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Thursday, August 18, 2011

EDITORIAL 18.08.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


Month August 18, edition 000814, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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

























































  2. NIS 55.5 BILLION IN 2012.



































The Congress is just not getting it right while dealing with the mass agitation launched by Anna Hazare and his fellow civil society activists of India Against Corruption. Over the past 48 hours, the number of people who have taken to the streets across the length and breadth of the country in support of Anna Hazare and his demand that the Government should accept his version of the Lokpal Bill — the Jan Lokpal Bill as they call it — and that it should be adopted by Parliament preferably without either debate or discussion is swelling by the minute. Not all of them are necessarily persuaded by the Jan Lokpal Bill, nor is everybody a diehard supporter of Anna Hazare. But it is an indisputable fact that everybody is seething with rage at the Congress-led regime which is steeped in corruption and has displayed nothing but cynical indifference to the loot and plunder under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's watch. In brief, it is a massive popular vote of no confidence in the Government and the party that dominates it. There's a message in this for the Prime Minister, his men and their party bosses. Sadly, rather than read the message and try to assuage the anger sweeping across the nation there is an effort to obfuscate issues and make the Congress look like an innocent victim. As much was evident in the Prime Minister's stunningly incoherent statement in Parliament and the explanatory comments by his Home Minister; both of them have only contributed to hardening of positions without scoring any brownie points. Mr Singh is welcome to believe that the world is conspiring against India and that foreign forces are instigating the masses to rise in protest against the venal regime he heads — strangely, all this while the Congress has been darkly hinting at the RSS being behind the upsurge — but that is going to convince nobody, including the Congress's rank and file. As for Mr P Chidambaram, he thinks he is clever but the people see him as too-clever-by-half: His attempt to describe the outpouring of anti-Congress sentiments as nothing more than a law and order issue best left to be tackled by law- enforcing agencies is at once pathetic and laughable.

Let it be said and said upfront that the movement unleashed by Anna Hazare is not against Parliament or the parliamentary system of governance as is being sought to be portrayed by an effete Prime Minister and the Congress's publicists who lack etiquette and basic manners and believe that being rude and crude helps make their party and the Government look virtuous and righteous. It is abundantly clear whom the protesters are targeting; if it is not clear to Mr Singh and his men, then the fault lies with them. There is time yet to contain a severe blowback and prevent the situation from turning ugly and uncontrollable. There is time still for Mr Singh to salvage what remains of his image of an honest man which now lies in tatters. The Congress must stop playing a duplicitous game of good cop, bad cop; the Government must exercise restraint and retreat from the confrontationist position it has taken. Neither the Opposition nor Parliament has a role in this; it is entirely the job of the Government and the Congress: They have created the mess, they must now clean it, even if it means that a lot of dirt will continue to stick on both. Any further delay in resolving what is fast turning into a full-blown crisis will cause enormous damage and it will not be restricted to a derelict regime and its cynical political masters.







The self-immolation of a second Tibetan monk in a span of five months in the south-western Chinese province of Sichuan which is home to a large section of the community has once again put the spotlight on the Communist Party's repressive behaviour towards the country's ethnic minority. This past Sunday when 29-year-old Tsewang Norbu doused himself with gasoline and set himself ablaze in the centre of Daofu, a town located in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garzê, crying out for the freedom of his people and for the return of the exiled Dalai Lama to Tibet, his actions served as a somewhat vile but nonetheless true reflection of how deep runs Tibetan dissatisfaction of Han-majority Chinese leadership. It is no secret that the Chinese leadership has dealt with Tibetan demands for greater autonomy with an iron hand, and historically responded by rubbishing voices of minority dissent. Yet it is precisely this kind of an indifferent response that has done little to resolve the long festering dispute; one that has only grown more malevolent in recent years as Chinese authorities have cracked down severely on any form of protest while Tibetans reaching a breaking point have become increasingly defiant. For example, in March when a 16-year-old monk self-immolated to protest against increased Chinese repression, authorities responded by detaining several of his fellow monks and increasing surveillance at his monastery. That of course did not deter Tibetan monks from attempting to celebrate the birthday of the Dalai Lama in July. They then had to pay a heavy price for such a show of absolute defiance as police put monasteries across the region under a virtual siege that ultimately produced the tinderbox situation in which Tsewang Norbu set himself on fire.

Clearly, a vicious circle of self-destructive events has been set in motion. To break out of it, it is imperative that Chinese authorities stop trying to sweep the dispute under the carpet by ignoring Tibetan concerns. Instead, it would be better advised to return to the negotiating table with an open mind and resolve the issue amicably with the Tibetan leadership, which is essentially asking for greater regional autonomy within the borders of the People's Republic of China. Considering that there already exists a framework for an Autonomous Tibetan Region, resolving the ongoing dispute is effectively about ironing out differences between the two communities. For this, Chinese authorities need to better consider Tibetan grievances. That off late they have shown greater respect for popular demands in other parts of the country — most recently in Dalian wherefrom they relocated a chemical plant after public protests — should be taken as a positive sign for the fact that the emerging superpower is atleast headed in the right direction.









We should have no illusions that we can change the jihadi mindset of the Pakistani Armed Forces and learn the right lessons from price paid by US.

With the Americans having announced that they intend to end active combat operations in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, Pakistanis have commenced pondering over what life will be like after that. Optimists, particularly from the military and jihadi groups, believe that the American withdrawal will lead to the fulfilment of General Zia-ul-Haq's dream of a Pakistan blessed with "strategic depth" extending beyond the Amu Darya and into Central Asia. Others fear that with Taliban extremism already having spread from across the Durand Line into Punjab and even Karachi, the country is headed for what author Ahmed Rashid once described as "Descent into Chaos". Interestingly, a CIA report entitled "Global Trends 2015" noted even in December 2001: "Pakistan will not recover easily from decades of economic mismanagement, divisive politics and ethnic feuds. In a climate of continuing domestic turmoil, the Central Government's control will probably be reduced to the Punjab heartland and the economic hub of Karachi."

Rarely has a country's future been tied as inextricably to the actions of a distant power in its neighbourhood as Pakistan's presently is to American policies in Afghanistan. Any hope that a democratic dispensation will soon triumph over military hegemony in Pakistan, as Turkey has now experienced, is a pipedream. Pakistan's military still believes that the Americans will meet the same fate as the Soviets did when confronted with the forces of "militant Islam" from across the Durand Line. There is nothing to indicate that Rawalpindi has any intention of ending its support for either the Taliban or the Haqqani network. Both Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani remain implacably opposed to American proposals on political 'reconciliation' in Afghanistan. Neither of them has shown any sign of ending links with Al Qaeda, now led by Ayman al Zawahiri, and its Chechen and Central Asian affiliates. Moreover, the Haqqani network unabashedly supports the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, infuriating Pakistan's 'all weather friend' China.

Pakistan's military has believed over the past few years that with the American economy in tatters and domestic opinion becoming increasingly hostile to growing casualties overseas, the Obama Administration will quit Afghanistan, paving the way for a Taliban takeover, in the not too distant future. Another Pakistani calculation was that given their dependence on Pakistan's logistical support for supplies to their military in Afghanistan, the Americans were in no position to take coercive measures against their country. These calculations were ill-advised and have gone awry. First, it is the combined cost of the war in Iraq, estimated at $806 billion, together with the relatively less expensive war in Afghanistan that has cost the US taxpayer $444 billion over a decade that is proving unaffordable. Second, while Americans have lost 1,760 soldiers in Afghanistan over a decade, their high casualties in Iraq, which included 4,474 killed in action, has made the war highly unpopular domestically. Finally, showing determination to thwart Pakistani blackmail and threats of blocking supply routes, the Americans now move less than 35 per cent of their supplies through Pakistan with the rest coming across their Northern Distribution Network, assisted by Russia and the Central Asian Republics. Two years ago over 70 per cent of American supplies were routed through Pakistan.

Whether it is on the question of the secret approval it gave for American drone attacks on Pakistani territory, even as it raised a public hue and cry on the issue, or in its policy of providing shelter to Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad while claiming to be a loyal ally in America's 'War on Terror', the duplicity of the Pakistani military stands exposed before its own people and, indeed, the world at large. But, fear of the military and its jihadi protégés constantly stifles liberal voices in Pakistan. The elimination of people like Salman Taseer and Syed Saleem Shahzad are clear signals that there is little to choose between General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Lt-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha and their favourite jihadis on the one hand, and Syria's President Basher al Assad on the other when it comes to crushing and eliminating manifestations of dissent. The Pakistani Army is finding it difficult to defeat its erstwhile Pashtun protégés in the Tehriq-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan. There is, therefore, little prospect of it meeting American demands to act decisively against the followers of Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani. With Pakistan's Generals hell bent on retaining their jihadi assets in Afghanistan on the one hand and the US determined to ensure that the AfPak badlands straddling the Durand Line are not infested with pathologically anti-American jihadis on the other, the two 'major non-NATO allies' appear set on a collision course, though laced with pretensions of seeking mutual understanding.

With China upset at Pakistan-based militants challenging its writ in Xinjiang, there is little prospect of Beijing pandering to Islamabad's jihadiinclinations in Afghanistan, despite its aversion for a continuing American military presence close to its borders. China's assistance to its 'all weather friend' will, however, continue, primarily to 'contain' India. The Russians have made it clear that their air space and territory are available for American operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban, as long as they can jointly crackdown on production and smuggling of opium. Unless there is a total meltdown in their economy, the Americans will retain a relatively small, but significant military/air presence in Afghanistan, primarily for counter-terrorism operations against groups operating across the Durand Line. There are hints that their military presence in Afghanistan will also be geared to deal with any possible takeover of Pakistan's nuclear weapons by jihadis, including by extremists within Pakistan's much-vaunted military.

The Afghan National Army will, in all likelihood, not be able to retain control of areas bordering Pakistan for any length of time after December 2014. India and the international community will have to be prepared for this situation and for the change in the dynamics of internal politics within Afghanistan given the deeprooted non-Pashtun aversion to domination by the Taliban. We should have no illusions that we can change the jihadi mindset of Pakistan's Armed Forces and learn the right lessons from the heavy price the Americans have paid for their naiveté on the military mindset in Pakistan. We will also have to contribute actively in regional and international forums focussing on AfPak developments. The endgame in Afghanistan has only just begun.







A recent blast in Imphal East District has killed five persons and left eight others injured. The bombing was carried out by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland's Isak Muivah faction in protest against the integrationist impetus of the valley-based politics and Meitei insurgent groups. Instead of playing into the hands of the insurgent groups, it's imperative the Government resolve inherent contradictions

On August 1, 2011, five persons were killed and eight others injured when militants triggered a powerful improvised explosive device explosion near a barber's shop at Sanghakpam Bazar in Imphal East District. The explosive, planted on a two-wheeler, killed two Manipuri girls and two persons from Bihar — the barber and his son. Later, on August 2, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh announced that the National Socialist Council of Nagaland's Isak Muivah was behind the blast, and revealed the identity of the fifth person killed in the incident as an active cadre of the NSCN-IM, named Anthony. He noted, further, that the NSCN-IM cadre, who rode the scooter with the explosives, might have had a specific target, but the device may have exploded prematurely. The Chief Minister claimed that the blast was aimed at the members of Autonomous District Council, who are housed in a nearby guest house complex of District Councils. The explosion reportedly occurred just after the vehicles of ADC members had passed past the spot.

Earlier on July 23, 2011, suspected NSCN-IM militants exploded a bomb in the office of the ADC in Ukhrul District, bordering Myanmar. On May 28, 2011 three persons were injured when a powerful bomb exploded at a sports stadium (Khuman Lampak) complex in Imphal West District. The blast was apparently intended to target members and officials of the ADC, who were functioning from this location due to the threat held out by the NSCN-IM.

Significantly, the United Naga Council, the NSCN-IM linked apex Naga body in Manipur, had opposed the ADC 2010 elections, held in two phases, on May 26 and June 2, 2010, under the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (3rd Amendment) Act, 2008, since these were not under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution of India. The UNC argues: "Local adjustment has been spelt in the form of the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (3rd Amendment) Act, 2008, which has been carefully doctored and stripped off of all the provisions that go into self-governance and the rights of the hill people over their land and resources and removing the primacy of the traditional institutions of the tribals which is enshrined in the Constitution of India. The 6th Schedule of the Constitution of India has provisions of self-governance and the rights of the hill people over their land and resources and the primacy of the traditional institutions of the tribals."

The UNC's relations with the State Government have been deteriorating since the killing of two students in Police firing on supporters of NSCN-IM 'general secretary' Thuingaleng Muivah, while they were taking out a rally at Mao Gate in Senapati District, when the State Government blocked Muivah from entering Manipur on May 6, 2010. The situation worsened further with the ADC elections, held after a gap of 20 years, and the UNC announced a severing of ties with the Government of Manipur. The UNC approached the Union Government with the demand for an 'alternative administrative arrangement', declaring that the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (3rd Amendment) Act 2008 failed to meet tribal aspirations or to provide any sort of autonomy, leaving the ADCs at the mercy and under the control of the State Government.

Subsequently, in a memorandum submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 14, 2010, the UNC stated that on July 1, 2010, the Nagas in Manipur had resolved, through their highest decision-making forum, the Naga People's Convention, that the Nagas would sever all political ties with the 'communal' Government of Manipur and, consequently, the vacuum in governance and administration created as a result, must be filled with an 'alternative arrangement' by the Government of India in consultation with the Naga people at the earliest possible. It was also asserted that the 'imposed' ADC elections were "null and void" and, under no circumstances, would the ADCs be allowed to function in the Naga areas.

Shortly thereafter, on October 12, 2010, the Manipur Police Department received intelligence inputs that the NSCN-IM had decided, at the 'highest level', to selectively target and eliminate elected members of the ADCs belonging to the Naga community, since they had failed to 'honour' the group's diktats for the boycott of ADC elections and, after getting elected, refused to resign from their posts despite specific 'directives'.

On June 30, 2011, however, the UNC demand for an 'alternative administrative arrangement' for the Nagas living in Manipur received a severe blow, with both the State and Central Governments categorically setting aside this option during tripartite talks held in Senapati District. The outcome of these talks was in line with Chief Minister Ibobi Singh earlier declaration that a separate administrative model for the Nagas of Manipur was out of the question.

The State Government indicated that the elected ADCs in the Hill region had enough power to develop their Hill Districts and redress grievances of the tribal people. Moreover, the Joint Secretary (North-east) in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Mr Shambhu Singh, added, "We could not understand what 'alternative arrangement' means and the Centre is not going to do anything on the issue."

Meanwhile, on April 15, 2011, eight persons, including six policemen, were killed and six injured in an ambush laid by the NSCN-IM on the convoy party of the Phungyar Member of the Manipur Legislative Assembly, Wungnaoshang Keishing, near Riha village in Ukhrul District. On April 19, 2011, the outfit accused Wungnaoshang of working hand in glove with the Ibobi Government's policy to 'disintegrate Naga territories' by creating a new cosmopolitan District, Phungyar. Keishing, who supported the initiative, had been warned of "drastic action" by the UNC, if he did not withdraw his support for the new district. As the demand for the creation of Phungyar district becomes sharper, the UNC, on April 8, 2011, without naming the Phungyar District Demand Committee, stated,

"It is implicit that the demand for new District(s) at this point of time in Naga/Hill areas of Manipur is the handiwork of the adversaries to vitiate and derail the 'alternative arrangement' process which is in progress peacefully and democratically. The UNC reminded that the Naga people in the State of Manipur have severed all political ties with the Government of Manipur, demanding the intervention of the Government of India for an 'alternative arrangement' outside the Government of Manipur.

Despite the threat to his life, Keishing has said that there was no question of his withdrawing support to the demand for the upgradation of the Phungyar Assembly Constituency into a full-fledged revenue district, in the interest of bringing about development and meeting the aspirations of the people.

In another gruesome incident on July 24, 2011, a young couple was killed at Lungpha village in Ukhrul district. Claiming responsibility for the killing, the NSCN-IM said that Vareignam Mahongnao was killed for his anti-Naga activities as he was allegedly working with the Manipur Naga Revolutionary Front. However, on July 28, MNRF denied any links with Vareignam. MNRF, an NSCN-IM splinter group in Manipur, was formed in 2008 under the leadership of Allen Siro, and claims to be an autonomous revolutionary group with the avowed aim of protecting the territorial integrity of Manipur and working for communal harmony between different ethnic groups in the State.

Evidently, the whole issue is intertwined with the NSCN-IM's larger ambition for the integration of Naga areas under one administrative unit, and this is the cause of the spike in violence by the group in Manipur. According to the partial data compiled by South Asia Terrorism Portal, out of the 43 insurgency related killings in 2011, 15 are associated with the NSCN-IM, including eight civilians and seven security force personnel. In 2010, out of a total of 138 fatalities, the NSCN-IM was involved in only one incident — on May 18, 2010, one of its cadres was killed while the bomb he was planting under a bridge along the stretch of the Imphal-Mao section of the National Highway-39 in Senapati District, blew up accidentally.

On August 2, 2011, the Manipur Chief Minister, disclosed that the State Government has advised the Central Government to revoke the ongoing cease-fire with the NSCN-IM, since it continued to engage in open acts of terrorism in the State. Such advice is, however, unlikely to impact on the 'peace process' that has survived continuous breaches of 'ground rules' since the ceasefire agreement of 1997.

Amidst rising NSCN-IM activities in Manipur, reports indicate that major Meitei insurgent outfits in the State are making serious efforts to form a "united front" in pursuit of their own ethnically polarised goals. On August 9, 2011, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs M Ramachandran told the Lok Sabha that these groups included the People's Liberation Army, United National Liberation Front, Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup, Noyon faction of Kangleipak Communist Party, Vice Chairman faction of People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak, Progressive faction of PREPAK and United People's Party of Kangleipak.

Manipur has experienced rapid improvement in its security scenario as steep declines in fatalities have been recorded in the State since 2008. All this is now in jeopardy, with the NSCN-IM's rising ambitions, and the 're-activation' of a coalescing Meitei insurgent front. Much of the escalating NSCN-IM violence has, of course, been directed against Naga leaders who have refused to toe the rebel group's line. Nevertheless, the fundamentals of this violence are directed against the integrationist impetus of the valley-based politics and Meitei insurgent groups. Unless these inherent contradictions are managed — if not resolved — the spiral of violence can only push this unfortunate State back into the cycles of bloodletting that have wracked it for nearly five decades now.

The writer is the Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management. ***************************************





While inflation is soaring high, rising prices of commodities in the international market has slowed down the growth of manufacturing sector in China. Beijing now needs to undertake measures to control inflation and retain China's growth rate

China has gradually become a manufacturing hub of the world by letting in capital and technologies and bringing its low cost advantages into full play. However, the growth of the manufacturing sector in China has slowed down in the past seven months with a rise in inflation. Any such development in the Chinese economy sends ripples across the globe. This slowdown in manufacturing has raised a few questions: Where is the Chinese economy heading? What are the likely implications of this slowdown?

Manufacturing forms the backbone of the Chinese economy, and its six predominant industries, comprising petrochemical, metallurgy, forestry, medicine, food and machinery, have contributed separately to the overall growth of manufacturing in China. The manufacturing sector recorded its slowest expansion in 28 months in June 2011, with the Purchasing Managers Index falling from 52 per cent to 50.9 per cent at a rate of 1.1 per cent per month, according to the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing.

The PMI index gives an image of overall activity in manufacturing, including output, order flows and pricing, with a figure above 50 indicating growth in activity and a figure below that level indicating a contraction.

Inflation in China has become a major problem today. The Consumer Price Index, a main measure of inflation, jumped to its highest in three years surging to 6.4 per cent in June 2011. Inflation soared in China because of the rise in global commodities' prices, pressure for higher wages and also because of a severe drought this year. To control inflation, the Government has implemented a set of measures.

The People's Bank of China has lifted the reserve ratio of commercial banks to absorb excess liquidity in the system and curb inflation. In order to control the inflation rate, the banks have increased the reserve rate by 0.5 per cent since March for the fifth time. It is now 19.5 per cent for small banks and 21.5 per cent for big banks, which is the highest in China's history. However, the Chinese Government has assured that it will try to maintain the inflation rate at around four per cent for the next five years.

In addition to internal problems, external factors are also playing a key role in curbing the growth of the manufacturing sector. The country's imports are mostly half-processed goods and raw materials. The rising international prices of oil, coal, iron ore and agricultural products have forced Chinese factories to pay more for importing these raw materials before processing them into finished products. Chinese exporters are finding it difficult to pass on rising costs to US buyers because as exporters of labour-intensive products, China is weak in bargaining for better prices.

Export demands for Chinese goods have also gone down in major Chinese export destinations; partly because of the impact of the tsunami on Japan, high unemployment in the US and excessive debt in European nations. These nations are attempting massive cutbacks in expenditure, thus decelerating the demand for Chinese goods.

It is worth highlighting that with so many global multinational companies looking to their China operations to drive growth, a material slowdown in China would have a negative impact on earnings and cash flows generated by these multinational companies from their operations.

Moreover, the slowdown has been quite comprehensive, as apart from manufacturing even the automobile and housing sector have witnessed weaknesses in recent months. The value of land sales in Beijing this year has dropped 75 per cent as has the value of car sales owing to the withdrawal of incentives by the Government. Retail sales have tapered off somewhat since the pre-holiday peak. This is an important indicator because domestic private consumption has become an increasingly important part of the Chinese economy.

Contrary to the above developments, China is entering a decade of double-digit wage growth, which is a good thing for economic rebalancing. But its inflationary impact should not be discounted. If not handled well, it could lead to instability. In 1988, Zhao Ziyang was criticised by conservatives for managing price reforms (although the idea of price reform originally came from Deng Xiaoping). Hence, China's growth is likely to go down from the current 10 per cent to five per cent by 2020.

Thus this slowdown in the manufacturing sector can be attributed partly to external factors and partly to state-engineering, as demonstrated by the Communist Party's ruling Politburo's indication that economic growth remains the top priority of the authorities. China is engaged in a tug of war, trying to encourage sustainable growth while struggling to control inflation.

The writer is the Research Officer, IPCS.






Chinese security forces have launched a two-month 'strike hard' crackdown against violence, terrorism and radical Islam following renewed ethnic violence in the restive western region of Xinjiang, the regional Government said.

The campaign began on August 11 and will last through October 15, and includes around-the-clock patrols of trouble spots, identity checks and street searches of people and vehicles, according to a notice posted on Tuesday on the regional Government's website.

Authorities will step up investigations of suspicious activity and deal with defendants even more harshly through accelerated trials, the notice said.

"Public security units at all levels across the region must strengthen the work of security, take strict precautions, and create fear and awe," it said.

The region's police department conceded that the number of rising violent incidents was on the rise, and pledged to "uncover the masterminds and organisers behind such activities."

"The frequency with which terrorist activities are carried out in the region is rising and it must be curbed," the department said in a statement late on Tuesday.

China rolls out such crackdown campaigns on a regular basis despite criticism from rights groups over the trampling of rights of the accused and imposing tougher penalties for crimes from theft to endangering state security.

Signaling the authorities' determination to crush all opposition, Beijing earlier this month dispatched to Xinjiang its elite Snow Leopard anti-terrorism unit, which had been charged with securing the 2008 Beijing Olympics and is specially trained in anti-terrorism, riot control, bomb disposal and responding to hijackings.

The unit will bolster security for the annual China-Eurasia Expo, being held in the regional capital, Urumqi, the first week in September, along with National Day celebrations on October 1.

The crackdown follows new outbreaks of violence blamed on militants among Xinjiang's native Uighur (pronounced WEE'-gur) population, ethnic Turks who are culturally, linguistically and religiously distinct from China's majority Han. Militants have for decades been fighting a low-level insurgency to gain independence for lightly populated but resource-rich Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and several unstable Central Asian states.

China generally keeps a tight lid on information about attacks in Xinjiang, and the overall level of violence is unclear. Uighur activists say even peaceful protests are often labeled acts of terrorism.

However, official reports said at least three dozen people, including the attackers, were killed in three attacks in the cities of Hotan and Kashgar, despite a massive security presence that was tightened following a major anti-Chinese riot in Urumqi two years ago in which at least 197 people were killed.

Beijing blames the violence on militants based overseas, specifically ones from the East Turkistan Islamic Movement who it says trained in militant camps in Pakistan.

Yet Beijing has provided no direct evidence, and analysts say they suspect its claims are driven more by ideology than proof. Uighur activists say harsh crackdowns only lead to greater anger among young Uighurs who already are feeling culturally and economically sidelined by waves of Han migration to the region.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the German-based World Uyghur Congress, said high-pressure tactics and "systematic persecution" of attempts to assert a Uighur identity would only encourage radicalism.

"China is ducking responsibility for the turmoil its own policies have created," Raxit said.







Having made the monumental blunder of arresting Anna Hazare and his aides for wishing to undertake a protest fast on corruption, the government has been made to eat humble pie. Realising how much it had underestimated the scale of support for Hazare - thousands of protesters across the country have come out to express solidarity for the Gandhian activist - the government quickly moved to make amends by clearing the social activist's release from judicial custody. However, Hazare refused to leave the premises of Tihar jail until allowed to undertake his protest unconditionally.

With public anger swelling and having been pilloried by the opposition in Parliament for its high-handedness, the government did yesterday what was inevitable - climb down and agree to Hazare's demands. The episode represents yet another public relations disaster for the UPA. It exposes how far removed the Manmohan Singh-led government is from popular sentiment. Were elections to be held today, the UPA would have struggled to hold on to power.

The government has only itself to blame for this mess. It failed to gauge the national mood against corruption and did not help its cause by introducing a feeble version of the Lokpal Bill in Parliament. While there is merit in the government's case that the Lokpal is no magic bullet, it has done precious little to push through alternative measures to strengthen systemic checks against corruption. With Hazare and his supporters continuing with their protest fast, it is time the government grasps the nettle and initiates a new debate on corruption. On the Lokpal issue, a wider debate keeping in mind the need to devise an inter-locking mechanism of institutional checks and balances - to prevent too much concentration of power in one authority - is warranted.

The government is welcome not to agree with the Hazare version of the Lokpal Bill. But it must do so through a rational critique of its provisions, not by heaping invective on its proponents. And it must moot its own anti-corruption measures, whether by moving quickly on laws to protect whistleblowers and to keep politicians accused of serious crimes out of legislatures, or by reducing ministers' discretionary powers, strengthening judicial accountability and setting up fast-track courts for corruption cases. That way it can get ahead of public sentiment and even steal a march on opposition parties, which are quite ambivalent about anti-corruption measures but have nevertheless extracted greater political capital out of the anti-corruption movement than the government has.






Bad news just got worse. The 17-member eurozone is grappling with a sovereign debt crisis. Greece, Portugal, Ireland and even Spain are on tenterhooks. Germany is the one nation believed capable of buoying the region in hard times. But its April-to-June GDP growth plunged to 0.1% from 1.3% the previous quarter, while France's has flatlined. The euro area as a whole grew by a feeble 0.2% in 2011's second quarter. The poor show by Europe's two biggest economies could impact the willingness of their already disgruntled populations to rescue debt-saddled nations. That in turn would fuel nationalistic sentiments in places like Greece, which will question the rationale of being shackled to the euro and austerity blueprints. Compounding these problems is the growing feeling that bailouts for countries like Greece merely increase indebtedness while delaying the inevitable loan default.

Europe achieved monetary union without enunciating shared rules on fiscal responsibility. The risks this poses today aren't just Europe's headache in a world also spooked by the US's economic sluggishness. Market volatility, the spectre of protectionism and falling overseas demand should worry India, itself hit by slowing growth and price rise. True, FDI flows surged recently in India and exports haven't been doing badly. But this won't last unless investors are actively courted and goods and services diversified along with their destinations. We must revive stalled reform, getting FDI into more sectors while pushing disinvestment, tax and labour reform and land acquisition revamp. Removing structural bottlenecks to agriculture and industry will both help cool inflation and boost growth. While the government needs to act, the opposition too must stop striking non-cooperative postures. Instead, it must back every effort to power the economy through difficult times.






Consider the irony. The crisis facing capitalist economies today is because of the free market and liberal politics. Consider further. The solution to the crisis will have to be found from within these two systems. The situation brings to mind the Churchillian comment on demo-cracy. It is the worst of all political structures but for the rest. Capitalism too is riven with faults but none is as deep as those exposed by the alternatives. The challenge ahead is, therefore, to improve the nature of the governance of democratic capitalism. It is not to look for a systemic alternative.

A trawl through the bastions of the free market will throw up one common sight. They are all in deep economic difficulty. It will also reveal that the trouble stems from the unchecked play of "animal spirits" and political opportunism. A further revelation will be the dysfunctionality of their political systems.

Take America, for example. It has just staved off a debt default but in the process has suffered a credit downgrade and revealed to the world the dysfunctional interplay between the White House and the Congress. The debt deal itself is simply a tourniquet that does not heal the deeper wounds causing slow growth and a burgeoning deficit. It will inevitably come undone in 18 months when Congress votes again to raise the federal debt ceiling. Meantime, the wounds will fester.

Take Europe. Here too a plaster reflecting the lowest common denominator of compromise has been applied to tackle the sovereign debt crisis affecting Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy. The salve will wear off sooner rather than later because it does not alleviate the structural causes of the crisis. The European Union is not a state and its members cannot commit to financing a bailout without the endorsement of their parliament. That is never easy because of the understandable reluctance to finance someone else's profligacy.

Ultimately, the EU will have to decide whether to move forwards towards monetary and fiscal consolidation or backwards towards a reconfigured eurozone comprised perhaps only of the North European countries (France, Germany, Benelux, etc) with the Mediterranean nations ploughing their separate monetary and fiscal furrows. In the interim and given the divergent interests of the stakeholders - politicians, banks, the public - the plaster will provide the only dressing.

America and Europe are not the only bastions seeing their walls crumble. Fortress Japan has also been teetering for sometime. The question therefore has to be asked. How is it that these once-strong economies are today in such dire difficulty? Why is it that their political systems look so incapable of tackling the crisis? There are many specific reasons but one general explanation can be distilled. Democratic capitalism has triggered fundamental tensions between the "remorseless logic of the market" and the "craven pursuit of power". The American debt saga illustrates this tension.

Everyone knows that one cannot live beyond one's means without borrowed funds. And that one cannot cry off debt obligations on the grounds that the expenditure was ill-advised. America has been living beyond its means for years and it was clear that the Congress would have to raise the borrowing limit. It was inconceivable to imagine that America would cross the Rubicon of a technical debt default.

This market logic did not, however, sit well with the political aspirations of the 80-odd 'Tea Party' freshmen Republicans. Their goal was simply to push Obama deeper into an economic hole and, in the process, strengthen their political base. The fact that their actions might trigger financial calamity or call into question their own credibility - given they come into Congress under the metaphoric banner "back off Government, let the markets rule" - did not appear to concern them in the least. The consequence was that the decision came down to the wire and America got a deal that a respected commentator graded between an incomplete and a fail.

Democratic capitalism has seldom been shown up in such poor light. Its politics has looked fractured and dysfunctional and its economics disruptive, and the fallout has been adverse and global. It has also shown itself to be unresponsive to existing and emergent global concerns like global warming and natural disasters. A glaring indictment is the deafening silence with which the system has responded to the monumental tragedy unfolding in the horn of Africa. Millions are dying of starvation even though governments had been forewarned about the drought and the need for emergency assistance.

The fact is that power and wealth have got concentrated and the divide between the few and the many has widened. The stock market crash and the UK riots are symptomatic of this divide. Governance appears increasingly to be by a few and for the few. That, in a connected world, is not sustainable.

The pendulum must not however swing towards more intrusive government and command economics. Experience shows us that that would be counterproductive. It should instead be moved in the direction of reinvigorated democratic and market institutions to, on one hand, contain the spread of contagion and irrationalism and, on the other, reverse the trend towards narrow, partisan, self-centred and ideological governance.

The writer is chairman of the Shell Group in India. Views expressed are personal.




                                                                                                                                                      TIMES VIEW



Discussing a possible remake of his 1998 romantic hit Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Bollywood movie director Karan Johar stated that an 'overdose' of information and communication has taken the 'beauty and innocence' out of romance. He couldn't be more wrong.

From time immemorial, human history has been marked by two simultaneous trends - a thirst for information and communication with a quest for romance. Human beings are social animals. We seek love, cherish comradeship and share our feelings. We've come a long way from our forebears who lived in caves and drew on rocks to express their emotions. But we still share the same stabbing thrills of romance that make people everywhere seek - and please - partners. Living on berries versus Blackberrys doesn't change what's fundamental to us.

Information and communication actu-ally help us understand and navigate romance better. From Kalidas to Shakespeare, Goethe to Google, the theme of romance remains ubiquitous, poets expressing it in verse, filmmakers in frames, search engines in tips like restaurants to take your sweetheart to and things you should definitely not say on a date. There's little point knowing vaguely there's love out there - information and communication help us get it. Today, the internet helps thousands separated by distance experience togetherness. That journey began using simpler modes - doves carrying love-notes, kites emblazoned with passion, letters - but the end remains the same: love. And romance. Information and communication are just the messengers, and yes, they've changed, enabling us to know ourselves and others better. Their message, however, remains the same.

People use technology to ask and answer that eternal question, "Do you love me?" And the process remains as unnerving, thrilling and moving each time.









The viral social media and techno-logy explosion have squeezed the soul out of romance. No longer do words like romance and love conjure up a sense of anticipation about your loved one. Karan Johar's claim that information overdose has 'taken the beauty of romance out of relationships' is no exaggeration. This post-modern 24x7 communication age is predatory in its nature, where romance is instantly made and consumed like fast food. The need to engage in round-the-clock conversation is fast acquiring the dimensions of an obsessive compulsive disorder. Online dating and romance have brought an easy familiarity, throwing out the wonder of imagination, the pleasure of longing.

Take for example Facebook, its subscribers constantly updating their images, putting out endless information about themselves, often hour-by-hour accounts of their lives, their likes and dislikes, favourite books, films, actors, the restaurants they frequent, the malls they shop at. This overdose spoils the flavour of love, turning it into yet another commodity sold over the counter.

In an interview last year actor Drew Barrymore, a self-professed technophobe said, ''I just don't like this compulsive, instantaneous, over-information, lack-of-privacy, weirdo aspect of the world. If you meet someone, they already know everything." The love letter, probably as old as the written civilisation itself, is almost extinct. A survey by Britain's National Trust found that nearly 62% of the respondents had never sent a love letter. One in
five never penned a love poem. But more than two-thirds had texted "I love you", in all its abbreviations. Truly, could classics like Wuthering Heights and Anna Karenina be born in an age crackling with social media networks?







All hail the new Annadata. Provider of food for introspection and media fodder. Creator of nightly teleindignation. Destroyer of Corruption. Preserver of the Great Gandhian Roadshow. Annaji, Hazare saal jiyo. Aur hazare jail bharo.

On Independence Day, Team Anna declared freedom from the lawmakers of the land, and stated that its leader would go ahead with Fast 2.0. Next, to the visible jerking of knees, the authorities arrested Anna Hazare & Co. They were then dispatched to Tihar Jail, former domain of Anna-ji's chief promoter and present address of the chief prompters of his anti-corruption movement.

Then, in a reversal of history and logic, I-Day was followed by Quit Tihar Day, as Anna was told to walk out of jail by the same authorities who by now clearly didn't seem to have any. Like the August Krantiveers, our new Son of Gandhi refused. The word in the corridors of power (read, 'TV studios') was that the release had been prompted by the other S of G.

Anna-ji owes a great deal to his incarcerators/preventive detainers. The strong-arm-weak-kneed sequence of events has upped his victory to a level he may never otherwise have achieved. It has given those OTT labels, 'second freedom struggle' and 'murder of democracy', a legitimacy they never deserved. As anyone who went through J P Narayan's movement and the Emergency will tell you when they dare.

Indeed, after the government was foolish enough to muzzle the messiah of public morality, it's going to be difficult for anyone not besotted by his campaign to be heard above the swelling din in the streets. It will be even more daunting to voice dissent in salons far removed from the heat, dust and blinding rain of zindabads. So let me do so from the civilised safety of this page.

What intrigues me most is the enormity - and absurdity - of the belief vested in the Gospal according to Anna. It has been projected as the instant answer to corruption. Pass his version of the Bill, and this omnipresent monster will disappear. Reject it, and rot forever in bribery's greedier maw. Am i the one who's being simplistic?

We can see that it's the educated middle class out there, not some lumpen mob. Yet, is anyone ready to give pause to the lusty slogans and lustier bhajans, and question the naivete of this assumption? Yes, yes, i know, Anna-ji is the potent symbol of public rage and frustration. But symbolism needs only one small step to fall into tokenism.

My awe for the 'li'l ol' man in the white topi' is as great as the next woman's, but i continue to have a problem with the posturing bunch he has around him, starting with a former top cop known for her brutal enforcement of the law but who on Tuesday did nothing short of inciting the police to disobey orders.

Team Anna should be grateful to the government. Its ham-handed actions have saved their bacon. Not only has it turned them into the neo martyrs of the faux freedom struggle, the cycle of arrests-release-refusal has deferred the problem of actually delivering the end of corruption.

Anna-ji, as i cautioned during Fast 1.0, you really need to worry about controlling your unleashed tsunami, especially its benami owners. Those grinding their political axes on your handy whetstone. And, more so, the piggyback passionistas who want a free ride on your gravy train, the stars who have hitched yourselves to your brandwagon.

The Facebook fedayeen who smell jasmine in the fetid air are just misguided innocents compared to this seasoned corps ever ready to don its shining hysteria, and ride into prime-time battle for the latest cause celeb.

* * *

Alec Smart said: "What's the government's hit song? 'Chahey koi mujhhey bungle-ee kahein'."







India and Bharat seem to have jumped off their parallel tracks to merge in the nationwide fury against corruption. Anna Hazare and his merry band seem to have triggered off a tidal wave of anger, beyond their imagination and beyond the issue of the government's lokpal vs the jan lokpal.

It is rare that the upwardly mobile and village India share a platform but that is exactly what is happening today as cutting across all barriers, India seems to be giving its political class a unified message against a system where corruption is so ossified that it has become second nature to pay for things which are people's fundamental rights.

The breaking point seems to have been one mega scam after the other in which the government acted only when push came to several shoves.

Nothing gets people's goat in what is still a third world country as much as the thought that someone they put in power is stealing from them.

In scenes reminiscent of the Jayaprakash Narayan movement which bought a mighty prime minister like Indira Gandhi to her knees, this hitherto largely unheard of man from Ralegan Siddhi seems to have tapped a vein of dormant discontent against a system which now seems at odds with the people it is meant for.

This explains why young students, middle class housewives, the Indian diaspora and the elderly have all come out to stand up and be counted. And in these troubled waters, political sharks of different hues have begun circling sensing the big kill ahead.

What they don't realise is that had they been in power and things had come to such a head, they would be equally vulnerable to a public which refuses to be cowed down anymore.

The era when charismatic and silver-tongued leaders could change the public mood with just one stirring sentence appears to be over. The Prime Minister, well-intentioned though he might be, was hard put to make himself heard above the din in Parliament when he tried to assert the supremacy of elected bodies as opposed to street corner rabble rousers.

He certainly had a point, the problem is that no one is willing to listen anymore.

To hope that he will rise to Churchillian oratory is Panglossian to say the least. The government can no longer put people off by promising to act after one or other committee looks into matters.

Given the numbers on the street, the government's time starts now.

A magnificent gesture by the PM, a workable solution, a willingness to allow democratic dissent, a signal that it will engage in meaningful dialogue are just some of the things which could see people go back to business as usual.

The clock is ticking and we can only hope it is not a doomsday one.






By accident or devilry, the cat is finally out of the bag. And it has taken no less than Leon Panetta, the defence secretary of the United States, to hammer home the astute observation that elements within the Pakistani government have links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as well as the Haqqani network.

It's clear that there is a relationship there, Panetta reportedly remarked, while addressing the officers of the National Defence University in Washington.

Hopefully, with a nod and a wink, what with that revelation sounding right in the league of what seasoned agony aunts and neighbourhood gossips might say to each other.

Panetta, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency before taking up his current position, was not one to disappoint and managed to go beyond that cryptic comment.

He revealed that the LeT especially, was a group that went into India and threatened attacks there.

In case you were already feeling overwhelmed with the import and significance of such weighty remarks from the former spy chief (gleaned no doubt from the millions of dollars and man hours spent listening in to mischievous chatter or peering from eyes in the sky), there was more to whet the appetite.

It (the LeT) has conducted attacks in India, he added. Somewhere in the barren badlands of Pakistan, we suspect, LeT operatives themselves were shocked and went into a bit of a sulk, what with their little cat-and-mouse games exposed so ignominiously on the global stage.

Panetta, along with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, did however point out that even after such grave knowledge, there could be forgiveness. For the US, which was fighting the al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, needed the support of Pakistan's government and hence had to maintain a relationship with it.

While you figure out the strategic and intelligence compulsions of being friends with the enemy you are trying to quell, we wait for the next episode of this compelling love-hate saga.








Where is Manish Tewari, the Congress spokesperson? I did not see him on prime time TV on Tuesday. V Narayanaswamy is no match for our young and sassy Tewari.

I have never heard you being so complimentary about anyone. Are you all right?

Oh yes. Listen to this: Tewari said Hazare is corrupt and his followers are (now hold your breath) armchair fascists, overground Maoists, closet anarchists...

He has a way with words, I must say!

There are very few politicians in India who can entertain and breathe fire and brimstone at the same time. Tewari is no doubt a prose prince among men. He must have pleased his boss with these fiery speeches.

I don't think so because I did not see him defending the government the day it was humbled by the old man.

How do you know? Maybe he is rehearsing new lines for us once peace returns.

It's difficult to beat him but we can try. Maybe he will call Anna an underground politician and overground activist. Maybe he will reach out to Anna's supporters and do a bit of Gandhigiri himself by embracing them...

Do say: Lights, action, Manish.

Don't say: Anna for your thoughts.






The way the Congress government is handling the Anna Hazare and lokpal episode shows how lack of political acumen can lead to political disaster. What was once Anna versus Parliament has now turned into Anna versus the Congress.

Even now, the situation can be salvaged partly if both the drafts of the lokpal bill are sent to the parliamentary standing committee.

From the beginning, Congress leaders misread the dynamics of the movement. The Ramdev episode was also a blunder but the government managed to salvage the situation because the yoga guru lacks political experience, strategic shrewdness and foresight.

But if he had been arrested then, perhaps things would have taken a different turn.

Team Anna has played its cards right: by getting arrested, it's got the media on its side. Anna and his team knew very well that they will occupy a much larger political space post-arrest than they did before. The Congress' antagonistic stance, on the other hand, provided the necessary impetus to Anna and the movement.

I fail to understand what is it that the Congress intended to gain by opposing Anna. On the contrary, the rate at which scams are emerging, keeping Anna on its side would have helped heal the damage caused by the scam-tainted ministers.

Miscalculations do happen in politics but this wasn't the case here — it was simply a severe lack of political understanding of the movement. This lack of understanding was also laced with arrogance. Anna's draft may have many flaws but it should have been left to Parliament to decide on it.

In India, people's movement are not so much based on contents of drafts than on the bigger picture. In this case too, most people don't know the draft details but are with Anna because they perceive him to be someone fighting corruption. Since there is a popular anti-corruption sentiment among the masses, people are predisposed to sympathise with any such movement.

Anna only chose the right time to exploit the popular discontent.

Even though it is true that in a country of 1.2 billion people, half a million activists (at the most) should not emotionally blackmail the government, that Anna's movement is more a media creation than a reality, that middle class and the business communities have never been enchanted by the Gandhian school of thought in practice, that the media blitzkrieg alone cannot change the electoral mandate, yet managing popular perception is critical for any political party.

This is where political skills come into play. But the Congress mismanaged it so badly that it is now bearing the brunt of discontent when actually it was directed at the system.

The worse is yet to come as the government has already failed to utilise the last honourable lifeline. The more they indulge in anti-Anna bashing, the messier it will become. The government can still review its decision and send both drafts to the standing committee.

Though, it will set a wrong precedent but having come this far, there aren't too many choices.

The other remarkable point is that these public issues are being handled either by Rajya Sabha MPs or inexperienced Lok Sabha MPs. The stalwarts and seasoned Lok Sabha MPs of the Congress and its allies are unusually silent.

This casual approach of the experienced and politically dexterous politicians raises a suspicion that these leaders know that they have been marginalised. Everyone knows that only certain people get precedence in the party.

It's time the Congress introspects and reaches out for genuine talents beyond the coterie of yes-men.

(Ravindra Badgaiyan is a member of the Film Writers' Association, Mumbai and an alumnus of London School of Economics. The views expressed by the author are personal)





Outside a Sufi shrine on a ramshackle south Mumbai street, a large poster above the main door flaps in the monsoon wind.

"The one who gives or takes bribe is liable for hell," it says, quoting verse 786/92 from the Islamic scriptures called Hadees Sharieff. "Viva! Viva! Viva! A 101 gun salute to Young India," goes an enthusiastic tweet from Lt Gen HS Panag, a former Indian Army commander, living in Chandigarh.

If there were questions about the affiliations of the anti-corruption movement started by Kisan Baburao Hazare, or "Anna (elder brother)" as we know him, they were overlooked by most doubters after his clumsy arrest.

To first vilify and then incarcerate, a few hours after Independence Day, a frail, peaceable 74-year-old anti-corruption crusader in Tihar, a jail that symbolises the end of the road for the corrupt leaders, the rapist and the terrorist is to be beyond foolish.

The latest avatar of Anna's six-month-old movement transcends class, religion and profession, and it is purer than before, as Mumbai's BJP chief Raj Purohit found on Tuesday when he and his cohorts, waving party flags, were heckled into leaving.

So, they gather, traders, mothers and clerks, lighting candles at India Gate in New Delhi, as their grandfathers and grandmothers did 64 years ago to watch their nation awake to light and freedom.

So, they gather at Mumbai's Azad Maidan, where once millions gathered to push India towards that freedom, Hindu and Muslim shopkeepers and college youth in jeans and Gandhi topis that say in Marathi and English, "I am Anna Hazare".

So they gather at Freedom Park in Bangalore, quickly stepping out during lunch breaks at their technology companies, to join what Hazare calls the "second freedom movement". It is hard not be swept up in the euphoria of the democratic moment.

But let me tell you why I will not wear a Gandhi topi, light a candle, or join the "second freedom movement". Let me tell you why I do not want be Anna Hazare.

First, I find it hard to associate with the extreme passions at the core of this movement, a Bill to create a powerful anti-corruption ombudsman.

Hazare's edition of the proposed law, the Jan Lokpal Bill, the people's version, has flaws and those who support it blindly must recognise them. There are contentious issues, too many to mention here, including fuzzy definitions, inadequate separation of judicial and police powers, and possible prosecution of bribe givers.

These can be resolved, but there cannot be an our-way-or-no-way approach to negotiations.

Second, while the government was idiotic in accusing Hazare of "being steeped in corruption from head to toe" and autocratic in its actions against peaceful protestors, there is nothing to suggest a new Emergency is at hand.

This is a protest, not a revolution. I sense a lack of emotional proportion and a troubling hypocrisy from a middle class that refuses to get as moved to action by graver things, such as the murder of female children, child labour in homes, hotels and factories, or poverty outside our car windows.

There is excitable talk now of the constitutional right to protest, but this is not something we like to give to Kashmiris, or bother too much when it is snatched from tribals or others on the margins of middle-India's imagination.

Have we ever stood by Irom Sharmila Devi, the Manipuri woman who has been on a hospital bed for a decade, force fed through tubes because she is on a hunger strike to have a draconian security law removed?

Third, the lokpal could be a useful institution, but as Karnataka's Lokayukta is demonstrating, existing institutions only need strengthening. In the brouhaha over Hazare, it has largely escaped national attention that former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa has now sought anticipatory bail after cases of corruption were registered against him.

A lokpal is no panacea for reforms and governance.

"Anna Hazare says bring back the black money. Do u know what will happen if (R) 1,456 lakh crore comes back?" asks one popular sms. India will "financially" be "number one".

Each village, we are told, will get R100 crore; there will be no need to pay electricity bills or taxes for the next 20 years; petrol will cost R25, milk R8; India's borders "will become more stronger (sic) than the China Wall"; we can build 28,000 km of "rubber road (like in Paris)"; houses for 100 million people; 1,500 "Oxford-like universities"; 2,000 free hospitals.

It is a mistake to deride such dreams, as the Congress' smug, condescending, vitriol-spewing functionaries have been doing. The email, text and other messages that have gone viral across large swathes of urban India represent a nation's daily frustrations, unfulfilled aspirations, stalled reforms and shoddy governance.

They represent all the things that exhaust those of us who — unlike the Congress's arrogant, loose-talking ministers and the power elite — cannot jump lines or buy our way out of: rising prices, woeful transport, education and health facilities. They represent all that India desperately wants — and wants now.

It is clear that India's rise over the last 20 years has been despite the government, not because of it. Only now, after the reforms of 1991, are we seeing some urgency.

Awaiting a stalled Parliament are 35 pending bills, 32 new bills and discussions on blockbuster reforms, including the Goods and Services Tax, the Direct Tax Code, the Land Acquisition Bill, and yes, the Lokpal Bill. Anna will be free soon.

He will continue to focus attention on what he must, but India has much, much more to discuss. 




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






Anna Hazare's brief detention and the calculations around it may have made sense at the time for the government, but it certainly cost them in Parliament. Even as the prime minister took charge of his "painful duty to report" on the events of the day before and the government's own rationale, opposition leaders tore into that logic. It was a demonstration of Parliament at its incisive best, with some tough adversarial questioning as well as genuine understanding of the core issues at stake.

The PM explained that his government valued the right to protest, but that right is hedged by certain conditions imposed by those responsible for law and order, which Hazare and his supporters had refused to accept. He drew the House's attention to the crux of the issue — while united on the larger need to fight corruption and also on the urgency of the Lokpal bill, the question is, "who drafts the law and who makes the law?" He spoke about the misconceptions of Hazare's campaign, in trying to impose its will on elected representatives, and appealed to the House to preserve the place of the government's, and Parliament's, processes.

That speech was deftly unravelled by opposition leaders — the BJP's Arun Jaitley called the entire exercise a failure of statecraft, saying what should have been handled by imaginative politics had now been reduced to a quibble over the penal code, that the immediate question was not the primacy of Parliament but the expression of legitimate dissent. While making it clear the BJP did not support Hazare's charter, he spoke of the need for political artfulness to deal with it, rather than the limited lens of law and order, or political leadership "hiding behind men in uniform". Sushma Swaraj also ripped into the government, asking why the matter was now being cast as Hazare's problem with Parliament at large, when the opposition was conspicuously left out of the joint drafting committee earlier. Others like Lalu Prasad spoke, cheered on by MPs across party lines, of how nobody could dictate to Parliament, and of the serious issues at stake with the Anna Hazare movement. The opposition banded together as equal members to calmly discuss the dangers in street action and defend the House, as well as grill the government on its recent decision-making. Unlike shallow studio chatter or the absolutism of Hazare's supporters, this Parliament debate gave us a glimpse of deliberative democracy at its best.






Rajya Sabha has taken up an impeachment motion against a judge, and the solemnity of the exercise inevitably framed the backdrop against which the question of Justice Soumitra Sen's continuance in the Calcutta high court will be decided. The requisite MPs' petition that set up the process cited two allegations for inquiring into misbehaviour: that Sen had misappropriated money he received in his capacity as high court-appointed receiver, and that he had misrepresented facts to the high court.

When Parliament converts into a court, and the proceedings are relayed live, it expectedly makes for riveting theatre. But apart form Sen's future, the arguments also contextualise two pressing issues before Parliament: its capacity to summon its institutional strength amidst sporadic street protests questioning its efficacy, and the need to strike the right balance between accountability and judicial independence that should inform the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, currently pending in Parliament. The past few sessions have been such a record of abdication by MPs, cutting across the aisles — in initiating and taking forward debates or on addressing pending legislation, indeed even in getting the House to function — that they flirt with the danger of hollowing out their assertions of representativeness. Impeachment proceedings are, rightly, extremely rare. But the sobriety that Rajya Sabha instinctively assumed on Wednesday — whips demanding attendance, MPs extending each other the courtesy of a patient hearing — is one they should expect to be expected of them on an average day.

Impeachment of a judge also underlines the precious, and precarious, balance between institutions. The Judicial Bill has been recommended on the grounds that it would set up mechanisms for disciplinary action short of the extreme of removing a judge from office. Yet, lowering the bar for oversight of the judiciary could also be fraught with infringement of the judiciary's independence. Parliament should not postpone that larger discussion.






It sounds suspiciously like Rabindranath Tagore's poem "Juta Abishkaar (The Invention of the Shoe)". Ministers and noblemen running helter-skelter to contrive a means of protecting the king's feet from dust and soil, coming up with absurdities like carpeting the earth. That flutter and flurry can be observed among Mamata Banerjee's ministers and opposition MLAs putting their heads together, running to linguists and littérateurs, losing sleep over what name becomes West Bengal best. The "West" in Bengal condemned the state to the bottom of alphabetically arranged tables, eliciting yawns from other states whenever Bengal took the pulpit. A way out of this tail-ending misery must be found, decreed the chief minister, and a way is being found.

Except, this road has been travelled by the Marxists, when they changed the name of Calcutta but couldn't go the whole hog of retiring the geographical marker that had apparently sunk Bengal's name and fame. After all, if "East" Bengal no longer exists, why should "West" Bengal? One reason the "West" is still extant is history. Bengal was once one, and bigger. Now it's divided by an international border. The other is culture: that border is also a rough cultural divide. But then, jettisoning the burden of history is not necessarily the denial of history.

Of the names on the table, "Paschimbanga" is a literal translation of the current name; "Bangabhumi" has a poetic fervour denied to the prosaic "Bangapradesh"; "Gaur Banga" harks back to ancient Bengal; "Banga" and "Bangla" are minimalist. However, "Paundrabardhan" is a temporal and spatial misfit — one Paundra king apparently fought at Kurukshetra; their capital, Paundranagar, is Bangladesh's oldest urban ruins at Mahasthangarh. Besides, Paundra comprised mostly Pabna, Bogra and Rajshahi — all big names on the map of the other Bengal.







We cannot help dreaming of the barricades. They call to us, the comfortable middle class. We have comfort, aspirations, material expectations. We have power over others, governments that dare not offend us too much. The most powerful in the land are made in our image, whether the soft-spoken professional who leads us, the successful, driven lawyer that opposes him, or the former consultant who we expect will succeed him. But still, we dream of the barricades. When they go up, we want to be on the right side.

What a pity, then, that the moment we seem to think will spark a new, politicised middle class is this one, in the service of a useless, misguided bill, and coalescing around a man whose ideas are regressive and authoritarian. What a pity that it is this that brought flag-wavers out on Tuesday night to cluster around TV cameras that miraculously multiplied their numbers.

Who would not sympathise with the plucky Gandhian crusader tossed into jail by a corrupt government that wishes to silence him? That's the telling of events we seem to believe — in spite of the fact that Anna Hazare is pushing for an absurd and dangerous piece of legislation, shows little of the tolerance that marks political Gandhianism, and has a profound contempt for democracy. Our acceptance of his telling of it underlines Hazare's political canniness, and the ham-handedness of this government when it comes to shaping narratives. But it reveals, too, a yearning for the barricades, for a righteous uniting cause.

When middle classes yearn for such causes, run like hell. When they mobilise, take cover. For their concern rarely extends beyond their own interest. That relentless focus on themselves is the reason that the bourgeoisie pushes an economy forward — but it means that their engagement with politics can be deeply problematic, if not moderated through democratic institutions.

Consider the specifics of this occasion. The right to protest, we are being told, is taken away. Really? I have seen, and participated in, my share of protests in Delhi shut down by the cops — and that's precisely the point, they're shut down. That is how the game is played: in challenging power, not in demanding it works for you. And most protests don't have the options this one was given; no public parks for their protest mela — a few stretches of road, sometimes, for an hour or so. Nor is it, as the BJP tried to claim today, different for political parties. When was the last time a party rally wanted a park for an unlimited period?

The rules must apply to other people. The middle class expects that in general, and thus, specifically, special treatment for this great historical Jan Lokpal moment. That the leaders of this movement will not agree to turn loudspeakers off after 9 pm is not a coincidence. Neither is it that they claim it is a "fundamental right" to dig up roads for shamianas.

I grew up in Calcutta, with its inclusive streets. In Delhi, the exclusionary nature of middle-class space still shocks me. Colonies cut off access to parks and roads, with no right to do so whatsoever; people assume the spot in front of their houses is theirs to dispose of. The same people wrinkle their noses up at slums by the highway; it is the middle class that has a right to appropriate public spaces, nobody else.

Just as it is the middle class that has the right to impose the Jan Lokpal on the rest of the country, regardless of the Constitution, of statute, of legislative authority.

The "right to protest" is a wonderful formulation, except that it is usually circumscribed in some way. Vocal, disruptive demonstrations still happen: Delhi is not Beijing. But Hazare refused to be bound in any way in the organisation of his protest, because he and his people are bone-deep certain that they are special and that exceptions must be made for them; because they believe that the entire political class is out to get them; because they knew it puts the administration in a spot.

Yes, this is an entitled, middle-class pretence at protest in every way — including in this latest flashpoint with the government. They are upset they were denied total, indefinite control of Jantar Mantar, the only place in Central Delhi where people from outside Lutyens' imperially sanctified zone can gather. They refused unlimited time and unrestricted control over the meeting grounds at Burari, which is actually where the Congress held its all-India sessions last year — too far, presumably, from the closest Café Coffee Day. For the capital's middle class, the denial of permission was outrageous because Delhi is their city, not that of the safai karamcharis or teachers or Bhopal families who seek permission for a few hours in Jantar Mantar, not even dreaming of a public park.

Just as they expect the lawmaking process to bend around their newfound outrage, just as they expect the already quivering balance of powers in India to deal with an outrageously powerful Lokpal, they expect that the normal rules of protest — that you actually have to fight some sort of power! — will be bent for them. More: they expect the levers of power — the Delhi police, the park authorities — to bend to please them, as Parliament must bend to accept their draft legislation. That the UPA has eventually bent, again, is a depressing reflection on how little the Congress's leadership cares for due authority, and how little they are willing to back up decisions once made. Rahul Gandhi swoops in to save people from the evil government once again! The act is getting a little old, and will be impossible to follow if he's ever actually prime minister.

A middle class shouldn't be apathetic. But this is not an engagement with Indian politics; it's an attempt to reassert control over it. The Jan Lokpal bill embodies that impulse, imagining a schoolmasterly figure who would restrain the wild, selfish impulses of the chaps the proles see fit to elect.

That people are on the streets defending a right to protest should move us. It does move us. The problem is that when the barricades call, it is difficult not to answer, regardless of the cause. So let us think hard, for once, about what and whose "rights" they are, unmolested, screaming themselves hoarse over.










With the England tour subjecting Indian cricket fans to a rude awakening from what has been a fairytale year, the panic button has been pressed. But finger-pointing and blame-game won't take Indian cricket very far. The fact is, the current Indian Test squad isn't the best in the world, with the numerous injuries and loss of form that key players have been faced with. A dearth of preparation time is apparent as the stalwarts are succumbing to both injuries and the elements. Scheduling has been blamed, as has fatigue.

And with four of the all-time great batsmen in Indian cricket slowly yet gloriously approaching the end of their careers, the concerns are manifold. Once Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid and perhaps Virender Sehwag are no longer bailing India out of lost causes, there are no obvious replacements who can don the mantle of Test greatness. With a schedule packed with Tests, one-day internationals, T20 internationals and the IPL over the next year, even sardines in a tin will have more room to breathe than the men in blue.

Indian cricket is out of its depth when an injury epidemic strikes as there are no obvious replacements waiting in the wings. This generation of Indian batsmen are, through necessity, short-game specialists, often at the cost of dealing with the short-ball syndrome. Tunnel vision in this respect could lead to an irreversible domestic cricket culture where discipline and application in conjunction with technique will be sacrificed for success in the shorter formats of the game. The BCCI need only look at the Australian and English cricketers to note that domestic cricket is still of utmost importance and much attention is given to the longer formats. The rise and resurgence of the England squad is no accident. The team is deep and resilient, with substitutable and comparable talent at each position.

There isn't a quick-fix solution to being underprepared given the current situation. Practice matches sound fine in theory with plenty of upside — acclimatising to the conditions the most obvious — but in the present circumstances our players need time to recover from fatigue and injuries. Aggravating an existing injury or managing to get injured during a practice match would have greater ramifications than would some batting and/ or bowling time.

The BCCI also needs to look hard and fast at scheduling, volume and farming of talent. Although the England tour may just be an aberration in the scheme of things, given the extraordinary year this has been for Indian cricket and also for the sheer quantum of cricket that has been played, there are still serious concerns. Our fitness and endurance levels, when compared to the England squad, the Australians, the South Africans and possibly even the Sri Lankans, don't match up. And, with a gruelling schedule for the next year or so against the best teams in the world, this could well be the difference between world-beaters and also-rans.

It is difficult to maintain dominance in each format, which is why a concerted effort must be made at the top to develop specialist talent, and also to farm the talent in sustainable numbers. Scheduling and preparation time are also key and the BCCI will have to reduce the quantum of tours and matches so that the team is given adequate time to recover, rejuvenate and strategise. And we are not even taking into consideration the inevitable club vs country furore that will be sparked as soon as the Champions League T20 comes to India later this year. The IPL and the Champions League T20 have become the $2 billion elephants on the cricket pitch and at some point will be blamed for India's form reversal and downward spiral in Test rankings.

While it's easy to speculate and question a player's motives and incentives, cricketers are contractually bound to participate in the IPL and the Champions League T20, as athletes in any professional sports league would be. So, Indian players have no choice but to participate, even if they are exhausted or suffering from niggles. This may exacerbate their minor injuries or make them susceptible to new ones. However, the IPL and other professional T20 leagues have changed the face of cricket — globalising it and monetising its marketability. They are part and parcel of the cricket landscape, offering viable career opportunities for a much larger cricketer pool, and have brought many positives to the business side of the sport. So, some sort of middle ground must be discovered — and soon.

All said and done, the Indian team is a solid side that needs more bench strength and depth with quality. Above all, it needs the support of its board to ensure that it is on a level playing field with the opposition from the get-go, and not playing catch-up one series after the other. One can only hope that better sense prevails sooner than later.

The writer is a sports attorney








Anna Hazare was arrested, and then he was released. The opposition as a whole, as well as the general public, have opposed his arrest, considering it an assault on citizens' rights. The treatment meted out previously to Baba Ramdev has also been condemned. The government's mismanagement was sharply foregrounded in both these instances.

Corruption has spread like a cancer in this country, and everyone is concerned. People clearly want corruption to end. However, a powerful people's movement is required for this to happen. There have been smaller, scattered agitations against corruption in various parts of the country. The JP movement was mainly focused on uprooting corruption, and it was the main issue during V.P. Singh's tenure as prime minister. Threatened by such movements, past governments in the past have expressed their resolve to bring in the Lokpal, but over the last 30-40 years, this bill has not been successfully enacted, due to various reasons and differences of opinion. However, this state of affairs cannot be justified by anyone.

Meanwhile, under pressure from Anna Hazare's fast unto death, a joint committee comprising the government and others met several times and prepared a Lokpal draft bill despite mutual differences. It was introduced in the Lok Sabha and later, as per tradition, it was forwarded to a standing committee. The standing committee heard Team Anna out, but Anna Hazare requested the committee to quash and recall the bill. The government claimed to have accepted 24 points in full and 10 points in part, out of the 40 points laid down by Team Anna, and these have been reflected in the bill. The government rejected six points. In these circumstances, Anna's request for quashing and recalling the entire bill does not seem appropriate. He had announced an indefinite fast commencing on August 16 even before the blueprint of the government's Lokpal bill had been readied. After differences surfaced in the standing committee, it was wrong for dialogue to have ended between Team Anna and the government's representatives.

It was equally inappropriate for the government to stop the conversation with Team Anna and for Anna Hazare and his supporters to resort to a fast unto death in the event of their demands not being met, word-for-word. Team Anna's reaction is not compatible with Gandhian ideology. Similarly, it cannot be said to be correct on the government's part to impose conditions on Anna's decision to fast and to arrest him later. This is an assault on citizens' rights. While it was fine for the government to decide the venue of the protest, it was wrong to restrict its duration and the number of protesters. The government should have resorted to arresting Anna only if there was any threat to his life, due to physical stress and deterioration from the fast. Stalling dialogue after Anna announced his fast was, in effect, turning a blind eye to the central issue.

The question of whether or not to bring the prime minister/judiciary under the Lokpal, and the differences over the structure of the bill is a matter for discussion and the best platform for this debate is a parliamentary standing committee alone. Guarding the primacy of Parliament is in the national interest. The standing committee should start the process of getting the people's verdict on the Lokpal at the earliest.

It has been clear from the beginning that an effective Lokpal is a strong step towards ending corruption. But the power of money and caste in our electoral culture, corruption in anti-poverty schemes and departments, and a lack of transparency — all warrant attention. Financial details of high-ranking officers and rich businessmen across the nation should be recorded like telephone numbers in a directory against their names. With such details, attacking corruption will become easier.

Corruption has its roots in three places: one, where expenditure exceeds income, there will be corruption. Two, where there are two classes — one powerful and capable of asserting its rights, placed in high positions, and another needy and helpless, there will be corruption. Three, where there is nepotism, there will be corruption. Corruption cannot exist without these factors. We need to attack these three prongs of corruption. And for this attack, we need a Lokpal, the right to information, awareness, transparency, disclosure of wealth, an effective judiciary and electoral reform.

(Translated from the Hindi)
The writer is an RJD MP in the Lok Sabha







There's a revolution on your TV screens and it doesn't feature the current ABC of television —Anna Hazare, Lokpal Bill, Corruption. No, it was on KBC! While watching the quiz contest's new season on Tuesday, the wait for a commercial break to get dinner and eat it too, lengthened into stomach growls because the first advertisements appeared more than 30 minutes into the episode. That was revolutionary on an evening when an "unprecedented" torchlit vigil outside Tihar Jail for "topiwale" Hazareji had us all shook up.

If he didn't appear when we expected him to, it was equally the fault of the government and of TV news that declared the auspicious time for his release to be 9 pm (Zee) or 9.15 pm (Aaj Tak, India TV). Waiting for Hazare's release, at home before the TV screen waving the Indian Tricolour, was a thankless, tiresome gesture. Alas, UPA 2 does not seem to know what is good for it; nor does it appear to have learned anything from the opinion polls on CNN-IBN and Headlines Today where corruption was identified as the current Public Enemy No 1.

While the prime minister spoke for more than three minutes during his Independence Day speech on his government's efforts to tackle the issue, his government and party didn't have a clue how to wrestle with Anna Hazare. In the span of 48 hours, it made decisions and revisions that a moment reversed (thanks T.S. Eliot). It was nerve-wracking to watch. At no stage did the plot have a logical narrative: first he was allowed to hold a conditional fast, then he was arrested before he began to fast; first, he was detained, then he was imprisoned; first, he was to be released and flown out to a destination unknown, then he refused both kind offers. By Wednesday morning he was allowed to fast again, unconditionally.

On Monday night, we had thought Hazare would reach JP Park on Tuesday morning and be arrested amongst the birds, the bees and the trees. But by the time we had joined him, Tuesday on live TV, he'd already been arrested and detained somewhere in Civil Lines, Delhi. This seesaw stuff was dizzying and extremely exhausting: keeping up with Anna's followers shouting and dancing as they followed him from Mayur Vihar to Tihar Jail or enjoyed a stopover at Chhatrasal stadium, was hard work. Honestly.

In addition, TV reporters were practising rapid speech therapy and screaming simultaneously as they described his detention and his followers' march. Your heart beat faster — wish they had been rounded up instead of Hazare or his followers. Hazare's sudden disappearance from our lives after more than four months was most unsettling although we had replays of him waving from his car and he had thoughtfully left behind a recorded message. Meanwhile, the government and the opposition tried to occupy the void left by his absence on TV by holding lengthy press conferences. P. Chidambaram matched action to words, looking visibly "pained" as he spoke of Hazare's arrest while Kapil Sibal was uncommonly soft-spoken and smiling through gritted teeth as if to say, "I can do this, I can do this".

Next up, seriously annoyed-looking BJP leaders, alongside news flashes about Hazare's whereabouts or thereabouts, and then, at last, some genuine breaking news — Anna at Tihar Jail. When news told us Hazare would be locked up for seven days we stopped the futile exercise, switched channels only to learn a few hours later that the government would release him at 9 pm. Everyone on TV started to celebrate with wild dances and so did we at home because we support the fight against corruption as much as anyone else. But we were stopped in our tracks: for the next four hours we watched Tihar Jail as the "will-he-won't-he" emerge from within played out. We lost a few kilos in anticipation. By midnight, although you admired his spirit, you wanted to say, "have a heart, old chap and give us a break".

Which brings us back to the commercial break during KBC and how unusual it was for a TV show to continue for more than half an hour without one.







Three years ago, Tibetans from Lhasa to Lithang rose up against Chinese rule in Tibet. Earlier this week, a Tibetan monk set himself on fire — the second self-immolation this year, and a testament to China's continuing repression and Tibetans' continued resistance. We do not encourage protests, but it is our sacred duty to support our voiceless and courageous compatriots.

In 1950, when the Chinese Army first came to Tibet, they promised a socialist paradise. After more than 60 years of misrule, Tibet is no socialist paradise. There is not socialism but colonialism; there is no paradise, only tragedy.

Some Tibetans helped build roads to Tibet from China and were paid in silver coins by polite and respectful Chinese soldiers. However, once the roads were built in early 1950s, tanks encircled strategic urban areas, trucks headed straight to the mineral-rich mountains, and Chinese workers arrived later to exploit billions of dollars worth of gold, copper and uranium. Overnight, it seemed, something had changed. The polite Chinese people changed, too, and became overbearing and aggressive. They used their guns. Battles erupted. There was death and destruction.

The continuing political repression, cultural assimilation, economic marginalisation and environmental destruction in occupied Tibet are unacceptable. The new railway line from Beijing to Lhasa is bringing more heavy equipment to exploit our natural resources and more Chinese migrants, who are beginning to demographically dominate Tibet. Today, around 70 per cent of private-sector firms are owned or run by Chinese, more than 50 per cent of government officials are Chinese, and approximately 40 per cent of educated Tibetans are unemployed. This is made worse by officials who treat Tibet as their personal inheritance, and behave like latter-day feudal lords.

Earlier this year, several Chinese leaders visited Lhasa to celebrate 60 years of so-called peaceful liberation. But the reality is that the anniversary was observed under undeclared martial law. Troops carried automatic machine guns as they marched through the streets of Lhasa while sharpshooters positioned themselves on rooftops.

The Tibetan political leadership is still committed to nonviolence and a peaceful resolution through dialogue. We will continue our "middle way" policy, which seeks genuine autonomy for Tibet within the People's Republic of China, a win-win proposition for both the Tibetans and the Chinese.

China aspires to be a superpower. It has a fast-growing economy backed by growing military power, but sadly, its moral power is lagging behind. And moral power cannot be bought in the marketplace or forced with military might. It has to be earned. As long as Tibetans are reduced to second-class citizens in their own homeland, there will be resistance to Chinese rule.

Peaceful dialogue could lead to genuine Tibetan autonomy within China. This is a solution that would satisfy all, and it would be a victory not only for the Tibetan people, but for all marginalised people around the world.

Lobsang Sangay is the new kalon tripa, or prime minister, of the Tibetan government in exile








Watch the deficits

A front-page article in RSS weekly Organiser claims the UPA government is taking India back to a 1991-type economic crisis. Among other issues, it questions the increase in the trade deficit, which has risen from $8.7 billion in 2002-03 to $114 billion in the last fiscal year, and is threatening to shoot up to $281 billion by 2014. On other other hand, it says the IMF has cautioned that a rise of the current account deficit above 3 per cent would increase the risks arising from volatility of capital flows.

The article argues that current account deficit — the balance of payment barometer — has touched the point of danger: "CAD touched 2.5 per cent of GDP in 2010-11, the same level as in 1990-91, the year of the unprecedented economic crisis... It is bound to increase further with the UPA's preference for easy options such as importing coal, increasing imports of crude oil, and giving a big push to import-based nuclear power generation," it says.

The article claims that managing inflation is as serious a concern as it was in 1991. "In his famous budget speech of July 24, 1991, Dr Singh had observed 'the people of India have to face double digit inflation which hurts most the poorer sections of our society.' ...Has the price situation during the UPA 2 regime not been similar to the one that existed in 1991?" it asks.

Sonia's secrecy

The BJP's Panchjanya has an article on Sonia Gandhi's illness. It says: The people of this country want to know why the physical health of such a big leader was being kept hidden from it? When the can people be given real-time information about the prime minister's surgery sometime back, then why there is no information on the operation of the chairperson of National Advisory Council? What is being sought to be concealed under the garb of privacy?" it asks.

The article says Sonia's entire life has been shrouded in mystery. "Indians have nothing to do with her days in Italy, her family background and her life before marriage to Rajiv Gandhi. This is her private world. But Indians certainly have a right to know everything about the woman who influences the country's politics and its national activities," it says.

Conversing with Kashmir

The Organiser editorial claims that the interlocutors appointed by the government for J&K have frittered away their own credibility and that keeping them on had now become untenable. "From the beginning, we have been sceptical of their mission. It was not explained as to how the UPA government arrived at the conclusion that the Kashmir solution lies in the appointment of a team of interlocutors and that they can do more than what the political process in the country cannot," it says.

It says that while appointing such a team, the government should have done at least a minimum amount of homework. Dwelling on the controversy over Dilip Padgoankar having attended conferences organised by Ghulam Nabi Fai, it argues that this alone was reason enough to disband the team: "The UPA government, it seems is obdurate about the funny slanging match in the interlocutors team. The taint won't disappear, however much the so-called free thinkers try. Can the country gloss over the fact that these people have sympathised with the ISI agent and accepted his hospitality?" The editorial says that the best way out for the Centre now is to immediately wind up the panel and institute an inquiry into their activities "in the company of Pak patriots."

Compiled by Manoj C.G.






How could Europe be brought to the brink by tiny Greece, economically and geographically one-fiftieth of it?

For months we have been told that Europe's salvation lies in austerity, Germany's prescription of fiscal discipline to its deficits. But when Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President Sarkozy of France meet they will find evidence of what they did not expect — failing banks, waning growth and capital flight.

These past few weeks have demonstrated that Europe has a deeply flawed banking system, a widening competitiveness gap, and a debt crisis that cannot get much better if the economy gets worse. It is an already lethal cocktail that becomes more deadly when mixed inside the euro, a currency created without the resilience to withstand difficult times and which has no structure for effective decision-making. Either the euro has to be fundamentally reformed by Europe's political leaders and the European Central Bank or it will collapse. After the events of the last few days I know for sure there is not even a chance of a middle way.

I was present at the eurozone meeting in the immediate wake of the Lehman Brothers crash. I remember the sceptical looks when I explained that European banks were in fact more vulnerable than US banks, that they were far more highly leveraged and far more dependent on short-term wholesale funding. In fact, half of America's toxic sub-prime assets had been bought by reckless institutions in Europe. Yet even as the crisis grew, it was difficult to get Europe's leaders to accept that it was anything other than an Anglo-Saxon one.

There is no escaping the basic fact that Europe's difficulties are indicative of deep structural defects — its declining competitiveness, ageing population and persistently high unemployment. Even as recently as a month ago, Europe could have avoided the events now driving it to breaking point. A stabilisation fund of some 2 trillion euros could have convinced the markets that Europe meant business wherever it was confronted with problems. But Europe has flinched at every turn from showing the decisiveness that its problems require.

The time for extemporised solutions is gone. The Continent has to commit to a plan that underpins the several trillions in funding needed to ensure that governments from Greece, Ireland and Portugal to Spain, Italy and Belgium are adequately funded. So there is no way out except through the biggest recapitalisation of the banks in European history and a wholesale reformation of the euro, which will require the coordination of its monetary and fiscal policy, fiscal transfers from rich to poor nations and a commitment to a common European debt facility. It will require an undertaking that is pan-European, involve commitment from the private sector, and will have to draw on support from the IMF, and possibly China and America.

These massive guarantees will necessitate a big shift in Europe's thinking; that if the world used to need Europe, Europe now needs the world. We will need a repositioning from consumption-led growth to export-led growth. It will require the kind of radical capital product and labour market reforms only a few countries have tried.

But for all this to happen Germany will have to take the lead.







RBI appears to have convinced the finance ministry on the need to be cautious when it comes to issuing new licences for banks, and big corporate houses may not get banking licences at this point in time. Given that 24x7 policing end-use of funds is a difficult job, more so given the number of subsidiaries so many of India's corporates have, RBI is a bit wary about the possibility of funds being diverted. Indeed, RBI's experience with BCCI has made it realise that deciding on who is 'fit and proper' involves a lot more than just ticking off a host of boxes. It also suggests RBI has to have a lot of leeway in decision-making—the fact that regulators like Sebi are now in favour of consent orders where companies pay a fine but admit to no wrong makes it that much more difficult to decide on who is 'fit and proper'. Given that banking licences for corporates have been a sticking point, the reported agreement between RBI and the finance ministry is a good thing.

At some point, probably sooner rather than later, the government and RBI will have to deal with another reality, that of who will set up and fund the banks India needs. Bank credit in India is around $1 trillion right now, and it needs to grow at around 20% each year. That takes it up to $2.5 trillion after 5 years, or $1.5 trillion more. Given RBI's prudential norms, that means an additional equity infusion of $135 billion. A large part of this will obviously have to come from the government since PSU banks dominate the banking landscape, but a significant amount will have to come from the private sector. Corporate houses with deep pockets, and a reputation that gets others to invest in their equity, offer an obvious solution. More liberal licences to foreign banks is another option. Since many large Indian corporate also manage public money through their mutual funds, and there haven't been too many complaints of the money getting misused, this should provide RBI some comfort. At the end of the day, given how banking lies at the heart of the economy, RBI has to have the last call on who is 'fit and proper'.





In a move that will have far-reaching implications for the real estate sector that is growing at 30% per annum thanks to a rapid growth in disposable incomes and urbanisation, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has fined DLF R630 crore (7% of average turnover during 2009-11) for abusing its 'dominant position' to the disadvantage of consumers. The company can challenge the CCI ruling in the Competition Appellate Tribunal. The executive director of the DLF Group has made it clear that the company is exploring all available legal options, and believes that it has a strong case. But whichever way this particular case goes, CCI has raised really important issues that are part of street-speak but broadly ignored by the 'system', due to a continuing absence of any single sectoral regulator.

CCI started investigating this case after the owners' association of the the Belaire building complex in Gurgaon complained that DLF had used its position of strength to dictate the terms of a buyer's agreement that put allottees in an extremely unfavourable situation. The agreement includes clauses giving DLF the right to change the layout plan without consent of the allottees, charge allottees for preferential location but give refund without interest in case the location isn't provided, change the super area unilaterally while binding the allottees to pay additional amounts, and command an exit clause that allows the company to abandon the project without penalty but subjects the allottees to a punitive penalty for default. In the last instance, the builder is liable to pay compensation at R5 per square foot per month for delays beyond 3 years (which CCI calculates, adds up to 1% per annum) but any payment delay on the part of the buyer draws an interest of 15 % per annum for the first 90 days, increasing to 18% after that. Most notably, Belaire buyers signed up for 19 floors of 368 apartments but got stuck with 29 floors of 544 apartments. Plus, they still haven't gained possession, in part because many sales were pushed through before DLF got the necessary clearances. The CCI investigation says buyers were told about the clearance delays 13 months after they had made the bookings. According to CCI, buyers had paid up to 33% of the total consideration before a single brick was laid.

So far, a strong component of DLF's defence has been that the conditions included in the Belaire agreement are consistent with common industry practices. This is plausible but not defensible.





While the recovery from the 2008 crisis was sooner than expected, the current one comes at a time when most major Asian economies had settled down to comfortable rates of GDP growth. Their preoccupations were more with domestic issues, largely commodity prices, rises of which have been unstoppable. Asian businesses with strong links with American and European markets were encouraged by the positive economic data coming out of the US, particular in the early months of the year. The IT and semi-conductor industries in Asia were banking on a steady resurgence of business in the Western hemisphere. However, the US debt ceiling deal, Europe's continuing troubles, the Standard & Poor's downgrading and adverse sentiments unleashed in global markets thereafter, have upset all fond hopes.

There is now a fairly strong doubt about the ability of the US to pull back from the mess it has created for itself. Three years ago, as Asia begun fighting the global recession amidst meltdowns in Western markets, there was still the hope in the ability of the US and most of the G8 countries to recover. The US economy, the world's largest measured by either market price or purchasing power parity (PPP)—as indeed it still is—was too revered to imagine succumbing. President Obama's election and the unprecedented stimulus packages introduced strengthened the impression. But the current events have dented these ideas. Debt crises in the US and Europe, particularly in G8 members like Italy, have begun conveying the message that the US and Europe will never be the same again.

And this is where Asia is worried. Its decoupling from the West is still partial. There are several areas of its own growth and consolidation where the prospects of an ailing West creates multiple downsides. Manufacturing exports are bound to be hit hard. China has already expressed worries in this respect. The trade channel was the route through which the maximum effect of the contagion spread to Asia in 2008. This time, too, it is expected to be the main route as trade is gearing to shrink because of falling demand in the US and European markets. Matters will not be helped by the strengthening of Asian currencies. The slide of the US dollar continues unabated, leading to a somewhat undesired hardening of Asian currencies making Asian exports pricier in their main markets.

One of the major sectors facing trouble is IT and software. There is serious concern over cutbacks in volume of business in the US, which, till now, happens to be the largest market for Asian IT exports. It is hardly surprising that the shares of IT companies have dropped the most in the global stock market tumbles witnessed since early this month.

The response of the Asian economies to the outbreak of the crisis in 2008 was fast and effective. The major economies including China, India, Korea and the Southeast Asian countries announced stimulus packages. These helped in augmenting money supplies in the economies and buoyed demand. Such stimulus packages for boosting demand are unlikely this time around. Why?

Stimulus packages unleashed three years ago injected enough liquidity to increase the propensity to consume. This has, however, contributed to rising domestic prices. Given the current rates of inflation, it is not possible for economies like China and India to shift to expansionary monetary policies for releasing more cash. High prices have forced them to raise interest rates, which has led to an increase in bank deposit rates, encouraging people to put more money in time deposits for earning higher fixed returns, rather than spending the same. Major Asian economies do not have as much room to manoeuvre in their policies for maintaining aggregate demand by increasing domestic spending, as they had three years ago.

The last, but not the least, of Asia's worries, is the reinforcement of reverse migration. With retrenchment and lay-offs likely to increase in the West, more immigrants are expected to return. Unfortunately, this is not the best time the Asian economies would have wanted them to do so. GDP growth figures are being scaled downward and the possibility of temporary growth decelerations cannot be ruled out. Employment prospects are not the brightest at the moment and the return of the home-grown might only enlarge the idle labour stock.

Amidst all the gloom, however, there is one potential silver lining. The situation might turn out to be an unexpected ally in fighting rising prices. It is clear that Asia continues to have a growth-price trade off with high growth inevitably leading to high prices. This might just be the occasion when idle cash in domestic economies can run short, and demand might significantly compress, bringing down prices. That is, at least, something that Asia can look forward to.

The author is a Visiting Senior

Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) in the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Views are personal





Central bank purists are confused. How can the European Central Bank, a Germanic institution, now be in the business of buying government bonds issued by five of its 17 members? Why is this monetary authority acting like a fiscal agency? Isn't the ECB supposed to be a politically independent and operationally autonomous institution committed to fighting inflation and safeguarding the currency?

Well, yes and no. And that answer speaks to the disturbing realities of modern-day central banking (or, to be more exact, central banking in the post-bubble world of debt overhangs and sovereign-debt concerns). It also sheds light on the endgame now taking shape in a confused and unsettled eurozone.

A sea-faring analogy simplifies some of the complexity. Imagine that a highly agile coast-guard vessel is called out to rescue a floundering boat. As the rescue is taking place, the vessel finds that it must also rescue two other, larger boats. It does so, but not before the captain receives assurances that a larger ship is coming to assist.

As the crew of the now-burdened rescue vessel waits for relief, they are forced to deal with restless passengers. With the ocean getting rougher, the once-agile rescue vessel is now so overburdened that some officers are second-guessing the captain, who again calls for the larger ship to help. Unfortunately, this ship seems hostage to a confused sense of mission and a distinct lack of urgency.

The overwhelming hope is that the larger ship will come and save the day. The fear is that it may not. And the question then becomes whether the crew of the struggling rescue vessel will decide that they can stabilise the situation only through a once-unthinkable action—throwing someone overboard to lighten the vessel and save the rest.

In a nutshell, this is the ECB's situation today. The outcome is both uncertain and highly consequential—for Europe, of course, but also for a global economy that is in the midst of a synchronised slowdown and operating with a weakened anchor, owing to America's recent debt-ceiling debacle and the humiliating loss of its AAA sovereign credit rating.

The ECB has already purchased almost a 100 billion euros of peripheral government bonds, and it is committed to buying a lot more. Less visibly, it has acquired many times the current volume in so-called "repo operations," through which the ECB provides euros to struggling banks in a "temporary and reversible" exchange for the government bonds on their balance sheets.

Clearly, back in 2009, the ECB did not make the controversial call that Greece was insolvent, not illiquid. My own sense is that it was able but unwilling, owing to its fear of collateral damage for the rest of the Eurozone. It opted for delay in the hope that the Eurozone's most vulnerable members would reinforce their defenses against Greek contagion.

In that sense, the ECB may have been too trusting. It believed that the peripheral economies would deliver serious fiscal austerity, notwithstanding their dreadful growth outlook and general lack of competitiveness. It also believed that the core countries would relieve the ECB burden of mounting bailout costs.

But, even if the ECB has limitless patience, the rest of the world does not. Markets understand that the ECB cannot forever substitute for other government agencies, so they repeatedly call into question its bridging strategy. Without these other agencies' help, the ECB's unprecedented actions will end up being a bridge to nowhere.

Whichever way you look at it, the ECB—and with it Europe—is being forced into an endgame with three once-improbable outcomes. That endgame will play out in weeks and months, not quarters and years.

The first alternative is a disorderly breakup of the Eurozone. Only chaos-lovers wish for such an outcome, but it is possible if core governments continue to hesitate in engaging their balance sheets; if peripheral governments abandon their fiscal-reform efforts; and/or if societies can no longer tolerate economic stagnation, high and rising unemployment, and budget austerity.

The second is the one preferred by political scientists and European visionaries: greater fiscal union among the 17 Eurozone members, or, in blunt terms, German willingness to do for the Eurozone what it did for eastern Germany—namely, write large cheques for years to come. In return, Germany would insist on economic-governance reforms that force other Eurozone members to surrender some of their national fiscal prerogatives.

The third alternative is the one embraced by several economists. It involves creating a smaller and more economically coherent Eurozone, which would consist of core and near-core countries within a tighter fiscal union and more credible defenses against contagion. In the process, 2-3 peripheral economies would take a sabbatical from the euro, underwriting immediate economic uncertainty with access to a much wider range of instruments to deal with their debt overhangs and lack of competitiveness.

Although the endgame is close, it is impossible to predict which alternative will prevail. That will depend on decisions taken by politicians with low approval ratings, noisy oppositions, and inadequate coordination. Moreover, implementation will likely prove far from automatic, thereby testing the resolve of governments and institutions.

My sense is that politicians will opt for a weak variant of greater fiscal union, but that, ultimately they will fail to execute it for the Eurozone as we know it today. After some considerable volatility, a smaller and more robust currency union will emerge; and, importantly, Europe will avoid the euro's demise and a total breakdown of the Eurozone.

No matter how you view it, the coming endgame will be neither simple, nor orderly. Had the ECB known this at the start of Europe's debt crisis, it might have resisted taking so many risks with its balance sheet and reputation. Then again, it probably could not have done otherwise—just as our once-agile rescue vessel never really had the choice of remaining safely in port.

Mohamed A El-Erian is CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO, and author of When Markets Collide

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.







Al-Shabaab leaders have allowed few outsiders to gain an insight into the group, so the following information is drawn in part from two reports, the International Crisis Group's Somalia's Divided Islamists, published last year, and the July 2011 report of the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia.

What are the origins of al-Shabaab? The group became widely known in 2006 when the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) ousted the warlords that controlled Mogadishu and expanded its influence into other parts of southern Somalia. After Ethiopian troops defeated the ICU, al-Shabaab — which means "the youth" — emerged an as autonomous insurgent force.

Is al-Shabaab homogenous? No. Initially it attracted a variety of Islamist groups opposed to the Ethiopian occupation. After the Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia in early 2009, command became much more centralised and extremist. But al-Shabaab still relies on a wide variety of interest groups, from global jihadists to local businessmen more inspired by profit that the Qur'an.

How is al-Shabaab funded? The rebels operate a sophisticated and wide-reaching "tax" collection system. The U.N. Monitoring Group estimates that it generates up to $100m (£61m) a year through the control of airports and seaports, and taxes on goods, services, produce and livestock. It also operates checkpoint "fees" and other methods of extortion justified under Islamic almsgiving laws.

What is al-Shabaab's goal? The overriding motivations of the hardline leaders are more ideological than political. With support from foreign jihadis, they view themselves as custodians of Islam. They see Muslims as being in a perpetual state of war with the "infidels," hence the affiliation with al-Qaeda. Other leaders lower down the hierarchy have strictly national ambitions.

What methods has al-Shabaab used to advance its goals? The rebels have used the internet extensively to promote their radical ideology and to celebrate their martyrs — an important recruiting tool for volunteer fighters from abroad. Militarily, al-Shabaab has been effective in winning territory and in waging guerrilla war against a better-armed enemy. They have used roadside bombs and suicide attacks to devastating effect, and planned and financed a July 2010 massacre in Uganda, when suicide attackers killed 79 people.

Why did the rebels withdraw from Mogadishu earlier this month (Augsut)? African Union peacekeepers and pro-government forces had mounted a strong offensive against the militants, and al-Shabaab leaders said the move was strategic. But there have also been increasing signs of divisions in the rebel ranks.

Where does al-Shabaab go from here? Reports suggest that the al-Shabaab leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, may have been replaced by Ibrahim Haji Mead, a fellow veteran of the Afghan wars. If true, it is unclear what it might mean strategically. Disagreements within the leadership may take time to reconcile, but there is no suggestion the rebels are close to defeat. Indeed a new campaign of attacks aimed at ensuring Somalia is not governed "according to the whims ... of the western nations and their puppet regimes" seems likely. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011






Scum, thugs, feral rats, wolves, an army of ants on their BlackBerrys ... the dehumanising epithets flew like bricks through a JD Sports window last week. Then came the fightback to mend what David Cameron called "criminality, pure and simple" in our "sick" and "broken" society. The government seems to blame the recent havoc across England solely on individuals with too many rights and too few responsibilities, and appears to think that badly parented kids just woke up one morning and decided to do a bit of free shopping.

There is even talk — from the very same David Cameron who not long ago was saying the State should not intervene to change individuals' behaviour — of curfews, banning face masks, evicting criminals from council housing (social housing), tougher court powers, curbing social media, not to mention more "robust" policing and teaching parenting skills. "We've got to get out there and make a positive difference to the way people bring up their children ... and we've got to be less sensitive to the charge that this is about interfering or nannying," Cameron said on August 15.

I studied in Liverpool in October 1981, three months after the Toxteth riots. I then moved to Tottenham, north London, in the wake of the Broadwater Farm riot in 1985, and then — after 15 riot-free years in the capital — on to Bradford, northern England, not long after the 2001 riots.

Race a major factor

In all three conflagrations, I remember race being a major factor — between the black community and the police in Toxteth and Tottenham, and between the Asian and white communities in Bradford. There were other factors, too, such as recession and unemployment, to the extent that the Scarman report after Toxteth (though prompted by the 1981 Brixton riots) blamed poverty and deprivation for the troubles. Yet the spark (for Toxteth, Tottenham and Bradford) was a racial one.

The so-called sus [suspicion] laws — heavy-handed stop-and-search methods by police — had been taking their toll, and the arrest of a black man in public led to nine days of rioting in Toxteth. On the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham four years later, the death of a black woman during a police search of her home triggered a battle with police that ended with the murder of a policeman.

During the Bradford riots 10 years ago, Asian and white youths turned on each other and the police, caught in the middle, were accused by the Asian community of failing to provide protection.

Ted Cantle's subsequent report on the Bradford riots concluded that part of the problem was segregated communities living "parallel lives," and coined the concept of "community cohesion," later adopted by the Labour government.

Since the riots of 1981 and 2001, Liverpool and Bradford have undergone major regeneration and racial tension has ceased to be an overriding issue. Research published last month (July) by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggests that Bradford's real problem — poverty — has been overlooked, and that is despite the £3bn regeneration. Broadwater Farm saw major redevelopment, leading to a dramatic drop in crime and improved community spirit.

Criminality in these riots

Cantle, now founder and executive chair of the Institute of Community Cohesion, believes that last week's riots were not about race.

"In the 1980s, the riots were definitely about the black community, who were discriminated against, disadvantaged and had a hard time from the police and felt abused by them. A lot of that has changed. With the current riots, clearly, there's an element of basic criminality and sheer vandalism and opportunism. People look around and see newspaper hacking, burgeoning debts, the scandal of bankers' bonuses, MPs fiddling expenses, and they think, 'This is our turn to get our noses in the trough.' People forgot the difference between right and wrong." But he thinks the issue of parenting is more nuanced than the government has portrayed it. "There's been so much emphasis on outsourcing parenting — pretending schools, Sure Start centres [for pre-school under—5's] and community organisations are there to look after the kids, rather than reflect that actually parents are still responsible — that I think there's a major concern about how parents have partly felt disempowered by all that, but have also been prepared to take advantage of that disempowerment," he says.

But Claudia Webbe, an independent adviser to the (London's) Metropolitan police's Operation Trident, which aims to tackle gun crime in the black community, says underlying issues around stop and search remain.

"If you look at young black people in Tottenham now, they are still six, seven, eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts. Young people generally, black and white, are facing increasing stop and search. It's meant to be a tool of last resort used with the consent of the community," says Webbe. "A lot of tension around stop and search was bubbling up and part of that spilled over." According to Steve Kavanagh, Metropolitan police deputy assistant commissioner, there was a fear of stop and search in the early 2000s but he insists that as long as it is used appropriately, communities support it.

Street robbery

"In Haringey, north London, this year, there was a 100 per cent increase in street robbery. Now that is people from the black, Asian, Turkish and white communities being robbed of their mobile phones, jewellery and everything else. The overwhelming number of black community representatives don't want us to be fearful of engaging around young, black, disenfranchised people who are committing crimes. They want a police service that is sensitive, professional, but assertive when it needs to be." Police-community links, he adds, were strong throughout the recent rioting. "The police were not going to solve this alone, they were always going to solve it with the communities. We've had communication teams trying to get rid of rumours, getting emails out with messages that we've all signed up to. That's a hell of a journey from Scarman and even [Stephen] Lawrence was [Stephen Lawrence was a teenager who was murdered by a gang of white racists and the botched ensuing investigation showed the police to be "institutionally racist"]. It's not a race issue or an age issue."

For Stephen Nze, who was involved in the action in Toxteth as a "naive 16-year-old" in 1981, last week's riots were a combination of reaction to the government and the banking crisis, as well as unemployment — youth unemployment is running at 20 per cent in the U.K., according to the Office for National Statistics. Now a youth worker in Toxteth, he says: "Everywhere's on a tinderbox, with the government and the bankers and all that. These kids are not stupid. I don't agree with violence and looting, none of it — this time round I've been out on the streets supporting the police and trying to stop kids from getting involved — but I do understand it. They went out and reacted. A little five-year-old has a tantrum, well these kids had a tantrum on a big scale.

"Some of these kids, whose parents were most likely involved in 1981, are saying, '[The government's] just cut out EMA [educational maintenance allowance, ie a small grant to students staying on in education after 16], we can't go to college or university, they can't give us a job,'" he says. "You've got to think as a young person thinks, and some think there's no future, no hope." Webbe agrees that a lack of jobs or opportunities were a factor in Tottenham. "The local authorities and other institutions put investment into Broadwater Farm to help to rebuild it, yet they did nothing about the circumstances of the people," she says. Cuts to youth services are not helping either, she says.

A survey by the Unite union shows that up to 3,000 local authority youth workers in England face losing their jobs by next April, with average budget cuts of 28 per cent this financial year.

"The cuts meant youth services went, such as summer programmes for children and young people who can't afford to go on holiday. This is where the youth services are supposed to step in," she says. "Connexions services — which are about information, advice and guidance, for example on careers, or health — they've cut all those as well. So a 16— to 17—year—old who can't get an EMA and who can't sign on [for social benefits] until they are 18, there's no one for them to talk to."

Cantle, though, claims that the riots weren't about poverty — a view he shares with the prime minister. "A lot of the people arrested were not jobless, not without hope and not without money. There were some middle—class people arrested as well," says Cantle.

But he believes that government cuts could fuel tensions: "I think the cuts will make things worse. What we need at the moment is more investment in social institutions. We're not going to get out of this by heavier policing, however, it has to be done by communities and society itself. That requires money and a change in our values. The way we value things seems to rely heavily on materialism, possessions, the consumer society. But everybody would be suspicious of any government initiative on values. It's got to be a community—led process."

( Matthew Connolly has lived through the aftermath of previous unrest in Toxteth (Liverpool), Tottenham (north London) and Bradford. ) — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

As politicians pin 'the U.K. ick' over the causes of the recent riots, a look at what has changed for young people.





The recent riots in London and other major British cities have shaken the United Kingdom by revealing a streak of consumerist greed in the national culture. The reactions of leading politicians, however, reveal very different capacities for discernment and action. While Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband have been equally firm in condemning the rioting, which has claimed five lives, and both have approved of tough sentences for those convicted, Mr. Cameron sees the rioters as criminals and nothing else. He calls for punitive responses — through the courts and through tougher discipline in schools — and has legislated for parents and other bodies to set up their own schools with public funds. The Tory leader also plans to cut back the state benefits system, which he regards as a disincentive to work. Mr. Cameron's position, however, is full of contradictions. Ideologically, he has to hold the rioters responsible for their own conduct. But his talk of tax breaks for married couples implicitly accepts social factors like family breakdown as one reason for a general loss of public mores. Furthermore, his free-market ideology cannot allow him to accept that the dominant mores today are those of material acquisition. Mr. Cameron is also wrong on some key facts; as a percentage of GDP, total welfare spending is not very different from what it was in 1997, when Labour swept to power. In effect, the Prime Minister has offered nothing new. All he has done is to restate the commitments and policies his government has already proposed and started to implement, including highly controversial police cuts.

In heartening contrast, Mr. Miliband has been out and about, on the same north London streets along which, as a boy, he walked to his state-funded school. He has been freely approached by ordinary people, and has heard a wide range of responses to the riots. He makes it clear that he does not condone the behaviour of the looters but that he seeks reasons and explanations with a view to improving policy; he adds that ordinary people are telling him to keep doing that. What is more, he insists on a public inquiry into the disturbances. He has repeatedly made the point that the culture of immoral selfishness and greed is exemplified as much by the financial establishment as by looters on the streets. Where the Prime Minister is addressing only diehard Tories, the Leader of the Opposition is talking to the whole country. The good news for Labour is that after a tentative start, Mr. Miliband seems to have discovered a progressive way to take it to a pre-eminent position in contemporary Britain.




Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights puts it simply: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The death penalty is the ultimate cruel punishment. Abolitionists tend to advance two main reasons why it must go: it does not deter crime; and, as justice systems around the world are flawed, there is more than a possibility that someone will be punished wrongly, and irrevocably. These are sound arguments, backed by statistics. But there is no more important strike against capital punishment than the sheer barbarity of taking another person's life even under sanction of law. There is no humane method of execution either. Death by hanging, lethal injection, electrocution, beheading, shooting are equally repugnant in their intent to take life, and in the violence they inflict on the condemned person. Proponents of the death penalty argue that this is the only way to compensate, or provide justice to, those affected by heinous crimes such as murder or terrorism. But an 'eye for an eye' has no place in a modern, progressive criminal justice system. Internationally, there is an increasing trend towards abolition, with 96 countries doing away with it and 34 countries being abolitionist in practice by observing official or unofficial moratoria on executions. Each of the three United Nations resolutions calling for a moratorium has seen more countries backing it. On the other hand, China, the United States, Iran and other West Asian countries, and countries in South-East Asia buck the trend by frequently using the death penalty.

In India, there has been no execution since 2004 but that is poor consolation considering the swelling number of those who face the threat of execution. Indian courts handed down105 death sentences last year, according to Amnesty International. Earlier this week, President Pratibha Patil dismissed the clemency pleas of Murugan, Santhan, and Perarivalan, on death row for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. The Home Ministry has advised President Patil to dismiss the plea of Afzal Guru, sentenced to death in the 2001 Parliament attack case. Without going into the possible motives for forefronting these mercy petitions at this politically difficult time for the United Progressive Alliance government, it must be recognised that both were monstrous crimes that deserved the harshest civilised punishment — an actual lifetime in prison rather than the seven to 14-year apology of a life sentence. It has been The Hindu 's consistent stand for decades that India must make a clean break with a savage tradition by abolishing capital punishment. An immediate moratorium on executions should be the first step.





Ten Somali children under the age of five are dying every day of hunger-related causes in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

UNHCR reported the "alarming" increase in the number of deaths at Kobe camp after an assessment this week. The main cause was malnutrition, aggravated by a measles outbreak.

The camp, one of four in Dollo Adow in south-east Ethiopia, opened in June when Somalis fleeing drought and conflict poured over the border. Kobe reached its 25,000 capacity in a month, and although new arrivals are being directed elsewhere the death toll is not slowing.

In a briefing in Geneva, UNHCR said the average 10 deaths a day stretched back to late June, meaning at least 500 young children had died in less than two months.

Lack of awareness

Most of the Somali refugees arriving in Ethiopia are from rural areas, and many have never used formal health facilities before. Ron Redmond, a UNHCR spokesman in Nairobi, said this was a factor in the high death rate, because parents did not know what to do with their malnourished children, even after receiving initial treatment and handouts of therapeutic food.

"Parents are told they need to sustain the supplementary feeding, but they don't always do it," said Redmond. "Ensuring that they treat their kids and bring them back to health centres in a large camp is difficult and labour intensive." Separately, some 17,500 Somalis have crossed into the Gode and Afder areas of Ethiopia, 150 miles north-east of Dollo Adow, in the past six weeks.

The continued exodus and growing death toll from the famine in Somalia is raising fresh questions about the culpability of the al-Shabaab insurgent group, which controls most of the southern part of the country. Though the causes of the famine or near-famine conditions in southern Somalia are numerous — including drought, high food prices and the absence of a government for two decades — the al-Qaeda-linked Islamist movement has played a significant role. Initially known for its effective guerrilla campaign against occupying Ethiopian forces, al-Shabaab became more extreme once the enemy withdrew, with militants enforcing mosque attendance and carrying out amputations and stonings of alleged criminals, some of them teenagers. Local journalists were assassinated.

In 2009 al-Shabaab banned a number of aid groups, including the U.N. World Food Programme, for alleged offences ranging from spying to being anti-Muslim and distorting the local economy. Numerous humanitarian workers were also killed, so that even groups with permission to work had to scale back their activities.

The restrictions and security concerns meant millions of Somalis had no safety net when the drought worsened early this year. In the worst-hit areas there was no food distribution or help in obtaining water. Last month (July) the rebels said all aid agencies would be allowed to help with drought relief, then said the earlier ban on certain organisations stood and denied there was a famine.

Interviews with refugees in Kenya revealed that in some areas al-Shabaab militias had tried to prevent people from leaving, even those pushed close to death by hunger. A report by Human Rights Watch confirmed these findings.

Despite withdrawing the bulk of their forces from Mogadishu this month in a "tactical" move, al-Shabaab still controls most of southern Somalia. While more aid is getting in, some of the worst-affected areas are still without assistance. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

It reports 'alarming' figures as fresh questions are raised about the al-Shabaab rebels' responsibility for the impact of the famine.





One started reading the new Draft National Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill 2011 with expectations of a great improvement over the 2007 Bills. There are indeed some very good features in the new Bill but, on the whole, one must regretfully report disappointment. Let us see how the Bill deals with some of the key issues involved.

(i) Acquisition of agricultural land : The Bill rules out the acquisition, not of all irrigated agricultural land, but of multi-cropped irrigated agricultural land. That limited exclusion seems rather half-hearted.

(ii) Avoiding or minimising displacement : A serious concern about the trauma of displacement does not seem to be the driving force behind the Bill. The principles of 'no forced displacement' and 'free, informed prior consent' are not mentioned. (Incidentally, the condition of consent by 80 per cent of the land-owners applies only to land-acquisition by the government for companies including PPP cases, and not to governmental acquisition for itself. It appears that there has been no dilution at all of 'eminent domain'.) There are indeed a number of good provisions relating to displacement (SIA, review of SIA by an Expert Committee, consideration of 'less displacing alternative', public hearing, etc.), but the final decision is that of the bureaucracy. If a statutory clearance is needed for cutting a tree or for causing an environmental impact, should it not be required for displacing people? If the National Rehabilitation Commission mentioned in the 2007 Bill had been retained, a statutory displacement clearance by it could have been prescribed, but the present Bill envisages no such Commission.

(iii) Inadequacy of compensation : The present Bill increases the compensation amount significantly. This is welcome. Whether the earlier problems of delays and corruption in the payment process will disappear or diminish, remains to be seen.

(iv) The acquisition of land by the state for private companies : A view, held by many for a long time, is that there is no reason why the state should use its sovereign power to acquire land for private companies which are primarily in business for profit and not for conferring benefits on the public.

The 2007 Bills had sought to reduce the extent of land acquisition by the state for a company to 30 per cent , if the company purchases 70 per cent of the land needed by negotiation. The present Bill does away with the 70:30 formula, but provides for 'partial' acquisition by the state for a company if a company so requests. Presumably 'partial' acquisition could go up to near-full acquisition by the state. This seems a retrograde step.

(v) Private purchase : As for private negotiation, the Minister himself refers in his Foreword to the "asymmetry of power (and information) between those wanting to acquire the land and those whose lands are being acquired", but the Bill provides no mechanism to reduce that asymmetry. It doubtless extends the R&R provisions to private negotiated purchases of land but provides no safeguard against unfair negotiation. (Even the extension of the R&R provisions to negotiated purchases — the legality of which may be challenged — applies only where a company buys 100 acres or more, and that threshold can be easily side-stepped in ways that need not be spelt out here.) One wishes that the Minister had strengthened the hands of the weaker party in the negotiation by providing — this is merely an illustration — that the compensation that the land-owners would have got under this Bill if the land had been acquired by the government (to be determined by the collector) would be the floor below which the price negotiated by the company with the land-owners shall not fall.

(vi) Change of land use : That safeguard might ensure a fair price, but there is also the question of transfer of agricultural land to non-agricultural use and the implications for food security. One possibility might be to say that all acquisition of land, including acquisitions for companies, must be only by the state; but that does not seem desirable and, in any case, it is not really an answer to the problem of land-transfer away from agriculture. Another possibility is that private purchases of agricultural land should be subject to state regulation from the point of view of land-use. That might be open to the objection of undue interference with a landowner's right to sell his land. On the whole, the answer to the question of minimising transfers of agricultural land to non-agricultural use might lie in policies supportive of agriculture rather than in control or regulation over land transactions.

(vii) Definition of 'public purpose' : An issue that has persistently figured in the debate during the last decade or two is the need to narrow the definition of 'public purpose' and limit it to a few strictly governmental purposes (schools, dispensaries, etc). The present Bill moves in exactly the opposite direction. It defines 'public purpose' very broadly and leaves it to the bureaucracy to decide each case. Is it right to assume that any industry ipso facto serves a public purpose warranting the alienation of agricultural land? For instance, in the Singur episode land acquisition was for 'industry', i.e., Tatas' small car factory; was that 'public purpose'? It can be so declared under the present Bill. Again, 'infrastructure' includes 'tourism', which would permit the acquisition of land for building hotels. It seems desirable to define 'public purpose' somewhat more stringently.

(viii) Coverage of 'project-affected persons' : The Bill refers to loss of primary livelihoods but links it to the acquisition of land. The term 'livelihoods' is illustrated by a reference to the gathering of forest produce, hunting, fishing, etc; there is no reference to sellers of goods and services to the people in the project area, who will lose their livelihoods when the people whom they serve move away to resettlement areas. It is not clear whether they will be regarded as project-affected persons.

(ix) Social Impact Assessment : On Social Impact Assessment the present Bill is an improvement on the 2007 Bill, but the idea of SIA still falls short: it does not cover the disappearance of a whole way of life; the dispersal of close-knit communities; the loss of a centuries-old relationship with nature; the loss of roots; and so on. It is good that the SIA will be reviewed by an independent multi-disciplinary expert body, but it should first be prepared by a similar body. The Bill leaves the SIA to be prepared by the "appropriate government."

(x) Rehabilitation package : The rehabilitation package is distinctly inferior to the packages already established in certain projects. The principle of 'land for land' has been abandoned. It figures only in the case of irrigation projects, and there the Bill envisages one acre per family instead of two acres as in the Sardar Sarovar Project. There are two points here. First, it is not clear why the Bill specifies irrigation projects; hydroelectric projects and flood control also have the same impacts as irrigation projects, and in any case many projects are 'multi-purpose' projects. Secondly, compensation and rehabilitation should have reference not to the nature of the project but to the nature of the impact. Whatever be the project, if an agricultural community is uprooted from its land and homestead, it has to be enabled to practise agriculture elsewhere, and not expected to become carpenters or weavers or traders.

(xi) Other matters : A number of officials and institutions are specified in the Bill, such as the Collector, Administrator of R&R, Commissioner of R&R, etc., but it is only in the R&R Committee that there is a significant non-official presence. The National Monitoring Committee is not 'participatory'; apart from officials, it includes only a few experts. As indicated earlier, the idea of a National Rehabilitation Commission has been abandoned.

Incidentally, it is not clear why displacement by natural calamities should be brought within the purview of this Bill. There is a vital difference between unavoidable displacement caused by nature and deliberate displacement caused by human decisions.

Summing up, the Bill seems to be essentially driven by a desire to make land acquisition for industrialisation and urbanisation easier. It is clear that the Bill, which does contain many good features, nevertheless requires substantial improvement.

The Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill 2011 seems to be driven by a desire to make acquisition for industrialisation and urbanisation easier.





y. venugopal reddy , who was the 21st governor of the reserve bank of india from september 2003 to september 2008, won international acclaim for his deft handling of india's monetary and external sector policies that famously saved the country from the worst consequences of the global financial and economic crisis of the period 2007-09. after retiring from that post, he has chosen to be an academic, and is now emeritus professor, university of hyderabad. widely consulted and listened to by many international organisations, dr. reddy is a brilliant commentator on contemporary economic issues. the downgrade of u.s. sovereign debt and the burgeoning debt crisis in the eurozone, have created fears of another global recession. stock markets everywhere, including in india, tumbled. it is against this backdrop that dr. reddy answered, through e-mail, a set of questions put to him by c.r.l. narasimhan.

Do you see some common points between the stock market collapse now and the start of the financial crisis in 2008? For instance, American policy making has been faulted both times — the weak regulation in 1997-98 and the complete absence of a political "give and take" now.

I agree with you that the crisis of 2008 and the incident or event of 2011, are somewhat similar. However, the crisis of 2008 was due to the wrong policies of the past, while the recent event is a failure of policy response to the crisis in the United States. Second, the recent event is not a new crisis; it is a continuation of the old one. Earlier everybody was taken by surprise, while the recent questionable downgrading invited attention to the weak and fragile economic recovery in the U.S. and the inadequate policy response. Finally, the crisis of 2008 was both due to wrong policies in a bipartisan manner based on wrong ideology, and the conduct of financial markets. The recent event is, in a way, due to polarised views on policy and also the result of the "make-believe world" of recovery that has been carefully projected by financial markets, resulting in a disconnect between the real economy and the financial markets.

The leadership role that was automatically bestowed on the U.S. has been called into question yet again. Are such calls once again premature?

[ Here he first commented on the U.S. currency being the world's reserve currency, the U.S. role in the recovery phase in the G20 countries, and related issues .] I agree that the leadership of the U.S. has been questioned before, but the questioning of its leadership this time is more serious. On earlier occasions, the policies were a reflection of inappropriate economic considerations, whereas the recent event shows an element of loss of confidence in the economic leadership of the U.S. both at the national and global levels. It is premature in the sense that the predominance of the U.S. will continue since its relative position, relative to other countries such as the euro area and Japan, remains to be significantly superior, as before.

In brief, the U.S. continues to be a pre-eminent leader for now, but a weaker leader than before, but with significant resilience and potential for assertion in the future. The intellectual capital, the institutional strengths and the value of the external assets of the corporate sector provide the U.S. with strengths that could potentially be harnessed. If it fails, it will hurt both the U.S. [economy] and the global economy.

The U.S. budget-related crisis and the debt crisis in the eurozone have some common features. Both of them are rooted in politics but have global ramifications.

There is a difference between the two, though both are related to public debt. In the U.S., it is essentially a political will at a national level to manage public debt with the centralised fiscal authority that it has. Further, the dollar is a primary dominant reserve currency, while the euro is a secondary reserve currency. In regard to the euro, there are important institutional constraints for distributing the burden between different sovereign nations that constitute the eurozone, and between the banking systems of individual countries legally and a constrained central bank. Single monetary [systems], coupled with multiple fiscal regimes, create substantial difficulties for designing the solutions, which will have to be innovative. While the challenge for the eurozone is more complex, the ramifications of the issue for the rest of the world are less severe. The euro area as a whole has no serious economic imbalances vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Most of the borrowers and lenders involved in the euro debt crisis are within the eurozone. In regard to the U.S., the rest of the world holds a significant part of the U.S. sovereign debt.

The "decoupling" theory, which says that fast-growing economies such as India need not depend on global cues, was discredited even last time.

The decoupling theory was developed soon after the financial crisis erupted in the U.S. and the euro area in 2007-08. I had described this at that time as "contextually convenient, but inherently illogical." We cannot extol the virtues of globalisation when the global economy is booming, and suddenly discover decoupling when there are problems. The issue is an extent and a pattern of interdependence between the countries in regard to trade in goods as well as services and financial flows. It is also dependent on the extent of initial conditions of vulnerability or resilience of the economy concerned and the institutional capacities which provide space for public policy.

Is India as well placed as last time to cope with the consequences of the crisis? What additional steps would you recommend?

There is a difference between the crisis of 2008 and the event of 2011. We had a balanced economy, and, therefore, we could withstand the impact of the crisis better than many others. However, the initial position in 2011 for India is different from [that in] 2008. Our fiscal position is weaker both in quantity and quality. The external sector position is weaker both in terms of stock of assets and liabilities, be it quantity-wise or quality-wise, and flows in terms of current account deficits. Domestically, both public and private investments seem to be somewhat subdued, while supply inelasticities have set in. Above all, in 2008, we entered the crisis with confidence in terms of both growth and inflation, while the sentiment today is less confident than before. The redeeming feature, perhaps, is that the events in 2011 may not indicate a serious crisis, but would indicate uncertainties, volatilities, divergent growth paths, divergent policies, etc. The challenges for policymakers are different, way forward.

Interview with Y. Venugopal Reddy, former Governor, Reserve Bank of India.






A notable feature of the India Against Corruption campaign by Anna Hazare and his civil society compatriots is that most, if not all, support has come from the urban middle class. Where mass movements in India were usually populated by the dispossessed or the working classes, this is the revolt of the comfortable. These modern-day crusaders out on the streets, shouting slogans, offering soundbites and rushing to court arrest are mostly educated and well-off. They are different from their counterparts of a generation or two ago: not for them the slow, painstaking legalistic process, constitutional niceties or indeed debate and discussion. They want quick fixes and instant results; they like polls with "yes" or "no" options and are happiest coining clever tweets. The painstaking political path, which takes time to show results, does not work for them. It's therefore not surprising that the government and the political class — talking about parliamentary procedures and standing committees — has failed to find any appeal.

These modern crusaders have, apart from taking to the streets, also taken their battle to the social networking world. The cyber arena is their universe — where they have used Twitter, Facebook and YouTube with great effect to spread the word. No sooner was Anna Hazare picked up by the police early Tuesday morning than his sermon was uploaded on to YouTube to reach his legion of followers across the country almost instantly. Tweets flew thick and fast with the latest developments, and helped motivate Mr Hazare's supporters, who then came out in significant numbers to march on in cities and towns across the land. This indicates a professional approach, belying the belief that this was a spontaneously planned affair. There was clearly a lot of strategising behind the scenes.

In this, the India Against Corruption agitationists seem to have learnt from and refined tactics used in similar mass movements in Arab nations and in the recent violence on Britain's streets. So alarmed were governments of those countries that sought ways to shut down social networking websites. In India, the government has had its eye on such sites for a while, and will not doubt propose some steps to control them.

The use of social media to this extent shows us that the old cut and thrust of public debates via newspapers and the mobilisation of people by ferrying them in trucks and keeping them motivated with loudspeakers are now long gone. The disconnect from the past is also visible in the casual invocations of this being "the second freedom movement" or to a "new Emergency", without necessarily knowing or caring to know about the historical context.

But there is no denying that a completely new social paradigm has emerged. India's middle classes now want answers, and are deploying all the forces and tools at their command to demand them. In effect they are saying that they want accountability from all those who rule them, and that the old excuses won't work any longer. The political class as a whole, and more specifically the government, simply have to recognise that they simply cannot afford to lumber on in the old ways, offering clichés and platitudes of the past. There are many reasons why this agitation and the way it is conducted is seriously flawed, but it is undeniable that a new environment has emerged which demands newer responses. At one time the legalistic arguments about permissions to fast and agitate would have worked; today they simply sound hollow. This is not to suggest that processes should be discarded or that the impatience of the protesting hordes should overturn established systems. But it is important that the Indian political class and the bureaucracy recognise the realities in the new India and stop living in a time warp.








It is curious that India and the United States — the two most important democracies in the world today, have in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama, chief executives who, it turns out, share traits that the Washington Post columnist, E.J. Dionne, Jr., identified as Mr Obama's hallmark, namely, being at once risk-averse and competitive.

In the three weeks this writer recently spent in America, it was impossible to escape the incessant drumbeat in the media about the economy on the skids, raising of the national debt ceiling amidst rancorous partisanship, the loss of "Triple A" credit rating, and an ascendant China, fearing its huge investment in some 13 per cent of the US Treasury bonds issued being reduced to waste paper, furiously wagging a finger at Washington, demanding Americans live within their means. (In all this gloom, amusement was afforded visiting Indians and NRIs, at least, by the website of a major Indian newspaper heralding an Indian as having "downgraded the United States"!) Meanwhile, at the centre of the hubbub, Mr Obama stayed on the sidelines, mostly disengaged, even as Republican Party Right-wingers called him names. It felt like home.

With scams and scandals of all kinds coming home to roost within the Congress Party portals, bad economic news dogging his every step, Dr Singh, other than sleep-talking through much the same Red Fort speech he has made the last seven years on Independence Day, has stayed mum, barricading himself in 7 Race Course Road, a mute spectator to things going horribly wrong for his government and for him personally. Except, unlike Mr Obama, the Indian Prime Minister is no mass leader nor a political visionary; even less is he an orator able to turn around a disbelieving public. His public speeches actually set many a teeth on edge. Dr Singh hopes to keep warbling the same old song without taking any of the follow-up actions he has been promising these many years to implement the second-generation economic reforms desperately needed to shift the economy to a higher plane.

But transforming India into a powerful growth engine, at a minimum, requires overhauling archaic labour laws and instituting new land acquisition norms in order to give fillip to industry, and boosting the rural economy by freeing the agricultural sector from export and other restrictions, none of which is being done because of fear of the faux socialists — Messrs Mulayam Singh, Amar Singh, Lalu Prasad Yadav, and Company, and the unpredictable politics of Mayawati. It is another matter that these worthies have, so far, been held in check by the ruling party manipulating the CBI corruption cases against them. But general economic up-gearing and CBI threats nevertheless entail risks because, overdone, these measures may persuade these leaders to join with the BJP-led Opposition to bring down the Congress-led coalition government. And risk-taking of any kind, especially with so much at stake, goes against Dr Singh's over-cautious nature and party chief Sonia Gandhi's plans. After all he is a career bureaucrat hoisted, for reasons of zero-threat to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and his personal malleability, to the top post in government, an arrangement that permits Mrs Gandhi to keep her hand on the steering wheel, a control now reinforced by her chosen civil servant, Pulok Chatterji, replacing T.K.A Nair as principal secretary to the Prime Minister.

The corporate bosses' understanding of the turgid pace of economic reforms is limited by the automotive metaphor they have used. Y.C. Deveshwar of Indian Tobacco Company in the August 2 meeting with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee reportedly ventured that the problem lay with two drivers — one pressing the accelerator, the other the brake. It's a view similar to the Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy's that the government's "culture of taking slow decisions" is attributable to "two leaders in the set-up". While such takes on reality seem reasonable at first glance, they are wrong in their essentials, in the main, because they assume that Dr Singh is driven by the desire for systemic change. The fact is he never had his foot on the accelerator, even as Mrs Gandhi never lifted hers from the brake pedal for fear that any forward movement would undermine the ruling party's pseudo-Leftist moorings. Indira Gandhi's Garibi Hatao-brand of crude populism masquerading as socialism is the true ideological lodestar of the Congress Party, not the quaint Fabian socialist tenets that animated Jawaharlal Nehru's policies. Dr Singh, the ultimate apparatchik and beneficiary of the system, in the event, has a disincentive to burnish his reformist credentials, such as they are, if that involves crossing the party line. Mrs Gandhi, on her part, may understand little about socialism other than that it has kept her family in the clover for a very long time. But it is sufficient reason for her to stay with the socialist rhetoric, statist solutions, and a horrendous state apparatus, which together have turned corrupt practices and mis-governance into a thriving cottage industry.

Where corruption is concerned, Dr Singh and Mr Obama are somewhat similarly placed. Personally clean, Mr Obama owes his meteoric rise from a grassroots organiser in Chicago to the corrupt Democratic Party political machine ruthlessly run, gangster style, first by mayor Richard J. Daley, who bequeathed the machine to his son, the even longer serving Richard Michael Daley, whose brother, William J. Daley, incidentally, is Mr Obama's White House Chief of Staff.

Dr Singh may not be corrupt himself, but that is small consolation considering he is presiding over a government that, going by the sheer extent, scale and magnitude of the loot indulged in by his party members and Cabinet colleagues, is patently the most corrupt in independent India's history, and one that may be headed for a downfall. The muck has long ago stuck to the Prime Minister's escutcheon. So, when he repeatedly declares that the corrupt will face punishment, who takes him seriously?

bharat karnad is a professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi







A rising intolerance of minority communities, Right-wing extremism, debasement of the currency, disenchantment with capitalism. Add to that a crash in Wall Street. This pretty much sums up the scene in the West today. Except that this was exactly the scenario in the 1920s when Europe was recovering from the ravages of the First World War and Germany was under the unpopular Weimar Republic.

After Germany was comprehensively defeated and its rulers made to accept humiliating terms, its currency went into a tailspin. Hyper-inflation made the currency worthless from one day to another, so much so that people used to frequently visit bars and clubs just to spend. The intelligentsia said that capitalism was over and demanded a newer paradigm. Conservatives, too, were expressing their disgust at the "Americanisation" of their culture. The more Right-wing among Germans, angry at the truncation of their borders, blamed it all on Jews and socialists. This paved the way for Hitler and National Socialists to emerge.

When Wall Street crashed in October 1929, the shock waves hit Europe too. America went into Great Depression and could no longer fund the continent's reconstruction. In Europe, local economies worsened and the next year the Nazis entered Parliament with 18 per cent of the vote.

The world is a very different place today, but some parallels are visible. The world's greatest economic power is staring at double-dip recession. Global investors are no longer giving the dollar a thumbs up and are showing little faith in American equities or bonds. In less than three-and-a-half months, Wall Street has fallen more than 18 per cent.

US President Barack Obama might say America remains a "Triple A" economy, but there is no doubt that the downgrading by Standard and Poor's has been a psychological hit. If it were any other country, there would have been massive flight of currency, crippling the economy. The US has been saved from that because of its sheer size and the simple fact that the dollar is the only reserve currency in the world.

Europe presents an even more grim picture. The economies of at least four countries are in a shambles and though Germany is strong, its citizens are asking why they should pay for the profligacy and shoddy economic management of others, like Greece. Very reluctantly and somewhat churlishly, Germany and France have doled out help to Greece, but only because they know the alternative is too horrible to contemplate — a default and the possible unravelling of the Euro, which will most certainly lead to economic chaos and political and social instability across the continent.

Meanwhile, the Right-wing is beginning to assert themselves. What Anders Behring Breivik did in Norway — killing scores of youngsters in a murderous spree — was certainly abnormal, but his love for extremist ideology and his professed hatred for Muslims is not. In all of Europe, people and parties freely express their anger at what they see as the gradual "takeover" of their societies by Muslim immigrants, never mind if the latter remain tiny minorities ghettoised away from the mainstream.

The reaction of officialdom has not always been encouraging either. One country bans the hijab, another votes against mosques and minarets and now a mayor in Italy has banned kababs because their smell is peculiar and they are against Italian culture! When British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel proclaim their severe scepticism about multiculturalism and talk about the need for assimilation, the message is not lost on the population. Nor is there any ambiguity in the drive against Roma (gypsies) by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. All these leaders know exactly what they are doing; aware that Right-wing forces are gathering steam in their country, they try to pander to their followers instead of clamping down on such extremism.

As the economies of many countries worsen, such extremism will only rise, because minorities and "outsiders" are the first to feel the brunt of popular anger in times of adversity. As it is, marginalised elements feel that the success of globalisation has passed them by; the riots in London may have been triggered by a specific incident, but the resentment was building up over years among poor and mainly black Londoners. The scenes of destruction caused by rioters (many of them from the minorities) is bound to nudge ordinary citizens. Right-wingers will speak even more stridently against immigrants. And so the wheel turns.

Hitler was initially supported not by the rich but by the working class and then by the middle classes. They were so fed up of what they saw and how their lives had been destroyed, they felt he had something to offer. Gradually political parties and leaders too moved over to him. The eventual outcome is known to all of us.
This is not necessarily how things will turn out; there is much that is very different from what it was then. For one thing, nowhere is the Right-wing in a position to seize power the way Hitler did, even if such parties have been scoring in elections. Also, while Western economies may be declining, relatively speaking, the rise of Asia is a stabilising force of sorts. The world during the 1930s was ruled by colonial powers and what happened in Europe had immediate repercussions everywhere. But even so, it is fascinating to see that not all the ghosts of the past have been exorcised and could come back to haunt us.






Anna Hazare's crusade against corruption has gathered momentum. Arousing the conscience of the nation on the issue augurs well. But the spontaneous response of people to his detention and fast needs to be guided in the right direction. Peaceful protest is permissible and Mr Hazare's motive in undertaking the fast is laudable, but compelling Parliament to enact his Jan Lokpal Bill is not constitutionally permissible. Even the Supreme Court of India cannot dictate to Parliament. Mr Hazare should immediately defuse the mounting tension, pause and consider a few legal aspects and direct his attention and energies towards a more constructive path for achieving the object, instead of continuing with his fast.

Assuming that Mr Hazare's Jan Lokpal Bill becomes a law, will it eradicate corruption? The Lokpal Act will only provide yet another mechanism to bring some corrupt public servants in high positions to book. The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, and its successor act of 1988 have not succeeded in preventing corruption. Only one Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde in Karnataka, has shown courage of conviction and submitted a report holding a senior politician, former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, guilty of corruption. Punitive measures are necessary, but their effect is limited. The Jan Lokpal Bill will neither prevent appointment of corrupt officials to public offices nor facilitate immediate suspension or removal of public servants of doubtful integrity, essential steps for checkingcorruption.

Also, is the insistence on bringing the office of the Prime Minister and the senior judiciary within the purview of Lokpal proper when opinion is divided among experts on the issue? Judicial luminiaries, like former Chief Justices M.N. Venkatachaliah and J.S. Verma, have advised against inclusion of the Prime Minister and judges for sound reasons. There are reservations among leaders of political parties as well on this issue. Inclusion of judges may make the judicial process vulnerable because of interference with the independence of the judiciary, a basic feature of the Constitution.

Is it right to bring moral pressure on Parliament through a fast to enact a particular bill? Would such fast be consistent with the ethos of parliamentary democracy which is another basic feature of the Constitution? Dr B.R. Ambedkar, in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly, said, "We must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods to achieve 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." According to this view, Mr Hazare's fast is unconstitutional.

Over the years almost all institutions of self-governance have been losing their credibility and efficacy due to a faulty electoral system that permits undesirable elements to get elected with money power, muscle power and caste and community backing. Those who invest heavily in elections tend to make hay while the sun shines. In his 13th Desraj Chaudhary Memorial Lecture, Atal Behari Vajpayee said, "The electoral system has been almost totally subverted by money power, muscle power and votebank considerations of castes and communities..." In 1922, C. Rajagopalachari predicted in his prison diary, "Elections and their corruption, injustice and the power and tyranny of wealth and inefficiency of administration will make life hell as soon as freedom is given to us. Men will look regretfully back to the old regime of comparative justice, and efficient, peaceful, more or less honest administration…"

It is, therefore, necessary to purify the system by summary removal of public servants of doubtful integrity, including judges, MPs, MLAs, MLCs and civil servants, and simultaneously bar the entry of such persons into Parliament, state legislatures, the judiciary and public services throughout the country. Mr Hazare should concentrate on this aspect.

Dark deeds are never done in broad daylight. Providing foolproof evidence in corruption cases to a court of law or for a departmental inquiry is difficult and time consuming, as the culprits try to thwart every attempt to bring them to book. Therefore, a provision needs to be inserted in the Indian Constitution for constant evaluation of the integrity of all public servants — complaints that raise doubts about the integrity of any official should be considered and if there is even prima facie suggestion that the complaint is legitimate, "shady characters" should be removed forthwith, if need be on payment of some compensation.

A political fast-unto-death amounts to an offence under the Indian Penal Code, if it reaches a stage when there is imminent danger to life. The right to life guaranteed by the Constitution does not include the right to die. A legal duty is cast on the state to protect the life of every person. The state cannot remain complacent as people's emotions in India rise high when a leader goes on a fast for a public cause. The widespread reaction to Mr Hazare's detention and remand to judicial custody casts on him the responsibility to ensure that his followers do not indulge in violence. Instead of allowing unsuccessful politicians to fish in troubled waters and try to destabilise the lawfully established government, Mr Hazare should demand a meeting of all leaders in Parliament for a dialogue on the issue and to decide on ways and means of tackling corruption quickly.
The government needs to respect Mr Hazare's right to protest peacefully and, at the same time, take every step to maintain peace. The government should invite the leaders of all parliamentary parties, government representatives, Mr Hazare and his aides for a round-table meeting to review the situation and arrive at a consensus within the framework of the Constitution. A joint appeal to people by all of them to remain calm will be timely.

P.P. Rao is a noted constitutional expert and senior Supreme Court advocate








The big issue made out by the separatist leadership and some mainstream politicians about the alleged rape case of a Gujjar woman Ruqaya of Gujardhar Manzgam village in Kulgam district has once again exposed them of trying to whip up anti-Army hysteria among the masses of people in Kashmir Valley. We may help our readers recollect that once the Defence Minister said on the floor of the Parliament that more than 95 per cent cases of alleged rape by the army men in J&K were false and manipulated. The lady who had filed an FIR against the army has stated before the Magistrate that she was neither kidnapped nor raped but had left her dhok out of her free will. This statement has been corroborated by her husband and other family members. The SIT set up by the DG Police Kashmir within hours of the incident conducted in depth and legally perfect investigation besides obtaining the results of comprehensive forensic and laboratory tests. The SP of Kulgam has now come with a public statement that there was no truth or basis for the FIR lodged by Ruqaiyya against the army of alleged kidnapping and rape.
This is not the first instance of a fake rape charge brought against the army as a concerted effort on the behest of foreign agents to foment trouble in the valley. We are reminded of Kunan Poshpora incident, which was given wide media hype so much so that foreign human rights activists tried to make a case out of it in order to malign India. They did not care to make thorough investigation or check up with police and intelligence agencies to come to the truth about the canard. Actually they did not want to do so and absolve the Army as per their preconceived notion. Army's investigation ordered by the Corps Commander had shown that it was a hoax. The Chief Minister promised quickest possible investigation but the motivated mobs would not listen to the voice of reason. The hysterical crowds whose strings were pulled somewhere else would not want the valley to be peaceful and had vowed to disrupt law and order, which, however, they could not succeed to do.
It is known to all that the misguided Kashmiri youth have become hostages in the hands of their handlers across the border. Canards like alleged rapes or desecration of a holy place or a shrine, or abuse of modesty of women, all are the tricks of the trade which ISI moles are forcing upon Kashmiri youth to indulge in. These young men should try to understand that the state is run by the established constitution and the law, and when law moves in, the truth is out. The S.P of Kulgam is reported to have indicated that the police have dependable information about the persons who had hatched the conspiracy and they would be apprehended soon. It was also found that in past three summers, stone throwing was part of the subversive policy which ISI is conducting in Kashmir. Interrogation has revealed that the stone throwing youth were paid by their mentors. Who are the victims? They are Kashmiris not outsiders. And when that happens, the separatist leadership raises hue and cry that the Army and security forces have unleashed reign of terror. These gimmicks do not cut ice with independent opinion holders. The world has come to know that the anti-India tirade carried out by some miscreants in the valley in the name of struggle for freedom is on the behest and planning of foreign intelligence agencies that have hooked up operatives and moles within Kashmir civil society. Any self-respecting community would not allow an outsider dictate terms to it and surrender its will to the wishes of the foreign mentors.
There is a specific reason why this time a Gujjar woman was chosen to be made the scapegoat. The Gujjars living in upper have, by and large, refused to succumb to the intimidation of armed militants. Some of them have even bee killed by the militants who managed to infiltrate into the state by stealth. Subversives wanted to alienate the Gujjar community from national mainstream. That is why a conspiracy was hatched and given tremendous media hype. The investigation conducted by the police has revealed the nuances of this conspiracy, and in final analysis the conspirators stand exposed. It is significant that soon after the fake rape case of Kulgam Gujjar woman was publicized, the community leadership of Gujjars advised restraint and patience so that the truth was arrived at by the enquiring machinery. What has the separatist leadership and also such leadership among the nationalist forces as is playing a double role to say on the findings of the police enquiry? It is time that Kashmiri youth understand who their well-wisher is and who leads them to the brink of destruction. The youth that can be easily led astray by baseless allegations cannot be always considered innocent.







In keeping with the tradition of disregarding formal commitments, international law and good neighbourly relations, Islamabad have tried to rake up the water dispute with India in the International Court at The Hague in Netherlands. Its delegation to The Hague to file a complaint against India for storing the waters of Kishanganga in Gurez for the construction of a hydroelectric power station at a cost of nearly four hundred crore rupees. New Delhi was surprised to know that Pakistan was approaching the International Court despite the fact that it had sent it official delegation to India where they visited the site of the construction and were explained the Indian project of generating power from the waters of Kishanganga River. Under the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, New Delhi has given up its claim about water usage of three western rivers- Jhelum, Chenab and Indus (all flowing from Jammu and Kashmir) - to Pakistan in lieu of three eastern rivers -
Satluj, Beas and Ravi. The treaty prevents the storage of the water otherwise owned by the state.
"The project does not violate any clause of the Indus Water Treaty. We are only using 10% of the water for the Kishanganga project and it does not violate the treaty," said a top official involved with the project construction. The State Government and also New Delhi both have denied any violation of the Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan. The Project Director of Gurez Hydropower Project said that "The project does not violate any clause of the Indus Water Treaty. We are only using 10% of the water for the Kishanganga project and it does not violate the treaty,".








India's polity and economy are far from reassuring for uninterrupted stability and robust growth as the nation enters its 65th year of independence. An extraordinary turn of events over the year has clouded the short-term outlook - issues of corruption in high places and governance failures thrown up like never before while continuing high inflation and structural weaknesses have slowed down the economy, off its high growth trajectory.
Lack of supportive external environment is part of the problem. But UPA-II cannot disown its responsibility for such a pass and has been justifiably assailed for policy drift and even plain neglect, especially in regard to effectively lowering inflation which has hurt hundreds of millions over the last three years. Parliament has hardly taken up any of the major legislative measures on the agenda so far in the current monsoon session, as Government is pilloried by a vociferous opposition and held to account for all the corrupt deals and policy missteps.
There has been a perceptible investment slowdown and weakening of business confidence for some months. Government, especially Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, has been trying to pep up the economy and remove the "perception" that there is a policy paralysis. Asserting that the fundamentals of the economy are strong, he is hopeful of giving a thrust to financial sector and other reforms in the coming weeks even as some significant initiatives have been taken, such as in regard to financing infrastructure. Half the monsoon session having been lost in uproar and adjournments, it remains to be seen what Mr Mukherjee will be able to score.
Even the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council headed by Dr. C. Rangarajan which has lowered GDP estimate to 8.2 per cent in 2011-12, has said Government, which looked stable after the 2009 elections, lost the momentum to take energetic steps to tone up the economy, and a slew of corruption-related controversies over the past year has "consumed its energies and led to slowing down of initiatives to restore investment and economic confidence".
While Government is focusing on the urgency of attracting foreign direct investment flows which were down in 2010-11 - but with some revival in the first quarter - there are critical problems ahead - land acquisition, mining, power and other shortfalls in infrastructure on which Government has been unable to make much headway to be able to give a turnaround to a slowing economy. While Finance Minister is confident of ensuring 8.5 per cent growth and adhering to fiscal deficit target of 4.6 per cent, professional forecaster and other business surveys put growth in the range of 7.5 to 8.2 per cent in 2011-12 and place fiscal deficit at 5.3 per cent of GDP.
More disturbingly, high inflation will continue to plague the economy this year, as projected in various forecasts. There would be no let-up in near double-digit inflation for most of the current year which could hopefully end with WPI still at 7.5 to 8 per cent (March 2012). By the week ended July 30th, food inflation - which has spurred general inflation -was 9.9 per cent year-on-year and prices of cereals including rise were rising by 3 to 4 per cent in the current fiscal year (April-July). Taming inflation will continue to be top priority for RBI, according to the Governor Dr Subbarao and Deputy Governor Subir Gokarn, who said reducing inflation is necessary to sustain medium-term growth at not less than 8 per cent.
In the first quarter (April-June), manufacturing had shown a pick-up in June but at 7.5 per cent in the first quarter (April-June) it was below 10.3 per cent in the corresponding quarter of 2010/11.Barring basic and capital goods, which did relatively better in June, other classified goods, especially consumer durables like automobiles, registered sharp declines in the first quarter. Exports are holding up well so far but the Commerce Ministry assumes that with demand weakening in US and Europe, Indian exports may not have as good a run in the coming months.
India's growth is essentially domestic demand-driven but still dependent on global economy in trade and capital flows to finance the current deficits and boost investment. 2010-11 saw a sharp drop in direct investment flows though lately there are signs of a pick-up. Domestic financial stability which has been a strong positive is also prone to exogenous shocks as global financial markets have entered another volatile phase in the wake of Standard & Poor's downgrading, by a notch, of the credit rating of USA, the first of its kind for what has been the world's safest haven.
A loss of investor confidence has swept across both USA, struggling with its fiscal deficits and debt and bipartisan brinkmanship in Washington, and the Eurozone where sovereign debt crisis is erupting in more peripheral countries while major economies like France and UK are also taking growth hits. Wall Street saw the wildest week, since the financial crisis of 2008, with swings of 400-500 points in the Dow Industrial Average index in a turbulent week (August 8-12) which ended with a gain of 125 points, at 11,269, based on a weekly sign of a fall in job claims and rise in retail sales in July. Taking cues from US and other major markets, the Bombay Sensex took sharp downturns reflecting investor worries over rising interest rates, unabated inflation and global uncertainties.
Going forward, the weak recovery in USA, compounded by the sovereign debt difficulties in euro-zone with major economies like Italy and France also coming under strain, rule out any improvement in the global situation, even though emerging market countries like China and India are maintaining relatively higher growth albeit with some moderation. To support the faltering US economy, the Federal Reserve announced on August 9 it would hold short-term interest rates near zero through mid-2013 but hinted at no new measures to further reduce long-term interest rates or otherwise stimulate growth.
President Obama, faced with Republican resistance to consider any tax proposal to balance the huge deficits, is fighting desperately to deliver new ideas which would create jobs, and has charged Republicans with putting politics ahead of the country. His re-election hopes in 2012, with his popular rating already down, will depend, to a large extent, on his success in lowering unemployment and easing conditions for consumers. Not only the Congress is divided, opinion across America also has not swung heavily for boosting the economy by raising NRE taxes while cutting the discretionary outlays.
The president has said he would layout more proposals in the days ahead including renewal of pay roll tax cuts and extension of unemployment insurance for a further period to help struggling workers and consumers. While the President remains committed to achieving tax code changes plugging loopholes and ending subsidies, it would be a tough battle in the "super committee" of the Congress, made up of equal number of Republicans and Democrats when it takes up by November the next stage of lowering America's debt burden and balancing its budget over the coming decade. (IPA)







Following spurt in incursions by China into Ladakh for the last few months, our External Affairs Minister S.M.Krishna responded by saying that, "India has one of the most peaceful boundaries with China." He further said, "Let me go on record to say that this boundary with China has been one of the most peaceful boundaries that we have had as compared to other boundary lines with other countries, there is no problem on that. When asked about the incidents of China violating the borders and indulging in other activities detrimental to our interests, he was "optimistic about "the issue of such incidents will be sorted out , flag meetings and diplomatic channels are the standard mechanisms which take care of such incursions."
The fact of the matter is that the problem is not confined to the border or air space violations by China , incursions or intrusions only but much more than that. We are not only told that the whole of Arunachal Pradesh is not a part of India and the visit to that state by the Head of the Indian Government objected to but activities well inside our own territory is objected to by that country and on many occasions, border development works forcibly stopped, S.M.Krishna's statements wrapping the happenings as "most peaceful" notwithstanding. In the name of "such works (on our side) do not become hostage to diplomacy between the two countries ", the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on July 1, 2011 said that the Government is doing "whatever is necessary in this regard ." On the contrary, the Central Government is reported to have issued directives to the state to stop all construction works in Dhamchuk and other areas of Ladakh well inside our territory near the border while all sorts of construction of roads and structures not only near the border but even inside some areas of Dhamchuk are being done by China . Following the example of our External Affairs Minister, the Chief Minister too was with an ambiguous stand that "there is a proper consultative mechanism in place between New Delhi and Beijing, there are certain areas in the high mountains where historically we have not been able to demarcate the actual border as a result of which from time to time certain issues come up which have to be addressed…."
Are we botching up our response and demonstrate quite deficient efforts to assert our position especially when the problem is not confined to border misadventures alone? China is making our position strategically vulnerable in Kashmir -- politically, diplomatically and geographically besides posing a massive threat militarily. Is not increasing presence of China in Pakistan occupied Kashmir in areas closer to the Line of Control, a great cause of concern ?Engineers , technicians and workers are busy there for infrastructural development. As per reports, a large number of dams and projects to raise infrastructure have been developed by the Chinese in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and in northern areas. In the garb of workers, it is suspected that they are the members of Peoples' Liberation Army soldiers. If the findings of the Think Tank Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis, New Delhi; are to be relied upon, China's increased presence and interference in the concerned areas could result in their complete control by Beijing latest by 2020.
Is the Korakarm highway that connects Beijing and Pakistan, being used as the mode to transport with ease, the nuclear merchandise from China to Islamabad? This highway is 1300 kilometers long and on the one side is up to Pakistan's Abbottabad railways connecting with China's Jziang province on the other side. It is feared that China, if not contained in its belligerent demeanors, could lay its claim on and capture Gilgit by 2020. The Pakistan China nexus has reached levels of fomenting troubles of alarming magnitude for India. Gilgit is having deposits of Uranium and Pakistan has been helping China loot Gilgit in as much as 200 companies of China are engaged in mining activities there. This has irked the local people but they have been silenced and hundreds arrested by Pakistan army. Gilgit is under POK since 1947, otherwise a part of India and mining licenses have been issued by Pakistan to Chinese companies in such a way as if Pakistan has leased out Gilgit to China. What has our position been in this regard? Is not the strategic collusion between Pakistan and China in terms of military and nuclear cooperation further vitiated our external security environment? Conventional superiority of India was sought to be challenged by Pakistan many times in the past without achieving any success but with massive help by China in acquiring nuclear capability and arsenal, the duo is attempting to undermine India from wherever possible.
Pakistan is continuously receiving aid and encouragement from China to keep India unsettled. In other words in South Asia, Pakistan has become China's closest ally. The question is after all why should China provide such sensitive nuclear missile technology to Pakistan unless strategic stakes are extremely high as well as critical?
China has built massive military infrastructure in Tibet where it has 14 air bases and an oil pipeline. It has hundreds of miles of railway link and also has deployed a considerable missile power in Tibet with obvious target points. Tibetan areas being the primary source of water for south and south East Asia, rivers like Brahamputra, Indus, Sutlej etc; could get grossly affected by the nuclear pollutants posing deleterious effect for not only India but Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh etc; in case something like incidents of post tsunami effects like the one of Fukushima Nuclear Power in Japan, took place in March this year. The most alarming situation has arisen by massive programme of construction of number of dams by China on the main channel of Brahamputra river not only to irrigate China's vast areas otherwise reeling under persistent drought conditions and generate huge electricity but with an aim to parch our huge North East areas of water wealth for agriculture and other activities but also misuse the huge store of water as a water bomb against India in case of breaking out of hostilities between the two countries. It would otherwise put India at the mercy of China during any dry spell or from a shield from devastating floods affecting the whole of Brahamputra Ganga basin.
Indo China 2005 protocol has become redundant as none of the burning issues like the ones discussed in these lines have been addressed by China. It is also reported that there is no mutually agreed LOC between the two countries. If so, how long shall this uncertainty be milked by China at our cost and to the detriment of our external security interests? The real and the grave threat to India is perceived in terms of that from China. We cannot afford any longer to look to the other side or feign to be unaffected by the bullying tactics of China either singly by it or in association with Pakistan . It is high time we mend our fences firmly with China.








The women of the Indian capital went on a 'Besharmi Morcha' a la 'Slut walk' of the western countries to protest against the popular belief that provocatively dressed women invite molestation and rape.
It is a trifle ironical to note that such rallies are taking place during the year we have officially celebrated the centenary year of Woman's day! It is unfortunate that women have to pay a heavy price for they are categorically held responsible for the failings of weak minded men. Their crime -they exude their charm without any specific agenda.
It is true that we live in a diabolic world where life is not fair and rules and regulations are not uniform or valid across the globe. It is plain that women have been at the receiving end of the whims and fancies and resultant injustice from times immemorial. For instance, the Yemen beach ball players at the Asian games attributed their failure to win the game to the scantily clad cheer leaders who distracted them no end.
There was a lot of brouhaha when a qualified, pretty woman Debrahlee Loranzana was forced to leave a job in Citibank because "her male bosses could not handle her libidos".
It was around this time a young attractive lecturer in Bangalore was sacked from her job because the management thought she was a distraction to the students. Then there are other bits of disturbing news that do not necessarily involve working woman. The girl next door or even the women in one's family could be bearing the brunt of grazing eyes, groping hands, or menial instinct of men.
Only last year, two Afghan teenagers who ran away from marriage were flogged publicly and were issued divorce by the religious authority because they dared to essay an escape to their freedom.
Surprisingly in this case, the young married girls were asked to heave up their heavy shawls, which protected them from Afghan cold so that the whiplashes could hurt them effectively.
This demoniac heartless scene was not only captured on camera but was widely circulated across the world by the media. While the incident itself talks of great horror, one cannot but note the interesting fact that the girls were asked to shed the protective clothing because the punishers were keen on the fact that the girls should feel the pain despite the diktats of their traditional dress code which is fastidious about modesty.
These instances placed far apart in time, mind set, culture and geography but all of them point out but to one feature. The women involved in all the cases have little or no choice in choosing the clothes they wear or any other aspect of their lives.
Several generations of organisations have worked on the subject, apparently without any success. Otherwise women worldwide will not be thinking up of such rallies to right a wrong done to them.
The woman should be respected as an individual who has the right to live with dignity and basic human liberty. If the men in the world think that they cannot handle the libido or the ego of the woman they should find pragmatic solutions to overcome their drawback rather than heap punitive measures on the fairer sex. If we decide to ignore the message of the feminine world even now, we must be prepared to witness more female foeticides, honour killings, and unwarranted suicides till we reach a lopsided ratio that will spell doom to mankind.
It is interesting to note that a medical term like TWIST sums up the situation. TWIST happens to be an abbreviation for Time Without Symptoms or Toxicity, which happens to be the safe period for people under treatment. Now the TWIST period for mankind with reference to atrocities on women has flit by. It is said that it is darkest before dawn; let us hope the current darkness is the harbinger of light. (INAV)


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





THE Parkash Singh Badal government richly deserved the humiliation received from a Full Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which set aside the appointment of Harish Rai Dhanda as Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission on Wednesday. The appointment, the court says, was "made with a preconceived mind". Dhanda resigned as an MLA on July 6 to take up the new job and was stopped from taking the oath as a PIL petition challenged the appointment. He was the sole candidate considered and appointed to an important constitutional post.


Normally, making appointments is the executive's job. But top posts cannot be gifted away to political loyalists. The judiciary intervenes if there are no rules or the prescribed rules are violated. A public service commission makes senior-level appointments and people expect these to be fair, transparent and objective. But if the integrity of those taking such decisions is suspect, the loss of public faith in the selection process is inevitable. There is a tendency to accommodate retired judges and bureaucrats for services rendered in the past. Information commissioners are also sometimes appointed arbitrarily. Academics woo politicians for occupying the chair of Vice Chancellor. Go-getters often beat the deserving in the dirty race.


All this becomes possible because there are no specific guidelines mentioning the qualifications, experience, age etc required for top posts. This helps politicians but hurts institutions. One chief minister fills the PPSC with cronies and the next refuses to give it any work until he replaces the previous set with his own. This distrust has become quite evident in recent years. Chief Minister Badal tried passing on the PPSC work to the UPSC, which rightly rebuffed him. The government cannot tell right from wrong despite raising a battalion of lawyers raised with the tax payers' money. A private lawyer was hired to defend the Ludhiana MLA. Institutions and individuals, no matter how powerful, are respected if they act responsibly. Otherwise, courts and people show them their limits.








THE situation in Nepal is back to square one. With Prime Minister Jhalnath Khanal having resigned, an intensive search for a new leader to head a national unity government has begun. The Constituent Assembly, which has to elect a new Prime Minister, has very limited time as its term is due to end on August 31. The Assembly has a Herculain task to accomplish in a country where earlier as many as 17 attempts were made to get a leader to run the government. Mr Khanal became the Prime Minster on February 3 only after Mr Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, extended his support to him. Mr Prachanda's Maoist party has the largest representation in the 601-member Assembly.


Mr Khanal's elevation came about with the signing of a five-point deal which he has failed to implement. This was the reason why the Maoists and even members of his own party, the CPN-UML, wanted Mr Khanal to go. The deal had it that the Prime Minister would do everything possible to take the 2006 peace process to its logical conclusion, expedite the constitution-writing programme and ensure that the Maoist militia cadres were absorbed in the Nepal Army. However, the primary task of the Constituent Assembly, formed in 2008 after a proper election, was to draft a new democratic constitution. The peace process cannot be completed without a constitution, as this will have to be followed by a general election.


In the search for a new Prime Minister some names have started making rounds like those of Mr Baburam Bhattarai, the second most important leader of the Maoists after Mr Prachanda, Mr Ram Chandra Poudel and former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress. The fact that Mr Prachanda and Mr Bhattarai do not pull along well may come in the way of the latter's winning the race. In any case, at this stage it is difficult to say who will emerge the winner. No two political parties in Nepal have a convergence of opinion. With their bloated egos, these short-sighted politicians are unlikely to settle for a leader so easily.
















ACUTE embarrassment in Pakistan over the fact that Osama bin Laden was living in a hideout in the cantonment town of Abbottabad was quickly replaced by indignation and anger at the United States for staging the raid that killed the most wanted terrorist in the world. It was clear that Pakistani leadership was kept out of the loop by the Americans. All that American Seals left behind were some dead bodies and the tail section of a radar-evading helicopter used in the operation, which had to be abandoned due to it malfunctioning. The tail section of the helicopter survived the attempt by the US forces to destroy it.


By now most of the world has seen pictures of the damaged craft, as well as of other effects of the raid. While there was jubilation in many parts of the world, the Pakistani establishment was on the back foot and retaliated by defending the ISI and seeking out all those who had helped the Americans. The tail too became an issue, as the US demanded, and got it back, but not before, it is now alleged, Pakistan gave its long-time military ally China a look-see, or more.


Since the 9/11 attacks, the US has given Pakistan aid worth $20 billion. However, it is no secret that Washington and Islamabad have, more often than not, competing agendas, even on Afghanistan, where the US needs Pakistan's help the most. Given that a relationship that had seen its share of ups and down has reached a new low, the hawks are active on both sides. The Inter-Services Intelligence agency and the military establishment are not likely to loosen their stranglehold on the civilian government in Pakistan. The diplomats will, therefore, have to work with them even as they strengthen the civilian government, encourage democracy in Pakistan, and address the damage, military as well as diplomatic, that this incident has caused.









WITH the Americans having announced that they intend to end active combat operations in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, Pakistanis have commenced pondering over what life will be like after that. Optimists, particularly from the military and jihadi groups believe that the American withdrawal will lead to the fulfilment of Gen Zia-ul-Haq's dream of a Pakistan blessed with "strategic depth"' extending beyond the Amu Darya and into Central Asia. Others fear that with Taliban extremism already having spread from across the Durand Line into Punjab and even into Karachi, the country is headed for what author Ahmed Rashid once described as a "Descent into Chaos".


Interestingly, a CIA report, entitled "Global Trends 2015", noted in December 2001: "Pakistan will not recover easily from decades of economic mismanagement, divisive politics and ethnic feuds. In a climate of continuing domestic turmoil, the Central Government's control will probably be reduced to the Punjab heartland and the economic hub of Karachi."


Rarely has a country's future been tied as inextricably to the actions in its neighbourhood of a distant power as Pakistan's future presently is to American policies in Afghanistan. Any hope that a democratic dispensation will soon triumph over military hegemony in Pakistan, as Turkey has now experienced, is a pipedream. Pakistan's military still believes that the Americans will meet the same fate as the Soviets did when confronted with the forces of "militant Islam" from across the Durand Line.


There is nothing to indicate that Rawalpindi has any intention of ending its support for either the Taliban or the Haqqani network. Both Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani remain implacably opposed to American proposals on political "reconciliation" in Afghanistan. Neither of them has shown any sign of ending links with the Al-Zawahiri-led Al-Qaeda and its Chechen and Central Asian affiliates. Moreover, the Haqqani network unabashedly supports the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, infuriating Pakistan's "all-weather friend," China.


Pakistan's military has believed in recent years that with the American economy in tatters and domestic opinion becoming increasingly hostile to growing casualties overseas the Obama Administration will quit Afghanistan, paving the way for a Taliban takeover in the not too distant future. Pakistan's military also believed that given their dependence on its logistical support for supplies to their military in Afghanistan, the Americans were in no position to take coercive measures against their country.


These calculations have gone awry. Firstly, it was the combined costs of war in Iraq, estimated at $ 806 billion, together with the relatively less expensive war in Afghanistan that has cost the US taxpayer a total of $ 444 billion over a decade, which was proving unaffordable. Secondly, while Americans have lost 1760 soldiers in Afghanistan over a decade, their high casualties in Iraq, which included 4474 killed in action, made the war highly unpopular domestically.


Finally, showing determination to thwart Pakistani blackmail and threats of blocking supply routes, the Americans now move less than 35 per cent of their supplies through Pakistan, with the rest coming across their Northern Distribution Network, assisted by Russia and the Central Asian Republics. Two years ago over 70 per cent of American supplies were routed through Pakistan.


Whether it is on the question of the secret approval it gave for American drone attacks on Pakistani territory, even as it raised a public hue and cry on the issue, or in its policy of providing shelter to Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, while claiming to be a loyal ally on America's "War on Terror", the duplicity of Pakistan's military stands exposed before its own people and before the world. But fear of the military and its jihadi protégés constantly stifles liberal voices in Pakistan. The elimination of people like Salman Taseer and Syed Saleem Shahzad is a clear signal that there is little difference between General Kayani and General Shuja Pasha, together with their favourite jihadis on the one hand, and Syria's President Basher-al-Assad, on the other, when it comes to eliminating manifestations of dissent.


The Pakistan Army is finding it difficult to defeat its erstwhile Pashtun protégés in the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. There is, therefore, little prospect of it meeting American demands to act decisively against the followers of Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani. Pakistan's Generals are bent on retaining their jihadi assets in Afghanistan. The United States is determined to ensure that the AfPak badlands straddling the Durand Line are not infested with pathologically anti-American jihadis. The two "Major non-NATO allies" thus appear set on a collision course despite pretensions of seeking mutual understanding.


With China upset at Pakistan-based militants challenging its writ in Xinjiang, there is little prospect of Beijing pandering to Pakistan's jihadi inclinations in Afghanistan, despite its aversion for a continuing American military presence, close to its borders. China's assistance to its "all-weather friend" will, however, continue primarily to "contain" India. The Russians have made it clear that their air space and territory are available for American operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban as long as they can jointly crackdown on production and smuggling of opium. Unless there is a total meltdown in their economy, the Americans will retain a relatively small, but significant military/air presence in Afghanistan, primarily for counter-terrorism, against groups operating across the Durand Line. There are hints that their military presence in Afghanistan will also be geared to deal with any possible takeover of Pakistan's nuclear weapons by jihadi extremists, including by extremists within Pakistan's much vaunted military.


The Afghan National Army will, in all likelihood, not be able to retain the control of the areas bordering Pakistan for any length of time after December 2014. India and the international community will have to be prepared for this situation and for the inevitable change in the dynamics of internal politics within Afghanistan, given the deep-rooted non-Pashtun aversion to Taliban domination. We should have no illusions that we can change the jihadi mindset of Pakistan's armed forces and should learn the right lessons from the heavy price the Americans have paid for their naiveté on the military mindset in Pakistan. We will also have to contribute actively in regional and international forums focusing on AfPak developments. Most importantly, our economic assistance has won us goodwill across Afghanistan. This has to continue. The end-game in Afghanistan has only just begun. Hopefully, our approach to developments in Afghanistan will show greater realism and imagination than our "composite dialogue at all costs" diplomacy. Such realism appeared absent when Pakistan-backed jihadis killed Indian soldiers in Kashmir just after the much-touted visit of Mrs Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's Foreign Minister.








A girl in her pre-teens resting next to her dollhouse starts dreaming of her knight in shining armour. And after her teens, parents too are on the lookout of the proverbial tall, dark and handsome (TDS) guy though Shahrukh Khan promotes a cream that makes one 'fair and handsome like him'.


This 'TDS' longing has resulted in increasing rate of divorce even in India where it still is the lowest — less than 2 per cent but has increased by one hundred per cent in the urban areas in the past five years. It is because we choose a person who looks like chocolate-boy Shahid Kapoor, who has jumped from Kareena to Amrita to Sania to Priyanka and now to Bipasha, instead of the family-man Ajay Devgan type.


A recent survey conducted by a magazine reflected that only 44 per cent of married women wished to marry the same man in their next birth. Pity, the 'saat janmon ka bandhan' promise failed to cross the pious fire of the wedding mandap for majority of them!


Do you want a very intelligent husband for yourself or for your daughter? Beware, Dr Willard F Harley, marriage expert, says, "The girl and the boy should be roughly equivalent in intelligence, within about 15 I.Q. Points." The common blunder that is committed is marrying potential. The parents think that 'he has the potential of improving after marriage.' Girl! Know your would-be hubby's habits, character, and personal hygiene standards and see if you can live with these as they are now, then go ahead and hold his hand. The experts say that a girl or her family may expect him to change after marriage but mostly the change is for the worst.


All this shows that selecting Mr Right is a tedious job. Yes, it is; but a recent survey conducted on 51,000 people in London has made it simpler. Go to the nearest museum or art gallery or a cultural house or a theatre hall and keep an eye on the person who is closest to the one in your heart. He is the person in better shape, both mentally and physically. Such persons have a good state of health, are satisfied with life and their levels of anxiety and depression are very low. The high-sample research of its kind has disclosed: "The biggest beneficiaries were men who were interested in watching and looking at culture rather than actively participating in it themselves."


The study has found that Mr Right should be in the audience but Miss Right has to be on the stage — men gain most from receptive cultural activities and women from creative cultural activities. So, happy hunt!









DURING the last three decades, pharmaceuticals have shown an explosive growth all over the world. After eatables, cosmetics and textiles, pharmaceuticals are rapidly surging ahead to become the third largest industry in several developed countries, thanks to health awareness propagated by World Health Organisation (WHO).


In India, we have not lagged behind. Our pharmaceuticals, in spite of tough competition, have got entrenched in the eastern, mid-eastern and in several western markets. Some of our pharmaceutical multinationals have already acquired an edge over several well-established foreign multinationals. Our pharmaceutical export revenue is increasing year after year. We are very much in the global market.


In India more than 40 thousand pharmaceutical manufacturers of all grades are flooding the market with nearly 50 thousand patent as well as 200 thousand generic drugs and formulations of all types. This number is rapidly increasing every year.


The global market harshly enforces specifications and quality control in all respects, retail dispensing, pricing and presentation etc, according to the norms laid down by the respective authorities concerned.


However, the Indian pharmaceutical market, in spite of supervision and control by the Centre and state authorities concerned, needs several reforms to suit the Indian consumer.


The price of pharmaceuticals is the single most pinching problem which makes them out of reach for those who need them the most. It is an irony of paucity in the midst of plenty. About 35-40 per cent of Indians are below the poverty line; 50 per cent are in the middle income group.Only 10 per cent are an affluent chosen few. The cost of a strip of 10 capsules/tablets being not less than Rs 50-60, it is hardly affordable for 70-80 per cent of Indians. The National Rural Health Mission and Health insurance schemes for those below the poverty line, for several reasons, have not taken off and have made no tangible dent so far.


The margin of profit in most pharmaceutical formulations and patents is between 100 and 500 per cent. Rigid and intimate scrutiny and price control, both at the Centre and the state levels, is imperative. MOU with multinationals for foreign direct investment should restrict the margin of profits for the price control of products. Preference to generic drugs over patented ones, simple cheaper retail dispensing, packing and packaging can considerably reduce cost and prices. Each strip, vial or bottle should display in a bold print readable without a magnifying glass, the generic name of the drug and its dose. In most cases the name of the manufacturer and the name of the drug covers most of the space.


Quality control


Various pharmacopeias — Indian, British, US etc — lay down specifications for each pharmaceutical. After the initial batch, on which the license for the pharmaceuticals depends, subsequent batches tend to compromise on specifications and quality. Therefore, the drug is either less potent, or gives severe side-effects.


Therapeutic index (lethal dose divided by effective dose) of every drug is governed by internationally accepted norms. The higher the index, the safer the drug. There should be no side-effects like anaphylactic shock, allergic reactions affecting gastro-intestinal tract, cardio-vascular system and skin rashes. A safe drug with a high therapeutic index should have no side- effects and no contra-indications and antagonism.


These specifications need to be scrutinised for every batch of every drug manufactured by every manufacturer for a foolproof quality control. Is this being done diligently and strictly by those responsible for it? This becomes a big question mark, when several fatal or severely affected cases are reported from hospitals frequently, attributed to drug and vaccine administration, wherein quality control has been compromised.


Lately, some foreign multinationals have been permitted to get their pharmaceuticals manufactured in India on a contract basis by Indian manufacturers. It may add to the Indian economy, but little tangible cost benefits have accrued to the consumer. Intensive quality control norms need strict surveillance in such cases.


Spurious drugs


The menace of spurious drugs infiltration into the pharmaceutical market is a cancer which needs ruthless suppression and excision. Nearly 1-5 per cent of pharmaceuticals are spurious at present.If this is not nipped in the bud, it will grow parallel with the pharmaceutical industry, quicker than parallel black money economy.


Ninety per cent of patients who don't respond to routine therapy are victims of spurious drugs. Most antibiotics, vitamins and minerals, pain killers and injections are prone to spurious imitation.


We need a regular, well-organised pharmaceutical intelligence establishment at the Centre, the states and every pharmaceutical industrial township with a network of whistleblowers.


The drug control authorities fully satisfy themselves before a drug is approved for marketing. Even then, at times, certain drugs prove harmful on mass consumption. Such drugs are promptly banned and are required to be withdrawn by the manufacturers/stockist from the retail market. In spite of clear ban orders and public announcement by the authorities concerned, there is hardly a chemist shop not continuing to retail such drugs. Do drug inspectors know and check the availability of such drugs at chemist shops?


Strong antibiotics


Except for drugs like opium and a few more which under legislation can be sold by the chemist on a prescription by a registered doctor only, all other drugs, including even the strongest antibiotics, are on-the-counter readily available retail items, without any medical prescription.So much so that many chemists even prescribe drugs to the customers and thus add to the ever increasing number of quacks.


The Health Minister of India in a public statement on August 2 has expressed serious concern about on-the-counter issue of drugs, especially antibiotics, by the chemists without medical prescription. Hopefully, some action will be taken.


Drug prescription


Some non-allopathic practitioners are prescribing allopathic drugs to the patients. This practice is questionable. Each drug has its own pharmacological and pharmaco-kinetic action, contra-indications and antagonism. It is dangerous to prescribe drugs without such knowledge.


It is time that a comprehensive legislation dealing with all aspects of pharmaceuticals, superseding piecemeal legislations is enacted for efficient governance and control of India's pharmaceutical boon, so that it does not become a bane.


The writer is Chairman and Managing Director of BCS Katarias Foundation and Health Care India, which is operating several free rural and slums health care centres


Taken for a ride


The price of pharmaceuticals is the single most pinching problem which makes them out of reach for those who need them the most.


The cost of a strip of 10 capsules/tablets being not less than Rs 50-60, it is hardly affordable for 70-80 per cent of Indians.


The margin of profit in most pharmaceutical formulations and patents is between 100 and 500 per cent. MOU with multinationals for foreign direct investment should restrict the margin of profits for price control of products.


Various pharmacopeias — Indian, British, US etc — lay down specifications for each pharmaceutical. After the initial batch, on which the license for the pharmaceuticals depends, subsequent batches tend to compromise on specifications and quality. Therefore, the drug is either less potent, or gives severe side-effects.

Several fatal or severely affected cases are reported from hospitals frequently, attributed to drug and vaccine administration, wherein quality control has been compromised.


Nearly 1-5 per cent of pharmaceuticals are spurious at present. If this is not nipped in the bud, it will grow parallel with the pharmaceutical industry, quicker than parallel black money economy.


Ninety per cent of patients who don't respond to routine therapy are victims of spurious drugs. Most antibiotics, vitamins and minerals, pain killers and injections are prone to spurious imitation.


The drug control authorities fully satisfy themselves before a drug is approved for marketing. Even then, at times, certain drugs prove harmful on mass consumption. Do drug inspectors know and check the availability of such drugs at chemist shops?


Some non-allopathic practitioners are prescribing allopathic drugs to the patients. This practice is questionable. Each drug has its own pharmacological and pharmaco-kinetic action, contra-indications and antagonism. It is dangerous to prescribe drugs without such knowledge.









 It's becoming something of a trend to tell contemporary stories using traditional art forms. Some time ago, there was Gautam Bhatia's satire on ministers and politics which used the work of Rajasthani miniaturists adapted to the new material. Now we have Navayana, a Dalitcentred publishing house with stories about B R Ambedkar and untouchability told through Gond art. More precisely, the art of Pardhan Gonds, traditional keepers of the collective culture of the Gonds. They paint, tell stories, sing, transmit legends, myths and history. Their art is vibrant, joyful. Just looking at one of their paintings lifts one's spirits.


Gonds have featured in Kipling's novels, and in Verrier Elwin's work, of course. It was the artist J Swaminathan, though, who projected the Gonds on to the contemporary art scene. He "discovered" an immensely talented 17-year-old boy, Jangarh Singh Shyam decorating huts in Patangarh in Madhya Pradesh. The boy's rise to fame was meteoric, and he had exhibitions in Paris and Tokyo. But his story has a tragic ending. In an online article by S Kalidas, I read that Jangarh Singh Shyam went for a few months with his wife to the Mithila Museum, a few hours from Tokyo. After a while, he was very homesick and wanted to return. But the Director of the museum wanted him to stay on, and had taken his ticket and passport in order to extend his visa. Despairing of ever getting home, Jangarh hanged himself. The writer comments, "The tribal artist's death underlines the vulnerability of the Adivasis in social transition." Perhaps this is where the intersect with Dalit experience lies. Otherwise, the exuberant art of the Gonds has little in common with the sombre stories of Dalits.


The story of Ambedkar's experiences of untouchability are interspersed with media reports of current atrocities against Dalits: "Dalit Killed for Digging Own Well," "Water Wars: Dalit Woman Torched," satirical verses, "They have brushes for the buffalo and shears for the goat/They won't trim a Mahar's hair–/They'd rather cut his throat." "When Dalits in Chakwara won the right to use the village pond, caste Hindus turned it into a sewer." There are quotes from the Manusmriti: A Shudra should not amass wealth, even if he has the ability, for a Shudra who has amassed wealth annoys the Brahmins.


Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar boards a train to Baroda from Bombay in 1918. A fellow passenger asks him what he is reading. John Dewey's Democracy and Education, he says. He had studied at Columbia in the US, and Dewey was one of his teachers. Sayaji Rao, the Maharajah of Baroda had sponsored his education. After this encounter, Ambedkar thinks, "Being away has nearly wiped my untouchability out of my mind! I'd better be careful–an untouchable, wherever he goes in India, is a problem to himself and others." He discovers he is an untouchable for Parsis and Christians as well as Hindus.


The art work for Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability (2011) has been created by Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam who talk, in the book, about their interaction with Navayana, the methods they use, their symbolism. Their guru was Jangarh Singh Shyam who worked in Bhopal, and died in Japan. "We owe everything to them," says Durgabai, referring to Jangarh and his wife Nankusia. Durgabai and Subhash empathised with the humiliations suffered by Ambedkar. The "unlettered Vyams were… unaware of Ambedkar," says S Anand, one of the founders of Navayana, and, along with Srividya Natarajan, responsible for the text. But "their daughter Roshni, 14, an emerging artist… knew the basic facts though. She told them about "the guy in the statue in the New Market area with one hand extended, index finger pointing to something afar, another hand holding a book."





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One of the mantras of the era of globalisation has been that while all economics is global, all politics is local. The problem for the member countries of the European Union (EU) is that they have yet to find a regional solution to this conundrum. Caught between the global implications of the national and regional economic plans that have so far come up to deal with the Eurozone's debt crisis and local politics that hold back governments from administering the bitter medicine of fiscal adjustment, EU has failed to come up with a regional solution to its economic and financial crises. It is, therefore, not surprising that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have once again failed to come up with an acceptable region-wide solution to the problems of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain (PIGS). Consequently, the euro has taken a hit, many European banks have come under increased pressure and the markets are in a tizzy.

Even the talk of a financial transaction tax – the much reviled Tobin Tax on capital flows – has put the markets in a spin. But Europe has few options left. The chancellor and the president could not reach an agreement on increasing the size of the bailout fund and continue to resist the idea of a euro-area bond. The problem with the proposed euro-area bond solution is that it will expose EU's stronger economies to risks that they have avoided so far. Instead of helping the PIGS sail, the euro-area bond may sink the big three — Germany, France and the Netherlands. But that is a risk that EU's big powers have to take if they wish to save the euro and the Union. While the proponents of euro-area bonds argue that they would restore stability by stopping speculative attacks on the debt of individual euro member states, the critics in Germany and France worry about the higher cost of borrowing they would have to budget for. Resistance to euro-area bonds is strongest in Germany, where Ms Merkel has been unable to secure political support in favour of stronger expression of solidarity with the rest of Europe.

It is now clearer than ever that EU cannot remain stuck where it has been for sometime now — between the economics of globalisation and regional integration and the politics of local and national interest. EU must either break up or patch up. It has to graduate to a new stage of fiscal federalism for the euro and the Union to survive. The problem for Europe is that it has no political leader who can stand up and say this and mobilise widespread support. The idea of European unity has remained stuck at the popular level of free travel, common currency, a single market and a common talk shop called the European Parliament. One of the basic duties of a parliament is to collect taxes and authorise the government to spend. Till EU takes this next step to fiscal federalism, it will remain exposed to the threat of dissolution owing to the debt, currency and payments crises.






State Bank of India (SBI) has turned in another quarter of poor performance with its net profit for the period ended June 30 registering a fall of 45.6 per cent year-on-year. This is not the end of the pain; there is more to come by way of catching up on provisioning mandated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Though the provisioning coverage ratio is up at 67.25 per cent, it remains short of the 70 per cent that the banking regulator requires. The bank has also been affected – this is not specific to it – by rising interest rates, which has required provisioning for depreciation in the value of investments. Treasury operations have resulted in a net deficit of Rs 840 crore, compared to a surplus of Rs 675 crore in the corresponding period. This alone accounts for Rs 1,515 crore when net profit has shrunk by Rs 1,313 crore.

Poor as these results are, there is a silver lining to them. The bank's net interest margin has gone up 55 basis points to 3.62 per cent and the scheduled retiring of some high-cost deposits that were contracted during the Lehman crisis should offer more breathing space in the immediate future. Borrowing (taking deposits) and lending constitute the bread-and-butter business of banks, so improvement in the margin of this operation augurs well for the sector. Performance in the accretion to this business has been mixed. The bank has claimed a rise in its market share of advances but has recorded a fall in the share of cheap (current and savings account) deposits in overall deposits. This is an area to watch, since the sluggishness creeping into the overall economic activity – this will affect all banks – as a result of there being no sign of an end to the monetary tightening underway cannot be good for business growth. On the face of it, there has been an alarming rise in non-performing assets in the past two quarters but this can be explained by the familiar change-of-guard syndrome. Banks have considerable leeway in the way they classify assets (why RBI should allow this is a mystery) and the earnestness with which a clean-up job is undertaken depends as much on asset quality as on the tenure of the chief executive.

What is indisputable is that the current pain is resulting in a cleaner balance sheet, which should be good for its investors in the future. There are two ways of looking ahead. Falling capital adequacy ratio is going to make it imperative for SBI to go in for a rights issue, but if the fiscal situation leaves little in the hands of the government to make fresh investments, then there will be a crunch. However, slower economic growth will make for slower growth in assets, so maybe not that much of additional capital will be needed. In the tough times ahead, greater attention will have to be paid to protection of asset quality and margins than defending market share. Also, the bank has much to do to improve customer service despite recent betterment. Greater flexibility in fixing compensation packages will enable SBI to attract better managerial talent.






The ever-energetic Jairam Ramesh has unveiled a new land acquisition policy for discussion. He has taken on the difficult task of changing an old law whose implementation has led to a sorry mess in Nandigram, Singur and Noida, to mention only a few of the recent cases that have hit the headlines.

India's policy regime for managing land rights and land transactions is totally dysfunctional. Greedy politicians in state governments have refused to transfer authority over land transactions to the local authorities because they want a cut of the land value gains that will inevitably accrue with rising population and prosperity. Encouraged by the impunity with which they could rake in money in urban land deals, a new trend is the direct involvement of politicians through their family members in urban land transactions. Even industrial corporations whose primary goal is not to profit from land deals and widely respected parts of the government like the army seem to have been corrupted by the lure of quick profits from unearned gains in land values.

We are confronted by a lethal combination of market failure and government failure.

This is the minefield Jairam Ramesh has entered. There are three key issues about the draft land acquisition Bill: the definition of public purpose, the provisions for compensation, relief and rehabilitation, and how the proposed process engages the community.

Take the first issue. The draft Bill spells out public purpose more explicitly than the existing Act does. It also lays out an institutional mechanism to determine whether a proposed acquisition serves a public purpose as defined in the Act and safeguards against speculative or excessive acquisition. It appears to exclude land acquisition for private purposes but it does allow acquisition on behalf of private parties for a public purpose and for infrastructure and industry, including public-private partnership projects, when "benefits largely accrue to the general public". The draft Bill requires the private party to secure the consent of 80 per cent of the landowners before it seeks the help of the government in securing the balance requirement.

One cannot predict how the courts will parse the language used in the Bill. However, a lay reading suggests that most of the cases that have hit the headlines lately would continue to remain eligible for availing of the procedures for acquisition with government help. However, it appears that land acquired by the government for one purpose, say an agricultural university, cannot be diverted for another purpose, say, a motor car factory.

The draft Bill is more helpful on the compensation, relief and rehabilitation issue. To begin with, it combines land acquisition and relief and rehabilitation in one law. This will presumably make the rights of the displaced more readily justifiable. It includes among affected persons not just landowners but also rights holders under the Forest Rights Act and others whose livelihood depends on the land acquired. It specifies that the minimum compensation will be six times the market price for rural land and twice for urban land. The value of this stipulation has been questioned on the grounds that officially notified prices seriously understate the real market value. It also provides for long-term compensation, housing and infrastructure for displaced people.

The market value of rural land used for agriculture would be well below the price that it could command in non-agricultural uses, particularly in areas adjoining large cities. Getting such permission is fraught with all manner of bureaucratic hurdles and widespread corruption. It is a major instrument used by unscrupulous politicians and bureaucrats for transferring the capital gains from the change in use to themselves and their developer clients. The draft Bill includes provisions that would allow landowners to share in the capital appreciation after the acquisition; but the mechanism that can ensure this is not at all clear.

The engagement with the community has been stressed in the material put out with the Bill. But in more specific terms, it is mostly a matter of public hearings and the obligation to prepare a social impact assessment that sounds quite promising for social scientists in need of extra income! It also has the usual promises about transparency and full information disclosure.

The Bill will not mean the end of land acquisition controversies. The core issue is fairness in the sharing of gains from the increase in land values that comes from regulatory measures like changes in designated land use and development measures like the construction of new roads and the provision of infrastructure facilities.

When it comes to urban expansion, Gujarat has shown the way with a century-old town-planning procedure that involves negotiations with both those whose land is needed for infrastructure, typically roads and urban municipal services, and those whose lands will go up in value when the infrastructure is built. Not only do these procedures establish a certain degree of equality of sacrifice and reward, but they also raise resources for infrastructure development.

This type of negotiated solution between gainers and losers will be more difficult in irrigation or hydel projects and in mining and manufacturing projects where the costs in terms of land loss are borne in one place and the benefits accrue far away. That is why even in Gujarat the Narmada project has had its share of land acquisition controversies. But when such projects involve some degree of urbanisation, "land-adjustment procedures" may help ensure some measure of fairness.

The government-led land acquisition procedure survives because of the confused state of land records. The government is the only landowner with unquestionable rights to land. The rest of us are khatedars, occupants with land rights of varying degrees of firmness, which can be challenged by some other claimant at any time. If the government acquires land and then hands it over to a private party, this party is safe from such claims. If we had a system of guaranteed title to land and reliable record of rights, this reason for preferring government led acquisition would become less salient.

The draft Bill will improve matters relating to relief and rehabilitation. It will give lawyers and judges a starting point for building some sound jurisprudence on the notion of public purpose. But it would not address adequately the fundamental unfairness in the way in which unrequited gains in land value are shared. 






In the Catholic convent that I attended, believers were sent to Catechism classes twice a week. Us non-Catholics – the majority, actually – were herded into secular Moral Science classes run by a succession of alarmingly humourless nuns.

Moral Science classes weren't, alas, a period-filling exercise. While the Catholics got to hear the much more entertaining stories from the Old and New Testaments, we were provided textbooks filled with grim rules and didactic tales (including a dubious one that suggested that George Washington became the United States of America's first president because he never told a lie — imagine, a truthful politician). More significant from my point of view was the fact that we also had to sit for exams on the subject at the end of each term, so I was forced to take Moral Science seriously.

These many decades later, I still remember one of the key topics in those classes. It was titled "How To Be Good" and consisted of ten points that we were obliged to memorise: obey your parents and teachers, say your prayers, be neat, be polite, be truthful, study hard every day and so on (it was an easy ten marks in the end-of-term test). The HTBGs were patently a wish list, intended to produce model students and children, perhaps because these strictures were rowdily observed mostly in the breach. Certainly, any HTBG rule that was followed was the result of the fell hand of Authority rather than any appreciation of the science of morality on my part.

The HTBGs came to mind as a result of the release by the indefatigable Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) of a Code of Ethics for its 8,500 members. The timing was opportune, of course, given the vocal media-cum-middle class indignation over corruption in public life; it was unwittingly spot-on given anti-corruption crusader Baburao Hazare's 24-hour metamorphosis from government-designated law-breaker to unwanted guest at Tihar Jail on Tuesday.

CII's Code of Ethics, Adi Godrej, CII's president-designate, told reporters in Chennai, were a "self-regulatory benchmark for transparent and clean corporate governance for its member companies". In other words, it was an HTBG code for corporate India. Instead of ten, this Code of Ethics had an eight-point charter of good practices. What are these? (i) Conducting business in national interest, (ii) maintaining ethics and integrity, (iii) adhering to values, (iv) ensuring transparency and openness, (v) avoiding corrupt practices, (vi) promoting competition and competitors, (vii) following and respecting the code and, finally, (viii) encouraging whistle-blowers.

Like the HTBGs of my Moral Science classes, CII's Code of Ethics is certainly unexceptionable in content. Unlike juvenile HTBGs, however, this Code is not a wish list — or it shouldn't be. After all, isn't this how business should be run as a matter of course? Surely abjuring a corporation to "maintain ethics and integrity" should be unnecessary? The very fact that the chair of CII's Task Force on Transparency and Integrity in Governance thought it timely to remind its member-institutions of the most basic ethics of doing business is telling. It suggests that many businesses in India may not be run on ethical lines for a variety of reasons, induced or voluntary.

It certainly ties in with the depressing fact that, despite 20 years of economic liberalisation, India is considered one of the most corrupt countries in which to do business. Inasmuch as these global rankings mean anything at all, India's rank on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index has remained depressingly in the high eighties out of 180 countries since 2007 and its score has deteriorated from 3.5 on 10 to 3.3.

The interesting point about these indices is that they are built on 13 source surveys from institutions like World Bank, IMD (Switzerland), Freedom House Foundation and so on. On a scale of one to 10, India's highest score is 3.9 awarded by Bertelsmann Foundation on the parameter "government's capacity to punish and contain corruption". The lowest score at 2.6 is Freedom House's score on "implementation of anti-corruption initiatives" (a pointer to the fate of the Lok Pal Bill, perhaps?).

These are certainly demoralising statistics for a country demanding a place on the high table of global politics and finance. But perhaps they are as effective an indicator of the ethics vacuum in public life as the decision to give high net worth individuals who paid the Government of India their taxes a "Rashtriya Samman" award. Tax-paying is required by law; what is the need to reward someone for following the law? Equally, when corporations write promos saying they follow ethical practices, you often wonder whether they're protesting too much. Indeed, when people become popular heroes mainly by virtue of being non-corrupt, you know there's something deeply rotten in the state of India.








Despite the sagging economic conditions in important markets like the US or the European Union (EU), India's merchandise exports have continued to rise in the recent past. This is evident by looking at the recent figures released for June 2011 when exports rose by about 47 per cent in dollar terms.

The manufacturing sector accounts for more than two-third of merchandise exports from India. Six sectors, including gems and jewellery, textiles and garments, engineering goods, chemicals, leather, and leather goods and pharmaceuticals account for nearly 60 per cent of India's manufacturing exports.

The department of commerce, in a recent strategy paper that sets the road map for increasing exports, looks at different ways to raise India's share in global markets. New Delhi also wants manufacturing to contribute 25 per cent to GDP and is keen on boosting manufacturing exports from India over the next few years. An estimate of $200 billion of investments in manufacturing over the next five years is expected to help reach this target.

Investments are seen as an important stimulant for exports. Countries across the globe have used investments to spur exports. The secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Surin Pitsuwan, in a recent press interview said regional integration and investment will help spur economic growth in the region.

India, too, has been in the recent past looked at the bilateral economic agreements to cover investments as well. The India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement that came into force this year on August 1 also has a strong investment chapter. Japanese companies look at investing in India to make use of the agreement. The two countries have also been looking at building an industrial corridor that will help attract Japanese investments into the country to tap third-country markets as well.

For manufacturing to continue playing a strong role in the export basket there is a need to look at some crucial issues.

First is the need for India to evolve a policy for continuous upgradation of the workforce in the country to improve productivity as also inject innovation in the manufacturing sector. As of today, the focus for industry and the government seems to be on keeping labour wages low to remain competitive in global markets. There is a need to move out of being competitive only because of labour cost and move up the ladder through value addition and improvement in productivity of labour through skilling programmes.

The second need will be to target tariff and non-tariff barriers. For instance, in the negotiations with some important countries like the EU countries, it will be important to look at removing tariff barriers in sectors of interest like textiles and clothing. Given India's strong presence in the global markets in this sector, it will be important to remove the existing problem of high tariffs in such sectors in other markets.

Another important issue that needs to be tackled to increase manufacturing exports is the issue of high transaction costs for exports from India. The World Bank's Doing Business Report, 2011 states the cost of export per container in India is $1,055. This is much higher than our Asian counterparts. This directly impacts competitiveness of Indian goods in the global market. It is estimated that transaction cost in India is close to 10 per cent of the value of exports.

Finally, it will be important for industry to remain dynamic in its approach to markets. There has to be a continuous attempt to look at new markets and identify new products for export. Some of the emerging markets like Africa, South America or Asia provide opportunities that can be tapped over the next few years.

The focus on manufacturing exports has to be important for both the government and industry because services alone cannot help India continue on its high growth path. To achieve a good growth rate, there is need for continuous interaction between industry and the government. Policy decisions and business strategy have to go hand-in-hand if India wants to focus on improving the performance of the manufacturing sector. India has built a reputation as a large IT exporter, it will have to focus a lot more attention on the manufacturing sector if it has to build a brand in global markets.

The author is Principal Adviser with APJ-SLG Law Offices







It is well understood that health influences aggregate economic outcomes. For long now, the governments at the Centre and states have been making concerted efforts to improve the country's health status across rural and urban areas. However, the health parameters of Indians remain low.

The total expenditure on health as a percentage of GDP in China and India is similar – around four per cent in 2009 – yet health indicators are quite different. In China, the under-five mortality rate per 1,000 live births is 19, while the corresponding proportion in India is 66. India's maternal mortality ratio per 100,000 live births is 230, China's is only 38. The striking disparity is the fallout of various lacunae in the Indian health system, low expenditure, misallocation of resources, inefficiencies in delivery channels and so on.

To begin with, in China, the total expenditure on health per capita is $169, while in India it is merely $45. More significantly, in China half of the total expenditure on health is borne by the government, while in India, the burden falls on the private sector that accounts for more than two-thirds of the total health expenditure. The implications of this for poorer households that often have to borrow to cover medical costs is staggering. (Click here for graph

Total expenditure on health








As % of GDP





Per capita in US$






India's health system depends on the private sector




General government expenditure on health as % of total health expenditure



Private expenditure  on health as % of total health expenditure



Source: WHO, Global Health Expenditure Database 2009

The National Sample Survey data of 1995-96 and 2004 show that out-of-pocket spending per hospital stay and per outpatient visit increased rapidly for all income groups, but much more for the least well off, relative to their income growth. In fact, a much greater proportion of the poorest 20 per cent households report foregoing treatment on account of inability to pay than the richer groups and this trend, too, has been increasing over time.

State government expenditure on medical and public health varies widely across states. Since budget or revised estimates differ significantly from the actual expenses, the latest data for actual spends are from 2008-09 for all states. Smaller states of Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Goa and Puducherry top with more than Rs 1,000 spent on health per capita. The gross inequality across states is evident from the fact that Mizoram's per capita expenditure is at least 13 times higher than that of Bihar, the lowest in the country. Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, which were declared the Empowered Action Group States in 2003, are among the states with low per capita health expenditure. Among these eight states, it is only in Uttarakhand that the per capita health expenditure exceeds Rs 500. In Jharkhand and Rajasthan, it is little above Rs 300, while in others it merely in the range of Rs 135 to Rs 238.

Though government spending on health and family welfare in per capita terms is absurdly low in India, private health expenses are rising with little government oversight on quality, consumer redressal and so on. Of course, outcomes are much more important than outlays; it is, therefore, also important to focus on an overhaul of the implementation systems, coordination between various government entities and programmes and monitoring the numerous current schemes.

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








Differences between the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on new bank licences have, reportedly, been narrowed down. Only two outstanding issues, the extent of foreign ownership and the time within which promoters have to dilute their holding, remain. So, with a little luck, we should see final guidelines take shape before the end of the current financial year. This is good news. It is almost two years since the finance minister announced in his Budget speech that the RBI might be willing to grant new banking licences. In a country as under-banked as ours, it makes no sense to restrict entry. It is equally important, however, to ensure that the basic principles of bank ownership and governance, viz the 'fit and proper' criteria, are not diluted. At one level, this might sound anachronistic. In a scenario where industrial licensing has long been scrapped and shareholders alone decide who controls a company, why should a third party, the RBI, sit in judgment of who is 'fit and proper' to run a bank?

The reasons are two-fold. First, nowhere in the world is banking an unlicensed activity. Second, banks are fiduciary institutions; they hold deposits of the public in trust. More importantly, their financial health has serious implications not only for the stability of the entire financial system but also the economy. The financial crisis has brought home quite graphically that banks (and quasi or shadow banks) are quite different from manufacturing companies. The collapse of even a single bank can bring an entire economy to its knees, if it is large enough to affect the entire system. But it would be difficult to justify ruling out the entry of corporate houses altogether on those grounds. After all, the US, which has determinedly kept corporates out of the banking business, has little to show for it as compared to other countries that are less dogmatic. The right approach, therefore, would be to put in place a proper system of checks and safeguards, including amendments to the Banking Regulation Act 1949, so that only those who are genuinely 'fit and proper' are given a banking licence. And then leave it to the RBI to be the final arbiter of who qualifies.







We condemn the killing of Shehla Masood, a public-spirited woman of Bhopal who used the Right to Information (RTI) Act extensively to expose corruption and misgovernance on a range of issues. The state government must bring the culprits to book and investigate any possible links of the crime to public officials whose misconduct was under her investigation. This brings the number of RTI activists killed across the country so far this year to nine. This fatal trend shows the extent to which vested, entrenched interests can be threatened by a law like the Right to Information as well as the absence of legal and administrative systems to offer protection to those who wield RTI to take on the system. Clearly, the RTI Act has been revolutionary in the sense that it is now much more difficult to hide some things. Official apathy, negligence and corruption being high on that list. Equally, the inordinately high number of activists who have been murdered posits the argument that embedded, structural nepotism and corruption can't be combated by such a law alone. That needs wider, deeper reforms, including the critical aspect of political funding. A system where political parties generate funds in an utterly non-transparent manner corrupts the whole body politic, induces patronage and other forms of wrongdoing. That makes for a situation where politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and sundry other self-interest groups collude in the sustenance of a black economy. The crooked power structure thus created acts with attendant impunity and criminality to silence those voices which seek to unmask it.
Dismantling that structure should be at the core of the whole discourse on battling corruption. But that cannot be wholly achieved by stand-alone laws, like the RTI or even an ombudsman like the Lokpal. These measures and bodies, while undeniably forming a layer of deterrence, cannot substitute for wider, multi-pronged reforms like on political funding and the judicial system. Political parties and not non-government organisations must spearhead the campaign for the needed change.








It isn't often that much vilified regimes get the chance to pay back accusers in the same coin. Accusations of human rights abuses and much else by way of stifling opposition and dissent are hurled by the western world at countries in west Asia, home to many erstwhile despots. But the riots in London and a few other cities in England have given old enemy Iran the opportunity to say some things back to the UK government. Still smarting from the harsh criticism of its actions against protestors in Tehran after the 2009 elections, during which action many were reportedly killed and incarcerated, Tehran recently asked London to accept the demands of the protesters and an international investigation into the police's actions. For good measure, the Iranians also asked Britain to not act in a 'savage' manner. That would, as many a Brit would aver, be called a bit rich.

But what might have passed off as a bit of perverse payback pot-shots at an old antagonist went into the realm of patchwork propaganda when it was revealed that pictures of the riots and the police action published by sections of the Iranian media weren't quite recent. To buttress the 'uprising of the oppressed' thesis these sections were putting out as analysis of the unrest in Britain, they published pictures from a football riot, the 1984 miners' strike, the Notting Hill carnival and even, it seems, a picture taken in Chile. Perhaps, the adage about the masses believing what you tell them was at work. But what compounded matters was that a reputed British newspaper which printed the story about the wrong pictures itself had to amend the article as an accompanying link to a picture of London's police in action against protestors suggested it was taken in Washington! Truly, we live in editorially interesting times.






Standard & Poor's downgrading of US government debt from AAA to AA+ sent shock waves through the markets last week. Is it a sign that American economic conditions are worsening? Does it presage another 'Lehman moment' for the world economy? Will it cause a huge setback to India's growth prospects? Let me spare you the suspense and state my answers upfront: no, unlikely, no. A lowering of the credit rating signifies an increased probability of default. S&P is one of three leading rating agencies; the other two agencies have not changed their rating of US debt. Any suggestion that American creditworthiness has declined was emphatically rejected by the markets.

Equities tumbled all over the world but prices of US government bonds rose and the dollar itself appreciated. When a bond is downgraded, you expect investors to sell it. Investors responded to S&P's downgrade by flocking towards US government bonds! They see global economic conditions deteriorating and they affirmed once again that, in bad times, US treasuries remain a safe haven.

As several commentators have pointed out, the US is uniquely privileged to be able to issue debt in its own currency. This gives it the ability to repay debt simply by printing more currency. As long as the dollar remains the reserve currency — and this will be so in the foreseeable future — there is little probability of the US defaulting on its debt. We in India should know how unfair sovereign ratings can be. We were rated below investment grade through the 1990s and are rated only BBB even now, in spite of being the second fastest-growing economy in the world, with a very small component of foreign debt.

In September 2008, the US government's decision to let Lehman Brothers fail set off a wave of panic in the markets and plunged the world economy into a full-scale crisis. Can the S&P downgrade cause a similar outcome by undermining confidence?

Today's economic situation is not as bad as that in 2008. By 2008, banks had run up huge losses. There was enormous uncertainty as to how financial institutions would be impacted through their exposures to Lehman's derivative contracts. Banks in the US as well as in Europe were heavily dependent on short-term funds. These funds fled the banking system following the collapse of Lehman. This exacerbated banks' losses and created a serious financial crisis. Financial crises lead on to economic downturns. And these downturns can be steeper and more difficult to climb out of than downturns caused by other shocks.

Banks today are much better capitalised than at the time of the Lehman collapse. According to the IMF's Global Financial Stability Report (April, 2011), capital adequacy of US banks in 2010 was 15.3% compared to 12.8% in 2007; in the UK, the numbers were 15.9% and 12.6% respectively. Banks in Germany and France too have improved capital adequacy.

The downgrade of US by S&P has very little impact on banks. The regulatory authorities have conveyed that banks will not have to provide additional capital against their stocks of US government securities. Growth in the US will be slow but a recession appears unlikely.

However, banks could be significantly impacted by any default of countries within the eurozone. Government debt is high in several countries of Europe and banks are heavily exposed to it. Thus, the serious threat to the world economy today arises from the eurozone, not the US.

Any solution will require, among other things, a combination of debt forgiveness and lower interest rates. The solution worked out for Greece recently suggests that Europe's leaders are getting there. The prospect of a full-blown global crisis has finally concentrated minds in Europe.

True, the mood in financial markets can turn at the drop of a hat. At the moment, however, neither is there any indication of a Lehman-like shock nor is the financial system as vulnerable as it was in the run-up to 2008. Slow growth, rather than a global recession, thus appears the most likely outcome.

What we are seeing at the moment is a continuation of the 2008 crisis, rather than a repeat of it. Fiscal and monetary stimuli have failed to return the advanced economies to their normal growth rates. For once, not just the political leadership in the advanced world but the fraternity of economists appears at the end of its tether.

From India's point of view, the present conditions in the world economy may be just what the doctor ordered. Policymakers have been looking to lower growth by way of tackling inflation. A global slowdown and falling commodity prices may obviate the need for any further increase in interest rates.

There are calls from various quarters to 'press the accelerator', 'grasp the moment' and so on. Policymakers must eschew the temptation to make dramatic gestures. Some of the issues that are slowing down decisions today do require the utmost deliberation and consultation: the trade-off between environment and growth, land acquisition and rehabilitation, the sale of public resources, etc. Others that might have a reformist air about them are fraught with serious implications, for instance, the issue of bank licences to industrial houses.

India's gradualist approach towards reforms has served it well, not just in terms of producing accelerated growth but in ensuring a broad consensus in favour of outcomes. There is no call to discard this approach in pursuit of some illusory growth target in a challenging global environment.










Sebi recently came out with a proposed regulatory regime for alternative investment funds (AIF). While the regulator has its heart in the right place, the proposals need to be thought through from the ground up. It would be useful to summarise briefly what Sebi is seeking to do with these pools of money with highly sophisticated investors with a minimum investment of . 1 crore, who can broadly take care of themselves. The Sebi paper itself recognises how important the industry is and sings paeans to the 'patient source of active capital' which 'plays a very important role in the growth of the corporate sector' and that the capital brings 'a lot of governance and good quality money'.

The fund industry is composed of foreign and domestic funds. Of these, foreign funds can come chiefly via FDI, FII or foreign venture capital investment (FVCI). FII, FVCI and domestic venture capital (VC) funds are registered by Sebi, which considers registering as VC or FVCI as optional. What Sebi now seeks to do is create an umbrella regulatory regime for all funds. Sebi's stated objective is three-fold. First, create a regulatory framework which registers different types of funds based on investment objective like private equity, real estate, venture capital, debt, infrastructure, SME, social venture and strategy funds. This would enable targeted benefits for a particular sector. Second, to get a handle on systemic risk. As some overseas funds may be highly leveraged they may cause system-wide instability. Third, to improve disclosures, provide for conflict of interest and prohibit fraudulent acts. It is difficult to argue with these goals. Unfortunately, while talking about these, the paper ends up doing something quite different. It seeks to impose investment and other restrictions on these funds, which would hurt the industry without any regulatory benefit.

In Greek mythology, Procrustes, the son of a god, had an iron bed in which he invited every passerby to spend the night, and where he set to work on them with his smith's hammer, to stretch them to fit if they were too short and if the guest proved too tall, Procrustes would amputate the excess length; nobody ever fit the bed exactly because secretly, Procrustes had two beds. Sebi has many investment beds, and its proposals are no less dangerous.

The most damaging aspect of the proposal is that the paper seeks to create investment silos and imposes restrictions on where each type of fund may invest. This takes away the only free lunch available in the financial markets — of diversification in different types of companies. Thus, a fund which wants exposure in SMEs, early stage companies and listed companies would be prohibited from investing unless they create three different pools. The proposal seeks to mandate the types of companies which are kosher for a particular fund, including whether investment should be in listed or unlisted debt securities. There is a provision for the fund size to be a minimum of . 20 crore, the minimum investment per investor to be 0.1% of the fund size.
Then there is a requirement that funds be close ended with a minimum tenure of five years. VC funds cannot hold more than . 250 crore in a single pool and cannot invest in companies promoted by the top 500 listed companies or their promoters. VC funds cannot invest in warrants or convertibles or even in listed debt securities (today a large number of VC funds are invested in convertibles). Private investments in public equity (PIPE) funds cannot invest in companies which are listed on exchanges that form part of any exchange index. PE funds cannot invest in listed shares. Debt funds cannot invest in listed debt securities. Why a regulation should mandate investment in unregulated unlisted debt securities is unclear, when listed debt is a more regulated and secure asset. None of this is useful and serves any regulatory benefit to investors or to the system. Besides the investment micro management, there are other issues too. The paper seeks to mandate minimum investment of 5% by the manager of the pool. This would make many smart managers to go out of business if they cannot shell out so much capital. The philosophy behind managers investing in the funds that they manage is to create alignment of interest. This alignment has been elsewhere termed as 'conflict of interest' in the concept note. Thus the 5% minimum investment by the manager ends up mandating a minimum conflict of interest (as per its definition). If at the end of the tenure any investments are un-liquidated, they are required to be taken up by the manager/sponsor. This is also dangerous, if there is a financial crisis and the securities cannot be sold at a reasonable price, both the manager and investor would be hit by a regulator mandated fire-sale and by a mandatory underwriting by the manger. There is, therefore, a premium on rich managers and a regulatory exclusion of smart managers — a regulatory self-goal. Sebi needs to seriously relook at its proposals rather than make Procrustes smile.

(The author is founder, Finsec Law Advisors)







As an expression, "killing oneself" seems to have acquired a sense of comic relief in Kerala, home to highest rates of suicides in the country. Unlike most parts of India, barring urban centres, where people often commit suicide out of frustration at being poor and indebted, in this southern state they often cite angst and disenchantment with the world as reasons for taking what, in media parlance, is "the extreme step".
Results of a recent study by the Indian Psychological Society confirm the fears: it is mostly depression (linked more to alcoholism and less to a person's financial status) that drives Kerala's youths to suicide. For a state that is not far from being 100% literate, 35% of its population suffers from depression. Here are some numbers that tell the larger story: a majority of Kerala's schizophrenics are in the age group of 18-28. Those who suffer from mere depression are in the age group of 20-30. Considering the gravity of the situation — that young people are highly vulnerable to suicides and alcoholism compared with others — the Society is expected to launch an awareness campaign to wean youths away from drink.

This trend of drastic rise in suicides was first noticed in Kerala in the 1980s following the proliferation of nuclear families — the state today has the highest percentage of nuclear families in the country. The increasing rate of growth of nuclear families was a sudden outcome of massive land reforms and the Gulf boom. Psychiatrists say the sociological impact of the end of the traditional joint family system, which ensured certain support systems for all individuals, has been grave. In fact, a study by the Kerala State Mental Health Authority had earlier said that 39 of every 100 family suicides reported in India take place in the state. While suicides are almost non-existent among a few religious groups, male suicides in the state account for 72% of the total number of suicides. Worse, nearly 78% of the suicide victims are married as opposed to the trend in the West where suicide rates are higher among unmarried and divorced people.

Elsewhere in the country, in regions like Vidarbha, farmers kill themselves in hordes, rendering death by suicide as commonplace as annual rains. But even there, such deaths still acquire darker hues. Of course, suicides out of angst or the socalled existential dilemma haven't yet become rose-tinted affairs among the Malayalamspeaking population but, as in an act of coping, humour seems to float in abundance in conversations about suicides. It isn't too rational an approach, but it isn't highly irrational either.

People, including politicians, talk in private and public about "funnyness" behind suicides, prominent among them being the one from the memoirs of a politician who has often talked about finding a classmate hanging dead from a tree on a college campus in the 1970s. Initially, he found the morning campus scene quite unpleasant and nauseating, but soon, the sense of humour took over, because the dead friend had hung a guitar around his neck —without doubt, it was a deadly cocktail of unrequited love and philosophical anxiety!
Suicide stemming from angst — which is in no way related to any financial burden — is seen as a joke. Well, that doesn't come as big surprise, but here is one place you have them in plenty. Recently, Tintumon, the God's Own Country's Little Johnny, exploited this sentiment to create some joy for the Malayalees. He announced that he had committed suicide and left a note to his girlfriend and specified the erosion of his "market share" to God's Own Country's most well-known cricketer who bowls (only) himself over with his antics as the reason. His (Tintumon's) fans reacted with glee.

Interestingly, even the highly rational communists, led by none other than V S Achuthanandan, who ruled the state till a few months ago, failed to do enough for the mentally ill. The Comptroller and Auditor General recently made a sharp attack on the former Left Democratic Front government for not using . 4.07 crore of the . 9.98 crore in central funds for five years up to 2010 to look into mental health issues. Besides, the CPM-led government didn't even bother to conduct a survey on the extent of mental illness in the state as recommended by the National Mental Health Authority many years ago.

Well, plus or minus the Malayalees' predisposition for schadenfreude — the great word for deriving pleasure from others' misfortune — one often tends to smile reading daily news briefs on suicides where the explanation is mostly angst, mental disorder's euphemistic cousin.








The Manmohan Singh Government has mishandled the Anna Hazare movement at every step of the way. The tragi-comedy of the latter's arrest and the subsequent release by the Delhi Police is one more in a sad series of false steps and rank miscalculations ever since Anna Hazare dared to take on the Government on the issue last April. It is evident that the Government has run out of options, having tried every trick it knew and come a cropper each time. It first tried to run down the movement by the simple tactic of painting it in communal colours and, when that didn't work, tried outflanking it by propping up a parallel movement through yoga guru Baba Ramdev, and then attempted to stall the process through sham consultations.

What is most disappointing is that the Prime Minister chose, despite such overwhelming evidence of governmental failure, to recount merely to Parliament the sequence of events, besides trotting out some well-worn clichés about mysterious forces out to destabilise the country. He could so easily have given the debate a political context by conceding the point that his Government would be guided by the collective wisdom of the members of both Houses of Parliament. It is not as though the Government did not have a prima facie case on whether it is desirable to include the office of Prime Minister within the ambit of Lok Pal as also on certain other provisions that Team Anna Hazare proposed. It could, for instance, have easily argued for a clause-by-clause reading of the Bill proposed by the latter and left it to the collective judgement of the members of Parliament. Additionally, it could have also suggested that the key features of the Bill be discussed in the State legislatures and be adopted as House resolutions in the respective legislative Assemblies with such modifications as each individual State Assembly may deem fit. These two steps would have refurbished its credentials as fighting corruption in public life while also seeking public opinion in the drafting of the legislation.

The problem is that the Government is still heady with the success it had achieved in the electoral battle of 2009 and has assumed that such success confers on it political legitimacy for governance, as public opinion already stands expressed. Hence, nothing that civil society proposes has either political or moral authority going for it. The problem with this approach is that it ignores a fundamental precept that even one week may be a long time in politics. Dr Manmohan Singh may have succeeded spectacularly once in 2008, by refusing to budge on the question of the nuclear deal with the United States and got everyone to rally around him. He would do well to not adopt the same strategy this time round.







As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivered what may well have been his last Independence Day oration from the Red Fort, his mood was perhaps like that of Napoleon urging on his recalcitrant and undisciplined troops at the Pyrenees. Napoleon is said to have used language that Dr Singh may frequently want to use but won't. Still, after seven years in office, his mood must surely be the same. And why would it not be?

Thanks to Sonia Gandhi — and let us, for once, place the blame where it belongs instead of whipping Dr Singh all the time — India has become a like plane flying with a jet engine on one wing and a propeller on the other. And, as the Anna Hazare-Baba Ramdev fiascos show, its rudder has been mostly shot away by Kapil Sibal, Manish Tiwari and a few other cowboys.

Dr Singh may not be able to do much about the engines but the rudder is another matter altogether. Indeed, with the auto pilot also somewhat damaged, never has there been a greater need to repair it.

Amidst all this, there is talk of a mid-term poll, spread by clever loyalists of the Family. This, one must assume, is designed to keep the allies in line because the Opposition, even if broke, would be only too happy to go to polls by the end of the year.

Eyes off the ball

Jawaharlal Nehru once said something about India having a tryst with destiny. Dr Singh, being more prosaic, is not given to such hyperbole. If anything, he has always had his eyes on his main goal and done whatever is required of him to attain it. Pride has not been a restraining factor. To this precept, at least, he has been faithful.

But, somewhere along the way during the last seven years, he has forgotten another precept he practised till he became prime minister: take it one step at a time and focus on the essentials. Today, he seems helpless in identifying what those essentials are. So helpless, indeed, that even a novice like Rahul Gandhi is able to pretend that he is the real prime minister.

The Congress Party says this is the only job he can do well. But we, at least, should be mindful of a salient fact: not having held a responsible job in his life, at 42 he is a novice at everything. Amazing, really. Only in India could a fellow who has done nothing at all with his life be considered fit only for the topmost job in the country.

Never has there been a greater need for the Prime Minister to take charge. The Government of India, Dr Singh's government, if one may remind him and not Sonia's or Rahul's, has not appeared so bumbling, clueless and, indeed, pointless as it does now.

Redemption time, Sir

How did it all come to such a sorry pass, that too in such a short span of time? Partly, this is because he is being advised by some fools chosen by Sonia Gandhi. Partly it is because his secretariat has become ineffective. Partly it is because the Cabinet Secretariat has failed him. Partly it is because his ministers are not interested in their portfolios and say so openly. Partly it is because his media advisor despises the media so the Prime Minister's image has been damaged severely.

But mostly it is because the Prime Minister is allowing himself to be held back. This suggests one of two things. Either that he doesn't care any more or that there is still something he wants. Whatever the reason, it is time he redeemed himself.

Historians will eventually find justifications for everything. But even the best of them has not been able to help Nero and Muhammad Shah 'Rangila'.






With the issue of corruption — and dissatisfaction over the inadequacy of the Lok Pal Bill to deal with it — looming large, not only among political parties but also from the disparate group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the noisy Indian democracy has seldom seen such strident demands being made of the elected government to clean up the mess. In this charged milieu, Business Line caught up with the articulate senior leader and Lok Sabha MP of the principal Opposition Party, the BJP, Mr Jaswant Singh, to get his take on issues impacting governance, in general, as also on the economy.

As a former Union Finance Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh minces no words in taking the ruling dispensation to task for its various acts of omission and commission. When this correspondent met him at his residence in Teen Murti Lane on Independence Day, Mr Singh said, more in anguish than anger: "We have today entered the 64 {+t} {+h} year of independent life — there are may achievements to the nation's credit but a very great discredit and debility is on account of this corruption".

On both the Direct Tax Code and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Mr Singh laconically said: "Both are vital for the health of the national economy. We must examine the total question of direct tax reform — how to make it simpler and simultaneously more effective. GST is a good and progressive tax and it is a proposal the NDA had mooted."

Excerpts from the interview:

What is your assessment of the groundswell of protests against corruption, and where does the BJP stand on in this?

It is not simply money corruption that afflicts us today. A much more serious aspect of corruption is the corruption of spirit that afflicts the country. There is an erosion of values and respect in the institutions of the Republic. We cannot dismiss money corruption as simply a global phenomenon. It is an aspect that corrodes the very system of the republic and saps energy from its systems.

Whereas the UPA government has failed in this regard, the failure is broad, spread over many years and is a consequence of not responding properly in time to the cancerous aspects of this ailment. Because it was not so attended, the UPA today comes across as possibly the most corrupt government that India had ever seen in the last so many decades of our Independence.

You ask me whether and how the BJP has fared in this regard? The NDA was in office only for six years, of the past 64. State governments of the NDA or NDA-led BJP or BJP's allies are infinitely better than the Congress of UPA. But that, by itself, was not enough; for, at the Central level, how can the party or the NDA challenge this malady? It is a major responsibility. It is not as if the NDA can mount an offensive with an army. Yet it must awaken the nation's conscience in this regard and challenge the misdeeds of the UPA.

In the Opposition, why is the BJP not supporting the reform measures of the Government so that many pending reform-centric Bills can see the light of the day?

The BJP in the Opposition cannot initiate reforms. Reform has to come from the ruling establishment. But reform, per se, is not an answer to the difficulties that afflict the economy.

The principal difficulty, to my mind, is inflation, particularly food inflation, which has already touched 10 per cent again. That is a criminally sapping burden on the nation's citizens; even otherwise, inflation as a spectre and a reality has very seriously hit the national economy.

Part of it is the consequence of rising global commodity prices plus fluctuations in the hydrocarbon sector and, of course, the economic turmoil that both the US and the European Union economies are going through.

This is bound to have a consequence on the Indian economy and that, to me, is like a warning signal to our economy.

If the major destinations of Indian exports are in turmoil, how do you account for the view that the high export growth rate figures are phoney? What are the crisis points in the real sectors of the economy?

I cannot account for it because I have to go by the figures the government and its statistical departments present us with. If the purchasing power of the western world has declined, and as rupee has appreciated relatively, then exports do not, per se, become easier. This is clear. Yet I have to examine the statistics more carefully before I comment on this. If you see the growth profile of our economy, of the three segments, agriculture, manufacturing and services, the least progressive and growth-oriented and the most worrisome is the agricultural sector. It is reflecting virtually no growth.

This is an area of great concern to me because, unless this is attended to, more than 75 per cent of Indians being dependent on agriculture, their incomes and purchasing power will be directly affected.

Between services and manufacturing, it will be simplistic to work on the premise that growth in services alone can pull India out of the woods. It cannot. India is not simply a services sector economy — manufacturing growth must keep pace and expand to generate employment.

But after the introduction of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MNREGA), an illusion of employment has come into existence. The scheme is riddled with corruption and it has also got a great conceptual anomaly because it has robbed the labour market of proper labour support to agriculture when needed.

As a chairman of the PAC, I attempted to address the issue of the NREGA scheme by choosing certain States and doing the needful. I think we need to look at it again.






The Americans intend to end active combat operations in Afghanistan after 2014, and the Pakistanis have started pondering over what life would be like after that. Optimists, particularly from the military and jihadi groups, believe that American withdrawal will lead to the fulfilment of General Zia-ul-Haq's dream of a Pakistan blessed with "strategic depth"' extending beyond the Amu Darya and into Central Asia.

Others fear that with Taliban extremism already having spread from across the Durand Line into Punjab and even Karachi, the country is headed for what author Ahmed Rashid once described as a Descent into Chaos.

The CIA report, Global Trends 2015, noted even in December 2001: "Pakistan will not recover easily from decades of economic mismanagement, divisive politics and ethnic feuds. In a climate of continuing domestic turmoil, the Central Government's control will probably be reduced to the Punjab heartland and the economic hub of Karachi."


Pakistan's military still believes that the Americans will meet the same fate as the Soviets did when confronted with the forces of "militant Islam" from across the Durand Line. There is nothing to indicate that Rawalpindi has any intention of ending its support for either the Taliban or the Haqqani network.

Both Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani remain implacably opposed to American proposals on political "reconciliation" in Afghanistan. Neither of them has shown any sign of ending links with the Al Zawahiri-led Al Qaeda and its Chechen and Central Asian affiliates. Moreover, the Haqqani network unabashedly supports the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, infuriating Pakistan's "all-weather friend," China.

Pakistan's military has believed over the past few years that with the American economy in tatters and domestic opinion becoming increasingly hostile to growing casualties overseas, the Obama Administration will quit Afghanistan, paving the way for a Taliban takeover.

Another Pakistani calculation was that given their dependence on Pakistan's logistical support for supplies to their military in Afghanistan, the Americans were in no position to take coercive measures against Pakistan. These calculations have gone awry. It was the combined costs of war in Iraq (estimated at $806 billion) and the relatively less expensive war in Afghanistan ($444 billion over a decade) that were proving unaffordable to the US taxpayer.

While Americans have lost 1,760 soldiers in Afghanistan over a decade, their high casualties in Iraq, which included 4,474 killed in action, made the war in Iraq highly unpopular. Showing some intent to thwart Pakistani blackmail and threats of blocking supply routes, the Americans now move less than 35 per cent of their supplies through Pakistan, with the rest coming across their Northern Distribution Network, assisted by Russia and the Central Asian Republics. Two years ago, over 70 per cent of American supplies were routed through Pakistan.

Whether it is on the question of the secret approval it gave to American drone attacks on Pakistan territory, even as it raised a public hue and cry on the issue, or in its policy of providing shelter to Osama bin laden in Abbottabad, while claiming to be a loyal ally on America's "War on Terror", the duplicity of the Pakistani military stands exposed. The Pakistan army is finding it difficult to defeat its erstwhile Pashtun protégés in the Tehriq-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan. There is, therefore, little prospect of its meeting American demands to act decisively against the followers of Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani.

With Pakistan's Generals hell bent on retaining their jihadi assets in Afghanistan, on the one hand, and the US determined to ensure that the Afpak badlands straddling the Durand Line are not infested with anti-American Jihadis, on the other, the two "major non-NATO allies" appear set on a collision course, though with pretensions of seeking mutual understanding.


The Russians have made it clear that their air-space and territory are available for American operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban, as long as they can jointly crackdown on production and smuggling of opium.

Unless there is a total meltdown in their economy, the Americans will retain a small, but significant military presence in Afghanistan, primarily for counter-terrorism, against groups operating across the Durand Line.

There are hints that their military presence in Afghanistan will also be geared to deal with any possible takeover of Pakistan's nuclear weapons by jihadi extremists, including such elements within Pakistan's much-vaunted military.

India should have no illusions that it can change the jihadi mindset of Pakistan's armed forces and should learn the right lessons from the heavy price the Americans have paid for their naiveté on the military mindset in Pakistan. The end-game in Afghanistan has only just begun.



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




A notable feature of the India Against Corruption campaign by Anna Hazare and his civil society compatriots is that most, if not all, support has come from the urban middle class. Where mass movements in India were usually populated by the dispossessed or the working classes, this is the revolt of the comfortable. These modern-day crusaders out on the streets, shouting slogans, offering soundbites and rushing to court arrest are mostly educated and well-off. They are different from their counterparts of a generation or two ago: not for them the slow, painstaking legalistic process, constitutional niceties or indeed debate and discussion. They want quick fixes and instant results; they like polls with "yes" or "no" options and are happiest coining clever tweets. The painstaking political path, which takes time to show results, does not work for them. It's therefore not surprising that the government and the political class — talking about parliamentary procedures and standing committees — has failed to find any appeal. These modern crusaders have, apart from taking to the streets, also taken their battle to the social networking world. The cyber arena is their universe — where they have used Twitter, Facebook and YouTube with great effect to spread the word. No sooner was Anna Hazare picked up by the police early Tuesday morning than his sermon was uploaded on to YouTube to reach his legion of followers across the country almost instantly. Tweets flew thick and fast with the latest developments, and helped motivate Mr Hazare's supporters, who then came out in significant numbers to march on in cities and towns across the land. This indicates a professional approach, belying the belief that this was a spontaneously planned affair. There was clearly a lot of strategising behind the scenes. In this, the India Against Corruption agitationists seem to have learnt from and refined tactics used in similar mass movements in Arab nations and in the recent violence on Britain's streets. So alarmed were governments of those countries that sought ways to shut down social networking websites. In India, the government has had its eye on such sites for a while, and will not doubt propose some steps to control them. The use of social media to this extent shows us that the old cut and thrust of public debates via newspapers and the mobilisation of people by ferrying them in trucks and keeping them motivated with loudspeakers are now long gone. The disconnect from the past is also visible in the casual invocations of this being "the second freedom movement" or to a "new Emergency", without necessarily knowing or caring to know about the historical context. But there is no denying that a completely new social paradigm has emerged. India's middle classes now want answers, and are deploying all the forces and tools at their command to demand them. In effect they are saying that they want accountability from all those who rule them, and that the old excuses won't work any longer. The political class as a whole, and more specifically the government, simply have to recognise that they simply cannot afford to lumber on in the old ways, offering clichés and platitudes of the past.







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.







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.








The saddest day in a democracy By Anupam Kher My opinion on Anna Hazare's arrest echoes the voices of millions of people all over the country. The government's reaction to team Anna's efforts to eradicate corruption is a very sad one. Citizens of any democratic nation would expect the government to be more mature while tackling issues of public unrest. It is time that the people in power came to terms with the fact that the common man is not happy. When there is so much frustration and anger bottled up inside them, such an outburst is but natural. When people like Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi get arrested even before they are able to make it to the protest march, you know it's the saddest day for democracy. But in spite of the frenzy, I think it's imperative for people to remain calm and carry on a peaceful protest because that's what Mr Hazare has proposed and lived up to. I am no authority to talk on politics or democracy but as a citizen I feel that in a country ruled by politicians like the ones we have, it is only fair to include the Prime Minister's Office within the ambit of the Lokpal Bill — one of the major disagreements that sparked off the second protest. We live in a country where the power lies, or at least until sometime ago lay, in the hands of people like A. Raja, K. Kanimozhi and Suresh Kalmadi. Our law allows politicians to fight elections even when they are behind the bars and a lot of them have taken advantage of this liberty. Let's face it — there are ministers who operate from jail. And if things continue on the same lines, then don't be surprised if some day one of them takes the Prime Minister's chair. Is it fair then to leave them out of the purview of Lokpal just because they have assumed a higher post? In layman terms, there can be no "bargain" in terms of the conditions placed by the civil society for the Lokpal Bill. Corruption has reached obscene proportions in the country and you need something as powerful and radical as the current proposed bill to bring about a change. Apart from the bill, the Congress Party needs to have better spokes-persons too. Manish Tewari's badtameez comments about Mr Hazare have only rekindled the unrest among people. I will not compare the situation to Emergency. Our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is asking Mr Hazare to speak to the Delhi Police. Why can't he for once take a stand and say something? * Anupam Kher is an acclaimed actor * * * It's nothing but a laughable farce By Kumar Ketkar The political melodrama being played nationally with Anna Hazare as the central character is rapidly becoming a farce with its attendant mass frenzy. The generation that is chanting and dancing on the streets is being told by senior leaders that the situation is akin to the Emergency. But all references to 1975 are reflections of political illiteracy and are largely irrelevant. About 36 years ago, when Indira Gandhi declared the Emergency, the economic situation was horrifying. The backdrop was the century's worst global drought. There was food shortage, an oil crisis, post-1971 war economic disruption and all this was compounded by the nation-wide railway strike of 1974 leading to industrial stagnation and price rise. There was also the so-called "Total Revolution" led by Jayprakash Narayan. The government led by Indira Gandhi had to take drastic steps to overcome the multi-dimensional crisis enveloping the country. Whether the Emergency was justified or not is a different question. The CPI backed the move while other parties thought that Indira Gandhi was a megalomaniac and autocratic. They were united under the broad leadership of JP. The confrontation was political in its character, content and style. Today, there is an altogether different situation. The economy, despite global doom, is doing well. There is no shortage of food or any commodity. There is inflation but the middle class has taken it in its stride. There are 24x7 private channels, mobile phones and McDonald's. The generation that has gone into the Anna frenzy has been brought up on all this. Even a movement idealistic in imagination, but a fashion statement in reality, can be a form of entertainment and high TRPs for the channels. Of course, it would be unfair to tar the whole movement with this brush. But it must not be forgotten that this is its main content, or at least epicentre. There is no Cold War. There is no strong labour movement and nothing even closely resembling a national railway strike. In no way can Prime Minister Manmohan Singh be called autocratic or authoritarian, as Indira Gandhi was described. And most of all, Mr Hazare is not a patch on JP. Therefore, to compare the current situation to Emergency and the arrest of Mr Hazare to the arrest of JP is laughable. To paraphrase Karl Marx, the Emergency was a tragedy, what's happening now is a farce. * Kumar Ketkar, chief editor, daily Divya Marathi







Anna Hazare's crusade against corruption has gathered momentum. Arousing the conscience of the nation on the issue augurs well. But the spontaneous response of people to his detention and fast needs to be guided in the right direction. Peaceful protest is permissible and Mr Hazare's motive in undertaking the fast is laudable, but compelling Parliament to enact his Jan Lokpal Bill is not constitutionally permissible. Even the Supreme Court of India cannot dictate to Parliament. Mr Hazare should immediately defuse the mounting tension, pause and consider a few legal aspects and direct his attention and energies towards a more constructive path for achieving the object, instead of continuing with his fast. Assuming that Mr Hazare's Jan Lokpal Bill becomes a law, will it eradicate corruption? The Lokpal Act will only provide yet another mechanism to bring some corrupt public servants in high positions to book. The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, and its successor act of 1988 have not succeeded in preventing corruption. Only one Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde in Karnataka, has shown courage of conviction and submitted a report holding a senior politician, former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, guilty of corruption. Punitive measures are necessary, but their effect is limited. The Jan Lokpal Bill will neither prevent appointment of corrupt officials to public offices nor facilitate immediate suspension or removal of public servants of doubtful integrity, essential steps for checking corruption. Also, is the insistence on bringing the office of the Prime Minister and the senior judiciary within the purview of Lokpal proper when opinion is divided among experts on the issue? Judicial luminiaries, like former Chief Justices M.N. Venkatachaliah and J.S. Verma, have advised against inclusion of the Prime Minister and judges for sound reasons. There are reservations among leaders of political parties as well on this issue. Inclusion of judges may make the judicial process vulnerable because of interference with the independence of the judiciary, a basic feature of the Constitution. Is it right to bring moral pressure on Parliament through a fast to enact a particular bill? Would such fast be consistent with the ethos of parliamentary democracy which is another basic feature of the Constitution? Dr B.R. Ambedkar, in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly, said, "We must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods to achieve 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." According to this view, Mr Hazare's fast is unconstitutional. Over the years almost all institutions of self-governance have been losing their credibility and efficacy due to a faulty electoral system that permits undesirable elements to get elected with money power, muscle power and caste and community backing. Those who invest heavily in elections tend to make hay while the sun shines. In his 13th Desraj Chaudhary Memorial Lecture, Atal Behari Vajpayee said, "The electoral system has been almost totally subverted by money power, muscle power and votebank considerations of castes and communities..." In 1922, C. Rajagopalachari predicted in his prison diary, "Elections and their corruption, injustice and the power and tyranny of wealth and inefficiency of administration will make life hell as soon as freedom is given to us. Men will look regretfully back to the old regime of comparative justice, and efficient, peaceful, more or less honest administration…" It is, therefore, necessary to purify the system by summary removal of public servants of doubtful integrity, including judges, MPs, MLAs, MLCs and civil servants, and simultaneously bar the entry of such persons into Parliament, state legislatures, the judiciary and public services throughout the country. Mr Hazare should concentrate on this aspect. Dark deeds are never done in broad daylight. Providing foolproof evidence in corruption cases to a court of law or for a departmental inquiry is difficult and time consuming, as the culprits try to thwart every attempt to bring them to book. Therefore, a provision needs to be inserted in the Indian Constitution for constant evaluation of the integrity of all public servants — complaints that raise doubts about the integrity of any official should be considered and if there is even prima facie suggestion that the complaint is legitimate, "shady characters" should be removed forthwith, if need be on payment of some compensation. A political fast-unto-death amounts to an offence under the Indian Penal Code, if it reaches a stage when there is imminent danger to life. The right to life guaranteed by the Constitution does not include the right to die. A legal duty is cast on the state to protect the life of every person. The state cannot remain complacent as people's emotions in India rise high when a leader goes on a fast for a public cause. The widespread reaction to Mr Hazare's detention and remand to judicial custody casts on him the responsibility to ensure that his followers do not indulge in violence. Instead of allowing unsuccessful politicians to fish in troubled waters and try to destabilise the lawfully established government, Mr Hazare should demand a meeting of all leaders in Parliament for a dialogue on the issue and to decide on ways and means of tackling corruption quickly. The government needs to respect Mr Hazare's right to protest peacefully and, at the same time, take every step to maintain peace. The government should invite the leaders of all parliamentary parties, government representatives, Mr Hazare and his aides for a round-table meeting to review the situation and arrive at a consensus within the framework of the Constitution. A joint appeal to people by all of them to remain calm will be timely. * P.P. Rao is a noted constitutional expert and senior Supreme Court advocate










NO greater folly can a government commit than refuse to feel the pulse of the nation. In seeking an administrative (read police) solution to a political problem the Manmohan Singh-led, at least nominally, UPA government has surrendered the lead role in the prevailing political drama to Anna Hazare and his followers. In what must constitute a massive intelligence failure: both in terms of what the snoop agencies reported, and the presumed grey matter of the government's key figures. It has found itself cornered, overwhelmed and in danger of being stripped of all credibility ~ by totally misreading the public mind. The massive, nationwide, revulsion at the arrest of the anti-corruption crusader, and lodging him in Tihar jail (of all places) has left it groping in political darkness. A needless, legally dubious, manner of arrest followed by an extensive remand in judicial custody, and finally an offer for conditional release confirmed that it was merely fire-fighting. Actually running out of dousing agent, when Hazare proved his steadfastness by refusing to move from a premises that even members of the ruling political entity found an acute embarrassment. How that will eventually play out could determine the future of a tottering government.

The words "folly" and "fool" have a common root, and the theory that fools refuse to learn was reconfirmed by the Prime Minister's statement in Parliament on Wednesday. Once again the gutless line was taken that the police acted independently, an attempt made to twist an essentially right-to-protest issue into a confrontation over who is authorised to make law ~ which the Opposition failed to "bite" ~ and not a hint offered as to how a national crisis was being handled. Not surprisingly that statement was torn to shreds, and the Prime Minister invited serious ridicule.

For it did nothing to convince the nation and people that the government was on top of the situation. And that the line articulated by Ministers Chidambaram and Sibal (echoed on TV by a hapless V Narayanswamy) was being abandoned for something workable, more acceptable to the corruption-exasperated masses. Even as the UPA struggled to maintain "face" in Parliament the crowds favouring Anna kept swelling. Simply because the abortive crackdown on the right to dissent earned him the sympathy of those who had previously questioned his methods, and were irked by the antics of his aides. In the long run it might turn out that it was the UPA's bluster and bungling that fuelled a situation in which the paramount place of Parliament took a battering.




MR Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has made a political statement and in the process has emerged as a bundle of contradictions.  The former Chief Minister's public defence of Sushanta Ghosh, a former minister suspected to be involved in the killings in West Midnapore a decade ago, is sharply at variance with his frequent condemnation of  deviant and dubious members, precisely those whom he wants driven out of the party. Was his presentation scripted to be in accord with the spirit of the rain-drenched rally ~ to protest against the attack on CPI-M cadres allegedly by Trinamul activists? In parallel did Mr Biman Bose and other leaders call on the Governor to complain against the reprisal. Mr Bhattacharjee has left an inexplicable disconnect, one that has reportedly astonished sections of the party. His spirited defence of a former minister behind bars runs counter to his concern over such party-certified "liabilities" as Sushanta Ghosh (a murder accused) and Lakshman Seth, indeed characters who have done the party in. The latter, it bears recall, had lent the spark to the Nandigram conflagration in January 2007, two months before the cadres opened fire maquerading as policemen. The rest is history.
For all the talk of "course correction" since the Lok Sabha election debacle in May 2009, it is a commentary on the leadership's failure that it hasn't been able to rein in such "liabilities". For all the defence of Ghosh and the memorandum to the Governor, the party has no explanation for the discovery of skeletons of those who were done to death in September 2002, allegedly on the orders of the former minister for Paschimanchal affairs.
Even if we accept that CPI-M cadres are under attack, it doesn't logically follow that the former Chief Minister should stand by a murder accused. Further comment by party leaders must await the course of CID investigations and proceedings in court. Mr Bhattacharjee would have buttressed the party's case if he had cited instances of the Trinamul reprisal at the public rally. He should hold his fire on a matter that is before the court and also, of course, be consistent on his stance towards the "liabilities".



IF the trial of Hosni Mubarak was hailed last week as a defining moment in the Arab world, despondency appears to have set in with the judiciary banning telecast of the proceedings. While the Egyptian revolution araound Tahrir Square was extensively televised, the trial is set to go off the airwaves within a few days after it began. Those who brought about the revolution will thus be deprived of the opportunity of seeing the dictator being tried and justice being done. The ruling of the presiding judge, Ahmed Rifaat, was passed at the threshold, indeed on the second day of the hearing; misgivings that it could render the proceedings opaque are not wholly unfounded. In a sense, it is concordant with the conduct of governance by Egypt's ruling council, put in place by Mubarak in February before his retreat to Sharm el-Sheikh. It has been remarkably sluggish in the matter of prosecution. It has dragged its feet for as long as it could to start the trial, which has now been calculatedly timed a month before the scheduled elections. In truth, the generals ~ handpicked by the former President ~ have backtracked on their assurance to televise the trial. As it turns out, that assurance wasn't really an olive branch to the protestors who had brought about Mubarak's downfall.

It would be simplistic to imagine that the clamp on television coverage is intended to forestall the squabbling lawyers on either side from gaining publicity mileage. The reason is decidedly political. Mubarak's sons, Gamal and Alaa ~ both charged with corruption ~ had tried to shield their father from television cameras from the first day of the trial. Monday's court ruling has dashed the hope of transparency. Democracy in Egypt is at a discount once again. The court has blacked out the proceedings from the world at large.








AS NATO pounds Libya from the air, academics and experts on international affairs would do well to reopen the debate on "humanitarian intervention". The trend was evident. visible after the Cold War. There are a panoply of ways in which one state can intervene in the affairs of another, such as snapping diplomatic ties with a country against which serious charges of human rights violations have surfaced or imposing economic sanctions on such a repressive regime. Yet the issue of armed intervention is the real bone of contention.
Before examining the extent to which "humanitarian intervention" has been able to alleviate the miseries of the affected populace, let us consider the legality of the practice. In an international society, based on the principle of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its member states since the signing of the Kellog-Briand pact in 1928, supporters of humanitarian intervention have been hard pressed to legally justify their position. Article 2 of the UN Charter (1945) categorically states: "All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state..."
However, this Article mentions certain exceptional situations where force can be legally used. For instance, on the basis of approval of the Security Council, multilateral action can be taken against a state which has posed a serious threat to international peace and security. Those advocating the case for humanitarian intervention take recourse to the same UN charter to support their position by pointing out that Article 1(3) identifies the protection of human rights as one of the principal purposes of the UN system.  The trend was reinforced towards the end of the 20th century. However, in the aftermath of the NATO intervention in Kosovo, there ensued a heated debate among the stakeholders regarding the timing of such intervention. Who is the competent authority to intervene and on a myriad other related issues? Under the leadership of Canada, a number of states and non-state organisations constituted the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) to probe the legal, ethical and procedural aspects of humanitarian intervention and prepare a code of conduct to be observed in case of  interventions. The commission, in its report entitled "Responsibility to Protect", advocated extreme caution while undertaking such action.  In almost a latter-day revival of the centuries' old Catholic standard for just war, it laid down a six-point criteria to guide intervention: the right authority, just cause, right intention, last resort, proportional means and reasonable prospects. The report emphasised that such intervention must always be preceded by thorough discussions within the international community. It must necessarily be multilateral and must invariably be undertaken under the aegis of the Security Council.

In a majority of cases of "humanitarian interventions", the doctrine has assumed the form of a Trojan Horse for great-power abuse. The powerful nations, and particularly the lone super-power  have been driven by their desire to ensure their narrow national interests ~ grabbing territory, gaining geo-strategic advantages or establishing control over precious natural resources when sending troops into another nation. They try to camouflage their real motives by declaring their "noble intentions" to uphold justice, peace, human rights and dignity in the affected region. Even when undertaken with genuine goodwill, it has often ended up creating more problems. From Kosovo to Iraq, the same saga unfolds.

The NATO air raid in Kosovo, undertaken without the authorisation of  the Security Council and largely by using US forces, achieved little. It actually aggravated the miseries of Albanian Muslims who were the victims of President Slovodan Milosevic's "ethnic cleansing". The indiscriminate air raid caused severe damage to electrical grids, bridges and water facilities, thus exacerbating the hardship of Kosovo's displaced populace. However, it enabled the USA to become a strong player in the Balkans. It acquired  considerable geo-strategic advantage by paving the way for NATO's eastward expansion.

In 1992, US intervention in Somalia, besieged by ethnic strife and a terrible famine, had the backing of the United Nations and moral support of a section of  Americans. The mission was initially a success, notably the supply of food and medicine. Before long,  President Clinton became over-ambitious and asked the US forces to get involved in the process of "nation-building", a task that eventually backfired. As US forces took sides in the ongoing ethnic clashes and became the target of attack by rival parties, bodybags started coming home. The public mood in America turned quickly against this humanitarian mission. Clinton, forcefully disengaging from the internal political morass, made a hasty retreat from Somalia, leaving it to its fate.

Riding high on the sympathy wave generated after the horrendous turn of events on 9/11, the USA, as part of its grand design of "War on Terror", started its military operation in Afghanistan, primarily to annihilate Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden. The other purported objective of President Bush was to set up a democratic society in Afghanistan where everyone, including women, would enjoy their right to live with dignity. Unfortunately, many innocent citizens died in indiscriminate bombing and the country is still wallowing in the mire while the USA is in the process of implementing a pullout plan.

The renowned social scientist, Noam Chomsky,  once observed, "The first question that comes to mind about 'humanitarian intervention' is whether the category exists." Perhaps the US and its other powerful western allies, notably France and UK are repeating their past follies as they move to implement the UN resolution of imposing a "no-fly" zone" over Libya and "taking other necessary measures" to protect civilian populations from Gaddafi's attack. The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) abstained from voting in favour of the resolution while Germany insisted that instead of armed intervention, "targeted sanction, political pressure and international isolation" should be tried. The civil war in Libya is a complex issue as it rages along the tribal faultline. While  the rebel forces have gained some ground, supporters of Gaddafi  have become more steadfast in their determination to ward off externally- sponsored attempts at regime change. The air strikes have already caused considerable collateral damage ~ loss of civilian lives and destruction of  infrastructure.
Critics suspect that Western leaders, at whose behest the war is being waged in Libya, have ulterior motives. David Cameron faces growing resentment to the austerity measures adopted by his government and the war in Libya offers a scope to divert attention. President Sarkozy's ratings are declining in opinion polls a year before the presidential election in France. He hopes to regain some ground through a "humanitarian mission". Libya's oil reserve has perhaps made the country the object of imperialist design. The anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council, with whom the Western powers are collaborating, has allegedly granted international oil companies the right to unhindered exploration of the country's mineral wealth.

There is no greater force than that of a people determined to rise against oppression and injustice. The recent spate of revolutionary movements in the Arab world marks a splendid display of the people's  yearning for change. This people's power must be harnessed if change is to come in Libya or in any other corner of the globe where human rights are violated. The Western powers should stop acting supercilious and instead of trying to be the "deliverer", they can at best try to be a facilitator of change. They can initiate a process of negotiation and reconciliation between pro and anti-Gaddafi forces. In the Easter Holy Mass, Pope Benedict XVI advanced a ringing call for diplomacy to prevail over fighting in Libya. In the interest of peace, the message ought seriously to be considered.

The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Women's Christian College, Kolkata







The core group of ministers may argue that the Lokpal bill initiated in Parliament has the scope of improvement, but the public is far ahead and may ultimately ask for new representatives in the Lok Sabha

WHEN Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan was arrested by Indira Gandhi after she imposed Emergency (1975-77), he cited a Sanskrit saying, "Vinasha kale vipareeta buddhi", meaning that when the ruler faces bad times, his thinking also gets warped. Anna Hazare, hitherto an unnoticed leader from Maharashtra, was arrested in Delhi because he had inspired a movement to have a Lokpal (ombudsman) eliminate corruption in the country. He should have also quoted JP's words because the government flip-flopped, first arresting him in the morning and then offering to release him in the evening. It is another matter that he has refused to come out of jail on conditions.

The Manmohan Singh government has made a fool of itself. First, it asks the obliging Commissioner of Police, BK Gupta, to arrest Hazare and tells the world that it was the CP's doing. Then the government or its core group decides to release Hazare. The scene by then seems to have shifted to Congress headquarters where the Prime Minister was also present.

Here Rahul Gandhi is the boss in the absence of his mother, Sonia Gandhi. He meets the Prime Minister and the decision to release Hazare is apparently taken. Once again the poor CP is made a scapegoat for having gone wrong on the arrest. He, too, retraces his steps by offering Hazare conditional release.
The role of a local magistrate is comical. He follows the CP's path under pressure. He first sends Hazare to judicial custody for seven days. There is no law under which he could act against a person who says he would go on a fast. It is a pity that Delhi High Court does not act suo moto to quash the order which had made a mockery of the judiciary. The same magistrate revokes the order, again under pressure.

The entire exercise has made me sit up and notice how the police and the judiciary act on commands. This is exactly what happened during the Emergency. Whatever Mrs Gandhi-Sanjay Gandhi wished was implemented, overriding all rules and regulations and precedents. Significantly, like today, the Congress was ruling at the Centre at that time. Then the government functionaries acted because the Emergency had suspended the Constitution and, therefore, had no recourse. This time they are doing so without the Emergency. They have got used to unconstitutional governance to such an extent that they have become a willing tool of tyranny imposed by political masters.

This speaks volumes about India's democracy. And even the most undemocratic country, called America, has the temerity to say that it expected India "to exercise appropriate democratic restraint in the way it dealt with peaceful protests". A nation that treats its Muslimnationals as third class citizens has the gumption to point a finger at India, which, despite its limitations, has sustained a pluralistic society. I fear the worst scenario for the ruling Congress, which has become arrogant and has cut itself off from the people. I can see the demand for a Lokpal translating itself into a demand for the resignation of theManmohan Singh government. It is beginning to happen sooner thanexpected. The stock of the government, already battered after the disclosures of numerous scams running into hundreds of thousands of dollars, has fallen still further. Whatever it does is going to boomerang on it.

The reason why I think a mid-term election is inevitable is because the
Hazare movement has taken the shape of a people's movement. The Lokpal
bill has been put aside and the resentment against the government is being ventilated through the denunciation of rulers. The core group of ministers may argue that the Lokpal bill initiated in Parliament has the scope of improvement, but the public is far ahead and may ultimately ask for new representatives in the Lok Sabha.

The political parties, except the ruling Congress, may change their stance before long. The BJP is already supporting the movement, expecting some recognition from Hazare. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has unilaterally praised the movement. His purpose is, however, to extricate himself from the pariah position to which he has been reduced after planning and executing the pogrom for ethnic cleansing.
   Hazare's team is doing well to keep Modi and the BJP at a distance. Muslims in India are still suspicious of Hazare, although he has withdrawn the praise he had expressed for Modi in one of his statements. Hazare's team has to be doubly cautious lest the BJP sneak in at some time.

I recall how the Jana Sangh, the first reincarnation of the BJP, went back on the understanding it gave to JP. It vowed to snap its connections with the RSS after it (the Sangh) was taken into the Janata Party. Little did JP suspect then that they wanted credibility, which the membership of the Janata Party would give. Let the BJP sever its connection with the RSS if it wants to be part of the movement.

I am hoping for the emergence of a third alternative after the success of the ongoing movement. JP, too, began haltingly. The government kept making one mistake after another and enabling him to convert the movement into a people's outcry against the Centre. He did not give a call for new elections initially, but when the government's attitude remained intractable he had no choice except to say: Let's go back to the people. India Gandhi was trounced to such an extent that she and her son, Sanjay, lost the election. The Congress should see the writing on the wall.

The party has dug its own grave. It should have compromised on the Lokpal bill. Hazare was willing at one time to concede a bit of ground on the Lokpal's authority over the judiciary and the Prime Minister. The government should have redrafted the judicial commission bill to allay Hazare's doubts. The Prime minister could be arraigned before the Lokpal only on matters involving his corruption, not his governance.

Prime Minister Inder Gujral was strongly against the Lokpal because ofthe dangers entailed in exposing the office to the Lokpal. But he was notopposed to having some provisions against the Prime Minister if, prima
facie, a case was established. We have had two corrupt Prime Ministers — PV Narasimha Rao arrested in the Jharkhand case for buying votes and Rajiv Gandhi, who was exposed on the Bofors kickbacks. We cannot afford to keep the office of Prime Minister outside the purview of the Lokpal.
Civil society should be commended for throwing all its weight behind Hazare. But it has to devote its attention to many other ills that have crept into society, like vulgar consumerism against the backdrop of dire poverty.

The writer is a veteran journalist and commentator






BOTH the ruling BJP and the Congress, the main opposition party in Himachal Pradesh, have started girding their loins as the assembly elections are about 15 months away. Right there on the Mall and in other busy areas of the state, political functionaries at all levels can be seen smiling and bowing more politely, shaking hands more warmly and, of course, enquiring sincerely if they could do "any service" (koi sewa)! The question in political circles is whether the BJP will "repeat", or will the Congress benefit from the trend in recent times – people preferring a change each time. And of course the time is ripe for astrologers, Tantric-types and a variety of fixers and crowd-mobilisers. The strobe lights have been switched on for a noisy political disco in this peaceful hill state!

   Both the main rival parties have their hands full with worries and problems – caused more by ambitious warring leaders and their factions. Undermining their rivals within, they are doing their best to weaken their respective parties. Their so-called party high commands at Delhi continue to have a blurred vision, far removed from ground realities, waiting for a windfall in the elections. But the baselines are becoming clearer by the day – chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal remains the BJP's commander-in-chief while former chief minister Virbhadra Singh remains the Congress mascot. Whatever the public claims about rivals within the parties, they, too, are aware of these two mass leaders' electoral influence. In a way, it is a sad reflection of the political hollowness in our democracy – only individuals count and building a second-line, strong leadership remains a taboo.
   The battlelines are also becoming clearer. The Congress has identified its cutting-edge issue – it contends that "Himachal is on sale" to outsiders who have been buying up vast chunks of land under one garb or another. Industries, private universities, benami transactions – a whole list is being flaunted in almost all their public statements, press conferences, rallies. A 40-km padayatra from Solan to Shimla is being planned on 22 August (followed by a dharna outside the assembly during its monsoon session) to make farmers aware that they will soon be rendered landless if the trend continues. The party has even proclaimed that the land given to Baba Ramdev in Himachal would be "reviewed" when it comes back to power.

   The BJP, in turn, has countered this by citing benami deals and land allotments during the Congress regimes in the past. A 15-bigha plot allegedly given to a Christian missionary school at a token lease amount of a rupee a month by the then Congress government has also been cited as an example.

 State Congress chief Kaul Singh, Congress Legislature Party leader Vidya Stokes and other leaders are losing no opportunity to attack "corruption in the government" and tap land-related sentiments in Himachal Pradesh. Even the state unit of the CPI(M) has pitched in, claiming documentary evidence of a benami deal involving "over 1,000 bighas of prime land near Shimla" to a corporate house in Punjab, in violation of the state's land laws.
   The ruling party, in an earlier move to pull the rug from under the opposition's feet and prevent any sentimental tide among farmers, had set up a commission under Justice DP Sood, a retired judge of the High Court, to probe all such land deals approved since March 2003 when the Congress assumed power. However, the Congress has aired apprehensions that the one-man commission's report might go in favour of the ruling party and show the then Congress government in "bad light". It has also refused to place before the commission specific cases of such deals – thus, perhaps, casting a shadow over its own claims and transactions.
   The chief minister has been quick to pounce on the opportunity, stating that "it shows that the party has something to hide". He also pointed out that the High Court itself had suggested the name of the seniormost retired judge and the opposition had earlier demanded such a probe but was now backing out from supporting it.
   Many analysts attribute this somewhat discordant note in the Congress strategy on the issue to strong internal differences and a clash of ambitions among its leaders and their loyalists. State "in charge of party affairs" Birender Singh has a series of battles on his hands to quell factionalism, which, of course, is as usual denied regularly and ritualistically by all the warring leaders. The Congress has many strong contenders for the top post if it returns to power – Kaul Singh, Vidya Stokes, former transport minister GS Bali, Union minister Anand Sharma, to name a few. And who can ignore the mass appeal of the five-time former chief minister Virbhadra Singh? He is probably the one Congressman in the state who can fully exploit any anti-incumbency factor against the BJP and create a wave of sentiment in what could be his final round of electoral battling. In fact, that's what the BJP fears secretly!

   In contrast, as of now the BJP has a distinct advantage. It had declared Dhumal its chief ministerial candidate well in time before the last assembly elections. This helped. This time, too, there appears to be no other strong contender. The campaign against the government by the party's MP, Rajan Sushant, may not make much difference. Shanta Kumar appears to be a contented elderly statesman and leader in the party – the chief minister, too, has been doing his best to keep Kumar in good humour. Most anti-government noises in the BJP should be read, at this stage, as pressure tactics for gains at the time of distribution of party tickets for the polls, or for some plum posts and positions for near and dear ones while the party is still in power!

The writer is former head, Department of Journalism and Mass Communications, HPU, and The Statesman's Shimla Correspondent.








THAT one chance in a million had come to pass. Jagdish had lost his rupee coin. It was an event of no mean consequence. Like Shahjehan who had lost his empire in his lifetime, Jagdish thought he'd lost everything. It was a crisis of confidence. He was paralysed. That coin was his only treasure, more than the Kohinoor.
   Within minutes the whole locality was abuzz. The entire local populace was agitated. If Jagdish was aware there was UNO, he would have taken the matter there.
   He would have guarded his treasure trove, much like the Yakshas who guard the treasures of the RBI. Being superstitious to the core, he thought his treasure was "return with compound interest", like the PPF. Every knock on the door would stiffen his ears and he would rush into the street thinking his rupee-coin had come back through some divine grace.
   Every place was searched and re-searched in the house, every nook and every cranny. All pockets of all clothes of all members of family were turned inside out. But the coin eluded him. His condition was that of an archaeologist whose excavations had brought forth no find. It was a tragedy too deep for tears.
   He tried to get my young boy interested in his quest but failed badly. He tried me without any success. He approached my superstitious wife but she had no time from his Hanuman Chalisa and the discourses of Swami Chidananda. He tried our maid who was not interested in anything but money. She charged me five rupees for answering every call at  the door because, she said, the callers were too many. And who were my callers: car-cleaners, washerwomen, press-boys, safai-karamcharis, toilet-cleaners, insurance girls, saleswomen with durries, blankets, carpet-cleaners, gardeners and a variety of child-labourers banned by law. Above all, there is the shani-girl (Saturday girl with her three or four kids with an oil-bowl).
But Jagdish found a ready audience in our guests. A cousin of mine paid his compliments, money being so scarce. Days passed but the intensity of the loss did not diminish, the look of suffering became more and more visible. Jagdish was now paralysed, without hope.
Like a clock, he continued to repeat himself till his only introduction in the street was the Cinderella who'd lost a precious rupee. He continued to grieve for it like Wordsworth's Michael who'd lost his only son in old age.
Often a fearful nostalgia gripped him. I thought he was remembering his home. A lasting look of suffering was visible on his face. Sometimes he would blab in his sleep and emerge suddenly out of his bed only to discover that it was a bad dream. And though he became less vocal about it, he was never reconciled to the loss. He ran down in health, melancholy dripped from his face, we gave him medicines, tonics, but without any effect. No improvement… Vitamin M (money), his Kohinoor, was missing.
One day we gave him another rupee thinking it might restore his health, but he returned it because he thought there was no occasion for the gesture. It was not a substitute for his rupee ~ the one he had brought from his hometown. He rejected it in a manner that showed we were the sole cause of his misfortune. He clung to the past, longing for the old millenium, harking back to his lost glories and vanished regalia. We also took it lightly as we had no time to spare in our dull, busy routine.
And then came his old aunt from the village to meet him. Having lost his mother in infancy, he had been brought up by her, much like Betsy Trotwood of David Copperfield fame. She stayed with him for a day as she was going on a pilgrimage. While leaving, she gave him a silver rupee and he grabbed it as though he'd been waiting for it. His whole system underwent a dramatic change, his existence reverberated with activity. The ravaged face smiled once again. He was luckier than Chekov with his silver coin nestling against his breast. He ran back to his room, packed his clothes.
If you haven't guessed by now, we lost a servant









The day after Independence Day, the government decided to strike a blow at freedom and thus land itself in a mess. The arrest of Anna Hazare was uncalled for. This statement should not be read as one that supports or justifies what Mr Hazare is doing. The Telegraph has written more than once against Mr Hazare's movements and the tactics he adopts. But The Telegraph also believes that he has the right to say what he believes and to protest against government policies. This right is given to him by the Constitution, the fountainhead of Indian democracy, to which Mr Hazare pays scant respect. By arresting him and then releasing him, the government has probably made a hero out of a person of little or no consequence. Important or not, the government, unless it is as eager to violate the Constitution as Mr Hazare is, must allow him to exercise his right to dissent. The argument that his fast would have posed a major law and order problem is disingenuous. In fact, if anything, his arrest has triggered off a movement that is potentially a greater threat to the government. The government's mailed fist and the subsequent velvet glove have only given Mr Hazare's agitation renewed life and vigour.

At the core of Mr Hazare's protest is an undemocratic demand. He wants Parliament to accept his version of the lok pal bill and no other. This means he wants to act as lawmaker and thus erode the supremacy of Parliament. Neither he nor his supporters — and the latter include many educated people — understand or acknowledge that Mr Hazare is not an elected representative of the people and therefore he cannot be a legislator. Also, the very idea that only his law and no other is acceptable is undemocratic and carries with it a touch of megalomania. It was open to Mr Hazare to get his bill presented to Parliament through a member of the Opposition. But he chose to go on a hunger strike in an attempt to pressurize, some would say blackmail, the government. In spite of the availability of constitutional means of protest, Mr Hazare decided to take the unconstitutional route. This method is nothing more than what B.R. Ambedkar called the "grammar of anarchy".

The government, on its part, had the option of launching a campaign against the methods that Mr Hazare was adopting. It could have made the public aware of the undemocratic nature and content of Mr Hazare's agitation. Instead of doing this, it sent in a police force to arrest him. Later, when wiser counsel from a young head prevailed, orders were given for Mr Hazare's release. The arrest was utterly counterproductive and the credibility of the government has taken a severe beating. The level of confidence in this government's ability and will to govern is at its lowest point. The clock is running against it.







It is one thing to be resigned to the knowledge that a city is neither civilized not modern, and quite another to be tantalized by assurances of high-tech services and immediate responses. There was only one shocked, pained and responsible human being who stood on the AJC Bose Road flyover over two schoolboys grievously wounded in an accident, trying to flag down passers-by for help while also trying to call the police. The emergency line kept giving him instructions for the next step while the boys bled at his feet. His single-handed and determined efforts ultimately got them to hospital, although it had grown too late for one. It is amazing that an emergency line should operate on an interactive system. A senior officer has insisted that only police personnel pick up the telephone. Unless, of course, the line is busy. That is fascinating. Emergencies should happen one at a time, or the emergency line will go into interactive mode. Calcuttans are welcome to debate and argue — their favourite pastimes as long as they do not have to stop for bleeding schoolboys — over the intriguing truth: is the experience of a man in the middle of an emergency more to be counted on than the theory that policemen pick up emergency calls or vice versa?

If recent events had somewhat prepared citizens for a possible failure of the emergency line, they were yet to learn about the efficacy of the brilliantly named transit trauma care ambulance system. Three were posted from one to two kilometres of the accident site. None appeared, although one was found crawling up 40 minutes later, by which time the boys had been loaded on to a passing ambulance. There was little transit and absolutely no care, and, besides the victims, trauma was visited on the young man trying to help. Not that nothing happened. A policeman had reportedly strolled to the site of the accident upon hearing of it and had strolled back to tell the ambulance that the report was true. Maybe that is what citizens pay taxes for.






Our house in north London lies only a mile or two away from the first and most spectacular of this month's riots, but we were on holiday on a remote Scottish island when the looting and arson began. We had no newspapers, no television, no landline and no laptop, and in any case connectivity was poor; to get a mobile phone signal you needed to scramble up a hill behind the cottage we were renting. The only source of news was an old radio, which we gathered around in the evening to hear the bulletins coming out of the south. I paint an antique picture — this was how most people heard that Britain and Germany were at war in 1939 — but it suited the atmosphere of the biggest national crisis I can remember in a list that includes wars (Suez, the Falklands), terrorist outrages (the Provisional IRA and al Qaida) and violent industrial strife (the miners' strike of the mid-1980s). 'The worst outbreak of civil disorder in Britain since the riots of 1981' is how the recent mayhem is commonly described. In fact, those street disturbances of 30 years ago have been easily eclipsed. The cause then was friction between black youths and the police. The cause now is more complicated and less easily treated, the results more shattering, the portents more ominous (and not just for Britain).

It's hard to know where to begin. So many people have had their say — politicians, sociologists, vicars, journalists, all of us offering opinions in a fever of soul-searching and recrimination. The political reaction can be roughly divided into two camps. The Right (including the Tory majority in the coalition government) tends to blame what the prime minister, David Cameron, calls a moral collapse. The fault, in his words, lies with "irresponsibility, selfishness — behaving as if your choices have no consequences" in communities where many families have absent fathers and schools lack discipline. In this view, the State's welfare systems indulge and sometimes encourage "some of the worst aspects of human nature" and have become "literally de-moralised". Liberals and the Left extend the culpability to what the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, describes as the "greed, selfishness and gross irresponsibility" that characterizes the behaviour of the rich as well as the poor. Bankers, as we all know to our cost, are hardly models of prudence and probity.

The difference is really a question of emphasis. You can agree with both sides. Yes, too many children grow up with feckless parents in households where the only moral tutor is the celebrity television show and where State benefits have provided two or three workless generations with their only regular income. Yes, greed and the flaunting of wealth increasingly dominate British culture, whether it be footballers on £200,000 a week, Russian oligarchs buying country houses for £200 million a time, or members of parliament fiddling their expenses. But what makes children and adolescents loot and burn doesn't end there. A younger generation finds that its identity — its sense of itself — comes from the ownership of consumer goods rather than the customs of family and religion or the bonds of neighbourhood and nation. "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are," wrote the French epicure, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a maxim since abbreviated to 'You are what you eat.' Today, and not just in Britain, you are what you buy — the hippest trainers, the coolest sweatpants, the most fashionable mobile, the cutest handbag, the widest TV screen. You can't afford them? Then all that separates them from you is a pane of glass. Smash it and you become more like the person you want to be — that advertising (from Nike, Adidas, and so on) suggests you need to be.

These weren't the riots of the poor demanding essentials such as food. The participants found them exciting — they were fun. Very few of the thousands arrested were more than 30; many were children; some had university degrees; a few had jobs. Racially, so far as one can tell, they were mainly a mixture of Caribbean-ancestry blacks and English whites. The historian, David Starkey, got himself into trouble after a TV performance in which he said a substantial number of the rioters were "whites [who] have become black", adding that a "particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture" had given many people like him the sense of living in a foreign country. The implication was that it had spread from black kids to white ones. In fact, American pop culture is the likelier route — not for nothing does Adidas feature the rapper, gang member and convicted criminal, Snoop Dogg, to sell its shoes and hoodies — though the riots' geographical distribution did lend some support to the idea that a particular racial mixture was a component. London, Manchester and the West Midlands have large black as well as South Asian populations. Few young Asians were involved in the riots other than as victims; in the West Midlands, three young Muslims died attempting to defend their property. Parts of Britain where the only sizeable migrant community is South Asian — that is, in Scotland, Wales and Northeast England — had no riots at all.

Make of this what you will. In Britain, the strong structures and obligations of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi families have been lauded and contrasted with the wreckage of the English working class. Hovering over everybody, however, is the spectre of a hopeless future. Let me express this in a personal way. When I write for an Indian audience, as now, I'm aware at some subconscious level that readers can reasonably expect their children to have more prosperous lives than their own. That used to be the case in Britain too. I am richer and lead a far more comfortable life than my father, who in turn was much better off than my grandfather. This was a general expectation. It has now come to an end. As a generation, we know our children will be worse off than we are. Jobs are scarce and education is expensive; every public budget faces severe cuts; power and influence in the world have swung from West to East.

All Western countries feel this to varying extents, but in England (less so in Scotland) the sense of ending is particularly keen. A report in the Guardian quoted a 27-year-old woman called Trisha, who was carrying home three bags of loot from a supermarket in east London. "Not even people that's got an education can get a job, much less people that ain't got education," she said. Despite her English — you might call it street English — Trisha had studied at university for a degree in child psychology. Recently she'd been made redundant (her job wasn't specified in the report). "I'm still paying my student loan," she said. "That's why I looted all I could."

It's wise to be sceptical about this kind of quote — people will always try to justify criminal behaviour on grounds of need. But if some statistics are to be believed, Britain now has a ratio of 83 unemployed graduates to every job vacancy. The economy is stagnant, inflation is double the Bank of England's target figure, and nobody expects a return to significant growth for the next several years. Meanwhile — an uncomfortable fact in any discussion about the future of the working class — many employers continue to prefer migrants from Eastern Europe for their skill and hard work, on wages that the British-born have shunned because State unemployment benefits offer nearly the same income (or even a better one, if wages from the hidden economy — drugs, for example — are added). When the State becomes less lavish, as it very soon will, all kinds of further turbulence can be expected.

The government's solutions include more alert and aggressive policing, stiffer prison sentences, more intrusive surveillance of social networking sites and the 're-moralising' of family life. The last seems an impossibility; 'family life' as the Tory party understands it — stable, responsible, loving, morally instructive — went missing from many British households long ago. The others are really more a containment than a cure. This month we discovered something in the smoke above London that may hold lessons for the rest of the world: that when every value is monetized and social cohesion depends on consumerism — you are what you own — then people will find ways to go on consuming. Looters can be so quickly organized and glass is so easy to smash.







Eating is scary business here right now. Last month, a friend refused to accompany this diarist to their favourite haunt, claiming that the restaurant uses oil recycled from used cooking oil thrown into the gutter — a practice said to be common. She no longer ate out, but brought lunch from home. Another young girl who hates cooking now avoids eating anything but home-made noodles. Tomatoes are uniformly red; watermelons explode; pepper turns out to be a soil-flour mix; pork is contaminated with chemicals and phosphorescent bacteria; buns are dyed; packaged water (there's no other kind available here) is said to contain very high levels of bacteria.

So what does one do? Eat only at expensive restaurants? Eat at outlets of international brands? Alas, the two most popular chains — McDonald's and KFC — have been found to have gone local in their practices. A picture was published on the internet of trays of McDonald's buns kept in the sun on the pavement outside a Beijing outlet, their wrappers torn, and moisture condensing on the bread. McDonald's issued an apology, saying it had disciplined the staff responsible and withdrawn the buns.

Workers at KFC's Beijing outlets have told the press of frying oil being replaced only after four days, and no pH tests being carried out; chicken being fried for five minutes instead of 7.5 minutes during peak hours; egg tarts that have fallen on the floor being served after dirt particles have been picked out with toothpicks; and unsold burgers, supposed to have a shelf-life of 40 minutes, being served all day with just a fresh coating of lettuce and sauce. KFC has denied it all. It did not deny that its soya milk was made from soya bean powder, not freshly crushed soya beans. A picture was posted on the internet of cartons of soya bean powder lying outside a Beijing KFC outlet.

Unsafe practice

However, what takes the cake is the exposé by the Southern Weekend that government officials eat special food grown on organic farms across the country, both at their workplace canteens and at home. These farms are rated by central agencies, and if found failing the tests twice in a row, are taken off the favoured list. From vegetables to meat — everything is grown under strict supervision. Even the pesticides used are organic. And this isn't a new practice prompted by unsafe food in the market — this goes back to 1960, when the Party was supposed to serve the people.

Foreign state guests also escape the hazards of eating Chinese food. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, food was sourced from reliable firms; the Southern Weekend found that many such firms continue to supply food to governments. No wonder then that secure in the knowledge that the food he ate was safe, a health ministry spokesman warned that journalists accused of "scaremongering'' would be blacklisted. However, special food safety commissions have been set up in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong. But will they act? After the allegations by KFC employees in Beijing, a government agency tested KFC's oil in a Shanghai outlet and declared it safe. Similarly, after a child complained of maggots crawling out of a McDonald's chicken wing, and a TV channel filmed it, officials inspected the outlet and declared that no other chicken wing was infected. Pork glowing in the dark too was certified as safe.

Officials have also said that the plant hormone that caused watermelons to explode in Zhejiang province wasn't dangerous; the farmers had merely used it at the wrong time. The best quote, however, came from Zhejiang's vice-governor, who said that increased public sensitivity to food safety was a sign of social affluence: earlier, people just hoped that there would be enough food on the table.



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



The killing of a Right to Information (RTI) activist in Bhopal warrants a thorough probe. The victim, Shehla Masood filed RTI queries and carried out public campaigns related to corruption, environment and tiger conservation, etc.

She was on her way to participate in a public rally in support of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, when she was shot dead. Masood's questions and campaigns as well as her writings on controversial issues seem to have rattled vested interests, who were annoyed, perhaps even afraid that her questions would lay bare their illegal operations.

She had raised queries related to the poaching mafia, the timber mafia and those engaging in illegal diamond mining. Her commitment to unearth the truth resulted in her making many enemies, some of whom would have wanted her silenced. It appears that a senior policeman too had been harassing her. Thus it is not just those engaging in various illegal trades who were irked by her revelations but also those in positions of power who could have been patrons of these mafias. The government must throw the net  wide in searching for her killers.

The vulnerability of RTI activists to threats and silencing by those whose illegal activities they seek to reveal is not new. In Karnataka, an RTI activist who'd file an application to expose the BDA's involvement in a land scam case was killed in April 2009. A probe revealed the hand of four people linked to the contractors involved in the scam. There are cases across the country of those asking uncomfortable questions about how funds meant for social welfare programmes were spent or names of beneficiaries of land, housing, etc being beaten up, threatened, even killed. Maharashtra tops the list in killings of RTI activists.

The RTI is a powerful weapon in the hands of citizens of this country. Scamsters and their patrons are seeking to undermine it through intimidation of RTI activists. The latter must be protected. Providing them police protection is impossible given the large number of activists.

Those who file an RTI petition are expected to provide a photograph and address details. Can the government put in place foolproof measures to ensure that this information cannot be divulged? Activists say that clearing RTI applications quickly will go a long way in protecting them. Importantly, the RTI bureaucracy and the police must stand by the RTI activists, not by the mafia or their colleagues in government engaging in corruption.






Sri Lanka's growing ties with China have received a shot in the arm during President Mahinda Rajapaksa's visit to that country. Economic and military ties have grown at a rapid pace in recent years.

China has become Colombo's largest aid donor and is funding and constructing several massive infrastructure projects. During Rajapaksa's visit, not only did the Chinese reaffirm commitment to infrastructure building and enhancing trade with Sri Lanka but also, they assured Rajapaksa of 'fullest support in all necessary situations in international forums.'

This means that if the question of stern action against the Rajapaksa regime for alleged war crimes comes up before the UN Security Council or other international bodies, China will bat for Colombo. China's support to Sri Lanka on the matter is not surprising given its opposition to outside interference in the internal affairs of a country. Besides, it has interests in Sri Lanka, which are likely to be furthered by backing Rajapaksa at a critical juncture.

India is concerned over the expanding co-operation between China and its southern neighbour. Analysts have warned that China's involvement in the Hambantota port project will provide space some day for Chinese naval presence in Sri Lanka. Given its proximity to India, it will have serious security implications. While Sri Lanka has assuaged Indian anxieties on the matter, the evolving Sino-Lankan equation over support on the war crimes issue suggests that Colombo is being drawn into a relationship of dependence with Beijing.

India must avoid the temptation of following the Chinese or the west's approach in shaping its policy towards Sri Lanka. The principles on which its policy is based are different from that of these countries. It is committed to a political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and must pursue that assiduously.

It is involved in post-war reconstruction in the northern areas and must do more to ensure that the houses it is constructing for displaced Tamils reach the intended beneficiaries. Adopting the agendas of the west or of China is not in its interest. Of course, seeing justice done in Sri Lanka is important. It must nudge the Rajapaksa regime quietly to put in place a credible process. Lecturing Rajapaksa through the media as the west does must not define our approach.








The executive has been given the power of granting mercy so that the court's order does not pose a problem.
Capital punishment is the harshest punishment awarded by law. As it is considered too abhorrent,  many countries abolished it. But some of them again revived it. However, there have been great intellectuals like J S Mill who strongly supported it for maintaining the rule of law and saving the society from slipping into anarchy. But there is a group of human rights activists which has been vociferously campaigning for its abolition.

In India, death sentence is awarded in the 'rarest of rare' cases as laid down by the Supreme Court. However, this purely legal provision has been enmeshed in the hideous maze of vote-bank politics and so the mercy petitions keep hanging fire before the president for years together.

However, after much brouhaha in the public over the inordinate delay in the execution of Afzal Guru, a convict in the Parliament attack case, the Union home ministry has finally recommended to the president that the mercy petition filed on behalf of Afzal Guru be rejected. President Pratibha Patil has also rejected the mercy petitions of three members of the banned LTTE convicted in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Recently she also rejected the mercy plea of Devinder Singh Bhullar. All of a sudden, the mercy petitions are being disposed of on a fast-track mode. The delay in disposing of mercy petitions makes the punishment irrelevant and questionable. Initially, the Union government took the facetious plea that these mercy petitions would be disposed of in a chronological order which cannot be jumped but in a reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha recently, the government admitted that there was no such legal requirement.

The president, under Article 72 (1)(c), is empowered to grant pardon 'in all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.' A pardon, being an act of grace, cannot be claimed as a matter of right.

If granted, it not only removes the punishment but also the taint of the offence. Chief Justice Taft of the US Supreme Court, in Grossman, Exp., explained the reason why the executive is given this power to grant pardons and reprieves, "Executive clemency exists to afford relief from undue harshness or evident mistake in the operation or enforcement of the criminal law.

The administration of justice by the courts is not necessarily always wise or certainly considerate of circumstances which may properly mitigate guilt. To afford a remedy, it has always been thought essential in popular governments, as well as in monarchies, to vest in some other authority than the courts power to ameliorate or avoid particular criminal judgments. It is a check entrusted to the executive for special cases."

Extraordinary power
Thus, it is clear that the executive has been given this extraordinary power so that the implementation of the court's order does not become a problem for the state. The Supreme Court, in Kehar Singh v. Union of India (1988) held that the scope of Article 72 is judicially determinable but held, "We are of the view that the president is entitled to go into the merits of the case notwithstanding that it has been judicially conducted by the consideration given to it by this court."

 However, genuine problem in carrying out the execution is one thing and playing politics with it is another. Now Kashmiri separatist Syed Geelani has warned the government of serious consequences if Afzal Guru is executed. The procrastination of the government has made the case more difficult and sensitive.

Afzal was to be hanged on October 20, 2005 but his wife moved the mercy petition before the president. Undue delay in the execution can be a ground for commutation of capital punishment into life imprisonment.

A division bench of the Supreme Court headed by justice O Chinappa Reddy, held in Batheeswaran's case that a delay of two years in the execution will lead to commutation into life imprisonment. However, another division bench headed by Chief Justice Y V Chandrachud, a few months later, held in Sher Singh case that the commutation cannot be automatic; it will depend on circumstances why it got delayed. Subsequently, a constitution bench of seven judges in Triveni Behn v.

Gujarat held that the law laid down in Sher Singh is correct. However, it added a rider that that if there is a delay of two years or more due to executive reasons, it can be a ground for commutation. So, in all likelihood, some one will definitely move the court for commutation of the death sentence awarded to Rajiv killers and also for Afzal Guru if his petition is finally rejected by the president.

The question is why, after all, there was such an inordinate delay. The rule of law must be enforced ruthlessly with an iron hand. Secondly, there is no conclusive definition of the 'rarest of rare'. In fact, there has been an increase in awarding the death sentence after the Supreme Court laid down this condition.

Moreover, the government has no policy in this regard. Devinder Singh Bhullar was convicted in 2001 for terrorist acts. But the bench of three judges of the Supreme Court was divided not only over the amount of sentence but also on the issue of his guilt. While two judges felt that it was the 'rarest of rare' crime, the third judge acquitted him. There is an opinion that if there is a fractured judgment, the convict should be given the benefit of doubt and his death sentence should be commuted.








The arrest of the Gandhian is proving to be counter productive to the United Progressive Alliance government. The UPA has misjudged the nation's mood. The reverberation of this event has been felt all around the world drawing Indians spontaneously, emotionally into its fold. The effect of corruption and the government's involvement in its cover up has not gone down well with the people. The limits of tolerance to this evil are exhausted.
Is the supremacy of parliament unrelated to aspirations of the people? Stifling democratic protests with an iron hand with hypothetical apprehension is autocratic. Is the UPA only Congress? Why are other components not vocal or supportive of the Congress onslaught against Anna? Maligning the crusader and trying to spread a misinformation campaign is in poor taste
Anna wants a strong bill, that will address the issue of corruption at all levels of administration that has spread its tentacles like cancer. Remember that the bill was in limbo for 42 years and that speaks volumes of Congress sincerity. Anna's movement has forced its birth. It may not solve all problems, but surely, it will reduce some gigantic ills.
People want that the bill not be another paper tiger on corruption The spontaneous participation of people of all shades, ages, gender, professions shows that the masses really identify with the movement of Anna. The people's resolve will not be broken by arrests, detention and draconian measures.
The opposition has finally come out to support the movement, but their intentions are suspect—to gain political mileage. What did the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) do to bring forth the bill?






There is a sadder, gloomier side to the Anna Hazare phenomenon. It's an embarrassing side. It's a pathetic side. It's the governments' side.
The surge of millions across the country with fire in their bellies and fire sticks in their hands, thronging the epicenters of the movement- the Chatrasal stadium, the Tihar jail and then the stretch from India Gate to Jantar Mantar as they marched, not to a destination, but towards a prouder destiny.
While the success of India against the government of India is tangible, what is even more so is the abject failure of the government of India to do what it has been voted to do. Govern. For two days the Prime Minister of India, as so eruditely pointed out by Arun Jaitley, hid behind the Police Commissioner of Delhi, saying that ground level decisions regarding Anna Hazare would be taken by the police. This is a sign of acute confusion and miserable foresight. The government decided to flex its muscle to show that it was still in the game. But gamesmanship might, just might, take it out of political crunch situations but it does not help in winning the trust of your people.
From the time it arrested Anna and took him to Tihar jail, till its complete U turn on the fast and its related ramifications, the government has committed blunder after blunder. The government imposed Section 144 in and around JP Park, the original venue of Anna's fast and arrested Anna before he could go there. But thousands and thousands of people gathered around JP Park and the Chatrasal stadium, openly defying prohibitory orders in the national capital. So imposing section 144 was self defeating.
Secondly, the government failed to realise that in a country so emotionally charged as ours, symbolism plays as important a role as substance. And here the symbolism angered the nation. Here was Anna Hazare, the most potent symbol of the fight against corruption taken behind the same walls where the most potent symbols of corruption were being kept- A Raja, Suresh Kalmadi, Kanimozhi and others. This shocked the country beyond all levels.
Thirdly, the failure was complete when the government buckled completely and offered Ram Lila as the venue, which was the venue Team Anna requested for in the first place. Knowing fully-well that it's prestige was crushed to the ground, it tried a token show of authority by saying that the fast could not continue for more than 15 days.
As Anna got ready to say goodnight and good luck to the officials of Tihar jail, the Delhi police and the government of India, before commencing his second night at Tihar, he was the one who was laying down all the rules. As the deadlock continued, it was a no win situation for the government.
They allowed Anna Hazare to grow from a man to a phenomenon by not being honest in its intention of uprooting corruption and now with this phenomenon taking gigantic and country wide leaps, it clearly is at a loss on how to deal with this.
While India unites against India, it has disengaged with its government, it clearly does not trust. Isn't that the government's biggest loss that India is not with it?






Needless to say, mosquitoes cause more human suffering than any other organism. Since times immemorial, millions of people have been dying due to the menacing activity of the moving bombshell that transmits several parasitic and viral diseases like malaria, dengue, chikungunya, filaria, etc. that are on the rise in many tropical and sub-tropical countries, including India.
Come summer and then rains, the terror unleashed by mosquitoes gets into full gear. Most disease-carrying mosquitoes breed in clear, stagnant water bodies. Therefore, preventive steps like inspection of all fresh and stagnant water bodies and anti-larval measures should be undertaken regularly during the rains to check the onslaught of mosquito-borne diseases, particularly malaria – a dangerous and often difficult to manage disease caused by a tiny parasite called 'plasmodium'.
Malariainfects about 700 million people and kills more than a million each year, mainly in wet tropical regions such as Asia, Africa, Central and South America, where it is rampant and people are brutally exposed to compromised health conditions. Unfortunately, despite decades of international efforts, we are in no position yet to completely control such a minute creature having immense potential to create havoc worldwide.
It was in August 1867 that Dr Ronald Ross (Nobel Prize winner for physiology or medicine in the year 1902), a renowned British army surgeon, began dissecting mosquitoes that fed on patients. On August 20, while dissecting a mosquito, he found many cells on its stomach wall and concluded that these were the malarial parasite stages in the mosquito. This research was quite significant because until then no one knew how parasites in the blood of malarial patients were transmitted via mosquitoes. Hence, August 20 is celebrated as World Mosquito Day.
Health experts say malaria, which is preventable and curable, can be highly fatal if not treated properly. The term 'malaria' has its roots in the words 'mal' and 'aria' meaning 'bad air' in Italian. The malady is caused by four different species of plasmodium, the most deadly being P. Falciparum. The other three species are P. Vivax, P. Malariae and P. Ovale that generally do not cause any life-threatening disease. A fifth species, Plasmodium Knowlesi, causes malaria in monkeys, but can also infect humans. The life cycle of a malarial parasite involves two hosts – female mosquitoes of the anopheles genus are the primary host, while human beings are the secondary hosts. The disease raises its ugly head in human beings when an infected mosquito  bites a person and injects parasites called 'sporozoites' into the blood stream. The parasites then embark to destroy the liver and blood cells of the host. This normally takes about one to three weeks from the day of the bite. Symptoms of illness appear only after this incubation period, which is quite variable and depends on the species of the infecting parasite as well as the health status of the victim prior to infection.
The cyclical occurrence of sudden chills followed by fever and sweating  repeats every two days in P. Vivax and P. Ovale infections, while it occurs every three days for P. Malarise. P. Falciparum can have recurrent fever every 36 to 48 hours or an almost continuous fever.
In India, malaria is the number one infectious disease killer. The malady has staged a dramatic comeback after its near eradication in the early and mid 1960s. That is because prophylactic measures are still not economically viable, vaccines haven't been developed as yet and currently available drugs are beginning to slowly fail due to the bug's continuously evolving resistance. It is obvious that a completely different strategy is needed now. If no new measures are initiated, the number of malaria cases could double in the next 20 years.








 The social protest has put the defense budget on the agenda, because in Israel's economic reality, it is impossible to increase the amount of funds devoted to social goals and housing without cutting other expenditure. And since defense is the largest item in the state budget (accounting for about 20 percent of the total ), it is the leading candidate for cuts.

The defense budget also deserves cutting, because in recent years it has expanded greatly - from NIS 46 billion in 2006 to NIS 54 billion this year and NIS 55.5 billion in 2012. That is thanks to the Brodet Committee, established following the fiasco of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. At the time, the army claimed that its failure stemmed from budget cuts. But the Winograd Committee, which investigated the war, found that the failure was unconnected to the size of the defense budget; rather, it stemmed from unprofessional command and untrained soldiers.

Nevertheless, the Brodet Committee decided to increase the army's budget to NIS 70 billion over the course of 10 years. It also tasked the Israel Defense Forces with carrying out an efficiency program that would cut NIS 30 billion from other areas over this period, so that more money could be devoted to bolstering the army's strength. The problem is that the army never implemented its side of the bargain and has not streamlined as required.

Now, the Finance Ministry is demanding that the army finally streamline by cutting its manpower, the salaries and benefits of career officers, its various command headquarters and its operations, and also reexamine whether all the expensive development projects it has invested in are really needed. The treasury seeks to cut NIS 1-3 billion from the defense budget. It is also complaining about the lack of transparency in the defense establishment, which makes it impossible for the treasury's budget division to do its job.

The Trajtenberg Committee, appointed by the government to formulate responses to the protesters' demands, also intends to address the defense budget. It is clear to the panel's members that if you want more funds, you have to forfeit some guns. It is also clear that this will not merely entail trimming the ministry's fat, but will also require a different risk management policy.

Therefore, Defense Minister Ehud Barak must stop speaking in two voices. On the one hand, Barak talks about the importance of the social protest and says his Atzmaut party "was established especially to deal with social injustices." But on the other, he is constantly frightening the public with warnings about various security risks. It's clear that it will be impossible to "deal with social injustices" unless the Defense Ministry and the IDF agree to cut their budget.








One of the ugly phenomena in Israeli politics is the hijack.

In 1977, the majority of traditional Mizrahis (Jews with origins in the Muslim countries ) wanted a nationalist-social change but the right hijacked the elected government and made Prime Minister Menachem Begin's regime the government of the settlers. In 1992 the moderate majority in Israel wanted a cautious diplomatic change but the left hijacked the elected government and made Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's regime into the Oslo government. In 1999, the enlightened majority in Israel wanted a civil-secular change but then Prime Minister Ehud Barak abandoned the old woman in the hospital corridor and made his government the Camp David government.

Time after time, the people elected by the Israeli center to represent the center have betrayed its trust. Time after time, key and essential moves for change have been hijacked by a far-out group with a dogmatic agenda. The Israeli majority has not managed to realize itself because its representatives have betrayed it.

The danger of a hijack is hovering over the protest movement. Three different forces are trying to hijack the airplane of social change and to land it in foreign destinations. One of these hijacking forces is old and familiar: Anyone but Bibi. Loathing of Benjamin Netanyahu is a profound and known phenomenon. Netanyahu is doing everything in his power to justify and fan this loathing. There is scope for direct and transparent action against his government. However, the social protest is too important for it to be boiled down to another putsch against Netanyahu. There already was one such putsch in 1999, by Barak's billionaires, media outlets and nonprofits. If all that happens as a result of the revolution of the summer of 2011 is that the free marketer Netanyahu is replaced by the tycoons' party Kadima, it would all have been a waste of time. And a waste of energy. A waste of a moment of Israeli grace that will be destroyed.

The second hijacking force is new but strong: Crucify the rich. Some of the very wealthy in Israel have too much power, too many loans and too many vassals. The Israeli pyramid of centralization must be dismantled. There must be an end to the culture of the golden calf. But the terrible guillotine on the boulevard was a warning sign. It warned that dark forces and dark impulses are liable to take over the justified protest and derail it. Hatred is always a disgusting phenomenon. Hatred of the wealthy for being wealthy is liable to have destructive effects. If all the protest does is to chase the wealth out of the country, it is a waste of time. And a waste of energy. A waste of a moment of Israeli grace that will be destroyed. The third hijacking force is the radical left. The Rothschild Boulevard protest was supposed to have represented first and foremost the middle class. It was supposed to have given a voice to the engineer from Shoham, the doctor from Tel Hashomer and the reserve officer from Kfar Sava, who are carrying the burden of making it through the month. These sane Israelis do not want red socialism. These industrious and patriotic Israelis are not subversives. Therefore, the leaders of the protest are betraying their trust when they surround themselves with post-Zionists from the Van Leer Institute and radicals of Sheikh Jarrah.

The movement that is demanding transparency and representativeness is not operating transparently and representatively. It is not known who is doing the funding, who is doing the organizing, who is pulling the strings. There is room in Israel for a strong Hadash party but Hadash is not the Israeli majority. If the protest is hijacked by the far left, it is a waste of time. And a waste of energy. A waste of a moment of Israeli grace that will be destroyed.

The moment really is a moment of grace. The opportunity is a once in a generation opportunity. But what is needed now is not Marxism and not populism and not hatred. What is needed now is practical action to transform the Israeli market into a free market and the Israeli state into a state of social justice. Therefore, it is necessary to let Emanuel Trajtenberg do his job. And not to get caught up in daydreams. The 2011 protest has succeeded because it has been nearly everyone's protest. The 2011 protest will continue to succeed only if it remains nearly everyone's protest. Friends, do not hijack it. Do not betray the Israeli majority and the Israeli center yet again. The obligation to be faithful to the people is also incumbent on the leaders of the protest.








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."







Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the social protest is an "important and exciting" phenomenon. Representatives of Histadrut labor federation chief Ofer Eini described his meeting with the protest leaders as "very exciting." Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat also called the protest "exciting," as did singers Ninette and Kobi Oz, comedian Gil Kopatch and others. At the same time, in the opening episode of "MasterChef," judge Michal Ansky tasted a Hungarian dish of stuffed eggs and tearily told the contestant, "Your food excites me."

During nine seasons of "A Star is Born," there was almost no voice or personal story that host Zvika Hadar didn't find "exciting." We've also gotten used to getting "exciting gifts" from our bank or cellphone company, or hearing about "exciting sales." So does the social protest excite us the same way stuffed eggs do?

The answer highlights the overuse of the word "exciting," whose immediate significance is the reduction in the use of other words. After all, every time we use the word "exciting," we leave other words in the dust such as inflaming, fascinating, inspiring, touching, stimulating, provocative, stressful, breathtaking, admirable, delightful or distressing.

Superficiality of language is the initial result of this choice; afterward comes the superficiality of experience. A person used to coarse tastes cannot sense more refined ones, and at that point even the most delicate stuffed eggs will not be able to excite him.

But is it worth seeking out exciting experiences? Plato, in his essay "The Republic," warned against the human desire for excitement. In his indictment of imitative art, Plato made the argument that catharsis, the emotional release that an audience is meant to experience, is morally dangerous because it gives the viewer or listener satisfaction without demanding that he take responsibility or actually do anything substantial.

If we were to apply Plato to "A Star is Born," every time we quiver at the sound of an unknown singer singing "A Sea of Tears," we get to feel as if we are slightly better people, without having done anything to justify this feeling. Given this, we could argue that when politicians say the protest is "exciting" they are exploiting that double advantage of the contemporary use of the word - its ability to grant the user a moral halo, without forcing him to commit to any specific meaning.

But even if we were to accept that the need for excitement is basic and human, and we accept as natural the fact that various actors manipulate this need, there's another dubious reason for the inflationary use of "exciting." It's an attempt to turn the word "exciting" into a shortcut for the emotional experience itself, whether genuine or fake.

The stuffed eggs demonstrate this well. Since the viewer at home cannot taste the actual Hungarian delicacy, he cannot be excited by it. All that's left is for him to be excited by the judge's excitement. That's why her tears were accompanied by the explanation, "Your food excites me," just like a joke in a sitcom is accompanied by a laugh track.

If we consider in this context the Platonic warning that playing to emotions replaces playing to reason, we will discover that "exciting" has become an indicator of superficial and distant experiences. In effect, it serves to describe experiences that are not exciting at all. Or, in the great tradition of the Orwellian rule of terror, "what's anesthetic is exciting."







We are warned that masses of Palestinians are likely to demonstrate in September. This has sparked romantic yearnings, even in Israel, for these demonstrations to mimic the style of the "Arab Spring." And what characterized the Arab Spring? Violence, of the type that occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria.

If so, the social awakening that has has dominated July and August is liable to be viewed as idealized ancient history come September and October. The government-appointed task force led by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, and the alternative task force set up by the leaders of the tent protests (who, due to their clear political affiliation, are liable to destroy the unity of the protest and undermine its achievements ), will be coping with both an economic environment - rising defense spending and a slowing economy - and a public morale that resemble the terror-filled days of the early 2000s.

The Palestinians' ultimate goal is not the establishment of a state in the 1967 borders. If it were, they would not have washed away Ehud Barak's Camp David offer and Yossi Beilin's subsequent "amendments" at Taba in a sea of blood and fire. If Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were truly different from Yasser Arafat, as his Israeli fans like to claim, he would have seized on Ehud Olmert's map like a treasure.

But Abbas' goal, and that of the Palestinians in general, is to cause Israel to disappear. Because Israel cannot be destroyed by force, as both conventional wars and terrorist wars have proved, they have embarked on a different sort of campaign: a global campaign (aided by more than a few Jews, both in Israel and abroad ) to undermine the Jewish people's right to sovereignty in its homeland. Meanwhile, they are avoiding all negotiations until this goal is achieved.

After all, if negotiations were held, the United States and even the Quartet would press them to make a decision to recognize Israel and declare an end to the conflict. And such a decision, which touches the deepest roots of their religious and national beliefs, is one they can't accept. Their hope (and more than a few Israelis have heard this from leading Palestinian intellectuals ) is that historical developments - such as Arab demographic superiority, the flight of Israel's productive population and the widening of internal rifts to the point where life in Israel becomes unbearable - will put an end to the Zionist entity.

If the Palestinians knew their bid for UN recognition would lead to the establishment of a state in the 1967 borders, they wouldn't make it. Rather, their application is meant to serve their strategy of delay, which has many stages and stratagems.

The turmoil that will accompany the UN debate and the weeks (months? ) that follow it are liable to result in injury to life and limb, as well as to Israel's morale and economy. Is Israel ready to cope with these ills? It seems doubtful.

The Israel Defense Forces and the other security services are indeed holding exercises and preparing mentally for dispersing the demonstrations, but it seems the approach this time will be similar to that adopted by Barak (then prime minister and defense minister, now defense minister once again ) and Benny Gantz (then head of the Judea and Samaria Division, now IDF chief of staff ) during the terrorist war of the early 2000s: containment. In other words, the Palestinians will take the initiative, and we will react and try to defend ourselves.

There is a real fear that the architects of the containment strategy, which they employed at a time when more than 1,000 Israelis were killed and some 8,000 wounded, have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. It was only under a different defense minister and a different head of the Judea and Samaria Division that the IDF launched Operation Defensive Shield, defeated the suicide terrorists and restored calm, from which the Palestinians - who are now building a new city - benefited no less than the Jews.

The prime minister, the diplomatic-security cabinet, the "Octet" forum of senior ministers and of course the full cabinet must all supervise carefully to ensure that we do not, under the leadership of the Barak-Gantz duo, once again sink into a sewer of ongoing turmoil whose results are liable to be disastrous - for Jews and Arabs alike.




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



Nothing can justify or excuse the terrifying wave of violent lawlessness that swept through London and other British cities earlier this month. Hardworking people in struggling neighborhoods were its principal victims. Public support for racial and ethnic coexistence also suffered a damaging, and we fear lasting, blow.

The perpetrators must be punished, the police must improve their riot control techniques, and Prime Minister David Cameron's government must do all it can to make such episodes less likely in the future. We are more confident about the first two happening than the third.

Mr. Cameron, a product of Britain's upper classes and schools, has blamed the looting and burning on a compound of national moral decline, bad parenting and perverse inner-city subcultures.

Would he find similar blame — this time in the culture of the well housed and well off — for Britain's recent tabloid phone hacking scandals or the egregious abuse of expense accounts by members of Parliament?

Crimes are crimes whoever commits them. And the duty of government is to protect the law-abiding, not to engage in simplistic and divisive moralizing that fails to distinguish between criminals, victims and helpless relatives and bystanders.

The thousands who were arrested last week for looting and for more violent crimes should face the penalties that are prescribed by law. But Mr. Cameron is not content to stop there. He talks about cutting off government benefits even to minor offenders and evicting them — and, in a repellent form of collective punishment, perhaps their families, too — from the publicly supported housing in which one of every six Britons lives.

He has also called for blocking access to social networks like Twitter during future outbreaks. And he has cheered on the excessive sentences some judges have been handing out for even minor offenses.

Such draconian proposals often win public applause in the traumatized aftermath of riots. But Mr. Cameron, and his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, should know better. They risk long-term damage to Britain's already fraying social compact.

Making poor people poorer will not make them less likely to steal. Making them, or their families, homeless will not promote respect for the law. Trying to shut down the Internet in neighborhoods would be an appalling violation of civil liberties and a threat to public safety, denying vital real-time information to frightened residents.

Britain's urban wastelands need constructive attention from the Cameron government, not just punishment. His government's wrongheaded austerity policies have meant fewer public sector jobs and social services. Even police strength is scheduled to be cut. The poor are generally more dependent on government than the affluent, so they have been hit the hardest.

What Britain's sputtering economy really needs is short-term stimulus, not more budget cutting. Unfortunately, there is no sign that Mr. Cameron has figured that out. But, at a minimum, burdens need to be more fairly shared between rich and poor — not as a reward to anyone, but because it is right.

Fair play is one traditional British value we have always admired. And one we fear is increasingly at risk.






Nothing can justify or excuse the terrifying wave of violent lawlessness that swept through London and other British cities earlier this month. Hardworking people in struggling neighborhoods were its principal victims. Public support for racial and ethnic coexistence also suffered a damaging, and we fear lasting, blow.

The perpetrators must be punished, the police must improve their riot control techniques, and Prime Minister David Cameron's government must do all it can to make such episodes less likely in the future. We are more confident about the first two happening than the third.

Mr. Cameron, a product of Britain's upper classes and schools, has blamed the looting and burning on a compound of national moral decline, bad parenting and perverse inner-city subcultures.

Would he find similar blame — this time in the culture of the well housed and well off — for Britain's recent tabloid phone hacking scandals or the egregious abuse of expense accounts by members of Parliament?

Crimes are crimes whoever commits them. And the duty of government is to protect the law-abiding, not to engage in simplistic and divisive moralizing that fails to distinguish between criminals, victims and helpless relatives and bystanders.

The thousands who were arrested last week for looting and for more violent crimes should face the penalties that are prescribed by law. But Mr. Cameron is not content to stop there. He talks about cutting off government benefits even to minor offenders and evicting them — and, in a repellent form of collective punishment, perhaps their families, too — from the publicly supported housing in which one of every six Britons lives.

He has also called for blocking access to social networks like Twitter during future outbreaks. And he has cheered on the excessive sentences some judges have been handing out for even minor offenses.

Such draconian proposals often win public applause in the traumatized aftermath of riots. But Mr. Cameron, and his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, should know better. They risk long-term damage to Britain's already fraying social compact.

Making poor people poorer will not make them less likely to steal. Making them, or their families, homeless will not promote respect for the law. Trying to shut down the Internet in neighborhoods would be an appalling violation of civil liberties and a threat to public safety, denying vital real-time information to frightened residents.

Britain's urban wastelands need constructive attention from the Cameron government, not just punishment. His government's wrongheaded austerity policies have meant fewer public sector jobs and social services. Even police strength is scheduled to be cut. The poor are generally more dependent on government than the affluent, so they have been hit the hardest.

What Britain's sputtering economy really needs is short-term stimulus, not more budget cutting. Unfortunately, there is no sign that Mr. Cameron has figured that out. But, at a minimum, burdens need to be more fairly shared between rich and poor — not as a reward to anyone, but because it is right.

Fair play is one traditional British value we have always admired. And one we fear is increasingly at risk.





Federal regulators and the generic drug industry are putting the final touches on an agreement that would help speed the approval of generic drugs in this country and increase inspections at foreign plants that export generic drugs and drug ingredients to the United States.

The agreement calls for generic drug manufacturers to collectively pay $299 million in annual fees (adjusted for inflation in succeeding years) under a program that would have to be approved by Congress. The fees would allow the Food and Drug Administration to hire more reviewers to speed up the processing of applications to market new generics and reduce a large current backlog. That would help lower health care costs by giving patients and doctors quicker access to inexpensive generics.

The money would also allow the F.D.A. to inspect foreign manufacturing plants that produce generic drugs or the ingredients for them every two years, the same rate at which American plants are inspected. At the current pace, government investigators estimated three years ago that it would take more than 13 years to inspect all foreign plants that export drugs or drug ingredients to this country, whether for brand-name or generic use. Many foreign plants have never been inspected.

Lawmakers ought to welcome this carefully negotiated agreement and quickly approve the fee legislation when it is introduced next year. It would lower consumer costs and increase consumer safety — and industry would rightly foot much of the bill.






In the 1860s and '70s, William M. Tweed — the apotheosis of big-city corruption — appeared to be unstoppable. Gorging on duck, oysters and tenderloin, he reigned supreme over New York City's patronage and politics. By one estimate, he and his Tammany Hall cronies purloined at least $1 billion and perhaps as much as $4 billion in today's dollars, much of it from the public purse.

He was finally brought low by his own greed, street battles between rival Irish groups, and, we proudly note, by the journalistic enterprise and courage of George Jones, this newspaper's founding publisher, who was born 200 years ago this week.

The beginning of the modern New York Times is generally dated to the paper's purchase in 1896 by Adolph S. Ochs. But, as David Dunlap of The Times noted in a City Room report on Tuesday, its roots go back to 1851 and a paper called the New-York Daily Times., edited by Henry Jarvis Raymond with Mr. Jones as publisher and business manager. When Mr. Raymond died in 1869, editorial direction fell to Mr. Jones, and with it the responsibility of tackling Tammany Hall.

The paper's biggest scoop was to obtain ledger items that showed, penny for penny, how Boss Tweed planned to pocket public money intended for the furnishing of a new courthouse. The Tweed forces offered Mr. Jones $5 million — equivalent to $100 million today — to back off. He refused, and the articles were published in July 1871. Two years later, Tweed was convicted of theft and sent to the Ludlow Street jail.

In those days, there were perhaps 10 major newspapers in the city, competing for headlines and readers. Today's media landscape is obviously very different. But some things are unchanged. Scoops are still exciting; even more rewarding is helping to ensure civic honesty.







ABOUT 55,000 gallons of oil have escaped into the North Sea since last week from a leaky pipeline operated by Royal Dutch Shell, about 100 miles off Scotland.

Last year, Americans watched in mounting fury as the oil industry and the federal government struggled for five disastrous months to contain the much larger BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now imagine the increased danger and difficulty of trying to cope with a similar debacle off Alaska's northern coast, where waters are sealed by pack ice for eight months of each year, gales roil fog-shrouded seas with waves up to 20 feet high and the temperature, combined with the wind chill, feels like 10 degrees below zero by late September.

That's the nightmare the Obama administration is inviting with its preliminary approval of a plan by Shell to drill four exploratory wells beginning next summer in the harsh and remote frontier of the Beaufort Sea, off the North Slope of Alaska.

The green light to drill now awaits Shell's receiving the necessary permits from various federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

The administration should put on the brakes. This is a reckless gamble we cannot afford. We can't prevent an Arctic blowout any more than we can avert disaster in the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea. We don't have the infrastructure, the knowledge or the experience to cope with one if it occurs. It's irresponsible to drill in these waters unless we have those capabilities.

When the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, appointed by President Obama in May 2010, reported our findings and recommendations earlier this year, we specifically cited the need to address these shortcomings before exposing Arctic waters to this kind of risk.

We need comprehensive research on the vibrant yet little understood Arctic ecosystems, which are home to rich fisheries of salmon, cod and char, and habitat for beluga whales, golden eagles and spotted seals.

We need containment and response plans tailored to the demands of marine operations under some of the most unforgiving conditions anywhere on earth.

And we must be realistic about the kind of backup available in a place 1,000 miles from the nearest United States Coast Guard station.

Shell's latest spill, in the North Sea, reminds us of the peril we court by ignoring these urgent needs.

When BP's Macondo well blew out last year, killing 11 workers aboard the Deepwater Horizon, Americans believed the damage would be quickly contained.

The Gulf of Mexico, after all, is the epicenter of the global offshore oil industry, home to hundreds of companies that specialize in drilling wells beneath the sea. There were plenty of ships in the region, from the shrimping fleet to the Coast Guard, available to help the efforts to cap the well and contain the spill.

And yet, in the five months it took to kill the runaway well, 170 million gallons of toxic crude oil poured into the gulf.

The systems that we were promised would avert catastrophe by preventing or containing a blowout all failed one by one.

And cleanup operations couldn't save the marine life and birds that died, the 650 miles of coastline that was oiled or the deep water habitat now carpeted in crude, despite the efforts of nearly 50,000 workers using nearly 7,000 ships and boats.

Now comes Shell, claiming in its drilling application that its blowout preventers will work. If not, Shell asserts, it can quickly seal the well. And, should oil escape, the company insists, it will have booms, skimmers and helicopters at the ready.

Upon those thin hopes the newly constituted Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement recently gave Shell preliminary approval to attempt this high-wire act in the Arctic.

We have yet to embrace the lessons of the BP blowout, the worst oil spill in our history. While the bureau, formerly known as the Minerals Management Service, has improved drilling rules in helpful ways, Congress has yet to pass legislation to protect our waters, workers and wildlife from the dangers of offshore drilling.

Those dangers are only greater in the harsh and remote Arctic waters. Before we go to the ends of the earth in pursuit of oil, we need deeper knowledge, better technology to prevent blowouts and to clean up after accidents, and greater expertise to protect Alaska's Arctic waters, one of our oceans' last frontiers, from grave and needless risk.

Frances G. Beinecke, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, served on the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.







The controversy over Amazon's avoidance of Tennessee's sales taxes won't go away -- and shouldn't.

In the past week, Gov. Bill Haslam has twice stirred the pot, saying first that he wants "a new relationship" with Amazon, and the next day that he wants the Internet retail giant to voluntarily collect state sales taxes on sales to Tennesseans sometime after it opens its three distribution centers in Tennessee.

Then one of the owners of Chattanooga's biggest shopping mall, Hamilton Place, criticized the "uneven playing field" that gives Internet retailers an unfair advantage over brick-and-mortar stores. Sen. Bob Corker followed with an opinion that Congress would ultimately pass a national sales tax regime for all Internet retailers and states, which is, of course, the most fair and logical resolution of the issue.

There's ample reason for this rising concern. It's rooted partly in the states' substantial sales tax losses -- an estimated $410 million annually in Tennessee in uncollected state sales taxes of 7 percent to Internet sales, plus local option sales taxes of up to 2.75 percent.

The more daunting reason, however, lies in the rapid advance of mobile price comparisons that is turning brick-and-mortar stores into what Corker calls "places where people look at the product ... and see if it works for them, and then they go to the Internet and actually buy the product without sales taxes."

"Obviously that's unfair," he asserted.

It's not just unfair. It will cause the downfall of a number of stores in a much shorter time frame than the "three to four years" in which Corker believes Congress may adopt a national compact requiring Internet retailers to pay state sales taxes.

The comparison shopping Corker referenced is already undermining brick-and-mortar stores. This is serious. These stores pay not just state and local sales taxes, but also local property and business taxes, which help support schools and public services. They also pay employees whose jobs (and taxes) are increasingly threatened by the rapid emergence of in-store comparison shopping that culminates in sales lost to online competitors that don't bear the overhead costs of what Republicans could aptly label "retail job-creators."

Amazon, in fact, launched an iPhone app last fall that facilitates such price comparisons. The app lets putative shoppers visit stores and use their phone to take a picture or scan the bar code of a product and use it to check Amazon's price. As a report on online newsletter Mobile Commerce Daily put it, all customers have to do then is click on purchase and Amazon will deliver it free to their doorstep two days later, without charge of the sales tax.

A more insidious irony is that online sites of brick-and-mortar retailers, such as, do have to collect states' sales taxes. In fact, Amazon, which on one hand complains about the logistical complexity of collecting an individual jurisdiction's state and local sales taxes, already handles such diverse tax collections for the brick-and-mortar retailers that it serves. Indeed, the logistical problems with collecting and remitting state and local sales taxes vanished a few years with software codes for state tax schedules for every single ZIP code.

Compliance with sales tax collections and remittance is not now a problem of mechanics; that's a keystroke. Avoidance is simply a competitive advantage that online retailers, though now mature, are determined to keep as long as they can. Yet the longer they feed off that advantage, the more they imperil the business viability and jobs of their brick-and-mortar competitors, and the local and state tax revenue and economic synergy that these retailers generate for the cities and states in which they are located.

If legislators in Tennessee and other states, and their representatives, can't see the threat of this uneven playing field to many of their retail businesses and the communities they enrich, they need only look to what's happened to car dealers, bookstores, clothing, appliance and newspaper industries, among many others, whose economic base has been hammered by the rapidly advancing and supposedly free Internet age.

Of the 44 states with sales taxes, Tennessee relies most heavily on this form of taxation to support state government. Tennessee and other states can't afford to wait three or four years for the long-stalled, national "streamlined" sales tax agreement that Corker believes is on the horizon in Congress. The issue merits more urgency. But without a state sales tax fix in the interim, more and more retail stores will go belly-up, taking away their jobs and the local tax contributions to government with them.





Given the disastrous nuclear catastrophe at Japan's Fukushima nuclear complex this year, it's conceivable that TVA officials could be intimidated by some things nuclear. But we hardly expected the giant public utility to be afraid of a few "zombie" protesters. Alas, we were wrong.

As it turns out, the Tennessee Valley Authority appears to be seriously, and laughably, frightened by the prospect that a few ratepayers will turn up at its board meeting today, dressed in their zombie costumes to protest the agency's planned resurrection of its long-dead nuclear plant at Bellefonte.

Its remedy for this silly fear -- a ban on such costumed attendees at TVA's Knoxville headquarters today for a vote on the reopening of the plant site -- is not just strange; it is wrong.

TVA is, after all, a federal agency, owned by the federal government and governed by appointees to the board selected by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Its announced costumed ban mocks its federally enshrined lineage.

It would violate the First Amendment principle of free assembly to petition a redress of grievances by government, and it would needlessly mock and restrict freedom of speech. Those are bedrock constitutional standards which TVA, a federal standard bearer since its creation by FDR in 1933, should honor.

TVA, in fact, owes its continued existence to Congress, and, more specifically, to the enduring support of this region's congressional caucus. The caucus' members have for decades fought against repeal of the TVA act as promoted by zealous, jealous lawmakers outside the TVA region whose private utilities have chafed at TVA's example of public benefit and lower costs.

TVA also finances its operations through borrowing -- its debt is now about $24 billion -- that is inherently backed by the federal government. It enjoys this privilege strictly because of its federal charter. The agency's dams, river reservoirs and other facilities, moreover, were created on land appropriated from private farmers under federal authority for the public good.

We mention all this lest TVA's managers, in their unseemly arrogance, forget the agency's birthright, and the ideals of public service that it yet owes its captive rate payers. If some ratepayers want to wear a symbolic protest of nuclear power and expansion to the board meeting, they should have that right. Attendees can always be ejected if they actually create a disturbance. But their free speech and assembly should be protected. It goes with TVA's territory.






Public confidence in our elected leaders in Washington has hit an alarming but sadly justified low.

While we may be fortunate locally to have Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander as our senators and Chuck Fleischmann as our 3rd District congressional representative, a recent Gallup poll shows that approval of Congress as a whole has plummeted to 13 percent -- a tie for the previous record low set just last December.

The choice of our next president will obviously be of great importance, but we also need to elect a strong majority of outstanding senators and representatives.

It is unclear, however, whether current disgust with Congress will translate into a serious, overdue shakeup come Election Day in 2012.





If Congress cannot reduce wasteful spending when the amounts are relatively small, what confidence can the American people have that it will reduce the much bigger-ticket parts of the budget?

As you may know, the Federal Aviation Administration was recently partially shut down for lack of funding. Why? Because Democrats refused to accept a few million dollars worth of cuts to a wasteful federal program that heavily subsidizes flights to some rural airports around the country. Republicans agreed to fund the FAA's overall functions, but they sensibly wanted to cut out subsidies for flights to and from those sparsely populated areas.

A deal was eventually reached to get the FAA running again. But as U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., told The Associated Press, "If we're having this fight over $16 million in subsidies, how are they going to get trillions [of dollars in cuts] from government? It's not a good start."

Shouldn't it tell us something that Democrats were unwilling to take even a modest step toward responsible federal finance? If they wouldn't cut out small, unneeded programs, how likely is it that they will agree to the far larger long-term cuts that our country needs to get its fiscal house in order?

The Bible reminds us that "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much ... ."

Are you willing to continue trusting Congress with "much" when it won't behave reasonably with "little"?





Even before he officially entered the GOP presidential field, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was generating plenty of buzz about his potential candidacy. And now that he is formally part of that field, the buzz and enthusiasm have only grown.

Perry has rapidly taken an apparent lead among the Republican candidates.

Current polling by Rasmussen Reports shows that he is favored by 29 percent of people who identify themselves as likely Republican primary voters. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who until now had been perceived as the front-runner, had 18 percent support among likely GOP primary voters. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota was the choice of 13 percent. And Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was backed by 9 percent.

It is not too surprising this early on that 16 percent of poll respondents declared themselves undecided. Nevertheless, Perry's sudden ascent in the polls indicates a good deal of interest in him.

The question will be how his support holds up as the American people get to know him -- and his strengths and weaknesses -- better.

So, do you want to give President Barack Obama a second term? Or do you prefer Perry, Romney, Bachmann or Paul -- or someone else, who may or may not yet have declared his or her candidacy?

Big decisions with long-term consequences for the United States are not far away.








First, Russia has to be reassured that plans to expand and modernize her decrepit, 40-year-old naval base on the Syrian coast at Tartus will continue, her Mediterranean foothold made permanent.

Another spot on Syria's coast must be found to accommodate Iran's own imperial designs for a regional port. Deliver that long-held wish with some kind of commercial "peace highway" to the merchant city of Tabriz. Build it with Turkish contractors, financed by the Gulf. Other similar arrangements can follow under the old tribal peace-making rule: "Our guns in their holsters."

The Israelis, as always, will be hard to mollify. But Saudi Arabia, via Turkey, can lean behind the scenes to encourage restraint. Iran would make it easier by withdrawing a redundant weapons system or two from Hizbullah in Lebanon.

It would help if the Israelis could explain to Hillary Clinton that a bit of local tribal arbitration is a better bet than a fourth Pentagon-run project in the Middle East. But only the Israelis can explain it to her in language she will understand. Only Israel can engineer political cover for an Obama foundering in domestic tribal woes. Jordan's King Abdullah can play chairman.

Crazy? Perhaps, answers Dr. Sami Al-Faraj, president of the Kuwait Centre for Strategic Studies. But crazier than war involving all the neighborhood tribes?

Over dinner Monday night I listened to unorthodox strategy from this unorthodox strategist. His Cambridge and Oxford education has not tarnished his air of the tribal elder, the deal-maker in the majlis. "The western approach is empirical; it doesn't work in our part of the world. We don't necessarily humiliate the vanquished."

Advising the public and private sectors in his tiny country along with the Gulf Cooperation Council, he argues Kuwait's precariousness makes it a laboratory for alternative diplomacy. "Win-win" may be a recent term in western jargon, but it is the ancient way of resolving tribal conflicts in the Middle East."

Syria's Bashar al-Assad and exclusive Alawite power are finished, Al-Faraj pronounces. Turkey's prime minister has bought Syria's leader a breather with his Aug. 27 deadline to deliver serious reform. But in the wake of so many killings and new shelling, the die is cast. Navigating the internal politics of a post-Assad Syria is a separate exercise in face-saving, resource-sharing and brokering among Syria's mosaic of faiths and allegiances. Later.

Now the urgent hurdle is the external tribalism and no one – Turkey included – has offered a plausible scenario to avoid confrontation.

So Al-Faraj explained to me he is here this week to bend the ears of journalists, meet with think tankers and break the Ramadan fast with parliamentarians.

"Erdoğan has got the Americans and everyone else to agree to a deadline," he says. "But if Assad ignores Aug. 27, Pandora's Box is open. Calls for Islamic solidarity and brotherhood won't cut it."

What chances does he see for a sort of regional-power-plus-superpower tribal summit? What odds exist for a peaceful Assad exit? Very little, he candidly concedes – with a question: "One-way ticket and exile in the UAE?"

Al-Faraj was set to arrive THY to Esenboğa this morning.





In 1999, the generals fully supported the government in making Turkey's ambition for EU membership a "state policy". They demonstrated their will by including that decision in the "National Security Policy Document". In other words, with that decision, Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) would have the same status and role as the armies of the EU member countries, and civil-military relations would be formed in accordance with those norms, once full membership is realized.

The most unpredictable development for the generals in the past decade was undoubtedly AKP's (Justice and Development Party) rise to power. When charismatic leader Erdoğan and his friends rose to power in 2002, by successfully establishing a broad alliance and popular support in the wake of an economic crisis which had deeply shaken the community, some generals began to worry that the EU process would run a course beyond their control. As for General Hilmi Özkök, then chief of General Staff, he self-assuredly adjusted his position by believing that the EU process would determine the limits of the roles and responsibilities of both the military and the political establishment according to its own norms, and the process would proceed without any problem. According to Özkök, at the end of the day, a civil-military relationship, which had been proceeding in a particular course, would arrive at the standards of the EU member states.

While the split in opinion deepened among the top brass, another significant development, which moved the change in the civil-military relations into a different realm, emerged following the U.S. invasion of Iraq. TAF did not want to or could not display the allied attitude that its old friend U.S. military "needed or deserved". This attitude triggered developments which resulted in dramatic outcomes for the TAF after the war. The government, with an elegant and smart move, succeeded in making the TAF pay the bill of the failed resolution, which intended to give way to the U.S. military the right to pass through Turkey. As for the top brass of the TAF, they spent their energy in the turbulence created by the disagreement and discord "among the commanders". As a result, AKP government consolidated its position further, while TAF lost one of its significant supporters – the Pentagon.

One of the significant developments regarding civil-military relationships within the TAF was created by the Chief of General Staff's own hand in August 2004. Hilmi Özkök, then Chief of the General Staff, made radical decisions that would end the rat race at the summit of the military. He undersigned significant changes and appointments within the TAF, by taking advantage of the retirement of some of the opponent service commanders. With those changes, General Özkök demonstrated his loyalty to the EU strategy which Turkey had declared in 1999. Therefore, he refined the structures and staff that might cause trouble within the TAF.

While the government was initially just observing Özkök's efforts to liquidate an engagement, in time, together with some supportive religious groups, it started laying the foundations for a more comprehensive plan which would "keep the TAF under control". While some legal arrangements to limit the playground of potential opponent generals were made, the implementation of a specific central strategy was also initiated. Next week, I will dwell on these issues one by one.






Three months ago, when the Oslo mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik was reviewing his plan to save Christian Europe from Islam, news was emerging of the discovery of the world's oldest-known worship site – possibly the birthplace of sacred ritual. The 12,000-year-old site is located in Turkey, near Şanlıurfa. All signs indicate that it was an important pilgrimage destination maintained by workers and priests, and thronged by hundreds of the faithful. The June issue of National Geographic and a recent Turkish radio and television documentary gave details of the discovery.

Because the rings of six-meter-tall limestones at Göbekli Tepe go back to hunter-gatherer times, and pre-date any other temple findings by seven millennia, we can guess that these pillars and their elaborately-carved, animal bas reliefs could mark the start of organized religion.

If that is the case – if communal worship was first practiced at Göbekli Tepe – was that beginning a good thing for the future of mankind, or a step in a darker direction? The question comes when we look back at the Oslo killings and countless other massacres provoked by religion. If those early rites did shape and set apart a first congregation of true believers, is it far-fetched to think that their carefully-tended collective rites might have begun to point the human race down the path of sectarian enmity that animates the minds of people like Anders Breivik?

For the present, Göbekli Tepe gives the earliest evidence of organized religion. With its discovery, archaeology seems to have buried the belief that temples had to have been a product of settled agricultural societies. Archaeological advances today are such that still earlier places of worship could be unearthed before long. But wherever organized religion came from, whatever its origins, it stands as the most divisive force on the planet today, and it is everywhere. Of the seven billion people on earth, six billion declare a religious faith.

Fear must have figured largely in the development of religion – fear of storms and eclipses, fear of fierce animals and enemies, fear of death. In the face of those fears our nomad ancestors tightened the cohesion of their groups and worked out cosmic narratives centered on angry and benign gods. Early leaders were quick to see the uses of fear in social organization, so that classes of priests were able to emerge as interpreters of the moods of gods that might send or ward off calamity. Those priests were the ancestors of today's popes and ayatollahs.

There's no question that religion has done some good, cementing societies and giving hope and solace to millions. But these benefits pale against its role in setting people against each other. The holy books repeatedly enjoin the faithful to strike off and smite the infidel. And the faithful have been quick to obey. In the Yugoslav wars of the Nineties it took no time for rival Orthodox and Catholic Christians to be at each others' throats, and then for the two of them to join in slaughtering Muslims. The wars began, by the way, when the German government, egged on by Catholic factions, supported the secession of the Catholic Croats from the Yugoslav federation. Religion has a long and bloody reach – see the revenge bombing last summer by Somali Muslim terrorists that killed 80 Ugandan Christians.

The bloodshed goes on. Faith-based rage is the cause of the clash of civilizations that divides the world today. Across the globe there is an intermittent murderous free-for-all – not only among Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews, but among their sub-groups, the Sunnis, Shiites, Catholics and Orthodox. Religion pleads loving kindness, but has always had blood on its hands.

It may be that deep in human nature there's a tendency to rally ferociously around beliefs anchored in the supernatural. Possibly this tendency is innate, like our killer instinct, and has simply found a channel in religion. Whether or not the beginning was at Göbekli Tepe, the record of devastation is there. The Oslo episode is just the latest entry.






It happened just as daily Radikal's Uğur Vardan wrote Monday morning. The federation is now in active delay mode.

There was a news leak that the ethics committee had determined that there was an attempt at match fixing but that they were not sure of the result of the attempt. Probably, they are the only ones that do not agree that an attempt equals match fixing. Isn't this the key point of the problem, after all? The law of football is not a first instance court or law of obligations. Any decision on match fixing does not come from a court. It comes from a decision-making domestic organ that supervises the ethical aspects of the football system. What was expected from the football federation was the answer to the question: Will the present football regime in Turkey continue or not? They were expected to answer that. A decision that said, "Do not stop, continue," has been made.

Can any other thing be expected from the present structure of the committees governing football? We are talking about a structure where the president of Trabzonspor, Sadri Şener, angry at his referral to the Professional Football Discipline Committee, or PFDK, complained by saying, "If I had four or five men in the federation, would it have been like this?" The public pressure trying to have its voice heard under the tight rein of "big" clubs and oligarchs that are concerned about "the economic value of the league" was not able to break the status quo. Would the government who boasts of its "status quo breaker" feature do it? Especially when the phone records of the prime minister talking to the president of Fenerbahçe three days before the decision on money matters and on consultations about federation elections were published? In an ethical atmosphere where negotiations on Ankaraspor's return to Bank Asya 1. League took place openly. Let's go "deeper." In an system where for years the promotion of Diyarbakırspor and other east-southeast clubs to higher leagues was "officially" promoted, that is, match fixing was done by the hands of the state? As İsmail Uyanık told Radikal, even national games were "fixed."

There were those who already knew and many of us also knew through hearsay, intuition or just by thinking. But having it all out in the open is something different. It is like the open rejection of the so-called "Everybody is equal" principle while it is always known that some are more equal than others. Match fixing is a typical "the secret that everybody knows" incident in the whole world; when the secret is public, some kind of a repair is necessary, be it only for the continuation of the present order. Not doing anything is publicly ignoring people.

There is this sentence Erkan Can utters to young football players in the film "Dar Alanda Kısa Paslaşmalar:" "Life is very much like football." He says that from a good side, basing it on the fact that both are team games. But there is an ugly side to it, too: An order where almost everything is permissible for the powerful, the reign of money… Don't football and life resemble each other badly in these? Don't the fans, the overwhelming majority of the nation, just like in life, want to win "any which way" and consider off-the-field factors a legitimate tool for their mighty club's show of power?

Papers write that investors who could predict the moderate decision of the federation broke the bank at the stock exchange market. The shares of the clubs went up. The bourse "knew" in a way. Anyway: No doubt it is the one that knows everything. And certainly, it is important that the stock exchange is content.

Conversation on this league unbearable

Hakan Kulaçoğlu in Daily Fotomaç on June 25 finished his commentary on Trabzonspor's transfer of Halil Altıntop with the words, "I would also notify the bourse." It was an ironic imitation of the "discourse" of the fact that the clubs would "notify the bourse" of their transfer negotiations and of almost every issue of theirs. I would also want to notify the bourse that I will not be continuing the weekly league assessments I have been writing in these columns for 11 years. I don't feel like discussing this league. You know those columns I have written during the breaks in the league, on the joy of goals, on ugly football players or discussions on whether "it is appropriate to run up the score, or whether mercy should kick in at some point and stop the goals?" The best is to talk about these kinds of things. Football enthusiasm is now on a long break from the league for me.

*Tanıl Bora is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece appeared on Wednesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.






Turkey has finally made it. We have our own self-made satellite, RASAT, orbiting around the globe. It was scheduled to be launched in 2006 but it's better late than never. Tests were successfully finished on the Aug. 10 and the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey, or TÜBİTAK, crew had been counting the seconds since. I didn't know if the launch was successful or not but hopefully there were no obstacles. The launch was conducted in Russia at a military base, thus we weren't able to watch it live.

The project was concluded by TÜBİTAK UZAY(Space Technologies Research Institute). It was founded in 1985, under the framework of a protocol signed between the Middle East Technical University and TÜBİTAK as a publicly funded research institute.

TÜBİTAK UZAY specializes in space technologies, electronics, information technologies and related fields, keeping abreast of the latest technological developments. The institute leads and takes part in R&D projects, aiming at having a pioneering role in the national research community, and assisting the industry in solving technical problems encountered during system design, selection and use, product development and manufacturing in abovementioned specialization areas.

TÜBİTAK UZAY gives special emphasis on developing capability on small satellite design, manufacturing and test, leading Turkish Space Program and initiating international collaboration in space technologies.

RASAT is the second remote-sensing satellite after the launch of Turkey's first remote sensing satellite BİLSAT of TÜBİTAK UZAY. RASAT, having a high-resolution optical imaging system and new modules developed by Turkish engineers, will be the first Earth-observation satellite to be designed and manufactured in Turkey.

In their website TÜBİTAK UZAY states the reasons why this project is undertaken: To improve know-how from design phase to in-orbit commissioning phase of a satellite project gained from BiLSAT Project, to develop space qualified systems using current technologies and gaining flight heritage by succeeding in operating these systems in space, to meet the requirements of Turkey in the sense of remote sensing as much as possible, to investigate the current capabilities of Turkey for space technologies and to use as much as possible, to increase number of qualified man power in the field of satellite technologies, to meet the requirements of Turkish space industry through development of critical modules, to prove the space-based capabilities of TÜBİTAK UZAY to Turkey and the world.

The next step is the HALE (Facility Establishment Project for Electric Propulsion Applications Research and Hall Thruster Development). With HALE, Turkey will establish its first facility for research and development of electric thruster technologies. This project will build the necessary knowledge base and facilities to design, manufacture, and test Hall effect thrusters.

This launch is a very tiny step in space exploration and a very little addition to total human knowledge, but it is a very big step for Turkish engineering. In an era where the biggest players ended the race for space, Turkey has a chance to catch up. Also due to the spillover effect Turkish ICT firms will be able to speed up their R&D effort. I look forward to the days when Turkish engineers work side by side with American, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Indian engineers to build better ships for longer distances.

Aug. 17 has been marked with all kinds of sadness and despair in Turkey. Hopefully this small step in space exploration can give us a little bit of good feelings about this day.







Following recent harsh words by the prime minister, Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, leader Selahattin Demirtaş said, "He [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] is taking revenge against the PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party] out on the BDP." The easiest target (as it has always been) is the legal arena. Both the government and the PKK, as well as PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, take their anger out on the legal arena when they get angry.

The democratic aggregation in the legal arena always suffers the first blow and consequently cannot gain adequate maturity and depth.

From the beginning, I have been emphasizing that a peaceful solution cannot be isolated from the legal arena (that is the municipalities and the Parliament), and I have been drawing attention to the significance of the legal arena's legitimization, its gaining of initiative and its ability to form its own will.

During an interview I made with Öcalan in 1993 in the Beqaa Valley, we had a dialogue that contained hints in this respect. When I explained that the constant interference from the PKK's leadership in the legal arena's political party and daily newspaper was preventing any development in this area and the emergence of a structure with a strong character, Öcalan said, "No, we don't interfere." I know that this did not constitute the truth.

We should not disregard the difference between the political perception of the mountain and the armed organization and the perception of those that manage politics within the legal arena. It is obvious that those administrating municipalities and those serving in Parliament have better access to a wider segment of society. That is, when they take a step, they have more means to calculate the general reaction of the public and they have more responsibilities.

As the legal arena is damaged

Let us not forget: Those who work within the legal arena have already made a choice because of the "arena." The point of working within the legal arena is managing politics with peaceful tools and peaceful methods.

This difference has never been recognized and assessed as it should have been. "The gangs within the state" mostly attacked the politicians within the legal arena. They have tortured them, they have killed them. Judicial institutions have demonstrated an extremely persistent stance in closing legal political parties and sentencing legal politicians to heavy sentences. The jails were filled with party executives more than PKK militants.

Now, if expansive arrests are to be made again, the legal arena will shrink extensively, and if municipality councils and parliamentary groups are eliminated, how wise is it to expect a different consequence than the past? The entire responsibility does not belong to the government

We should say "stop" to the militarist tendencies inside the government. Any move that escalates the conflict will also accelerate disengagement. On such ground, those who see the world only through a militarist lens can find a very wide area of action for themselves again. And this will also bring along the risk of losing the psychological, democratic and economic maturity Turkey has accumulated, especially in the past nine years, and risk reviving the tendency of "the narrow-vision security state."

It is also a must to try to understand the government front. When the PKK is targeting soldiers and the police and kidnapping civilians almost every day, it is not easy, and it is not possible, for the government to remain silent. The recent acts of the PKK contain features that will again open a lifeline of support to the militarist formation within the state that was about to lose its previous influence.

Now is the time to mobilize for the legal arena and the democratic public. Primarily and without losing any time, an end to the PKK attacks should be demanded. The BDP should declare that it will join Parliament and participate actively in the process. If the legal arena does not mobilize and take serious steps, those who have arms will obviously talk. When they talk, then there is no real value left for both the "civilian arena" and "human wisdom."

While circumstances for the elimination of militarism are developing these days, the civilian arena should immediately start moving and should emerge with enough courage to direct both sides to reconsider.






Scarcely a day passes without there being waves on the surface of our relationship with America. This week the waves are stirred up by the US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta telling an audience of military men at the National Defence University that 'elements of the government' had links with the Haqqani network. His complaint was that the Haqqanis were in part based in Pakistan and used Pakistan to launch attacks on American troops in Afghanistan. Seeking to smooth the waters, a US State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, later said that Pakistan 'stood with the international community in the War against Terror.' Whether there is substance to Mr Panetta's remarks, we cannot know for certain, and equally certainly, no member of our government is openly going to declare a linkage to the Haqqanis. But behind this curtain of unknowing, there is a truth neither side is talking about.

The Haqqani network is a key player in south and east Afghanistan and is going to have to be included in the on-again off-again talks that are being conducted by a range of brokers and intermediaries. We have a strong vested interest in the shape of the government of Afghanistan once the latest post-colonial war peters out – but so do the Indians, the Chinese, assorted European states and even some South American states. The real surprise would be if it came to light that there weren't any linkages between 'elements of the government' and the Haqqani network, because we would be missing a key foreign policy target, were that the case. Equally, the Americans will have their own linkages – through third party proxies or neutral brokers – with the Haqqanis because they need to be talking to them as well. Afghanistan today, is a vast criss-cross of talking across the lines of battle, and talk goes on as fighting continues. We may expect the behind the scenes talks to become more intense as the states currently fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan withdraw and the Afghans are left to their own tender mercies. Peace is years, perhaps decades, away in Afghanistan as there are unresolved ethnic conflicts which will surface as soon as the last American, British, French or Dutch boot leaves the country. We need to have linkage to the Haqqanis because we will be here long after every foreign soldier has left Afghanistan. America does not like that? Tough.






There is no evidence as yet that the government has got its act together to deal with the new floods that have inundated parts of Badin district in Sindh and also Kasur district in Punjab. Reports from Badin speak of severe food shortages and the outbreak of disease, notably among children. A large quantity of rice crop is said to have been destroyed. According to the Sindh chief minister, over a million people in the province have been affected by the floods in around six districts. The army has been called in to help and about 45,000 people have moved to camps. The prime minister, on his visit to the area, promised a host of relief measures. However, given the government's past record, these have hardly served to reassure the people who claim they have so far received little help from official quarters. In Kasur, while the Rangers have been called out and the district administration says plans have been made to evacuate people to eight relief camps set up in the area, people are reportedly reluctant to move and leave their houses, lands and livestock behind. It is understood that the UN agencies, after an initial survey conducted by the organisation's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Activity, is on standby, ready to move in when necessary. The UN organisations believe 75,000 people could be displaced by the latest flood. It is uncertain if the government – specifically the National Disaster Management Authority – has called upon other international agencies to help alleviate the suffering of the people. There has been no word of this.

In a disturbing repetition of last year's events, we hear again, of drains breaking their banks in Badin and other areas. Following last year's devastating floods, there was talk of persuading the Irrigation Department to improve its working. This does not appear to have produced results. Worse still, as a number of international humanitarian agencies have warned over the past few weeks, it seems very little has been learnt from the experience of the previous year. The degree of disaster preparedness required to avoid unnecessary suffering was simply not in place. Steps to issue early warnings also appear to have been skipped. This is nothing short of a disaster in itself. One would expect that the various organisations set up to help cope with disaster would be better able to deal with the problems that have arisen once again. This, it seems, is not the case. Evidence to this effect continues to pour in with the rain.






According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, around 800 women became victims of 'honour' killings in the country in 2010 alone. This figure only accounts for the killings that were reported in the media; there may be hundreds more that were not exposed and hence go uncounted. The findings of the Thomson Reuters Foundation suggest that up to 90 percent of Pakistani women are subjected to domestic violence in one form or the other. This makes Pakistan the third most dangerous country for women to live in after Afghanistan and the Congo. These facts may not be new but they are jarring just the same. Terrible cases of the mutilation of women to settle scores frequently come to light. In some sections of the media, there are new reports of such horrendous acts almost every day.

Nearly fifty percent of the country's population cannot continue to live in such a wretched condition. Solutions need to be found in order to set things right. The answers lie in empowering women by ensuring they receive an education and creating employment opportunities for them. Studies have shown that when women bring money into households, their status improves quite dramatically. More innovative solutions are also needed, such as an effort to change curricula at schools and alter the image of women depicted in them. This may hold the key to altering mindsets and making Pakistan a better place for women to live and work in as equal citizens.







We live in an age in which natural resources have diminishing importance. Knowledge has become the single most important factor for socio-economic development. Countries that have realised that their real wealth lies in their children and invested massively in education, science, engineering and innovation have surged forward, leaving others behind. Just one company of Finland (Nokia), a country with a population about one-fourth of Karachi, has exports that are double the entire exports of Pakistan! Singapore, also with a similarly small population, has exports of $351 billion, almost 18 times those of Pakistan. South Korea revamped its educational system, laying emphasis on higher education, science and technology, and increased its university enrolment from five percent of the age group in 1960 to 92 percent of the same age group in 2010. The result was an astonishing increase in its exports, from $32 billion in 1960 to $466 billion by 2010. (Pakistan's exports stagnate at about $20 billion.)

What went wrong in Pakistan? Since its formation in 1947 Pakistan has been facing one crisis after another. It is oscillating between successive democratic and military regimes. Regular military interventions were necessitated by corrupt governments which looted and plundered at will whenever they got an opportunity to do so, putting to shame the vision of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah of a progressive, modern Pakistan. The military governments failed to punish those criminal politicians and bureaucrats who amassed vast fortunes abroad.

In contrast, India brought in genuine land reforms and, guided by the vision of Jawaharlal Nehru, gave the highest emphasis to education, science and technology. In contrast, Pakistan – where a robust middle class did not emerge because of the absence of land reforms – has developed one of the worst school systems in the world. The powerfully entrenched feudals, who have a stranglehold on the cabinets and parliaments, gave education the lowest importance, with Pakistan spending only 1.2 percent of its GDP, which makes it comparable to Bhutan, Nepal or Togo. We are now ranked among the bottom 10 countries of the world in terms of investments in education, a shameful fact about a nuclear power. The result has been an illiterate and lawless nation, drowning in foreign loans while the powerful loot and plunder.

What, then, is the way forward? Clearly, the British parliamentary system of democracy has been an abject failure. Military rule is also not an answer. Learning from bitter experiences, we need to adopt a system of governance which will root out and prevent corruption and promote the development of a strong knowledge economy. The following key proposals are made in this connection:

1. Governance Reforms: We need to bring in constitutional and governance reforms by abolishing the present parliamentary form of democracy (which is bringing up largely corrupt politicians – 51 were found to have forged degrees and the degrees of another 250 are suspect) and replace it with a presidential form of democracy. The cabinet ministers, who should be eminent experts in their respective fields, could then be appointed directly on merit by the president (who will be the chief executive), from outside parliament. The Constitution will need to be changed to make this happen.

The revised Constitution should also ensure that parliamentarians are highly educated, as their primary job is lawmaking. Government secretaries should all be persons of international repute in the fields in which they are holding secretarial positions, and be selected on merit after open competition. The above measures will ensure that there will always be a competent government of technocrats. The positions of president, secretaries and parliamentarians should be screened by an Eminent Citizens Committee to be appointed by judges of the Supreme Court for "suitability" prior to their election/appointment. Persons judged by this committee as having "doubtful reputation" should not be allowed to contest any elections or hold any key positions in government or in government-controlled institutions. The heads and members of the boards of governors of public-sector organisations (PIA, the Steel Mills, etc.), as well as of such organisations as the Federal Board of Revenue, the FIA, the NAB, should be appointed by their respective boards of governors on merit after screening by the Eminent Citizens Committee, and not by the government. They should work as completely autonomous organisations reporting to their own eminent boards of governors and not to any government ministry or official. It is notable that the former federal minister of finance, Mr Shaukat Tareen, estimated corruption of Rs500 billion annually in the FBR alone!

2. Education: If we are to rid ourselves of the crushing poverty and the huge national debt, we must develop a robust knowledge economy. This is only possible if we make necessary amendments to our Constitution to force our decision-makers to give education the highest national priority. Malaysia has been investing 30 percent of its budget for the last 30 years – we must by a constitutional requirement do the same. The only way out for Pakistan from its myriad difficulties – law and order problems, corruption, non-functional democracy, poverty, industrial stagnation, etc. – is to make quality education the launching pad for a new Pakistan. With about 90 million young people below the age of 19, we have a tremendous potential human resource. This offers a unique opportunity for development. If we empower this huge young workforce with quality education and training, and provide opportunities for jobs in key economic sectors, then a wonderful future lies ahead. If we don't, then this can become a stifling burden that will only lead to massive poverty, frustrations and crime.

Massive investments in education at all levels will allow us to develop the knowledge workers that are needed in high-tech industries – engineering goods, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology products, metallurgy, information technology, electronics, high value-added agriculture products, defence goods etc. – so that we can compete in the comity of nations. A national technology policy directed at achievement of national self-reliance needs to be formulated and implemented so that we become a major global exporter of high-tech products.

3. Prompt Access to Justice: We must punish the corrupt and those responsible for terrorism. The normal legal system has failed in this respect, because of the life threats to judges and witnesses by the powerful, the corrupt and terrorists. This has to be initially done under independent military courts until cleanup is achieved and a proper functional police force is established. Those who have amassed vast amounts of national wealth in foreign lands must be forced to return it to the nation and spend the rest of their lives in jails. A major overhaul of the justice system would be needed, including a mandatory requirement that court decisions are made within three months by strengthening the courts. This will need to be accompanied by genuine land reforms and abolition of the patwari system through computerisation of land records, our courts are choked by land disputes.

The decision is ours to make as a nation. We have the natural and human resources and creative, hardworking people. The dream of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the father of our nation, can become a reality if we are courageous and set a new path for ourselves through the above reforms.

The writer is former federal minister for science and technology, former chairman of the Higher Education Commission. Email: ibne_sina@








Governance involves management of both public and private affairs. The control exercised by the government impacts equally on all spheres of people's life.

In the case of Pakistan, there are a host of factors involved in provision of good governance to its people, and these are individually posing a challenge to the smooth running of the system.

Firstly, the feeling of insecurity has become ingrained in society. Even an ordinary event is viewed with skepticism as if it were either to undo Pakistan or to balkanise it. The fear, which is mostly unsubstantiated, prompts extraordinary decisions to be taken to "save Pakistan". The cynicism also creates ad hocism in the running of the system. To add insult to injury, the failed-state syndrome haunts Pakistan at every turn. Consequently, an abnormal national psyche has developed which is disconcerting Pakistan. Perhaps, Pakistanis need a period of rehabilitation to get back to normal.

Secondly, religious extremism is mounting at an exponential rate, so is terrorism. Both illiteracy and over-population are becoming the bane of Pakistan's existence. Uneducated youth, the consequent product of this, is cannon fodder for religious fanaticism. Religion has also become an area to take refuge in from the ever growing complex world of today: Religion should be a source of inspiration to live life rather than becoming a retreat. Society is in the throes of ignorance and obscurantism. Neither literacy nor population control seems national priority. No matter how much money is spent in a year on maintaining law-and-order in the country, the next year that spending needs to be increased, as each year more illiterate members join the adult section of society and swell the ranks of the unemployed and criminals.

Thirdly, a confrontation between institutions is prevailing. For instance, the government's purposeful non-compliance with implementation of the decisions of the Supreme Court on various matters of national importance (including the NICL corruption case) is a point of concern. One reason for the defiant attitude of the government may be that there are fewer precedents on hand to revere the court and its decisions. Another reason may be that the negative atmosphere created by the NRO period. The higher judiciary is frustrated in its plans to end the trends of corruption in society. Consequently, there is surfacing a government-judiciary mismatch. By thwarting an oversight of the court, the government is trying to run its affairs, in which the top priority is to complete the tenure. Popularity of a political party (or its members) among the masses is considered a force to sabotage decisions of the court. The trickle-down effect of defiance is plaguing all sectors of governance.

Fourthly, incessant inflation is whittling away people's savings. The Benazir Income Support Programme is to mitigate people's financial woes, but no visible effort so far has been made to construct vocational institutes to develop skilled manpower. Apparently, the price control mechanism that has been put in place is flawed. The price of a commodity has been left up to the market forces to regulate. There is no intervention by the government in this process. That is where hoarders and cartels sneak in to capitalise on the situation.

Commodities are hoarded and an artificial market mechanism is fashioned to send prices spiralling when consumers are in need of them. For instance, the holy month of Ramadan is considered a month yielding high financial returns. Here, the economic factor overrides religious fervour. Further, the state mechanism of check and balance is fragile and financial exploiters evade accountability. What is required is action to the contrary. There is a need to equip people with the skills that could help them enhance their earnings.

Fifthly, the identity crisis is raging in society. Currently, the crisis is being reflected in the demand of division of provinces. One of the reasons of the crisis is centralisation of authority at the provincial level. The flip side of which is deprivation of local areas of politico-economic empowerment by keeping local governments absent. The lack of management at the local level engenders governance issues which make people chafe under misgovernance. The time is ripe for Pakistan to opt for participatory governance jettisoning the idea of governance through centralised government officers. At the local level, people should be empowered to take decisions on issues affecting them locally. Good policing is important but that should be secondary to the will of the people to manage their own affairs by becoming stakeholders in good governance.

Sixthly, politicians are facing problems in running the modern-day government. To dispense governance and deliver on electoral promises are proving to be two feeble areas of the incumbent government to tread. The vibrant electronic and print media is watchful to render the government answerable on these accounts. This was not the situation in the past. Politicians who are besieged by the feudal mindset think that the country can be run as a fiefdom. This is not the case. The process of running the government has now become a specialised job done by (or with the help of) subject specialists (and not by generalists). That is why to have at least a bachelor's degree to contest for a provincial or national electoral seat is vital for the country to make progress. Modern-day governance calls for deliberations, research and innovations which are missing in the existing system.

The writer is a freelance contributor.








 Pakistan's constitution has been disfigured over the years to perpetuate the rule of autocrats, both civil and military. Articles 8 to 28 containing "Fundamental Rights" of the citizen pertain to laws being consistent with or not derogatory to it. Enshrined are the dignity of man, freedom of movement, assembly, association, trade, business or profession and of speech, to profess religion, right of property and information, equality of citizens and non discrimination, etc.

Articles 29 to 40 of the "Principles of Policy" mandates framing of laws subject to availability of resources and promotion of an Islamic way of life, while discouraging parochial, racial, tribal, sectarian and provincial prejudices. Full participation of women, as well as the protection of minorities is guaranteed. Sanctified is the promotion of social justice and eradication of social evils along with promotion of social and economic wellbeing of the people.

The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term 'socio-political' as: "of, relating to, or involving a combination of social and political factors". Every country has particular socio-political issues confined to that country alone relating to, or involving a combination or interaction of social and political factors. But they can differ from country to country. Some require ethical and responsible solutions because of impact beyond the boundaries of a single society, including viz (1) global warming; (2) communicable disease control; (3) radioactive waste disposal; (4) resource management; (5) food safety; (6) fish and wildlife management; (7) biotechnology; (8) endangered species protection; (9) pollution management; (10) immigration management; (11) global indebtness and volatile stock market, etc. The socio-political aspirations of the common man are similar in most countries, viz (1) justice (2) proper housing (3) food (4) security (5) water supply (6) sanitation (7) electricity (8) health care (9) education (10) transportation (11) communications, etc.

Political chaos, economic mismanagement and social inequities have resulted in high levels of poverty, illiteracy, inflation and unemployment. Distorted use of resources and religious exploitation compounds these problems. The socio-political roles common to all societies are viz (1) the state holds monopoly of powers and in return provides security of life and property; (2) the state and political system are identity-giving components for citizens and the participation of people in the political decision-making process identifies them with the state. The state must be inclusive not exclusive, otherwise it loses its continuity as happened in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh); (3) Representative democracy gives good environment for building public opinion and conflict resolution, eg political space in Swat, conflict resolution in Karachi, etc; (4) basic values on which democracy is built are secularism, equality and citizenship; (5) ideology has to match ideas, values and the scope of the state and the local culture of the people, provided through education and the idea of a nation rooted in territory; (6) economy provides access to livelihood and development of individuals and society.

Unique in its structure, the composition of an Islamic society and its characteristics are depicted by the Quran and Hadith. A partial list of characteristics, (1) enjoining what is good; (2) forbidding what is bad; (3) faith in Allah; (4) moderation; (5) concept of consultation; (6) brotherhood; (7) tawi – self-discipline, self control, self-restraint, self evaluation and self education. Islam is a complete way of life. Huqooq ul Allah (rights of Allah – such as prayers, fasting, etc.) and Huqooq ul Ibad (rights owed to fellow men or humanity) go side by side. A Muslim should first fulfil his/her obligations to his/her community and family. Huqooq ul Ibad has precedence over huqooq ul Allah. And yet, what do we find?

Men and women observe all the rites and obligations that are due to Allah but neglect their family and community in the process. This is rooted in the narrow vision of Islam being propagated in Pakistan and many Islamic countries, viz, bookish, with literal interpretation and narrow-mindedness. Failure of the current post-colonial state to deliver have given popularity to the concept of an Islamic state.

Pakistan's constant dilemma of poor governance generates mistrust and undermines the proficient and transparent delivery of public services and the implementation of programmes in an efficient manner. Poverty has grown in the last three years of this democratic regime at an alarming level to 40% from 17.3 % in 2008. The long term prospects for achieving high growth have been compromised by the low level of social sector investment. Human development is also fairly low for the average level of income. Pakistan's education indicators are the worst in South Asia because of the poor governance in economic, political and institutional sectors. Despite having huge natural and manpower resources, the country has now entered into a period of stagflation, this is a worst-ever scenario.

Intolerance and corruption plague the politics of Pakistan. In a mainly "client-patron" society where nepotism and favouritism have a greater say, merit is neglected, it is in fact a disqualifier. Investment is rapidly moving out of Pakistan because of the unfavourable economic environment. The energy crisis is negatively affecting the industry, closing down a number of them due to the unavailability of gas and electricity.

Significant sustainable economic development amongst other factors, good governance is also almost in a state of collapse in Pakistan. This has compounded the economic causes of rising poverty, such as decline in GDP growth rate, increasing indebtedness, inflation, falling public investment and poor state of physical infrastructure. A multitude of crises, ranging from energy shortages to breakdown of law and order, to violence and terror are creating a sense of insecurity and frustration among people.

The performance of the bureaucracy at various tiers of the government is ineffective and inefficient mainly on account of inappropriate and whimsical appointments, postings and promotions. Mistrust between federal and provincial bureaucracies, both in civil and the police services, further affects good governance. There is no accountability at the highest levels; the outstanding process started by Musharraf became inexorably tainted when it became selective out of his political expediency for survival in office. The National Reconciliation Order (NRO) enacted by him is fully responsible for the "free for all" environment of corruption rampant in our body-politic today.

Failure of the Pakistani state to incorporate local identities, resulting in ethnic and religious/sectarian conflicts, tends to promote alternative models such as sharia-based state, jirga decision-making etc. The rule of law is not accepted by the rulers, so why should ordinary citizens obey the law? The superior judiciary must take partial responsibility for failing to ensure that the government implements its judgments and instructions. Even when the government makes a show of acceptance, it frustrates the process by playing "bureaucratic games", eg sending people on postings, leave, contrived sickness etc. Take Zafar Qureshi's predicament, the idea is to delay his investigation in the NICL case till he retires in six to seven weeks. Pray, what constitutes contempt of the Supreme Court?

Basic values on which democracy relies, secularism, equality of citizens and idea of citizenship are neither owned by society nor the ruling elite (rubberstamp parliament). These are modern values contrary to the driving force being overwhelmingly pre-modern feudal and tribal.

Can socio-political factors resonate in our society when the governance mode is rooted in the narrow-minded feudal mindset of the past?

(Extracts from part I of the talk on "Linkages between Socio-Political Factors and National Security" given recently at the National Defence University.)

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email:







 The leitmotif of this article is to illustrate the elemental in its various manifestations in human experience, especially in the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. Whether it be in the Greek conceptions of Zeus and Apollo, or Athena and Demeter, or in the architecture of the Parthenon, or the Adagio from a Beethoven Concerto or in the experience of Turkomen nomads, or the genius of Aeschyles' Prometheus desmoto, there is in all some underlying theme which have compelling characteristics.

An aspect of the elemental is the progression of aesthetic effects from the primeval darkness preceding creation, through turbulence and force, to deep peace and harmony in a celestial dream.

A vital aspect of human experience – whether it be for the earlier nomad horsemen on the Eurasian steppe, or in the inexorable inevitability in the first movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony – is the sense of vastness, overwhelmness, starkness, utterness and implacability.

In the elemental there is a portrayal of the whole range of attitudes towards human existence, from crescendos of emotional drives and brooding mysteries, to humour as a reaction to the underlying tragedy of life. The motifs of simplicity and earnestness are dominant as is the struggle between right and wrong in its numerous manifestations.

This entails reflections on beauty and grace culminating in beauty too sublime for this world, as in the slow movements of Beethoven's music, such as the Adagio from the Choral symphony, the slow movement from the Fruehlingsonate, the Adagio from the Pastorale, the Cavatina from the Quartet Opus 130 and the slow movements from the Sonatas Pathetique and Hammerklavier.

The heavenly tranquillity resulting from embroidery of beautiful themes leads to perfection and harmony in a divine form. The mysteries of human life and of good and evil here find their most compelling expression.

The wonders and magnificence of Beethoven's spiritual world have to be approached with honesty, simplicity, affection and awe. His music displays the ultimate unifying poetic principles. His process of musical creation is of deep significance to human imagination and will.

"The nine symphonies of Beethoven are like the rungs of a ladder that leads from earth to Heaven, from the known to the unknown. Perhaps they should be renumbered in accordance with the true position of each in the spiritual scale. They would follow then, perhaps, in this order: No. 1, 2, 4, 5, 3, 7, 8, 6, 9.

The kinship between the Pastoral and the Ninth is so close as to make them appear like the two halves of Beethoven's musical testament. Toscanini so exhibits them – the Pastoral as man's identification with nature, the Ninth as his struggle against and joyful surrender to that Necessity that created Man and the Universe." (Samuel Chotzinoff)

At the beginning of the Ninth Symphony, the whisper of defiance heard through subterranean darkness is gradually and implacably built up into a Promethean challenge. A great struggle rages through titanic proportions and with relentless persistence. In the slow movement are the Elysian fields, for those who embrace life and pain leading to Beethoven's ever more and more rarified spheres. It is an experience of unearthly serenity and harmony. The Ninth symphony affirms spiritual and poetic integrity. In it, mystery and exaltation, wild humour and super-terrestrial beauty, tragic despair and ecstasies of joy are all galvanised into an organic aesthetic unity.

The Hammerklavlier sonata is huge in scope and profundity with a complex treatment of varied and divergent ideas. In it, concept and emotion are perfectly integrated. The element of conflict is expressed in stormy passages, depicting life's struggle to better and renew itself. The Adagio is exquisite in expressive form, lofty in vision and sublime in introspection.

The slow movement of the Sonata No 8 in C minor Opus 13, the Pathetique, too, is pensive and melodious with a tinge of hidden grief. Similarly, the Largo of the Trio in D major Opus 70 contains music of unbroken melancholy, expressed as only Beethoven could. The immense will power exerted by Beethoven in his late String Quartets is an effort to convey the essence of his conceptions. Here dark intensities of mood and searching tenderness impel contemplative meditation of the universe.

The elemental in human experience is most loftily denoted in Beethoven's genius. What a tremendous achievement for humanity has his music made. What a supreme expression of the victory of life over death and of will over fate. The great architectonic works of Beethoven display a perfection of the intricacies of development within a classical symmetry containing and controlling emotions.

The study of musicology is as intellectually challenging as is the study of many other academic disciplines in a modern educational curriculum. It is therefore given considerable importance in educational learning in the developed countries.

The eastern cultures of Japan, China and Korea are increasingly turning to western classical music. Thousands of their young students are studying it in their conservatories. This is a sign of uplift and vitality. These countries have produced renowned musicians like the Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa, the Chinese cellist Yo Yo Ma, the Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida and the Korean conductor Myung-Whun Chung. There is a link between the Confucian outlook of these peoples and their remarkable economic upsurge. Their tradition is another aspect of the elemental. Can we distantly hope for such a salutary development here? Xenophobia and obscurantism must be rebuffed. Let us make our society less morose.

The writer is a former ambassador.






Waiting for Punjab

Ameer Bhutto


The writer is vice-chairman of the Sindh National Front and a former MPA from Ratodero. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University.

Just as one feels that things cannot possibly get any worse, the bottom falls out yet again and we sink to a new low. At the culmination of the Zia era, in which the constitution was shredded and an elected prime minister murdered, the nation dared to hope for real democracy and reconstruction and rehabilitation of a beleaguered and decimated country. But what we got instead was an inconsequential and farcical game of musical chairs between Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in which no government could last more than three years before the rug was pulled from under it, causing instability and uncertainty. This unsustainable situation gave birth to eight disastrous years of Musharraf's rule.

Under the curse of his administration, among other things, national sovereignty and honour were compromised to appease western masters and our citizens were sold to them for dollars. Pakistan was made a target for extremism and terror by entangling it in someone else's war. Disreputable, dishonest and tainted crooks and charlatans of all hues and shades, some of whom were initially locked up when Musharraf seized power, were restored to power to contrive an artificial power base for the usurper. Perhaps worse of all, any vestiges of hope for salvation through positive reform and a brighter future were flushed down the drain with the enactment of the NRO, the consequences of which have been no less devastating for Pakistan than the nuclear bomb the allied forces dropped on Hiroshima.

How could things get any worse, we all naively thought. Along came Zardari. The fact that within a few months of the tenure of his government, some people actually started to clamour for the return of Musharraf, destructive and damaging as he had been, is testament to the insufferable calamity this administration has proved to be.

The seething discontent and anger among the people is visible and palpable. Parents selling children to make ends meet, whole families committing mass suicides to avoid having to face hunger, shortages of basic necessities like electricity, gas and water, spiralling prices, worse poverty and lawlessness than ever before. And the country drowning in the worse floods in history while the rulers live it up in lavish suites in five star hotels in Europe, along with making hay at a record breaking, mind numbing pace, are the legacies this government has bequeathed to the nation. Then why, even under such inhuman and hellish conditions, is the nation quiet and complacent, bearing in silence the brunt of all the gruesome atrocities it is subjected to?

There has been an epic failure of leadership, certainly in government but also in opposition. The political forces that wield sufficient power and muscle to bring about change are unwilling to jeopardise their slice of the power pie in doing so. The government's policy of mufahimat was never meant to generate national consensus for the purpose of reconstruction. It was aimed at placating and erasing all meaningful political opposition in the assemblies, at the national and provincial levels, by sating political opponents with extravagant largesse at the banquet of power at public expense and making them partners in the loot and plunder of the state.

To this extent, mufahimat has worked wonders. Some feel this is a manifestation of Zardari's political genius. That is their misfortune. But it is the country's misfortune as well, since mufahimat has diverted political forces from honest service of the country and people to selling out in the name of expediency and corruption. The nation writhes in pain while its leaders stuff themselves at the high table of mufahimat. Where is the genius in that? Some even have the audacity to try to hoodwink the nation by trying to run with the hare while hunting with the hounds; they try to score political points by criticising the government while being part of it, enjoying highly lucrative cabinet portfolios and occupying other powerful government offices. Blackmailing the government to extract benefits has been refined into an art form by its allies. Those political leaders who are calling for change lack the requisite political strength to be effective.

Today we hail the Arab people as heroes for throwing out Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak from Tunisia and Egypt and coming out onto the streets to struggle for democracy in a number of other Middle Eastern countries. But we forget that they continuously laboured under the same dictators for many decades before awakening. This is what happens when leadership is lacking. People, left to their own devices, are slow to unite and mobilise. It took centuries of socio-political fermentation before revolutions broke out in France, Russia and China. Undoubtedly, mass communication and media have provided a faster conduit for mass cooperation and unity, but the general principle still applies.

The same principle has been visible in Pakistan over the last several decades. With the exception of Bhutto's movement in the late 1960s, political change comes about in this country not because of the people, who suffer equally under dictators and elected leaders, but only when the power centres in Islamabad clash with each other or when change is called for by our foreign masters. This is so because, without leadership that is working towards change, it takes time for the people to work out appropriate and effective mechanisms for asserting their will and authority.

The mindset that made Bhutto's revolution possible has long since faded. Back then the distinction between good and bad, right and wrong, mattered. But recently we have seen people selling out for a watan card or the thousand rupees monthly handout under the Benazir Income Support Scheme. In any other country, such a suffering nation would have surrounded government palaces and made an example of the rulers.

But things finally appear to be changing, not due to any sudden outbreak of idealistic ideological fervour, but because of unbearable hardship and pain. This bumbling, stumbling government is itself the inadvertent catalyst for change. This had to happen, since the silence of the masses under such disastrous conditions was untenable. The success of the 13 August strike on the call of the nationalist parties in Sindh against the termination of the commissionorate system is an eye opener. It heralds a dramatic transformation in the disposition of the people.

Most of these parties are small regional parties but the support they were able to harness all over Sindh was a manifestation of public anger and revulsion against government failures, its spineless conduct and corrupt practices. It represents a crippling jolt for a dispensation that survives in power partly under the subterfuge of the 'Sindh Card', which now stands exposed as a hollow bluff; the whole of Sindh, including Karachi, shut down to voice discontent against the government. Despite this unambivalent public vote of no-confidence, the Sindh chief minister declared that the government will stay the course, even in the face of disapproval and anger of the people. If this is not the height of being thick skinned, what is? So much for rule of the people, for the people and by the people!

Sindh has made a solid, positive start. But what about Punjab? Punjab is the engine room of Pakistani politics. No meaningful political change is possible without its support. It was Punjab that launched Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's political career by dismantling two military juntas, while the waderas and sardars of Sindh followed suit only when his newly formed party snowballed into a formidable force in Punjab and his ascent to power became imminent. The PML (N)'s long march too was mainly a Punjabi show and it produced results overnight. This time, Sindh has taken the initiative. Will Punjab answer the clarion call of history?








 Man through his heavenly endowed intelligence has made wonderful discoveries and reached the remotest corners of this universe. But regretfully we have so far been unable to rise above the level of barbarism of the cave men, who lived thousands of years ago, when it comes to the way we think.

Great powers have always used some ideology or excuses to pursue their selfish gains or expand influence in other areas. Every time forced is used in the international realm it is accompanied by lofty rhetoric about the solemn responsibility to protect the suffering populations, and other false justifications. The most despicable act of humanity and brutality was undoubtedly dropping atomic bombs on two Japanese cities more than six decades ago.

August 6, 1945 is remembered as a black day in human history. At 9: 15 a.m. on that day, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb, named 'Little Boy', over Hiroshima by a B-29 bomber, Enolay Gay aircraft which was piloted by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets of the USAF. Three days later on August 9, 1945 this horrible feat was repeated by dropping another bomb, named 'Fat Boy' over Japan's industrial town, Nagasaki, at 12 p.m.

According to an estimate almost 140,000 people were incinerated in Hiroshima and about 70,000 in Nagasaki in the wake of these two atomic strikes. The anguish, sorrows and sufferings of the survivors lingered long after the celebrations of victory had ended. The survivors of the bombings continued to suffer burns, infections, cancer and radiation sickness which ultimately resulted in another 160,000 deaths.

Almost sixty-four years have passed since that horrific incident but memories still hold on strongly, especially in the minds of the Japanese nation. The fact remains that the bombing of the two Japanese cities was not only unnecessary but also immoral. Japan was already on the verge of defeat and the sane thinking on the part of the American high-ups could have prevented this tragedy. This event changed the whole world and introduced new elements in international politics.

Today we are living in a world where the wrong decisions of one or two personalities will be enough to eradicate the existence of the human species from this planet. Nuclear weapons have been produced in large numbers across the board, and a witless leader may order their use in a state of panic. During the Korean war there came three moments when President Kennedy pondered over the option of using nuclear weapons against China in order to gain victory.

Today only the United States and Russia have almost 23, 000 nuclear warheads. This staggering number constitutes almost 95% of the total nuclear arsenal in the world. Although the two major rivals have signed many agreements in the past of not using nuclear warheads in any situation but these agreements can't ensure that they will not be used if the need arises.

In the initials days after holding office, President Obama, on his tour to Europe, talked about his dream of a nuclear free world. But he himself pointed out that this was a very difficult task and would take much time. Palpable progress is possible only if his words are followed by concrete action.

Every nation has an interest in maintaining peaceful relations with other nations. Every country needs to play a role in creating a world free of nuclear threat. All the nuclear powers need agree that now they must eliminate all choices of using nuclear weapons in the future. This can only happen by making the world free of nuclear warheads. A survivor of the atomic bombings in 1945 remarked, "This pain that we carry, let it end with us."

Email: rizwanasghar7@yahoo. com









FOLLOWING their contacts and meetings, both MQM and PPP have confirmed that the former would be rejoining the Government before Eidul Fitr, meaning thereby that reunion can take place any time in August. Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad, who met President Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad on Tuesday, is reported to have conveyed readiness of the party in this regard.

MQM's rejoining the Federal and Provincial Governments may be one of the best Eid gift by Altaf Bhai to his followers and workers and might also ultimately lead to reintroduction of a Kamal Mustafa as Nazim of Karachi in the restored local government system. However, in our view, repeated exits and returns have badly bruised the credibility of the MQM, which is indeed a force to be reckoned with. The development, coupled with some other similar events, has deepened the unfortunate impression that politics of principles has not yet taken roots in this country and parties do politics on petty and narrow considerations. MQM was hitherto known for its principled position on certain issues particularly its emphasis on elimination of feudalism and advocacy for the rights of the common man on issues like price-hike but its frequent change of position on the issue of quitting and rejoining of the power corridors has dented its image. This is particularly so after its recent decision to say goodbye to the Government, which was seen by many as final and in fact, the MQM itself persistently contradicted the possibility of any U-turn this time round. It almost succeeded in creating the impression that it was the end of the honeymoon between the two parties. But even after lofty claims by the party leadership in this regard, some circles were reluctant to believe that the MQM would stick to its decision steadfastly and expressed the view that it might stage another come back after some time and their assertion proved correct. Anyhow, in our view, the MQM might have sound reasons for frequent somersaults but these are giving a big jolt to its credibility and degenerating the culture of principled-based politics.







PML (N) leader Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, who often speaks about short and long marches, has once again talked about a possible long march for the rights of the people. But this time, instead of short one, he is threatening to go for a very long march — from Karachi to Islamabad.

Being the principal opposition party, the PML (N) is well within its right to agitate things while remaining within the framework of democratic practices and traditions. Such announcements and moves serve as a check against dictatorial and unilateral tendencies in the Government and keep the administration on right track. But repeated threats and that too hollow ones, in our view, mar credibility of a leader and therefore, must be avoided. Mian Nawaz Sharif is uncrowned king and charismatic leader of the second largest political party of the country and he has all the ingredients of emerging as a messiah (deliverer) who could take Pakistan out of its existing quagmire. However, we are sorry to point out that Mian Sahib has become prisoner of certain fixations and above all that of Musharraf phobia and therefore, is unable to play the role he is expected to play in the present circumstances. Luckily, Nawaz Sharif has with him a team of talented, visionary and experienced people who could evolve a comprehensive road map to take the country out of the mess and take it forward on road to progress and prosperity. We believe that instead of indulging in rhetoric, the PML (N) leader should form task forces and think tanks on different issues, which should study the problems confronting the nation and come out with a workable strategy to address them. Their recommendations should form basis for manifesto of PML (N) for the next general elections so that people could have a clear cut understanding of programmes and priorities of different parties, making it easier for them to make an informed and wise choice while casting their vote. Such a change in the mindset would be in the interest of the party, democracy and the system as well.







FEDERAL Minister of Professional and Technical Training Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada has floated the idea of setting up a Pakistani University in Kuwait. During a meeting with Chairperson of FBISE and Director of Pakistani Schools in Kuwait, the Minister said that he would be visiting Kuwait after Eidul Fitr to explore the idea.

Though it is a raw proposal at the present, but in our view it has all the potential to blossom into a reality. There is an enabling environment and tremendous goodwill in Kuwait for Pakistan and if seriously pursued, it can be implemented as a joint venture. Similarly there is also potential for Gulf specific universities in Pakistan for the education of students from the Gulf and other Muslim countries. We say so because after 9/11 thousands of students in the Middle East either did not go or came back to their respective countries because of prevailing sense of insecurity and strict visa conditionalities in the United States and Western countries and they have insufficient alternative facilities at home. At that point of time we had asked the then government that not only in education but in health sector, it should take initiatives to attract investment from the Gulf and fill the gap but that fell flat on deaf ears. The idea of University in Kuwait would open new avenues of education for youths in the Gulf and in Pakistan as well. While the Gulf students would welcome to have modern faculties and benefit from them while staying near their homes, a large number of Pakistani expatriates would also appreciate and prefer the admission of their children in it. Presently a vast majority of Pakistanis working in the Gulf send their children back home for college and university education because there is no specific facility for them. Pakistan has all the potential to establish worldclass universities because prominent Pakistani educationists like Pakistani doctors are serving in different faculties in western countries and their calibre is appreciated and recognized. Therefore we think the establishment of a university in Kuwait is a good idea and hope that Minister Pirzada would seriously pursue it.








 This review by US Ambassador Robert Munter was sent to the US Department of State after his first three months stay in Islamabad.

View about America: Survey after survey has shown that the populace at large has very unfavorably views about US government and policy. The perception in the corridors of power is very different. Given their propensity to focus on conspiracy theories most have a notion of US influence in Pakistan that far exceeds our real capabilities. Sometimes I feel as the "Governor General" from a bygone past caught in a historic time warp. From the highest office down to mid level functionaries, perception becomes reality, when it comes to viewing US as the kingmaker. This mostly helps us in stacking the deck of cards in our favor but also works against us at times when diplomacy is seen as failing. Our dilemma is that our policy objectives are incongruous with popular sentiment of the people in Pakistan. Changing this is not merely a matter of perception and has to be more than a public relations exercise. It will require a significant change in our strategic trajectory.

The Social divide: Having served in Iraq I have experienced the divide between the elites and the common citizen, which is quite typical of the Middle East and South Asian countries. In Pakistan however it takes unparalleled heights. My first private party at a key ministers residence, the opulent lifestyle was in full contrast to the plight of those serving us. White gloved waiters were standing with ashtrays so that the corpulent minister and guests could smoke their Cuban cigars at will, and with utmost disdain flicker the ash at random intervals to be caught by the gloved waiters with unsurpassed dexterity. Alcohol, which is, otherwise not publicly displayed in this Islamic country was flowing from an open bar. Our hosts were shocked that most American guests did not drink. I was taken aback at the presence of so many blond Pakistani women, on inquiring was told by our bemused social secretary about the miracle of peroxide and modern hair coloring which seems to be the fashion statement of the day for well groomed (sic) modern Pakistani women. As we pulled out to leave, the sight of an army of drivers, was something to behold, huddled in the frigid night until the wee hours, for their masters to terminate their fracas. Service is legitimate but this smacked of servitude, opprobrium reminiscent of attitudes of European aristocracy and our own experience with slavery.

Hypocrisy a new dimension: I was stunned to hear form a very senior political functionary about US interference in the internal affairs of the country. When pointed out that this interference could be curtailed if the Government of Pakistan would refuse to take Billions of Dollars in US aid annually, his response was that monies were for services rendered in the fighting terrorism. Purloin of developmental funds to support the prodigious lifestyle of the ruling elite seems to be the normative. This can be only rationalized as a self-entitled narcissism of a collective of people with a rapacious appetite to loot the country.

The common man: My contact has been limited but even with limited exposure they continue to amaze me. In abject poverty and mired in the maelstrom of illiteracy they display a dignity and authenticity that is in stark contrast to the capriciousness of the pseudo westernized elites. Hospitable to a fault and honest despite being in the vortex of poverty the common everyday people of Pakistan display great ingenuity to survive against formidable odds. A gristle of the soul, that must come from a past rooted in spiritual life of a different sort.

Democracy: In Pakistan democracy has taken a dimension that borders on mockery of true representative government. The elected representatives come almost exclusively for the elite and privileged class. Rather than representing the populace they are more like local regional "Viceroys" representing the federal government and their own vested interests in the regions. Most are in politics not with a sense of public service but more to maximize the opportunity to make money, which they do with total disdain. The mainstream political parties are oligarchies controlled by the founding patriarchs or their heirs. One wonders if this is the model, we seek to perpetuate? Given my background as a history professor I have my druthers.

Alchemy of change: The polarization in the society makes significant change likely in the near future but given the deficit of leadership and organization it is not inevitable. This situation is unlikely to be remedied in the short term. If such a leadership were to emerge then conflict between the polarized segments would likely ensue. Under these circumstances we will not be able to count on the Military as a stabilizing force. The Military though a disciplined and well led, is a egalitarian body with much of its leadership and rank coming from middle, lower middle and poor classes. Their support of any move to perpetuate the rule of the elite will be at their own peril. The current military leadership is unlikely to prop the existing structure if such a conflict was to occur and possibly may even be catalytic toward such change. This is in stark departure form the past.

Pakistan is a fascinating place the contradictions are glaring but the promise is great, ironically what may be good for Pakistan may at least in the short term not be good for furtherance of our policy goals. We need to take a long view and it may be worthwhile to cut our losses, uncouple from the ruling elite and align our self with popular grassroots sentiment in the country. This would change our perception in the short term and when change does come we are for a change will be on the right side.







Cameron called UK protests a moral problem not a political one. He is in denial and it has raised serious questions about his judgment and style of governance. In his Wednesday press conference, he failed to accept the blame for the Tottenham police murder of Mark Duggan. The initial findings of IPCC have shown that Duggan's gun was not discharged. As PM, Cameron failed to explain why authorities kept Duggan's family waiting for (five) hours outside a police station. Cameron is appeasing middle class population at the cost of poor and homeless, vowing to crackdown on basic human rights and social media, and support the police, instead of showing moral courage and accepting responsibility for failed economic and social policies. Cameron has resorted to militarizing to save himself and the opposition has shamelessly played along. It could well be his nemesis to fall.

Morality is not part of the national curriculum, social life and political culture. It is neither taught in schools nor rewarded in our daily life so it was very naïve of Cameron to take it for granted. He bemoaned sick society as if his government had been distributing morality by the truckloads and somehow society forgot to return the favor. The fact is morality has to be honored and rewarded in a society to keep it healthy. Since it is not rewarded in our daily life, it will remain an insignificant word for the public and a useful tool for opportunistic politicians. Cameron blamed poor parenting. Look at him; his parents never wanted him to invite Murdoch from backdoors. Obama's father never expected that his son would kill thousands in drone attacks. Parenting cannot necessarily protect a child from criminality. The News of the World scandal has exposed immoral standards of Cameron. In a way, guilty Cameron was criticizing his own failures when he faulted society for its actions. Cameron is on a collision course with police and state to save his government. He blames the police for its "insufficient tactics". He is behaving like Churchill. Exactly 100 years ago, a home secretary and a police chief were under pressure from the media and politicians to act decisively against outrage on the streets of London.

The perpetrators were then stuck in a house which caught fire and Churchill prevented the fire brigade from dousing the flames so the men inside were burned to death. "I thought it better to let the house burn down rather than spend good British lives in rescuing those ferocious rascals," wrote Churchill (What next,… The Guardian, August 9). Cameron's disdain for protestors and communities echoed Churchill's contempt for ordinary life. He expects the police to kill people for him. There was a lot of criticism against police abuses during student protests against education cuts. Thatcher used the police against protesting miners. The politicians in UK were never serious about the police serving the public. They have always used the police to save their governments.

Cameron is cross-dressing Met as police force which is a police service. His takeover of police and authorization of use of water cannon and batons has raised very serious questions about policing model in a modern state, legality chief executives powers and state control. Met police model is based on the idea that the police is independent, it represents the state and is not under control of executive, and it is people friendly service which does not believe in using force against people. Hence, Met did not use force in the start of the protests.

As chief executive, PM is dictating independent Met to save his job. As sovereign head of state, Crown is obligated to protect public –especially the poor and most vulnerable- against executive's excesses. It is thus incumbent upon the Crown to keep chief executive within his limits and allow the police to do its duty. MPs should stand up for voters since that's the job they are paid for. Post protest surveys shows that public (more than 50%) is unhappy with Cameron's judgment and style of governance.

Cameron used parliament to control policing. He is cunningly using his speech in the parliament and media to show that he has the support of the parliament to dictate the police. As chief executive, Cameron is mandated to facilitate state institutions and nowhere he is allowed to run them and that too in such a way that state resources end up protecting office holders at the cost of constitutional rights of the individuals, including the right to protest and seek answers and accountability. Cameron should get a bill passed in the parliament to control state institutions if he is so disappointed with the performance of Met police and until then he should stop interfering in state institutions because it is against the law. Such leaders should be brought to book if they fail to uphold the law.

Cameron has used parliament to dictate Crown courts and commit human rights violations. The chief executive has no right to dictate magistrates and judges to deliver rough justice and issue predetermined sentences. It is a mockery of independence of justice. The dictation of courts and police could result in human rights violations. The rallying of national media in support of courts, police, crackdown on social media and publishing of CCTV pictures has set a stage for such gross violations. These undemocratic tactics like 80s could backfire with huge consequences. Michael Mansfield QC, a famous human rights lawyer, while commenting on police tactics against student protests, said that the right to protest in Britain was under serious threat and people wanting to go on peaceful demonstrations now have to weigh up the risks they faced from heavy policing and draconian sentencing (The Guardian, August 6). Cameron's reference to military use is a hint of brutal crackdown on future protests against his failed policies. Cameron has attacked individual liberties, media freedoms and human rights to save his job. It reflects his morality. The way Cameron, as Chief executive, has taken control of police, judiciary, parliament and media in a developed country has raised serious questions about independence of institutions in modern world. The corruption in local governments and professional failures of Met police to save life and property has questioned efficacy of local government system in 3rd world democracies.

Cameron has refused to accept political reasons of the protests. He blamed family upbringing not Poverty. There is no money in British economy due to bank stimulus plans and paying the cost of two illegal wars. Capitalism has failed to feed the grassroots. The wealth of the richest 10% has risen to 273 times the poor in UK (These riots…, The Guardian, August 10). Banks have stocked public money and taxpayers are struggling to put bread on the table. They hardly have time to see their kids. The education cuts and closing of local industry due to corporate greed has left 45% of youth unemployed.

Cameron's Parliament address has failed to address the issues that are fueling discontent and destroying family system. UK needs to bring jobs back to revive economy and embrace its youth instead of banishing them or scapegoat parents. Cameron will never acknowledge his failed policies behind UK protests because then he will have to accept the blame for it. Thus, UK protests are also about Cameron's morality. Finally, I think the way youth is being treated in UK, world needs to watch movie "Children of Men". It envisages a world one generation from now that has fallen into anarchy. In a way, Cameron has turned fiction into a reality. After all children on streets are children of men and future of humanity.










The first battle, in the cause of Islam, was led by the Prophet (Pbuh) on the 17th of Ramadan, in the second year of the Hijra. The Prophet, along with his army marched out of Medina towards Badr. Meanwhile, Abu Sufyan was busy building up his army, resources and the evidently lack of courage. He was continuously monitoring the movement of the Muslim army. The Quraish were consumed by the fire of revenge and were arrogantly confident of victory. The Quran says, "boastfully and to be seen of men, and hinder men from the path of Allah" (VIII: 47). Initially, the Makkans under the command of Abu Sufyan were reluctant to engagement and took a de-tour towards the red sea, but upon insistence of Abu Jahl, they headed to Badr with over 1000 soldiers and encamped there.

The Quraish, then made their first move and reached the battlefield, fully equipped, that besides men, included 300 horses and 700 camels. Muslims in contrast were strikingly only 313 men in number, most ill equipped with only 2 horses and 70 camels. The Quraish took all the vantage points at Badr. Muslims could not get any well or spring. Then Hubab bin Mundhir suggested to take a nearby spring; the same night it rained heavily and small reservoirs were improvised to store water.". and He caused rain to descend on you from heaven, to clean you therewith, to remove from you the stains of Satan, to strengthen your hearts and to plant your feet fairly therewith" (VIII:II). The Muslims were thereafter in full control of water, but the merciful Prophet (Pbuh) allowed the enemies to make use of water. When the two armies approached closer and were visible to each other, the Prophet, it is quoted in Sahih Bukhari supplicated this, "O! Allah! The proud and arrogant Quraish are already rebelling against you and belying your messenger. O! Allah! I am waiting for your victory which you have promised me. I beg you Allah to defeat the enemies". The assistance of your Lord and He answered you, "I will assist you with a thousand of the angels, ranks on ranks." (VIII: 9)

The battle began on the morning of Friday, 17th of Ramadan, 2 AH. Fully protected with armor and shield, Otaibah, Shaibah and Al Walid bin Utbah stepped forward from the ranks of Quraish. They started abusing Muslims, from the helpers, three young men came out, but the Makkans' said, since these lads were of no consequence to them, they wanted the heads of their cousins. Upon this, prophet (Pbuh) asked Ubaidah, Hamza (his uncle) and Ali (his cousin) to go forward for the combat. The three duels were short and quick. Hamza killed Shaibah, while Ali killed Al Walid. Ubaidah was seriously wounded, but before he fell, Hamza, with a sweep his sword severed the head of Otaibah. Ali and Hamza carried Ubaidah back with his leg cut off. He died four days later.

Following this, there were several duels, in which the Makkans suffered heavily. Following this single handed duels, the Makkans made a general attack on the Muslim army. Abu Jahl and several prominent Makkans were slain. The rest of them took to their heels and fled. The Muslims captured 70 of them as prisoners of war. The victory at Badr, with Divine help, was essentially victory of truth over falsehood. Quran says, "Allah helped you at Badr, when ye were a contemptible little force, then fear Allah, thus ye may show your gratitude" (III: 123). The help from Allah came, when the Prophet was loudly reciting the revelation, he had received, "their multitude will be put to flight and they will show their backs (54: 45). Historians have recorded that on the guidance of Arch angel Jibrail, the Prophet (Pbuh) took a handful of dust and gravel and cast it at the enemy and said, "Confusion seize their faces". As he flung the dust, a violent sandstorm blew into the eyes of the enemy. In relation to this event, the Quran confirms it and says, "and you (Mohammad Pbuh) threw not when you did throw but Allah threw" (VIII: 17).

The aspect of divine help, at Badr has been beautifully summed by Martin Lings in his biography of the prophet, "the presence of the angels was felt by all, as a strength by the faithful and as a terror by the infidels, but that presence was visible or audible to few, and in varying degrees. Two men of a neighboring Arab tribe had gone to take part- so they hoped in the looting after the battle. A cloud swept by them, a cloud filled with the neighing of stallions, and at once all the men dropped instantly dead. " His heart burst with fright" said the one who lived to tell of it, judging from what his own heart had felt….others had brief glimpses of the angels riding on horses whose hooves never touched the ground, led by Jabrail wearing a yellow turban whereas the turbans of other angels were white, with one end left streaming behind them."

The issue of the prisoners of wars was decided upon by the receipt of their revelation, "it is not for a prophet to hold captives until he hath thoroughly subdued the land. Ye look for temporal goods of this world, but Allah looketh to the Hereafter, and Allah is exalted in might, wise (VIII: 67). On how treatment was to be meted out to the unbelievers, the revelation also made clear, that the prophet's decision to spare the captives was accepted by Allah." O! Apostle, say to those who are captives in your hands, if Allah finds any good in your hearts, He will give you something better than what has been taken from you; and He will forgive you, for Allah is oft forgiving, most merciful (VIII:70).

Upon return to medina, there were lamentations for those who were martyred. Rubayyi, the mother of youthful Harith, who was martyred while drinking water, ever before the battle had started wanted to know, if he indeed was a martyr. "O messenger of Allah, she implored, "will thou not tell me, if Harith is in Paradise, so that I may bear my loss with patience and if not I may do penance for him with weeping." Earlier the Prophet had answered such questions, in general, for he had promised that a believer is rewarded for what he purposes, even if he answered saying, "mother of Harith, in paradise are many gardens and verily thy son hath attained unto the all- highest firdous." The battle of Badr clearly established the roots of Islam. The persecution of Muslims eased off-the number of Muslims only confirmed to grow thereafter. May Allah bless all the martyrs of Islam.







Ever since the British government introduced the Railways to India as a means of travel in place of bullock carts, it became the most convenient mode travel for the rich and the poor in the first to third classes from one end of the country to the other. Trains gradually got better and more convenient means of travel in India and people fell in love with trains. When Pakistan came into being the railway system was also divided. For years it was the most convenient means of travel, but gradually it started decaying like everything else, thanks to incompetent and corrupt governments. But all limits have been crossed now. The railways have become virtually non existent due to large scale corruption and mismanagement under an incompetent and corrupt minister, because the government wants to please its allied party ANP of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Only to keep this party happy the federal government has sacrificed the country's Railway system.

Most of the Railway engines are lying as junk. The others have become so defective that they fail while moving on track. Trains generally get late by ten to twelve hours while poor travelers who have to take trains to reach their small towns or villages suffer badly. Thousands of travelers remain stranded on dirty platforms like cattle. Presently the number of Railway engines has been reduced to only 120 causing massive reduction in the number of running trains by 62 causing great inconvenience to thousands of passengers. The PR ministry with a huge staff headed by ANP Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour is sitting idle doing nothing. The minister could at least resign as a matter of self-respect if the government does not listen to his pleas for more funds. Or the prime minister should sack him on charges of inefficiency to save the much needed money wasted on his salary and perks.

The PR General Manager told the National Assembly standing committee recently that Railways have gone bankrupt and need Rs 11.1billion to avoid closing down more routes and trains. A large number of trains have already been closed causing great inconvenience to thousands of train travelers. But who cares! We have reached a stage of national bankruptcy while the rulers are playing their proverbial flute like the present day Neros. The Railway General Manager further told the standing committee that PR requires another Rs.6.1 billion for the rehabilitation of 145 locomotives which are lying in the junkyard for a number of years. Likewise we need another Rs 2 billion for the repair of coaches and Rs 2 billion for track maintenance and Rs One billion to create strategic reserves of oil and diesel. Be sure Mr. General Manager you will never get this kind of money from the government. So you better close the shop and go home. By the way don't you make any profit in your business? If you do, where has it gone? In your pockets perhaps! If so, please shut your shop and enjoy the fruits of your inefficiency and corruption and twiddle your thumbs and let PR and poor travelers go to hell. They can go back to the old system of their forefathers and start travelling by bullock carts.

There was another proposal. If money is not available with the government, it can increase fares by 10 to 20 percent linking various categories of travelers and shift the load to poor passengers. The Railway Ministry is also thinking of sacking some 78,000 employees in case 36 passenger train services are cancelled. The government has finally approved a grant of Rs. 11.1 billion, but the Railway Minister is not optimistic that this promise will not be fulfilled. He said in January last year, the Finance Minister had approved a similar grant, but it was not paid. He called the Prime Minister, "the best the country ever had", probably to please him to pay the grant. Otherwise it is a cruel joke.

The National Assembly was informed that PR owns 90,326 acres of land in Punjab, 39,423 acres in Sindh, 2,622 acres in Balochistan and 9,708 in Pakhtunkhwa. Not a single acre of land has been sold. Only 15.55 acres of land has been leased out at various places. He said that PR recently stopped running trains on seven popular routes after its losses crossed Rs 50 billion. No doubt this is very valuable land and even if a part of it is sold many problems of trains and passengers will be solved. The value of the land is estimated around Rs 246 billion but the government, due to political expediencies did not or could not open the Pandora's box of the sale of land which will bring the land mafias into play with political support from various powerful groups as well as controversies between Federal and Provincial governments over the ownership of land. To put simply and briefly the element of mega corruption will come into play as it does in all such situations. If the railway system of Pakistan is to de saved and the interest of millions of passengers is to be served the government of Pakistan cannot do it. Only the Supreme Court can handle the situation because it is the only corruption free and competent institution in the country. It is requested that to save the railway system from total collapse the Railway minister along with his corrupt underlings must be sacked. For once the government should appoint a clean and competent minister along with a team of equally competent officers to put the railways system on track. The government should also ensure that the huge amount of money recently sanctioned by the government to help the railways from total extinction. Shahid Kardar who was appointed State Bank governor some months ago got fed up with the government's persistent demands of the government to print notes worth billions which were giving tremendous boost to price escalation of goods and services in the country. A recent quote from Mr Kardar is worth noting; "Just three public enterprises; PIA, Steel Mills and Railways are together losing a crore rupees a minute." God save Pakistan.








When, a couple of months ago, President Obama announced his plans for the end of the Afghanistan war by 2014, and more intensely, earlier this month, when that Chinook helicopter was shot down with 30 Americans on board, my thoughts went yet again to the soldiers who are fighting this seemingly endless war and to those who are asked to risk their lives still for a slow, protracted drawdown. As a soldier myself long ago during the height of the Vietnam War, I have always seen the conflicts of the past 10 years through the eyes of the soldier.

During the Vietnam War, horrible and wrong and ultimately humiliating as it was, there was honourable compact between the soldier and the nation: If you deployed to Vietnam, you were obligated to serve only one year in the combat zone. If you were lucky enough to get into the National Guard, the refuge of so many of our best and brightest, you could not be sent to the combat zone. There was then an implicit recognition that the Vietnam war was a dirty business and questionable in its origin, conception and execution.Now we hear about the stop losses and the multiple deployments, men and women going back three and four times to Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not hear them complain. They would get in trouble if they did so publicly. Nor does the nation at large complain.

Those volunteer soldiers asked for it, didn't they? But I know how most of them feel, and it makes me profoundly uneasy. When I hear them honoured and cheered at baseball games and concerts, I feel something in the pit of my stomach. The soldiers know who the cheers are for, and they are not for them. It reminds me of the phrase that was used by my buddies who were training to be jungle interrogators: "We learn Vietnamese, so you don't have to." Even more, I think of the once-famous question a youthful John Kerry asked Congress in 1971: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"I'm also drawn back to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's well-known farewell address at West Point in 1962, when he talked of the three hallowed words of duty, honour and country. "The soldier, above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war," MacArthur told the cadets before the messiness of the Vietnam War really got underway. "

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers, 'Only the dead have seen the end of war.'"In fact, the good general was misinformed. It was not Plato at all who wrote those chiselled words, but another wise philosopher, George Santayana. In an essay called "Tipperary," which he wrote at the end of World War I, Santayana, too, was pondering the death of soldiers lost, and soldiers who survived. Of those who survived, he said, "they are hardly out of the fog of war when they are lost in the fog of peace."

I have calculated how many years of my adult life America has been at war. The number is 25 out of 52, nearly half the time. This is, Santayana suggests, the natural condition of mankind. Peace requires discipline at home and invulnerability abroad, he argued, and this might just be too much to ask for most of the time. "This war," he wrote of World War I, "has given you your first glimpse of the ancient, fundamental, normal state of the world, your first taste of reality." Is he right about that? Should future American generations expect that nearly half of their adult years will be war years? There is a fundamental danger to allowing the policymaker to have an ample supply of uncomplaining soldiers from the small towns and inner cities of America. When there is no political resistance at home to their endless deployment, the war planners are free to execute their grand designs, no matter how long it might take. Such a situation makes these protracted conflicts more palatable and likely. But there is a moral point here: How do you ask the last soldier to die for a slow drawdown?

Santayana's dictum has taken on a life of its own in annals of war. But the wider context of the epigram is never quoted. "The poor fellows think they are safe! They think that the war — perhaps the last of all wars — is over! Only the dead are safe; only the dead have seen the end of war." — Courtesy: USA Today







AUSTRALIANS have a deep affection for the flying kangaroo but this is not the time for nostalgia: globalisation is making intense competitive demands on many sectors, none more so than international aviation. Deregulation; the entry of new national players backed by oil money from the Middle East; fuel prices -- all have forced extensive change in the sector. Qantas must make decisions based on hard business facts, not sentiment.

The wonder is that it has taken the company so long to begin the transformation to a more productive, competitive operation offshore. From the time Alan Joyce followed Geoff Dixon as chief executive in November 2008, airline staff have been on notice that something would have to give. Mr Joyce cut his teeth as the boss of the Qantas low-cost subsidiary Jetstar, an operation that, in effect, shifted part of the company's workforce away from high wages and pampered conditions to a more affordable employment deal, one that allowed Jetstar to run cheap flights and bring air travel to a broad range of Australians.

That Mr Joyce wants to apply that basic template to his new offshore joint ventures is scarcely a surprise. The plan is to cut international routes on which Qantas cannot compete because of its high cost base; lose up to 1000 Australian staff; and start two new carriers based in Asia. This will allow Qantas to develop a lower-cost business model in Asia as well as give it access to traffic rights not available to an Australian-based airline.

Yesterday, the Qantas CEO wrote in our pages that the restructure was "a new direction for a great airline that has become a poor business". This is the financial reality: doing nothing could eventually threaten the viability of the business.

The outcry from unions is predictable; the dismay of Australians who feel a sense of ownership of the airline, is also easy to appreciate. For many people, Qantas is more than just another big Australian company. Since 1920 it has been part of the national fabric, a key player in the development of our vast continent, an essential in the fight against the "tyranny of distance". Indeed, it played the same role in nation building in the 20th century as Emirates and Etihad Airlines are playing today in the United Arab Emirates. But business is a numbers game and Qantas's international numbers do not add up: 38 per cent of the airline's capital is invested in the international division but its costs are 20 per cent higher than its competitors, its market share is declining and it generates losses, not profits. Mr Joyce wants to turn that around in five years, recognising that the airline's future, like that of the broader Australian economy, rests in Asia.

No one wants to see jobs lost, although it is worth noting the 1000 places to be cut at Qantas will help it remain a viable employer of another 30,000 people here. The restructuring should be a wake-up call to unions. For 30 years, policymakers have known our industrial relations system must be continually deregulated if local companies are to remain globally competitive. Qantas unions failed to grasp this fact. Rather than blame management, they should realise their determination to stick to the past has helped force Qantas into this radical plan for the future.





SO, Bob Brown, just which part of the Garnaut report don't you understand? Or are you just having a lend of the Australian people?

The Greens' suggestion that the carbon tax they helped orchestrate should take us straight to renewables -- like wind and solar power -- bypassing gas on the way, is frankly incredible. Yesterday, Senator Brown challenged the Treasury's assumption on how a carbon price would push energy producers from coal to gas, arguing that the jury was out on the environmental advantages of gas, even though coal produces double the carbon emissions of natural gas.

These comments confirm the Greens' contempt for economics. Given present technology, the idea that wind and sun can generate the baseload power to run a modern society is laughable, and is likely to remain so for several decades.

The 2008 Climate Change Review authored by Ross Garnaut set the parameters for tackling climate change: carbon abatement must be achieved at the lowest possible cost; and the most efficient model was a market-based mechanism to put a price on carbon and encourage a shift away from carbon-intensive energy production. In the absence of nuclear energy, in the medium term, the only viable replacement for coal is gas. Australian voters have long understood this: the Treasury estimated that Julia Gillard's carbon tax would mean a 238 per cent increase in gas-fired energy by 2050.

That detail seems to have been lost on the Greens. It was Senator Brown and his colleagues who were prepared to push the Prime Minister to the limit on climate change and broker a carbon tax that has risked the future of the minority government they helped form last year. Now it seems their support for the tax is a fudge; what they are really after is not just the demolition of the coal industry but an end to the gas industry as well.

Senator Brown and his colleagues have leapt on the anti-gas wagon under cover of support for farmers and rural communities unhappy about the encroachment of coal-seam gas exploration into settled agricultural areas. There are valid questions to be asked about the balance Australia should strike between food and gas production, but the opportunistic assault on gas by the Greens suggests they are less interested in good national land management than in pursuing their own narrow agendas.






TWENTY years after the introduction of the superannuation guarantee, Labor's move to lift it from 9 to 12 per cent would boost the security of workers in retirement and bring about a significant reduction in spending on aged pensions. If business is not to be disadvantaged, however, a gradual increase in the guarantee between 2013 and 2019, as recommended by the Henry tax review, should be a substitute for wage increases rather than an additional impost. It should be offset with gains in workplace efficiency.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating's far-sighted reform instigating compulsory employer contributions 20 years ago boosted the social wage and lessened Australians' dependence on pensions. The reform was part of the Prices and Incomes Accords with the ACTU, which brought about much-needed restraint in union expectations after destructive wage breakouts in the 1970s and early-80s had cost Australia dearly in industry failures and lost jobs. The original guarantee of 3 per cent was in lieu of a pay rise.

Employers' claims that compulsory superannuation would send many companies to the wall proved groundless, mainly because the contributions were offset with productivity gains. Unfortunately, the Gillard government's industrial system has produced hefty wage hikes, often without efficiency offsets. The government must demonstrate that increases in the guarantee will not leave employers badly disadvantaged. With that proviso, the case for lifting it is convincing, especially when Australia is compared with nations such as Greece, where unfunded retirement liabilities have helped send them broke.

In 20 years, the guarantee has boosted Australians' retirement savings by about $1.3 trillion. Many workers have boosted their own contributions, taking advantage of generous tax breaks. Business will argue that workers should take responsibility for further contributions, but at current levels, only 35 per cent of Australians will retire on 70 per cent of their working incomes, the level regarded as necessary for a comfortable retirement. The purpose of the social security system is to help the poor. As the population ages, it is impractical for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of keeping increasing numbers of retired citizens.






 SHAREHOLDERS have welcomed the announcement by Qantas of its strategy to tap the lucrative Asian market, and indeed this is the time for boldness. While it continues to dominate Australian skies, the national carrier has been warning for some time that its international operations do not turn a profit.

Competition in the global aviation industry is fierce, with the emergence of many low-cost carriers. This is good news for travellers, who have perhaps never enjoyed such bountiful competition for their travel dollar. But it's been bad news for Qantas shareholders who have watched their share price struggle. For them, the present way of doing business is not working; time to try something new.

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And that, under the stewardship of the Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, is to head north. Qantas will establish two Asia-based airlines, one lower-cost carrier based in Japan and one premium carrier in a yet-to-be determined Asian location, perhaps Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.

Amid the declining power of the United States and Europe, Asia remains the most likely driver of economic growth this century. Indeed, the Gillard government has dubbed this the ''Asian century''. And so it seems appropriate that Australia's iconic national airline should mirror the Australian economy more generally and hitch its wagon to the Asian growth story.

But Qantas is not the icon it once was. Declining revenues and cost cutting have caused the slow erosion of its once-proud reputation for customer service. Australians no longer view flying as the luxury experience it once was, but rather something we do by necessity, to get from A to B. Passengers want an airline that operates safely and on time while delivering cheap deals and value for money.

The challenge for Qantas is to hit these new markers while also turning a profit. Joyce has a fight on his hands, made no less so by the fractious nature of his relationship with his largely unionised staff. Unions representing pilots, cabin crew and engineers have indicated they will fight planned job cuts of about 1000 positions.

It is easy to sympathise with workers who face losing their jobs. And cuts must not come at the expense of safety. But structural changes in the global aviation industry demand that Qantas explore ways to save money. No one's job is made safer when Qantas' international flights fail to turn a profit.

Qantas' Asian strategy is a high-stakes gamble, but one that appears to offer the best odds of success.


A great change is upon the west

THE restructuring of Qantas and other big Australian service-sector companies is but part of the great shifts in our economy and society caused by the rise of modern industrial nations in Asia. The rush for Australia's mineral and energy resources is starting to undermine our long-standing patterns of human settlement.

In the darkest days of the Pacific war, our defenders drew up the famous ''Brisbane line'' within which were then our key cities, industries and resources. The rest was mostly a vast and unproductive expanse across which invaders would have to struggle. Now our strategists would have to weigh in assets such as the Queensland coalfields, the Pilbara iron ore mines, and what - with the $43 billion offshore gas developments around Barrow Island - will be the world's biggest liquefied natural gas industry.

Building and running these industries is a huge, mostly temporary workforce (20,000 in the Pilbara alone) who fly in from homes as far away as Tasmania or New Zealand for intensive work spells of two weeks, interspersed with longish breaks.

The fly-in, fly-out model worries many. It robs small and remote towns near projects of the investment and business that would otherwise be a spin-off. Families are deprived of their men (in most cases) for much of the year. The workers could be more prone to excessive drinking or drug abuse, or depression. A sleazy camp culture can develop in the absence of families.

Some studies suggest it will be a short-lived phenomenon anyway. Much of this workforce is engaged in constructing facilities that will need only a small operating workforce when completed. The law of supply and demand will gradually fill the local housing shortages that make fly-ins more competitive.

The limited social studies suggest most workers cope quite well with the routine. Their big pay packets, meanwhile, boost the struggling communities in the south where their families live. For Aboriginal communities, which were devastated by the first iron ore boom of the 1960s but are now much more empowered, the new investment wave offers opportunities as well as dangers.

We suspect that gradually a terrain once judged by all but a few non-indigenous Australians as too harsh and subject to climatic extremes for settlement will gradually come to be appreciated, and that the existing string of small towns around the north-west will grow in population and sophistication, just as we've seen with Darwin. Already we're hearing worries expressed that Broome, for example, could become ''another Dubai''. Great change is upon us.





THE Coalition and Greens instigated a federal parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention two months ago. The terms of reference require the committee to inquire into and report on, among other things, the effects of detention on asylum seekers and their wellbeing, reasons for riots and unrest, and ''the impact, effectiveness and cost of mandatory detention and any alternatives, including community release''. Yet MPs seemed surprised at the opening address by Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe, who urged the politicians to consider the human impact, costs and effectiveness of mandatory detention and to look at the alternatives. Evidence to the inquiry leads naturally to such questions, yet the major parties are deaf to his call.

Labor and Coalition members' failure to pursue Mr Metcalfe's line of reasoning betrayed their focus on playing politics instead of seeking better, more effective and humane policy. Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison - apparently under the impression that the Coalition, not Labor, invented mandatory detention - immediately demanded the government clarify its position, saying Mr Metcalfe's remarks sent the wrong message to people smugglers. In a swift response, the government made ''no apologies'' for mandatory detention as ''an essential component of border control''.

If only politicians and the public had regard for the facts and for Mr Metcalfe and his department's insights. They should listen properly to what he had to say. The human costs are out of all proportion to the few thousand held in detention. Up to July, 1507 detainees were hospitalised this year, including 72 psychiatric admissions and 213 for self-inflicted injuries. More than 700 were treated for ''voluntary starvation''. Detention costs soared to $772 million in 2010-11. The statistics and the rhetoric are all depressingly familiar - those responsible show no sign of acknowledging the unjustifiable costs of their policies.

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What does Australia have to show for this? Mr Metcalfe even asked: ''Is immigration detention a deterrent?'' It has been in place since 1992 and did not stop almost equal waves of boat arrivals in 1999-2001 and 2009-11. Mr Metcalfe pointedly highlighted the success of the alternative approach, under which 1765 people, including 841 children, have been put in community detention since last October. He would like community programs expanded as a less costly, more efficient and humane policy. The major parties still seem determined to defy reason, squander public money and sacrifice asylum seekers on the altar of politics.






The list of worrying conservation policies is too long.

THE Liberal Party in Victoria has a proud history of protecting the state's environmental heritage. Sir Rupert Hamer's government of the 1970s, in particular, left a legacy of environmental concern and legislative reform that continues to enrich the state's famed liveability. The Hamerite Victorian Liberal tradition is founded on such things as the strengthening of environmental protection laws under the watch of an independent and well-resourced Environmental Protection Authority and, perhaps most valuably, the creation of so-called green wedges between Melbourne's transport corridors to act, in Sir Rupert's memorable phrase, as the ''lungs of the city''. It would therefore be surprising, and distressing, if the Liberal/National Coalition government of Ted Baillieu were to preside over a diminution of Victoria's natural assets. Yet, the early signs are not good.

Over summer, the new government took the retrograde step of allowing cattle grazing to resume in the National Heritage-listed Alpine National Park, arguing that more scientific research was needed on the discredited claim that grazing significantly reduces fire risk in the high country. The National Parks Association aptly condemned the study as ''the terrestrial version of Japan's scientific whaling'', and the federal government appropriately intervened to protect the park. In the absence of evidence that grazing can be done without further degradation, we believe the state government should abandon its plans to return cattle to the park again next summer.

Last month, The Saturday Age reported that Planning Minister Matthew Guy has written to councils asking for them to provide wish-lists of changes they would like to see in their green wedge areas. It is telling that developers have welcomed the move, but environmentalists are deeply concerned. Sir Rupert's widow, Lady Hamer, was moved to write a letter to the editor, warning that any encroachment into green spaces was irreversible and urging that today's legislators keep faith with her husband's vision.

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''Speculators, of course, will disagree, but remaining faithful to the original intention of the green wedges would give us all a more disciplined, sustainable and welcoming city for future generations,'' she wrote. We urge Mr Baillieu and Mr Guy to resist any temptation to compromise the integrity of green wedges to satisfy developers' wishes.

Yesterday, The Age revealed that Victoria's old-growth forests could be opened to more logging under a Baillieu government plan to dilute long-standing environmental laws designed to protect threatened species. The Department of Sustainability and Environment has quietly begun looking at the state's 23-year-old Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act with a view to ensuring logging proposals are less likely to be derailed by evidence of the existence of animals deemed to be endangered. Departmental sources say the government is concerned that environment groups are becoming increasingly skillful at capturing footage of endangered species to thwart logging operations. Victoria's interests are indeed ill served if spurious claims made by over-zealous environmentalists are allowed to prevent legitimate commercial activities. But bone fide evidence of threats to the habitats of endangered species must continue to be afforded due weight in decisions about the timber industry. Victorians are entitled to hear more from the government about its intentions for the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act specifically, and its attitude to the protection of endangered species more generally.

The pattern that is emerging on environmental policy calls into question the Baillieu government's commitment to conservation. Mr Baillieu is often cited as a progressive Liberal in the Hamer tradition. On the environment, as elsewhere, he needs to do more to earn the comparison.








Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement is posing an increasingly serious challenge to the Indian government

The practical and sometimes dirty business of power-seeking and deal-making has in the past been countered in Indian politics by periodic impulses to transform society root and branch. This dualism was famously embodied in the divide between Nehru and Gandhi, partners but also rivals in the Indian independence movement.

The two men had profoundly different ideas on the direction in which India ought to go, Nehru seeing a future India as a great industrial and military power, while Gandhi wanted a society which would keep the worst aspects of modernity at bay while transcending caste, class and religious differences. Although such later figures as Vinoba Bhave and JP Narayan carried on to make their mark on India after Gandhi, it has become commonplace to say that the Gandhian tradition has largely petered out in recent years.

Not quite. Anna Hazare, the 74-year-old former soldier whose anti-corruption movement is posing an increasingly serious challenge to the Indian government, has certainly borrowed both style and technique from the Mahatma. He wears plain white clothes, if not the actual homespun on which Gandhi insisted. Like Gandhi, he fasts. Like Gandhi, he goes to prison – and sometimes refuses to come out. Like Gandhi, he has a model village, in his case in his home state of Maharashtra. Like Gandhi, he is against tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Like Gandhi he has mobilised large numbers of Indians, many thousands of whom have been demonstrating in New Delhi and other cities after Manmohan Singh's government made the mistake of arresting him two days ago. Anger at corruption, of both the grand and the petty kind, has never been so intense.

The basic issue is simple. Mr Hazare and his followers want a powerful anti-corruption agency established, something that various governments had promised in the past. The prime minister pushed legislation to create such an agency, but without giving it powers to investigate the senior judiciary and the prime minister's office, or to pursue the lower- level officials who make life an expensive hell for Indians seeking driving licences, passports and other documents. Mr Hazare will not accept this, while Mr Singh says democracy is being subverted.

Mr Hazare does not have, or aspire to, anything like Gandhi's stature. He does not confront, as Gandhi did, his followers' complicity in social evils, an aspect of his career underlined by the subtitle – His Struggle With India – of a recent book on Gandhi. But Mr Hazare has found an issue – and is exerting a leverage which on balance must be good for India.





It is both barmy and potentially catastrophic for all countries to reduce deficits simultaneously when the world economy is on the brink of recession

The western world is running out of economic steam. The US has experienced a sharp slowdown and was joined this week by the eurozone, which reported annualised expansion of only 0.5%. Britain is running on near empty and Japan is in the negative zone. Tuesday's meeting between Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy produced some interesting, if controversial, ideas for the medium and long term – convergence of fiscal policies, common corporation tax, balanced budgets and even a tax on foreign exchange transactions – but nothing to avoid the increasing danger of a double-dip recession. There is much talk of the need for strong leadership to get us out of this mess but no one has come forward to do the job. However, help may be at hand.

In an article this week Christine Lagarde, recently appointed managing director of the International Monetary Fund, made some practical suggestions that many IMF member countries dare not say out loud. She argued for a Goldilocks approach to fiscal consolidation – neither too fast nor too slow. While endorsing consolidation in the medium term she warned that "slamming on the brakes too quickly will hurt the recovery and worsen job prospects", a view echoed yesterday by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, which urges a modest loosening in the UK, focused on growth-enhancing measures. These, it says, would "improve prospects for output and employment with little or no negative effect on fiscal credibility". George Osborne, the chancellor, still regards such views as on the "outer fringes" of the economic debate.

It is both barmy and potentially catastrophic for all countries to reduce deficits simultaneously when the world economy is on the brink of recession. What is needed is international collaboration among stronger economies with spare capacity – Germany, the US, France, Japan and the UK for a start – to spend money on employment-generating or investment measures to boost long-term growth. Britain this week announced some modest things including an expansion of broadband to country areas (though at modest speeds compared to competitors) and more tax-friendly enterprise zones (though these have yet to prove they will boost jobs rather than shift them from other areas). But this will not be enough to stem the rise in unemployment, which, as yesterday's figures show, grew to 7.9% in July.

Much bolder initiatives are needed. These include short-term boosts such as mending roads, accelerating the return of call centres to the UK and refurbishing the housing stock, and longer-term ones to increase growth, for which there are big opportunities as the digital revolution reaches every nook of the economy. Sir James Dyson is right: incentives are needed for companies to invest in R&D during the recession. Practically everyone agrees that clean tech and renewables are strong growth areas which could help revive engineering prowess. The biggest exporters do well, but smaller companies need to be galvanised to seize the opportunities created by a weaker pound. The rise of internet-based entrepreneurialism is a hugely positive factor where government could help by enabling links with universities in the way that has produced so many web giants in the US. Government could also help by tackling the obstacles preventing able-bodied young people from taking jobs in the service industries.

Not everything is gloom. Asian countries continue to provide exporting opportunities, as do some east European economies. Even Ireland is beginning to show signs of a comeback. But unless the west seizes this opportunity it will have only itself to blame if the world slithers into a downward spiral of fiscal retrenchment leading to lower revenues and further contraction. Yes, there are risks to a short-term stimulus – but they are tiny compared with the risk of continued fiscal strangulation.







In 1844, Gladstone ensured that working people were not priced out of the railway system

As they contemplate a looming fare increase of 8% – up to 13% in some cases – disconsolate riders on England's rush-hour railway trains might wish that their destiny was in the hands not of the transport minister Theresa Villiers, who on Tuesday blithely dismissed their fate as having to pay "a little more", but in those of one of the most eminent Tories to preside over railway travel: William Ewart Gladstone. In 1844, Gladstone introduced a Railway Regulation Act designed, among other things, to ensure that working people were not priced out of the system. The device he chose became known as the "parliamentary train". Reluctant railway operators were required to run at least one a day, at an average speed of 12 mph, stopping at every station, with a minimum standard of comfort – for even third-class passengers deserved, in Gladstone's view, cover over their heads, and seats – at a maximum cost of no more than a penny a mile. In return, the companies got tax concessions. That was only the half of it: he also proposed a system of regulation involving a level of state intervention rare at that time, right up to the point of nationalisation. His "parliamentary" service was sabotaged by some companies, and in time collapsed, but it set a pattern that even apostles of laissez-faire came to accept. As heirs of the party he later led, especially since it's one that prizes its green credentials, the Liberal Democrats might revive their fortunes if, faced with Ms Villiers, they summoned up the spirit of Gladstone now.






Since a state budget serves as a communication system, conveying signals about government behavior, prices, priorities and commitments, the 2012 spending plan proposed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to the House of Representatives on Tuesday is rather unimaginative.

Given the uncertainty about the global economic outlook due to the lingering debt woes in Europe and increasing indications of an economic slump in the United States, the world's largest economy, the budget proposal is acutely short of bold moves to seize on the growth momentum the country has seen over the past two years.

No wonder the government expects the economy to grow by only 6.7 percent next year, up by a mere 20 basis points from 6.5 percent estimated for this year, still far below its growth potential of 7.5 to 8 percent.

The government plans to increase total spending by 7.4 percent to Rp 1,418.5 trillion (US$161.2 billion based on Rp 8,800 to the dollar as assumed in the budget for 2012), but in real terms the budget expansion would only be around 2 percent, adjusted for 5 percent inflation this year.

Yet more discouraging is the government's misguided policy of allocating nearly Rp 170 trillion for fuel and electricity subsidies, which are enjoyed mostly by the middle and high-income groups. That wasteful spending will be three times as large as the budget allocation for poverty alleviation and social safety net programs.

True, the energy subsidies will be 12 percent less than this year, but the reduction will be made possible mostly by the projected decline in oil prices next year due to the weakening global economic growth.

The government simply does not have any well-designed energy policy to reduce its budget vulnerability to the widly volatile oil prices.

The almost 20 percent increase planned in capital spending to Rp 168.1 trillion should be welcomed as a bold step to accelerate the development of basic infrastructure because poor and inadequate infrastructure is now the biggest barrier to investment and economic expansion.

But we don't expect much in this sector either due to the acutely inadequate institutional capacity for budget execution and the protracted House debates on the land acquisition bill over the past year. This bill will not likely be enacted this year.

Unfortunately, complex and arduous land acquisition procedures have been blamed by and large for the slow pace of government investment. For example, only about 10 percent of the total capital expenditures budgeted for this year was implemented during the first half of the year.

We are afraid, the pace of investment spending may even become slower next year in the wake of the series of corruption scandals implicating Muhammad Nazaruddin, former treasurer of the ruling Democratic Party, in rigging tenders for dozens of government procurement programs.

On the revenue side, the government set a big challenge for itself by targeting a 16 percent icrease in tax receipts. This target is highy ambitious given the only slight rise expected in economic growth, compared to this year. This means the tax office should go all out to expand the taxpayer base and improve the tax administration to prevent tax evasion.

We support the government's programs to further reduce its debt ratio against the gross domestic product from 25 percent this year to 24 percent next year and the fiscal deficit from 2.1 percent to 1.5 percent.

These programs will strengthen our macroeconomic stability and further decrease our sovereign risks in weathering the highly volatile global financial market.





When I graduated from college in 1978 — 33 years ago — I was told that by 2000 Indonesia would have joined the ranks of developed countries. Unfortunately this did not materialize.

What are the main causes of Indonesia's failure to reach the coveted status today, after 66 years of independence, while it took our neighbors a far shorter time?

The problem is that development has so far been regarded more as producing goods or services rather than improving human and institutional capabilities.

Therefore, we may have a trade account surplus, but suffer a huge deficit in the service account. The only surplus in the service account is for migrant workers remittance and travel (tourism). In addition, surplus in trade is dominated by conventional products that rely on cheap labor and natural resources.

I consider the economic process an evolutionary course of cultural change. Culture changes very slowly. It takes generations to absorb cultural change. It is believed that cultural change will transform almost everything in both human and national life.

One of the most important factors our country has missed in the past, and even to the present time, are the learning mechanisms that enrich cultural exchanges among diverse cultural groups in Indonesia.

In fact, the process of cultural enrichment is inhibited by the domination of certain cultural powers that are strengthened by specific power structures.

The domination and structural bias creates the weaknesses of the present situation.

One of the sources of fire that will spark potential future conflicts that could endanger the unity of Indonesia is the emerging cultural hopelessness among the majority of people. The domination of a certain cultural group in economic, political or military fields will be interpreted as no future for those considered outsiders.

When the majority of people begin to feel they have no future, the nation is in danger. This feeling will divide the former cultural cohesiveness into a new form of cultural uncertainty. The emergence of terrorism, I believe, has been induced by cultural hopelessness and cultural uncertainty.

To ensure a better future for Indonesia, we have to go back to the basics. We have to throw away the feelings of superiority or inferiority over one or another cultural group and recreate the feeling of brotherhood among all groups in Indonesia.

Local autonomy must be interpreted as a new vehicle to build a stronger Indonesia. A strong central government is needed to protect all cultural groups under the Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) principle. Indonesia is for all and all for Indonesia.

In order to improve a new cultural process of development, we need to develop a new structure of rules of representation of all cultural groups in Indonesia, which will enable them to fully participate in decision making processes.

In the current political power constellation we have the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), which represents regional or local interests, and the House of Representatives (DPR), which represents the interests of political parties. We may say that the DPD is the direct political protector of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, but unfortunately its political power is limited compared to its responsibilities.

Given the frame of thought followed by its implementation, I believe the current generation will positively contribute to our country. Indonesia is not a homogenous geographic territory, in almost every aspect, especially cultural heritage. By seeing development not as a process of producing goods and services, but as a means of progress, people can move forward in line with what the Constitution has mandated.

Cultural resources are dynamic, but their principles are not. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika is the spirit to build Indonesia as one nation and one united country dotted by cultural groups that resemble "shareholders" in a corporation.

Reinterpretation of the meaning of that spirit is necessary from time to time to determine more constructive approaches and better interpretations of what this country is for.

We have to work very hard over the next 33 years if we wish to witness our next generation celebrate the 99th anniversary of Indonesian independence in 2044 as a stronger and more prosperous nation.

The writer is a researcher and chairman of the Union of Associations of Indonesian Estate Crops Farmers.






Every year during Ramadhan, Muslims all over the world fast. Fasting in this month is an obligation for adult Muslim men and women who are healthy physically and mentally.

Fasting in Indonesia normally lasts for 13-14 hours when people refrain from eating, drinking and having sex during the day.

Fasting if done correctly has been proven to be healthy, as written by Tommy Dharmawan in his article "Is fasting during Ramadhan really a healthy ritual?" (The Jakarta Post, Aug. 1, 2011).

Religions other than Islam also have fasting traditions, although it may not similar to that practiced by Muslims.

Early this month the media published reports on some local governments and religious institutions which appealed for people to "respect" the holy month and those who are fasting.

In some regions to "respect" means not allowing people who do not fast, to eat or drink in public. Restaurants and cafes should not open during the day. They can only do their business in the evenings. Also, bars and other entertainment places are required to close during Ramadhan.

In fact it is often not just an appeal but an enforced rule in which police, public order officers and some hard-line religious organizations conduct raids on those violating the rule.

Even the mayor of Bengkulu threatened to dismiss civil servants and promised a Rp 1 million (US$ 117) reward for anybody who reported a civil servants for not fasting. Recently, media reported that police in Bengkulu city arrested four civil servants who were caught eating in a restaurant during the day.

Do we really need such a policy? I wonder why (some) people who are fasting demand "respect" from others. Is it because — when compared to other rituals — fasting is hard as it requires both physical and mental strength?

While there should be mutual respect between people of different faiths, in my opinion it is too much to ask those who are not fasting — either Muslims or non-Muslims — to restrict their right to meet their needs i.e. eating, drinking and doing their business during the day, and punish them for it.

It may create an impression that people who fast perform it involuntarily and cannot accept seeing others eating and drinking during the day while they are hungry and thirsty.

Even not all Muslims are fasting such as the elderly, young children, menstruating women, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and sick people.

In regions with four seasons, fasting in winter is easier as it lasts for fewer hours and the weather is cold. On the contrary, fasting in summer is harder as it lasts longer and the heat is scorching.

In countries where Muslims are the majority, like Indonesia, the social situation "supports" rituals that ease fasting, such as changes in working schedules and other activities. This cannot be found in countries where Muslims are the minority.

Where ever we fast, if we do it voluntarily and have strong faith in what we do, whatever the challenge we have to face.

From a sociological point of view, public policies mirror the culture, the society, the majority versus minority, the mainstream and those who are in power. Public policy formulation is not an easy task though as it may involve a conflict of interests among different parties.

However, it is important for policy makers to ensure that no public policies violate any rights and discriminate against the minority.

It is also important to uphold public interests, mutual respect and tolerance between people of different faiths.

Respect for those who fast should be built from mutual respect, rather than restrictive and formal policies.

The writer is a lecturer at Parahyangan Catholic University's School of Social and Political Sciences in Bandung.






Problems in public finance in the US and Europe have spooked markets. The debt ceiling debacle in Washington DC shows how divided politics has become.

Riots first in Greece and now in the UK dramatically signal how governments struggle as downturns upend the expectations of citizens. Even as order is being restored, the outlook is for a potential recession in the West, and an accompanying political malaise.

Coming in the wake of uprisings in the Arab world, there are reasons to worry that for too much of the world, Spring is turning into a long and torrid Summer. What of Asia?

For most countries for much of the past year, the region has withstood contagion from revolutionary politics, and continued to grow rapidly. Some may trumpet this as another step in the decline of the West and the rise of Asia. These relatively favorable conditions are however subject to change.

Global interdependence continues and many exports from Asian factories still seek a final consumer in the West.

Countries like the Philippines and India bank considerable remittances from workers abroad. A prolonged slump in Europe and the US will impact exports, industries and jobs across Asia.

What has buoyed Asian economies has been the China factor but now signs from the Asian giant must be closely watched. Economic growth is slowing, even as inflation rises and wage demands spiral. Rapid growth has been a lubricant for social and political frictions in the country, so this is more than an economic question.

Protests by the Uighur minority in early August may be a special case. But recent anger over the tragic train crash in China shows a restive public sentiment.

Since the turning point of the Foxconn protests in mid 2010, labor costs and fewer jobs have also been a specter.

China's intensely domestic issues matter more today than ever before. If Beijing cannot maintain economic growth and political stability, then bereft of the economic engines of the West, the impacts will be outsized across the region and for many multinationals.

Yet even if China is stable internally, its external influence is not always benevolent. Tensions have risen with others Asians over political and security issues like the South China Seas, Senkaku islands and Korean peninsula.

Thus even as some are concerned about an unstable Chinese economy, others fear an assertive Middle Kingdom attitude, especially if the USA is sidelined.

In a messy world, Asians are not inured.

Many hope the West is going through only temporary disruptions, and that their economies soon will recover, and polities heal. Few are prepared if the West is in sharp decline, for a global economic downturn and more political ruptures.

If governments cannot keep inflation down, problems can flare easily not only in the streets of Beijing, but in Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur. If they give in to populist gestures and do not discipline subsidies and stimulus spending, macroeconomic conditions can change quickly in a world of financial turmoil.

If protests break out in Asian cities, government use of force may be tougher than some think legitimate, as seen in the crackdown on the Bersih demonstration in Malaysia. Protests may be exploited by rival elite groups, in attempts to unsettle each other, as seen in Bangkok. Violence and casualties can therefore spiral, as easily as we have seen across the UK — if not worse.

Social cohesion and political compromise will be key factors to avoid such scenarios. For some countries, religion or nationalist institutions can provide such cohesion. Asia's elites as well as ordinary citizens must be prepared to cooperate and indeed make sacrifices. Such elements are neither unknown nor alien to Asia.

In times of downturn, workers in Singapore and elsewhere were not summarily laid off but instead cooperated with companies by staying at home until economic conditions improved.

In the Asian financial crisis of 1997, many Thais followed the example set by monks to make donations of gold to the Bank of Thailand. Now again, many will look to Thailand under new Premier Yingluck Shinawatra to see if promises of a minimum wage and infrastructure spending can be paired with some political accommodation.

Where finances allow, Asians should construct policies to provide better wages, safety nets of basic welfare and healthcare. Regionally, economies should open up more to each other.

This is not only for the benefits of free trade and investment but can help Asians collectively deal better with global shocks than any one can do alone.

If the world will get messier, Asia cannot presume its continuing rise. There are things that can and should be done, now in these relatively good times, to prepare for potentially worse days ahead.

The writer is chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and author of Asia Alone: The Dangerous Post Crisis Divide from America.





To promote sustainable long-term economic growth, Indonesia needs to build an effective and efficient market with low transaction costs and to correct market failures due to state ownership of financial institutions and family-owned banks.

Such an efficient market with symmetrical transfers of information can be promoted if there are good legal and accounting systems that protect individual property rights, enforce contracts and provide law and order.

The effective market should also regulate or substitute for market failures to prevent the socially costly bank runs and crises. Furthermore, internal and external macroeconomic stability should be stabilized to allow business and investment to flourish.

Poor market infrastructure is shown in part by certain evidence. First, the high cost of intermediation as shown by the high banking spread or net interest margin (NIM). A poor legal system lowers recovery rates and lengthens the time it takes to repossess loan collateral.

Financial institutions sometimes take the law into their own hands or use debt collectors to recover sour loans, as shown by the recent cases involving Melinda Dee and the alleged killing of a credit card customer at a Citibank office.

The market failures and morally hazardous regime in Indonesia have slightly decreased with the end of financial repressions, partial privatization of state-owned financial institutions and improvements to the regulatory system. Meanwhile, stricter enforcement of regulations on legal lending limits reduces the old practices of family-owned private banks lending mainly to themselves and their affiliated business ventures.

Moreover, the newly established deposit insurance company has replaced the blanket guarantee on bank deposits with limited amounts. But there is still a general perception that state-owned banks will not go bankrupt as the government will always bail out its own banks if short-term liquidity is needed.

The central government owns four commercial banks. It was a popular idea in the 1960s to establish state-owned development banks that raised long-term savings, including bonds, for financing long-term development projects. In reality, none of these development banks raised long-term savings and all of them operated like deposit-taking commercial banks and provided short-term commercial loans.

Both central and provincial governments have their own deposit-taking development banks and many secondary (rural) credit institutions that compete with money lenders. State-owned banks are well protected and, as a group, they have monopoly rights on public sector deposits.

During the long period of past financial repression, banks owned by the central government channeled credit, with low interest rates and low risks, to support government industrial policies. These banks frequently had to provide large volumes of loans to non-bank state-owned enterprises operating under budget constraints.

The central banks provided liquidity credit for financing these credit programs either from expansion of their balance sheets or from foreign borrowing. Banks owned by provincial governments acted as cashiers to their owners and mainly provided credit to local government employees to back-up their pay checks. Through such operations, the state-owned banks act as quasi-fiscal agents and are insulated from systemic risks.

The weak commercial orientation and limited risk management discipline eliminated incentives for managers of state-owned banks to monitor and manage risks, upgrade transparency in corporate reporting or provide relevant business information. Both the channeling banks and supervisors were more interested in checking the credit delivery according to intended purposes.

As credit was allocated based not always on economic considerations, the supervisors classified loans based on repayment of the credit rather than on the creditworthiness of borrowers or the market value of the pledged collateral. Such inefficient non-price allocation of financial resources resulted in poor asset quality and high levels of non-performing loans. Bank supervisory officers at that time received little training in the field of credit analysis and risk management in banking organizations.

Traditionally, every business conglomerate in Indonesia owns at least one interconnected family-owned bank. Prior to the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC) in 1997, the main role of such banks was to mobilize funds from the general public to obtain low-cost and risk-free refinancing from the central bank and overseas borrowings for meeting the financial needs of its commercial affiliates or subsidiaries.

Arm's-length transactions between banks and their affiliates were rarely detected and corrected by bank supervisors. The banks also provided credits to medium- and small-scale enterprises that were closely linked to their own business groups as suppliers or distributors. Consumer credits or mortgages to buy motor vehicles, appliances or real estate from the groups were supplied by the affiliated banks.

The practice may improve credit efficiency, as bankers have more information on affiliates compared with non-affiliates. Related lending, however, is prone to insider trading and principal agency problems as banks tend to evaluate loan applications from affiliates less rigorously than would be the case with unaffiliated credit applications.

The practices to give more preference to affiliated companies ended with the collapse of family-owned banks during the AFC and stricter implementation of tighter prudential rules and regulations after the crisis. The legal lending limits rules limit bank exposure to affiliates, including owners, managers and employees.

The transfer of banks' ownership from conglomerates to foreign investors during the crisis years in 1997-1998 significantly reduced the share of credit going to business affiliates. The new owners increased lending to medium and small enterprises as well as consumer credit to households.

To reach out to these customer classes, foreign banks collaborated with secondary banks, village banks, and introduced modern payment systems such as credit cards, debit cards, ATMs and e-banking.

The writer is former senior deputy governor of Bank Indonesia and professor of Monetary Economics at the University of Indonesia.




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