Aggarwal.

What are the numbers?

Air India was formed in 2007 by merging the erstwhile Indian Airlines with loss-making Air India. Its initial paid-up equity was Rs 145 crore — now raised to Rs 3,200 crore — and working capital loans of Rs 17,000 crore — now swollen to Rs 22,000 crore. Even excluding the debt financing on its aircraft acquisition burden (another Rs 20,000 crore), it can survive only on paper.

The carrier has accumulated losses till 2010-11 that total Rs 20,320 crore. These losses have only risen over the last four years. In 2007-08 — the combined airline's first financial year — it posted a loss of Rs 2,226.16 crore; the following year, 2008-09, it doubled it to Rs 5,548.26. The provisional estimate of its 2010-11 loss: Rs 6,994 crore. Its working capital loans and other debts have risen over the years to be around Rs 40,000 crore in 2011, largely due to the huge interest burden from the purchase of 111 aircraft in 2005.

Since 2009, the government has given Rs 3,200 crore to the ailing company. Recently, UPA 2 was attacked by members of the Lok Sabha over the non-payment of nearly two months' salary and perks to Air India's 40,000 employees; the company also owes its various vendors around Rs 4,000 crore, of which dues towards oil companies alone are Rs 2,300 crore.

How have Air India's operations failed?

The airline has one of the lowest rates of aircraft utilisation: between 7 and 9 hours a day. The industry average is 12-15 hours a day. Since private airlines have been allowed to operate, Indian passengers, too, have given their verdict. They have shown their increasing preference for private carriers as Air India slipped from its monopolistic position to the fourth slot in the latest government data, with a share of the domestic market in June that's just 14.9 per cent.

Air India has one of the most unfavourable ratio of employees to aircraft in the industry, leading to an unhealthy and bloated annual wage bill. The ratio is 263 employees per aircraft, whereas IndiGo, for example, has maintained it at 92 per aircraft. Air India can ill afford wasteful expenditure, but is obviously over-staffed.

Did the 2007 merger work?

It may have been a good idea, but its implementation was certainly flawed. The reasoning given by UPA 1 at the time was that a combined entity would benefit from synergies, provide customers with a seamless travel experience, and be able to enter a global grouping of airlines like the Star Alliance. (After three years of upgrading its systems and investing almost Rs 70 crore, the airline was refused entry to the grouping a fortnight ago.) Meanwhile, it has deeply divided the combined operator's employees: Matters related to parity in pay and working conditions stayed unresolved, leading to resentment. Instead, the the unions were appeased at the time through memoranda of understanding that included exorbitant perks and benefits. MoUs were treated as a quick measure to buy peace and loyalty, and bury industrial unrest, by those then in the airline's management.

Meanwhile, it was felt that Air India and Indian Airlines needed to get rid of their ageing fleet to compete; and so the airline went ahead and placed an order for 111 aircraft worth Rs 50,000 crore — but without any credible financial plan in place. While its revenue stream is shrinking, its liabilities are increasing.

What have the auditors said?

Successive reports from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) have criticised the company's compensation structure, which includes productivity-linked incentives, marketing allowances and other such perks. CAG has argued that the airline's salary structure flouts the Centre's guidelines. The latest report, tabled in Parliament in this session, said the carrier's capacity expansion, referring to its aircraft acquisition programme, was carried out without due diligence; the airline paid an extra Rs 199.48 crore because of defective contract terms concerning an escalation of payments. It said that a further Rs 2,460 crore loss would be incurred due to faulty financing.

The decision to pay wage arrears out of working capital loans — with the associated additional interest — when the company was facing an acute financial crisis was imprudent, the report says; overall, the financial case for Air India's merger with Indian Airlines was not adequately validated. Another CAG performance audit report on aircraft acquisition is pending, and is likely to be laid before Parliament by the end of this session.  

smita.aggarwal@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

CAPITALISM COMBAT

MANOJCG

 

Capitalism combat

For the CPM, turbulence in the world's financial markets is another illustration that global capitalism can never be crisis-free. An editorial in People's Democracy says that, irrespective of the intensity of the crisis, capitalism never collapses on its own and that "it needs to be overthrown." Referring to the turbulence that followed the downgrading of US sovereign long-term credit rating by Standard & Poor's, the editorial argues that these developments are a continuation of the financial crisis that began in 2007, leading up to a recession.  "This was only to be expected given the manner in which global capitalism sought to overcome the crisis that began in 2007 — by undertaking huge and unprecedented bailout packages for those very corporates who, in the first place, caused the financial meltdown, developed countries incurred huge amounts of debts surpassing their GDPs... Global capitalism sought to overcome the crisis by converting corporate insolvencies into sovereign insolvencies. This, in turn, has intensified the crisis today plunging the world economy into a state of uncertainty," it argues.

The burden of massive sovereign debt, the editorial argues, is then transferred on to the shoulders of working people through massive cuts in welfare and social security expenditures. The editorial says India will have to draw the correct lessons and argues that the need of hour is to boost domestic demand as a means for achieving not only substantial growth, but also arresting growing economic inequality.

Medical malpractice

An article in People's Democracy looks into the government's attempt to reform the Medical Council of India. It says the government, on the face of it, acted with remarkable speed — disbanding the MCI and reconstituting it within weeks after Ketan Desai's arrest. "But clearly," it adds, "the intent was not to change the broken system, but rather to perpetuate it. No attempt was made to cleanse the institution of the MCI by building it from below again. State medical councils were stripped of their powers to intervene... No roadmap was worked out to restore the democratic functioning of the MCI. Nor was the systemic corruption inherent in privatised medical care and medical education touched. We were given to believe that Ketan Desai was an aberration that could be wished away."

The newly-appointed board, it says, was soon in trouble when it pressed for a common medical entrance examination for the entire country, a suggestion which went against the "whole enterprise of capitation-fee medical colleges." The government challenged the proposal in court but the court struck down the government's objections. "The government reacted in a most startling manner by disbanding the MCI, composed of its own handpicked members, and nominated a fresh set of five members. Lest we think this is mere madness, there is a clear method in the madness. All the previously appointed members have been sacked and the MCI has now been packed with people who largely represent the interests of the private sector," it says.

Lokpal's scope

In an article to mark Independence Day, CPI Deputy General Secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy says the Lokpal should not be an extra-constitutional authority. He asks the government to view Anna Hazare's agitation with this perspective in mind. "We certainly need a strong, powerful Lokpal Bill, but there should be some flexibility on both sides. All powers should not be vested with a single body. Lokpal alone is not going to eradicate corruption. There should be strong will on the part of the government to curb it," he argues. Reddy, however, reaffirms his party's stand that the prime minister should be brought under the Lokpal's ambit even though this may occasionally create some "inconvenience and embarrassment" to the PM. The judiciary should be under the Judicial Accountability Act. Parliament is the supreme body of Indian democracy and it has its own mechanism to check and settle the corruption charges of MPs, says Reddy.

Compiled by Manoj C.G.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PARE THOSE EARNINGS NOW


The key takeaway from corporate India's results for the June quarter is that the capital goods sector hasn't seen the kind of business growth most hoped for. Orders at engineering giant L&T grew a paltry 4% y-o-y, though on a high base; BHEL didn't get any meaningful power sector orders and so its inflows crashed 77% y-o-y. While L&T's management is confident it will see new orders grow by 15-20%, analysts are not buying it. Indeed, the tough macroeconomic environment will make life difficult for India Inc in the months ahead as well. Despite raging food inflation, high commodity prices and rising interest rates, India Inc managed to do reasonably well, barring a couple of big disappointments like Ashok Leyland, and the top line grew 27% for a sample of 2,133 companies (excluding financials and oil marketing firms). Operating margins, however, slipped 165 basis points, leaving adjusted net profit up just 12% y-o-y. Unless prices of key inputs ease soon, they could queer the pitch for consumer goods companies—the production of consumer goods slowed quite sharply to 4.2% y-o-y in the three months to June from 11.6% y-o-y in the March quarter, with demand for both durables and staples moderating. The trend is also reflected in demand for loans from retail borrowers, which has been moderating. In fact, there don't seem to be too many takers for loans because the increase in non-food credit, between March 25, 2011, and July 15, 2011, has been just 1.65%, according to data put out by RBI.

As such, banks turned in very ordinary numbers in the June quarter. ICICI bank's operating profits were flat and it was a sharp drop in provisions that helped the bank post a 29.8% y-o-y growth in net profits. Net interest margins for most banks were pressured due to the higher cost of borrowing as customers moved money from savings to term deposits and, moreover, most state-owned banks saw the quality of assets deteriorate. Given that macroeconomic headwinds aren't likely to abate in a hurry, it wouldn't be surprising if delinquencies rise further. Looks like analysts are going to have pare earnings estimates for the Sensex once again.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER GOOGLE(Y) FROM GOOGLE
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN

Back in 2004, Eric E Schmidt, then Google's chief executive, proclaimed, "We're not going into the phone business, but we're going to make sure Google is on those phones." Less than a year later, however, Google did the opposite. As Steven Levy described in his book In the Plex, Google soon acquired Android, the mobile phone operating system, and began building a phone business that it has since developed into a juggernaut.

Even after Google acquired Android in 2005, it continued to play down plans to enter the phone business for several more years. It wasn't until the summer of 2008 that Steven P Jobs at Apple actually took notice and went to Google's headquarters to inspect one of its prototype handsets.

Google's diversionary tactics made sense: by 2006, Mr Schmidt, now Google's chairman, was an Apple board member and Google was considered an important partner to Apple. But when Mr Jobs finally saw Google's phone he was "furious" and "concluded he was a victim of deceit," according to Mr Levy's account. (Mr Schmidt has said he never misguided Mr Jobs.)

That history may be instructive to consider when judging Google's $12.5 billion deal for Motorola Mobility, which makes Android phone handsets and TV set-top boxes. Google is actively positioning the deal not as a means to buy its way into the handset market, but as an opportunity to buy Motorola's portfolio of patents—some 17,000 of them. During the company's conference call with analysts and the news media, Google executives peppered the call with talk about the enormous value of Motorola's patents (it mentioned this 24 times); yet they talked about its handset business almost as an afterthought.

Google's focus on the patents rather than the handset business makes almost too much sense: Google's Android operating system has long been "open" and is used by a large ecosystem of handset makers, including Samsung and HTC. These companies have invested billions of dollars in its Android-based operations and helped make Android more popular than Apple's mobile operating system. Those handset makers will now have to compete against Google.

"Google can't admit in public that what they intend to do is eventually make Android proprietary," said Tavis McCourt, an analyst at Morgan Keegan Equity Research. Despite Google's protestations, Mr McCourt says he believes that in two to three years—after Motorola increases its distribution channels in Europe, where it is weak compared to Samsung and others—Google will seek to start closing Android's platform or begin building special features on its own phones that are not available to its "partners".

And even though Google could keep Android as an "open" platform, a special phone with bells and whistles could still infuriate its current manufacturing partners. For consumers, however, a proprietary phone would finally make Google's Android system vertically integrated, creating an end-to-end system that may allow it to better compete against the iPhone, which has long been heralded because Apple has been able to control all aspects of the phone, from software to hardware.

Indeed, Google's main PR message in its takeover of Motorola Mobility may follow that playbook of Research in Motion, the maker of BlackBerry, when it acquired QNX Software Systems, a software unit of Harmon International, a little more than a year ago. At the time of the deal, RIM said it was buying QNX to enter the automobile and infotainment business, which was a strength of QNX. RIM played down any talk that QNX might be used as RIM's next-generation operating system. Of course, the messaging was a bit disingenuous: QNX is now building RIM's operating system. "They couldn't say it because RIM's developers would have stopped developing for BlackBerry's current operating system," Mr McCourt said.

Google's message may also be needed to win approval from regulators who could seek to block the acquisition if any number of handset makers came out against the deal. On Monday, all of Android's handset makers came out in support of the deal on the basis that it would protect Android from potential patent litigation.

None of this is meant to suggest that Google's stated desire to own Motorola Mobility, in part, for its patents is untrue. Google clearly has been involved in an effort to buy mobile phone-related patents for the last year: it lost a bidding war last month to buy about 6,000 patents from the bankrupt telecommunications maker Nortel Networks. (Apple and Microsoft led a group that outbid it.)

But it is undeniable that Google's new chief executive, Larry Page, has long had a hankering for the mobile phone business, and this acquisition may be the culmination of his ambitions. Mr Page, after all, was the executive who personally pursued the acquisition of Android and has been its biggest proponent. And he pressed Google to compete in federal auctions for wireless spectrum in recent years at a time when others were more hesitant—and in some cases was willing to overpay for spectrum. "He was the guy behind Android," Mr Levy said in an interview. "Larry is a big ambitious guy; he will roll big dice."

If there's any question about Google's motivation to own a handset maker rather than just a portfolio of patents, consider this: InterDigital, a licensing company that owns some 8,000 wireless patents and has another 10,000 patent applications being processed, has been up for auction. Many industry insiders were sure that if Google were serious about acquiring a portfolio of patents, InterDigital would be its target. The company's market value is only about $3 billion and it doesn't come with all the baggage of Motorola's handset business. "If this deal was just about patents, Google would have bought IDCC," Mr McCourt said, referring to InterDigital's stock ticker. Guess what happened to shares of InterDigital on Monday? They fell 14% now that Google is unlikely to be a buyer.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

OF POROUS PORTS AND UNMANNED RAILS
DARLINGTON JOSE HECTOR


The manner in which rail networks and ports in the south-west coast of India have been exploited for transporting illegally mined iron ore is a real eye opener. The damning Karnataka Lokayukta report, which has already claimed a chief minister, deals extensively on the subject and the details are shocking to say the least. The Lokayukta report computed that approximately 45.59 lakh MT of illicit iron ore was transported through our railways during the period 2006-07 to 2010-11. Illegal iron export through Belekeri port, a small port on the Karnataka coast close to Karwar, is estimated to be at 77.38 lakh MT. It is indeed a shame that authorities have not been able to check this rampant robbery of precious ore, which has resulted in great ecological damage in Bellary and the surrounding mineral rich regions.

The rail tracks have always been a major mode of iron ore transport from Karnataka to Goa. Two major rail destination in this regard are Tinaighat and Soverdem, and the Lokayukta report has found that there is no mechanism to verify the legality of iron ore received at rail stations. Dr UV Singh, who spearheaded the Lokayukta investigation under Justice Santosh Hegde, uncovered several cases of discrepancies with regard to consignments unloaded at Tinaighat and Soverdem railway stations and permits issued to consignors. This shows how inept the authorities have been on tackling this menace. Or is it that they turned a blind eye?

In fact, the report points towards Goa as a major piece of the mining puzzle. The state has numerous iron ore mines, and the minerals are exported through the various ports. The two most important ports in Goa are Mormugao and Panaji. Exports through Mormugao port are the highest in the country and a substantial portion of this ore is sourced from Karnataka. In Goa, iron ore of Karnataka origin is blended with that of Goan origin, to improve its iron content. Even the Lokayukta found it difficult to estimate the quantity of Karnataka origin iron ore exports through Mormugao and Panaji ports. The data obtained from the customs offices of these two ports had limitations with regard to identifying the state of origin. It was found that a large part of the manual shipping bills of Mormugao port were not available. Moreover, it was observed that the figures of iron ore exports of Karnataka origin, as depicted in the shipping bill data of both the ports, were grossly under-reported!

Dr UV Singh and his team visited customs and port authority offices at various ports and found several cases of under-invoicing in iron ore exports sales. A probe into this matter revealed that some exporters exported iron ore at sales rates that were considerably lower than prevailing international rates. The report found that there were 478 suspected cases of under-invoiced exports during the five years spanning 2006-10. The total under-invoiced portion of sales amounted to over R2,222.26 crore. Further, it was found that many exporters had a preferred consignee for under-invoiced exports. It is, hence, apparent that the authorities were operating hand in glove with those indulging in this theft, which was code named 'risk amount'.

The small port of Belekeri was another big port of concern. As reported by FE earlier, Belekeri is not equipped with coast guards for monitoring the movement of vessels, as in ports like Mangalore. There is no watch tower and other related infrastructure to keep track of any illegal activities in the port. In the months of April and May last year, 15.84 lakh MT of iron ore was exported through the Belekeri port, of which 11.59 lakh MT was illicit in nature. In 2009-10, 65 lakh MT of iron ore was exported through the port, of which 36.50 lakh MT was illegally routed. It is quite obvious there was no mechanism at these ports to check these Himalayan misdeeds.

The Centre has to now immediately devise ways and means by which it can curb this illegality that has been going on for years. The Lokayukta has thrown out a bucket of worms, and the Centre has to show some nerves of steel (or should we say iron ore) to fight this battle. This is too precious a battle to lose.

dj.hector@expressindia.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

U.N. SAYS AID TO SOMALIA WON'T DECREASE DUE TO FRAUD

The World Food Programme (WFP) said on August 16 that it has no plans to reduce aid to Somalia following allegations that international food shipments there are being diverted.

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said the agency is investigating alleged fraud but "there won't be any food reduction" even after The Associated Press reported that food staples meant for starving Somalis are being stolen and sold in markets around the capital of Mogadishu.

The WFP investigation so far has no evidence of a large-scale fraud scheme, Berthiaume told reporters in Geneva. She said WFP brings 5,000 tons a month of food into Somalia, and it would be implausible if half were diverted because "that would be a lot, and that would need a huge logistical operation."

Meanwhile, the United Nations said the mortality rate among young children at a camp for Somali refugees in Ethiopia has reached alarming levels, with an average of 10 children under five dying every day since the Kobe camp in southeast Ethiopia was opened in June. The camp holds 25,000 refugees. A suspected measles outbreak combined with acute malnutrition is thought to be the cause of deaths, Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said.

Edwards told reporters that "this deadly combination has historically caused similar death rates in previous famine crises in the region." — AP

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

CORRUPT, REPRESSIVE AND STUPID

A corrupt government devoid of moral authority is ill equipped to deal rationally with legitimate public anger. By ordering the illegitimate detention of Anna Hazare before he began his fast in support of stronger anti-corruption provisions in the Lokpal Bill and the arrest of a large number of peaceful protesters in the national capital, the United Progressive Alliance government revealed its ugly, repressive face. No representative government in a democracy can deny citizens their fundamental right to dissent and peaceful protest. Insisting on unreasonable, inequitable, and suspiciously contrived conditions that everyone knows the protesters cannot accept is tantamount to denial of the democratic right. Instead of honestly dealing with the issues raised by successive corruption scandals, the UPA government chose to cover up. When that became unsustainable, it resorted to slurs and dirty tricks, and incrementally raised the level of repression to smother voices demanding accountability and corrective institutional measures. It is no wonder that from time to time such a government gets into panic mode, miscalculates, and commits acts that everyone outside the regime recognises as politically stupid.

Despite several opportunities to reach a consensus with Team Anna and other sections of civil society for the framing of an effective Lokpal Bill, the Manmohan Singh government attempted to push through a farce of a Bill. That it misread the national public mood was obvious. Anna Hazare might have given the cause a face, but the anti-corruption movement that is now in a rapid phase of expansion across India does not depend on one man or his team. The real force that is shaking the UPA government — which is widely perceived as the most corrupt in the history of independent India — is made up of hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens who are fed up with a system they believe is opaque, corrupt, and driven by greed. In the words of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India who has scrupulously kept himself above partisan politics, the recent events and findings have highlighted "the single biggest hindrance to India's growth — that is the corruption and degrading moral turpitude which is engulfing the nation like cancer." What after all has made Team Anna the force it has become? It is the feeling among ordinary people across the land — a feeling strengthened by intense media coverage — that here is a rare opportunity to put in place a potent mechanism to end high-level corruption. If the UPA does not recognise the public anger against corruption, respect the ideals and values of democracy, and take steps to create a Lokpal that inspires confidence, there will be a political price to pay — perhaps well before the next general election.

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THE HINDU

LAST CHANCE FOR AIR INDIA

The appointment of Rohit Nandan as chairman and managing director of Air India marks the beginning of yet another attempt by the Government of India to restructure the public sector airline and effect a turnaround. Several attempts made in the past failed miserably, plunging the airline into a deeper financial mess. Air India reached a stage when it could pay neither its employees nor its fuel suppliers. The government has approved a plan to inject fresh capital and a tranche has already been paid. More is to follow this fiscal. But that seems a pittance for a national carrier groaning under a cumulative loss of Rs.22,165 crore plus a debt of Rs.22,000 crore. Air India, which had placed orders for 111 new aircraft, could take delivery of only a few. Since the complaints against its boss Arvind Jadhav were piling up and he antagonised all sections of employees, his continuance in office became untenable. Though the head-hunting committee looked beyond the administrative service for a new head, there were few qualified takers for this crown of thorns and the choice eventually fell on another officer from the Union Civil Aviation Ministry.

The government needs to finalise two plans for Air India — a turnaround plan and a financial restructuring formula. Air India has no choice but to go for the rationalisation of loss-making routes, the rescheduling of aircraft purchases, the return of leased aircraft that are underutilised, the rationalisation of human resources at various levels, and a possible reduction in contractual employment. This will naturally call for across-the-board consultation and consensus building. All sections of employees and their trade unions need to be taken into confidence if these plans are to be implemented smoothly. In a situation where government policy has favoured private airlines for whatever reason, the national carrier desperately needs a level playing field. If the idea is to persuade employees to accept some cuts in existing benefits or concessions, this cannot be a one-sided process. The approach to achieving operational profits for the airline must be balanced, equitable, and just. Ministers and officials must be asked to fly only Air India as a rule and the airline must be paid promptly by governments for VVIP movements and such special uses. Above all, the realisation must dawn on all stake-holders that this looks very much like the last chance to keep the erstwhile Maharaja in the skies.

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THE HINDU

SAUDI ARABIA WAKES UP TO ITS HERITAGE

JASON BURKE

Tell people in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, that you are on your way to al-Qassem province and they raise their eyebrows. Al-Qassem is, even in this deeply conservative country, deeply conservative. It is a two- to three-hour drive west along the main highway, and smack in the middle of the arid interior. Over recent decades several cities in al-Qassem have seen revolts against the Saudi royal family's authority, led by clerics who have denounced their rulers as dangerous reformers and moderates. There are few tourists in Saudi Arabia and even fewer out in al-Qassem.

Dr Ibrahim Darwish, a religious scholar and sociologist who runs a thinktank in the province's third-largest town, Rass, describes a "closed and solid" society that is "traditional, hospitable, generous and plainspeaking."

It is also a society that has changed very fast — even in a region where it is a commonplace to talk of the speed of transformation. In Saudi Arabia, where exceptional wealth came to a desert people without the cultural heritage of other local states such as Egypt, Iran or Turkey, the lives of parents, let alone grandparents or great grandparents, are unrecognisable to young people.

Local museum

So in Rass, the local authorities have built a museum dedicated to the days gone by. It occupies the corner of one of the modern shopping centres that, along with mosques, are the focus of most public life in Saudi Arabia. It is not very large. One room is dedicated to a reconstruction of a rural home, complete with well and ingenious mud-piping that allowed farmers to shower. Another is full of rifles and swords. A third is crammed with looms and textiles.

The biggest space is a reproduction coffee-house with rugs on the floor and painted shutters where Suleiman Mohammed al'Dubayan, 56, is usually to be found. A retired soldier, he is employed by the municipality to wear traditional clothes and make coffee, in the traditional manner, for visitors.

Al'Dubayan sees up to 100 people a day, he says, mainly "young men who come here searching. They need to know about how it was before. They ask me about making coffee, about the old days. So I tell them." The museum in Rass is part of a broader phenomenon in Saudi Arabia: the rediscovery of the kingdom's past. Neither during the first decades of the consolidation of the 79-year-old country nor in the heady rush of development and stupendous wealth since the early 1970s did anyone pay much attention to preservation. There are very few buildings that are more than 30 or 40 years old. In Riyadh, there is the masmak — the old fort that was used by the city's 19th-century rulers, close to the headquarters of the religious police — and there is a warren of crumbling old mud-walled houses in the centre of the city where migrant labourers from India and the far east live in squalor. Then there is the restored 19th-century palace a short drive outside the capital where you can watch poorly paid Bangladeshis on short-term visas pretend to be "olden day" Saudi village dwellers. But almost everything else is systematically flattened to make way for the latest skyscraper or apartment block.

The Rass museum is one of many signs that this is changing. There are currently two Unesco-listed sites in the kingdom — the ruined town of Ad-Dir'iyah and the ancient remains of the oasis of Al-Hijr in the north-west — and it is hoped that the old city of the Red Sea port of Jeddah will soon join them.

Issue of history

However there is more at stake than a new interest in heritage or a desire to attract tourists as part of the kingdom's bid to diversify its overwhelmingly oil-reliant economy. As elsewhere, controlling history is key to power. The House of al Saud has only ever been able to rule its kingdom with the collaboration and support of the largely ultra-conservative clergy. Reforms can be pushed through — such as the introduction of women's education, which provoked rioting in the towns of al-Qassem in the 1960s — but only with the consent of the majority of clerics.

For religious conservatives in the kingdom, any physical traces of history, even that of the first Muslims, is a distraction from God and raises the spectre of polytheism. So for many years, all traces of early worship within the kingdom, let alone of anything that might be deemed un-Islamic, have been destroyed. Scores of shrines, religious places, cemeteries and historical sites have been razed, damaged or built over. This is true even, indeed especially, in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

There is thus religious — and therefore political — resistance to preserving anything that is left.

Mammon as well as God plays a role in the new contest of the kingdom's history. Most recently there has been a row between developers who hope to build apartments with a view of the grand mosque in Mecca — properties that would be worth astronomic sums — and local conservationists.

This argument, like the broader conflict over "heritage," is not one that is going to be resolved soon. Its outcome — or rather its evolution — will be a fascinating window into a very conservative society that, for a variety of reasons, is still committed to expunging all traces of a poorer past.

"I would not like to live in the west," a bureaucrat says to me as we drive down the six-lane highway that passes for the central street of Riyadh, past vast new skyscrapers, rows of shopping malls and mile after mile of cement-fronted flats. "I have never been there but I look at life in Britain or France or America and I say the problem is that you have lost all your traditions." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

For decades, the country has been erasing any evidence of its polytheistic, desert-dwelling past. But now, slowly, the tide may be starting to turn.

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THE HINDU

A STRATEGY TO COMBAT ISLAMIC TERRORISM IN INDIA

SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY

This rebuttal is to the piece in The Hindu titled "Muslims and Hindus are mature, the Sangh Parivar is not" ("Open Page," August 14, 2011) written by Mr. A. Faizur Rahman, claiming to represent the "moderate" spectrum of thought in the Muslim community.

Although Mr. Rahman's piece was written in reference to an earlier piece ("We Muslims are mature, we can take criticism," "Open Page," August 7, 2011), by Mr. Raji Raouf, he engages in disinformation about my op-ed piece in another newspaper. Hence it has become essential for me to rebut what Mr. Rahman has written in your columns.

Mr. Rahman's definition of a moderate Muslim is one who does not react to what he calls provocative articles such as mine. He however fails to define what the so-called moderate Muslim's reaction should be to those "terrorists" who have been killing thousands of innocent Indians in various parts of the country, including driving 5,00,000 Hindus out from the Kashmir Valley.

He states that moderate Muslims are content that the National Commission for Minorities sent a notice to me, rather than respond to the call from Muslim Organisations [his words] to "take up arms and to let all hell loose (sic)." Thank you for the consideration, Mr. Rahman!

However, his concept of moderation clearly seems to be an oxymoron because it means a tacit acquiescence in the atrocities of the Islamic terrorists. He fails to offer any concrete steps for Muslims to disown or counter measures to meet the challenge of the jihadi brand of Islam. At this juncture, I am entitled by the "equal time principle" to state what I had in substance written in my op-ed about combating Islamic terrorism, that is terrorism invoking the tenets of Islam especially jihad .

Terrorism is an act of violence that targets civilians to overawe a legally constituted government and the people in the pursuit of political or ideological aims.

In 2004, the U.N. Security Council, in its Resolution No.1566, referred to "criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a Government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act".

Hence, every government, separately and collectively, has a duty to take effective counter-terrorism measures, to prevent and deter future terrorist attacks and to prosecute those who are responsible for carrying out such acts. At the same time, countering of terrorism poses grave challenges to the protection and promotion of human rights. Every nation is therefore called upon to resolve the conflicting demands of combating terrorism and protecting human rights. The relationship between the two is not "linear," but "non-linear." That is, it is not true that the less we protect human rights, the more we can combat terrorism. The converse is also not true . There is, therefore, an "optimum combination" of measures to combat terrorism and the level of safeguards that ensure human rights. The law of diminishing returns operates in this trade-off. Hence we need a strategy of deterrence with minimal intrusion on human rights. This is what I wrote to stir a debate — and not invite and disinformation abuse as Mr. Rahman has done.

Strategy

The fundamental question here today is that since in India we are the worst affected by jihadi terrorist attacks, how to formulate a strategy to deal with Islamic terrorism.

The strategy we choose for terrorist attacks should not be worse in the long run than the consequences of these attacks as in the Rubaiya Sayeed kidnap case of 1989 and the Kandahar IC-814 plane hijack case. Terrorism in India worsened as a consequence of the deal made by the NF and NDA governments to free the notorious terrorists in custody. More innocent people, for example, have been killed in terrorist attacks since the release of Maulana Azhar, Umar Qureshi and Zargar in exchange for the passengers and crew in the Kandahar case. These three upon reaching Pakistan, continued as heroes in their terrorists acts against India including 26/11 in Mumbai.

Thus we need a clear-cut policy, which means a clear-cut statement of objectives, defining the priorities of these objectives, the strategy to achieve the objective, and the committing of necessary human, financial and infrastructural resources.

We need, most of all, a strategy of deterrence. Secular intellectuals may wax eloquent about "true Islam" being humane and peaceful, on TV programmes, but it is clear that they have not read any authoritative translations of the Koran, the Sira and the Hadith. These three holy books together constitute the theology of Islam. Hence instead of talking about the "correct interpretation" of Islam, those who call themselves "moderates" in the Islamic community, ought instead to urge for a new reformed Islamic theology that is consistent with democratic principles.

In Islam, the word of the Prophet is final. No true Muslim can disown these verses, or say that they would rewrite the offensive verses of the Koran. If they do, then they would have to run for their lives.

We Hindus have a long recognised tradition of being religious liberals by nature. We have already proved it enough by welcoming to our country and nurturing Parsis, Jews, Syrian Christians, and Moplah Muslim Arabs who were persecuted elsewhere, when we were 100 per cent Hindu country. Today, Hindus being targeted by Islamic terrorists, have to stand up for themselves.

What does it mean in the 21st century for Hindus to stand up? I mean by that mental clarity of the Hindus to defend the nation by effective deterrent retaliation.

This also entails an intelligent co-option of other religious groups into the Hindu cultural continuum. That is why I advocated that Muslims accept what has been scientifically established by DNA genetic studies, that we have common ancestors and share the hoary Hindu past.

( Dr. Subramanian Swamy is President, Janata Party .)

A rebuttal to the Open Page article 'Muslims and Hindus are mature, the Sangh Parivar is not.'

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THE HINDU

SOARING FOOD PRICES INTENSIFYING AFRICA CRISIS

SUZANNE GOLDENBERG

A volatile global food supply is deepening the humanitarian catastrophe in the Horn of Africa, the World Bank warns in a new report.

Shortages and near-historic prices for staples such as corn, wheat and sugar have magnified the impact of the drought now ravaging the Horn of Africa, the Food Price Watch report said.

"While the emergency in the Horn of Africa was triggered by prolonged droughts, especially in areas struggling with conflict and internal displacement such as Somalia, food prices that are near the record high levels seen in 2008 also contributed to the situation," the bank said in a statement.

More than 12 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa, the report said. In some areas of Somalia, more than 40 per cent of children under five are suffering from acute malnutrition.

The report also warned that production of biofuels — specifically America's production of corn ethanol — was contributing to rising food prices.

In global terms, food prices last month (JUL) were on average 33 per cent higher than a year ago, the report warned. Corn, or maize, has risen by 84 per cent; sugar 62 per cent and wheat 55 per cent.

But the price rises were particularly severe in Africa. Corn prices doubled in Kampala, Mogadishu and Kigali over the last year, the report said.

Sorghum prices have increased more than fourfold, 240 per cent, over last year in parts of Somalia, the report said.

It blamed the soaring prices on poor local harvests as well as shrinking global food stocks.

The report said corn stocks were at their lowest levels since the 1970s creating a situation in which "even small shortfalls in yields can have an amplified effects on prices", the report warned.

U.S. production of corn ethanol — which the report said rose by eight per cent in the first three months of this year — was also eating into supplies.

"Another factor that adds to the potential upward pressure on the price of maize is the diversion into the production of biofuels," the report said.

Aid organisations have also connected rising food prices to the use of food crops for energy.

Some prices had fallen back slightly since last February, but the bank warned the volatility still left the most vulnerable populations, in the Horn of Africa, dangerously exposed.

"Persistently high food prices and low food stocks indicate that we're still in the danger zone," the bank's president, Robert Zoellick, said in a statement. ( Suzanne Goldenberg is the U.S. environment correspondent .) — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

Shortages and near-historic prices for staples have magnified the impact of the drought.

Instead of raising the spectre of regime change, the West must learn from its experiences in the Arab Spring and find more effective ways of helping the Syrian people.

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THE HINDU

CLASSICAL MOVES IN KIEV

VLADIMIR RADYUHIN

Ukraine is not exactly an India-centric country and its capital Kiev is a patently European city. It is therefore remarkable that Kiev is home to a thriving school of Indian classical dance. It is even more remarkable that it came about through the efforts of a lone Ukrainian enthusiast of Bharatnatyam, the South Indian ancient temple dance.

Over the past eight years, the Indian Theatre Nakshatra has given countless performances, organised Indian art festivals and trained scores of Ukrainians in the art of Indian classical dance.

Nakshatra's founder Ganna Smirnova, praised by Indian art critics as an accomplished performer of Bharatnatyam, is not only its artistic director and main teacher but also the soul and moving spirit of the theatre.

She had her first glimpse of Indian classical dance during a "Year of India" festival organised in the Soviet Union in 1987. By that time she had 12 years of training in classical ballet as well as in Russian and Ukrainian folk dance behind her. She was also practicing yoga, and familiar with the Upanishads and the history of India.

"I was totally captivated by the beauty, rhyme and depth of Bharatanatyam," says Ganna. "It was a fantastic blend of philosophy and mythology with music and movement. I wanted to make it my lifelong artistic endeavour."

In 1998 she went to India on a scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). For the next five years she learned Indian classical dance intensively under Guru Jayalakshmi Eshwar at the Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi. She also took up learning the Mayurbhanj Chhau dance and Carnatic vocal music.

ICCR distinction

Her mastery of Bharatnatyam was so amazing that by the end of her stay in India, the ICCR added her name to a panel of best performing artistes, a rare distinction for a foreigner.

Eager to share her passion for Indian classical dance with fellow Ukrainians after her return to Ukraine in 2003, Ganna set up the Nakshatra dance theatre at the Taras Shevchenko State University in Kiev, Ukraine's premier educational institution. More than 200 students have since attended her dance classes; five of them later went to India to improve their techniques and two have started teaching in Ukraine.

For Ganna's students, Nakshatra Theatre is more than just dance classes.

"Bharatnatyam rouses their interest in Indian culture and history," Ganna says. Besides teaching the theory and practice of Bharatnatyam, she gives master classes, lecture demonstrations and seminars at different educational institutions in Ukraine. Thanks to her efforts, Indian classical dance has become an indispensible feature of Kiev's cultural life.

The Nakshatra Theatre has staged several dance dramas based on the Indian epics, organised international festivals of Indian classical dance and music and invited famous Indian gurus of dance to teach local students. Nakshatra has turned into a veritable oasis of Indian art in the heart of the Slavic world.

Two years ago, Ganna wrote a book on Indian classical dance titled Indian temple dance — Tradition, legends and Philosophy , the first such book in Russian by a practicing local performer. She is now doing further research on the aesthetics of Indian temple dance at the Shevchenko University.

How can one person cope with so much work? Part of the answer is because of Ganna's Indian husband, Sanjay Rajhans who provides inspiration and support in all her endeavours, besides teaching at the Shevchenko University.

"I try to give a sense of encouragement and logistical support to my committed and god gifted wife," says Sanjay, who met Ganna at a music class in New Delhi.

Sanjay and Ganna have twin daughters named Kate and Liz, aged 8, who are being raised in the dual Indian and Slav culture.

"They read Pushkin and the Ramayana and learn from Mama the basics of Bharatanatyam and Russian ballet," he says. "We are trying to expose them to the very best of values of our two great civilisations." Who knows, the first dynasty of Slav performers of Indian classical dance may be on its way up in Ukraine.

Ukraine's capital is home to a thriving school of Indian classical dance, thanks to the efforts of Ganna Smirnova.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PM ADDRESSES NATION

 

Prime Minister's address delivered from the ramparts of historical Red Fort in Delhi to the nation on the eve of 65th anniversary of independence is both statesmanlike as well as poignant. This is his eighth Independence Day address but markedly different from the previous ones. Anybody infused with patriotism and love for the country will have to listen patiently and understand fully the import of the speech. Unconventional as it may seem, the PM has not wasted words in just glorifying county's past but he has deftly dealt with the present that poses many unexpected problems to the nation. One general impression we may formulate after reading his message is that he is in full know of all major problems facing the country and at the same time he also reflected on how most of these could be solved in a democratic way. The PM has touched on the basics of some of the major problems and generalized them with the purpose of explaining to what extent the Government is capable of finding a solution to these and to what extent the Government is conditioned. Who will deny the truth in his statement that there is no magic wand that can help eradicate the caner of corruption? "There is no single big step which we can take to eradicate corruption", he asserted, and that is the crux of the matter. We should appreciate PM's sincerity in saying that like Anna Hazare, he, too, wants that corruption should be eradicated from the polity. But, as he pointed out, there are many legal and practical difficulties in dealing with the menace and a popular government cannot function arbitrarily. He has listed various important steps which the government will take in due course of time to check corruption. It is also very true that we should do nothing to restrict the independence of judiciary but maintain its institutional authority as sanctioned by the constitution. A careful look at the measures proposed by the UPA government to meet the challenge of corruption and lacunae in our legal system will show that the PM has understood the subject in its depth and he wants to reach the causes not the symptoms alone. Who can dispute his assertion that, "Corruption should be discussed in a manner that should not create an atmosphere in which country's progress comes into question," He has made no bones in accepting some of the shortcomings of the government like 'misuse of governmental discretion in allocation of scarce resources'.


Moving away from the painful subject of corruption and scams, the Prime Minister hinted at various achievements of his Government which should not get submerged under the storm raised about scams. Certainly the UPA II government has many substantial achievements to its credit and the Prime Minister is justified in hinting at these. His seven years in the office have seen rapid economic development. "We have taken special care of the needs of our brothers and sisters from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, minorities, women and children and we promise food security legislation to be brought in the parliament", he said. UPA II government acknowledges 'a phase of sustained high inflation' and fully understands its responsibility to control rise in prices.


PM also hinted at how his government was planning to tackle various other issues. Finding a solution to inflation will be its top most priority in the coming months. Land acquisition has to be transparent and fair. Government will establish a new Education Commission to suggest improvements in education at all levels. 12th Five Year Plan should focus on health. Investment in infrastructure has grown more than one-and-a-half times in the last seven years. India has to be made slum-free and the slum dwellers should get ownership of clean houses. Malnutrition in women and children is a matter of concern for the government.
The Prime Minster expressed his concern about a new social drawback of sex ratio which he called 'a matter of deep regret" and stressed that it was essential to change the approach with which our society views girls and women'. Several States especially in Northern India are faced with sex ration imbalance. It was the recent census report that found the alarming situation. To remove it, there is need of persistent social education especially among people in rural areas.


Finally, one notable thing of this speech was that the PM did not highlight Kashmir issue in a way it used to be in the past. Nevertheless, he did talk of terrorism and assured the nation that the government was trying to do all it could to ensure that terrorism is checkmated and ultimately eradicated. In final analysis, this address of the Prime Minster is a fine example of what the government should say and what the people should listen. The Prime Minister rightly said that we need to have trust in ourselves that we are capable of meeting challenges of various kinds. And the Prime Minister was right in appealing to the nation that this was the time to leave behind small differences and rise together to make the nation strong and united. This is a classical example of a speech of great statesmanship.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

STATE CELEBRATES

 

Despite infiltration by a strong militant group across the LoC at various places, Independence Day celebrations in all the three regions of the State took place as scheduled and with usual fanfare and gaiety. Except for the tragic road accident which took the precious lives of a Ladakhi cultural troupe at Kaylong pass, celebration of the day in Ladakh would have been of special interest. In all district and tehsil headquarters of the valley, the tricolour was unfurled and solidarity with the nation was reiterated. In Jammu almost all Central Government departments, civil society, trading and business organizations, educational and professional institutions celebrated the day with great pride and fervour. It was for the first time in many years that various segments of society all over the State including those in distant parts, showed eagerness to be participants in the national Independence Day. The participation of school children in the rally at Bakhshi Stadium was cancelled as the government did not want to expose small kids to any threat coming from the militants. The message goes to the militants that they cannot succeed in their nefarious designs.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

ARE 'WE' A NATION AT LOSS?

BY DHEERAJ JANDIAL

 

Today in the year 2011 'We as a Nation' has virtually belied the faith of our freedom fighters and martyrs. What is more amazing and electrifying to nerves is that the citizens of the country today are more concerned about the hullaballoo of celebrating Valentine Day and Rose Day rather than of the veneration and significance of the Independence Day or Republic Day. Each and every one of us is totally engrossed in our own small worlds and don't have time to ponder about the tribulations attacking our country, much less to debate about them. As such on this year's Independence Day we as Indian are nothing but a 'Nation at Loss' plagued by corruption, nepotism, poverty and abject pilferage.
How true was American anthropologist Oscar Lewis in amplifying his arguments about Indian nationhood that, 'Nearly all the communities in India, are succumbed in 'Culture of Poverty' irrespective of class or economic strata, whether they live in pavements or apartments. Nobody is at all ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption decaying the general quality of life, worst the Politico-administrative system, weak mother language, continuous absorption of common space (mental as well physical, both). The Indians are becoming parents only by blindfold self-procreation, simply depriving their children of fundamental rights of a decent, caring society, fearless and dignified living. Do not ever look for other positive alternative behaviour and values to perform human way of parenthood, i.e are deliberately co-parenting of those children who are born out of ignorance, real poverty. All of them are being driven only by the very animal instinct. Can Indians ever be able to bring genuine freedom in their own life-time, attitudes and start or at least initiate a movement, by heart?'.
What Oscar Lewis projected in aforementioned lines is that the Political and bureaucratic corruption in India, is undoubtedly a major concern for us as a nation. The sentiment of being a 'Nation at Loss' becomes well explicit in a 2005 study conducted by Transparency International in India that found more than 45% of Indians had first-hand experience of paying bribes or influence peddling to get jobs done in public offices successfully. Transparency International estimates that truckers pay US$5 billion in bribes annually. Following this, In 2010 India was ranked 87th out of 178 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.
The institutionalization of corruption, though unofficially is well acknowledged in the reluctance of the successive governments to deal with this evil which is eating into the vitals of not only our economy but also paralyzing the ethical build-up of Indian nation. Although former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi is quoted as saying that corruption is a misuse of power, she also publicly stated "nonchalantly" that "corruption was a global phenomenon" and her government was no different. About the prevalent criminalization and antecedents of our democratically elected leaders, The Washington Post report of July 2008 presents interesting figures which suggests, that nearly a fourth of the 540 Indian Parliament members faced criminal charges, including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder".
India tops the list for black money in the entire world with almost US$1456 billion in Swiss banks (approximately USD 1.4 trillion) in the form of black money. According to the data provided by the Swiss Banking Association Report (2006), India has more black money than the rest of the world combined. To put things in perspective, what is most startling is that Indian-owned Swiss bank account assets are worth 13 times the country's national debt. Even the Comptroller and Auditor General of India Mr. V.K. Rai while tabling his report about the prevailing corruption in the country said, "as on March 31, 2010, unutilized committed external assistance was of the order of Rs.1,05,339 crore."
It is estimated that more than trillion dollars are stashed away in foreign havens, while 80% of Indians earn less than 2$ per day and every second child is malnourished. It seems as if only the honest people are poor in India and want to get rid of their poverty by education, emigration to cities, and immigration, whereas all the corrupt ones, like Hasan Ali Khan are getting rich through scams and crime. It seems as if India is a rich country filled with poor people.
Going back into the era of 1990s, we find Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh striking hard at our stock markets causing loss of several crores but with the advent of time, the number of these Mehtas and Parekhs has increased considerably leading to the losses of lakhs of crores of rupees to our economy. The corruption has gone into the roots of our country be it Agriculture, Healthcare, Defence, Hospitality, Tourism, Real Estate, Information Technology, Education or Politics; corruption has unfurled its high-mast flying flag in each of these fields. Though public memory is short lived yet some of the unfading scams in Indian history are Chara Ghotala, Bofors, Telgi scam, Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Society, 2G spectrum, Satyam, Cash for vote in Parliament, Sukhna Land Allocation, etc and many more with an endless list in offing. The most embarrassing moments for the citizens of this nation that forced us to put our heads down in shame is when a scam figured in the purchases of coffins for the martyrs of Kargil War popularly known as Coffin-scam. But this does not absolve the saviours of the country, the Armed Forces top brass that is well engulfed in knee-deep waters of the corruption. While most of us are aware of armed forces officers indulging in malpractices for allegedly selling defence stores in the black market in the border districts of Indian states and territories, the recent Sukhna Land scandal involving four Indian Lieutenant Generals has terribly shaken public faith in the country's growing military at a time when large sums are being spent on modernising the armed forces. The latest Adarsh Land scam is another example of the nexus between the armed forces, bureaucracy and the politicians in the embezzlement of government property.
While, the year 2011 has proved to be a watershed in the public tolerance of political corruption in India, with widespread public protests and movements led by social activists against corruption and for the return of illegal wealth stashed by politicians and businessmen in foreign banks over the six decades since independence, what is most ironic and sadistic about our real inhibitions is that the citizens of this country, although in lighter vein, bewail about August 15 every year as 'Dry Day' rather than paying their heartfelt tributes to those who laid supreme scarifies for ensuring a bright future for us. It's a time for all of us to introspect, to awake ourselves from eternal inertia and to inspire ourselves for kindling the fire for achieving an ethical society; lest India shall be nothing but a Nation at Loss!

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

DEMOCRACY AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

BY RAHUL SHARMA

 

Rise of civil society in India and movements associated therewith once again initiated parleys amid the legal and political theorists on the role of 'civil disobedience' in a democratic set up. The origin of the term civil disobedience is associated with Henry David Thoreau for his essay 'Civil Disobedience' wherein he describes his reluctance to pay poll taxes to American Government. His essay was originally published as "Resistance to Civil Government". Albeit not terminologically, but one can link the movements led by Martin Luther King Jr.Nelson Mandela, M.K.Gandhi either directly or indirectly with civil disobedience. Historical lineage of civil disobedience in India dates back to pre-independence era wherein Mahatma Gandhi used satyagraha as a moral tool of resistance against British India. Since independence, civil society in India emerged time and again to mark its opposition against certain laws and policies of the state. Different movements in India that showed dissent against the state may be related to Vinoba Bhave, Sunderlal Bhauguna, Jai Prakash Narayan, Medha Patkar, or more recently movements led by K. Chandershaker Rao (Telangana), Mamata Banerjee(Singur) and now Anna Hazare and Swami Ramdev (corruption/Black Money). But there are certain reservations in relating (in relation to /relating to) all these movements with Civil Disobedience as later is often misunderstood with some other forms of dissents.
John Rawls, an American philosopher shares a great contribution for his profound development on the concept of civil disobedience in one of his highly acclaimed books, A Theory of Justice (TJ). Rawls defines "…civil disobedience as a public, nonviolent, conscientious yet political act contrary to law usually done with the aim of bringing about a change in the law or policies of the government(TJ,320)." While analyzing the present pandemonium of 'fast against corruption' in Indian democracy one may ponder on multiple aspects that led to the existing situation. At the very outset it is accepted in a clarion way that corruption, black money, inefficient governance are shoddier for a welfare state. Since Independence, people of India have witnessed incessant scams both at state and union level, no matters which party formed the Government. It is almost irrebuttable to acknowledge the rise of 'resistance' from the substratum of inefficient governance. So presently the rise of civil society cannot be said to be a sudden one, rather it is an abruption of perpetual pressure that exalted in the society because of corruption/black money.
As there is a general obligation to follow the law, civil disobedience in democracy is often evaluated with the justification attached to it. And justification is adjudged only on the ground of the gravity of the situation along with the expected harm if the change (in law or policy) is not made on priority basis. State always sees civil disobedience with members of the civil society that lead a particular movement. To add Rawls here "…in justifying civil disobedience one does not appeal to principles of personal morality or to religious doctrines, though these may coincide with and support one's claims; and it goes without saying that civil disobedience cannot be grounded solely on group or self-interest(TJ 321)." Earlier Indian Government was justified to some extent while viewing Anna Hazare and Swami Ramdev as different groups. State might hold some reasoning while linking Swami Ramdev's crusade with some political or self interest but government's action at the early hours of Sunday (5/6/11) changed the whole scenario vis a vis corruption. The barbaric action of the state against sleeping women and children those were not even potential threat to law and order accentuated the public frustration against the State. While government dispersed the people holding fast against corruption, it is also reported that most of them remained in Delhi waiting to join members/groups whoever lead the cause. Later huge public support to Anna Hazare's call for one day fast strengthens that the present movement against corruption in India is not confined to any member or group. Now people want to unite for a cause i.e to live in a corruption free environment, no matter who leads the cause. Moreover any notion relating to the hidden political agenda or self interest of any member/group seems to be superseded by the action of State itself. Whether such draconian response of the State owes any justification in a case of punishment for civil disobedience is a matter of high concern as civil disobedience per se is not a crime in a democracy, rather a civilly disobedient is punished with crimes recognised under various penal statutes.
Another question that emerged at this point of time is whether India is ready for a Satyagraha against corruption, the answer expects individualistic prudence rather than an enthusiastic approach. Before coming to any conclusion one should have a glance on the words of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who on Friday, 25th November, 1949 while highlighting the importance of constitutional methods said "… If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us." One may argue in favour of the revision of this statement of Dr. Ambedkar that since six decades of working constitution if a political will is lacking in curbing rampant corruption, what constitutional method the citizens shall adopt? Again to quote Rawls here "…One does not cease to be a democrat unless one thinks that some other form of government would be better and one's efforts are directed to this end. As long as one does not believe this, but thinks instead that appropriate forms of noncompliance, for example, acts of civil disobedience or conscientious refusal, are both necessary and reasonable ways to correct democratically enacted policies, then one's conduct is consistent with accepting a democratic constitution (T J 261)." Whatever may be the reasoning that citizens may adopt to justify their 'fast against corruption' one thing is sure to which Rawls, who considers civil disobedience as an instrument of social change, also agrees "…civil disobedience is a last resort, we should be sure that it is necessary (TJ 327)." The discussion concludes (rather begins with) some open ended questions that requires a free introspection of every citizen. Whether it is high time to adopt satyagraha against State? Is there any constitutional method left? Are we ready for the exception to constitutional methods? Whether the present fast is against corruption or in people's sub-conscious mind a thought is developing to up root a democratically elected government by the people? A slight tilt towards later does not bear any defense for civil disobedience and may prove lethal for cause against corruption and democracy as well. Whatever may be the reasoning, individual is required to take a conscientious decision, free from the influence of any member, group or partisan objective.
(The author is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

TAPPING THE HUGE POTENTIAL OF FOOD PROCESSING SECTOR

BY RAKESH KACKER

 

Food grain production has registered a record growth in the country in recent years. India also ranks high among fruit, vegetable, milk, poultry and meat producing countries of the world. This has led to remarkable improvement in the earning capacity of population engaged in agriculture and allied sectors. However, due to lack of efficient supply chains and processing infrastructure, the processing levels in the country are quite low. This results in considerable amount of wastage of agricultural and horticultural produce. As per a study conducted by the Central Institute for Post-Harvest Engineering and Technology, post-harvest losses in 2009 were to the tune of Rs. 44,000 crore.
To harness the full potential of the food sector, the Ministry of Food Processing Industries launched new schemes in the 11th Plan, which are at different stages of implementation. The focus of these schemes is on creation of modern infrastructure to facilitate growth of food processing and cold chain system for handling perishable produce. More specifically, these schemes relate to the setting up of mega food parks, integrated cold chains, value addition and preservation of infrastructure, and modernization of abattoirs.
Mega Food Parks Scheme
The Mega Food Parks Scheme (MFPS), a flagship programme in the food processing sector, facilitates establishment of a strong infrastructure backed by an efficient supply chain. The Mega Food Parks have farm proximate facilities such as primary processing centres, collection centres and a central processing centre. The food processing units within a Mega Food Park use common infrastructure required for processing, packaging, quality control labs, trade facilitation centre etc, based on their needs. This cluster approach makes food processing more economically viable. The state-of-the art processing infrastructure gives them the required technical edge.
Mega Food Parks have the potential to revive the agriculture in the surrounding areas by increasing returns for farmers, besides creating large employment opportunities in rural areas.
Each Mega Food Park is envisaged to catalyse an investment of Rs. 250 crore, leading to annual turnover of about Rs. 400 – 500 crore. The scheme provides for a capital grant of 50 percent of the project cost (excluding the cost of land) subject to a maximum of Rs. 50 crore. In difficult and ITDP notified areas, the grant is even higher at 75 percent of project cost (excluding the cost of land) with a ceiling of Rs. 50 crore. The grant is utilized towards creation of common infrastructure in the Mega Food Park and also setting up of Primary Processing and Collection Centres.
Out of 30 proposed Mega Food Parks, 15 projects have been taken up so far. Of this, final approval has been accorded to 8 Mega Food Parks in Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand, Assam, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The cumulative project cost of these Parks is Rs. 930 crore. This includes grant of Rs.400 crore.
In-principle approval has been accorded to the remaining 7 projects. 15 new Mega Food Parks are in the process of Government approval.
Scheme for Cold Chain, Value Addition and Preservation Infrastructure
The Scheme for Cold Chain, Value Addition and Preservation Infrastructure intends to address the shortage of cold storage capacity. Huge gap of 9 to 10 million tonnes of cold storage capacity was identified in the country by the Task Force on Cold Chains. The scheme aims at providing integrated and complete cold chain, value addition and preservation infrastructure facilities without any break, for perishables from the farm gate to the consumer. The assistance under the scheme includes financial assistance (grant-in-aid) of 50% of total cost of plant and machinery and technical/ civil works in general areas and 75% for North East region and difficult areas, subject to a maximum of Rs. 10 Crore.
Initially, 10 integrated cold chain projects are under implementation in different parts of the country. Out of these projects, 8 have started commercial production. Concurrent evaluation of projects reveals substantive value addition, reduction in wastage and enhancement in farmers' income.
In the second phase, 39 proposals have been approved. The approved proposals envisage a total investment of about Rs. 850 crore which would be creating cold chain capacity of about 1.60 lakh tonne.
Taking note of the high demand for and the gap in the availability of cold storage, processing, preservation and cold logistics facilities in India, the Ministry is planning to upscale the Scheme and the Planning Commission has accorded 'in-principle' approval for the same.
A number of other initiatives have been taken in the last few years to upgrade the food processing capacities in different areas. As part of it, in the 1st phase 10 projects have been approved for modernization of abattoirs which are progressing well. Two projects have already been completed.
Research, education and training in the food processing sector are being supported by the Indian Institute of Crop Processing Technology. The National Meat and Poultry Processing Board is engaged in promotion of meat industry. Grape processing is being supported by the Indian Grape Processing Board to cater to the needs of fast-growing wine industry.
The food processing sector is progressing well. The average growth has doubled from 7% in 2004 to 14% in 2010. The Vision 2015 Document has set the goal of tripling the size of the processed food sector. A number of schemes are already under operation in the sector and some more are in the pipeline to achieve the goal. These schemes, coupled with other flagship programmes in agriculture and allied sectors, are bound to change the face of rural India and add prosperity to the life of the common man.

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

EDITORIAL

THE ESCALATING STANDOFF

ANNA'S BRINKMANSHIP, GOVT'S MISHANDLING

 

IT is truly unfortunate that the confrontation between the Union Government and anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare has escalated so much as to lead to hordes of people spilling on to the streets in various cities and towns against the detention of Anna and his closest associates. While we hold no brief for Anna Hazare and his team for the manner in which they have been unmindful of Parliament's right to debate the draft bill on the setting up of a Lokpal and for the intense pressure they have been exerting for the adoption of their own draft, the issue could have been handled better by the Central government. The confusion that has characterized the government's stand has indeed been glaring.

 

Take the latest round of the standoff for instance. After the release of a caustic letter from Anna Hazare to the Prime Minister, two days ago Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari breathed fire at the activists, casting uncalled-for aspersions over the personal integrity of Anna Hazare. The next day, there was a perceptible softening of the party's stand on Anna's 'corruption'. On Tuesday morning, as Anna Hazare was preparing to go to the venue of his indefinite fast in New Delhi, he was whisked away by the police after he vowed to go ahead with the fast and announced his intention to defy prohibitory orders. It is a moot point whether the police should have waited for Anna to defy the orders rather than arresting him in anticipation.

 

It is time for healing action as the anger among a section of the people leads to unrest across the country. There can be little doubt that corruption and black money are issues that agitate the minds of millions in the country. The Centre needs to take credible action to stem the tide of corruption. As for the activists, it is but fair that they allow the Parliament Standing Committee to do its job now and for Parliament to take a call. Nothing stops them from lobbying for a fine-tuned draft before it is adopted. It would then be apt for the Anna Hazare team to act as a zealous watchdog to ensure that it is implemented in letter and spirit and vested interests do not infiltrate the process of action.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

PAIN OF THE RAIN-HIT

GOVT APATHY ADDS TO THEIR MISERY

 

Every year during a normal monsoon heavy rain causes much damage to crops and houses, and lays bare infrastructural deficiencies in large parts of Punjab. Precious lives are lost as unsafe buildings collapse. Those residing close to the rivers and canals are the worst hit when waters spill over. People's misery, it seems, has ceased to shock the ruling politicians, who focus more on political point-scoring over inter-state water disputes, the Hansi-Butana canal being the latest addition, than on desilting and repairing the canals and rivers. They may bemoan the regular decline of the water table, but won't try rainwater harvesting.

 

While petty politicking over the Ghaggar floods engaged the attention of Punjab and Haryana politicians, each blaming the rival for the sorry state of affairs, and "mahapanchayats" were organised to demand the control of floods, no one bothered about the other rivers, the Beas and the Sutlej, which further stretched their limits. No study has been done to assess the annual loss to human life, animals and the state economy. Since the gravity of the problem is not realised, a solution is unlikely and unexpected. Death stalks roads. In the hill areas of Himachal Pradesh accidents become more frequent as highways prove inadequate for a growing number of vehicles. Holidaymakers visiting the hills to spend an extended weekend had a harrowing time on choked roads with rain hammering the fragile hills.

 

In most towns sewerage is either non-existent or non-functioning. In cities, barring posh areas, common people are subjected to unbelievable suffering. The all-pervasive filth spreads disease, which strikes the poor the most, sapping their energy to earn a living and eating away their limited savings. Clean drinking water becomes more inaccessible. The government has to respond effectively to the known dangers of urban chaos, disease and floods. The monsoon does not come as a surprise. Yet lack of official preparedness is appalling. Politicians wake up only to demand or announce relief.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

INDIAN CRICKET DETHRONED

IT WAS ARROGANCE THAT DID THEM IN

 

THE magnitude of the reaction against India's poor performance in the three Tests in England is a little surprising. It seems that the entire cricket-following public of India had assumed that the Indian team would walk over its rivals. On the contrary, it was always going to be a tough assignment and the additional factors of poor attitude, poor preparation and largely a sense of arrogance have come back to haunt the side. It was rather presumptuous for all concerned to expect that the English, who were mentally and physically completely tuned-in to the job of dethroning India, would simply fold up and hand the Pataudi Trophy to India. This arrogance was India's Achilles heel. Mental and physical preparation for this series was at bare minimum.

 

Half the team arrived in England from the West Indies, while the star players, who had opted out of that series after a very long and arduous season, reached from India. But among them were some players who were unfit and as the series progressed, it became even more evident that little was done to change that situation. Zaheeer Khan limped out of the attack on the first day of the series and the bowlers have struggled to fill that chasm, while the English batsmen made merry.

 

Technically too it was a nightmare. In essence, India are 0-3 down in the series since the batsmen, who have often been given very hospitable invites to bat first, failed miserably. While the younger players, fed on the diet of instant cricket, were always expected to be tested by the swing and bounce they would face from the English fast bowlers, even the seniors, who have earlier done well there were found wanting. Rahul Dravid was left to do many roles — including wicket-keeping — and one cannot expect to win any team game on performances from one person. This was an abject lesson for Team India as well as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. One can only hope that they have learned some valuable lessons from it.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

MISGOVERNANCE IN INDIA, PAK

RULERS' PROMISES AND PERFORMANCE

BY KULDIP NAYAR

 

WHEN India and Pakistan are celebrating their 64th independence anniversaries, the scions of the two dominating 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 up simply - Rahul in kurta and pajama and Bilal will soon be returning to Pakistan and wearing salwar and kameez (the dress that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto prescribed). But both dynasties have tonnes of money, most of which they have reportedly stashed away abroad. Every one 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 Zulfiqar-Benazir Bhutto on the other are conscious of their support among the gullible whom each have fed on slogans: Mrs Gandhi promising the electorate to oust poverty (gharibi 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 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir in the other have still sustained the hope that the two dynasties would one day deliver the dream which 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 morality from politics during the 1975-77 Emergency, but, at the same time, who can forget that she was assassinated by her own security men whom the intelligence agencies correctly identified as doubtful. Zulfiqar 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 will the peoples of the two nations 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. Beheading of two security men by terrorists who then returned to the heaven 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 Godhara-Gujarat riots.

 

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 while dealing with the whistle-blowers. Many journalists have died while 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 Nehru, or with the first martial law dictator in Pakistan, Gen 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 level is around 70 per cent while Pakistan 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 the clothes with foreign brand names give them distinction and the intellectual air which they otherwise lack. They have no pride in the 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 are their goals. A little soul-searching cannot do any harm. It is no use picking one party or one person as a scapegoat. In this bathroom 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 the matter of religion and opportunities. His dream of a pluralist society has been belied by 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.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

'EK CHHOTI SI' LOVE STORY

BY JUPINDERJIT SINGH

 

There would hardly be anyone who has not felt love ever. Generations remember some stories. But some stories remain in the hearts only. A friend of mine is living his own 'chhoti c love story' these days.

 

He was young. She was younger. He was in Class tenth. She was in ninth. He liked her. She found him cute. He had no idea what the longing was all about. She was too innocent to understand anything.

 

He was the star player and the head boy. She was the first one to dare to wear trousers amidst the sea of suits and salwars. He looked in her dove eyes. She looked down.

 

He loved the dimple chin. She loved his humour. He followed her back home on his red bicycle. She was always ahead on her pink bicycle. He never sped up to catch up. She always peddled slowly thinking he would.

 

Then, one bigger boy on a bigger bicycle overtook him. He could not keep pace. The boy was aggressive and conveniently pedalled his cycle in between them. Then, there was another one on another bicycle and then a bike and a scooter and then even a car. The girl kept growing beautiful and her suitors bigger, stronger and richer.

 

He was silent. He was sad. He always thought tomorrow he would say it all. But when tomorrow became today, he let it become yesterday and yesterdays became the past days, the past life.

 

They met years — donkey's years — later, on a social networking site. His intense eyes still peeped through the specs. Her dimple chin was more prominent in her double chin. Her husband and kids smiled from her profile picture. His wife looked on from the side of their family picture.

 

"Hi," he began. She smiled. "You remember me?" he asked. "Yeah," she wrote.

 

He punched in a smiley.

 

"And life?" he asked. "Good, he is rich and our two kids are in best school, and I see you have progressed a lot."

 

"Thanks. And love?" he asked. She paused long.

 

"Yes, I experienced love. It was little short of what I felt on the road when someone used to follow me."

 

"That someone was one of the many," my friend couldn't resist, "but they were all rich and handsome."

 

"Others? Who? I didn't notice any. I felt only him everyday and I live those moments again and again."

 

"I wish you had given 'him' some sign, maybe... ," my friend left it incomplete.

 

"It is destiny, as they say," she wrote.

 

My friend smiled: "Yes, and remember John Keats said in the Ode on a Grecian Urn about the permanency of love. The lovers kissing each others in the painting on the urn would always remain locked in the immortal love, unlike the real world."

 

"And so those two shall be always on that road," she punched along with a smiley. He repeated and both said time to sign off, time for the loving family.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

NO SINGLE STEP CAN ERADICATE CORRUPTION: PM

 

In his address to the nation on the 64th anniversary of Independence of the country the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, spoke on the latest challenges, including corruption, Lokpal, price rise, land acquisition law and terrorism. Excerpts from the speech:

I have been addressing you from the historic Red Fort for the last seven years. In these seven years, our country has achieved much. During this period, we have travelled rapidly on the path of development and have seen success in many areas. However, I am also well aware that a lot remains to be done. We have to banish poverty and illiteracy from our country. We have to provide the common man with access to improved health services. We have to provide employment opportunities to each one of our youth.

 

The road ahead is long and arduous. Particularly, the prevailing situation both inside and outside the country is such that if we do not act with understanding and restraint, our security and prosperity can get adversely affected. The world economy is slowing down. The developed countries, especially America and countries of Western Europe, are facing economic problems. There is unrest in many Arab countries of the Middle East. There are some people who want to create disturbances in the country so that our progress gets stalled. All this can have a negative impact on us. But we will not let this happen. I know that if we work together, we can face any challenge. However, it is necessary that we rise above personal or political interests and build a consensus on issues of vital national importance.

 

In these seven years, the pace of our economic development has been rapid. We have achieved this success

despite the global economic slowdown of 2008 and rising prices of energy and commodities in world markets.

 

We have strived for reducing inequalities in the country. We have enacted laws which would guarantee our people their basic entitlements. After the rights to education, employment and information, we will soon enact legislation for providing food security to the people.

 

Strictest possible action against the corrupt

 

In the last few months many instances of corruption have come to light. In some cases, functionaries of the Central government face allegations of corruption. In other cases, it is the functionaries of various state governments.

 

We are taking the strictest possible action in cases of corruption that have surfaced. These cases are sub-judice and hence I will say nothing more on this subject.

 

It is essential that when we consider these issues, we do not create an atmosphere in which the country's progress comes into question. Any debate on these matters should reflect the confidence that we can overcome these challenges.

 

Corruption manifests itself in many forms. In some instances, funds meant for schemes for the welfare of the common man end up in the pocket of government officials. In some other instances government discretion is used to favour a selected few. There are also cases where government contracts are wrongfully awarded to the wrong people. We cannot let such activities continue unchecked.

 

I believe that there is no single big step which we can take to eradicate corruption. In fact, we will have to act simultaneously on many fronts.

 

We will have to improve our justice delivery system. Everyone should know that quick action will be taken against the corrupt and punishment meted out to them. If our system delivers justice in an effective manner, government officials would think twice before committing a wrong act out of greed or under political pressure.

 

We want a strong Lokpal to prevent corruption in high places. We have recently introduced a Bill in Parliament to achieve this. Now only Parliament can decide what type of Lokpal legislation should be enacted. I am aware of the differences of opinion on some aspects of the Bill. Those who don't agree with this Bill can put forward their views to Parliament, political parties and even the press. However, I also believe that they should not resort to hunger strikes and fasts-unto-death.

 

Judiciary can't be under Lokpal

 

It is not appropriate to bring the judiciary under the ambit of Lokpal. We believe that any such provision would go against the independence of the judiciary. However, we do need a framework in which the judiciary becomes more accountable. It is with this aim that we have introduced the Judicial Accountability Bill in Parliament. I am confident that this Bill will be passed soon.

 

An alert Press and an aware citizenry can be very helpful in the fight against corruption. The Indian Press is known for its independence and activism throughout the world. The Right to Information legislation that we have enacted has enabled our Press and people to keep a strict watch on the work of the government.

 

Today many government decisions, which in the absence of this Act would escape public scrutiny, are coming to light. I believe that this is a big step forward in eradicating corruption.

 

Many times, government discretion is misused in the allocation of scarce resources and in the grant of clearances. We have examined this issue. We will put an end to such discretionary powers wherever possible.

 

Any government awards contracts worth thousands of crores every year. There are frequent complaints of corruption in these decisions. We had constituted a committee to suggest measures to reduce corruption in government purchases. The committee has recommended that, like many other countries, we should also have public procurement legislation which lays down the principles and practice with regard to government purchases. We will introduce a Bill in Parliament by the end of this year to enact such a law.

 

Law to make regulators accountable

 

In recent years, we have established independent regulatory authorities in many areas. These authorities discharge many responsibilities which were earlier in the domain of the government itself. We have no legislation which would enable monitoring of the work of these regulatory authorities and make them more accountable, without, however, compromising their independence. We are also considering enactment of such a law.

 

I have said so much on corruption because I know that this problem is a matter of deep concern for all of us. However, this is a difficulty for which no government has a magic wand. We are taking simultaneous action on many fronts in our fight against corruption. We want all political parties to stand shoulder to shoulder with us in this fight. To eradicate corruption, we have introduced, and will introduce, many Bills in Parliament. I hope that all political parties will cooperate in the process of converting these Bills into statutes. On the issue of corruption, I would like to say in the end that we can win the fight against corruption only when each and every citizen of India cooperates in it.

 

Our country is passing through a phase of sustained high inflation. Controlling rising prices is a primary responsibility of any government. Our government fully understands this responsibility. We have continuously taken steps to rein in prices. Some time we have been confronted with a situation in which the reasons for rising prices lay outside the country. The prices of petroleum products, foodgrains and edible oil have risen steeply in international markets in recent times. Since we import these products in large quantities, any rise in their prices adds to inflationary pressure in our country.

 

Sometimes we have been successful too in controlling inflation. But this success has not proved lasting. A few days back, the people's concern at rising prices was also reflected in a discussion in Parliament. I wish to assure you today that we are continuously monitoring the situation to find out what new steps can be taken to arrest rising prices. Finding a solution to this problem will be our top-most priority in the coming months.

 

Land acquisition should be transparent

 

I am fully aware of the tensions caused in some parts of the country because of acquisition of land for industry, infrastructure and urbanisation. Our farmers have been especially affected by such acquisition. Land acquisition is no doubt necessary for projects of public interest. But it should take place in a transparent and fair manner. The interests of those whose livelihoods are dependent on the land being acquired should be fully protected. We will ensure that no injustice is done to anyone in the process of land acquisition. Our government wants to replace the 117-year-old land acquisition law by a new land acquisition and rehabilitation law which is forward looking and balanced. We have already prepared draft legislation and have initiated steps to build a consensus on it. We will soon introduce a Bill in Parliament to this end.

 

Last month's terrorist attacks in Mumbai warn us that there cannot be any slip-up in our vigilance as far as the fight against terrorism is concerned. This is a long battle to be fought jointly by the Central Government, the state governments and the common man. We have been steadily strengthening our intelligence and security agencies and will continue to do so in the future also.

 

We are also taking all possible steps to overcome the challenge of Naxalism. We want to eradicate the very reasons which give rise to this problem. Therefore, we have started a new scheme for the accelerated development of 60 backward and tribal dominated districts. An amount of Rs. 3,300 crore will be spent on this scheme in a period of two years. 

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER EMPTY CAMPAIGN PROMISE

HOW UP CHIEF MINISTER MAYAWATI ALMOST (ACCIDENTALLY) SAVED OUR LONG WEEKEND


Iam kinda with Mayawati on this one. Which isn't to say that I find something objectionable or incendiary with the subject matter of Prakash Jha's latest film, Aarakshan. Not at all. My reasons for not wanting to expose our audiences to that film are purely aesthetic and altruistic, for, if the UP Chief Minister — like her peers in Punjab et al — had persisted with a ban on the film, well, it would have saved at least a few dozen unsuspecting viewer moods and perhaps enhanced their Independence Day weekend.

 

Obviously, I jest. No right thinking individual can ever possibly support the banning of any art form. Plus, I can't recall a single example of a movie having flamed audience passions to the extent of inciting violence or disharmony. In India, we take our movies not just seriously but very, very personally. The passion is insane. Yet there have been no copycat killings, no youths moved to anarchy, no community so enraged it has felt the need to lash out at another.

 

(Post-release, that is. Prior to the film's release, even barbers feel belittled by being called barbers. If Zak Snyder's Watchmen had come to Indian theatres, some Chowkidar Morcha would be up in arms, indignantly leaving all our gates unguarded.) No, the closest thing to catastrophe as direct fallout of a film was a generation queueing up for Rahul Roy haircuts after Aashiqui.

 

Coming back to Prakash Jha's new film, it has about 15 minutes of 'debate', where each of the protagonists states their position regarding reservations, the quota system and affirmative action. The most obvious angles are all, well, mentioned. The rest of the film — the nearly-three-hour long movie that feels two weekends long — is about Amitabh Bachchan repeatedly and constantly humiliated only to tirelessly take on evil coaching classes in a giant, expansion-friendly stable. It's a strong performance from the actor, but this peculiar fairy tale of a doggedly persevering man — think Khosla Ka Ghosla without the laughs and the art — has absolutely nothing to do with 'the burning question' at all. Getting audiences interested in the name of taking a stand on a relevant issue is merely, well, exploita-shan.

 

Making Aarakshan almost watchable is Bachchan, who takes an impossibly noble albeit pig-headed character, and makes him both real and deserving of our sympathy, tragic and tall all at once. This one performance gives us someone to root for, it makes us want him to win, despite that being an obvious, inevitable eventuality. We, as an audience, take a stand: to back the hero and want him to triumph, though wanting anyone to win against Manoj Bajpayee at his oiliest isn't much of a stretch.

 

The filmmakers, pitiably, do nothing of the sort, churning out a movie that could well have been made in Bhojpuri a decade ago and redubbed into Hindi (with a whiny little girl made to read Prateik Babbar's lines). It vowed to talk about an issue and it legally does mention it a few times, just enough to make the director free of culpability regarding his pre-release promise. "See, each of the main characters talks about it, na? They say a line, right?" Weaving deniability right into his work, it seems almost as if Mr Jha were a campaigning politician dishing out bright and shiny new promises. Oh, wait.

 

There's an impossible visual in my head: that of Mayawati-ji growling at her staff, furious at Jha's lack of cojones, his oversimplified tripe and demanding to see the movie banned because it claimed to make sense and doesn't, at all. As scenes go, that's a dreamily attractive one. Neither politician or filmmaker are accountable for their actions and words in this country, but either one holding the other's throat for the right reasons, now that'd be a start. Ah well. Nothing wrong with fic-shan.

 

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COLUMN

STEAM ANNA

POOR POLITICAL HANDLING OF A MISPLACED DEMAND

The controversy surrounding the arrest of Anna Hazare and his team has generated more heat than light about the issues at stake.

Mr Hazare and his supporters not only insisted that their views be taken on board in drafting a Lok Pal Bill, but also demanded that only their version of the Bill be accepted and, in fact, placed in Parliament by the government. No government can accept such dictates from anyone in a parliamentary democracy. Instead of letting off so much steam on their demand that the government table their version of the Bill in Parliament, Team Anna could easily have got any one of the 545 members of the Lok Sabha to introduce the Bill. Indeed, the highly agitated Opposition political parties can step forward even now and table the Team Anna version of the Bill in Parliament. If there have to be two contending drafts, why should the government of the day introduce both? And is there a logic to Mr Hazare's intended action to go on an indefinite fast on the grounds that the government has not tabled his version of the Bill? The right thing for Mr Hazare to do would have been to get one of the Opposition parties supporting his cause to table the Bill. The lack of a political and communication strategy on the part of the Indian National Congress in meeting the essentially political challenge posed by Mr Hazare and his team seems to have given the moral high ground to a group of protesters whose essential demand is wholly misplaced.

It is quite clear that Team Anna had set itself on a collision course with the UPA government and the government had no choice but to take precipitate action before things got further out of control. However, the problem with the government's response is that it has so far been largely an administrative response, devoid of political strategy. If the Congress party was convinced that the movement led by Mr Hazare posed a political challenge to it, as it has now claimed, then it should have launched a counteroffensive, and not merely used law and order as a ruse to arrest Mr Hazare and his obviously politically motivated team. The purpose of Mr Hazare and his team's agitation is not really to find a genuinely workable solution to the problem of corruption in India. The so-called all-powerful Lok Pal they wish to create can turn out to be a bigger "joke pal" than they accuse the government of trying to create. Common sense tells us that no single institution is capable of solving such pervasive social problems. Now that the government has prevented a fast, it will have to move rapidly to prevent things from spinning out of control. Equally, Mr Hazare and his team must realise that their adamant fundamentalism goes against the principle of liberal democracy. It is not just preventive detention by police that threatens democracy, as the government's critics suggest, but also social activism that adopts fundamentalist postures and ridicules the political institutions of democracy. Having painted itself into a corner, the government has no option but to stay the course. But it can certainly do a better job of winning back public opinion.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

SUGAR, SUGAR

THIS SEASON OF SURPLUS IS A GOOD TIME FOR FULL DECONTROL

The government's move to allow an additional 0.5 million tonnes of sugar exports on top of one million tonnes permitted earlier is well intended. However, the total permissible exports are still not enough to adequately slash unsustainable inventories and improve the economic health of the sugar industry so that it can clear the mounting cane price dues.

Given the robust rebound in sugar production in the current season (October 2010 to September 2011) and favourable international prices, the country can comfortably export another 0.5 to one million tonnes of sugar. As the year's sugarcane crushing season comes to an end, it is clear that the total sugar output this year would be over 24 million tonnes, up five million tonnes from last year's 19 million tonnes and well above the anticipated consumption of 22 or 23 million tonnes. It will, therefore, be safe to export two to 2.5 million tonnes of sugar and still have a comfortable end-of-season reserve for the next sugar year. Why the government has opted for baby steps in permitting sugar exports is, therefore, not clear. The delay in allowing exports has already cost the industry dearly because international sugar prices have come down from the 30-year peak they touched in January 2011. However, they remain high, which makes exports attractive. One way in which the government can make a higher export quota more politically palatable is to give farmers a share of export earnings.

Exports would provide relief to an industry that has seen profit margins squeeze in recent months. Domestic sugar prices have declined in recent months in response to the bumper output, while production costs have soared owing to an increase in the fair and remunerative price for cane fixed by the Centre and even more generous hikes in the state advised prices. Besides, ill-conceived policies of imposing stockholding limits and stringent stock turnover norms on the sugar trade and fixing liberal monthly free sales quotas have adversely impacted the industry's price realisation.

There are indications that the output in the next season (2011-12) will be even higher. That makes a medium-term policy for sugar and sugarcane all the more urgent. The current disconnect between the prices of sugarcane and those of sugar is not in the long-term interest of any stakeholder in this sector. This is one of the factors causing wide annual fluctuations in cane and sugar production, thus perpetuating the long-standing cycle of high and low sugar production phases. The time has perhaps come for a complete decontrol of the sugar industry, starting with sugarcane pricing to the sale of sugar. The present sugar surplus phase is an opportune time to do away with needless controls and curbs without worrying about an adverse fallout for the consumer. Inaction on this front will only exacerbate the sugar glut, pushing the industry into the kind of crises it encountered in the post-surplus production phases of 2000-01 to 2002-03 and again from 2006-07 to 2007-08.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

WHERE IS THE G20?

THE FORUM'S INERTIA AT A TIME OF ACUTE GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS IS PERPLEXING

SHYAM SARAN

The past week saw the global economy staring into the abyss as stock markets the world over crashed, currency markets witnessed wild gyrations and the creditworthiness of the most advanced countries became suspect. One would have thought that having learnt the lessons of the 2008 global financial and banking crisis, the leaders of the major economies would come together to reassure the markets and fashion a co-ordinated response. But the premier institution for global economic governance, the G20, is "missing in action". Once again we are witness to a series of ad hoc, uncoordinated and inevitably ineffective measures, taken nationally, which the markets refuse to accept as credible.

When global markets were confronted with the prospect of a meltdown in 2008, the G20 summit was convened to enable a co-ordinated and collaborative rescue effort. For the first time, advanced industrialised economies and emerging economies came together to evolve a consensus on measures to overcome the immediate crisis and set in place a continuing process to undertake long-term reforms that could prevent the recurrence of crises in the future. Through the adoption of parallel stimulus packages, the rejection of competitive trade protectionism and a commitment to multilateral regulation, the G20 leaders managed to revive confidence among the markets, accelerate economic recovery and begin the difficult task of reforming the world's outdated financial and monetary architecture. This new-found sense of solidarity was sustained in the two subsequent G20 summits in London and Pittsburgh, both in 2009. In these summits a number of key decisions were taken on establishing new and more stringent norms for banking and financial institutions around the world, while committing governments to adopt coordinated policies to address global fiscal and trade imbalances. Pittsburgh was the high point with the assembled leaders declaring that henceforth the G20 would be the premier forum for global economic governance.

Since Pittsburgh, the G20 has in fact become the victim of its own success in averting a global economic disaster. The multi-speed recovery in the world's major economies, with relative stagnation in some but strong rebound in others including India, has led to the adoption of unilateral measures, on a national basis, and an unwillingness to engage in consultation with G20 partners to evolve and implement co-ordinated policies in this incipient recovery phase. The US went ahead with the second round of its quantitative easing programme despite the concerns raised by its major partners. Emerging economies were hit by volatile capital flows as a result of this huge spike in dollar liquidity. China and Germany, two of the largest economies with growing fiscal and foreign exchange surpluses, refused to draw them down to reduce global imbalances. Some countries argued that stimulus measures should not be withdrawn prematurely (the US for example), while others believed that fiscal consolidation was already overdue (the UK and Germany among others). The subsequent summits at Toronto and Seoul saw the beginning of the unravelling of the initial consensus and a relapse into ad hoc, national decisions.

Since then the economic recovery in the US has been stymied by a dysfunctional political system. In Europe measures to deal with the sovereign debt crisis have remained two steps behind a rapidly deteriorating situation. Both China and India are facing inflationary pressures that refuse to go away. It is no surprise, therefore, that the markets across the world have begun to doubt the ability of political leaders in all major countries to deal with the worsening situation, particularly since they see no prompt crisis management initiative of the kind that saved the situation in 2008. Where is the G20 when it is needed the most? If a sense of urgency and collective danger brought the G20 together in 2008, are we not facing a similarly critical and potentially disastrous situation today? World Bank chief Robert Zoellick recently warned that we were entering a "danger zone". Yet we see no G20 response in fulfillment of its own self assumed mandate. The incoming French chairman appears preoccupied and mostly quiescent.

It should be clear by now that the global economy is in continuing crisis precisely because it is in reality an interconnected, interdependent organism which demands co-ordinated stewardship. It cannot be governed through a weak and fragmented governance structure which is repeatedly trumped by narrow and domestically generated political compulsions and which delivers ad hoc and one-off responses instead of the sustained, global and collaborative responses required.

The assumption that the G20's role as crisis manager came to an end as economic recovery appeared to have commenced has been proved to be wrong. It was always clear that we were not dealing with a temporary hiccup that would be overcome and the trend line of sustained growth and prosperity would resume. We are in the midst of a structural crisis that demands continuous attention at the highest levels and a willingness to act in concert at all times. The G20 has failed in this respect and risks irrelevance. And the world risks a collective descent into economic chaos.

Emerging economies like India and China have an enormous stake in how the current crisis plays itself out. Our relatively healthier economies give us a certain credibility in leading an effective and co-ordinated response to the unfolding crisis. We also have a greater stake in the consolidation and efficacy of the G20, where we are recognised as equal partners with industrialised economies. One hopes that India will, in concert with other emerging economy partners, take an initiative to mobilise the G20 summit process, help in the search for answers to the dilemmas we all confront and contribute to shaping a new architecture for global governance. This is what sitting at the high table means. The prospects for sustaining India's remarkable growth story may well depend upon our willingness to assume an active role in this regard.

The author is a former foreign secretary and currently chairman, Research and Information System for Developing Countries and senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

RAHUL GANDHI VS NITISH KUMAR IN 2014?

THE HYPOTHESIS IS THAT WHEN THE ELECTORATE REALISES A PERSON IS NO LONGER A POTENTIAL CANDIDATE, IT MOVES TO THE NEXT LIKELY CANDIDATE

SUBIR ROY

There is evidence that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA-II), under Manmohan Singh's leadership, is winding down even though it has not crossed its halfway mark yet. The first piece of evidence is that the reform process is grinding to a near halt at a time when further reform is needed the most. Brave efforts are being made to rejuvenate the process but the underlying politics, the electoral arithmetic (earlier it was the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's demands and now it is the Trinamool Congress) and ethos (state units of the Bharatiya Janata Party want Parliament held up for this reason or that) in Parliament offer little hope.

The second piece of evidence is that the electorate thinks the winding-down is happening. A cross-country opinion poll carried out by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies for several media organisations finds that Manmohan Singh's popularity as the next prime minister has dwindled sharply after peaking in 2009 when UPA returned to power. It happened with Sonia Gandhi too. Her popularity as a potential prime minister peaked in 2004 but dwindled thereafter when she declined the post. The combined percentage points lost by the two have been precisely garnered by Rahul Gandhi, enabling him to top the chart. The hypothesis is that when the electorate realises that a person is no longer a potential candidate, by desire or default, it moves to the next likely candidate. The opinion poll is to be taken seriously because it summarises data for earlier periods so that there is a sense of continuity that lends itself to interpretation. And the sample is quite large and diverse, covering town and country, women and Dalits, in the ratio in which they make up India's population.

If UPA-II is over bar valiant attempts at resuscitation, what has it done or not done and what clues does this offer to what can follow? Going by the opinion poll, it has done quite well. Even now after all the setbacks, the electorate, in a mock poll conducted with the opinion poll, gives UPA 38 per cent of the popular vote — that is 1.6 percentage points more than what it polled in 2009 and 12 percentage points ahead of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). This is not surprising, going by the detailed answers to questions. Remarkably, a substantially larger number feels that households have become economically better off during 2004-11. A clear majority, in the ratio of 2:1, is satisfied with its financial condition, though dissatisfaction is highest among the poor. There is less optimism about the future than earlier but the total of those who think things will get better or remain the same (that is not get worse) is a phenomenal 73 per cent. There is greater pessimism among the poor but still more among the poor are optimistic than pessimistic. Most feel the price situation under UPA (between 2006 and now) is the same but a vast majority feels the government has not done enough to check prices and a majority holds the Centre responsible for this.  

The view on the condition of farmers is instructive. More (44 per cent versus 35) feel they are the same or better off. It is the middle farmer, not the small farmer or the agricultural labourer, who is ambivalent about his condition. The overriding picture is that there is no discernible feeling of distress and the very poor in the countryside are better off (employment guarantee?) while the middle farmer has suffered (poor farm gate prices?). More people feel that UPA-I was better but an equal number would give UPA-II another chance. Thus, UPA is down but not out.

But then, why the feeling that the party is over? A good 60 per cent feel the UPA government is corrupt (very corrupt and somewhat corrupt), it is insincere in responding to the anti-corruption movement and wants to protect those who have black money in foreign banks. The electorate is clear-headed about Mr Ramdev and Anna Hazare. The former is more well known but the latter is more trustworthy. At the heart of the mood change is the perception about Manmohan Singh and corruption. Only a fourth of the respondents say he has tried his best to control corruption and nearly a third say he may be honest himself but has done nothing to control corruption. But, ironically, BJP is unable to make much capital out of the corruption issue. B S Yeddyurappa, Karnataka's chief minister when the poll was conducted who had to resign thereafter, turned in a very poor performance.

If Rahul Gandhi is up is he all but in? No. His personal popularity is still way below (precisely half) Atal Bihari Vajpayee's in 2004. A look at state governments and chief ministers' performance in the polls throws up two hypotheses. Mayawati and her government in Uttar Pradesh have fared very poorly. So the Congress and a possible UPA-III can get crucial additional support in Uttar Pradesh, thus giving it a better working arithmetic.

But perhaps the most alluring possibility is thrown up by Nitish Kumar scoring the highest in popularity among all chief ministers. NDA is made up of BJP plus allies but Nitish Kumar is backed in Bihar by an alliance of NDA plus minorities with the Hindutva elements kept on a tight leash. Such an alliance, with a leader like Mr Vajpayee with a liberal image at its head, can have far greater national as well as arithmetical support in Parliament than UPA. Besides, Nitish Kumar is as much for reforms as anybody else and does not have the leftist baggage on which UPA had to rely at one stage.  

subirkroy@gmail.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

PROPERTY RIGHTS RIDDLES

TWO RECENT JUDGMENTS SETTLED SOME ISSUES, MORE HAVE TO BE SORTED

M J ANTONY

Laws dealing with land and property have led to a maximum number of constitutional amendments and litigation in the Supreme Court over the decades. Even after these, the law and its interpretation are hazy. Some of the Supreme Court's judgments are awaiting reconsideration by larger Benches — one was in the files for nearly 15 years and another for six years. Successive chief justices have avoided opening the chamber of legal riddles.

In the past few months, the Land Acquisition Act and its state variations were under heavy fire from the courts. Last week, the Constitution Bench delivered two lengthy judgments discussing property rights in the context of acquisitions. In both appeals, the reward for persevering litigants was the right to compensation for their property. The acquisition laws in the states were not clear on this subject and the high courts had denied compensation to the owners.

Though the owners' right to compensation sounds like common sense, the five judges had to tread a labyrinthine path to arrive at their conclusion. After the 44th Amendment to the Constitution in 1978, a citizen has no constitutionally guaranteed right to acquire, hold or dispose of property. It is no longer a fundamental right. Therefore, an aggrieved citizen cannot move the Supreme Court or a high court alleging infringement of his fundamental right. All that is left is an ordinary right under Article 300A that says "no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law." There is no indication of the right to compensation, let alone a fair and just amount. Therefore, the assertion of the Constitution Bench on the right to compensation is significant. State laws have to recognise this right.

In the unanimous judgment in the case, KT Planation vs State of Karnataka, the court declared that "the right to claim compensation is inbuilt in Article 300A." When a person is deprived of his property, the state has to satisfy this claim. In addition, the law taking away the property should specify the public purpose and it is subject to judicial review. Thus, what was lost by downgrading the fundamental right to property to an ordinary right was partly salved.

The same Constitution Bench reiterated this right in another case last week, Rajiv Sarin vs State of Uttarakhand. It said, under Article 300A, "a person can be deprived of his property, but in a just, fair and reasonable manner." The court set guidelines for computing compensation and asked the authorities "to determine and award compensation following a reasonable and intelligible criterion enunciated above."

But the issues related to property rights are far from solved. For instance, the right of the property owner vis-à-vis that of the state, which is enjoined to advance the Directive Principles of State Policy in Chapter IV of the Constitution, is yet to be sorted out by a larger Bench.

Article 31C, inserted by the 25th Constitution amendment in 1971, protected laws that purported to advance the directive principles from challenge in a court of law. One amorphous provision that has deep implication is Article 39(b) that says the state shall secure that "the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good." In the celebrated Kesavananda Bharti case, a 13-judge Bench struck down part of Article 31C that granted excessive power on the state to take over property.

The truncated provision still survives and is the subject of intense dissent among Constitution Benches since 1981. Judges wrangled over the remnant of the Article, which led to a reference of various questions to a nine-judge Bench in 1996 in the case Property Owners' Association vs State of Maharashtra. The Pandora's box is lying tightly shut.

In more recent times (2005), an issue that has profound implications for property rights was also referred to a larger Bench and has since fallen out of the judicial radar (Subramaniam Swamy vs Union of India). The question is whether a law that "manifests arbitrariness and unreasonableness" can be struck down since these elements are anathema to the equality provision in Article 14 of the Constitution.

In the KT Plantation case, the court hinted at more problems. The acquisition of property can lead to a lot of contingencies, like deprivation of livelihood, but that in itself is no ground to strike a law down. "But at the same time, is it the law that a constitutional court is powerless when it confronts a situation where a person is deprived of his property for a private purpose with or without providing for compensation?" Such are some of the weighty questions in the minds of judges. Answers to these issues pending before the court have become urgent as blood is being spilt over right to property.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

IS THE BPL CENSUS CORRECTLY STRUCTURED?

Much depends on a strong implementation framework but the imposition of a cap by the Planning Commission could lead to arbitrary exclusions.

Himanshu
Assistant Professor of Economics, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University

The methodology, which is based on the framework suggested by the Saxena Committee, uses indicators that have been refined using a large-scale pilot survey

There are over 400 million poor (the number varies depending on which estimate you choose ranging from the Tendulkar Committee to the Arjun Sengupta Committee). While there is no consensus on the number of poor, there is less so on who are the poor. Within the so-called poor, each household is different from the other. There cannot be any fixed criteria to characterise them — more so because each of them have multiple deprivations with unique characteristics. There is no doubt that any generalised identification criteria would lead to the problem of some being wrongly excluded and some being wrongly included in the category of poor.

The problem is compounded by the political economy of rural India. Particularly when the numbers are large and access to government benefits is crucial to your survival. It is a struggle to get as many benefits from the state. And in this struggle, it is the poor who are pushed out.

The present proposal of the Below Poverty Line (BPL) census uses a three-stage classification exercise by, first, excluding the rich using exclusion criteria, including the poorest of the poor using the inclusion criteria, and then including households using selected deprivation indicators. The methodology, which is based on the framework suggested by the Saxena Committee, uses indicators that have been refined using a large-scale pilot survey. Nonetheless, the pilot can only help in arriving at a set of indicators that satisfy some of the basic properties. Any pilot or any other academic exercise cannot claim that the indicators are the best. What the pilot does is to select a few out of a possible set using some normative criteria of them being a good proxy of poverty. While some of these may be an advance over those suggested by the Saxena Committee in terms of better defined, verifiable and strong proxies of poverty, they are not the perfect indicators. In a way, the pilot confirmed the complexity (and near impossibility) of identifying perfect indicators.

The BPL process is a two-part one. Although the design part is important (and that is where the pilot comes in), it is meaningless in the absence of equally strong and transparent implementation framework. If genuinely implemented with full transparency, it at least ensures a lower possibility of tampering and willful fudging of the process. Yet it is wishful thinking that the process will remain immune to political interference. The rich and powerful will try to tamper and corrupt the system. Design alone is not enough. For honest implementation we need committed people in the local bureaucracy, including Panchayats. Although the pilot is helpful in designing indicators that are less prone to tampering and easily verifiable, there is no reason to assume that this will weed out other influences. The procedure adopted suggests that the entire data be put in the public domain and be discussed with the community and immediately transferred on electronic tablets to a central data bank. It also involves the close involvement of local elected representatives and civil society. So tampering would be difficult. But these are all assumptions on a theoretical platform. How it works on the ground has to be seen.

But even when these problems can be overcome, what has made the process difficult is the arbitrary caps set by the Planning Commission on the number of people who can come in the BPL category. This forces people to choose among people who are alike and leads to arbitrary methods to select the beneficiaries. The more powerful would eventually edge out the weaker ones.

However, the pilot confirms that the best way to include more poor and reduce the errors is to get rid of the caps and enlarge the coverage. If the purpose is to make sure that no poor is left out, there is no other way but to remove the caps. The best way to use the census is as a ranking of households that includes everybody who is not excluded, which is what the current BPL survey does, thus overcoming the limitations put by the caps.

Biraj PatnaikBiraj Patnaik
Principal Advisor to the Supreme Court Commissioners in Right to Food case

The imposition of caps will make the entire BPL exercise fraught with the same problems that afflicted the previous exercise

The next round of the BPL survey has been merged with the caste census and the exercise is being called the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011. The last BPL survey, an exercise that identifies which of the rural households can be designated as "poor", was conducted in 2002. The surveyof 2002 was based on widely-criticised 13-point criteria that even the ministry of rural development acknowledges as being deeply flawed. Subsequently, the survey results were stayed by the Supreme Court and rendered infructuous. The ministry of rural development was directed by the Supreme Court to conclude a fresh survey by the beginning of the Eleventh Plan (2007).

The SECC 2011, which has come five years late, is the exercise that has been initiated by the ministry of rural development in order to get information about rural households for the purposes of the caste census as well as for identification of the rural poor. Indisputably, the SECC is a vast improvement from the BPL Census of 2002. At the heart of the methodology is the Saxena Committee's recommendation of automatic exclusion, automatic inclusion and ranking of the rest of the households based on socio-economic indicators. Also, for the first time the entire methodology of the BPL survey has been comprehensively piloted by the ministry of rural development.

There is, however, one significant commonality between the SECC 2011 and the previous BPL surveys, and that is the imposition of the poverty "caps" on the results of the survey. Imagine a situation where the government tells the Registrar General of India, who conducts the Census operations, that he should conduct a census enumeration exercise that ensures that the population of India does not exceed one billion. Ridiculous as this proposition may sound, this is precisely what the ministry of rural development will end up doing if it conducts the SECC and is asked to apply a cap of 42 per cent of rural households that will be deemed to be poor by the Planning Commission. The imposition of the "poverty caps" is not in the design of the ministry of rural development; it has been imposed by the Planning Commission. The imposition of caps will make the entire BPL exercise fraught with the same problems that afflicted the previous exercise.

The imposition of poverty caps is inherently unconstitutional. It violates the principle of equality that is integral to the constitutional scheme of things. It is quite possible for two households in two different states with exactly the same deprivations and the same points in the BPL survey to be either classified as "poor" or "non-poor" depending on the poverty cap that has been fixed by the Planning Commission for their respective states. The issue of "poverty caps" is being deliberated on by the Supreme Court that has repeatedly asked the government why the cap should not be removed. What has also irked the Supreme Court, as it has a vast majority of the thinking Indians, is how the second-fastest growing economy in the world can continue with a system that does not consider anyone, whether in rural or urban areas, spending more than Rs 18 or Rs 20 per day per capita (2004-05 prices) for all their consumption needs, including for health, housing and education, besides food, as not being poor.

The SECC 2011 also runs foul of Supreme Court orders that have designated certain categories of households as the "poorest of the poor". These include disabled, widows and destitute households and so on. But for "primitive" tribal groups and destitute households, the SECC does not consider the other households for mandatory inclusion.

The imposition of "caps" and the non-inclusion of some of the poorest and most marginalised groups in the country under the mandatory inclusion category vastly diminishes the potential of the SECC 2011 to, for the first time, allow the Indian state to identify the poor in India.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SHOW YOUR HAND

FOR CREDIBILITY ON ANNA, THE GOVERNMENT MUST HAVE ITS OWN INITIATIVE ON CORRUPTION

 When it comes to winning battles that bring you closer to losing the war, few can match the United Progressive Alliance. Its brilliant strategists have staged yet another coup — against itself. By arresting Anna Hazare in a pre-emptive move to thwart his planned hunger strike, the government has convinced the public at large that the ruling alliance is undemocratic, in addition to being stalwart champions of corruption. Why can't a man stage a protest in the Capital? By disallowing a peaceful hunger strike, the government has made it possible for civil society activists and assorted political organisations to stage a bigger protest. Violating inane conditions laid down by an insular administration is also protest, one stronger than merely sitting on fast. Anna Hazare has sat on many indefinite fasts and has been persuaded to call off as many as he has launched. The government should have allowed this history to repeat itself one more time. It is reasonable to point out the unreasonableness of one man trying to force his opinion on the entire nation by resort to fasts. But it is unreasonable to not allow him to fast at all.


The ruling dispensation must understand the depth of popular feeling against corruption. This is not something to be managed for the time being. This calls for fundamental change in the conduct of India's politics. Unless the government and the Congress show credible commitment to combating corruption, popular support will consolidate behind whatever seems to be a genuine movement against corruption. Congressmen seek to discredit the Anna movement saying the RSS is backing it. Instead of discrediting the movement, it only serves to cast the RSS in a favourable light. The only credible political strategy to counter Anna and company is to mount a bigger campaign against systemic corruption, one that goes beyond deterrence a la Lokpal to the root of the problem —mobilisation of political funding through corruption. Let the Congress take the lead in making political funding transparent. Then the people will start believing it. Let Anna have his fast, and broaden the anticorruption agenda, in the meantime.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GOOGLE'S GREAT LEAP

BUYING MOTOROLA, GOOGLE CHARTS OUT A BOLD PATH IN THE SMARTPHONE MARKET

 

Google's $12.5 billion takeover of Motorola Mobility, priced at 32 times the latter's earnings, is the costliest takeover in the last 12 years. It could also be the most significant game changer in the rapidly evolving world of high speed Internet that you can carry around with you. So far, Google was content to be an Internet and mobile phone operating system (OS) software player, supplying its Android OS to companies like Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson and HTC, besides Motorola itself, which decided to make Android its sole OS in 2008. Now, the phone makers might start viewing Google-Motorola as a rival, although Google has been quick to address this apprehension, saying that it will continue to run Android as an open platform and run Motorola as a separate business. This makes sense. The main reason, then, to do the deal is to get to own Motorola's impressive array of more than 17,000 existing patents, and 7,500 more that are pending, in mobile technology. This asset suddenly became important for Google — analysts say that the patents alone have been valued at $6 billion — after rivals Apple and Microsoft started suing Google for assorted patent violations. Buying Motorola's patents now gives Google the intellectual property cover it needed in the mobile market. Though Google has always been cagey on Android revenues, it's clear that the search giant realises that the next gold mine for the IT and communications industry will be high speed mobile data.


For India, the deal's significance is in terms of what it says about the shape of future computing: it would be mobile, cloud-based, with portable form factors such as smartphones and tablets proliferating. All this presumes data connectivity at high speeds, something in which India lags much of the world even now, despite so-called 3G networks already in operation. High-speed mobile broadband at the last mile and high-capacity optical fiber as the communications backbone would dramatically change many businesses, apart from education, healthcare and governance. The government must make good this possibility and business must gear up for the change.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CRICKETING MODELS

THERE IS ONE FRONT TEAM INDIA ALWAYS SCORES ON

 

We cannot downplay the unique contribution made by Team India to stimulating the free-market forces of demand. In all kinds of weather — fair or foul — Dhoni and his boys helped move the Great Indian Economy forward by creating a demand for every product under the sun. Their dedication to national duty saw them giving shot after shot while appearing in commercials. Team India's cricketers allowed nothing to come in the way of their mission, not even the odd Test at Lord's, Trent Bridge or Edgbaston. The story goes that when a maker of TV commercials rang up the dressing room at Edgbaston to contact Sehwag for an immediate shooting schedule and was told that the opener had just gone to bat, he promptly replied that he would be hold on since he was sure that he would not be kept waiting!


Sales of painkillers and balms for ankle and hamstring injuries have also zoomed, thanks to the selfless modelling of Zaheer Khan who even limped off on the first day of the Lord's Test and fulfilled his commitment to the sponsors. And VVS Laxman scored quickly whenever it was his turn to bat and never kept the sponsors waiting for too long. Neither the team's most experienced batsman Sachin nor the youngest, Raina, batted unduly long in the middle when the sponsors were waiting. It was only Dravid who kept staying on in the middle, but he made amends by walking off in the last innings of the third Test without challenging the umpire's decision of caught behind, though the Hot Spot technology indicated he had not got a touch. All in all, it was a thoroughly professional performance by India's role models who fulfilled their commitment to the sponsors without whose commercials the cricket telecast would not have been possible!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

WHEN GOVERNMENTS CAN'T PRINT MONEY

THE INABILITY OF COUNTRIES TO PRINT THEIR WAY OUT OF DEBT IS SOMETHING MARKETS HAVE RECKONED WITH ONLY RECENTLY


We are used to the notion that companies can go bust for want of cash but not governments, since the latter can print money without limit. This may cause high inflation or even hyperinflation (as in Russia under Yeltsin or Germany in the 1920s). But as long as governments can print currency, they can spend and borrow without limit. Right?


Wrong. The panic in financial and stock markets across the globe last week reflected the growing realisation that neither the US nor major European governments can print money without limit to finance government bond issues, and so could default. The US Constitution says both houses of Congress must approve any increase in the government's borrowing limit (or debt ceiling). If either house says no, the government cannot issue more bonds, and cannot ask the Fed to print money to buy forbidden bonds.


That nearly happened on August 2. Default was staved off by a budget compromise contingent on a Congressional committee finding additional budgetary savings within the next few months. Some Republicans want to force Obama to default by refusing to increase the debt ceiling. In this respect, the US Constitution ties the hands of its government more completely than in most countries. Even when debt ceilings are raised, they may not suffice for even 12 months of budgetary deficits. That creates huge uncertainties.
In Europe, the 17 countries of the eurozone have given up their own currencies and adopted the euro, issued by an independent European Central Bank. Till recently, every European country assumed it could get unlimited euros from the ECB against its sovereign bonds as collateral. That has been disproved in the case of Greece: it can still get euros but not without limit, and only subject to stringent austerity conditions.
Portugal and Ireland are in similar straits. And if Spain and Italy get into similar trouble, not even the ECB will be able to save them without getting huge additional subscriptions from member states and abandoning all pretence of being an inflation fighter.


Now, there have long been exceptions to the rule that governments can print money without limit. In countries with a long history of high inflation, no buyers may be available for bonds denominated in the national currency, obliging governments to issue dollar-denominated bonds. This has historically been the case in many Latin American countries, notably Brazil and Argentina.


Again, some countries like Panama have dollarised — adopted the US dollar as their currency — and cannot print dollars. Still other countries have currency boards — their money supply is rigidly linked to their holdings of dollars or some other hard currency — and hence cannot print currency freely.


Yet the vast majority of governments can indeed order their central banks to print money to buy unlimited quantities of governments bonds. Besides, the major countries of Europe and North America have long been viewed as so fundamentally sound, economically and politically, as to be fully convertible and fit to be used as foreign exchange reserves. These countries are rich democracies, in which voters will not tolerate high inflation.
So, the world has long assumed that sovereign defaults by the US or European members of the G7 are impossible. Small, dubious economies like Greece and Portugal could get into trouble. They had low savings rates and were heavily dependent on foreigners to finance their budget deficits. But all major European powers borrowed mainly from their own citizens. Default by them was considered impossible.

 

 This internal confidence persuaded major European countries to give up their currencies and adopt the euro as a common currency, in pursuit of a united Europe that could eventually rival or beat the USA. This idea was doomed from the start. Martin Feldstein was at the fore of economists arguing that a monetary union without an accompanying fiscal union would fail. Why? Well, if within a country some parts boom and others slump, taxes from the strong areas will automatically finance welfare and retraining in the weaker areas. That flows from the concept of national unity. But there is no comparable concept of European unity that automatically arranges fiscal transfers from strong to weak countries in the Eurozone. In practice, mixing 17 different fiscal policies with only one monetary policy has been a recipe for disaster.


Greece, for instance, can no longer print currency without limit, for it has abandoned its currency and placed itself at the mercy of the European Central Bank. In theory the ECB is independent, but in a crisis it succumbs to pressures from its key members, Germany and France. These two countries initially opposed any rescues of Greece and others. But later they prodded the ECB into constantly change its norms to prevent open default by the weak countries.


Problem: in the last 12 months, rescues linked to austerity have increased rather than reduced the debt/GDP ratio of Greece and other stragglers. So the markets worry that Spain will go the same way, maybe even Italy. Italian default would bankrupt most European banks, who have large holdings of gilts issued by weaker countries. It is far from clear that Germany and France will authorise the ECB to print enough euros to save everybody.


The inability of rich countries to print their way out of debt is something markets had not reckoned on earlier. That is one reason for last week's panic.

 

SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FACE-OFF

ARE INDIA'S EXPORTS REAL?

 

K T CHACKO

DIRECTOR, INDIAN INSTITUTE OF FOREIGN TRADE Yes, the Data is Genuine
Questions have recently been raised on the accuracy of India's trade data, particularly export data, released by the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCI&S) in 2011. It is essential to understand the source and methodology of data collection and compilation to appreciate the integrity of the DGCI&S data. Exporters present shipping bills at numerous ports and customs stations within the country. The shipping bill data is transferred to DGCI&S electronically (in real time). At the DGCI&S, the data is then collated and classified based on time-tested procedures. Quick estimates are generated, initially, followed by provisional and final data. There is no incentive to inflate or deflate the data by any of the agencies involved.
Two recent developments have contributed to a more efficient and comprehensive capturing of trade data. One is the implementation of the ICEGATE 1.5 system that enables conversion of large number of manual ports to the EDI systems. The second is the receipt of data online through NSDL from SEZs from August 2010.
Since exporters are entitled to duty reimbursements under various export promotion schemes, post exports, bank statements of receipt of export proceeds are presented for claiming such benefits. Thus, the genuineness of exports again gets authenticated. The increase in reimbursements to exporters has been at pace with the growth in exports indicated in the DGCI&S. While questioning the genuineness of Indian trade data, comparisons have focused on percentage growth rather than absolute values. Percentage growth over small base values can be highly distorting. Thus, while South Africa and Indonesia recorded more than 100% growth in 2010-11, the difference, in value terms, was only $2.1 billion and $3.2 billion, respectively. Exports witnessed an impressive growth to Asia, North-East and West Asia in 2010-11 compared to 2009-10. Exports to Africa and Latin America also increased by $11.6 billion, while exports to Europe stood at $10.2 billion. The trend reflects the diversification of markets. While shipping bill entries may not be totally error-free, the genuineness of the data seems beyond doubt.

 

BISWAJIT DHAR

DIRECTOR GENERAL, RESEARCH & INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR DEVELOPING

COUNTRIES Recent Estimates may Need Review

India's exports have consistently registered an upward trend ever since the country was able to recover from the downturn that it experienced because of the slowdown of the global economy in 2008-09. The export growth in the post-crisis phase was so steep that it exceeded $200 billion for the first time during 2010-11. It is now well established that the major driver for the increase in exports is the change in the destinations that is being witnessed over the past several years. The dependence on the traditional markets such as Europe and the United States has been declining for the past few years. The trend has got accentuated since the onset of the economic downturn. The shares of India's exports to these regions have declined by almost 3-4 percentage points over the levels in the immediate pre-crisis period.


At the same time, regions that have provided the impetus for global recovery, in particular, the Asian region, accounted for nearly 55% of India's exports in the first nine months of the previous financial year. These numbers seem credible since China's share in India's exports would exceed 8% in 2010-11, up from about 5% in 2008-09. Recent figures show that fiscal 2011 has begun on an equally bright note for India's exports.
In the first quarter, exports grew by almost 46%. This increase in exports was a result of a 57% growth in exports in May 2011. However, recent estimates of 82% growth in exports compared to the same period last year may require reassessment on two counts. First, the global economy has not shown signs of expansion lately. In fact, the IMF predicts that industrialised countries would slow down from the second quarter of 2011. Moreover, the emerging economies too were not likely to make up for the deficiency in global demand caused by the sluggishness in the industrialised world. The second factor, that should be kept in mind while reading the export growth in July 2011, is that in the same month in the previous year, exports had recovered from the trough and were expanding by about 13%. In other words, the low base effect could not have contributed to the high growth figures.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

SERENDIPITY

ANNA: FROM TRIUMPH TO FOLLY

C L MANOJ

 

Anna Hazare's so-called "second freedom struggle" raises questions, one, about how long the protests can be sustained, and, two, on the merits of the protesters' demands and methods. But before that, Team Anna should be given credit for reviving long-somnolent mass politics in this country, something beyond the Opposition that has been reduced to activism on the idiot box. It shows how much anti-government political space had been abandoned by the mainstream Opposition parties due to their inability to credibly connect with/mobilise people in a country where problems abound, whether corruption, land acquisition or terror.
So whom would Team Anna thank for this opening: the UPA government that is caught in a series of corruption charges or, the Opposition, which has deserted its own space? That is anybody's guess. And what a day for BJP chief Nitin Gadkari to announce that the principal opposition party has no leader to counter the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress in the 2014 battle!


For the past many months, the Opposition have been announcing a slew of 'national protests' against the crisistorn UPA regime. Yet each of these `national protests' vanished after the customary photo op' at Parliament street/state headquarters with its leaders soon withdrawing to the indoor comforts of press releases and sound bites.


The fact that BJP could not win even 10 seats when over 800 assembly seats in five states went to polls recently also showed the flip-side of the indoor-theory that "the main Opposition will be the natural beneficiary" of growing popular anger against the ruling front. Hopefully, the BJP will prove its critics wrong in the upcoming UP polls. Here, Gadkari's statement that the party would not have a pre-poll Prime Ministerial candidate is interesting. Either the RSS thinks the leader it has in mind is un-presentable in polls for political/coalition reasons or, it has realised the intensity of the BJP's internecine battle for the 2014 mantle. It is an irony that the BJP, which always dares the Congress to name its PM candidate, declares itself face-less on the day Anna wants to be the nation's alternative.
Of course, the common people hate corrupt politicians, but they want a credible alternative to vend their frustration against the rulers. The BJP, which diluted its anti-corruption plank by clinging on to Yeddyurappa, finally made a spectacle of itself when it tried to remove him to firm up its talking points. The Left, the only force that can speak against corruption with some degree of credibility, chose to score a self-goal when the CPI-M central leadership meekly allowed a party leader, charge-sheeted in a corruption case, to continue in the Polit Bureau and as the state secretary, prompting the party worker to wreak revenge by erecting the'VS cult'.
It is natural for the Opposition to assail the UPA's "undemocratic and dictatorial attempt to suppress Anna & Co". This country, unfortunately, is long used to the instincts of the rulers dealing with dissent/ protesters in a questionable manner. If this streak is evident in the UPA's handling of Hazare and supporters, the same streak is displayed in abundance in Gujarat, when critics try to raise their heads against the Modi regime or, in Chhattisgarh where the government brands civil rights activist Dr Binayak Sen a "dangerous Maoist". The Left has already paid a crippling price for the treatment the erstwhile Left Front regime and CPI-M workers handed out to the protesting farmers/ activists at Singur and Nandigram. It is good to see Brinda Karat lashing out at UPA for denying Anna his fundamental rights. Hopefully she will show the same zeal in defying her party's social boycott call against old-time Marxiststurned-rebels in Kerala.
The best political ally of any ruling side is an Opposition that gifts the rulers the benefit of the TINA (there is no alternative) factor by surrendering its own moral/political credibility. The UPA's best hope is this very visible slip of the Opposition. But for Hazare's April agitation, there would not have been any pressure on the government (or the Opposition) to push for a Lokpal Bill. Similarly, the fact that PM had to spend considerable time of his I-day address on corruption also testifies to the pressure Team Anna has built. These alone should have made Anna declare victory and the resolve to be a continuing vigilant moral force on people's causes. But, by insisting on being a sort of extraconstitutional force, trying to fan popular upsurge by undermining the very norms of parliamentary democracy and the constitutional scheme of things, it strengthens the critics of civil rights activists, besides giving the regime a tool with which to hit back. Such tactics do not suit even those in Team Hazare with ambition to float a political party in future. These methods make it a case of riding the tiger for not only Team Hazare, but also those parties seeking a pillion ride on borrowed fuel. Hopefully, Team Hazare will avert the perils of overreach that consumed Baba Ramdev after creating a splash.

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

A HOBSON'S CHOICE

RANABIR RAY CHAUDHURY

It is a feather in the cap of those who, in recent months, have been trying to draw the nation's attention to the "cancer of corruption" that even the President of the Republic, Ms Pratibha Patil, thought it proper to focus on the scourge in her 64th Independence Day message.

Among other things, she said that corruption was "a cancer affecting the nation's political, economic, cultural and social life" and that it was "necessary to eliminate it". Perhaps referring indirectly to the Lokpal Bill, which has been tabled in Parliament, and the ongoing controversy over it, she also said that there could not be "just one panacea or remedy to deal with corruption". What she would prefer is a "system of transparency and accountability" to be put into place "at various levels and effectively enforced".

Tackling a serious problem

President Patil should be complimented for adding her weighty voice to the need to control and stamp out the phenomenon of corruption which is eating into the entrails of society. If the First Citizen of the Republic considers it important enough to focus the nation's attention on this point, it clearly means that the problem is serious and needs to be tackled (to use a cliché) on a war-footing. It is also expected that if the President herself is ready to give this much of importance to the subject, the Government has no alternative but to follow suit. One is certain that the Prime Minister will aver that this is precisely what his regime is doing on the subject of corruption.

As regards the Lokpal Bill, the Government is within its rights to argue that the law will have to be framed in Parliament, meaning that the elected representatives of the people will have the last word on the shape of the Bill which will be enacted into law.

Seen from this perspective, the Anna Hazare group did well to attend last week's meeting of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice, which is examining the Lokpal Bill. But this certainly in no way implies that the public at large does not have the liberty, within the confines of the Constitution, to speak out its mind on the Lokpal Bill issue outside Parliament.

What the government should do

The heart of the matter is that the issue of corruption is no ordinary issue, as the reference to it in the President's Independence Day message so amply demonstrates. This being so, Indian society, in general, has every right to utilise every legal means at its disposal (including the staging of hunger-strikes in the capital and elsewhere) to get its view across to Parliament, where the law is being framed. If the protests are powerful, then it is the duty of Parliament to take cognisance of the fact and draw up the law concerned keeping what the people want in mind.

Crucially, the Government should not lay down administrative rules affecting the size of any protest gathering. The size of such events is determined exclusively by the people who take part in it. The Government's only job here is to ensure law and order. This is the Hobson's choice facing Dr Singh's regime. After all, the issue of corruption transcends the world of political parties.

Even if the BJP gains some political advantage from Mr Hazare's protest, the nation stands to gain. In fact, this is the time for the Congress Party to wrest the initiative from its political challengers by hijacking the Hazare "show" and showing the nation that it stands up transparently for probity in public life.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

RATE HIKES SANS COMFORT

As another monetary policy intervention by the Reserve Bank of India looms, there is growing evidence that the central bank's tightening of screws has begun to have its effect, although not quite in the way one would have liked it. The question to ask, however, is: What exactly have the central bank's persistent increases in its key rates influenced? Certainly not food inflation, that though has abated somewhat, still reigns at disconcertingly high levels despite the drop in global commodity prices. It is the stubbornness of food prices which feeds the growing impression that the central bank will, in its September policy, continue with its hawkish stance on monetary policy.

Where the RBI has succeeded for now, is in reducing the pace of over all demand. In its last monetary policy review, the RBI had singled out overheating as the prime reason for raising repo rates. As a result, interest costs are rising and will soon hit car sales, feel auto manufacturers. If that happens, one of the drivers of consumption expenditure will get affected, as will retail and personal loans over a wider spectrum of consumables. With the two biggest banks and largest lenders, SBI and ICICI Bank, announcing a 50-basis-point increase in their rates, borrowing costs are moving up to levels that were last seen nearly a decade and a half ago. Export growth is already feeling the pinch of high interest costs, as the Commerce Ministry Secretary recently confessed. When borrowers begin to shy away, waiting for another day for rates to become attractive once again, the banks, on their part, begin to get sticky fingers as a general mood of risk aversion sets in. That is what is happening right now, as banks flush with funds are finding few takers. Last year, they were crying for liquidity; in the first four months of the current fiscal, fresh flow of deposits into the banking system has shot up 50 per cent over the same period of the previous fiscal, while credit is slowing. The problem, as one bank official put it, will be felt in the second half, since fresh sanctions are decelerating. On the other side of the balance sheet, as it were, banks are likely to face mounting NPAs from SMEs and vulnerable sectors such as airlines and agriculture, setting in motion a fresh round of cautious behaviour on the part of banks.

In short, where the RBI is succeeding is in cutting demand and curbing growth in the hope that inflation in sectors that matters most to the common man too will, in the bargain, exhaust itself. But, so far, the relationship between the first two and the last is rather tenuous and all we are left with are definitive signs of growth slowing.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

ENGAGE MORE WITH SRI LANKA

M. RAMESH

Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa's remarks that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's call for economic sanctions against Sri Lanka were politically motivated, has once again brought the question of sanctions back into public consciousness — unfortunately. Tamil Nadu's politicians, — the likes of Vaiko, who, though shrewd, are not famous for their economic reasoning — would probably pick up the thread from her, in order to keep the call alive.

While it is evident that the Government of India will not rush into acquiescence with Tamil Nadu's political waffle, it is useful for people to realise how feckless economic sanctions are, even if the ends that their protagonists seek to achieve are just.

If the idea is to bring the Sri Lankans to justice and to ensure that they do not harm the remaining Tamils, economic sanctions will only be a step in the opposite direction. Assuming that sanctions do hurt, who do you think will bear the brunt of it — Sinhalese or Tamils? The latter, obviously.

But the assumption that sanctions will be effective is founded more on hope than reason. You only have to look at the southern border of Sri Lanka to see why.

STRATEGIC ALLIANCES

After being rejected not once, but twice, by India, the offer for the construction of the port of Hambantota was made to the Chinese. The project is seen by all strategic analysts as a symbol of the new-found China-Sri Lanka strategic alliance. With a full arsenal of strategic weapons — from freebies to funding — the Chinese are pressing ahead into Sri Lanka. (Remember how the third Rajapaksa, Basil, was given a gift of 30 motorcycles last year by the Chinese? "The bikes are just part of a huge infusion of donations, grants, investments and loans, as China's presence in Sri Lanka explodes," The Economist magazine wrote then.) At this time, if a sanction-happy India vacates the Sri Lankan economic space, it will be happily occupied by the Chinese. The Sri Lankans know this only too well.

Somi Hazari, a Chennai-based trader, recalls how a couple of years ago, when India refused an offer for supplying cement, Pakistan happily came to Sri Lanka's aid, and made good money on it.

TRADE AGREEMENTS

Imposing sanctions is like pulling the trigger with the muzzle turned towards the shooter. The Free Trade Agreement between India and Sri Lanka has turned out to be singularly in favour of India. We, who complain against the Chinese for running a huge trade surplus with India, have no compunctions in doing the same to Sri Lanka. India exports to Sri Lanka five times as much as it imports, as the figures for 2010 illustrate: India's exports – $ 2.46 billion; imports – $ 470 million. Automobiles and parts alone accounted for $ 411 million, and were three times as much as the previous year ($ 168 million). Exports of goods transport vehicles rose from $ 23 million in 2009 to $ 103 million in 2010. Sanctions are not in India's interests.

The counter to this is obvious: this is not the time to look at trade and economics; the need of the hour is to bring to book the culprits who attempted to destroy a race. My response to that is simply this: the best gift to the memory of the departed Tamils in the island is to make sure that their kin not only live in dignity, but also prosper. If the Sinhalese had really wished to wipe out the Tamils, the best punishment would be to defeat them in that objective. The way to do that is to engage with Sri Lanka more, not less. The more you engage with the country, the more it is in your control — and the opposite is just as true.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

CHINESE CURBS DENT METAL NEEDS

ARPITA ASHA KHANNA

The global metals market is characterised by various dynamics that may affect security of supply of these materials to India. One of the factors with serious security implications for India is the proliferation of trade-distorting measures by emerging economies such as China.

Rising demand for metals

China, in recent years, has become a major consumer of metals owing to the robust growth in its economy. According to a World Bank report, between 2002 and 2008, Chinese consumption of key metals grew at an average 16.1 per cent per annum compared with less than 1 per cent demand outside China.

China's growing appetite for metals has resulted in the formulation of various policies and strategies, which include application of trade-distorting measures such as quantitative export restrictions (quotas), export taxes, reduction/cancellation of value-added tax rebates, mandatory minimum export prices, stringent export licensing requirements, and so on, by the government.

These measures have been applied on a number of metals such as copper, aluminum, nickel, molybdenum, manganese, magnesium, rare earths, tungsten, indium, and so on.

Environmental protection, promotion of downstream industries and preservation of resources for future use are among the most frequently cited policy objectives of these restrictions by China. The proliferation of export restrictions by China has resulted in growing concerns across the world, as China is the major supplier of many of these metals. In fact, many countries have even challenged Chinese protectionist measures using the available mechanism and instruments, including WTO.

Relying on cheap imports

India relies on the import of many of the metals, for which China is the major supplier. For instance, China's share in the total world production of tungsten, gallium, and antimony is 75 per cent, 83 per cent, and 79 per cent respectively. China is the main producer of rare earths. The dominance of China in the world production of most metals is owing to the policies adopted in past years. Realising its competitive advantage in the production of metals, China flooded the international market with low-priced products in the 1990s.

This resulted in the curtailment of production of these metals in other countries. In India, for instance, there is no/little indigenous production of metals such as tungsten, cobalt, molybdenum, and rare earths.

No attempts have been made to initiate the production of these metals as it was possible to import them from China at a low cost. However, in view of the restrictive measures adopted by China, it is clear that the international market cannot be relied on for the sustainable and affordable supply of these materials.

In fact, export restrictions by China is anticipated to increase, given the increase in domestic consumption of metals, thus aggravating the shortages in the international market and the resultant price increase.

It is, thus, imperative for India to initiate policy measures to secure the supply of these strategic materials, as any interruption in their supply will affect not only national security but also the economic stability and technological competitiveness.

domestic supplies

The supply from domestic sources should be augmented through increased scientific and exploration activities and development of mining and processing technologies. Recycling and re-use of metals should be encouraged to supplement the limited virgin resources for metals.

The augmentation of domestic sources of supply should be accompanied by robust strategic investments in resource-rich countries. Indian companies have already initiated acquisition of resources abroad. However, their efforts are slow and facing intense competition from countries such as China.

The Indian Government should support such initiatives by increasing economic engagement and strengthening strategic relations with resource-rich nations. Bilateral and multilateral trade agreements could be used as an instrument to secure and improve our access to metals.

India needs to come up with a strategic planning framework that addresses the various issues that may undermine the supply of metals for India.

Given that the metals sector is intricately linked to international developments, devising policy strategies to mitigate or reduce the effect of the supply restrictions has to be resource-specific and highly responsive to the changing global dynamics.

Integrating the relevant perspectives on issues, challenges, factors and comprehending the international scenario and its domestic implications would help address metals security in India.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

GAAPS IN INDIAN REGULATION

K.V. KURMANATH

American Depository Shares (ADS) of Satyam Computer Services are going to make an exit from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in the next seven months. In fact, the present management, Mahindras, announced their plan last week to withdraw ADS in a phased manner.

It is not an option for Mahindra Satyam. Faced with the danger of having its registration with the US markets regulator Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) cancelled, the company decided to 'wind down' the ADS.

These shares, which account for about 9 per cent, or 10.42 crore shares, of the outstanding equity shares of Satyam, were already delisted after the massive financial fraud hit the company. They are being traded over the counter (OTC) ever since. OTC trade will not be allowed after the registration is cancelled. What had triggered the decision? The new management failed to become 'current' as per US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), although it became current as per Indian accounting norms. It failed to meet the stringent compliance norms of SEC.

SEC'S ZERO TOLERANCE

Although it always 'intended' to become current with US accounting norms, Mr Vineet Nayyar, the Chairman, admitted that the writing on the wall was clear after last of series of meetings with SEC officials — that the US regulator was not inclined to give any concessions like its Indian counterpart, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) did with regard to the accounts of the fraud years.

"The company has now determined that it will not be able to become current in its SEC filing obligations," he said, while announcing 'winding down' of ADS last week.

No doubt it was quite a daunting task for the new management to fathom, understand and explain the inexplicable entries made by the erstwhile management.

Issues were complex, spread over a decade and stored in multiple accounting software. Financial statements prior to 2001 were reportedly in Tally, traces of which were not available now. The company reportedly opened with an opening balance of a loss of Rs 2,200 crore in 2002 for which the new management had no clues to reconstruct the picture!

Considering the fact that the competition is on the rise in the outsourcing business, with Western economies facing challenges, we cannot expect the present management to engage itself with the mess forever.

But what attracts one's attention is not this. It is SEC's insistence on details and the zero tolerance for accounting violations.

One might argue that Rajus managed to hoodwink the same SEC for eight years. But how the regulator has responded to the issue after the fraud surfaced is more important. We need to learn a lesson or two from this.

The SEC has not spared the company even after it agreed to pay $10 million to stay clear of the fraud charge. Mahindra Satyam had settled it without admitting or denying allegations of any wrongdoing in the accountancy fraud perpetrated through 2002-08.

The SEC has not taken any lenient view of the fraud even after the company agreed to pay $125 million to settle class action suits (paying compensation to the American investors for the losses they suffered on the stock market due to the fraud). Even after doing all this, the company was told to explain all entries in the books. No concessions were made.

INDIA'S LAX STANDARDS

But the company became current under Indian GAAP last year! The Indian regulator, SEBI, has received no fine. Investors (who according to CBI must have lost about Rs 14,000 crore after the crisis broke out) have not received a single rupee as compensation!

All the financial entries, to which SEC objected, were accepted and the company has got the Indian GAAP-compliant tag!

Both the company and the regulator must have followed the rule book to seek and give the clearances. This only points to the yawning gaps in the regulatory mechanism, thereby exposing investors to the wrongdoings of fraudsters. Investors have no recourse, as the regulator allows the questionable entries to hang on, unanswered and unexplained.

The survival of Satyam Computer Services and its rebirth in the form of Mahindra Satyam is a unique experiment on how life can be resuscitated into companies that have all but slipped into a coma. But that is not enough. The Government should also use this context to create a strong mechanism to protect investors.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

CHALLENGES BEFORE FOREIGN SERVICE

BHASKAR BALAKRISHNAN

Major changes are taking place in the top-level bureaucracy of India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Apart from the change in Foreign Secretary, the key top-level posts of two Secretaries dealing with the East and West are changing hands, and there are changes in leadership of missions to key countries such as the US, France, the UK, and Russia.

At the same time a major expansion in personnel, raising the strength of the Foreign Service by 50 per cent, is underway. The MEA is facing numerous challenges arising from the increasing profile of India.

While there is change, there is also a degree of continuity. In the case of the US, the continuity is particularly clear as the next Ambassador will be the former Foreign Secretary, Ms Nirupama Rao, who has been a key player in managing the relationship for the past two years. This relationship is set to grow across many sectors, and enjoys sustained public support, despite occasional irritants.

The expansion in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) cadre from its present level of around 500 is long overdue, given the fact that the IFS is relatively small, compared to competitor countries.

Training, projects

However, mere increase in staff strength is only part of the process. Efficient and sensible personnel management is needed to make the best use of human resources. The system of postings and transfers should make good use of the skills and experience of personnel. A new promotion policy is under way, keeping in view the need for good career management.

India's economic cooperation and technical assistance has grown in volume and geographical spread. Large credit lines have been made available. These require efficient project management, monitoring and evaluation so that the funds are put to good use. A bad project is not only a waste of resources, but can also be an unpleasant reminder in bilateral relations.

Given the Government's poor record in developing, approving and implementing projects, it would be wise to concentrate on smaller high-impact projects in the HR and IT services sectors rather than ambitious large infrastructure or industrial projects. The move to set up a separate agency for economic assistance is overdue, and has been recommended by advisory committees over 10 years ago.

Strategic planning

A more difficult issue is one of strategic planning. Most organisations and several foreign ministries have a strong strategic planning unit located close to the CEO. The MEA lacks a formal strategic planning structure though, informally, its Committee of Secretaries with some Joint Secretaries may serve this purpose to some extent.

In this situation the focus of strategy and policymaking has shifted more and more to the PMO and the NSA, which are already overburdened with urgent issues. This results in the absence of long-term policy coherence and continuity and leads to ad hoc situations and event-driven responses. Many of our Missions lack clear-cut directions on what they are supposed to work towards and achieve, leaving heads of missions to define this themselves. In today's world, a good strategic planning set-up is essential if personnel and resources are to be efficiently used to achieve clear objectives.

Who is to set these strategic objectives? This is clearly the responsibility of the political leadership. Recall the times of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and even P.V. Narasimha Rao, when foreign policy objectives bore their decisive imprint.Foreign policy has to be integrated and coordinated with overall national strategic policy at the top level so that it supports the achievement of defined objectives.

Apart from such burning issues as relations with Pakistan, China, the US and Russia, foreign policy does not seem to command enough attention of the top political leadership, except on specific occasion such as high-level visits or summits. This leaves the MEA, to some extent, without direction and political support.

Many foreign interlocutors have commented that India should be more active on the global stage, commensurate with its growing economic strength. Indeed, comparison with China would indicate that India pays relatively less high-level attention to most countries, apart from the G-8.

Even among its neighbours, India tends to concentrate too much on Pakistan and China, paying less attention to important neighbours such as Bangladesh. To be more active, one must have a vision and strategic direction.

Policy priorities

Given the fact that India will continue to have coalition governments in the foreseeable future, there is need for a platform to forge political consensus over major foreign policy priorities. The political divergences over foreign policy are particularly debilitating when it comes to such neighbouring states as Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South-East Asia have emerged as important areas in our extended neighbourhood. But relations with these regions are managed by one of the Secretaries and a Minister of State. Visits by the PM or the Minister to these countries are relatively rare and there is an imbalance in high-level visits.

In contrast, China sends high-level dignitaries more often. This tends to convey an impression of lower priority, which needs to be addressed. A posting to an African country is not seen as a career plus for an officer, and such assignments tend to be avoided. Other areas such as Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe (minus the big four) seem to be peripheral in the MEA's priorities.

Even as MEA goes through its cyclic personnel changes, the challenges before it are great. Examples are the winding down of US presence in Afghanistan, the troubled relationship with Pakistan and China, the complications of India's civil and strategic nuclear roles, the pursuit of an enhanced role in the UN system, to name only a few.

While addressing these challenges, the MEA must be able to pay adequate attention to many other issues as part of its overall strategic planning.

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TIGHT SECURITY THE ANSWER, NOT ARRESTS

 

After the outpouring of support for Anna Hazare seen on Tuesday, no proof is needed that Indians are tired of corruption. Clearly, it was the anticipation of extensive support for the social activist — at least in the urban arena — that unnerved the authorities into denying him the opportunity to stage a prolonged sit-in in central Delhi at the head of a large posse of followers. However, the preventive detention of Mr Hazare has only served to precipitate matters. Legalistically speaking, the police appeared to have acted within the law to pick him up from his Delhi flat under preventive detention clauses once he informed them that he would break the law, and stage his well-orchestrated public fast, if permission for it was denied by the police who apprehended problems relating to law and order in the event large crowds were permitted to assemble over a period of several days. Of course, the issue is soon to be decided judicially as the core committee of Mr Hazare's group, India Against Corruption, has challenged the police action before the courts. However, even if the judiciary were to decide in favour of the authorities, many are apt to think that injustice has been done. It is a commonly held view in this country that there should be no restrictions on peaceful protests. The lore of Gandhian fasts, which saw off the world's most important colonial power, is pretty much a part and parcel of the national political psyche. Scepticism as regards the effectiveness of another bureaucracy led by a Lokpal, which Mr Hazare proposes, in fighting corruption is fairly widespread. And yet, many among those who are not in step with the social activist's approach do uphold his right to stage a peaceful public protest. With Mr Hazare being placed in judicial custody, and then ordered to be released, the issue appears to have changed quite dramatically overnight, from one of having a Lokpal of Mr Hazare's conception to that of a citizen's right to protest. This is unlikely to have been the case if revulsion against corruption did not form the backdrop. Thus, Mr Hazare seems to enjoy wide popular consent when he says he would go right ahead and break the law in order to demonstrate against corruption. It is the stated intent of the government to fight corruption. It is also known that the UPA-2 dispensation has already initiated legislative measures in this direction. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dwelt on the theme in his Independence Day address. But suddenly the government appears to be on the other side from the "good folk". This is what Mr Hazare's detention has done. Could the assurance of the Hazare group be taken at face value that its protest fast would remain peaceful? A democratically elected government, when faced with mass discontent on a given issue, is well-advised to take a calculated risk and allow a public gathering even if the numbers threaten to be large. Of course, it would be required to be on guard, harness intelligence, and be ready to swing into action at the first hint of violent trouble. Thus far Mr Hazare's approach has been "my way or the highway". The fragility of the position is not hard to see. But the government appears to have mishandled the situation, essentially at the political level.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

DEMOCRACY ARRESTED

 

The architecture of the Indian Constitution is based on the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity, as espoused in the French Revolution; on the concept of the rule of the people, by the people and for the people, as articulated by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg address; and on the format of parliamentary democracy as developed in Britain, the mother of democracy. Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, the architect of our Constitution, while urging its adoption by the Constituent Assembly, stated, "However good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad if those who are called to work it happen to be a bad lot." We need to ask ourselves whether our generation has lived up to the hopes of the founding fathers of our Constitution. The answer is an emphatic no. We have been persistently debasing our democracy. Parliamentary, or presidential, democracy is at variance with people's democracy. The latter provides for one-party rule and for the supremacy of the party over government functioning. We got a close glimpse of that during the visit of Khrushchev and Bulganin to India in 1955. The first secretary of the Soviet Communist Party mattered more than the Soviet PM. A similar equation has developed in India. The distinction required in a parliamentary democracy between the government and the ruling party has been obliterated. Self-glorifying advertisements at tax-payers' expense are put out with pictures of the party president and PM. The former now often inaugurates major government projects. This does not happen in any parliamentary democracy, nor did it happen earlier in India. Those who advocate keeping the PM above the jurisdiction of the Lokpal are not bothered about the PM being made to play second fiddle to the party president. Like the politburo in a Communist state, we now have an extra-constitutional body in the National Advisory Council, a super-Cabinet for formulating government policy. Dynastic rule is anathema in a democracy, but this prevails at the Centre and has been avidly adopted by regional parties in states. So far, the BJP and the Left parties have not followed suit. Jawaharlal Nehru was initially hesitant in promoting his daughter in politics but towards the end he made her party president, setting her on course to become PM. However, he did not project her as his successor. Indira Gandhi had no inhibitions. She openly projected one son as her successor and, on his tragic death, her other son was made heir-apparent. That tradition continues. Sanjay Gandhi inaugurated the Anglo-Sikh War Memorial at Ferozepore, at a function organised by the government, with much fanfare. The present crown prince inaugurated the Guru Tegh Bahadur Memorial at a Delhi government function. The courtiers hailed the first crown prince as a man of genius, comparing him with Vivekananda and Emperor Akbar. They are doing the same now with the current heir apparent. We have also been creating a new feudalism under the garb of promoting youth in politics. The progeny of old loyalists have been inducted in government. A feudal outlook has permeated our public life. Everyone wants a flag and red light on his car. In the colonial period only the Viceroy, the governors of provinces and senior military commanders were so authorised. This practice is still followed in Western democracies. Our bureaucracy is shedding its neutral character and getting increasingly committed. The "lick up and kick down" approach is now in vogue. The common man visiting government offices encounters the arrogance of power. Vote-bank politics is rampant, with little consideration for probity and national security. In the Nehru era, iftar parties at public expense were not held. Now it has become common practice for people in power to do so. If the state has to fund a religious function or subsidise a pilgrimage, let it be for all religions, not just one. Illegal migration from Bangladesh is being promoted to build vote banks without considering national security or a state's demographic structure. For a PM to assert that a particular religious community should be the first priority for his government violates the spirit of the Constitution. The poor, irrespective of community, should be the government's first concern. And now we have the monstrosity of the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill, drafted by the National Advisory Council. It violates the fundamental principle of equality enshrined in our Constitution which is the bedrock of our legal system. The murderer has to be tried under the Indian Penal Code on the basis of his crime, and not whether he is from the majority or minority community. Communal riots in our country are almost always confined to a district or a city. The Gujarat, anti-Sikh and post-Ayodhya riots were exceptions. There are many districts in which the majority in that state is in a minority. Thus the yardstick for this atrocious bill should have been the district, and not the state. If the administration is not effective in dealing with communal violence, it should be made effective instead of enacting a new law promoting divisiveness and violating natural justice. The most debilitating factor today is the rampant corruption. Such corruption, involving the highest echelons of government, has never taken place in the history of any worthy democracy. Having succeeded in brazening it out in the Bofors affair, the bizarre attempts of the government to do so again in these numerous scams are counter-productive. There is now a national upsurge against corruption. JP led a crusade against corruption and for the restoration of democracy. He succeeded but the leaders he installed in power squabbled among themselves and fell prey to the same evil. V.P. Singh used the Bofors card to come to power but his short tenure was futile. Corruption during these two movements was peanuts compared to that today. Anna Hazare's movement has generated a national upsurge which needs to be channelled through constitutional means, or else it may become a loose cannon. The Indian people must act to ensure this, or else our debased democracy may become a lost democracy. * S.K. Sinha, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

DON'T BAN AARAKSHAN, IT'S JUST UPPER CASTE

 

The debate around Aarakshan, Prakash Jha's movie on reservation, has several major implications for our civil society and state. The objections raised by several organisations, individuals and also the ban imposed by three state governments — Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab — because of their suspicion that the film is against the interests of pro-reservation forces, made it controversial. The film has been seen by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and certified U/A without any cuts. But the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes demanded to see it before it was released. After the viewing the commission felt that there are many dialogues that were objectionable from the dalit point of view. However, the CBFC felt that the SC/ST commission's opinion was not binding on them, and they did not agree to cut some of the dialogues suggested by the commission and other organisations. However, after some cuts were made, the film was released in Andhra Pradesh. I watched the film on the first day of its release. It evoked a good response from filmgoers. Aarakshan presents a paternalistic upper caste view of balancing the problems of reservation and commercialisation of education. Amitabh Bachchan's role of a paternalistic Hindu teacher could well be viewed with suspicion by any Ambedkarite. However, a serious issue to debate is whether the right to freedom of expression of a director/producer could be taken away by dalit/OBC groups or individuals opposed to a film? What is the difference between the Right-wing forces that attacked M.F. Husain's paintings and the dalit/OBC organisations that opposed Aarakshan? I happened to take part in a panel discussion on the issue on an English news channel where Soli Sorabjee, a well-known Supreme Court lawyer, argued that Mr Jha's freedom of expression cannot be taken away in this manner. We must understand the pro- and anti-reservation contentions from the point of view of caste and historical oppression that the majority population suffered for centuries. Bollywood as a film industry still represents the upper castes and, to a small extent, the Muslim minority. Few years ago even the best of the Muslim actors had to adopt Hindu names (like Dilip Kumar) to survive in the industry and the market. Now, because of strong identity politics among Muslims, there are several visible Muslim heroes and heroines with their own names. Even a film like My Name is Khan was made to assert that identity. But most of them come from rich families. Why is it that no dalit/OBC could become a visible actor in that industry? Hollywood overcame its white hegemony and now blacks have come to occupy a very important place (like Will Smith) in that global industry. But blacks constitute just 12.6 per cent of the total population of the US. Whereas dalits, tribals and OBCs constitute about 70 per cent of the population in our country, yet there is not a single visible person in the film industry from these communities. Also, how many SC/ST/OBCs are in the CBFC today? Perhaps none. When the industry itself is constituted of upper castes, and rich ones at that, a lot of scope for suspicion about their intentions in making a film on reservations exists. Suppose they deliberately make an anti-reservation film or a film that treats the productive castes as polluted people based on the Brahminic sociological premise? Should these castes keep quiet? And if they create hurdles in the film's release, is that "curtailing the positive freedom of expression?" When the oppressors' right to freedom of expression impinges upon the very right to life of the oppressed, the oppressed need to invoke their natural right, as John Locke rightly proposed, to fight against the oppressors' right to freedom of expression. If "castocracy" begins to operate, using the liberal space the Constitution provides, against the historical victims, they have to stand up and say, "No, we will not allow this." In democracy, if one does not examine the political position of the oppressed seriously, if a mechanical "right to freedom of expression" is deployed in the discourse, as John Locke himself foresaw, the oppressed masses have no choice but to resort to the right to revolution. For SC/ST/OBCs, the right to defend reservation (in the absence of uniform English-medium school education for all) is equivalent to defending their right to life. Because of caste and cultural degradation and denial of right to education and employment for centuries, the SC/ST/OBCs have lost many opportunities to develop themselves. That should be the core anchor of the debate. The problem being treated paternalistically, as has been done in Aarakshan, is not a solution. In a situation of rabid casteism and educational commercialisation, Prabhakar Anand's (the character played by Bachchan) paternalism might appear positive. But Ambedkar himself opposed such paternalism of Gandhi and attacked it in his classic book, What the Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables. The film, as it is being shown in Andhra Pradesh, does not warrant a ban in any state at all. But it certainly needs to be debated. Ideologically it does not represent Ambedkarism but Gandhism. That itself is a major problem. A Bollywood film with an Ambedkarite ideology on aarakshan can be possible only when aarakshan is implemented in Bollywood itself. Kancha Ilaiah is director for the study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

HOW GREEN IS OUR ECONOMY?

 

"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." — Albert Einstein In 1992, citizens and activists from across the world gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the Earth Summit. On December 24, 2009, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to hold the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio — to mark 20 years of the Earth Summit, and to discuss the way forward. On June 4, 2012, the world community will gather again in Rio de Janeiro. Member states have agreed on the focus of Rio+20: "Green economy within the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication" and "institutional framework for sustainable development". Now, what is this "green economy" and what is the "institutional framework for sustainable development"? If the answers are offered within the old paradigm of market-driven solutions, which have failed to protect the Earth, "green economy" will mean more of the same: more carbon trading, which has failed to reduce emissions; more commodification of food, water, land and biodiversity, which has not just failed to reduce hunger, thirst, poverty and ecological degradation but has, in fact, increased them. If the "institutional framework for sustainable development" creates a "World Environment Organisation" along the line of the World Trade Organisation, based on the commodification of, and trade in, nature's gifts, and trade wars as part of global environment management, we will further impoverish the Earth and local communities. We will further destroy democracy. If on the other hand the answers are offered in the context of the emerging paradigm of the Rights of Mother Earth, then the green economy is Gaia's economy, and the institutional framework is "Earth Democracy" — democracy from the bottom up and a democracy rooted in the Earth. The world order built on the economic fundamentalism of greed, commodification of life and limitless growth, and the complementary technological fundamentalism that there is a technological fix for every social and environmental ill is clearly collapsing. The "green economy" agenda for Rio+20 can either deepen the privatisation of Earth, and with it the crisis of ecology and poverty, or it can be used to "re-embed" economies in the ecology of the Earth. Green economics needs to be an authentic green. It cannot be the brown of desertification and deforestation. It cannot be the red of violence against nature and people, or the unnecessary conflicts over natural resources — land and water, seeds and food. As Mahatma Gandhi said: "The Earth has enough for everyone's needs, but not for some people's greed". To be green, economics needs to return to oikos. Both ecology and economics are derived from the Greek oikos, which means "home". Ecology is the science of household, and economics is supposed to be the management of the household. When economics works against the science of ecology, it results in the mismanagement of the Earth — our home. The climate crisis, the water crisis, the biodiversity crisis and the food crisis are different symptoms of the crisis of mismanagement of the Earth and her resources. We mismanage the Earth when we do not recognise nature's capital as the real capital and everything else as derived. If we have no land, we have no economy. When we contribute to the growth of nature's capital, we build green economies. And the richer nature's capital, the richer human society will be. Nature-centred, women-centred perspective takes us down a road that is sustainable and equitable. The Earth Summit in 1992 produced two legally binding treaties — the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the Summit, the participating members also produced a Women's Action Agenda 21 through Women's Environment & Development Organisation, which I co-founded with former US Congresswoman Bella Abzug. As we move towards Rio+20, there is danger that the gains of Rio will be eroded. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has already been undermined by the Copenhagen Accord. There is an attempt to revisit the Rio principles that gave us the "precautionary principle" and the "polluter pays principle". We need to strengthen Rio, not undermine it. The "green economy" can either commodify all of nature, or it can create a new harmony with the Earth while providing for basic needs and increasing sustainable livelihoods. We must value nature. The question is how? Will nature be valued on the basis of the Rights of Mother Earth, on the basis of sacred values, or will nature be valued on the basis of speculative investment? In the Earth-centred green economy, the market obeys nature's laws, Gaia's laws, the laws of Mother Earth. In the greed-centred green economy, the volatile and predatory laws of the market are forced on nature. Ecological laws are violated to impose the laws of the market. Since the majority of people derive their livelihoods from the Earth, violation of the laws of the Earth translates into the violation of laws that uphold justice and human rights. Poverty increases, hunger and thirst increases, inequality increases. The laws of the market have proved unreliable for managing the market itself. How can they be trusted with the lives of people and the care of the Earth? We have two options. Either the greed economy will be green-washed and presented as a green economy. In that case, the "green" will just be the colour of money. Our other option is to bring back harmony in our relationship with the Earth, live within her limits and means and create an inclusive wellbeing for all. In the latter case green will be the colour of life. Rabindranath Tagore, in his essay The Robbery of the Soil, warns us of the consequences of the economy based on greed: "This passion of greed that rages in the heart of our present civilisation, like a volcanic flame of fire, is constantly struggling to erupt in individual bloatedness… A sudden increase in the flow of production of things tends to consume our resources and requires us to build new storehouses. Our needs, therefore, which stimulate this increasing flow, must begin to observe the limitation of normal demand. If we go on stoking our demands into bigger and bigger flames, the conflagration that results will no doubt dazzle our sight, but its splendour will leave on the debit side only a black heap of charred remains." * Dr Vandana Shiva is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

COWARDLY PANIC

POLITICAL BANKRUPTCY EXPOSED


POLICE action is never to be construed as effective governance. On the contrary it exposes political and administrative ineptitude of a despicable degree. And in the issue under focus, reveals a moral cowardice to squarely face a situation in which corruption has become the key national issue ~ maybe not for the political leadership but certainly for a people disenchanted with the "system". Yet of immediate consequence is whether people of a country that only a day ago celebrated its independence have a right to peaceful protest. There may be scores of reasons to disagree with Anna Hazare's formulation for an effective Lokpal, the publicity-oriented tactics and intemperate conduct of his closest allies, yet there would be hundreds of reasons to condemn the stifling of the action he was due to initiate on Tuesday. Splitting legalistic hairs is best left to hare-brained lawyers-turned-politicians, but to accept the central government's line that the Delhi Police acts independently is as ridiculous as the proposition that the Prime Minister makes a political move without pre-sanction of the Congress president. What is apparent is that lacking the political competence to convince the masses that the sarkari version of the Lokpal legislation will deliver, an unprincipled attack was mounted against Team Anna ~ whom it had earlier entertained through unprecedented but unsuccessful joint drafting of legislation. This was a repeat performance of how Baba Ramdev was dealt with, memories of which are still raw.
Taking Hazare into custody on the basis of a stated intention to defy Section 144 was sowing the wind. Even as the situation is still unfolding it is evident that a whirlwind is being reaped. The stalling of Parliament, the Opposition's insistence that a re-enactment of the Emergency is underway may be of essentially political value, but the snowballing of public protest is not to be similarly discounted. Even if likening it to the Arab spring is perhaps exaggerated. It might not be a question of numbers as of now, but only an arrogant and bull-headed government will make light of the outpouring of public resentment ~ which the UPA myopically perceives as Opposition-induced. The conduct of occupants of the Treasury benches lent weight to the Opposition argument that the stifling of protesting voices outside the apex legislature was being replicated in both Houses. Any explanation the government may now offer will fall flat ~ and despite the tall talk of Chidambaram, Sibal et al, UPA-II appears to lack the steel to see this ploy through.

 

ON THE BACKFOOT

NO RED FORT REDEMPTION FOR PM

FLOUNDERING, lacklustre, hapless, unconvincing ~ all those and a plethora of other negatives could describe the public perception of the UPA government as it leads the nation into its 65th year of independence. For Dr Manmohan Singh came up short when using the most powerful and prestigious platform available to a Prime Minister to reassure the people that their future was secure and promising under his stewardship. Having enjoyed the use of the ramparts of the historic Red Fort more than anyone else in the past 25 years, he ought to have exploited that privilege to dispel the impression that his administration was beleaguered, affirm that he was in command and control ~ to put it simply that it was from a position of strength that he was speaking to his country-folk who, if not rattled by a series of unsavoury developments, have certainly begun to wonder where India is heading. Yes, the Prime Minister did touch on several key issues (inflation, land acquisition, healthcare etc) but even his most ardent admirers would have to concede he did not "come on strong". If Anna Hazare ever got anything wrong it was his charge that the government was "drunk with power": most people would interpret the Red Fort speech as a futile search for a power source which UPA-II could plug into. Even on that issue, essentially a valid crusade against corruption which has degenerated into an arrogant rejection of the parliamentary system that the nation gave unto itself, the Prime Minister was anything but assertive. That would hold true for just about every other point he made ~ there appeared to be no forceful conviction by way of back-up. And his repeated lament about the lack of a magic wand conjures up images of someone scouring around for a crutch.
It is conceded that oratorical firepower is not the sole criteria by which a nation's chief executive is to be evaluated. Yet in this day of instant mass communication a capacity to "connect" is critical. Surely those who worked with Dr Manmohan Singh on the I-Day Address, its presentation included, could have injected some verve into the offering. There was neither spice nor even humour, and it evoked no spontaneous cheer. There's a flip side to that: it facilitates the lesser lights (albeit hyper-vocal) of the government/ party running riot, slamming Constitutional authorities and even judicial pronouncement. That only contributes to an impression of desperation.
Time was when Dr Manmohan Singh was applauded for a non-political "face"~ that is fast degrading to a non-performing image. On a rain-swept, bleak (black?) Monday morning, the Prime Minister's body language suggested that like so many others duty-bound to be at Fort he would rather have been someplace else.

 

UNCERTAIN NEPAL

CONSENSUS GOVERNMENT STILL THE BEST BET

NEPAL Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal's resignation was along expected lines. After assuming office in February this year he had vowed to step down if he failed to move the peace proposals forward. These included submission of a constitution draft and completion of the integration of about 19,000 former Maoist combatants by August-end. In May 2011, when the lawmakers failed to keep the deadline even after a year's breather to the constituent assembly, they compromised by agreeing on a further extension by three months. All the key players, the Maoists, Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) speak in favour of a consensus all-party national government ~ ostensibly the best option left ~ but nothing seems to move because the leaders squabble over who should head it. Unless there is some understanding among the three major parties they are not likely to fulfil President Ram Baran Yadav's directive to form a national consensus government by 21 August.
Earlier, some had argued perhaps justifiably that since the Maoists had already been in power, and the CPN(UML) had headed the  government twice after Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal quit as Prime Minister in May 2009, it would be apt to give the Nepali Congress, the second largest party, a chance. Now the political situation has reached such a stage that the country might have to go in for a fresh election. Even if a new Prime Minister is to be elected there is no guarantee when that will be, given the fact that the country was without a mandated Prime Minister for nearly eight months before Khanal was elected after the 17th round of voting in parliament. There is little prospect of peace unless the integration and rehabilitation of combatants is tackled on a priority basis. All parties must work to resolve this first.

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

ETERNAL DIVIDES

LONDON AS A POWDER-KEG OF CONTRADICTIONS

BY SAYANTANI JAFA


SHOCK and horror perhaps, but not entirely surprised to see large swathes of North and South-east London go up in flames ~ cars and buildings torched, looting and pillaging mobs, a disturbing undercurrent of racial tensions running through. Many faces among the marauders were black, the police they were battling were white and the ghosts of 1985 and Broadwater Farm  and the early 1980s ~ Brixton, Toxteth and inner-city Manchester returned to haunt a complacent post-Thatcher and post-New Labour Britain, too accustomed to seeing Islamic terror as the only villain to upset the fabric of social order with mindless violence.
I recall my own fleeting impressions of multi-cultural Britain now almost a decade and three years hazy. This was before the events of September 2001 and the destruction of the twin towers in New York re-wrote the lexicon of "Otherness". This was also much before the tide of East European migrations swelled a new wave of immigration into the United Kingdom and the Blairite dream of Cool Brittania had gone sour with a mountain of public debt and institutional breakdown as well as participation in a war in Iraq which deeply divided the populace.


Yet lurking beneath the surface of rampant optimism and a new positivism in the air, even in those halcyon days of 1997-98, there were menacing  signs of a creaky edifice, a fragility in social processes and unresolved issues which were merely being swept under the carpet instead of being tackled with firm resolve and clarity of vision.
For one thing, there was a disturbing under-current of violence among the pre-teen and teenaged age groups finding expression in surly gangs of youngsters who would roam the streets with an air of mindless insouciance bordering on the anti-social.


Staying in Kings Cross and in the heart of criminal prone Central London,  my daily trek back and forth from university in genteel Bloomsbury would be scarred by a constant lurking fear of being mugged by these aimless young lumpens spilling out of the ugly yet functional concrete blocks housing the council flats dotting Judd Street  and Cromer Street.  Often one would wonder why the facial expressions of these young people were so hostile and so prone to extreme behaviour ~ smashing glass bottles on the street, spitting and swearing in the roughest of language at any of us who looked different and obviously foreign. Ironically, most of these youngsters were not white, but coloured, clearly indicating that being non-white was clearly not a safeguard to not being targeted. It became almost a reflex action in these zones to break into a sprint, uncomfortably racing with some plastic supermarket bags containing the evening groceries; and anxiously looking over one's shoulder to note any odd-looking movements from behind. There were days when the fears would be put to rest ~ by the charming appearance of the first crocus and daffodil fringing the verge at the middle of the street crossing as one turned into Pentonville Road from Kings Cross; or the warbling of a thrush as one trekked deep into Islington from Liverpool Street tube station. London would then be an epitome of the sylvan and pastoral favoured by romantic poets, albeit among the smooth concrete and the finished facades of rows of housing. Then there would be an uncomfortable sighting of the mounted police of the London  Met, in swift pursuit of youthful offenders, wielding menacing looking truncheons and on horseback, or an array of fierce-looking police dogs accompanying them.  And there would again be greater caution exercised, not to linger too long elsewhere and be back to student digs as quickly as possible. On days when it would get too late one had no choice but to  spend the paltry scholarship allowance to wing back in a stately No. 73 double-decker bus which at least used to alight seconds away from the  student residences.


Cromer Street soon achieved the distinction among us daily pedestrians from Bloomsbury to Pentonville Road as the " most dangerous" stretch of street to traverse. It had an odd jumble of shabbily elegant and decaying red-brick houses uncomfortably cheek-by-jowl with a huge council house block largely populated by Bangladeshi immigrants and Afro-Carribeans. The former contributed to the heavy footfalls in a small but immensely useful shop stocking everything sub-continental from green chillies to masoor dal to haldi powder. It used to be a frequent Hobson's choice to exercise ~ should one flirt with the danger that was Cromer Street to manage a week's supply of green chillies, far cheaper here than the bird's eye Thai variety in Sainsburys or Safeways, or should one throw economy to the winds for the cause of safety  and avoid being attacked?
I never really analysed the statistics which maligned this otherwise modest stretch. But as I now look upon television images of hooded teenagers, mainly Afro-Carribean throwing chunks of stones, hurling bottles at police, setting alight furniture, high-end electronic and luxury clothing shops with reckless abandon after pillaging them of their contents, burning homes and cars and bringing the world's premier metropolis to a grinding halt, I wonder why Britain took so long to identify the destructive energies of its angst-ridden young people as a huge source of dysfunction.


Many of us had been compelled to see these symptoms of social breakdown and exclusion in our daily grind of student life in London. It did not take a rocket scientist to perceive that the angst among these groups was aggressive, and merely waiting for a spark to ignite, and that it had every strand of explosiveness to grind the nation to a halt.


As flames engulf Walthamstow, Enfield, Tottenham, Brixton, Croydon and the edges of the swanky metropolis that London is supposed to be, I wonder if the city had really  changed at all in its swinging incarnation of the late 1990s, despite New Labour public largesse when money was poured into council spending and a youthful Prime Minister had captured the public imagination with his clean-cut smiling face  and the promises of a renewed greatness and regeneration.


Beneath the vast array of new jobs, lavish public spending and a re-ification of the culture  of entitlements which New Labour brought for over a decade, what is it that never really changed in those dourly oppressive crumbling lanes and streets of  Hackney Wick and Tottenham? Why is the underclass still as sullen and non-integrated as the poor working classes of Dickensian London, long after the Cockney Londoner of yore has been gentrified into the modern pop elites of rockstars and  millionaire footballers peopling the pages of Hello magazine and feeding the Fleet Street tabloids with their circulation figures?


Views are diverse and fractured ~ some blame the Conservative dominated establishment alienating the poorer sections of society with economic austerity measures; some pinpoint the effeteness and under-performance of a police force forced to follow the dictums of political correctness; yet others detect a heady streak of materialist consumerism among underprivileged young looters active in social networking websites and devoid of any parental controls over them, to drown their hopelessness in an orgy of destruction.
Perhaps London has remained a  concatenation of poverty and aspirations, enormous wealth and grinding misery, class interspersed with race and nationality as a badge of those who belong to the "club" and those who do not, as it always was?


Long out of touch with the physical reality of the place, I am curious to know the truth behind those disturbing images of violence and mayhem, raging through a world metropolis of the affluent West with the same intensity as they would in  chaotic, sharply divided and teeming cities of the India I call home…
The writer is Principal Director of Audit,

Metro Railway and Railway Production, Kolkata

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

REALITY AS IT IS

Anna Hazare and company can follow in the footsteps of a revolutionary bureaucrat from Myanmar if they are truly honest about fighting dishonesty in governance, says raja murthy

ANNA Hazare completed a 10-day residential Vipassana course, circa 2003, in Dhamma Tapovana, the well-known meditation centre adjacent to Dhamma Giri in Igatpuri town, 150 km from Mumbai. Since then, if he has been correctly practicing this ancient Indian mind technology to experiencing inner truth, he would be using different means to achieve his wholesome objectives.
Instead of wasting time in an ugly slanging match with the country's democratically elected government, Hazare would be looking inwards, and eastwards — to neighbouring Myanmar, whose first accountant-general, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, had most effectively and quietly produced transparent governance more than five decades ago. "Sayagyi" means "respected teacher" in  Myanmarese.
U Ba Khin (1899-1971) realised how merely more laws would not eliminate corruption. To bring about organisational and social change, he enabled the individual to change – instead of shrilly demanding changes. He effectively used the ancient Indian self-observation path of Vipassana, rediscovered by the Buddha. As a Vipassana teacher, he conducted 10-day courses for his colleagues in office. The results were so positive that Prime Minister U Nu, Myanmar's last civilian leader, asked him to head four government departments at the same time.
Unlike the Lokpal legislation to find more ways to punish the corrupt, U Ba Khin penetratingly focused on a core source of corruption: pending files and bribes to get stuck records to travel further. He fixed a time limit for files to be cleared. "If an official cannot decide within the stipulated time, let the file be brought to me," he instructed. "I will take a decision. Not taking a decision and not bringing the file to the superior official indicates dishonest intention. It may result in dismissal of service."
Says former Myanmarese industrialist and Mumbai-based principal Vipassana teacher Sayagyi SN Goenka, also the master's student, "U Ba Khin was aware that someone who takes bribes never changes for the better merely under threat of punishment. He encouraged the practice of Vipassana and conducted courses in a large hall in his office. The change was noticeable as employees stopped taking bribes, corruption reduced and was finally eliminated."
U Ba Khin's method paved the way in later decades for thousands of bureaucrats and business executives in India and across the world to benefit from Vipassana courses conducted by Goenka and his assistant teachers. Vipassana, meaning "to see reality as it is" in the ancient Pali language, involves developing the mental faculty to see the inner truth, every changing, impermanent moment. Whoever wishes to face the truth, instead of dodging it, is unlikely to run away from Vipassana practice.
This truth-realisation practice of Vipassana enables awareness that the actual inducement for corruption is not wads of currency notes but endless gratification of certain pleasurable biochemical sensations in the body.
A Vipassana practitioner realises how only the superficial surface of the mind is in contact with worldly objects. Every thought in the mind arises with a changing biochemical sensation within. But the deepest part of the mind, where behavioral conditioning takes place, is in constant contact with bodily sensations, as in rubbing a mosquito bite during deep sleep. One actually reacts not to the external world but to pleasant and unpleasant, impermanent sensations within the body. This is the fundamental life-transforming truth.
A conditioned mind reacts to these pleasant or unpleasant sensations with craving or aversion. And one ignorantly makes mistakes, leading to suffering for oneself and others. But Vipassana trains the mind not to blindly react to these impermanent, changing sensations. This equanimity purifies the mind and gives true happiness.
The gross mind is ignorant of this subtler truth: that the real cause of happiness is within, not in any external circumstance, objects or persons. Vipassana practice breaks the barrier of ignorance of subtler realities within, the most dangerous ignorance of all. In an ignorant, unguarded, heedless mind, an impure craving gradually multiplies, overpowering speed-breakers like restraint, fear of discovery and disgrace. Like an addict to drugs, the corrupt succumb to temptation.
With Vipassana, one realises that the first victim of one's wrong actions is oneself. Any immoral thought, leave along action, creates so many unpleasant sensations within that one realises the real, deeper meaning of suffering. As the mind becomes purer and sensitive, one has only deep compassion for others committing wrong, not any vindictive wish to see them punished. The Supreme Court of Nature has already given instant and long-term punishment. Whether there is a Lokpal or not, nobody escapes the law of cause and effect. As the seed is sown, this moment, so the fruit will be.
Many senior bureaucrats and leading businessmen in India are Vipassana practitioners. A Maharashtra state government circular from Mumbai in July granted official paid leave to government servants to take Vipassana courses — one of the increasing instances of acceptance of the practice in government and corporate organisations in India. Residential Vipassana courses in the pure Dhamma tradition are conducted totally free of cost to ensure the non-commercial, non-exploitative tradition of the universal, non-sectarian path. Expenses are met by voluntary services and donations of grateful students wishing to share the benefits of Vipassana with others.
If Anna Hazare is correctly continuing his Vipassana practice and experiencing the purity of truth within, he is not likely to be agitating in the streets and quarreling with India's Central government ministers. If he wants to change laws, instead of lobbying for the same like other citizens concerned, he had better get himself elected to Parliament, where laws are changed or made.
Hazare's current stubborn attachment to his point of view can be misunderstood as egoistic arrogance, or emotional blackmail against elected representatives of the people – whatever their shortcomings. The government and parliamentarians are directly answerable to the people of India, not to Anna Hazare.
The people of India are not fools, as former prime ministers and chief ministers know. Elections have regularly chucked out politicians perceived as being corrupt. Hazare and his colleagues will be serving the country better by strengthening the ample constitutional institutions against corruption instead of trying to set up kangaroo courts. Kiran Bedi, his anti-corruption colleague, has also taken Vipassana courses. Thanks to her, India has one of its most remarkable life-transforming facilities in New Delhi's Tihar Jail since 1994. Within Jail No. 4 in the 13-jail Tihar complex is Dhamma Tihar, where Vipassana courses are conducted twice a month for inmates. Tihar officials say Vipassana-practicing inmates do not return to jail when they are released because they do not commit any more crimes. Thousands of Tihar Jail inmates have taken Vipassana courses over the past 17 years.
Kiran Bedi, whom Goenka calls "Karuna (compassion) Bedi", would also be more efficiently waging her battle against corruption by encouraging corporate executives, bureaucrats and political leaders to benefit from Vipassana practice. Change has to come from within. More laws, or going on a self-enforced diet in protest near Parliament Street is not likely to help anyone.
 
The writer is a freelance contributor

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

RESPONDING TO AMERICAN INSULTS

RAJINDER PURI EXPLAINS WHY THE USA IS AS CHAOTIC AND CONFUSING TO THE WORLD AS DELHI IS TO THE REST OF INDIA

IN the space of just a couple of days two American diplomats made statements that were bound to aggravate Indo-US relations. Both were too experienced and distinguished not to have known the impact of their statements. The first indiscretion was committed by state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland. Responding to a question related to Anna Hazare's forthcoming fast, she advised the Indian government to show proper restraint while addressing a peaceful protest. She ought to have known that her gratuitous advice would anger the Indian government. Ms Nuland has had a distinguished career, including stints as US envoy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and as member of America's prestigious Council of Foreign Relations.
  The second indiscretion was committed by Maureen Chao, who is the vice-counsel at the US Embassy in Delhi. She, too, is a distinguished diplomat who had earlier worked in Vietnam. In a speech delivered to Chennai students, she recalled her earlier train journey in India by the end of which she felt as "dark and dirty as Tamilians". It doesn't require being a diplomat to know that this remark was crude and highly offensive. Yet a trained diplomat spoke these words in a formal speech. Both diplomats later offered regrets for their remarks but the damage was done. Undoubtedly, public opinion in India is expected to be more hostile to America.
   How should the government react to such indiscretions? It should protest by all means but remain focused. It should not allow such pinpricks to deflect its approach. It should not respond as its enemies would want. It should appreciate the true nature of America with which our government must deal. America is not a nation in the conventional sense. It is the capital of the world. It has become to the rest of the world what Delhi is to the rest of India.
   Centuries ago people, to escape persecution and repression, or to seek fortune, migrated to America. America is a land of migrants much as India is. Only, it took 5,000 years for India to become an ethnic melting post. It took just a couple of centuries for America to be the same. As a result, most Americans have a strong sense of their roots. Willy-nilly, they acquire a soft corner for the culture and the interests of their parent nations. They develop a dual loyalty. It should come as no surprise, therefore, if Americans, even in official positions, speak in different voices. America, therefore, is as chaotic and confusing as is Delhi while it deals with the rest of India.
Delhi is inhabited by migrants residing here from all states of India speaking different mother tongues. All residents have a vested interest in the welfare of Delhi. At the same time, do they not retain some interest in the welfare of their respective states of origin? Why, even in the government such regional pulls and pressures prevail. Do not political analysts in private conversation talk about the Kerala lobby, the Punjabi lobby or the Bengali lobby while discussing personnel policies or provincial bias revealed at the highest echelons of power?
We should expect the same from America. Whether intentionally or through subconscious impulse, American officials often speak more on behalf of their parent nations than for America. Ms Nuland is a second generation Jew born to a distinguished father who struggled against odds and hardship as a migrant to America. Ms Chao is obviously of Mongoloid descent. The Han Chinese took great pride in their hairless, ivory pale skins, which justifiably they considered most beautiful. When the first whites landed in China the Hans considered them to be coarse skinned and hairy. Therefore, if Ms Chao made a Freudian slip in the light of her own flawless skin – happy fusion of white and ivory yellow – is it not understandable? So let's remain focused on the main issue, our relations with America.
We should take a leaf from China, which treats America as the capital of the world in which, ultimately, all global disputes are resolved. Beijing is busy expanding its influence in America. According to a recent New York Times report, the Chinese are silently and swiftly gobbling up real estate in New York much as they earlier did in Vancouver, Canada. The newspaper quoted Xue Ya, president of China Center, a business and cultural organisation first to sign a lease at the World Trade Center, for renting six floors. Ms Xue Ya said, "Everybody wants to come to New York because New York is the starting point for going global. Once you are in New York, you are a player."
That's right, sister

The writer is a veteran journalist
and cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN?

In the UK, the upper-class club and the working-class rioters inhabit the fringes of society. They have very little contact with others outside their own circles, making disdain, or simply indifference, to others dangerously easy, writes lois kapila

'THEY scared my other customers and wrecked one of my rooms. Even when I eventually got them out of the door, they smashed a window with a bottle," Ian Rogers, the landlord of an old Oxfordshire inn, told UK newspaper The Telegraph. But he wasn't talking about the recent riots. He Rogers was speaking back in 2004, after a visit to his premises by The Bullingdon Club, a not-so-secret drinking and dining club for the highest ranks of Britain's male elite, whose members incidentally once included Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
   This wasn't a one-off occasion. While I was at university, there were repeated reports of the latest Bullingdon outings, which involved a group of extremely wealthy students booking a room under an assumed name, before getting drunk and trashing the place.  
There are uncanny parallels between the behaviour of the rioters last week and the "high-jinks" of the Bullingdon boys: the nihilistic destruction, the lack of consideration for others, the frenzy. The main difference is that the rioters couldn't leave a big wad of cash to pay for the damages. The Bullingdon club invariably does. Is this simply a result of bad parenting, as Cameron would have us believe? Or is it about something else: the way that the government has paid only lip-service to the idea of creating an inclusive, and meritocratic, national community?
Both groups, the upper-class club and the working-class rioters, inhabit the fringes of society. And have very little contact with others outside of their own circles, making disdain, or simply indifference, to others dangerously easy. The reason for this disengagement seems to lie not just in economic inequality, which is certainly important and linked, but also in social divisions that stem from a highly stratified Britain. If, as American social scientist Robert Putnam has suggested, engagement serves as a superglue, bonding societies together, Britain is falling apart.
   Perhaps the main way that social segregation is perpetuated in Britain is through the education system. In a book a couple of years ago, educational scholar Professor Stephen Ball of London University's Institute of Education made the claim that current segregation in education strongly resembled that of Victorian Britain. Back then, the working class attended elementary schools, the middle class went to grammar schools and the upper class went to public schools. Now, he argued, the working class went to community schools, the middle class to faith schools and the upper class to private and public schools. The insular networks established during school continue through university, and into professional life.
Rather than serving as a forum where people from all backgrounds can meet as social equals, schools and universities often merely perpetuate this social segregation and the threat to social cohesion is all too clear. Journalists and analysts have been casting the recent rioting and looting as a political protest against budget cuts and banking bailouts. While these may have helped create the conditions for the riots, there is little evidence so far of all the rioters being consciously motivated by a coherent political agenda. Of course, they will have different motivations. Some will be consciously angry about unemployment, some about service cuts, and some simply opportunistic.
But underlying it all is a disturbing willingness to damage what others have built, and an ability to dehumanise the victims, and for that we have the great, and resilient, British class system to thank.

The writer is Editorial Consultant,
The Statesman  

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

FOLLOWING FORM

PRIME TALK

Independence Day is more than a symbolic date on which India kept its tryst with destiny. It is also a date on which the nation seeks a renewal. This is one of the reasons that the prime minister of the country speaks to the nation on that day from the Red Fort. The choice of location itself suggests the coming together of the past and the present to look towards the future. To the cynically inclined, the prime minister's Independence Day address might appear as a ritual. But even rituals have a place in the making of a nation. The prime minister could not have been unaware that this year he was speaking to the nation at a time when his government appeared to be under siege from problems which seem unresolvable. He spoke about these problems: poverty, corruption, inflation, lapses in the justice delivery system, and so on. He could have added: plummeting confidence in the political leadership. The nation did not expect the prime minister to offer immediate solutions to these problems. And the prime minister was right to emphasize that he does not hold a magic wand. Solutions would come only through collective hard work. What, however, the nation did expect from the prime minister were words that would evoke confidence, words that would excite people to do that extra bit to eradicate India's myriad problems.

The prime minister's speech was strong on reflecting the reality, both in terms of underlining India's strengths and achievements and in terms of talking about some of its problems. It was weak, however, in inspiring confidence. It is true, of course, that Manmohan Singh is no great orator. The nation's expectations were thus not entirely fulfilled. It is not enough to acknowledge the existence of problems; the people of the country want to know why some of these problems persist and how the government proposes to remove them. Even the examination of one problem in these terms would have helped the people understand what the government is doing and why. The general mood of the people needed the support of specific cases. Speeches do not make policy but they serve as public communication of policy, especially when they are made by the prime minister on a special day. India, in every sphere, needs a morale booster. It falls on the prime minister, because of the office he holds, to provide this. Otherwise the fall in confidence can have ominous manifestations.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

 

MUSICAL CHAIRS

Jhalanath Khanal's brief term as Nepal's prime minister was eminently forgettable. But his resignation could not have come at a worse time. The constituent assembly's term expires at the end of this month. The new constitution has not been drafted yet, despite several extensions of the deadline for it. Even more worrying is the stagnation in the peace process. Mr Khanal resigned, owning responsibility for the failure in taking the peace process forward. The failure to complete the peace process leaves the issue of rehabilitating about 20,000 former Maoist combatants unsettled. But he never stood any realistic chance of succeeding in his attempts to complete the peace process. The reason had as much to do with his own inability to forge a political consensus as his rivals' disruptive strategies. His opponents included not only the leaders of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the Nepali Congress, but also a faction within his own Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist). Mr Khanal cannot have been unaware of the consequences of his resignation. But his continuation in office was unlikely to make any difference to the peace process or to the political situation in general.

However, Mr Khanal's exit makes one point absolutely clear. There will be no end to the political crisis in Nepal unless the three major parties make a serious attempt to evolve a consensus. Given the arithmetic in Nepal's parliament, none of the three parties is in a position to rule without the help of the others. Both the Nepali Congress and the UCPN(M) will now stake their claim to the prime minister's chair. But the Maoist party is now a divided house. Besides, it has a vested interest in using the peace process to push its armed cadre into the Nepal Army and other security forces. This remains the worst threat to the peace process itself. The Nepali Congress, on the other hand, is too suspicious of the Maoists to make common cause with them. No matter how incomplete it is, only a political consensus can save Nepal from plunging into worse chaos. But even a half-baked consensus may not evolve until the Maoists come clean with their aims. The people of Nepal toppled an oppressive monarchy not to install a Maoist dictatorship. Only a democratic polity can ensure peace and stability in Nepal.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

MAKE PEACE, NOT WAR

INDIA, BRAZIL AND SOUTH AFRICA COME OF AGE ON THE WORLD STAGE DIPLOMACY - K.P. NAYAR

If the world's newly-emerging diplomatic coalition of India, Brazil and South Africa can stop a fourth Western-led attack on an Islamic country in a decade, it will be whispered in the portals of the United Nations headquarters in New York for some time that such a war was avoided by divine intervention.

On August 3, the Gordian Knot of UN security council inaction on Syria was actually untied with prasad from New York's Sri Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devasthanam in Flushing. For the first event that marked India's month-long presidency of the security council, this Ganesh temple sent a sumptuous breakfast of South Indian delicacies for nearly 200 people at the UN building.

All 15 permanent representatives from member states of the security council and their entire delegations, members of the non-aligned caucus plus the staff of the UN secretariat discussed the month's work programme under the Indian presidency over lassi, vadas, idlis, dosas and the usual accompaniments such as chutneys and sambar that go with these dishes.

Security council members traditionally discuss their monthly work programme under rotating presidencies over croissants and coffee ordered from the UN café. This was the first time that anyone in Turtle Bay, the seat of the UN headquarters, could remember something different — exotic, according to some delegations — being served during their monthly ritual.

At the first meeting under India's presidency, much more than the council's work programme was discussed. Its 15 members had been deadlocked for 10 weeks about what to do with the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria. Inaction by the UN was prompting others to engage in mischief, such as Saudi Arabia, which had not forgiven President Bashar al-Assad for describing Arab leaders as "half-men" five years ago.

The Syrian president did not then name any Arab leader, but, by implication, he was referring to the Saudi King, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, for manipulating a lukewarm pan-Arab opposition to the Israeli attack on Lebanon. Now, over Syria, the Saudis were mobilizing the Gulf Cooperation Council into aligning a common position with that of the Western powers. A vacuum caused by inaction on the part of the security council had also opened the door for a free-for-all by Western powers which wanted regime change in Damascus.

A 'presidential statement' by the security council had been held up because Lebanon, which has a stake in Syria to the point where the survival of any government in Beirut is involved, would not go along with the other 14 members. Yet, a presidential statement — which any member could veto — was the minimum that the council had to agree on to demonstrate that the UN was not impotent over what has become the second biggest crisis in the so-called Arab Spring after Libya.

It was here that the mastery over bureaucratic detail, for which Indians are famous, came in handy. The Indian delegation dug up details of a similar deadlock 37 years ago, when China refused to go along with a presidential statement. The issue at hand was a look by the UN into the disputed Iran-Iraq border. China took the rightful view that border problems are to be resolved by parties to the dispute and that it was none of the UN's business.

At that time, China had border disputes with almost all its neighbours and Beijing worried that a precedent against its interests — and India's too, by the way — would be set if the UN was allowed to interfere in the Iran-Iraq dispute. In this case, however, China was persuaded to dissociate itself from the security council's presidential statement.

But in digging up the 1974 precedent, India's permanent representative to the UN, Hardeep Singh Puri, did better than those who managed to end the security council's deadlock 37 years ago. China had insisted then that its dissent should be part of the presidential statement. But Puri persuaded the Lebanese not to make their dissociation with a common council stand a part of his statement.

As a result, he was able to create a feeling that the presidential statement was the unanimous outcome of the council's consultations on Syria. The Lebanese delegation quietly issued a separate note dissociating themselves from Puri's presidential statement. But hardly anyone noticed their dissent.

But the next problem was a growing clamour for more action. The Western powers, along with their human rights industry, wanted a resolution passed by the security council even though there was no unanimity within the council on the way forward on Syria. Countries such as India, Brazil, South Africa, Russia and China had also been bitten once over the security council's March resolution on Libya. They opted then not to pick a fight within the council in good faith, only to find later that the security council had dug itself into a hole and has since been unable to act on its own resolution.

Meanwhile, some Western powers have been using Resolution 1973 — which calls for cessation of hostilities, among other things — not only to advance their agenda on Libya, but also to flout the spirit in which the security council settled its approach to Tripoli in March.

Amidst the intense propaganda over Muammar Gaddafi's cruelty towards his own people, which has largely swayed the world's popular approach towards his regime, it is often overlooked that the Western campaign against Gaddafi began to build up at a time when Libya had begun renegotiating its oil contracts with American and European oil companies. Gaddafi had also signed new deals with Russia on arms purchases, with more under discussion. It appeared as if all the effort in recent years by the US, Britain and France to win over Libya and exploit its oil wealth and arms purchasing power was coming to naught.

With Syria, the other side of the story which is often overlooked, is more serious. For instance, despite well-documented reports in the Lebanese media in recent weeks, the West, including its media, has deliberately chosen to ignore details of illegal arms shipments bound for Syria. Beirut's Al Akhbar daily reported on August 6 the full details of a conspiracy to deliver 1,000 Kalashnikov and M-16 assault rifles to the small Syrian city of Baniyas where protests against al-Assad were building up. The go- betweens in this deal were members of Libya's Tamim clan, suggesting a conspiracy that goes beyond elements in Syria and Lebanon, involving the entire region.

Two days later, another Beirut newspaper reported that the arms smugglers had confessed that this was not the first consignment they were sending across the border into Baniyas. Lebanese television has since identified the arms dealers and tied them to Saudi intelligence.

On the day India assumed the presidency of the security council, the external affairs minister, S.M. Krishna, told the Syrian vice-foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, in New Delhi that in dealing with protests, Damascus should "exercise restraint, abjure violence and expedite the implementation of political reforms taking into account the aspirations of the people". While the use of indiscriminate force against a protesting population cannot be condoned, no state can put up with conspiracies from the outside to destabilize its government. More than 500 Syrian security personnel have been killed since the Syrian version of the Arab Spring began, and no one will argue that such fatalities for the government have been caused by peaceful protesters.

It was appropriate, therefore, that India, Brazil and South Africa took the lead last week within the security council to engage al-Assad's government in an attempt to prevent any precipitate action by the security council to start a war in Syria. The IBSA delegation repeated Krishna's August 1 message to the Syrian president in unambiguous terms. Al-Assad promised the delegation that he would take his country along the road to multi-party democracy by March next year, but there is no guarantee that faced with unforeseen circumstances and the pressure his government is under, this is a promise on which he can be held to account.

But for now, the signals are promising. Three days after Puri persuaded the security council to issue a presidential statement on Syria, al-Assad took a phone call from the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon. Ban has been trying to speak to al-Assad for several months, but the latter would not take his calls. The conversation between Ban and al-Assad, an outcome of the Indian presidential activity in the security council, is a particularly hopeful sign. The secretary-general and the Syrian president have shared a good chemistry in the past: Ban is the only world leader with whom al-Assad is known to have conducted a conversation in English.

It is still early to say if India, Brazil and South Africa, aspiring to be leaders of tomorrow's world, can prevent a war in Syria, but if they do, they would have vindicated their election to the security council and contributed a little to the idea that the UN should make peace and not war.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

WITHOUT A MARK

STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

What a pity, I thought last week, as I watched television images of feral mobs trashing parts of London and other cities that the word goonda has never been adopted in Britain. A pity too, I'll add, though policing is hardly my business, that the lathi, as a physical object, hasn't either; ugly its use may be, but it works.

Back with language, it's true that the British goonda, did he linguistically exist, would pretty certainly not be, as he might be in India, the hired tool of some politician. But that resonance apart, the word expresses very accurately the mixture of semi-organized collective violence, vandalism and crime pervading too many of Britain's city streets last week. And British English has no real equivalent.

The American mobster is no substitute: he belongs to the Mafia, and the Mob does not organize mobs. As for gangster, the man may belong to a gang, but the word is seldom used except in films (or, oddly, by some British gang members speaking of themselves). The likeliest British word is thug; another word of Indian origin, curiously, though I doubt that one in a hundred of its British users is aware of that. But thug by now is far too wide; it can mean a man apt merely to smash up other drinkers' faces, or, more seriously, his wife's. So let goonda one day reign, as it yet may, if Britain's ethnic Indians start speaking up.

Whatever they did to the streets, the rioters, in the event, altered little in British linguistic habits. Various youths complained to the media that they are habitually "dissed", disrespected; which is clearly true, if they were black, as their vocabulary suggested, though they were not so clear why smashing into shops to steal television sets and smartphones would make it less true. But by now diss is old hat even to us oldies. Another youth demanded "recognition", all four syllables of it, his face masked up to the eyeballs to prevent any such thing.

New to me — at 77, I'm behind the times — was the use of the feds, as in federal marshal or FBI, for the police. One gormless ninny urged his followers on Twitter to "rise up" across London and "beat the feds". This particular ninny (forgive the anglicisms, but, as I demonstrated in an earlier column, British English is rich in words of personal insult, so why not use them?) turned out to be a man normally hired to write blogs on behalf of The Independent newspaper. The Indy, as its too few readers know it, is a paper of stern liberal-left principles, but even it felt this too much, and swiftly sacked him.

You might think rise up an interesting new phrase for torching and looting your local shops. And we heard uprising from another ninny — forgive me, a self-promoted "black activist" better known for his activities on the edge of public finance under a past far-left mayor of London — who, maybe, thinks Britain a second Syria. But I can't see these novelties making much ground. And to judge from the reactions, blogged or reported, of non-rioting Britons, black, brown or white, few will think that they should.

No, this month's nights of madness will leave little mark on the language. A few events of the past have done so. We owe marathon to a confused tale of a Greco-Persian battle in 490 BC; turn a Nelson's eye to the way that admiral put his blind eye to his telescope, so as not to see a flagged order to withdraw at the battle of Copenhagen in 1801; met his Waterloo (usually with a capital W, but sometimes not) to Napoleon's defeat in 1815; boycott to Irish peasants' reaction in 1880 to a landowner's agent of that name; the now forgotten mafficking, noisy rejoicing, back-formed into the verb maffick, to the British relief of Mafeking from a Boer siege in 1900; blitz, noun or verb, to the German bombing of London in 1940-41 (and, briefly, coventrate to the similar treatment of a smaller city, Coventry). But August 2011 will not join the list.

THEWORDCAGE@YAHOO.CO.UK

 

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

EDITORIAL

AUTHORITARIAN ACT

''EVERY CITIZEN HAS FREEDOM TO PROTEST IN PEACE.''


The Manmohan Singh-led UPA government's drift towards authoritarianism is unmistakable. Heading the government, it is shocking that the Congress party that swears by Mahatma Gandhi is resorting to blatantly undemocratic methods to ban the peaceful and non-violent ways of protest the Father of the Nation used in the freedom struggle. It also seems to have forgotten the bitter lessons it had learnt from Indira Gandhi's infamous Emergency regime. The detention of Anna Hazare along with scores of his associates before his proposed fast in Delhi on Tuesday is unacceptable.


The government will not be able to explain to the people with any valid reason such an action. The crackdown underlines the hostile and oppressive attitude of the government to people's movements for clean and accountable governance. The freedom to protest in peace against government policies is a given for any citizen of the country. Hazare and his supporters did not violate any law of the land and only highlighted the need to frame an effective legislation to create a Lokpal which would have real powers to act against corruption and corrupt ministers and officials. To try to suppress their voice and their freedom is to punish the good and the just and to shield the bad and the corrupt.


The pretext that he planned to violate prohibitory orders will not wash. The government clamped the prohibitory orders through the Delhi police though there was hardly any evidence of an imminent law and order problem. What the government wanted was to avert the fast itself which posed damaging questions about its intentions on the Lokpal bill. For the last few weeks, the ruling party and its leaders have been running a systematic slander campaign against Hazare and his associates, though it could establish nothing from it. Hazare is no political opponent and he has no political axe to grind. He only represents the impatience of the people with the corrupt ways of politics and government and the urge for change to a moral and accountable system.


It will be naive if the government thinks that Hazare's cause and demands will go away with his detention. The spontaneous support he has drawn from people across the country and the widespread protests against his detention are an indictment of the government. As its leaders labour to advance feeble legal arguments to justify the unjustifiable, the government is clearly losing its moral authority; it stands denounced in the people's court.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

UNFAIR DELAYS

''MERCY PETITION DECISIONS SHOULDN'T BE DELAYED.''


It was five years ago that the then President, APJ Abdul  Kalam, had sent to the union home ministry a mercy petition of Afzal Guru, who had been sentenced to death for his role in the attack on Indian parliament in 2001. The ministry has now returned the file to  President Pratibha Patil with a recommendation that the clemency plea may be rejected. It is 10 years since the offence for which Afzal Guru was convicted took place.

The President rejected last week the mercy petitions of three persons who had been sentenced to death in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The crime for which they were convicted took place more than 20 years ago. In these and many other similar cases the correspondence between the President, the home ministry and the government of the state where the offence took place takes years to reach a final decision. This is unfair and undesirable in many ways.


The Afzal Guru case had become controversial because some sections in the country wanted rejection of the petition and his swift execution and the government dillydallied.  Both had political considerations. The case of the Rajiv Gandhi killers was also not free of politics. But it has been seen that even when politics is absent it takes years for a decision to be made on a mercy petition.


This is because there are no guidelines and no time limit to deal with such cases at the level of the President, the ministry and the state government. Even now the Afzal Guru case can linger on indefinitely because the President is not bound to take a decision any time soon. There is no administrative reason for the delay in processing mercy petitions. In fact after a death sentence is passed by a lower court the process of appeals and mercy petitions should be fast-tracked.


Keeping prisoners in the death row indefinitely is to kill them every moment. The delay and uncertainty cause much mental torture and are a violation of their human rights. This newspaper is against death sentence as a deterrent punishment. While it is there on the statute book it should be administered fairly and humanely.  There should be clear guidelines on the matter and a reasonable time frame should be set for action and decision at every stage of a mercy petition.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

JUDICIAL RESTRAINT

RAJINDAR SACHAR


The faith of the public in the fairness of judges receives a blow if they comment on political matters outside the courtrooms.
The judiciary has always been recognised as one of the co-equal institutions of a State along with the executive and legislature. But in the recent past, the public has magnified its stature manifold – some may feel disproportionately, which, no doubt is a great tribute. But then it means that the judges must be prepared to suffer a closer scrutiny of their actions.


It is a hoary tradition that even when an active politician accepts appointment as a high court or Supreme Court judge he is automatically expected not to comment on a political issues which are being publically debated – no doubt he is fully entitled to and many judges do express their views, strongly both during the hearing in the court and then more thoughtfully but soberly in their judgments. But this established restraint was regretfully ignored recently when Justice Ganguly, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court at a book release function commented on current debate amongst political parties, civil society, and opined that the prime minister should be covered under the ambit of Lokpal legislation.

This debate at present is in political field but it is possible that it may land in courts. The learned judge will obviously recuse himself for the simple reason that he has expressed his views on this matter already in public forum but it can not be denied that this may cause some embarrassment to his colleagues who may be hearing the matter (though no doubt the decision will be given uninfluenced by what Justice Ganguly has said). The Supreme Court itself is not vain and has accepted that it is open to anyone to express fair, reasonable and legitimate criticism of any act or conduct of a judge in his judicial capacity or even to make a proper and fair comment on any decision given by it because "justice is not a cloistered virtue and she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken, comments of ordinary men." But it does not follow that judges have a similar right to question any government policy in a public forum.

There are certain self imposed limitations on the public activities of the judges which can not be crossed without endangering the impartiality content of the judges. The judges cannot purport to declare finality of an issue outside the courts – it can only be within the precincts of the courts and only then it is final and binding. The faith of the public in the fairness and incorruptibility of judges is a matter of great importance. This receives a blow if sitting judges comment on political matters outside the courtrooms and that too without hearing the opposite view. That is why the judges have on their own accepted the need to be governed by the code of ethics.

Bacon in his inimitable style emphasised, "Patience and gravity of hearing is an essential part of justice; and an over speaking judge is no well tuned cymbal." Sustained public confidence Similarly US Supreme Court in Baker Vs Carr, said — that the court's authority — ultimately rests on sustained public confidence in its moral sanction. Such feeling must be nourished by the court's complete detachment, in fact and in appearance, from political entanglements and by abstention from injecting itself into the clash of political forces in political settlements..." Our founding fathers when framing the Constitution were aware of the warning given by Baron Montesquieu and deliberately refused to enthrone the judiciary both inside the courts and outside where political questions are to be decided by "civically militant electorate." It must also be accepted there is nothing judicially more unseemly nor more self-defeating than for the courts to make interrorem pronouncements, to indulge in merely empty rhetoric. No, I am not saying that judges are to behave like coy brides when speaking in public. My comment refers to avoidance on political questions.

Of course the judges must and are expected to speak in public on matters connected with judiciary. I for one will fully endorse a sitting judge of the Supreme Court to speak, even harshly about the delay in filling up vacancies in High Courts and Supreme Court, (284 vacancies out of 895 sanctioned) leading to cumulative pendency of 4217903 cases in High Courts and also telling the public whether the delay is because of apathy of government or judiciary itself. Sitting judges should also publicallly debate the failed exercise of appointing an outside chief justice of High Court, the not so logical transfers of judges. Certainly this will also partly involve self criticism of judiciary itself along with that of political government. But this open criticism will be for the betterment of judiciary which the judges alone can advance.

The only caveat is that judges, even with good intention and even actuated by a public purpose may not venture on the political field prohibited to sitting judges. Judges must always be conscious of the warning given by a former Chief Justice of India who reminded the judges that though "our function is divine; the problem begins when we start thinking that we have become divine." If I sound a bit harsh, I can only invoke the caveat of Justice Holmes of US Supreme Court, who said, "I trust that no one will understand me to be speaking with disrespect of the law, because I criticise it so freely...But one may criticise even what one reveres...And I should show less than devotion, if I did not do what in me lies to improve it."

 

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

WANTED: FREEDOM FIGHTERS IN GOA'S VILLAGES

 

As activists of India against Corruption took to the streets in a decisive battle against corruption, there was hope that Goa had not yet lost its ability to wake up and protest.
Goan writers, academicians, film makers and playwrights joined as one on the stage and the police station. And yet, there was something missing. The collective will of all Goa's civil rights groups from across the state to come together would have taken this protest to another level altogether. ViIlage groups, citizens forums and any other groups formed for the sake of delivering justice in any form to the citizens of Goa have a huge opportunity to spread this movement to villages, talukas, panchayats and towns of Goa.
Everyone needs to sit down for the sake of Goa. There is no party to talk to, or a government to talk with. There is no plan to pass or alter or a housing project to stop. There is a bigger task here. If every village group across Goa, takes it upon itself not to allow corruption at the smallest level, even at the cost of losing personal benefits, it will be  a resounding slap on the face of corruption. Every village has a team of crusaders either dormant or active. If each village takes it upon itself to  hand over the responsibility of leading the crusade against corruption to its chosen villagers and support them in all that they do, in the Anna way, the cleansing will begin.
Let there be rallies, protests and fasts, not just in favour of a just Lokpal bill but against every act of corruption which affects every village. The protests have to be against the macro issue of corruption as well as the micro issue of every act of corruption in every village or town.
Let there be a positive movement towards this. Let this be a movement of multiple leaders and leaderships emanating from a combined thought process of various responsible groups. India Against Corruption, is not a rigid registered organization which does not allow entry to others. It's an open forum for all of us who truly love this country to join. It can be in any other form or name. But all that is needed is a genuine will to fight against corruption at the lowest level.
This won't be an easy fight this year. The elections are at hand and already, the process of buying and selling has commenced. Supporters are getting booked and loyalty is being secured through various innovative means with the voter seeking to maximize his returns on his one investment- his vote.
To start the ball rolling, let responsible village groups ensure that votes are not reserved in the name of various sops like pilgrimages, trips to the Gulf, plots of land or plain hard cash. No battle against corruption can be fought if we ourselves are corrupt. Therefore over the next week, as meetings and marches are held across the state, there should be a serious introspection and call for action of all citizens groups.
But before they run, they must sit and plan this action systematically, devoid of egos and conflicts. Everything needs to be set aside for this lifetime opportunity that the selfless Anna has offered us. If this generation did not know what a fight for freedom was all about, this is it.

 

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

SUPPORT THE INDIAN CRICKET TEAM

Cavino Fernandes
Those who are criticizing the Indian cricket team have no right to rejoice  at the   Indian   cricket team's victory in various forms of the game – be   it India's World Cup win this year, or to appreciate even their victory in the 1983 World Cup, or their victories in the T20 form of the game.   


 Why   did   those now criticizing the Indian cricket team,   have no words of praise for them when   they took   the   numero uno   status in Test rankings and   maintained   this position   for the past 20 months? Now that they have lost   the series   in England people are furious with them and making such fiery statements. This is absolutely not fair to them.    We   should   learn to support them when they are down too. They are human beings too; they are   Indians like us. And they have already proven   to us that they are worthy. They have made us always made us proud. There is no other team in the world that has excelled in all the   three levels   of the game.   The Indian cricket team   was the   first to win the T20 World Cup; the only team who has the defeated the mighty West Indies; the only team who could beat Australia when they were at their peak.
At this point of time the whole world is criticizing   the Indian cricket team. We should not join the world in criticizing  the Indian cricket team. Rather, we should understand the fact that England is far behind India. England   has only recently   taken the No.1 status in Tests. They have to first break  the South African cricket team's   record  of maintaining  the test rank  for 104 days and then that   of   the Indian cricket team  who ruled for 20 months and above all   that of the Australian cricket team who were on top for test rankings for six years. So it's a long way for England and they have never won the World Cup in the 50-overs form of the game.   So they have to play a lot to prove that they are   better and   can   supersede India and other strong teams. It will be not be easy for them with Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India on to compete with.
Finally, we India are the world champions for the next four   years and we should not forget that. Whether we play good or bad doesn't matter much, but it matters much   for England because they have to go a long way.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

NETANYAHU NOT SERIOUS ABOUT SOCIOECONOMIC CHANGE

NETANYAHU'S COMMENTS SUGGEST A RETREAT FROM HIS PROMISE TO TRAJTENBERG - THAT HE WOULD CHANGE HIS OPINIONS ON SOCIOECONOMIC PRIORITIES.

In a meeting with Knesset Finance Committee members Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that although he takes Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg's committee for socioeconomic change "very seriously," he has not promised to adopt its recommendations. Netanyahu said the cabinet must maintain balance between the panel's recommendations and economic stability.

Thus the prime minister cast doubt on the committee members' judgment and understanding of Israel's economic interests, and prepared the ground to depict the panel's recommendations for meaningful reforms as a threat to the country's economic stability.

Netanyahu's comments suggest a retreat from his promise to Trajtenberg - that he would change his opinions on socioeconomic priorities. Thus, the prime minister showed the protest leaders were right to appoint their own panel of experts to propose a new distribution of the national pie. As Prof. Avia Spivak, one of the heads of the independent team, said, increasing state expenditure in order to improve the middle class's well-being does not necessitate increasing the deficit. It can be done by changing fiscal policy and budget priorities.

The protest leaders should be complimented for selecting top-notch experts from a broad range of disciplines and backgrounds, and the experts who agreed to lend their time and expertise to Israeli society in this manner should be praised.

Trajtenberg showed wisdom in welcoming the independent panel, in initiating a dialogue with the protest's leaders and in inviting the public to help answer the issues raised in the popular protest through YouTube.

If the prime minister is genuinely willing to abandon his neoliberal principles in order to restore the welfare state, he must express complete trust in the members of the committee that he himself appointed when it comes to Israel's economic stability. Declarations that create doubts about his commitment to the panel's recommendations undermine the panel's credibility.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE DEATH OF THE JINGLE

LIVNI DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO TALK UNLESS COMMUNICATIONS EXPERTS WRITE THE TEXT FOR HER, AND THAT IS WHY HER REMARKS SOMETIMES SOUND LIKE JINGLES.

BY YITZHAK LAOR

 

There are many reasons for Tzipi Livni's pallor in the opposition. First, she entered politics as the national "privatizer" - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed her to head the Government Companies Authority back in 1996. Second, her Kadima party is closer to Netanyahu's views than most of the Likud Knesset members are. But most importantly, Livni does not know how to talk unless communications experts write the text for her, and that is why her remarks sometimes sound like jingles ("A vision, not a committee, is what's needed," she declared Monday. ) Take a look at what happened this summer - the PR flaks, the media experts, the campaigners have all lost their sway.

For a society whose political life revolved for years around campaigns, advisers, marketing strategies and spin, that is major. It seems like that spirit that once (before the days of the NGOs ) characterized part of the left - total media naivety, which was more than once called "weird" by analysts who differ from PR flaks only in their source of income, not the nature of their work - is now coming back to life and giving the protest movement a strong sense of support.

An example of the opposite of the protest movement is the campaign for captive soldier Gilad Shalit. In the era of the analysts-flaks-campaigners, one analyst explained on TV with utmost seriousness that the campaign for Shalit was a success "without any connection to the result." That is how far stupidity can go. That is also the source of the tragedy - the campaign for Shalit has never decided whom it is pressuring. At one point it demanded that the prime minister strike a deal, and at another, it called for blocking the release of Palestinian prisoners. One time it besieged the prime minister's home, and another time it attacked trucks carrying food to Gaza. At one time its message was to "the people of Israel," and thus it watered down its slogans. They were composed by media advisers and PR firms, paid by donations. The soldier's parents, whose hearts were undoubtedly broken, ran from one senior official to another. And even though a large majority of the public apparently favored a deal, the parents headed a convoy that did not know how to translate its vast popularity into political pressure.

That was the politics of the era of marketing strategy. Its aim was "to get to the maximum number of people," as that cynical TV analyst put it. The amount of air time it received was its measure of success, nothing else. The campaign had tactics but no strategy.

That was what characterized Israeli politics until this summer. In spite of all the differences between the Shalit movement and the current social protest, the protest leaders are in a different position entirely. Everyone knows their strategy is to enlist as many people as possible in order to pressure one individual. This huge mass does not have a single jingle and no media adviser can explain how it should act, because what is springing up in front of our eyes is idealism at its best. There is no gap between interest and ideal; the interest is being turned into an ideal. The message is not addressed merely to "the middle class" or Jews. The "nation" demanding social justice is not one nation.

Several decades ago, Bertolt Brecht wrote that the word people expresses unity and common interests, and therefore it should be used only when talking about several peoples. That is how the summer of 2011 should be remembered.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS RUSSIANS IN ISRAEL

THE SO-CALLED 'RUSSIAN PUBLIC' IS MADE UP OF ONE MILLION PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT AGES, FROM DIFFERENT COUNTRIES, CULTURES AND SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS, AND WITH ONLY ONE COMMON DENOMINATOR - A LANGUAGE.

BY MAYA ZINSHTEIN

 

The people want social justice and the media want to know who the people are: who we are and who is against us. As someone who came to this country as a child from the former Soviet Union, I had the misfortune of coming from the "wrong side" of the political map, from the "Russian street"; that community which numerous newspaper articles now report as being conspicuously absent from the protest movement.

The Russian vote, the Russian community, the Russian street. Millions of shekels were spent over the past two decades on trying to decipher its genome, and trying to sell to this strange entity a popular dessert called Milky or a prime minister "in a way they'll understand." Even today, it transpires, many refuse to understand that they are dealing with a public of one million people of different ages, from different countries, different cultures, a different socioeconomic status, and with only one common denominator - a language. That's it. And therefore any attempt to make them one and the same is pathetic and useless.

These same one million people, who go almost unheard in the Hebrew-language media, have been labeled over the years with a variety of tags. They were said to be engaged in the world's oldest profession or to be figures in stories from "The Godfather." And now they are being labeled as opponents of the protest movement. Because all of them vote for Avigdor Lieberman and, after all, the protest is left wing. Or maybe it's because they still remember communism and are wary of the red winds that blow from Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard. Or perhaps simply because they were educated to be like that, to keep their heads down and keep quiet.

On what, in fact, are these reports based? Did anyone count how many "Russians" participated in the march of the 300,000 on that Saturday night, less than two weeks ago? And what do they look like, these "Russians"? Do they wear sandals with socks? Do they give off an odor of vodka and sausage? I am doubtful whether anyone would associate my brother, for example, with that "street"; he came to Israel at the age of 4, speaks a sprinkling of Russian and looks like any average young Israeli. And is it possible to compare his worldview with that of my grandmother who lived for 50 years under a communist regime? After all, both of them are from the same "street," the same "community" and the same "vote."

And why should we not try to examine the extent to which people of Moroccan descent joined in the protest? Did anyone count how many Moroccans marched in the demonstration and try to identify them in the crowd? It would be interesting to know how it would be done. According to what criteria? Anyone who dared to make an examination of that kind would immediately be accused of racism, and rightly so.

The complaints about the Russian public boil down mainly to the positions of the Russian-language media and that public's political representatives. But these representatives have for the most part looked after No. 1 over the years. The Russian-language media as well, with the plethora of interests that exist therein, mostly represents only itself. And in general, its influence these days has become marginal.

On the other hand, a new generation has grown up here. It lives an Israeli life and gets its information, alas, not in its mother tongue. This generation does not need the promises of "Nash Kontrol," the election slogan of the Yisrael Be'aliyah party, but it does need and want social justice. True, not everyone - but then, not all the citizens of the state of Israel have demonstrated in the streets.

All these "Russians" move among us. And they look the same as we do. Each one is assimilated in Israeli society to the extent that he wishes. When the media stop looking for protest banners in Russian, then it will become the voice of that democracy under whose umbrella hundreds of thousands of people are protesting.

My grandmother did not take part in the previous demonstration, and I would venture to say that she will also not participate in the next one. Does she represent those who came from the Commonwealth of Independent States? Of course not. Just in the same way as I, who will participate, do not represent a soul except for myself. And no, no one needs to try to sell me a prime minister in Russian. I am no longer "new immigrant, small Hebrew."

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE TIME HAS COME FOR SQUATTING

TEL AVIV ALONE HAS HUNDREDS OF ABANDONED BUILDINGS, SOME OF WHICH CAN BE CONVERTED RATHER EASILY INTO RESIDENCES; THE PROTESTORS SHOULD DO WHAT LOCAL GOVERNMENTS SHOULD HAVE DONE LONG AGO.

BY SHARON LUZON

 

Squatting occurs around the world, and we're familiar with it primarily in its Western European form. Squatting is the act of moving into deserted land and facilities without receiving permission. In London, Berlin, Amsterdam and elsewhere it is widespread and legitimate, and individuals and groups make their homes in abandoned apartments.

In many instances, it is considered a civil, non-criminal matter, and expelling the encroachers is not an entirely technical issue - it involves a drawn-out legal process. In some cases, various municipalities discreetly encourage squatters, since they renovate run-down buildings, find their own housing solutions and operate democratically.

The tent protests in Israel have now been going on for a month. Instead of showing signs of exhaustion, they appear to be readying for a second round of demonstrations. This will be particularly significant as a response to the Netanyahu government's hostile strategy. The government has replaced its strategy of besmirching and ignoring the protestors with a stall tactic, establishing a public committee to report back to a ministerial committee in a month, in the best case, under the hopes that the protestors will bake in their tent camps and eventually give up. Netanyahu's municipal allies, including Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg, have already threatened to evacuate the camps and accost their denizens. There have been uses of force at tent compounds in Tel Aviv, Netanya and elsewhere.

Tel Aviv alone has hundreds of abandoned buildings, some of which can be converted rather easily into residences. The same holds true for other cities. The protestors should do what local governments should have done long ago.

With the tents still full of protestors, it is a propitious time to identify abandoned buildings, obtain equipment and start renovating. This will not be a quick struggle. We should be ready for a war of attrition by the government and its municipal confederates.

The advantages of squatting are clear. First, it is a practical way to prolong the protests for months, if not longer, and to provide concrete housing solutions for the protesters, many of whom lack viable housing options. Second, this is a solution that can weather the seasons, providing means to withstand maneuvers by a government counting on the autumn cold and rain.

Third, this would disseminate the protest struggle throughout cities. It would mean the demonstrations are no longer concentrated along main urban thoroughfares, in venues that can be easily evacuated.

Fourth, squatting would not drain energy from the tents. Teams of squatters can start finding and renovating apartments in tandem with the tent protest demonstrations, which appear to be escalating.

Most importantly, the transition of the protest movement, or parts of it, to squatting would send a clear message to the government: We are here to stay, the protest is not going anywhere, and we have the means to continue. If anyone made the mistake of thinking that the protest's power is limited to the tents' durability, he or she will discover that the protest is stable and tenacious, and is even able - on its own - to find walls and a roof.

 

The writer is a Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipal council member on behalf of Ir Lekulanu.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

U.S. IMPOTENT IN FACE OF MIDDLE EAST EVENTS

WHAT IS THE CRITICAL MASS OF PEOPLE WHO MUST BE KILLED FOR THE 'INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY' TO ACT?

BY ZVI BAR'EL

 

How long will the Syrian protesters wait until the United States and its allies deign to intervene in their slow massacre? What is the critical mass of people who must be killed for the "international community" to act? When there's an earthquake, countries jostle each other to be visibly first in line with rescue forces for the victims; when thousands were killed in Darfur, the "community" went into deep hibernation until roused to assist.

In Syria, the barometer of bloodshed is still not a cause for concern. Condemnation, scolding and a few weak sanctions made it clear to President Bashar Assad that he's still far from danger. Against Muammar Gadhafi, Washington quickly raised a military coalition. It called on Hosni Mubarak to resign; in Yemen it stirred things so as to prevent the return of its president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to Sana'a. And in Syria? The key statement, "Assad has to go," is still stuck in Washington's throat.

The rational explanations for American restraint are not to be taken lightly: concern over Iran's response; the desire to avoid putting a Western umbrella over a popular revolt so as not to impair its legitimacy; concern over the status of the United States in the Middle East if it finds itself facing a new front after Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, Washington must take "the day after" into consideration. But understanding for the considerations of "the day after" is what makes possible a murderous "today."

The Syrians are not the only ones who realize that Washington prefers to be an observer and to sit this one out. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' statement that on September 20, he intends to request the United Nations officially recognize Palestine as an independent state says all too clearly that the Palestinians have despaired of active American involvement in getting Israel to budge.

No practical steps have emerged for the Palestinians from President Barack Obama's visionary statements - not a freeze on settlement construction, not an outline of borders and not even an invitation to the White House. Abbas apparently understands that as in Syria, Washington will wait for reality to do its job, and reality is waiting for the "day after."

Abbas decided rightfully to go to the UN, and that Israel cannot have a monopoly on unilateral steps. Not only does he have nothing to lose; his move could also force Washington to accept decisions it has managed to avoid. For example, will Washington be able to withstand a large majority of UN members recognizing a Palestinian state? How will it explain its opposition? By saying that it preferred negotiation and not a unilateral initiative? What has the U.S. done to further such negotiations? Let's assume that Washington persists in an approach contradicting American policy - the policy that raises the banner of "two states for two peoples"; that it votes against recognition of a Palestinian state. Will it also support sanctions Israel imposes on that state? How will the U.S. protect Israel from sanctions against it?

That's the "day after" Washington can anticipate if it does not recognize a Palestinian state. And we have not even begun to talk about the uprising expected in Palestine if the bid for recognition is rejected.

Washington, dragged along by Israel, finds itself having to respond to a Palestinian initiative intended to deprive the U.S. of exclusivity in dealing with the Israeli-Arab conflict. The UN, which has never played a significant role in the conflict, has caught the hot potato, and its decision will be binding on the U.S., whether or not Washington wants it.

The only a scenario Israel sees is one in which the Palestinians start a third intifada, and Israel is preparing for that the way preparations are made for mass demonstrations. The Israel Defense Forces are ready, as usual, for any eventuality. But the statesmen are not. An intifada that is unlikely to occur will be the least of Israel's worries.

The very ability of a Palestinian Authority, which is not an independent country, to circumvent the world's greatest power and impose on that power its "day after" will ultimately determine Israel's position vis-a-vis the U.S. and the latter's standing in the region. The American giant that refused to deal with Syria, that shows indifference to what is happening in the West Bank, is losing its garden.

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

EDITORIAL

HIS ANGER IS A START

and an economy in desperate straits, President Obama tried bargaining with Republicans, he tried adopting some of their ideas and he pleaded with them for reasonable policies to help stave off disaster. For his efforts, he got nothing but a cold shoulder and the country got a credit downgrade.

Now, on a bus tour in the Midwest, he is bitterly pointing the finger at his opponents for their refusal to consider any new revenues to tackle the deficit and their insistence on deep near-term spending cuts that will only cause more economic pain. His anger is long overdue. But it would be much more effective if he combined it with strong ideas of his own for how to fix the economy, rather than the thin agenda he is now promoting.

Fearing the real possibility of a default (something that never seemed to concern the Republicans), the president stayed largely mild-mannered through the whole debt-ceiling hostage ordeal. He even praised the bill that emerged, even though it cut spending excessively at a time when the fragile economy can't afford it.

But on a factory trip last week and again on his tour of Iowa and Illinois, he was far more candid. He accurately referred to the "debt-ceiling debacle" and pointed out that the resulting downgrade was an assessment that Congress cannot make necessary compromises. "We've got the kind of partisan brinksmanship that is willing to put party ahead of country," he said.

He left no doubt of his target when he noted that Speaker John Boehner walked away from a more balanced deficit-cutting deal and that, in last week's debate, the Republican presidential contenders who participated unanimously rejected the possibility of a deal that cut spending 10 times as much as it raised taxes. "What that tells me is, O.K., you've gotten to the point where you're just thinking about politics. You're not thinking about common sense."

Mr. Obama has proposed a series of small-bore measures to reduce the jobless rate, chosen in the hopes that they are so obvious that even House Republicans would consider going along with them.

That was a mirage, of course. Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee, dismissed the idea of extending the payroll tax cut as "sugar-high economics," and others in the House said it was too piecemeal.

When Republicans reject even tax cuts, something else is going on, and Mr. Obama identified it on Monday. "There are some folks in Congress who think that doing something in cooperation with me or this White House, that that somehow is bad politics," he said. It is, in fact, entirely about politics.

He also pushed back against the incessant government bashing by Representative Michele Bachmann and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. While Mr. Perry even accused the Federal Reserve of treason for increasing the money supply — and shamefully threatened its chairman, Ben Bernanke, saying "we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas" if he does so again — Mr. Obama said government is hardly broken. It houses people during emergencies, he noted, fights fires and crime, and (to Mr. Perry's annoyance) sends out pension checks.

That argument and that contrast would be much easier to make if Mr. Obama came up with policies big enough to match his newfound anger — and big enough to get the economy growing again.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FIGHT FOR A JOBS AGENDA

Come September, President Obama's aides say he will roll out more programs to put Americans back to work. What we are hearing so far doesn't go nearly far enough.

The gist: Continue the payroll tax cut for employees into next year. Reform the patent system. Pass trade legislation. At a stop in Decorah, Iowa, on Monday, he called for employing jobless construction workers to rebuild roads, bridges and schools across America.

Those are all sensible ideas, but most are not up to the urgency or scale of the problem: 25 million Americans — 16.1 percent of the work force — are out of work or working part time, and the economy is weakening anew.

Patent reform and trade deals won't have much near-term impact. The payroll tax cut and federal unemployment benefits are crucial for supporting demand in a weak economy, but extending them for another year will only help to prop up the distressing status quo.

Federal funds to hire construction workers could be a prodigious job creator — construction and building repair generally create 10,000 jobs for every $1 billion spent. But when the president floated the idea this week, he did not so much embrace it as his own as mention it in passing. "Congress should pass it and get it done," he said.

Congress, left to its own devices, won't get it done. Presidential leadership, daily and unrelenting, is needed. But as Binyamin Appelbaum and Helene Cooper reported in The Times, Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether it is worth pushing any bold proposals, fearing that voters will see it as a failure if they don't make it through Congress. That is an excuse for not trying. It also underestimates the intelligence of the American people.

Another measure under discussion is a tax incentive for businesses to hire. A $13 billion hiring tax credit passed in 2010 is estimated to have led to 250,000 new hires. In contrast, a stimulus program that subsidized the hiring of low-income Americans generated 250,000 jobs for roughly $5 billion. That program deserves revival before more is spent on dubious hiring tax breaks. Another stimulus measure worth reviving that could create good jobs is a tax credit for manufacturing clean energy equipment.

A serious jobs agenda should also ensure that federal funds are available to rehire teachers, police officers and firefighters who have lost their jobs in state and local government budget cuts. It should include new programs to hire unemployed young people, say, in federal parks and in community centers and new financing for national service programs, like AmeriCorps, where applications have far outstripped openings. The longer young people are unemployed, the worse their future prospects become.

Mr. Obama needs to put forward a comprehensive plan and fight for it. If he loses to obstructionist Republicans, Americans will know who is to blame.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A FARM AROUND THE CORNER

It is sweet corn and ripe tomato season, a time for freshly picked garlic, luminous carrots, crisp cucumbers and (as far as we're concerned too much) zucchini.

For many Americans — especially those who live in inner cities — the delights of the season are still often out of reach. But things are improving even in places where farmers' markets have been scarce. The Department of Agriculture just released its 2011 farmers' market directory and the numbers are striking: 7,175 markets across the country, an increase of 17 percent since last year. Alaska and Texas saw the biggest growth, but there is also progress in urban neighborhoods.

The Agriculture Department notes that the number of page views of the online directory tripled to 1.8 million this year compared with 2010. That is an endorsement of the value of the directory, which allows you to locate nearby farmers' markets, the products they carry and the kinds of payment they accept — an important detail since many accept coupons and vouchers from several nutritional support programs, including Women, Infants and Children.

It's easy to assume that the most important products at farmers' markets are the ones stacked on crowded tables. But just as important is the direct dialogue between farmer and consumer.

Farmers get a precise picture of just who is shopping and what they're shopping for. And consumers get an education, if they so desire, in the realities of producing and marketing such beautiful vegetables, fruits, meats and eggs. In a way, farmers' markets are agriculture at its best, keeping it fresh and close to home.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

SWISS BANKS, AIDING AND ABETTING

Despite all of the I.R.S.'s efforts, wealthy American tax cheats are still able to hide their money because Swiss banks are still eager to help them.

An indictment disclosed earlier this month by the United States attorney in Manhattan noted that when the Swiss bank UBS — under strong pressure from Washington — abandoned the secret account business, one of its bankers left, taking with him several clients for whom he then opened secret accounts at five other Swiss banks. Another indictment claims that a Swiss financial adviser who managed secret funds for American clients moved accounts from UBS to two private Swiss banks.

Both advisers are accused of using shady tactics, like opening phony businesses in Hong Kong and fake foundations in Liechtenstein to conceal the money from the Internal Revenue Service. The banks, which are not named in the indictments, were not accused in the fraud because the advisers gave them false documents stating that the account owners were not American. But the banks did have information that could have alerted them to the accounts' ownership had they done better due diligence.

These indictments follow the disclosure by Credit Suisse that it was the target of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department into how Swiss institutions assisted American income tax evaders. The cases underscore how deeply Swiss banks rely on tax evasion.

The United States government, which fined UBS $780 million and forced it to reveal data on 4,450 American customers, is reportedly negotiating a global agreement with the Swiss government that could result in a hefty collective fine against these banks. Switzerland is again resisting demands for more information about American clients. Washington should not stop pushing until all Swiss banks hand over their files and close those accounts.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEW FARMERS FIND THEIR FOOTING

BY MARK BITTMAN

North Haven, Me.

When Brenna Chase was farming in Connecticut a few years back, new farmers weren't always welcome by oldsters. The pie, she says, just wasn't big enough. "But now," she said to me here, where she now farms, "the feeling is that the pie is getting bigger and that the more people that get into this the better it will be for everyone."

By "this," she means sustainable farming (here I use the term interchangeably with "organic" because many ethical farmers can't afford organic certification), and the poised 33-year-old, who began farming in high school, is representative of young people I've met all over the country. These are people whose concern for the environment led to a desire to grow — and eat — better food. And although chefs still get more attention, the new farmers deserve recognition for their bold and often creative directions.

Rural Maine, it would seem to almost all of us from "away" as they say down east, is as unlikely a place to find new farmers as exists in the lower 48: it boasts harsh, dark winters; a short, cool growing season; acidic soil; and a transportation "system" that makes shipping both in and out of state a challenge. (Even people have trouble getting out, as I discovered Monday. And Tuesday.)

There's only a quarter as much land in farming in Maine as there was 100 years ago, but that's changing. There are more farms today (up around 50 percent since 1992), more acres in farms and more money generated by farming than there were 20 years ago. This is, at least in part, thanks to people like Ms. Chase, who follow in the footsteps (foodsteps?) of one of the granddaddies of can-do, intensive organic farming, Eliot Coleman.

Mr. Coleman runs Four Season Farm in Harborside with his wife, the gardening writer Barbara Damrosch, and has squarely faced nearly every challenge a new farmer can since he started in 1968. Now, the 1.5 acres he cultivates, mostly in vegetables, are not only almost unimaginably lush (Ms. Damrosch's gorgeous flowers don't hurt), but they're so productive that, in his cheerful, wise way, Mr. Coleman almost gloats: "You couldn't be in a less likely spot than here to do what we're doing," he says, "and yet we've transformed a poor, wooded area into a place where there's nothing we can't grow." I marvel at his artichokes; he responds: "I grow them just to make the Californians nervous."

Now 71, Mr. Coleman maintains his long-range view. (He delights in telling the story about unloading a truckload of free clamshells when a county agent came by. "The agent," says Mr. Coleman, "was incredulous: 'Those aren't going to break down for 100 years!' But I was thinking, 'I have 100 years of free fertilizer here!' ") And he clearly loves the work. ("If work is what you do when you're not doing what you want," he quips, "I haven't worked a day in my life.")

He sells his output locally for about $125,000 a year; most of that pays for labor. If he scaled up, he reckons, the net income would be greater. This, of course, is the concern of many new farmers: How do you afford to buy land, hire labor and still make a living?

For Mr. Coleman, this isn't so much of an issue. In some circles he's a hero for his innovative approaches to fertilizing, greenhouses, tool-making, teaching and more. He's probably inspired as many farmers as anyone in the Northeast, and his books, especially "The Winter Harvest Handbook," have taught the art of season-extension to thousands of gardeners, including me. (His place isn't called Four Season Farm for nothing, and, remember, this isn't San Diego.) So book sales, speaking engagements and other money-generators for both him and Ms. Damrosch help out with the income. (This isn't unusual. Most conventional farmers, even those of commodity crops, do nonfarm work to help pay the bills. That's the current state of farming in America.)

For newcomers, though, this is precisely the issue because, as Ms. Chase says, "If you could make a good living farming, people would go into it and stay in it."

The simple answer, of course, is to charge more for food. But can an increasing number of sustainable farms find markets for higher-quality, higher-priced produce?

Here, the answers become complicated: "If the cost of food reflected the cost of production," says Ms. Chase, "that would change everything." And this is undoubtedly true. But though sustainably produced food is too expensive for some, conventional food doesn't reflect either the subsidies required to grow it or the huge environmental or health care costs it incurs. Once it does, sustainable food would appear far more competitive.

Then we'd see more farmers growing it, not only in Maine but everywhere else. Which would, indeed, be better for everyone.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

 

2012 PRESIDENTIAL RACE GETTING CLEARER

The American people surely are in 100 percent agreement that we need to elect an exceptionally capable president next year. That will be possible, however, only if we field good candidates.

The entry of Texas Gov. Rick Perry into the Republican presidential field has shaken things up, with presumed front-runners Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann knowing they will have a fight on their hands -- not only against each other but against Perry. Then whoever wins the nomination will face an almost certainly bitter contest against President Barack Obama, whose policies have made him politically vulnerable but who will have the campaign cash to put up a fierce fight.

Our history as a nation shows that at times we have elected excellent presidents. But often, we have picked leaders who weren't up to the challenge or who did not have a grasp of fundamental principles.

Obama has his supporters, but his record doesn't indicate that he is the president we need for the four years beyond the next election. His dismal economic record, in particular, speaks for itself.

Meanwhile, the Republican field is coming into clearer focus.

Here are the most prominent GOP hopefuls:

* Bachmann is a fiscally and socially conservative U.S. representative from Minnesota. She has drawn a great deal of tea party support. Whether she can raise the funds to mount a successful primary and general election campaign is uncertain, however,

* Romney is a former governor of Massachusetts. He is generally conservative, though he is seen as somewhat more middle of the road than some other candidates. He finished second in the 2008 primaries to Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.

* Perry entered the race late, but he has nonetheless made waves. He is conservative and has the advantage of having led a state where job creation far outpaced the rate of job creation in the United States as a whole. His Democrat critics -- and perhaps some other Republicans -- will try to link him to the policies of former President George W. Bush, who was previously a Texas governor as well.

There are other candidates, of course, and it's too early to count them out entirely. Among them are:

* Herman Cain, a former Federal Reserve banker and a businessman from Georgia.

* Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, from Georgia.

* Jon Huntsman Jr., former U.S. ambassador to China and former governor of Utah.

* Ron Paul, U.S. representative from Texas.

* Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.

* Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin apparently has not decided.

Whom do you like on this list, or do you prefer four more years of Obama? You'll be deciding soon.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

GAS PRICES AN ECONOMIC SILVER LINING

There is not much good news these days when it comes to the United States' economy, so we'll take whatever upbeat financial reports we can get.

It's obviously not encouraging that U.S. economic growth is nearly at a standstill. But there is at least one positive side effect from anemic growth: lower demand for oil. That reduced demand has helped push down gasoline prices a little.

To be sure, the price you pay for a gallon of regular gas is still not by any means "low." The average cost was about $3.51 in Chattanooga recently. But that was down about 6 cents from a week earlier, and analysts predict that gas prices will continue to fall in coming weeks.

At any rate, $3.51 per gallon is obviously better than the nearly $4-per-gallon figure we were seeing not too long ago.

The United States imports too much oil from unstable or hostile foreign regimes, while we counterproductively put much of our own oil -- and natural gas -- off limits for unjustified environmental reasons.

It's good that gas prices have fallen a bit lately at local stations. But we could do much more to cut prices and reduce our dependence upon foreign oil if we would develop and use our own energy resources more fully.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

UNCIVIL 'CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION'

The country known today as Iraq -- formerly called Mesopotamia -- lies in the Middle East, with the Tigris and Euphrates rivers running through it. The region has been called the "Cradle of Civilization" because of its ancient culture.

But we have been reminded over many centuries -- and most tragically in the recent years of U.S. military involvement in the Iraq war -- that that area is not always particularly "civilized."

The most recent reminder came as domestic bombings and coordinated attacks killed at least 70 people and wounded hundreds more -- just last Monday.

The astonishing attacks occurred in well over a dozen cities in that troubled country!

We are sadly aware that there are enemy factions, as well as outright terrorists, among the Iraqis. But what are indiscriminate explosions in the midst of civilian populations gaining for any of those factions? What are their aspirations?

What can they possibly hope to achieve -- except, perhaps, to gain control over the country through the force of sheer terror?

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A CRITICAL SECURITY MEETING IN ANKARA

The Turkish government is preparing to change its stance on Syria in a radical way as Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu signaled late Monday afternoon in an unusually short statement.

His face showed that he was not happy with what he was saying what he had to say. He filled in the blanks in President Abdullah Gül's ultimatum letter that he delivered last week to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

He said Ankara had not mentioned a deadline for Damascus to stop opening fire on his own people demonstrating for more rights. But this time, Davutoğlu said the Turkish government requested that the Syrian government stop it "immediately."

Otherwise, there was no point left to talk to the Assad regime, as they are not listening to Turkey anymore. Davutoğlu admitted that after a day-long show in Hama, where Turkish Ambassador Ömer Önhon was allowed to observe, the Syrian army escalated attacks on its own people even in Latakia, the home town of the Assad family.

Latakia was one of the straws that broke the camel's back in convincing Ankara that Assad was not going to respond positively to Gül's letter, which was written in a polite but decisive language and decorated with exclamation marks.

The word "immediately" practically indicates a deadline which is already expired, unless Assad makes an unlikely public statement by Wednesday or Thursday.

On Thursday, the president will convene the National Security Board, or MGK, meeting in Çankaya Palace in Ankara with two main files on the table. One of them is the Kurdish issue and the fight with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The issue is important especially after the latest remarks by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the PKK should wait and see what will happen to it at the end of the holy month of Ramadan if it does not stop killing. Perhaps that was the reason why the PKK did not cause any bloodshed on Tuesday, the 27th anniversary of its first armed action.

But the hot issue on the MGK agenda is Syria. According to official sources in Ankara, the MGK is planning to evaluate at least two scenarios on what to do in Syria if Assad does not make a last-minute move to stop terrorizing his own people. Davutoğlu's words the other day saying that Turkey would continue standing by the Syrian people, if not government, clearly shows that helping the Syrian opposition against the Assad regime is being seriously considered.

When considering that only eight months ago the two governments were so close as to organize joint Cabinet meetings and lift visas for each other's citizens, the change is a sharp one.

Erdoğan's decision on the Syria policy after tomorrow's MGK meeting might change many balances in the region, if it is noted that Washington was not "surprised" by Ankara's exhausted patience and Tehran's reaction to Davutoğlu's ultimatum to Damascus.

By the way, is there anyone who thinks that the false statement that Iran had captured the "number two" of the PKK while all these things are happening is coincidental?

Perhaps so, as the cradle of civilizations has experienced a lot through history.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TRANSFORMING TURKEY…

 Every day somehow some alarming reports are coming from some corner of the country highlighting the advancing religious conservatism: tolerance culture being replaced with a culture of endurance, or as that Islamist writer wrote recently in Yeni Şafak articles defending creation of ghettos isolated from the rest of the "god-fearing Muslim neighborhoods."

A woman, an imam-hatip, or theology high school, graduate was beaten up seriously at an eastern city the other day for smoking in public… At a Black Sea town a boy was harassed and stabbed in the campus of his university… At a central Anatolian town… whatever… There are lots of such reports… Life continues with a "routine" under the government of revanchist political Islam committed to a campaign of systematic revenge from the more than eight decades of secular republican governance...

The other day, I went to a restaurant for dinner. The restaurant, one of the oldest in Ankara, boasted in its menu book that Ataturk had dined there many times. It was of course Ramadan and it was no surprise that most people were there to break their fast. Thracian music played in the background, examples of those pieces that Ataturk loved (presumably). A waiter kindly asked me and my wife whether we were there for iftar (fast-breaking dinner) as well. When, to his shock, he learned that we were not fasting, he escorted us to a remote corner of the garden. There were few tables at that corner of the garden, at least 15 meters away from the other tables. I am diabetic, and therefore cannot drink alcohol without risking my health. For many years now I rarely consume alcohol unless I am at an official dinner or at an occasion that requires exchange of toasts…Thus I did not ask for anything alcoholic. My wife wanted a glass of beer. The waiter served us with an annoyed face. We were treated as if they hated to see us there. Service was terrible. Food was incredibly bad. Thus, after about half an hour, we decided enough is enough and decided to go somewhere else. I spent about ten minutes waiving my hand to catch the waiter's attention to ask for the bill. On the bill, there was hardly anything we had that night. Naturally, I rejected, saying we did not order or receive the food and drinks listed and demanded that the bill be corrected. The "chief" waiter apologized, saying he was more focused on the fast-breaking group and did not realize anything wrong that might have been done by junior waiters. It was as if he was having an orgasm teaching us "infidels" a lesson in religion and "Islamic morality." We paid and left murmuring "At least remove the photograph of Ataturk from the menu book..."

Back home the head imam and absolute ruler heading the government of the country was talking again appealing to people for donating their alms to the Turkish Red Crescent or Religious Affairs Directorate so that Turkey could demonstrate its great generosity to the suffering Muslim people of Somalia... Moments later the newscaster was reading a report about the former commander of the War Academies telling the so-called Sledgehammer court case that everything produced to show him as someone who plotted to overthrow the constitutionally elected government of the country were part of a bigger conspiracy...

Turkey is living through a time when it has become fashionable to systematically scorn the founder of the republic, the Turkish military, patriots, nationalists and praise the Islamist fundamentalists, separatist Kurds and whatever was considered unfriendly or at least unwanted yesterday.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

LIVING HAPPILY, AND TURKISHLY, EVER AFTER

In one of his speeches, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that "Turkey and Iran share a very long, common history." And in another he said that "a common destiny, a common history, a common future is the slogan of Turkey and Syria." And in another, "we have a common history, a common destiny and a common future, as well as cooperation between Greece and Turkey," prompting this columnist to wonder which countries in the world Turkey does not have a common destiny, common history and common future with. Most recently, as crowds in the rebel-controlled Benghazi, Libya, chanted "Erdoğan, Turkey, Muslim," Mr. Davutoğlu told them "we have a common history and a future."

That may be bad news for Turkey's future relations with the Libyan opposition. One of the countries with which Turkey has a common future and history is sending one hostile signal after another to Ankara, telling Mr. Davutoğlu's men to butt out of Syria, even accusing Turkey of providing "terrorists" with arms. The other country with which Turkey has a common history and a future is calculating where and when the next Turkish act of hostility will come from. Speaking about that country, Mr. Davutoğlu said, "We have nothing to talk about." Ultimately, the visa-free trade zone linking "common-history-and-future" friends Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan seems to be in the political waste basket now.

Meanwhile, the other country with which Turkey has a common history and a future is digging a massive, 120-kilometer-long area on its border with Turkey. In the south, the islanders with which we have a common history and future – although Mr. Davutoğlu has not specifically mentioned that – keep on vetoing EU accession chapters and going ahead with their Exclusive Economic Zone plans despite Turkish objections.

The Bulgarians, Armenians and Georgians are lucky they don't have a common history and a future with Turkey. Bosnians may not be equally lucky (yes, Bosnians are our neighbors since Mr. Davutoğlu expansively defines the Turkish neighborhood, as the vast space of Ottoman dominion). A future visit to Sarajevo may risk ties with Bosnia if the minister recalls our common history and future with the Bosnians (if he already has not). It was alarming enough when Mr. Davutoğlu said that "the 16th century was the golden age of the Balkans, and that the Ottoman era there needs to come back." As one Balkan analyst recently wrote, "Turkey will be judged by what it is doing in the Balkans now, not by what it did 400 years ago."

But I am particularly worried about Egypt where the post-Mubarak political scene, with a touch of a common history and a future with Turkey, could at any moment recall its anti-Ottoman past.

According to The Economist, "from North Africa to the Gulf the region seems to be going through a Turkish moment." How happy. "So is there any reason why the Arab countries, having passed through their current upheavals, should not live happily, and Turkishly, ever after?" the newspaper asked (The Turkish Model: A Hard Act to Follow, Aug. 6). According to The Economist, the coming to power of pious people did not mean a dramatic rupture in ties with the West.

And, in The Economist's analysis, we must live happily and Turkishly ever after because "there is no suggestion that [Turkey] will leave NATO or cut diplomatic links, however strained, with Israel." There is even better news: "So far, at least, Turkey is a long way from any Iranian-style enforcement of female dress, let alone a clerical class that has the final say in all big decisions." How relieving!

The Economist probably forgot to mention another benign aspect of Turkish Islamist rule: We still don't behead criminals, stone adulterers or build nuclear weapons. Mind you, the first two are in the common culture of some of the countries we have a common history and a future with. And our Ottoman forefathers would surely have gone for the third had the technology of their times allowed them.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

EGYPT'S 'AKP' ON ITS WAY?

There was an interesting headline in this weekend's papers. Khalid al-Zafarani, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, told the Associated Press that he and some of his colleagues were working to found "a political party with the same program of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP]." They would copy not just the policies, but also the very name of the Turkey's AKP, Mr. al-Zafarani explained in Cairo, since they were inspired by the party's achievements.

Back in Ankara, Salih Kapusuz, the deputy chairman of the AKP, said they were "pleased" to hear the news about Egypt's upcoming AKP, and expressed hope that it "would succeed in bringing prosperity and happiness to the Egyptian people."

And all that sounded like good news to me. The Muslim Brotherhood, the mothership of political Islam, is a key institution for the future of not just Egypt but also the broader Arab world. It is not a political party as such, and is more of a grassroots network, so its political line can take various forms. In the past, most of its variants certainly promoted a very authoritarian, if not totalitarian, notion of Islam, by which the state would impose anything that it deems "Islamic."

The Brotherhood

But that authoritarianism is not the only way to understand Islam, and there have been efforts within the Brotherhood to articulate a new vision in line with the norms of liberal democracy. The al-Wasat Party, founded in 1996 as a splinter group from the Brotherhood, was one such good case, but its influence has been limited – and, of course, its members were the subject of a crackdown by the despotic regime of Hosni Mubarak. Al-Zafarani's effort seems to be not just another move toward the al-Wasat line, but also a signal to the change that is taking place in the mainstream Muslim Brotherhood perspective.

If this sounds like day-dreaming to you, then consider the impact that Turkey's AKP had on another branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the one in Syria – a county which is being tortured these days by the bloodthirsty dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad and his fellow thugs. An excellent report by Istanbul-based Polish journalist Piotr Zalewski that was published on Aug. 11 in Foreign Policy unveils this little-known story. Titled "Islamic Evolution: How Turkey taught the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to reconcile faith and democracy," Zalewski's piece shows how life in Turkey, and the impact of the AKP, has helped raise a younger generation within the formerly-militant Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. This is a generation which agrees that Islam can only be proposed, not imposed, and that "individuals must be free to choose what they want."

Inspiring the spring

 "While many in Europe and the United States fear that Turkey's ruling [AKP] has introduced a dangerous Islamist influence into the country's traditionally secular and Western-oriented stance, religious groups struggling to overthrow stagnant autocracies across the Arab world take a different lesson from the party's success. Particularly in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on a domestic uprising has become increasingly brutal during the holy month of Ramadan, pious activists have looked to Turkey as a model for reconciling their faith with the democratic hopes of the Arab Spring," Zalewski wrote.

This would, of course, not be possible, if Turkey were the Turkey of the past – a zealously secularist and madly nationalist non-democracy, which suppressed even the most moderate expressions of Islam and saw all its neighbors as enemies. As Turkey gradually became more democratic, more open and more at peace with its own identity, it apparently began to mean more for the Muslim nations around it.

So, if things go well, the Turkish experience – that of the AKP, of course, not the headscarf-banning generals – can really become a beacon of democracy in the Arab world. There is already a "Justice and Development Party" in Morocco, another one is apparently coming in Egypt, and, if the evil republic in Damascus can be defanged, perhaps another one can emerge in Syria. Just keep fingers crossed.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FAMINE AND NEO-COLONIALISM IN SOMALIA

The images from Somalia on our TV screens and the photos we see in the papers are indeed extremely moving.

A massive humanitarian catastrophe is being experienced in this African country.

The number of small children who have died in the past three months at the Dadaab refugee camp, where about 600,000 hungry and thirsty Somalis have taken shelter, has reached 30,000.

International aid organizations are desperate and, according to a United Nations statement, only 20 percent of the army of the hungry has been reached up until today.

Famine is no stranger to Africa.

The world public became aware of the poverty and famine on the continent at first, to a minor extent, due to the "Live Aid" concerts in 1985 organized by Irish singer Bob Geldof.

We are mobilized with a whim of enthusiasm when Live Aid concerts are repeated from time to time with the participation of famous singers and then we forget about this humanitarian plight.

Africa is again left alone to its famine.

Millions of dollars have been poured into Africa up until today but international aid organizations, concerts and government contributions have never been able to completely solve the famine and drought problem.

There has been drought as seen in the Somalia example, as well as numerous causes such as endless civil wars, battles, lack of infrastructure, lack of education and incompetent governments.

What is new-colonialism?

However, experts have been lately pointing to a different cause of the spiral Africa has fallen into: "Neo colonialism" or "Agriculture colonialism."

Let me try to explain what these concepts are.

While it is being calculated that the world population will reach 9 billion by 2050, some countries that are foreign-dependent on food are concerned that they will not be able to feed their own people.

Well, these countries have bought wide tracts of land in third-world countries, especially in Africa, and cultivated them for a couple of years.

They take their produce from African lands to their own countries.

In addition to this, multinational companies invest in agriculture, yet again, on poor peoples' soil to produce biofuel.

In any case, agricultural labor in such countries is dirt cheap.

 According to a recent survey, during this "neo-colonialism" rush, 500,000 square kilometers of land have been transferred into the hands of foreign countries and foreign companies.

To make a comparison, this is land that is larger than the surface area of Morocco.

Biofuel is guilty

Which countries exercise this "neo-colonialism?"

The leaders are oil-rich countries such as Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but China, South Korea, Malaysia, Sweden and even Russia are among those countries that are buying land in Africa.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, there is no other livelihood for the African farmer who has had to sell his land.

In Tanzania for example, farmers who were cultivating rice and corn in their fertile lands had to abandon their lands to multinational companies that plant biofuel their instead.

Ethiopian farmers experienced similar things.

In Zambia, multinational companies after biofuel have signed 30-year contracts to grow "jatropha," also known as Indian nuts.

We will be able to see in a couple of years what negative consequences Zambians will experience for cultivating this nonedible plant instead of those products that would feed them.

This plant similarly is grown in abundance in Ghana, Togo, Senegal, Mali and the Ivory Coast.

Are Western countries searching for ways to decrease the effects of global warming through biofuels aware of the disasters they have caused in Africa?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

STOP DITHERING IN IRAQ

H.D.S. GREENWAY

"Damn it, make a decision," America's secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, was widely quoted as saying just 11 days into his new job.

He wanted the Iraqis to make up their minds. "Do they want us to stay? Do they not want us to stay?" he asked, as the Iraqis hemmed and hawed.

I had thought President Barack Obama had already made a decision: U.S. troops out in 2011. But now there is foot dragging on the part of the U.S. military and others in the administration.

Maybe just a few years longer until the Iraqi state is really up and running, say the foot draggers. America shouldn't let all of its gains go down the drain by pulling out precipitously. America can't allow Iran to turn Iraq into a satellite state, and on and on and on.

The Americans have been bullying the Iraqis to let them stay, and now the Iraqis have agreed to negotiate a continued U.S. troop presence. But it is time to get out.

After almost 10 years, the new Iraq is what it is, and we Americans should take Iraqi ambivalence for what it represents. Some Iraqis may want U.S. troops to stay on out of understandable fear for the future, but other Iraqis, notably Moqtada al-Sadr, violently oppose any hint of a continued occupation.

A continued U.S. presence will be resisted. American soldiers will die, and most importantly, the goal of an Iraq able to make its own decisions and stand on its own feet will be yet again postponed.

It is way too late to say the U.S. has to keep soldiers in Iraq to counter Iranian influence. We should have thought of that before we invaded, when because Iranian influence was guaranteed, the U.S. overturned the age-old Sunni domination of Iraq and empowered the majority Shiites.

The most holy Shiite shrines are in Iraq. Many of today's Iraqi leaders spent their exile years in Iran during Saddam Hussein's time. There are close cultural ties between Shiite Iran and Shiite Iraq. Trying to keep Iranian influence out of Iraq would be like Britain trying to keep American influence out of Canada.

But like Canada, Iraq is going to keep its independence. Iran is embroiled in its own troubles. It is not going to invade Iraq. America's nine-year war has shown the futility of that option.

Iran has seen American armies invade Iraq on its western border and Afghanistan on its eastern border, and has been threatened itself with military action by the Bush administration, which branded it part of the "axis of evil."

Although Obama has tried to ease tensions, force has not been taken off the table. It is no wonder that Iran makes trouble for America both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once the U.S. military has finally departed from Iraq, the Iranians will see less of a need to counter American influence.

Most importantly, there is no evidence that Iraqis want to be Iranian puppets anymore than they want to be American puppets. U.S. soldiers remaining strictly for training might be tolerable, but the recent joint Iraqi-American raids that killed a 13-year-old boy and an off-duty policeman should no longer be something American soldiers are involved in.

America went into Iraq for many reasons. In one of a series of new-to-the-job gaffs, Panetta told American soldiers that they were in Iraq "because on 9/11 the United States got attacked, and 3,000 not just Americans, but 3,000 human beings got killed, innocent human beings, because of al-Qaeda."

Of course there were no links between al-Qaeda and Iraq before America invaded, and Panetta's public relations team was quick to go into damage-control mode and correct what the secretary meant to say.

There were those who believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, but as Paul Wolfowitz famously said, that was just the excuse everyone could agree upon.

Some in Washington saw an Iraq without Saddam as a potential friend to Israel. There were others who longed to control Iraq's oil. And there were the neoconservative romantics who saw a democratic Baghdad as a light unto others, a city on a hill that would spread democracy throughout the Middle East.

None of the above came to pass, and if there is democracy budding in the Arab world today, it is despite America's invasion and occupation, not because of them.

It has been a hard lesson to learn, but Iraq and the Arab Spring have shown that the Arab world will ultimately make its own decisions on how it should be governed without neo-imperialists in the West deciding for them.

H.D.S. Greenway is a noted foreign affairs analyst. This article was originally published on the Khaleej Times online.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

CHARTER OPTIMISM CAN BE HIT BY SYRIA QUAGMIRE

Amid the sound and fury over an unending Syria quagmire, terror acts and a match-fixing probe that keeps entire Turkey busy, the government and opposition parties have intensified their work on the new constitution, though silently.

Ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is obviously the most active and outspoken comparing to other parties. The AKP brass' meeting late Monday produced a fresher road map highlighting steps to be taken before the opening of the Parliament.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will personally be involved in this work by writing a letter to oppositional leaders to brief them about his party's stance and will invite them for a meeting. He will also arrange a set of gatherings with academia and civil society to ask them for their contributions and support of the process.

Republican People's Party chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu informed the Daily News that they have already completed their work about the constitution even before the June 12 elections. He said they had no problem in joining the process. The Nationalist Movement Party will likely appoint members to the Parliamentary Commission to be set by Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek after October.

The Peace and Democracy Party is also willing to join the process as they see this as an opportunity to realize their demands for more rights to Kurds.

However, parallel to these efforts, there is also a need to solve the jailed deputies' problem in order not to cast a shadow on these efforts. In this sense, a great portion of responsibility lies on the shoulders of Çiçek.

During a meeting with a senior government official last week, I got the impression that the ruling party is completely ruling out a referendum on the charter, which does not receive support from the opposition parties. Contrary to the comments, it does also reject the pretext of AKP-CHP cooperation for the charter. "These are not true," the government official said, "we are not planning to act unilaterally. It won't be an AKP constitution. We will seek all parties' participation."

However, CHP brass is skeptical to this approach. For the main opposition, the likely scenario is AKP-BDP cooperation if concerns of CHP and MHP would not be met. "Do not take current cold wings between AKP and BDP serious," Kılıçdaroğlu said. "Cold wings can go out in a single day and they could introduce their text to a referendum."

Currently the AKP has 327 deputies, three less than it requires. With its 29 deputies, the BDP could play a key role in this equation. However, the current political climate leaves no room for this, given the fact that the government will further toughen measures against the PKK and those who do not denounce terror.

With a reinforced military campaign against the PKK, there is no doubt the political tension will further increase by mid-September, right before the country dives into charter talks. Current optimism for a more participatory, embracing charter could easily vanish under this scenario, coupled with an ever deepening Syria quagmire. No doubt, we will live through an even hotter September.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

167 DAYS IN JAIL AWAITING AN INDICTMENT

Thank God that Ahmet Şık's wife is doing the calculation so that we can see it every day. Monday was journalists Ahmet Şık's and Nedim Şener's 166th day in jail, and Tuesday is their 167th day.

Two of our colleagues, who were arrested and have been in jail all this time, are waiting for their indictments that contain the details of the charges against them.

Of course, Şık and Şener are only symbols. There are such a huge number of people – it is almost impossible to calculate the exact number of people who are under arrest and are waiting in jail for their indictments to be written, in other words, for the court case to be opened.

This topic is only one of the judicial problems in our country. Some others include the extremely long time it takes to prepare the investigation, the question of whether the indictments will ever be written and the fact that the "suspects" spend most of this time under arrest.

There is one feature that separates the situation Şık and Şener are in from others who are in a similar situation: Their investigations are being made by specially commissioned prosecutors and, if opened, special courts will most probably take their cases.

Commissioned courts and prosecutors, as their name implies, act with special powers. Among those powers is hiding the evidence that constitutes the charges against the "suspects" and their lawyers from them.

Şık and Şener are under arrest based on "secret" evidence against them, in other words, despite the 166 days that have passed, they still do not know what they are being charged with.

This is, no doubt, not the only problem in our criminal procedures. Şık and Şener, even if their indictments are written and their cases opened, might continue to be tried under arrest. According to a verdict of the High Court of Appeals, the arrest period can be extended to 10 years. That is, they can stay in jail for 10 years without being sentenced.

The long arrest periods are the most hurtful of our judicial problems. But the main problem is not this. The long arrest periods are a consequence. What causes this is an essential problem that I call "the mother of all problems:"

The length of the judicial process.

Tried either under arrest or not, the period between the day an investigation for a criminal case starts in our country and the day of the final ruling is very, really very long.

Let me give two examples:

It took four and a half years to sentence the person accused of the murder of Hrant Dink even though the suspect did not deny the crime. There is also the High Court of Appeals phase of this, and if the High Court reverses the verdict, there is the retrial and again the High Court of Appeals…

In another murder case that is continuing in Istanbul, the court has not or has not been able to move beyond investigating the identity of the murdered person to trying the person alleged to have committed the murder despite the passage of four years.

In such crimes as these where it is so open and indisputable as to who was responsible for the murder, the period of arrest is being unjustly used almost as a means of punishment because it takes so long to reach a verdict. Periods under arrest are being extended while, unfortunately, the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.

This is the essential problem we have to solve in the judiciary. Unless this is solved, unless the justice mechanism is improved, we will be waiting for many a 166 days.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

PAYMENT AND PERFORMANCE


In a move that senior US military officials are calling a 'hard-knuckled' reflection of where Pak-US relations stand at the moment, the White House is nudging towards a pay-for-performance relationship and has started conditioning billions of dollars in aid on the degree of progress depicted on a secret scorecard of US counterterrorism objectives. Islamabad has been warned that future payouts of security assistance will depend on progress on classified scorecards that track Pakistan's cooperation in four areas. The White House has already promised to withhold about $800 million in security aid to the country; now, after reports that Pakistan may have given Chinese engineers direct access to the remnants of the US stealth helicopter left behind after the Osama bin Laden raid, the strategic partnership between the two countries appears once again to be precariously perched on the brink of self-destruction.

The problem, however, is that while Washington says it will continue to give Pakistan $1.5 billion a year in development assistance, in the same breath it is reportedly withholding military aid – making its delivery conditional on progress demonstrated vis-à-vis a secret scorecard. There is an element of schizophrenia in this approach: continuing civilian aid signals the treatment of Pakistan as a close ally in whom the US has a lasting investment; on the other hand, cutting military aid or making it heavily conditional betrays a deep-rooted distrust of the Pakistan army and the belief that those at the helm of affairs would give up strategic objectives for limited security gains. The two approaches are hard to square and sharply indicate the need for the US to find some balance in its ties with Pakistan. Doing so requires addressing some very elemental questions: Is the Pak-US relationship a sincerely broad-based one or does the US care more than all else about its limited counterterrorism goals vis-à-vis Pakistan? There is a great deal of rhetoric about shared goals and objectives but does the US seriously believe that the two countries genuinely share basic strategic goals? And last, are military and civilian leaders on both ends clear about what to expect of the other, and do they have concrete mechanisms in place to make these expectations absolutely clear and transparent? In essence, the need is for clarity in Pak-US relations – and for the US to accept that it can neither withdraw from Pakistan nor fully control it. What it can do, is try to establish the much-needed equilibrium in its relations with Pakistan, and dial the schizophrenia down a few notches.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

AGAINST CORRUPTION


Across the border, the issue of corruption has been rearing its ugly head quite frequently in recent months. The image of the Congress government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has been badly tarnished. Singh, previously known as 'Mr Clean' no longer enjoys this reputation. It is perhaps in response to this that Singh addressed the issue of graft directly during his Independence Day address on Monday. He spoke of the need to end it and also to tackle other issues such as inflation. But the bill the Indian government has proposed to deal with corruption has itself become a source of controversy. Under the Jan Lokpal Bill an ombudsman-like body would be set up to independently examine complaints of wrongdoing. The problem lies in the fact that the prime minister's own office and the judiciary have been left out of the purview of the proposed law, raising a slew of questions as to why this should be the case.

The matter has been taken up by the anti-corruption movement in India and notably by veteran activist Anna Hazare. Moreover, 72-year-old Hazare has announced a hunger strike in protest against the bill and the government's efforts against corruption, which he believes are weak and cosmetic. Hazare has been denied permission to stage his protest in New Delhi. He has warned that if attempts are made to stop him, he will give up water as well. The situation is clearly a delicate one with other anti-corruption groups backing Hazare in his action. Some have warned of wider action if any move is made against the aged activist. The outcome of the battle between Hazare and the government will be interesting to observe. But what is worth noting in our own context is the fact that corruption is an issue that civil society in India has taken up as one that needs to be combatted with force and energy – this is something we can learn from. There is clearly a greater need to protest graft in our own country, which exists, according to organisations such as Transparency International, at far higher levels than in India. Perhaps, the commitment of men such as Hazare is one reason why this is the case. Clearly, India too is far from corruption-free, but it is a good omen that so many Indians are putting up a serious fight against corruption.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

GONGS GALORE


Most states have an award system whereby citizens who have rendered outstanding service are honoured. Such awards are usually made purely on merit and are the selection of a neutral non-partisan group, or sometimes the recipients are nominated by communities they have served. They should never be a matter of political favouritism. That sense of neutrality and fair play appears to have been breached in the blatant conferment of civil awards to PPP favourites. The efforts of the common man and woman have been passed over in order to favour 'party favourites,' government functionaries, and bureaucrats. These awards are at the discretion of the president. Perhaps this process would be better placed under a merit-based nomination system far removed from party politics.

Can it be right that our gaffe-prone interior minister is honoured? For what? Giving us all moments of dark merriment on an otherwise dull day? It is no more right either that the niece of the cabinet secretary and the president's secretary general are honoured. Is our ambassador to the USA worthy of civil recognition – perhaps, and perhaps not. The awards have raised eyebrows and sparked comment on all sides. Every one of the PPP recipients has been nominated for award on the basis of 'public service'. This year's list of civil awards debases the whole purpose of having such a system. It reduces it to an exercise in political backslapping and cronyism and cheapens the awards for those who came by them through dint of honest labour and public service. Let us separate the muck of politics from the rightful recognition of those who give selflessly, and restore the prestige of what should be an honourable institution.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

INVICTUS, MICHAEL JACKSON AND THE INDEPENDENCE SPIRIT

 MOHAMMAD MALICK


I hate my country's birthday as much as my own, for both days subject me to a forced introspection of what is, and all that could have been. I am yanked out of the illusion of comfortable existence – as a country, and an individual – and made to look directly at the sun. Oh God, the incredible shock and pain. These two days tear away my favourite blinkers of deliberate ignorance and criminal convenience, which help me see the world as I wish it to be, and not the way it really is. Every year, I am made to rationalise the irrationality of our/my realities and I get lost even more. Who needs a couple of honest days in an otherwise dishonest existence? Pray, tell me.

Anyway, I had promised my eldest son Zayed that I shall stash away my cynicism and anger come this Independence Day and only look at the positives of our national life. And, to be fair, there are many if only our ruling lords and masters had the capacity (a vision would be too much to ask of them) to see. Therefore, in keeping with the country's birthday spirit I shall not lament how after stealing from the state coffers our ruling elite has even stolen state honours by distributing this sitara or that amongst themselves. Can you imagine any civilised polity where the president and prime minister shamelessly bestow state honours upon their own cabinet ministers and secretaries? (Oh, how I miss my blinkers.)

And all this at a time when, only last month, Karachi earned the bloody distinction of suffering the highest number of casualties by any city in a month? And the tally keeps rising. All this patting on the back going on for doling away Rs65 billion to the "desperately poor" in a thinly veiled pre-election rigging scam while the economy comes to a rude stop? Heck, we have even given up on our hopes of landing a fresh debt to repay our old ones (thank goodness for this failure though).

At 64, we have deliberately chosen to merely grow old, and not wise. While we should have been deliberating in earnest issues like our place in the comity of nations; preventing Balochistan's drift; the destabilising population explosion; insufferable unemployment; absolute absence of law and order; delayed and denied justice; wasted waters threatening a stolen future; economic morass, etc., what are we preoccupied with instead? How to get the flip-flopping MQM back into the government fold for the umpteenth shameless time; renaming of Peshawar airport; creation of a Seraiki province which nobody has even bothered explaining; who to give meaningless national awards; how to defy the SC and deny a deputy DG FIA entry to his own office... For heavens sake, let's start behaving like a grownup on our 64th birthday instead of running around in our birthday suit, for the world to see and mock.

But this disconnect between the ruling and the ruled is not confined to the limits of the federal capital. The chief minister of the largest province gloats over giving an Independence Day gift to the nation of a flyover made for "Rs2.02 billion only" (the "only" bit is part of the official advert, and not my pun). So what if tens of thousands of commuters could have availed a vastly improved bus service had this amount been spent wisely and not for reducing "the time taken to cross the Kalma Chowk from 8.5 mts to 2.5 mts." (Again it's the advert saying this.) Mr Chief Minister, I'd love to be around when you try explaining this priority to the thousands of families still living under open skies since last year's devastating floods and now trembling in fear of this year's deluge. A top-quality permanent two-room dwelling complete with a bathroom can be established for Rs108,000 only (pun intended). Now you do the maths with the Rs2.02 billion kitty. I hate to be a party pooper but, incidentally, around 100,000 primary schools, imparting education to hundreds and thousands of non-commuting children, could have been up and running with the same amount. Similarly, hundreds of thousands of mothers could have been saved from dying a needless death in childbirth-related incidents. But, hey, let's not mar the country's birthday celebrations with such tacky statistics about the tacky lowly masses. Right?

But should being born an ordinary hardworking citizen be a curse, a yoke? We are independent indeed as a country, but are we truly free as a people, I wonder.

The time has come for the ordinary people, and above all the chattering upwardly-mobile middle class and the elite wanna-be's, to do something extraordinary and come together to reclaim what is duly ours: our dignity and our country. Maybe it would not hurt us to absorb this amazing little piece of motivational wisdom because it could easily have been written for us on this Independence Day, even though William Ernest Henley wrote "Invictus" in 1875. Invictus is Latin for unconquerable, invincible, undefeated. Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela loved reciting it to people to fire their imagination and firm up their resolve, as did Martin Luther King Jr (according to Wikipedia).

So here's to you people:

"Out of the night that covers me,/Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be/For my unconquered soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance/I have not winced or cried aloud./Under the bludgeonings of chance/My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears/Looms but the horror of shade,/And yet the menace of the years/Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,/How charged with punishments the scroll./I am the master of my fate:/I am the captain of my soul."

As for our rulers, they definitely need to listen to Michael Jackson's amazing song "Man in the mirror," for surely they must not be liking the man they see in their mirror every day, and what better occasion to change than Independence Day.

So here's to our rulers:

(Shorter version for brevity's sake)

"Gotta make a change/For once in my life,/It's gonna feel real good/Gonna make a difference/Gonna make it right,

As I, turn up the collar on/my favourite winter coat/This wind is blowin' my mind/I see the kids in the street/With not enough to eat/Who am I to be blind/Pretending not to see their needs

A summer's disregard,/A broken bottle top/And a one man's soul/They follow each other/On the wind ya' know

'Cause they got nowhere to go,/That's why I want you to know/I'm starting with the man in the mirror/I'm asking him to change his ways, And no message could have been any clearer/If you wanna make the world a better place/Take a look at yourself and then make a change.

I have been a victim of/a selfish kinda love/It's time that I realises/There are some with no home,/not a nickel to loan/Could it be really me pretending that they are not alone?

A willow deeply scarred,/Somebody's broken heart/And a washed-out dream,/They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see,/'Cause they got no place to be/That's why I'm starting with me,/You gotta get it right while you got the time/'Cause when you close your heart/Then you close your mind."



The writer is editor The News, Islamabad.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

BASKET CASE

 CHRIS CORK


The financial strictures applied by our external underwriters are tightening by the week. The IMF has indicated that there is going to be no further support principally because of a lack of compliance to the conditionalities attached to the loans it has made to us – mainly the failure to reform the power, finance and tax sectors. The IMF programme note for Pakistan dated April 7th 2011 states that the structural reforms of 2008/9 have rolled back in 2010/11. Our failure to reform the electricity sector and the associated cost of subsidies, have contributed to a failure to meet budget deficit targets along with other non-compliances that have political foot-dragging as their hallmark. The IMF has indicated that the tranche due to be paid is now in abeyance and we have abandoned our efforts in respect of a restoration of the $11.3 billion IMF programme. This will heighten the perception of Pakistan as a 'single tranche state' – a nation that applies for relief but fails to live up to the conditionalities which in turn leads to payment being suspended after the release of the first tranche. We have sought assistance from the IMF 11 times since 2008 and failed to complete all but one agreement. Our tax to GDP ratio at 8.5% is the lowest in 27 years.

And now the Americans have tightened the financial screws, with conditionality at the heart of the new proposals. The US has given us $20 billion since the 9/11 attacks and, with an American economy in trouble and cutbacks across the board the order of the day, greater accountability is being demanded by both the White House and Congress. Since the Bin Laden raid the US has frozen $800 million of security assistance in response to our refusal to allow American trainers and military personnel who process the reimbursement claims (themselves highly contentious with claim and counterclaim on both sides) – back in to the country. Thus far the new conditionalities apply only to military or security-related monies and aid to civil projects and programmes is unaffected – which may not always be the case.

The method of application of conditionality is new. The US Office of National Intelligence is compiling classified 'scorecards' that will track our compliance or cooperation in four areas which are being referred to as 'baskets'. The contents of each basket amounts to a 'to do' list for Pakistan. The four baskets, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal are: Pakistani cooperation in exploiting the Bin Laden compound; Pakistani cooperation with the war in Afghanistan; Pakistani cooperation with the US in conducting joint counterterrorism operations; and cooperation in improving the overall tone in bilateral relations. Officials said the details of all baskets were classified – but it would be expected that they will have been revealed to our own government as without this any chance of compliance is zero. The Office of National Intelligence will consider each item in each basket and assign a 'green', 'red' or 'yellow' light to indicate levels of compliance and this would form the basis of recommendations for the release of aid monies – or not.

Compliance or the lack of it on the part of our government in respect of the conditionalities of those who float the boat for us is a major impediment to forwards movement on every front. The environment in which we seek aid for ourselves has changed in the last five years, particularly in respect of conditionalities. The laissez-faire of the 80s and 90s has been replaced by increasing demands on the part of the electorates in donor nations for an accounting of where their taxes go. This holds true for all the western donor states and emerging donor states like Brazil. Aside from governments, there are the global and regional financial institutions which are supra-governmental but interact with governments which have a stake in them.

All aid originating from donor nations has strings, conditionalities, and no aid is given out of altruism on the part of the donor. Aid we get from western states comes as a part of their foreign policy objectives which are usually highly specific and tailored to a geopolitical map. States work in concert to achieve mutual foreign policy goals, and the interest of many western states in Pakistan is driven by a desire to stabilise what is often seen as a failing state and stem what is equally often seen as the fount of much of the world's terrorist activity.

The aid we have been getting from the Americans is perhaps the most politicised, and squarely aimed at manipulating our compliance across a range of targets from reform of governance, to taxation, education and the power sector. The aid we get from the IMF is less overtly politicised but 'open to influence' by other players – such as the US. The IMF is not quite so 'in the pocket' as is the World Bank (WB) which is little more than a foreign policy executive arm of the American government; but we cannot regard it as wholly neutral.

Losing the support of the major international financial institutions may, in the long term, be a far greater problem than that of a foreign policy bump in the road. As long as we are aid dependent and beholden to external benefactors to prop up the economy, we are increasingly vulnerable to conditionality by all of our donors. Yet we must differentiate between the nuances of conditionality. The case of the American baskets that has now appeared may contain conditions – reforms – that we welcome ourselves, others we may not.

The IMF has a different case of baskets wherein lie conditionalities that are not immediately linked to the short-term foreign policy objectives of America, and are more easily identifiable as in our best interests whether we like them or not. The American baskets have the usual whiff of unilateralism about them and should be viewed with a wholly sceptical eye. The baskets under the arm of the IMF, conditionalities and all, are altogether more appealing and probably add up to short term pain for long term gain.



The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

CHANGE IS COMING

 IJAZUL HAQ


These days, political analysts and the print and electronic media, all say that change is in the air. But no one is certain as to how the change will come about and who will effect the change. They are correct insofar as their certainty is concerned. Change has to come, and it will come, whether it is smooth or violent. We should pray that it is democratic and is good for the country and the nation.

Corruption has assumed monstrous proportions and the government is doing everything to protect the corrupt. The National Accountability Bureau has been deliberately rendered toothless. Over 750 cases of corruption are reportedly pending with the NAB. Through coercion, hindering investigation, tampering with evidence and other means of obstruction of justice, the government has made certain in a number of cases that there will be no trial and conviction.

The reports of the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee are shocking. Decrees and decisions of the highest judiciary are flouted with impunity. This situation cannot last for long.

Those who bring change about must realise that five-year terms for assemblies and the government are too long. Serious consideration must be given to the curtailment of their tenure to four years. The incumbent parliament and provincial assemblies are of little consequence. The seats are mostly occupied by tax evaders, loan defaulters and holders of fake degrees. Only the near and dear ones of party leaders qualify for the reserved seats in parliament and the provincial assemblies. So in some cases we have members of the same family occupying both elected and reserved seats, as well as seats in both parliament and the provincial assemblies.

The change should mean that bogus votes are no longer cast in future elections. Over 30 million bogus votes were detected under a directive of the Supreme Court. It is time to take to task all those who got their loans written off pleading bankruptcy, while simultaneously having thriving businesses at other locations. The amounts taken away must returned to the exchequer as directed by the Supreme Court.

Corrupt members must be barred from re-election. Those with dual nationalities and assets abroad must also be barred. Their ill-gotten assets and wealth stashed abroad must be brought back. A National Judicial Accountability Commission should be created. The body should consist of men of integrity drawn from the judiciary and the bureaucracy. It must be an independent body outside the influence and interference of the executive and political parties.

For across-the-board-accountability, there should be no holy cows. Only ruthless, transparent, swift and speedy accountability can rid society of the menace of corruption. Election laws and the Political Parties Act warrant revision. A neutral and independent Election Commission is a must.

For economic revival, a viable economic and fiscal policy must be devised and faithfully followed. Mega projects like the Thar coal project must be undertaken immediately. Similarly, existing water resources should be enhanced through construction of small dams and power generating units. Diesel, petrol and electricity should be made available at cheaper and more affordable rates. The availability of agriculture inputs and implements at cheaper price and subsidies and support prices for cash crops will have a salutary effect on the economic and financial health of the country and help a vast majority of our people. If more land is brought under cultivation and big landlords are taxed, the development will generate employment opportunities for rural youth.

In Balochistan many military actions have taken place. The Baloch insurgency and rebel leaders must be pacified and their grievances addressed. The alienation intensified on the sacking of the provincial government in 1973. This led to the arrest of prominent politicians and was followed by a military operation. Balochistan remained peaceful until the unfortunate elimination of Sardar Akbar Bugti in a shootout at his hideout. The departure of Musharraf should have caused some calm, but unfortunately the province remains volatile. Balochistan is boiling again. The president, who is from Sindh but is an ethnic Baloch, can play a useful role in the pacification of the enraged Baloch dissidents. He has his party's government in the province. He must woo the Baloch dissidents living abroad.

Progress should be expedited in the Iran-Pakistan gas project, which looks like a viable venture. Iran has reportedly completed the logistical facilities up to its borders, while civil works on our side have yet to take off. Peace and tranquillity in Balochistan will improve the security of our energy routes and installations. More reserves and sources of energy exploration should be exploited to increase indigenous productions.

Bad governance, compounded by corruption, is at present the most serious issue. The crisis is now becoming increasingly worrisome and, unless sense prevails, will lead to disastrous consequences. A clash of constitutional institutions is evident. At the time of devolution and the 18th Amendment I had advocated the retention of the National Security Council. I had argued that this council is a viable forum to avoid collision of institutions and for conflict resolution.

The National Security Council has been a focal issue for those with the capacity to reflect and ponder over national issues. The council is not an infringement or intrusion into the domain of governance of a party in power. Its function is misconstrued, misinterpreted and misunderstood.

At present, oblivious to the impending risks, the executive is on a warpath with the judiciary. The judiciary finds the Constitution, law and the majority of the masses of Pakistan on its side, whereas the executive has its coalition partners, party followers and parliament as its supporters. Any showdown will bring incalculable national loss. Had there been a constitutional forum available, like the National Security Council, serious issue like this could have been conveniently referred to it for resolution.

The Kalabagh Dam project has received the most ardent opposition from Sindh and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The PPP is in power in both provinces, as the dominant party or a member of a coalition. The conditions are conducive. Mr Zardari and the PPP are in a position to undertake the construction and completion of the project when the country is facing the worst power outages and a serious food shortage.

Leaving millions hungry and at the mercy of international alms and charities, the leaders are more focused on self-aggrandisement, promoting their heirs apparent for inauguration and coronation. National issues are being confused through gimmickry and personal glorification is common. Dozens die in attacks by drones, dacoits and those carrying out targeted killings.

It is time to take stock of the situation and arrest the slide. The nation is increasingly having apprehensions about the future of the country, There is a disconnect between government and society, and Pakistan is susceptible to numerous dangers. The national leadership must come to grips with the deteriorating situation, and it should do this with conviction, consensus and commitment. Extraordinary situations and circumstances demand that all the forces, all organs of state, the government and the opposition must be on the same page. If all sections of Pakistani society are on the same page, we can address the national issues and acquit ourselves with honour and dignity. This is what the masses expect of us and the motherland demands of us.



The writer is a former minister for religious affairs. Email: zsf555@yahoo.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

WHY AZAD KASHMIR LAGS

ZULFIQAR ABBASI


The recently formed People's Party government in Azad Kashmir has to confront several challenges, but two prominent issues seek close attention. The first is the stalled process of reconstruction of earthquake-hit areas of the northern part of Azad Kashmir – Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Rawalakot. The second is the resettlement of those affected by the construction of Mangla Dam. This poses a potentially serious socio-political challenge to the PPP government in Mirpur division, where the victims are resisting the refilling of the dam until their complete resettlement.

Apart from these issues, the new government has to address the growing sense of alienation and deprivation among various segments of the society such as youths and women. According to available statistics, youths form 65 percent of Azad Kashmir's population (25 percent of the young people are below the age of 25) and are mostly unemployed. Even qualified women are jobless due to the limited scope for employment in the public sector. While the already shrunk private sector has been unable to cope with the emerging needs and challenges of employability due to the short-sighted polices of the successive governments in the past.

Current estimates show that around 300,000 jobs are required to cater to the needs of these promising youth in the next five to seven years. In the present scenario, the state does not have the capacity to create even 3000 jobs as the private sector has not been allowed to develop and nourish in the state.

There is no denying the fact that the government's hands are tied under the constitutional arrangements between Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. A brief look at the territory's Interim Constitution Act, 1974, reveals that all major areas of economic potential fall under the jurisdiction of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council, which is headed by the prime minister of Pakistan. These include hydropower generation, banking and finance, stock exchanges, telecommunication, oil and gas, tourism, mines and mineral exploration, aviation and air travel, state property, leasing and insurance and levy of tax on all incomes. In these areas the Azad Kashmir government has no say in policymaking.

The stringent control of the Azad Kashmir Council over the last 37 years has resulted in the poor state of development in the territory. Operationally it did not let Azad Kashmir's governments formulate policies to undertake developmental initiatives in these critical sectors. The unfair policies of the Azad Kashmir Council have not only slowed down economic development but also resulted in widespread unemployment, poverty and lower living standards.

On the other hand, the successive governments of Azad Kashmir have performed better than the provinces of Pakistan in the subjects left with them, like health, education, electrification, local security, roads and communications, provision of clean drinking water, local government, rural development, and population welfare.

The council never tried to attract private investment for the industrial development of Azad Kashmir. Nor did it seek support from the Kashmiri diaspora. Nearly a million Kashmiris settled in the UK own assets worth billions of dollars and maintain bank deposits of around Rs2,000 billion in Pakistani banks. Lamentably, these commercial banks have never advanced even one percent of these deposits to support economic activity in the region. The Azad Kashmir Council has totally failed to devise a comprehensive policy to encourage banks to make investment in the employment generating sectors such as hydroelectric power, tourism and infrastructure-building projects.

The private sector is shrinking against the swelling public sector. Instead of encouraging the private sector to provide employment, the government has created ten districts and 28 subdivisions within an area of 5,134 square miles for a population of 3.5 million. Successive governments employed 125,000 persons in the government sector, which crippled the already slowed economy as the meagre resources available for development are spent on salaries and other privileges of government servants. These flawed policies led to the decay of local industry in the past one-and-a-half decade, leaving 40,000 people unemployed.

Over the last 37 years the tax collection authority of Azad Kashmir has failed to optimise tax collection, ignoring the biggest revenue-earning corporation like Wapda which are collecting sales tax worth billion of rupees on electricity generated by Mangla Power House located in Azad Kashmir but not depositing it into Azad Kashmir's exchequer, causing huge financial losses to the territory.

Similarly, the net hydel profit of more than Rs120 billion is recoverable on account of the Mangla Powerhouse. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was recently paid Rs120 billion for Tarbela, Punjab Rs28 billion for Ghazi Barotha and Balochistan Rs120 billion as gas development surcharge for Sui gas. But Azad Kashmir has yet to get its outstanding amounts from Islamabad.

The PPP government in Azad Kashmir is in an advantageous position in the prevailing circumstances as the ruling party in Islamabad would not let it down if it makes a strong case before it.



The writer is president of the Jammu and Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry and of the Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms.

Email: kohsarhydro@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

RAMAZAN'S LOST CHANCE FOR AN AFGHAN TRUCE

 DR MALEEHA LODHI

 

The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.

A slew of questions were raised when a Chinook helicopter was shot down on 6 August in Afghanistan's Wardak province killing 30 US servicemen – most of them elite Navy seals – and eight Afghans.

Will the heaviest loss of American lives in a single incident since 2001 heighten doubts about the Afghan mission among an already war-weary American public and Congress? Does the downing of the helicopter show the limits of America's changed war effort that increasingly involves special operations missions? Will the blow signal a psychological shift in the war or was it a one-off? Does the incident dramatise the fragility of the transition underway, in which security responsibilities being transferred to Afghan forces have to be completed in 2014?

Most importantly what this development laid bare is the continuing tension in US policy between the declared goal of pursuing a negotiated political settlement and a military strategy still centred on kinetic actions. By the time the planned international conference convenes in Bonn this December, Washington wants to be able to announce that serious negotiations with the Taliban are in progress to end the decade long war. But are its military actions in Afghanistan serving this goal? Or are they undercutting the start of serious talks?

The answer is clouded in confusion. The helicopter incident came in the midst of escalating violence in Afghanistan. Recent months have seen a series of assassinations of high-profile Afghan officials and aggressive military actions by US/Nato forces targeting the Taliban in Kandahar, Helmand and extending to eastern Afghanistan. This cycle of violence has intensified even as trilateral meetings of the so-called core group – Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US – have been underway to discuss how to reach out to Taliban leaders and engage them in negotiations.

The Taliban's hit and run tactics have increasingly taken the form of assassinating top Afghan government figures. Since March, several officials have been killed including President Hamid Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai in a campaign that has especially unsettled Kandahar.

Meanwhile US Special Forces have been conducting an intense campaign of kill-or-capture raids to eliminate mid-level commanders and degrade the Taliban. These have entailed controversial night raids, which have provoked sharp criticism from President Karzai and calls from Afghans for an end to the deadly operations. Nato officials say that between April and July there were around 2,832 special operations raids. The mission in which the US helicopter was shot down was one such operation.

Meanwhile the renewal of Drone-fired missile attacks into North Waziristan is part of the same US strategy of killing as many Taliban commanders as possible even as American officials accept that all Taliban groups could potentially be part of the peace process. Confusion abounds over what the US hopes to achieve by simultaneously wanting to target and talk to Taliban leaders. In this 'kill-capture-or-reconcile' strategy, the US expects Pakistan to assist by facilitating contacts and at the same time take action against Taliban leaders unwilling to 'reconcile'. And this while the US itself continues to ramp up military actions against the Taliban.

This approach will produce more not less violence, and is hardly a promising setting for serious talks. The cycle of revenge killings by both sides will hinder not help the start of meaningful negotiations. That is why a change of course is essential especially as there are indications of Taliban interest in a negotiated settlement – reflected in recent statements posted on its website. Instead of pursuing the current fight-and-talk approach, Washington in fact had the opportunity to offer a Ramazan ceasefire to help prepare the ground for negotiations that it acknowledges is the only way to end its violent entanglement.

Such an offer, whether confined to selected areas or signalling an end to night raids, would have tested the Taliban's interest in peace and given a sharp focus to the trilateral process. A halt in fighting during the holy month would have helped to ascertain who among the Taliban could be brought into the reconciliation process and which elements opposed talks. Instead violence this Ramazan has far surpassed that in the same month in previous years.

The US unwillingness so far to consider any interim confidence-building measures – suspending nighttime raids in return for the Taliban's cessation of assassinations – may reflect the continuing lack of clarity in the Obama Administration about how to proceed in Afghanistan. Different parts of the administration seem to want different things. While the White House and the State Department appear to want the reconciliation process to accelerate and military strategy recalibrated to support that goal, it is not clear if the Pentagon and the CIA are fully on board. The US military still seems to balk at talks with the Taliban, regarding them as an admission of failure to win the war. Where the CIA stands on this is signalled by its continued use of Drones to hammer the Haqqani network in North Waziristan.

Whatever the internal dynamics in Washington, operational US strategy is still at odds with its declared objective of seeking a negotiated end to the war. A 'pause' in fighting – effected through a Ramazan truce or by one later – can open the diplomatic space and generate the momentum to speed up peace talks. Escalating special operation missions provide the Taliban an incentive to continue fighting and not abandon it in preference for talks.

The notion that more fighting will force the Taliban into negotiations means pursuing elusive battlefield gains without the assurance that the Taliban will respond to these methods. Bringing military pressure to bear in an effort to soften the adversary's negotiating stance is a well-rehearsed tactic. But there comes a point when this runs it course and a pause in fighting is essential to pave the way for negotiations. That moment arrived when the Obama Administration declared months ago that it sought a political settlement and supported Afghan reconciliation.

The historical record of peace processes suggests that they start with some form of agreed stand down leading to a negotiated cease-fire. Pakistan has long advocated the need to advance the reconciliation process by peace building measures. It has stressed the importance of properly sequencing the steps necessary to secure a negotiated settlement. In recent exchanges with the US, top Pakistani military officials have said that the concept of 'Afghan reconciliation' needs to be turned into an operational plan. This means ensuring that the political strategy determines the military mission and steps taken in that regard advance a political settlement.

Pakistan has argued that a mutual reduction of violence will help to create the political conditions for dialogue. It has proposed a roadmap for an Afghan-led peace process that involves three phases and starts with a reciprocal de-escalation of violence to create the conditions for peace efforts. This is seen as setting the stage to persuade the Taliban to renounce Al-Qaeda – the most important strategic goal shared by the core group. Once this is achieved talks can make real progress. The third and final phase aimed at securing acceptance of the Afghanistan Constitution can follow later in a process in which the Afghan parties can discuss modifications to arrive at a new constitutional consensus.

It remains to be seen how the three parties in the core group are able to evolve agreement on translating the reconciliation objective into an implementable plan. What can give the early stage of this process a decisive impetus is if the US accepts mutual cessation of violence as a necessary starting point. A plausible and credible plan can then be crafted for a peace process that can over time deliver a negotiated settlement.

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SINNING AGAINST SINDH

TANVIR AHMAD KHAN


Sir Charles Napier's expeditionary force defeated the valiant, largely Baloch, army of Sindh in the battle of Mlani on 17th February 1843. Wave upon wave of the defenders perished at the hands of his much superior artillery.

Within weeks, the East India Company had annexed an autonomous territory equal to England and Wales. There were some pangs of conscience in London about the unjust nature of this war waged by breaking solemn treaties with the 'native' rulers. The Punch published the memorable cartoon in which Napier was shown sending the message 'Peccavi' ('I have sinned') to Lord Ellenborough with a clever pun on sinned/Sind.

The cartoon captured the moral contradictions of Napier, a self-styled man of God who had earlier castigated the Company as leeches sucking the Indian blood. Entrusted with the Sindh file, he opined famously that invading Sindh would be an act of rascality that would, perforce, have to be performed for trade and strategy.

Much has happened in recent months to fear that Sindh is once again being more sinned against than sinning. To create a casus belli with the Amirs of Sindh, the Company had demanded an impossible new treaty that would, amongst other concessions, cede Hyderabad, Sukkur, and other towns (in modern parlance, 'urban Sindh') to it.

Any attempt to give Karachi, now a sprawling multi-ethnic metropolis, and Hyderabad, the heart of Sindhi culture, a political identity distinct from the entire province would be similarly unacceptable and lead to a disaster. Sindh is simply indivisible but there are apprehensions that cynical and opportunistic politicians of various hues may just attempt a de facto division to prolong their rule.

The salience of Sindh to the federation needs no elaboration. But we would do well to remember on this Independence anniversary that it was the cornerstone of the architecture put together by the founding fathers. Punjab was won only by bringing down a stubborn unionist government; the NWFP joined Pakistan after a make-or-break referendum. Sindh, on the other hand, articulated a special position for the Muslim majority areas of India when in 1925 the All India Muslim League endorsed its demand for separation from the Bombay presidency.

Later, it was Shaikh Abdul Majid Sindhi who tabled the resolution asking the League to devise a scheme of constitution under which Muslims may attain full independence. After independence, Sindh, together with Punjab, opened its doors to millions of migrants from India.

The recurrent dance of death in Karachi and growing tensions across Sindh demand that the principal threats to its peace and stability be identified with total clarity. One, the MQM leadership must guarantee that its cadres do not regress into the politics of an earlier era. I published an article recently praising Altaf Hussain for steering his loyal followers from a tragic period when they inflicted and suffered great violence to MQM's present laudable bid to be a national party of the middle class.

Two, President Zardari must think through his present oscillation between using the Sindh Card to keep the army in check and scare other provinces and his tactical moves to keep MQM stitched to his coalition to buy a precarious peace without taking the 'Old Sindhis' and Pushtun migrants on board. The former aggravates provincial suspicions while the latter sharpens the internal contradictions in the troubled province.

Let us hope that neither the MQM nor the ruling parties would want to walk, like Napier, through the debris of our homeland with 'Peccavi' written large over it. It will not be worthwhile to have Sindh on the ruins of Pakistan.



The writer is a former foreign secretary.

Email: katanvir@yahoo.com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE US CONDITIONALITIES

 

HARDLY a day passes when one doesn't come across a report emanating from Washington that conveys a clear message of backtracking on commitments already made or addition of uncalled for conditions for their practical implementation. And all this is happening at time when both Pakistan and the United States are trying to disseminate an impression that moves are afoot to restore the damaged relationship. What a contrast!

This is not mere misperception as a report carried by prestigious Wall Street Journal on Monday has revealed that the White House has started conditioning the release of security assistance to Pakistan on whether Islamabad shows progress on a secret scorecard of US objectives to combat Al-Qaeda and its allies. The Journal quoted a senior military official as calling the unusual new approach "a hard-knuckled reflection of where we are right now" in relations. The conditions have reportedly been broadly divided in four categories of acquisition of information from Osama compound in Abbottabad, cooperation in Afghan war, joint action against terrorists and cooperation in promotion of bilateral relationship, with each category having elaborate 'to-do' lists. This amounts to official confirmation of the shift in US policy, as earlier the US leadership had been publicly expressing concerns over moves in the Congress to attach more conditions to aid for Pakistan. It is understood that be it military or economic assistance under Kerry-Lugar law, there are not only visible but scores of invisible conditions and strings attached to them. There are dubious clauses that are frequently invoked by Americans to increase pressure on Pakistan in their unending demand to do more. As there is no end to humiliation, it would be in the fitness of things if Pakistan makes a firm decision to reject American aid in toto and instead carry on the war against terror at a scale and speed that it can afford from its own resources. As size of the begging bowl is increasing with the passage of time, over-dependence on foreign aid is also causing serious dents on the psyche of the nation and therefore, we formulate a long term strategy to stand on our own feet.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

BELATED BUT GOOD NEWS ABOUT DAMS

 

IN a society where there is depressing atmosphere all around, a good news has appeared in the media after a long time. An official of the Ministry of Water and Power has stated that construction work on seven dams was in full progress, which will be completed in the next three years to store water for agriculture, controlling floods and generation of cheap hydropower.

These dams namely Gomal Zam, Golan Gol, Gram Tangi, Daroint, Wander, Ghabar and Nolang are of medium size but would certainly help in boosting economic activities in the backward areas. The long delayed Gomal Zam Dam is the first ever mega project in Federally Administered Tribal Areas being undertaken with the financial assistance of USAID and is likely to be completed during the current year. The report that some good projects were in hand would serve as a soothing balm on the injured society, which is witnessing terrorism, violence, price hike, unemployment, poverty, severe energy shortages and now a days looming dangers of floods. As if these problems were not enough, our political leaders are never tired of levelling allegations against each other and making statements that God forbid the country was on the verge of collapse. In this scenario, we strongly believe that the nation needs some morale boosting news that not every thing was going in the wrong direction but some positive things were also taking place and the country would one day surely get out of the challenges it was confronting. A committed and strong political leadership, with faith and confidence in itself, gives the message of hope and not of doomsday scenario. Turning back to the dams, we would like to emphasise that the time schedule given for the completion of these dams should be strictly observed. We say so because we are already decades behind in the completion of water storages, which were announced frequently for cheap publicity but nothing happened on the ground. Therefore we would impress upon the Government to ensure allocation of required funds and arrange proper monitoring of quality of work and ensure their completion on schedule as we badly need big and medium size dams for irrigation, power generation and protection from devastating floods. If the Government succeeds in this task, it would be a major contribution to the country and its economy.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

DEGRADATION OF OUR VALUES

 

THERE was a time when this part of the world was known for its love for human values of caring and sharing. Apart from religious dictates and teachings of the Holy Qur'an that made it incumbent upon the believers to feel for others, the society on the whole was a symbol of brotherhood and affection where an entire village would share joy and grief of one member of the community.

But we regret to point out that with the passage of time especially after entanglement of the country in the war on terror, the society has brutalized to an alarming extent. The hair-raising incident that took place in Lahore on Monday is indicative of the seriousness of the malaise and the need for steps to cure it on priority basis. A house mistress tortured to death a 14-year old servant for not feeding pet dog in Kahena area of the provincial capital of Punjab. As the incident has been reported by media, hopefully the culprit would be brought to justice but this was not the only episode of the kind as thousands of people are meted out brutal and humiliating treatment in different parts of the country and especially in areas of feudal domination. Regrettably, in a country that secured independence sixty-four years back, we still have private jails where hapless souls languish for life. In 1995/96, the then Government of Benazir Bhutto established a separate division under the Ministry of Law and Justice to deal with human rights issues and a separate full-fledged Ministry was created by the incumbent Government in November 2008 but unfortunately this emphasis on human rights could not be translated into practical improvement in the ground situation that remains as grim as before. Apart from the measures that the government should take to effectively ban child labour and safeguard rights of domestic servants, it is also duty of members of the civil society especially religious scholars to create necessary awareness about human values.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

US BLUNDERS IN AFGHANISTAN

ASIF HAROON RAJA

 

Harking back into the events of first decade of new millennium, one is bewildered to see that despite being the most powerful nation on earth and having military apparatus on a scale greater than the sum of every other country, the US has patently failed to impose its solution on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ten years have lapsed and still the battle is raging in Afghanistan with no side winning but the dice is loaded in favor of Taliban. The US and NATO generals proved to be weak strategists and tacticians compared to militarily weak Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders whose superior military strategy turned the tables on US-NATO forces.

Victory bugles were sounded in Afghanistan prematurely. Intoxicated with quick success, second front was opened in Iraq without consolidating gains in the initial battlefield. The attention of Centcom under Gen David Petraeus remained divided between two theatres of war from March 2003 onwards. Both Petraeus and Gen McChrystal glorified as heroes accorded higher priority to Iraq over Afghanistan till as late as 2008. While the Taliban were busy regaining ground in southern and eastern Afghanistan , the US-NATO high command in Kabul remained smug in the belief that Taliban had become a spent force. It remained more focused on Pakistan than on Afghanistan . Biggest mistake of ISAF commanders were to ignore Afghan Pashtuns. Priorities reversed when Obama took over in January 2009 and he moved McChrystal to Afghanistan hoping that he will be able to repeat his so-called success story. He happily accepted 17000 additional troops whereas he should have at that time insisted on 50,000 troops to be able to simultaneously launch two major operations in Helmand and Kandahar to gain a decisive edge over the two strongholds of Taliban. The available force was too small to make any impact and as a consequence the much hyped Helmand offensive turned into a fiasco. Petraeus and McChrystal demonstrated low-grade generalship since both kept reinforcing failure with larger force blindly rather than applying skill and superior strategy to outsmart their opponents. The years 2009 and 2010 in which two troop surges took place proved to be costliest years in terms of ISAF casualties. Call for second troop surge of 32000 troops in September 2009 was not based on real threat perception but was the outcome of nervous tension. Extra force was not sought by McChrystal to overrun Taliban strongholds in eastern and southern Afghanistan but merely to steady the jangled nerves of his troops as a result of temporary reverses in Helmand, Kunar and Nuristan and to psychologically overawe Taliban which were on the rampage. Second reinforcement which got completed by March 2010 was sought too late and at a wrong time when the Taliban had already gained a decisive edge and were exerting influence over nearly 80% territory in all provinces of Afghanistan. This change in tide didn't happen abruptly or by stroke of luck. The Taliban endowed with superior cause to win back freedom worked for it strenuously and consistently and for them it was question of life and death. It took them six years to bounce back in strength.

McChrystal's nervousness could be gauged from the fact that instead of stemming the resurgence of Taliban by regaining the lost spaces, he got the border posts vacated in haste and ordered adoption of rearward posture. By confining troops to fortified urban centers, he made his troops cautious and bunker minded. He decided to make maximum use of air power and avoided ground operations to avoid fatalities. From 2010 onwards all attacks were made by drones, jets, helicopters and by long range ground weapons. Without boots on ground and that too without total commitment, no decisive results can ever be achieved with airpower alone. When he couldn't make any headway, in frustration he considered it prudent to call it a day by antagonizing Obama and provoking him to order his removal. Uncharismatic Petraeus tried to put fear in the hearts of Taliban by stepping up aerial and artillery bombardments and by inducting MI tanks in southern Afghanistan and allowed 'kill teams' to conduct night raids in villages and farms, which resulted in increased civilian casualties and heightened violence and anti-Americanism. He kept delaying Kandahar operation on the flimsy excuse of linking it with an operation in North Waziristan (NW) by Pak Army.

He argued that onus of success of his ill-conceived counter terrorism strategy rested on elimination of safe havens of terrorists in FATA. He tried to build an impression that but for Pakistan 's half-hearted fight against the militants, the US could have won the war. He maintained that unless safe havens of al-Qaeda and Haqqani network in NW were dismantled, no progress could be made in Eastern Afghanistan . Success in Southern Afghanistan was made contingent to dismantlement of Mullah Omar led Afghan Shura allegedly in Quetta region. It was during his tenure that record breaking drone strikes came on NW since he wanted to destroy safe havens and also wanted to instigate the militants and peaceful people of NW to rise against Pak Army. Conversely, drone war triggered anti-Americanism and recruitment of militants. Helicopter assault to get OBL was launched from Jalalabad base under his command which has strained Pak-US relations and has forced Pakistan to take preventive measures against CIA's intrusions and made things more difficult for USA. Seeing that his tenure was coming to an end and had no good news to offer to his successor Gen John Allen except bagful of failures, Petraeus initiated a psychological war by repeatedly asserting that lot of progress had been made and victory was very much possible if drawdown was delayed. Increase in civilian casualties in Afghanistan and NW was projected as successes against Taliban and al-Qaeda. Petraeus spun a story that al-Qaeda had almost been crushed and that not more than 50 operatives were present in Afghanistan. His claims proved false when daring jailbreak in Kandahar took place followed by series of raids and bomb attacks by Taliban. These included murders of Hamid Karzai's half-brother Ahmed Wali on July12, and his key aide Jan Muhammad on 18th. Both were very important for Karzai and USA since they were instrumental in opening doors for negotiations with Taliban. Petraeus myopically put unreasonable conditions on Taliban as pre-requisites for peace talks and doubled his efforts to divide Taliban so as to isolate Mullah Omar led irreconcilable Taliban. Instead of trying to win over hard line Taliban, he relied upon drug barons, warlords, militias, and private security contractors. He also had a hand in heating up western border in June-July to put added pressure on Pakistan.

All his moves backfired. While the US-NATO forces are not making any headway in Afghanistan and have yet to score a victory against the Taliban and Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy has utterly failed, Pak Army under Gen Kayani has achieved several impressive victories, which adds to their discomfiture. To lessen their embarrassment, the US has been continually blaming Pakistan for its failures in Afghanistan. It draws some comfort by discomfiting Pakistan through its intimidating tactics. Gen Allen took over the command of US-NATO forces in Afghanistan on July 18 and Petraeus has been given the slot of Director CIA. Allen has inherited a huge mess and has assumed charge under insalubrious conditions when the war has been lost and drawdown has begun on July 15. He will remain handicapped because of the over bearing authority of hardnosed Secretary Defence Panetta and callous Petraeus, but it is hoped that he will also not start reinforcing failures and repeating the mistakes of his two predecessors and will take sensible steps to retrieve the situation. Otherwise his fate will be worse than his predecessors. Helicopter crash on 06 August killing 31 American soldiers is a loud message that things would be bloodier in coming months.

—The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

LESSONS FROM AFGHAN WAR

SAJJAD SHAUKAT

 

Faced with a prolonged war against terrorism on global level, its defeat in Afghanistan, showing determination to withdraw forces from that country in wake of financial crisis and other related problems, the United States seeks to fight covert wars in some Islamic countries, which will especially include Pakistan. Recently, after a long debate, the US debt crisis to avoid the default has been resolved. The solution included $ 2.4 trillion cuts over the next decade and the rise of the $14.3 trillion debt limit. Now, the default seems further away on temporary basis. Financial experts opine that the US would miss payments on its bonds and default, which will result in dire consequences, particularly for America including other countries. US has also ignored the interests of creditors. Besides other most developed countries, the US could be in serious trouble, if China does not extend more loans by buying US treasury securities. America currently owes 800 billion dollars to the China.

Meanwhile, on August 4, the US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of dire consequences, if the Pentagon is forced to make cuts to its defence budget. Notably, defense spending represents about half of the federal government's discretionary spending, while the military's budget has increased by more than 70 percent since 2001. Russian Prime Minister Putin stated on August 2, that the US and its people "are living beyond their means like a parasite." In fact, America has suffered due to an endless war against terrorism. Since 9/11, the total cost of global war against terrorism is more than 7 trillion dollars.

On July 7, 2011, a writer, David DeGraw wrote, "When Obama launched his re-election propaganda campaign to trick the public…that he intends to end the Af-Pak War, he disclosed that the war on terror has cost $1 trillion over the past decade." But a recent study by the Eisenhower Research Project revealed that the cost of the war on terror is greater than Obama has claimed." US was spending $12 billion a month in Iraq and is spending over $10 billion per month in Afghanistan. However, the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed $6 trillion—apart from other related expenditures at home and abroad. In this regard, the war on terror is a war against the American people. As President Eisenhower had remarked, "Every dollar spent on war is a dollar not spent on education, food, health care etc."

It is mentionable that the Muslim militant organisations, fighting against the US-led imperialist powers through ambush rocket attacks and suicide bombers have broken the myth of old model of power. In this respect, most of the western defence analysts have admitted that new brand of Islamic radicalism cannot be eliminated by military forces, equipped with sophisticated weaponry which has badly failed. Since 9/11, various suicide attacks in various countries show that the Muslim activists are giving a greater setback to world economy which protects the interests of the US-led western countries. On the other side, despite various steps taken by the US in connection with the Islamic militants since 9/11 such as heavy aerial bombardment, ground shelling, arrests and detentions—technical intelligence, US intelligence agencies, especially CIA failed in destroying Al Qaeda's terrorist network in the Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Uzbekistan, Nigeria etc. because American enemy is invisible. It proves that Al Qadea has franchised as a perennial different war in the concerned countries indicates.

Notably, on July 22 this year, Al Qaeda-type, the twin terror-attacks in Oslo which killed 92 persons were arranged by a Norwegian right-wing fundamentalist Christian who called for a Christian war to defend Europe against the threat of Muslim domination. In this respect, Western media pointed out the existence of Christian extremists. It is surprisingly mentionable that while learning no lesson from the flawed policies of the ex-President Bush, President Obama has been acting upon the similar strategy so as to eliminate the Muslim radicals. Setting aside the US defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama administration which already continues with its agenda of secret war in Pakistan through bomb blasts, suicide attacks, targeted killings etc. as arranged by the CIA, Indian RAW, and Israeli Mossad collectively, it has planned a covert war against Pakistan which will include Karachi, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where these secret agencies are assisting the insurgents and their agents with money and weapons. The course of drone attacks will further be extended to other regions beyond Pakistan's tribal areas.

Unveiled on June 29, President Obama's counterterrorism strategy is focused on what poses the "most direct and significant threat to the US–Al-Qaeda and its affiliates…America's best offense would not always be deploying large armies abroad, but delivering targeted surgical pressure against these groups." In this context, a report had confirmed on July 16 that the coming CIA chief Gen. David Petraeus will implement the covert war in Pakistan. Besides similar threats and pressure of the US other high officials, on August 1, Admiral Mike Mullen stated, "Unless they (Pakistan) move against terrorists like the Haqqani network, it could affect relations between Washington and Islamabad."

As regards the Haqqani network, Pakistan has already made it clear that army is engaged in other tribal areas, so it cannot attack the militants of North Waziristan. The contradictory statements of the US high officials which still continue, shows American duplicity with Islamabad. In this connection, a deliberate campaign regarding the safety of Pakistan's nuclear assets, location of terrorists' safe-havens in the country, blame game against Pak Army and its intelligence agency, ISI, cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan keeps on going. While, in the recent past, aerial and ground shelling by the US-supported NATO forces inside Pakistan's border, cross-border attacks by heavily- armed militants who entered Pakistan from Afghanistan and targetted the infrastructure of our country's various regions have continued intermittently.

Under the pretext of Talibanisation of Pakistan and unrest in the country, which has collevtively been created by the CIA, RAW and Mossad, US India and Israel have been destabilising Pakistan to 'denculearise' the latter. For this purpose, the US seeks to shift Afghan war to Pakistan after the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. On August 6, NBC TV channel disclosed that the "US has a contingency plan to seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons…if it fears they are about to fall into the wrong hands." Knowing the US real intentions, Pakistan's civil and military leadership has flatly refused to act upon American undue demands. And Islamabad sent home 120 US military trainers. In response, on July 10, America withheld $800 million in military assistance to Pakistan. Islamabad has rejected American pressure to do more against the militancy without bothering for public backlash in wake of the strained relations with Washington. If US continues its covert war in Pakistan and in some other Islamic countries, both Iran and Pakistan might stand together to thwart the US strategic designs. In that worse scenario, a vast region from Pakistan to Somalia and Nigeria to Iraq will further be radicalised, bringing about more terrorism, directed against the Americans. In such adverse circumstances, American worldwide interests are likely to be jeopardised in these countries including whole of the Middle East where the US has already failed in coping with the Islamic militants directly or indirectly—and where anti-American resentment is running high in wake of the violent protests against the pro-American rulers. Besides, instability in Pakistan will also envelop India by which the United States wants to counterbalance a peace-loving country like China.

These negative developments will further reduce the US bargaining leverage on hostile small countries like Iran, North Korea, Venezuela etc. Although at present, other NATO allies supported America for attack on Libya, yet in case of targeting Pakistan, most of the US allies could leave the US war against terrorism, and a greater rift will be created between the US and other NATO members in wake of the competing debt crises, while people of other European states held the US responsible for the global financial crisis. Nonetheless, if after fighting the different war for ten years, America has leant no lesson, its internal problems will give a greater blow to the US economy vis-à-vis other most developed countries, besides making it vulnerable to other external setbacks, ultimately reducing the US role as sole superpower.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

ANIMAL RIGHTS IN ISLAM — 16

SIRAJUDDIN AZIZ

 

 

Islam has been one of the earliest religions to care about animal rights. Kindness shown to animals has been promised a reward in the hereafter. Consider this line from Abu Umama, Al Tabarani: 'He who takes pity even on a sparrow and spares its life, Allah will be merciful to him on the Day of Judgment.' The Holy Prophet PBUH categorically forbade the fighting of animals such as bears, dogs, cocks etc. he admonished those who whipped their animals. According to Islam human beings are not at liberty to take lives at their beck and call but only when it is necessary. Hunting of birds and animals for sport is clearly forbidden. Animals represent the wonders of nature created by Allah and they have their own special place in the hierarchy of living beings. There is a purpose behind every living creature and humans do not possess the right to violate their lives. Animals are divine signs for humanity to take lessons from, to get inspired by and to learn from. A bee, for example, eats only clean things, drops only sweet stuff, any branch it perches upon does not break.

Allah says, "There are [manifest] signs [of truth] in the creation of [humanity and numerous types of] animals scattered [on the earth] for those who believe [in Allah]" (45:4) Allah says, "Do they see how [useful] a camel is created?" (88:17). Several Quranic verses invite humans to learn lessons from animals, birds, ants, and honeybees. 'Ali Ibn Abu Talib says, "Be obedient to Allah regarding His subjects and the lands at your disposal, for you are responsible even for the survival of animals." Once the Prophet PBUH came upon a donkey which had been branded on its face. He is reported to have exclaimed: 'May Allah condemn the one who branded it.' He also disapproved of the cutting of a horse's tail, for example, as unnatural and interfering with the natural beauty of the horse.

There is the story of the Prophet hearing the call to prayer one day. He wanted to take along his prayer mat, but one of his cats was curled up on the carpet, comfortably asleep. Not wanting to disturb the cat, and yet being required to take his mat along, the Prophet solved the problem by carefully cutting off a portion of the carpet and taking it with him. Then there is the story he told his followers about a prostitute, according to Muslim. On a hot day, a poor dog lay panting from thirst near a well. When this woman came along, she took pity on the poor creature. She lowered her socks into the well, drew water in them and squeezed it into the dog's mouth. Our Prophet said that, because of this one act of kindness, all her sins would be forgiven her. In the same source, we find out that he had a vision about a woman. She was chastised after death because, on earth, she had tied up her cat continually and neglected to feed it or give it water. It therefore, indicates the importance of bestowing mercy upon animals according to the teachings of Islam.

The Prophet PBUH not only preached to the people to show kindness to each other but also to all living souls. He forbade the practice of cutting tails and manes of horses, of branding animals at any soft spot, and of keeping horses saddled unnecessarily. (Sahih Muslim,). If he saw any animal over-loaded or ill-fed he would pull up the owner and say, "Fear Allah in your treatment of animals." (Abu Dawud, Kitab Jihad). A companion came to him with the young ones of a bird in his sheet and said that the mother bird had hovered over them all along. He was directed to replace her offspring in the same bush. (Mishkat, Abu Dawud) During a journey, somebody picked up some birds eggs. The bird's painful note and fluttering attracted the attention of the Prophet, who asked the man to replace the eggs. (Sahih Bukhari).

As his army marched towards Makkah to conquer it, they passed a female dog with puppies. The Prophet not only gave orders that they should not be disturbed, but posted a man to see that this was done. He stated, "Verily, there is heavenly reward for every act of kindness done to a living animal." On another occasion he was traveling on his camel over hilly terrain with a disciple, Uqba Bin Aamir. After going some distance, he asked Uqba to ride the camel, but Uqba thought this would be showing disrespect to the Prophet. But the Prophet insisted and he had to comply. The Prophet himself walked on foot as he did not want to put too much load on the animal. (Nasai p. 803)

Ibn Umar said I heard the Prophet say, 'whoever mutilates a living creature and then does not repent, Allah will mutilate him on the day of judgment. The messenger is reported to have said: 'Allah has prescribed excellence in everything. So if you kill, kill well; and if you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.' It is related by Anas Bin Malik, 'when we stopped for the night, we used not to say our prayers until we had taken the saddles and the baggage off (our animals)'. Allah has said in the Holy Qur'an that every animal has its own communal life and its own way to do 'Ibadah, or service, to Allah. Every animal praises Allah, the Exalted, in its own way. (6:38) therefore humans who have been created as superior creatures on this earth, have been entrusted with the responsibility of expending care on animals. It is abiding on us to take care of the animals we use for work or as pets. To feed them, not to whip them cruelly or starve them.

The Holy Quran has made human beings the masters, the dominators over the animals. However, it must be borne in mind that dominion does not imply mistreatment. It does not give the authority to break all moral rules of kindness and mercy and show barbarianism. Protection and upholding of animal rights is incumbent upon every Muslim. Hazrat Ali has this to say about those who misuse their authority over the weak: "A savage and ferocious beast is better than a wicked and tyrant ruler." (Maxims, see Ref. No. 4, pp. 203, 381).

It is encouraged for Muslim to let Animals eat of the plants that they have planted. Prophet Muhammad((may peace be upon him) is reported to have said: Narated By Anas bin Malik: The Prophet (may peace be upon him) said, "If any Muslim plants any plant and a human being or an animal eats of it, he will be rewarded as if he had given that much in charity." – [Bukhari Vol. 8, Book 73, #41] Even if an animal eats from a plant which has been planted by man, the person will receive rewards for it. Even in a state of war, the Muslims are prohibited from killing the animals in the lands of the enemies and are also forbidden from burning or cutting down trees for no reason. Indeed Islam is a mercy for everyone. It is not only a religion but a complete code of life which even secures the rights of animals.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

IGNORANCE IS NOT A BLISS

YAHYA AHMAD

 

Today the world is going through an age of information, where free flow of information and ideas is possible throughout the world, in a matter of seconds. Information on every topic and issue from the farthest corner of the world is a click away. Live feeds and coverage has made real time availability of required information possible. In these times the controlling of information for even repressive regimes has become impossible, as there are multiple sources to acquire it. Certain quarters in our Pakistan, even after a decade of revolution in the media, information technology and freedom of information law; consider the public consumption of official data a near sin. This attitude has led to frustration and grievances among the common citizens, which have also taken the shape of violence. The second factor shaping this situation is the lack of knowledge and awareness throughout the populace. The lack of awareness present within the society on every subject has hampered the progress of the country. This is mostly attributed to the illiteracy which has been a problem in Pakistan, since its independence.

Pakistan is a signatory to the Universal declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 19 of the 1973 Constitution also holds the freedom of speech, expression and information as a basic right for the citizen. The common citizen has no information regarding its rights and how the policy of the sate machinery has been devised to serve them, hence in practical the overall state of human rights in the country is deplorable. Here another factor has also been determined, where it is not only the citizens who are unaware of their rights, but in numerous cases it has been observed that the government functionaries are also unaware of their duties towards the citizens. A lack of knowledge is also prevalent in the institutions, which are themselves meant to serve the citizens and provide them with information. Due to this the average Pakistani citizen has no one else to turn to, as the institutions themselves are marred with confusion and cannot provide the required results.

This has been evident in Baluchistan, where certain requests for information were submitted to relevant government departments, by the citizens. As per Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2005, the relevant departments had to forward the information within 21 days, but this did not happen. Either the information requests were ignored or the officials and staff did not have the knowledge of the procedure and were confused on how to approach it. Similarly when the Provincial Mohtasib office was approached by the citizens, as the procedure directs to file complaints if the departments do not comply; the confusion was again present. The office was unable to determine under which legal framework the information were requested. Resultantly there are delays in processing of the complaints, as the procedure will have to be determined and the process will be started from scratch. It is obvious that as the government officials have no knowledge of the procedure, it becomes difficult for them to serve the public.

But the responsibility cannot be entirely laid down on the state apparatus. It is also the duty of the citizens to engage the machinery, for their rights, which so far they have been unable to effectively do. The lack of initiative on part of the citizens is partly responsible, for the dire situation today. As no one bothers to challenge or question the authorities and are satisfied by resorting to criticism. The system is present but the problem is that it has not been implemented. The law and constitution provide extensive rights to the citizens, but even the small aware section has been unable to exercise their rights. Here another matter also comes into focus, which is that how many people can comprehend or understand the information presented. The low rate of literacy and lack of understanding is again a problem when analyzing information. This has been highlighted by the recent case of erroneous tax collection figures posted by Federal Bureau of Revenue, which were later corrected. The problem is that no common citizen can challenge information or data without understanding it fully. In such a situation media can play an important role, as it acquires the information and places it in front of the public. With the level of outreach the media has today, through its electronic and print services, it can reach every nook and corner of the country, to people living in both urban and rural communities. It can also utilize Right to Information (RTI) to highlight any issue, while the data can be analyzed by experts and the media can convey a simplified version for the consumption of the general public. A person will not have to be an expert in finance or economics to understand certain official figures and data on economy, as the media will break down and simplify the information for them. In addition to this the media itself can also play a role in dissemination of awareness among the common public and government institutions, on the implementation and importance of RTI, through various platforms.

The country has a system of democracy, where the citizens are given the responsibility to contribute in the governance of the country. They can contribute and fulfill their share of responsibilities, when they have information on the procedures and activities taking place in the system. The constitution provides this right to information, the law supports it and Pakistan has committed internationally to provide this and every other basic right to its citizens. But if the populace does not exercise its rights, the system will not deliver. It is understandable if the procedure is never or seldom utilized, then even the government officials do not have to bother with its implementation. In addition the process will never be tested, whether it delivers or not, while the flaws within it will never be highlighted. The citizen has a responsibility too and that is to exercise his/her right for the greater public interest. It has been rightly put by one of the U.S. Presidents that, "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

—The writer is a development practitioner.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

WHAT IS NOT BLAMED FOR BRITAIN RIOTS?

JONATHAN FREEDLAND

 

To a watching world, the sight of Britain on fire last week has surely been shocking. The looting and torching has revealed an inner-city London, Birmingham and Manchester seldom glimpsed in the England usually offered for export via soft-focus period dramas, Hugh Grant movies or stories on Will and Kate. If the revelation has puzzled outsiders, it has confused Britons no less. The mood is a mixture of rage, fear and bafflement. Not that we're not used to riots: England caught fire during that other royal-wedding year, 1981. But 30 years ago, the battle lines were relatively clear. Race was central, especially in the predominantly black south London neighbourhood of Brixton. The target then was a police force charged with racial bias. The recent explosions have not had that clarity.

Even though the troubles ignited the week before last after the police killed a black Briton in the north London area of Tottenham, the copycat outbursts since have lacked that racial dimension. Among the looters, all races were represented, while their targets had not been overtly political. They didn't hurl stones at police stations, city halls or the Houses of Parliament. Instead, these rapidly mobilized crowds concentrated their fire on stores, especially those selling cellphones, sneakers and large-screen TVs. One looter was seen trying on different pairs of shoes, making sure she stole the right size. The Guardian's Zoe Williams has called these the "shopping riots," noting how mobs move from malls to main street stores, avoiding confrontation with the police, in contrast with the 1981 rioters, who actively sought it. If today's looters have a political point to make, it is that politics doesn't matter.

I walked Tottenham High Road on Aug. 10, as demolition crews removed what was left of a large carpet store burned to ash on Aug. 6. I listened to Mohammed Abdi, a Somali-born cellphone store owner whose life's work was destroyed that night. "It took an age to build this business — and now I have nothing," he told me. The local member of Parliament, David Lammy, was doing his best to reassure those whose neighborhood was ravaged. "The consumerist and materialist nature of it is new," he said. "And it's of this generation." The methods are new, too: using instant-messaging technology to assemble a crowd; diverting police to one place by, say, burning a car, then looting in another. The fact that the police cannot be everywhere at once has made them all but powerless. The short-term remedy has been to triple the number of police on duty in London, which restored calm here Tuesday night but is no more a long-term solution than the pleas for BlackBerry to turn off its instant-messenger system. One Tottenham resident warned Aug. 10 that the rest of the world should brace for the spread of this new "social criminality."

Amid the destruction and debris, one question is ultra-sensitive: Why? Those who seek to understand the looters' motivation have been instantly accused of justifying their actions — as if to explain is always to excuse. Some have nevertheless dared to offer reasons, with poverty an early and obvious explanation — though that view looked less credible once details about some of the suspected rioters emerged. Among those in court have been university graduates, an army recruit and a youth worker. Such people might be a minority among the looters, but they hardly fit the conventional definition of the "underclass." Others have said the source of the malaise is a greed-is-good consumerism, with the looters following a take-what-you-can lead set by the bonus-earning bankers at the top end of the income scale.

Still others have preferred to concentrate on family breakdown and fatherlessness, suspecting that many of those involved are, if not poor, then emotionally deprived and utterly disconnected from the wider society. Lammy has been struck by those looters caught on film who don't bother to hide their faces. Most controversial is the suggestion that the riots might have even a tenuous link to the government's austerity program, aimed at reducing the deficit. Funding for youth services — clubs and outreach workers — in the Tottenham area has just been cut by 75 percent. It's too early to know whether spending cuts played any part in England's burning. But as the United States embarks on its own retrenchment, it should beware — this is an argument that could soon be coming its way.

—The writer is columnist for The Guardian. Courtesy: The Japan Times

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

RESTORING PRIDE AND ORDER IN A DEMORALISED SOCIETY

THE proof that British Prime Minister David Cameron's assault on Britain's "moral collapse" was on the money came in some of the reactions to his announcement.

"To me, he was blaming like people from broken families and that," one girl complained. A teenage boy said Mr Cameron was in "la la land" and it was all his fault. The mother of a 13-year-old boy who smashed up a shop with stolen golf clubs said the government was to blame because it provides "f . . k all" for children to do. Such nonsense will no longer wash. Armed thugs and looters are criminals, not victims. Mr Cameron diagnosed Britain's ills fearlessly and frankly: "Irresponsibility. Selfishness. Behaving as if your choices have no consequences. Children without fathers. Schools without discipline. Reward without effort. Crime without punishment. Rights without responsibilities. Communities without control. Some of the worst aspects of human nature tolerated, indulged -- sometimes even incentivised -- by a state and its agencies that in parts have become literally demoralised."

Much of Mr Cameron's analysis rings true of the welfare-induced helplessness in remote Aboriginal Australia. As the British confront the poisonous failure of welfarism, they could learn much from Noel Pearson, who has recognised the importance of building self-discipline. As Mr Pearson has noted, one of the major problems with traditional welfare systems is the way they exacerbate passivity and erode personal responsibility. Service providers, on the other hand, become activists, undertaking tasks that should be done by individuals or families, who over time become incidental as their capacity to help themselves deteriorates further.

In breaking an entrenched cradle-to-the grave welfare consciousness that not even the Thatcher years managed to obliterate, for all their welcome emphasis on enterprise, Mr Cameron can expect condescension and derision from the armies of social workers and administrators who are the real clients of any welfare state. He must not bow to them, or be dissuaded from restoring discipline in schools and extending voluntary community work for teenagers.

In his "all-out war on gangs and gang culture", Mr Cameron's staunchest ally will be Bill Bratton, the former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and former police commissioner of New York City and Boston. Wisely, in the face of opposition, Mr Cameron has hired him as an adviser. Guided by the "broken windows" theory that serious crime escalates if petty offences and anti-social behaviour are not dealt with, Mr Bratton's "zero-tolerance" approach and increased numbers of police on the beat left the three US cities he served substantially safer.

After years of moral relativism and rampant political correctness, Mr Cameron's assessment of what must change in Britain is refreshing. It has sharpened appreciation of the fact that broken societies are repaired not through social engineering but through individuals rediscovering their inner resources and virtue.

Defining the problems is just a start. The years or decades of transformation, which deserves the backing of churches, educators and community leaders who have often been reluctant to speak out, must start now.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

NO SURPRISES IN DIRECT ACTION

TONY Abbott struck the right note yesterday when he told the Coalition partyroom they had a duty to "keep the debate civil".

As a long-term politician, he knows as well as anyone that good governance and democracy are not served when a nation splits into warring camps. Rational discourse is far better for the body politic than angry protests and placards. That said, politicians on both sides can scarcely be surprised by the way Australians are taking to the streets -- and the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra -- to express their anger on everything from the carbon tax to the suspension of the live cattle trade. Nor should they be surprised by the decision of business groups, such as the Minerals Council of Australia, to build a war chest for an advertising campaign against the carbon tax.

It has been apparent for some time that the Labor government has frustrated business and that the gap between Canberra and the miners and industry groups that power the economy has grown dramatically since Kevin Rudd's election in 2007.

In an ideal world, business representatives, like other stakeholders, should be able to put their point of view through consultation and debate rather than a television campaign. But big mining was burnt in the debacle over Labor's super-profits tax while the alarm over the carbon tax is widespread. Poor policy and inadequate process have led business to reason that it must get into the public contest via popular media, not quiet meetings in Canberra offices.

Labor has only itself to blame: the blueprint for politics in the public square was drawn up by the ACTU in the lead-up to the 2007 election. The $30 million spent by unions to campaign against the Howard government's Work Choices proposals set a new benchmark in political activism from third parties. Labor cannot complain if the MCA, the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Australian Coal Association and the Australian Food and Grocery Council have joined forces for a TV and film campaign.

Last year's inconclusive election revealed deep differences in the values and priorities of Australians. Labor has a right to govern while it can command a majority on the floor of the parliament, but if it desires another term, it would do well to listen closely to the voices on the megaphones.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

A CHILLING CLIMATE ON FOI

WHEN it comes to the business of government, too much information is barely enough. So we struggle to see how the Department of Climate Change could consider Tim Wilson of the Institute of Public Affairs a vexatious Freedom of Information applicant, since in our book there can never be anything vexatious about exercising the public's right to know.

No ifs, no buts. Dealing with Mr Wilson's 750 requests is no doubt time consuming, but guess what? When bureaucrats complain about being held to account the rest of us start wondering what they have got to hide. Journalists and researchers would have every reason to drop a few hundred more FOI requests onto their desks.

Mr Wilson has, very reasonably, agreed not to lodge more requests while the bureaucrats tackle the backlog. We hope this does not give them an excuse to dawdle. The department estimates it takes 39 hours for an officer to process one request, which begs the question of whether our public servants need a dose of productivity training. And, anyway, the in-tray in Canberra could be cleared in a moment if the government adopted a transparent approach to its carbon tax and simply released the documents now under wraps. It is the secrecy of governments, not the ill will of its citizens, that creates a need for FOI requests. Indeed, our system of FOI is what sets us apart from undemocratic regimes: it is a precious right that has been hard-won and it must be protected.

Then again, the Gillard government would seem to have a lot to protect if a recent FOI request is anything to go by. We reported on Monday that documents obtained by the IPA under FOI show the department itself warned Climate Change Minister Greg Combet that a draft report over-estimated a crucial figure, which he nonetheless later used several times to push the carbon tax. It is perhaps not surprising that staffers are battling to process

Mr Wilson's other requests for the truth behind one of the most radical policies ever seen here.

Transparency is about putting as much information in the public domain as possible, not about limiting the flow. The WikiLeaks exercise shows that volume alone does not make a free and open society. But it demonstrated citizens can never have too much information about the operations of governments.To suggest otherwise abrogates the compact between the state and the people.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

SAVING LIVES IN HOSPITALS

"Systemic failure" ... it is human to look around for someone to blame. Photo: Peter Braig

THE healthcare system is killing us. The landmark American report of injuries and deaths caused by medical errors, To Err Is Human, counted almost 100,000 deaths in US hospitals a year.

In Australia, about 10 per cent of patients encounter a mistake during their treatment. Many are trivial, but in NSW in 2007-08 medical instruments were left in 19 patients after surgery, medication errors caused 17 deaths and 18 operations were carried out on the wrong patient or body part. It is human to look around for someone to blame. But several inquiries into deaths in Australian hospitals, such as the overdose of pain medication which killed a Sydney teenager, Vanessa Anderson, in 2005, found the system had been unravelling long before the final, fatal error occurred.

This week the State Coroner reaffirmed the risks posed by the ''systemic failure'' which ''contributed significantly'' to the tragic death from septic shock of eight-year-old Jacob Belim in 2009. Less well known is that the risk of blood clots increases a hundredfold in hospitals or that one in 30 Australian patients develops a ''healthcare associated infection'' every year.

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Healthcare systems are among the most complex organisations in the world. Ensuring heart surgery, for example, is expertly performed or the right dose of radiotherapy is delivered depends not only on drugs, equipment and the competence and knowledge of individual professionals, but on every single human interaction in very long treatment chains. Modern medical care depends entirely on teams, but teamwork is routinely compromised by fatigue, excessive workloads, inadequate resources and facilities, and any number of random factors such as gaps in rosters because of illness. To Err Is Human offered no excuses for the inadequacies or negligence of individuals, but argued that patient safety can be improved only by tackling problems system-wide. Organisational research shows system risks increase sharply when deviance is normalised: that is, when small mistakes, sloppy record-keeping or poor shift handovers are routinely tolerated.

In Australia, the Productivity Commission has begun recording serious harm and death, offering the first clear picture of what is going wrong. Persistent shortfalls in health funding continue to undermine the quality and safety of healthcare in Australia. However, studies of patient safety show ''vigilant'' work cultures - in which hands are routinely washed, surgical instruments are accounted for and instructions delivered clearly - can also save many lives.

Not only do we need more, better-rested medical staff, but organisations which openly report and act on errors, and which hold all staff members, whether they are making tea or carrying out brain surgery, to the same high standards.

 

Passed in at the asylum auction

WHO exactly is the federal government trying to impress with its ''Malaysian solution'' for unauthorised boat arrivals? If the target audience is people smugglers, the policy has not worked. Since the deal was signed on July 25, 265 people have arrived on four boats.

Of course, the High Court is still considering whether it is legal, but smugglers may think the deal looks vulnerable in other ways. The government has agreed to send 800 boat people to Malaysia and accept in return 4000 genuine refugees for settlement here. What happens when the quota is filled? Will the agreement continue at the same one-for-five ratio? If the smugglers keep sending the boats over, that arrangement would eventually clear Malaysia's camps - a humanitarian outcome of sorts, but not quite what the government intended.

Another target audience for its studied inhumanity will be the Australian electorate. There, too, the policy is still not working. The Herald/Nielsen poll published yesterday showed 53 per cent of voters would rather asylum seekers were held in Australia for assessment, not shipped to foreign camps. Voters are not keen on asylum seekers - they believe by almost a two-to-one majority that they should be detained pending assessment - but neither do they sympathise with the government's floundering attempt to emulate the Howard government's ''Pacific solution''.

By continuing to seek the approval of a minority of electors - those who want asylum seekers processed overseas, or even just sent back out to sea - both sides of politics show they are more interested in populist window-dressing than in attempting to deal justly with the humanitarian problem posed by refugee flows, or in upholding the spirit - not just the letter - of the refugee conventions to which Australia is a signatory.

Refugee policy has now become a version at the federal level of the infamous law-and-order auction familiar during state election campaigns, in which each side tries to outbid the other in looking tough and uncompromising - to the policy's detriment.

The cost of the auction is measured not only in money - a great deal of which has been squandered building concentration camps in unpleasant places to house asylum seekers - or in effectiveness, which the continued arrival of boats calls into question. It is also measured in lowered national decency. The poll shows a majority do not like the selfish and narrow-minded image of Australians that Labor's and the Coalition's policies force on them.

Both sides should heed the message.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

PARLIAMENT FACES TEST OF POLITICAL PRIORITIES

Serious policy challenges demand credible responses.

TWO rallies and a cake marked yesterday's resumption of Federal Parliament. Coalition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt lit a candle on the cake for the anniversary of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's broken promise on carbon tax, a ''day of infamy''. That was the feeling of the one rally where Opposition Leader Tony Abbott took the stage to rapturous applause. The other rally was against same-sex marriage. These goings-on, and predictions the asylum seeker debate would dominate Parliament, reflect the trivial and diversionary nature of politics today.

In the winter recess, financial turmoil clouded the global outlook, as Treasurer Wayne Swan observed yesterday. Labor's promise of a budget surplus in 2012-13 has been recast as ''an objective'', but Mr Swan said Australia's strong economic foundations and links to Asia's giants would help defy the storms across the Atlantic. ''We're not the United States, we're not Europe.''

Coalition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey, in reply to Mr Swan's economic statement, predicted the surplus promise would be broken and demanded the government cut spending and debt. Whether that is the best response to the slowdown he described is debatable. Some Coalition commentary all but invites Mr Swan's accusation of ''damaging rhetoric that risks undermining confidence''. When households can save 11 per cent of income, unemployment is around 5 per cent and government debt is low, that does not suggest an economy on the brink.

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The opposition still has a duty to be mindful of the current acute sensitivity of market and consumer sentiment. It could also be more consistent. It was revealed last week that the Coalition must find $70 billion in savings to cover $37 billion in promises and the costs of scrapping the carbon and mining taxes. Mr Hockey brushed off $70 billion as no big deal for budgets totalling about $1500 billion over four years. What does that say about all the alarm at Commonwealth net debt, which was budgeted to peak at around $94 billion?

The Coalition's huge lead in opinion polls, 58-42 per cent in this week's Age/Nielsen poll, does shift the focus to what it would do in government. Ms Gillard has already defied the handicap of minority government to begin the broadband rollout and has lined up more ''big legislation'' for this session such as the carbon tax, mining profits tax and hospital funding deal. Labor is also seeking far-reaching changes in aged and disability care and family law.

Mr Abbott will keep up the pressure on boat arrivals and the carbon tax, ''this monumental broken promise'', but voters may tire of that before the election, which is not due for two years. A surprise in this week's poll is that 53 per cent of voters want boat arrivals' asylum claims assessed in Australia - it is, after all, cheaper, more efficient and more humane. Only 28 per cent favoured offshore processing. Despite all the major party posturing in support of this policy, the issue does not justify the time and money devoted to it.

As for the carbon tax, its actual effects will render predictions redundant. Before the GST took effect, it never had more than the 39 per cent support the carbon tax has now. John Howard said before the 1996 election that a GST would ''never ever'' be part of Coalition policy. He also promised ''no tax increases, no new taxes'' and no cuts in education and health spending. And for good measure, ''I'm not going to break any promises.'' Within months of winning office, ''non-core promises'' were broken. The GST was back on the agenda by early 1997.

All these broken promises were forgiven as the economy prospered. The Howard government made a no-less-shaky start than the Gillard government but ultimately delivered on its supporters' ''core'' expectations. The gap between commitments and delivery can be huge, but Labor's legislative agenda is a declaration of intent. The challenge for the Coalition is to counter with positive and consistent policy of its own.

 

The right territorial imperative

IT HAS taken time to achieve, but finally federal Labor has put internal squabbles aside and agreed to support a Greens bill that allows greater autonomy to the ACT and the Northern Territory. At a caucus meeting in Canberra on Monday, Labor voted to support the legislation that, if passed, will mean laws set by the territories will be disallowed only if both houses of Federal Parliament agree. As Local Government Minister Simon Crean more colourfully put it, the bill rightly strips the Commonwealth's right of veto ''at the stroke of a ministerial pen''.

This will uphold a tenet of democracy, and a belief long held by The Age: that governments are better kept in check by voters than vetoes. After all, the principle of representation applies across the political spectrum, including all tiers of government, individual electorates and, of course, territories. Each represents a balance of views and values of voters.

For all the right reasons, the new laws will ensure that the NT and ACT governments will no longer be subject to arbitrary powers inflicted by the federal government. For example, in 2006, the Commonwealth overturned the ACT's civil union laws; in 1997, a proposed federal government ban on X-rated videos in the ACT and Northern Territory was sensibly overruled by the Howard cabinet. But the possibility of intervention still existed.

The Senate is set to vote on the Greens bill tomorrow, and it is expected to be put to the lower house within six sitting days. Yet, its journey has not been easy. In March, Labor was forced to delay support after objections raised by several of the party's conservatives, who feared it could lead to the legalisation of gay marriage and euthanasia. The bill was sent to a Senate committee, which endorsed it.

At Monday's caucus meeting, it was supported only after two amendments - one removing references to the ''exclusive legislative authority'' of the territories, and clarifying the power of the governor-general to recommend amendments to contentious laws; the other granting the governor-general power to disallow legislation set by Norfolk Island. Even then, the bill got through only after the government assured some still-concerned MPs that the legislation was not about same-sex marriage but more to do with improving democratic rights and processes.

The wider challenge, once the bill becomes law, is for reconciliation between politics and contemporary community views. A good start would be a conscience vote on same-sex marriage.

 

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

ENGLAND RIOTS: THE NEED TO KNOW

Ed Miliband was right to call for an inquiry into the riots, and the coalition was right to establish one

There are moments when a nation suddenly catches a glimpse of itself in the mirror and sees there not the familiar defects and equally familiar virtues to which it is used but an image altogether more unsettling. Many questions were forced on the collective attention after the recent urban riots. The effectiveness, or otherwise, of police tactics, the failures of educational institutions, the inadequacies of our faltering economy, the quality of family relationships, the mindlessness of consumerism – all these, and many others, were ticked off by politicians, commentators and academics running through their checklists of social ills.

But the most striking aspect was that we were surprised and dismayed in a way we have not been after other episodes of urban disorder in our past. The head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, in evidence to the home affairs committee yesterday, spoke of "non-existent pre-intelligence". That goes to the overarching sentiment that this is not the society we thought we were and not the society we wish to be. This is the principal reason why the coalition's announcement yesterday that it will set up an inquiry into the disturbances, although Nick Clegg prefers the word "panel", should be welcomed. Ed Miliband was right to call for such an inquiry, and the coalition was right to establish one. Properly conducted, such an inquiry can and should be part of a national conversation about what has gone wrong – one in which ordinary people from the communities most affected should take a leading role.

Most past inquiries have been detective stories and, sometimes quite literally, postmortems, with procedures aimed at establishing facts and apportioning blame in the way particular institutions – such as the army, the police, the social services or the medical profession – have operated. They were about fixing discrete bits of our society. This inquiry is potentially of much broader scope because it addresses a more diffuse problem. To say this is not to subscribe to the "broken Britain" thesis, with its overemphasis on moral decline and welfare dependency, or to any other ready-made formulations. The point about being surprised is that existing analysis is properly thrown into doubt, and must be refreshed.

The coalition was therefore also right to accompany the inquiry with the commissioning of academic work about the riots. The combination, with a relatively short reporting period of six to nine months, may bring us some enlightenment. Perhaps not as much as we hope, and perhaps the riots may not loom so large in our minds in six months time. But we need perspective and time, and some honest intellectual work is the best way to acquire it.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

PHONE HACKING: ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

Clive Goodman's explosive letter poses fundamental questions for the whole phone-hacking controversy

On 26 January 2007, Clive Goodman, the News of the World's royal editor, pleaded guilty to illegal phone hacking and was jailed for four months. On the same day, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire also pleaded guilty and was jailed for six months. A few days later, on 5 February 2007, News International's executive chairman Les Hinton – a man of whom Rupert Murdoch told MPs last month "I would trust him with my life" – sacked Mr Goodman in a "Dear Clive" letter. On 2 March, Mr Goodman replied to NI's human resources director, copying his letter to Mr Hinton, to set out his grounds for appeal against the sacking.

No editorial comment on Mr Goodman's letter, published on Tuesday by the culture, media and sport select committee, can risk interfering with ongoing investigations and possible legal proceedings. Suffice it to say that the letter from Mr Goodman pulls few punches. His sacking, Mr Goodman wrote, was perverse because the phone hacking which he had conducted on three employees of the royal family was "carried out with the full knowledge and support" of individuals whose names have been redacted from the published text but who must have been NI editorial executives.

Mr Goodman's next claim is every bit as striking. His sacking was inconsistent, he argues, because named but redacted individuals "and other members of staff" were themselves carrying out "the same illegal procedures", some of them also with Mr Mulcaire. And then this bombshell: "This practice was widely discussed at the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the Editor."

That editor was Andy Coulson, who was later taken on as David Cameron's communications chief, until he resigned in January 2011. Almost as an afterthought, Mr Goodman then observes that his defence team meetings had almost always been attended by News International's legal manager too, that he continued to be given responsible tasks by NI while suspended, that he was employed by NI throughout most of his sentence, and that he had been promised his NoW job back "if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff" in his mitigation plea.

Mr Goodman's explosive letter poses very fundamental questions for the whole phone-hacking story of the past four and a half years. In the first place, it claims that the practice of phone hacking at the News of the World was not the rogue operation that NI has always insisted, but was known about, supported and paid for by named NI executives. Second, it claims that other reporters at the News of the World were doing the very same thing, and that NoW executives not only knew about this too, but discussed it openly among themselves in editorial conferences until they got scared. Third, it claims that NI was actively involved in preparing the defence and in supporting Mr Goodman in the face of phone-hacking charges.

In short, Mr Goodman's letter provides a version of events wholly at odds with the one that NI executives, from Rupert and James Murdoch downwards, have repeatedly offered but from which they have been compelled to make successive retreats. NI continues to insist that one bad apple was responsible for the phone-hacking scandals. Later revelations have increasingly suggested a reckless culture, self-confidently untouchable. Another angry document, this time from NI's solicitors, gave this process another sharp twist, making James Murdoch's recall before MPs unavoidable. The new revelations pose a big threat. Four days after Mr Goodman's letter, on 6 March 2007, the normally hands-on Mr Hinton told MPs: "I believe absolutely that Andy did not have knowledge of what was going on." That claim is not compatible with Mr Goodman's. They can't both be right. Past and present News International grandees, from the Murdochs down, can only be getting more nervous. And the same now goes for Mr Cameron too.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF… CESC FÁBREGAS

The departing Arsenal captain is a masterly orchestrator in the Barça tradition and will be missed

You don't have to be an Arsenal supporter to mourn the tearful departure of their star performer of recent seasons – Cesc Fábregas, lured away at last by his home town club, Barcelona – any more than you had to be an adherent of Manchester United to regret the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer of 2009. The increasing domination of the Premier League by expensive imported talent has cut both ways. It denies home-grown players their chance to mature at the top of the English game, which is no doubt one of the reasons for the constant disappointments served up by the national side. At times under Arsène Wenger's managership there has not been one home-grown name on the Arsenal team sheet. Even uncosmopolitan Wigan fielded on Saturday an al-Habsi, a López, a Figueroa, a Gómez, a Di Santo, a Diamé, a Stam and a Rodallega. Against that, it has brought the delight of watching world-class players displaying incomparable skills. Ronaldo could look spoiled and petulant; his diving at times rated Olympic-class; but few could have watched week by week without marvelling. And Fábregas, no more than a substitute in Spain's World Cup-winning team, was a masterly orchestrator in the Barça tradition. Wenger, he said on arriving at the ground where he'd longed to be, was the best man he'd met in football, and the man Arsenal must keep at all costs. Many devotees, apprehensive about the new season, may feel the man their club most needed to keep at all costs has just left them.

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