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Friday, August 19, 2011

EDITORIAL 19.08.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


Month August 19 edition 000815 collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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




























































































The Rajya Sabha deserves unqualified applause for successfully impeaching a tainted judge of Calcutta High Court, Justice Soumitra Sen. Once the Lok Sabha approves of the impeachment motion, which it is likely to do with a matching majority, later this month, Mr Sen will make history as the first judge to be removed from office for misconduct. Parliament would also make history for taking this extraordinary measure to cleanse the higher judiciary of corrupt individuals. The last (and first) time a judge faced impeachment in May 1993, the motion failed to muster sufficient votes in the Lok Sabha where it was introduced. Or else the dubious distinction which now goes to Mr Sen would have gone to Justice V Ramaswami of the Supreme Court. On that occasion, the Congress members of the House had abstained from voting, a shame that they shall never be able to live down. A third tainted judge, Justice PD Dinakaran, escaped impeachment by resigning from the office of Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court on July 29. Had he not taken that step, he would have faced the same fate as Mr Sen — in this season of sweeping popular unrest and mounting anger against corruption, it is unlikely that any party would have come to his defence, although it is surprising that the BSP members of the Rajya Sabha chose to vote in support of Mr Sen on Thursday. That vote is in conflict with Ms Mayawati declaring her support for Anna Hazare's crusade against corruption. It may have done nothing to fetch relief to Mr Sen, but it is bound to influence public opinion outside Parliament which would not be to the BSP's advantage.

Indeed, it is rather inexplicable as to why the BSP should have chosen to go against the tide, that too at a time like this. It would be absurd to suggest that Mr Sen is not guilty of the charges brought against him, especially his misappropriation of money kept in his custody as a High Court-appointed receiver, since they have been established through several inquiries, including those conducted by a committee of judges and a panel appointed by the Rajya Sabha.

That the higher judiciary has one corrupt judge less no doubt offers reason for satisfaction. But it does not necessarily help deal with the problem of corruption in the judiciary, more so the lower judiciary which forms the foundation of the justice system in our country. There is also the issue of judges with a tainted record escaping punishment of any sort; some are even rewarded with post-retirement jobs that allow them to live off the hard-earned money of taxpayers. Unfortunately, such judges are usually from the higher judiciary, a point exemplified by the former Chief Justice of India, Mr KG Balakrishnan who now occupies the office of the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission and is smugly confident that nothing shall ever be done to make him accountable for the charges levelled against him. The issue is really about ensuring that only individuals with unimpeachable integrity are appointed as judges at every level of the judiciary. We could dicontinue with the present system of appointment of judges in the higher judiciary by setting up a National Judicial Commission to replace the Collegium of Judges. But what about the bulk of the appointments that take place in the lower judiciary?






After meeting with French President Nicholas Sarkozy to discuss measures that would restore investor confidence in the embattled Eurozone, one of the first things that German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters at Élysée Palace is, "We can't solve problems in a big bang... What we are proposing will allow us to regain confidence step by step." In many ways, this approach is typical of modern day European diplomacy. Yet, what the Eurozone needs today is not a carefully measured, well-paced, almost piecemeal sort of response to the brewing crisis. It needs, in the words of Ms Merkel, a "big bang" response that will jolt the continent out of its debt-induced stupor and compel its leadership to take some bold and drastic measures. These are key to containing Europe's overwhelming sovereign debt crisis which earlier this month spread to Italy and Spain, forcing the European Central Bank to declare last week that it would purchase Government bonds from those two countries on a large scale. The ECB's decision was both historic and desperate at the same time, yet even that was not enough to stop panic selling within the Eurozone: A huge red flag that Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy refused to acknowlege. Little else could explain the rationale behind the two proposals that the leaders put forth in Paris on Tuesday. First, they recommended that all Eurozone countries amend their Constitutions as early as mid-2012 to make balanced Budgets binding on their nations — a fanciful legislation that Mr Sarkozy has failed to push through in France. Given that the deficit in Eurozone countries is estimated at 4.3 per cent of GDP, such legislation, which would also prohibit countries from applying the kind of stimulus measures that helped many of them tide over the crisis early on in 2009, is not only untenable but equally damaging. Moreover, it does little to change the spending habits of Eurozone members which is essentially what lies at the core of the crisis.

The second proposal was to impose the Tobin tax on financial transactions but this will only bring about insignificant results and should really be avoided since it runs the risk of shooing away investors to non-taxed markets. The Tobin tax would have made sense if currency speculation, excessive trading, etc, were at the root of the crisis; but in Europe that is not the case at all. At this point, if there is one thing that can possibly shore up investor confidence it is if all Eurozone countries agree to pool together their debts in the form of Eurobonds, and promise to pay it back as one financial entity. And this was the one measure that the two leaders kept off the books, possibly because it would mean that Germany — the only financially sound European country — would have to shoulder the bulk of the burden.








The ridicule that the Congress has been exposed to following its amateurish response to Anna Hazare's protest will return to haunt it again and again.

It is tempting to look upon the Anna Hazare episode as the UPA Government's very own Kandahar. Just as that extraordinary surrender on a cold, windswept day in Afghanistan came back to haunt the BJP over and over again, the public ridicule the Manmohan Singh Government has been exposed to will be with it till the end of its term.

The manner in which a single political activist, strengthened by nothing but his cussed moralism and the sense that public sentiment was with him, began 24 hours of bargaining with the Government of India was bewildering. True, it spoke of the empowerment of the Little Man in a democracy, but it also reflected the collapse of the Government's credibility.

Mr Hazare played hardball. He refused to leave Delhi's Tihar Jail till the Government more or less conceded his right to fast at a location and for a length of his choosing. One by one, he got the Government to agree to not extern him on release; to agree to a three-day fast; to agree to a seven-day fast; to agree to a 14-day fast. It was slow murder, played out in real time on television.

The UPA Government has shown a fundamental weakness and a lack of political finesse. How long before others exploit it? This doesn't necessarily mean a series of copycat fasts. It just lays bare the Government's essential vulnerability.

The Kandahar analogy is both appropriate and yet not so. The NDA Government was not responsible for the original sin in 1999 — the hijacking of the plane once it took off from Kathmandu. It's only misstep — but a fundamental misstep — was to allow the plane to leave Amritsar, where it landed temporarily.

In the case of Mr Hazare, the Congress and its posse of too-clever-by-half Ministers and spokespersons have faltered at every stage. They created this crisis by seeking to thwart an essentially political agitation with bureaucratic stonewalling and using the expedient of denying permission, citing obscure regulations.

A backlash was inevitable. The Congress's response to it was further denial. India has seen a genuine middle-class protest in the past few days. The Congress discounts this, alleging it is all BJP-RSS mobilisation.

The BJP has been accused of "playing politics". In saying this, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told the Opposition in Parliament, "You are not protecting the dignity of the House … Hazare's fast and his demands are un-constitutional." This is strange logic. If the Government makes mistake after mistake, and puts off vast sections of people, isn't the Opposition bound to grab the opportunity?

To go back to the Kandahar incident, it is an open secret that relatives of hijacked passengers were joined and instigated by Youth Congress workers to add to the pressure on the NDA Government. Was not the Congress then 'playing politics' with national security and oblivious to 'protecting the dignity' of India?

There are two principal lessons for the Congress from the past week. First, it can continue to pretend the issue is one of a battle between competing versions of the Lok Pal Bill — the Government draft and the activists' draft. That is not how most people see it. They are not so much supporting Mr Hazare and his Jan Lok Pal Bill — which, let it be said, is severely flawed and no guarantor of a corruption-free India — as they are showing their hostility to a Government they regard as insensitive.

People don't turn against a Government, much less come out on the streets, over any one issue. It is usually a combination. In this case, corruption — especially egregious and publicly visible corruption in the form of the Commonwealth Games swindle — has been complemented by inflation, economic uncertainty and a sense of listlessness in the UPA regime.

It is easy to argue that all of these are long-term, systemic problems. They will not go away by simply getting rid of one Government. This is true. Yet when that Government is not seen as showing sufficient urgency in tackling these concerns and actually appears to be underplaying them, it can hardly escape blame.

The corruption-inflation correlation needs to be made. As travels outside Delhi have made apparent — at least to this writer — the unremitting price surge is the number one talking point among ordinary Indians. It beats corruption hollow. However, it also adds to the disgust with corruption: "We are paying through our noses for food, while those fellows are stashing away billions." That is why the corruption-linked protests are only a symptom of a larger unrest.

That unrest, that energy and that heady (or surly, depending on where you stand) emotionalism was evident in the past few days. It will probably be on display at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan as Mr Hazare's fast intensifies in the coming fortnight. It is not going to go away. Elements of it will crystallise into an anti-Government vote in 2014, never mind which party or politician benefits.

Second, unfortunately or otherwise Indian politics is increasingly driven by media images and television theatre. The Congress's communication management is, frankly, abysmal. Some of its spokespersons — including at least one Minister — come across as loud and obnoxious on television, unwilling to listen to anything but their own voices.

This has a deep impact on fence-sitters and just normal people, those without an ideological position on the Jan Lok Pal Bill.

The 'Anna versus Congress' story was a replay of David versus Goliath: It is impossible for the politician to win such a PR battle. He has to duck the issue, appear humble and polite, and wait for his chance. An overzealous outburst is a complete no-no. Here Mr Manish Tewari's insistence that Mr Hazare was "involved in corruption from top to bottom" and his claim that the so-called Team Anna comprised "armchair fascists, over-ground Maoists, closet anarchists … lurking behind forces of right reaction and funded by invisible donors whose links may go back a long way abroad" was spectacularly badly timed.

A few days later, his colleague, Mr Rashid Alvi, added to it by wondering if the Americans were backing Mr Hazare. In the 1970s, this would have been a convenient conspiracy theory to spin, with quiet briefings to two or three friendly reporters. In 2011, with 24x7 media scrutiny, it only ends up making the Congress — and the UPA Government — seem a bunch of amateurs.








It's important for Anna Hazare and his fellow civil society activists to become more flexible and respectful towards the democratic process to give a bigger thrust to their India Against Corruption movement. Team Anna cannot be arrogant and sanctimonious all the time

I was too young then to really remember it all, but I have heard from many people that the mass protests generated by the arrest of Anna Hazare are similar to the uprising led by the late Jayaprakash Narayan in the mid-1970s. In fact, it was the mass protests and the chaos that followed and a historic blunder by Mrs Indira Gandhi that led to the imposition of Emergency in 1975. Many people are comparing today's situation to the Emergency days.

The people of India are so fed up and so disgusted with corruption and our rotten and corrupt system that the wave of protests we see is hardly surprising. I have often publicly called India not a democracy but a demonocracy where crooked politicians and their criminal cohorts are openly plundering the nation, well aware that a dysfunctional judicial system will allow them to get away. In almost all cases, they have actually got away and have hence acquired the arrogance and swagger of pirates who know they are above and beyond the law.

To that extent, the waves of protests, demonstrations, candlelight vigils and passionate slogans that are being witnessed across the nation were inevitable. And there is little doubt that the simplicity and stark clarity of the message being delivered by Anna Hazare has convinced thousands and thousands of Indians that he is a modern day messiah. One still remembers the Jantar Mantar fast of April when I was moved to write very strongly in favour of Anna Hazare and even bring out a special supplement on the power of civil society protests. I still think there is enormous power and truth in the anti-corruption message that Anna Hazare is delivering.

Yet, I must confess that I do find some things a little disturbing. I know passions and emotions are running high at the moment and that I run the risk of being vilified as a Government stooge if I criticise Anna Hazare and his methods. But just as I have often gone against the tide and slammed the Government for many policies and actions, I feel strongly enough about this issue to point out to all passionate and emotionally charged Indians some basic home truths about this controversy.

Across India, people young and old are lambasting the Government for being arrogant as well as adamant. Often rightly, they are accusing the Government of not even bothering to listen to other viewpoints. There is no doubt that some highly irresponsible and uncalled for statements by senior leaders of the ruling alliance have strengthened this perception and further fuelled anger among people already fed up with corruption.

But if the Government is guilty of being adamant and arrogant, is not Anna Hazare guilty of being the same? Anna Hazare and his supporters accuse the Government of being intolerant and insensitive because it is refusing to accept their version of the Lokpal Bill which they call the 'Jan Lokpal Bill'. Are they not displaying intolerance and insensitivity when they routinely brand anyone who expresses doubts about their version of the Bill as a 'traitor' and a 'stooge'? How can Anna and his team declare so confidently that it is only their version of the Lokpal Bill that is perfect and no one else can say anything critical about it?

If the Government is hiding behind the fig leaf of a 'popular mandate' and the supreme authority of Parliament, isn't Team Anna guilty of hiding behind the fig leaf of sanctimoniousness? I fully support the right of Anna and his team to criticise the ham-handed manner in which it is treating the Lokpal Bill. But I also fully support the right of any Indian to criticise the draft prepared by Team Anna. Surely not blindly agreeing to whatever Anna says doesn't make a traitor out of an Indian? Quite frankly, over the last few months, both the Government and Team Anna have been guilty of being intolerant, inflexible and insensitive.

So many thousands of Indians are genuinely angry because some Congress leaders have publicly abused Anna and his team and accused them of being corrupt. But what has Team Anna been doing since April if not publicly abusing the Prime Minister, Parliament, elections and even democracy? I do agree that many should be abused in the Government, but at the end of the day there has to be a democratic way. It can't be imposed through the dictatorial will of one group just because it is able to generate popular frenzy. There is a Constitution, there are courts and there is an elected Parliament and things have to happen as per its guidelines. Anna must protest. But he can't be adamant about imposing his views. Protests have their own effect and change does happen. But it can't happen without support of our Constitution and democratic machinery.

As I write this, Anna Hazare is preparing to leave Tihar Jail. Many Indians see this as his indomitable fighting spirit. But come on. The Government blundered by arresting him in the first place after imposing stupid conditions on his fast. But mass protests have forced the Government to virtually cave in and surrender. It is publicly saying that Team Anna and his supporters can go on fast; it is publicly withdrawing all the stupid conditions.

So is Anna Hazare being gracious in victory? No, he is now insisting that he must be allowed to do whatever he wants and that the Government must surrender in totality to everything that he is demanding. Meanwhile, thousands and thousands of emotional supporters are at constant risk of physical harm as they protest across India. Is that not adamant, arrogant and insensitive?

As I pointed out at the beginning, I was too young during the early-1970s to clearly remember the events that led to the Emergency. But of course I do know that Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan is still a revered leader, a Gandhian who fought all his life for a cleaner and better India. Anna Hazare is already being hailed as another JP. But I also know this: Many unbiased historians who personally admire Jayaprakash Narayan now openly say and write that his inflexible manner and his call to fellow Indians to paralyse the nation was nothing short of being irresponsible and short-sighted. Will history judge Anna Hazare similarly?

The writer is a management guru and Editor, The Sunday Indian. ***************************************





The Cricket Board chose unfit players for England Test series

It is hardly surprising that the Indian cricket team's dismal performance in England has set tempers on fire in a country where the game is linked to national pride. Nor is it surprising that anathema has been called down upon cricketers. They are the ones out in the middle whose performance with the willow and cherry is what people flock to see, and who have applause showered on them when they deliver.

Of the several things that have fuelled the ire of the public and pundits, a principal one is the cricketers' attitude to the game. None other than the venerable Sunil Gavaskar has lashed out on the small screen that the way some of them conducted themselves on the field suggested that they just didn't care how the match went. Without the kind of proximity that Sunil Gavaskar has to the game and those who play it, this writer cannot swear endorsement of his stand. What, however, was reasonably clear even on the idiot box was that our men in white could not sustain their exertion except in short spells. They had England down on the mat on a couple of occasions during the first and second test matches but could not press their advantage home and the Brits bounced back in no time.

This short exertion span disorder — if one can put it that way — has been attributed to both fatigue and the baneful influence of an excess of one-day cricket. Both are credible explanations. The kind of murderous schedule cricketers have been put through would exhaust even Tarzan or the Phantom, the Ghost who walks. Understandably, players have been complaining of too much cricket and not understandably — except in terms of obsessive greed — the BCCI has been dismissing their plea.

There have, of course, been other factors at play, poor technique and inadequate preparation being two of them. The fell impact of the one-day tamashas, which encourage shots that are not in the book but fetch runs, is clearly manifest in case of the former. One can get away with improvising shots across the line of the ball while living dangerously for a short while at the crease but not during the prolonged ordeal of test matches when tempting providence could lead to dire consequences, and rather swiftly.

That the Indian team was going into the Test matches almost totally unprepared should have been clear to all even remotely aware of the challenges the conditions in England pose. Normally, the team plays several matches with county sides before the beginning of a Test series. In this tour, it was flung into Tests after playing just one match! This, of course, raises the question of the BCCI's role which, strangely, has not attracted the kind of outrage it should have. And this despite the fact that its culpability has been much greater than that of players. It is where the buck stops. Yet, it is a body where the shots are called by people who have never played the game at any significant level and whose ascent to power has principally been due to their skill in playing cricket's electoral politics, which, in turn, is a carry-over, in some cases, of their expertise in managing elections to legislatures.

It is not just a question of the BCCI fixing an absurd schedule for the current tour of England but, much worse, importing to the game an ethos alien to its original character and more appropriate to the corridors of predatory capitalism. Nothing underlines this more strikingly than the Indian Premier League, which is emblematic of the culture of sleaze overtaking the country and which belongs more to the realms of circus and sexual voyeurism — with revealingly-clad, gyrating girls on display — than the world of cricket.

The IPL treats cricketers as commodities for auction. A person who allows himself or herself to be auctioned accepts the measurement of his or her worth in terms of the auction price. Gradually, money becomes the measure of everything. Everything else, including the nation's and one's own honour, becomes secondary. The urge to stretch oneself beyond one's limits for victory in a test match is severely eroded. The result is the kind of indifference and listlessness one saw in the field.







The only reason why Anna Hazare, who till recently was unknown outside Maharashtra, has attained the status of a national hero is because the UPA Government has repeatedly mishandled his agitation

If anyone is to be blamed for the sudden larger-than-life persona of civil society leader Anna Hazare, it is the Government for it allowed him to assume such a role. Four months ago, Anna Hazare did not even have a fraction of the popularity he enjoys today. In fact, he was barely known outside of Maharashtra. He also had no Team Anna.

But then, Anna Hazare seized the issue of 'aam admi' based on which the Congress had come to power in 2004 and again in 2009. This made it difficult for the Congress as it could be seen fighting anyone but simply not the aam admi.

However, the defining moment of Anna Hazare's movement was the day he was arrested and sent to jail. At that moment, the fight moved from the Lokpal Bill to the citizen's right to protest which gathered him enormous support. The one telling picture of Anna Hazare meditating in Rajghat also added to his cause. That is when his popularity increased manifold and he became a larger than life persona.

Of course, the electronic media also built him overnight as one comparable to Mahatma Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan, and his movement against corruption is now likened to freedom struggle of yesteryears.

So the question is could his arrest have been avoided? The answer to that is yes. The Government could have handled Anna Hazare case with more sensitivity. If his arrest was a surprise, his release too has raised many eyebrows. Many would think that now if the genie is out of the bottle, it cannot be put back.

But arresting Anna Hazare was not the first mistake the Government had committed. Starting from April when Anna Hazare was fasting at Jantar Mantar, the Government had committed a series of one faux pas, one after the other.

First, the Government gave him legitimacy when he initially started talking about corruption. As the NDA convenor Sharad Yadav pointed out that while the Opposition had been discussing corruption and price rise, the Government gave Anna Hazare credibility by negotiating with him and his team. The Prime Minister met him, Ms Sonia Gandhi appealed to him to not go on a fast and finally, the Government in a knee-jerk reaction invited Team Anna to participate in the joint drafting committee on the Lokpal Bill. The Government in fact went all out to engage the Team Anna.

The next mistake was not handling the whole thing as a political issue but treating it as a legal issue instead. Political problems have to be dealt with political tact. But the Ministers in charge only talked in legal terms while Team Anna went ahead and mobilised public support. Then, when the Government tried to project Team Anna as one that was dictating terms to Parliament, the Opposition saw it fit to side with Team Anna in both Houses of Parliament. By now to the dismay of the Government, the focus had shifted from the Lokpal Bill to that of a citizen's right to protest peacefully. The Opposition had also united in blaming the treasury benches for mishandling the Anna Hazare issue.

The Government's third mistake was its failure to communicate to the public the rationale behind its decision to arrest Anna Hazare and his aides. This was despite the fact that a high profile group of Ministers had been put in charge. Team Anna, on the other hand, was not only media-savvy but also use the latest information technology including Twitter and Facebook to gain public sympathy. They even smartly recorded Anna Hazare's message on Youtube, even before he was arrested and televised the message as soon as he was taken into custody. In fact, the team has won the media war to a large extent for its ability to anticipate future events.

The Government's fourth mistake was perhaps to 'realise' that Anna Hazare was corrupt much after it had engaged Team Anna and involved it in the drafting of the Lokpal Bill. They dug out the old 2003 Justice Sawant report that alleged that Anna Hazare was corrupt. This personal vilification of Anna Hazare backfired to a large extent with the result that Mr Rahul Gandhi had to step in and make sure that there were no more personal attack on Team Anna.
fifth mistake was that after arresting Anna Hazare, the Government could have released him instead of allowing him seek bail. Since Anna Hazare refused to seek bail, he had to be lodged in Tihar Jail along with Suresh Kalmadi and A Raja. The Government did ultimately release him but if it had done this sooner, then it could have saved face.

So, with the Government not willing to yield and Team Anna, goaded on by huge public support, will there be any movement forward? For now, Anna Hazare has won the first two rounds — first, by finding his team a place on the joint drafting committee and the second round by forcing the Government to release him from jail. The Prime Minister has thrown up his hands saying he has no magical wand but if his Government is serious about tackling corruption, then it has to do better in handling this crisis. It should view this as a golden opportunity to rebuild its corruption-tainted image.







In his Independence Day speech Manmohan Singh has emphasised on the need for a second green revolution and the Food Security Bill. While making these comments, he has completely ignored the Supreme Court's proposal to distribute surplus food rotting in the open among the poor

Political observers, who watch the Congress-led ruling coalition's moves with suspicion, are somewhat alarmed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's refrain of launching a second green revolution, as well as the implications of the Food Security Bill. He stressed the need for a second green revolution in his Independence Day speech as well. Baffled commentators have since long been pointing out that before initiating this exercise, which requires enormous investment, policy-makers should try and implement the Supreme Court's proposal that surplus foodgrains be distributed free or at minimal cost to the poor and hungry, instead of rotting in warehouses or wherever.

It is a national scandal, with the media routinely reporting about sacks of foodgrains being left out in the open, in school rooms, beside roads, anywhere, exposed to the elements and assaults by rodents and pests. If the UPA Government is serious about feeding those who lack food security, it should have heeded the apex court's suggestion.

Instead, last August Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar had stated that it was not possible to distribute food grains free. But the Government was buying wheat at Rs 16 per kg and selling it for Rs 2 a kg to the poorest of the poor. It is difficult to ascertain whether such wheat is reaching all the targeted people. So far as storage of foodgrains is concerned, a large quantity continues to rot in the absence of proper facilities.

One might have assumed that after the ineptitude of the Food Corporation of India in this matter was exposed, remedial action would immediately have been initiated. That is expecting too much. Last August, seven FCI open godowns in Haryana's Kalyat, Kaithal district, were found full of mud. More than 10 lakh bags of wheat were reported to be rotting inside. The godowns were private, and had been hired by the FCI with the State Government's help. The colossal waste was replicated this year, with TV channel Headlines Today reporting:

"Hundreds of tonnes of wheat and rice are rotting in godowns across the nation — the reason being there is simply no space. So, while paddy sacks are dumped inside classrooms in Andhra Pradesh, wheat is left to rot on the roadside in Kurukshetra and sacks can be seen lining up parking lots of residential areas in the fertile wheat belt of Punjab and Haryana."

This is a criminal waste. The Prime Minister must explain to the nation why we need a second green revolution when India is said to be self-sufficient in foodgrains. The report estimates that foodgrains production including wheat, rice, pulses and coarse cereals will go up to a record 235.88 tonnes. The earlier record was 234.47 million tonnes in 2008-09. The report adds that the current storage capacity is 62.8 million tonnes, which is proving inadequate.

There were record rice and wheat stocks of 65.6 million tonnes in godowns in early June. The problem is expected to become worse after the kharif harvest arrives by September-October. Clearly, what ails India is a lack of will to create better storage and ensure that the hungry get access to foodgrains at an affordable rate, even free, during hard times.

Our cattle, too, should be fed the surplus since that would mean better milk yield. Non-dairy cattle can be saved from slaughter houses and deployed to till fields and for providing natural fertilisers, in place of agrochemicals. That is also a cheaper option for farmers, otherwise forced to borrow from banks to buy costly and toxic pesticides and fertilisers. The grain yield would be healthier without chemical residue, with people in southern Punjab reportedly afflicted by a range of cancers, infertility, neurological and other maladies, resulting from sustained use of agrochemicals.

Bumper harvests are negated by letting grain rot or be devoured by pests. The public distribution system, the ubiquitous ration shops of the socialist era, are rife with malpractices, with commodities being diverted to the open market, hoarded and misused. The Supreme Court had ordered enhancing storage facilities. There really would be no need for the food security legislation if the concerned agencies could ensure proper storage and distribution of foodgrains.

Mr Pawar has already voiced reservations about the mammoth cost and burden of the proposed legislation. He is reported to have written to the Prime Minister, suggesting direct cash transfer to target groups, in place of cereals and foodgrains. But such cash transfers are likely to reach the pockets of middlemen, in part or whole, just as essential commodities under the public distribution system are often diverted. Under the Food Security Bill, framed by the National Advisory Council, an extra constitutional body, the state will give 35 kg of foodgrains to each household below poverty line every month at Rs 3 for rice, Rs 2 for wheat, and Rs 1 for millets. General category households will be entitled to 20 kg of foodgrains at half the minimum support price.

The Government will undertake an agricultural survey, like the economic survey, before tabling the Bill. The second green revolution presumably will be launched to fulfil the commitments made in the Bill, with the Government expressing worry about the successive failure to achieve the targeted four per cent growth in agriculture in the last three Five Year Plans.

However, cynics interpret this as a prelude to letting in agro MNCs, with the second green revolution hinging on the latest agrochemicals, patented seeds and genetically engineered inventions, available at great cost. Traditional farming methods, more congenial to health and the economy, would perish. ***************************************







New Delhi's Ramlila Ground is the new stage for Anna Hazare's anti-corruption crusade. A deal between team Anna and Delhi police removed many restrictions on his hunger strike, including on its site and time limit. Which begs the question why the government chose not to be accommodative earlier, going in instead for the wholly avoidable third degree. By arresting a social activist who'd caught the popular imagination, it invited brickbats for its high-handedness. By capitulating subsequently, it showed it lacked the courage of its own convictions. By falling between two stools, the UPA has merely come across as out of sync with the public mood.

The Congress's bid to link the call for a strong Lokpal to a supposed conflict between elected MPs and unelected interlopers in the political space has been an exercise in obfuscation. Parliamentary democracy and participative democracy have never been mutually exclusive. By dubbing anti-graft protest as "fraught with grave consequences" for lawmaking, the prime minister misses this point. He'll do better to enunciate what his government intends to do about its Bill's perceived lacunae. There are several ways to move forward, from revisiting the controversy-generating oversights in its draft to having Parliament or a qualified, non-partisan panel consider the relative merits of the Lokpal and Jan Lokpal variants and suggest compromise solutions.

Manmohan Singh isn't wrong in saying that a Lokpal alone won't defeat corruption, especially when itself not subject to checks and balances. Here, India Inc's fear that a protracted legislative logjam on the issue could derail reforms is very relevant. Apart from striving to quickly resolve the Lokpal tangle, the PM must effectively communicate why broader reforms mustn't be lost sight of: it is one of our most powerful anti-corruption instruments. Industry voices have said less corruption means a proportionate rise in GDP growth that'll bring big returns: more jobs and revenue as well as resources to build schools, hospitals and infrastructure to empower people. In the anti-graft debate, this point needs driving home.

Singh's government hasn't lacked good ideas. It implemented the RTI Act. It initiated the UID project and proposes better targeting of subsidy, both of which can reduce systemic leakage. Reform by its nature generates transparency, linking political activity, policy making or services delivery to rules and results rather than discretion and clientelism. Hence its need in key economic sectors, be it to counter predatory middlemen exploiting poor farmers, politically patronised land or oil mafias or anti-competitive forces in areas from labour markets to mining. The UPA must welcome people's call for accountability in public life, seizing the opportunity to both expeditiously settle the Lokpal issue and push systemic reform. Expectations in new, youth-driven India are higher than ever before - on the street, in college campuses, in company boardrooms. The PM must respond, as the reformist he's known to be.








The Supreme Court has directed central universities not to lower admission cut-offs for OBC students below 10% of the minimum eligibility criteria for general category students. This will bring little cheer to the harassed student community as a whole. Struggling to fill a large number of quota seats, Delhi University colleges recently issued the 10th cut-off list for OBC scholars. Some institutions plan to lower cut-offs further. Not that this will help all the intended beneficiaries, many of whom are unable to compete with cut-offs soaring as high as 99 to 100%. Fearing that further reductions will affect academic standards, the DU vice-chancellor has asked colleges not to reduce the differential merit by more than 10%.

Last year 20 DU colleges failed to fill 50% of their OBC seats. Worse, transfer of vacant quota seats to the general category isn't policy in all institutions in the country. This, despite the fact meritorious students often find it difficult to gain entry into colleges of their choice. Transfer of seats is required to meet the demand for admissions of students scoring high marks. Ironically, 27% quota isn't of much help to target groups even today. Many students in the reserved category get admission only to drop out mid-way, unable either to cope with academic pressures or pass exams. The way out of this mess is for government to make a sincere effort to improve the quality of primary and secondary education in India. The less privileged access government schools blighted by lack of facilities and teacher apathy and absenteeism. This puts them at a competitive disadvantage later in life. Higher education quotas won't benefit the needy if schooling standards remain abysmally low.







Nobody within the government saw it coming. The middle class has risen massively in support of Anna Hazare, upsetting the government's calculations about being able to manage the anti-corruption movement easily. In doing so, the middle class has upended the received wisdom that it is politically apathetic.

Some element of that received wisdom must have played its part in the government's assessment that the Hazare group was just an unrepresentative bunch of civil society activists who would be easily browbeaten. That assessment has proven spectacularly wrong, with the government having to eat humble pie on the very day he was arrested. It's clear by now that Hazare's arrest was the spark that lit a prairie fire of protests across the country.

The middle class has stamped its character on those protests in many ways, not limited to the goodly number of professionals, white-collar workers, housewives and college students hitting the streets in support of Anna. The protests are novel in that they have been remarkably disciplined and peaceful wherever they have been staged - as opposed to the rioting, stone-throwing, brick-batting, arson, prolonged public bandhs and damage to property that are the norm for political protests in India.

Moreover, instead of being relayed through caste, clan and kinship networks or routed through political parties, the organisers have used modern forms of communication - such as text messages, Twitter and Facebook - or relied on secular civic organisations to quickly assemble large crowds. And there's no denying the role that saturation television coverage has played in transmitting their message.

That has caused some commentators to glibly conclude that the protests are a superficial TV phenomenon that will die down when the TV cameras go away. But the point about 24x7 news coverage is that the TV cameras never go away. In that sense, we live in an inherently tele-visual society; this has played a role in seminal events in history. The fall of the Berlin Wall, for instance, has been attributed partly to the beaming of West German TV images into East German homes, allowing people in the communist half a glimpse into life in West Germany.

For many of those who have hit the streets, it isn't really about the merits or demerits of the Jan Lokpal over the Lokpal Bill, of which they have only a hazy idea. Rather, the Lokpal debate is merely a trigger for the sense of inchoate rage they feel at a political system which displays contempt for their priorities. It's not divorced, for example, from their response to the outrageous loot of Commonwealth Games coffers, or to the fact that 76 MPs in the current Lok Sabha - 14% of its total strength - stand accused of not ordinary but serious crimes such as murder, kidnapping, extortion, rape.

For politicians of the old order (and professional pols belong mostly to the old order), only the two ends of the social spectrum matter. While moneyed elites can bring in the moolah, the poor masses have the votes. The middle classes don't figure in this equation. On the other hand, when a middle-class person looks at the taxes deducted from his hard-earned salary, he's liable to ask what the government is doing with his taxes. That's a basis of democratic politics everywhere, but given shoddy governance standards in India the answers - or more accurately the lack of answers - are likely to enrage him. Taken in its widest sense, the theme of corruption is just a metaphorical way of broaching the question - what are you doing with my money?

It's here that India has arrived at an inflexion point. The middle class (defined as those with monthly household income between Rs 20,000 and Rs 100,000) has exploded in numbers from 25 million in 1996 to 160 million currently. By 2015, it's expected to hit 267 million. That makes it a significant proportion of the electorate, a 'vote bank' politicians can no longer afford to overlook. Moreover, this rapid rise in numbers indicates a shift in the balance of power within the middle class itself. The 'new' middle class - which owes nothing to state employment - is eclipsing the 'old' middle class that was a creation of the pre-liberalisation Nehruvian state.

The old middle class is less likely to question the state, since it is dependent for employment, professional life and pensions on the state. Moreover, its symbolic economy and world view are convergent with that of the state itself, and therefore its needs are better taken care of. It is the new middle class that has reason to feel disconnected. And it will count more and more as a strategic factor in Indian politics.

Anna Hazare is just a catalyst who happens to chime with the middle-class mood today. But the arrival of the new middle class is a more lasting phenomenon than Hazare himself. Just like the TV cameras, this middle class is not going to go away. Smart politicians had better hone their strategies to co-opt middle-class rage. They ignore it at their peril.







Bangladesh's Parliament recently passed a 15th Amendment to its Constitution - restoring secularism. Bangladeshi MP and chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on ministry of law, Suranjit Sengupta, spoke to Rudroneel Ghosh about the need for this amendment and its implications:

What does the 15th Amendment mean for Bangladesh?

Bangladesh earned its independence through an armed liberation struggle against Pakistan and its supporters. The basis of our Constitution is the proclamation of independence. From this flowed the formation of the Mujibnagar government under which the liberation war was conducted and won.

Following independence, a constitutional presidential order created a constituent assembly. A 34-member constitutional committee was formed. I was inclu-ded as the lone opposition member. This committee drafted the Constitution in 1972. Demo-cracy, secularism, Bengali nationalism and socialism were the four fundamental pillars of the Constitution.

But those who lost the war could not accept this. They conspired and killed the father of our nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, and changed the Constitution. Short of making Bangladesh an Islamic republic, a sort of Muslim Bangla emerged. The 15th Amendment seeks to go back to the 1972 Constitution and its secular tenets.

What changes does the Amendment bring?

Although it's called the 15th Amendment, it is actually much more. It replaces as many as 51 articles. The amendment flows from the historic judgment of our Supreme Court last year, which said whatever changes had been made in the Constitution through extra-constitutional means are illegal. The Constitution can only be amended in the manner prescribed in the Constitu-tion itself.

Under martial law after Mujib's assassination, the military regime unconstitutionally amended the Constitution, including introducing the phrase 'Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim' on top of the Preamble. They then indemnified the military law proclamations through the infamous 5th Amendment. The same happened during the military dictatorship of Hussain Muhammad Ershad when he made Islam the state religion.

The 15th Amendment undoes most of the martial law proclamations and restores secularism as the fundamental principle of the Constitution.

But compromises have also been made - how do you justify them?

In certain areas, we've had to take cognisance of ground realities. After all, it's been 35 years. Take, for instance, 'Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim' above the Preamble. It is a sensitive issue. If we change it, there's bound to be a major hue and cry. We did not want to give communal forces a handle. So we retained 'Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim' but added another line, 'Param korunamoy naame shuru korilam' (In the name of the all-compassionate we start). In doing so, instead of hatred, we have sought unity. As far as Islam being the state religion is concerned, we have added that Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and any other religion will have the same patronage from the state as the majority religion. These are tactical things. You can't really call them compromises.

Do you fear communal forces might change the Constitution yet again?

I don't think so. The proclamation of independence has been made a part of the Constitution this time, so future generations will know we are a proud nation that has got both an independence day and a victory day. Bangabandhu's historic telegram declaring independence has also been made a part of the Constitution. Bangabandhu's stature as the father of the nation has been protected. The basic structure of the Cons-titution has been made unamendable. It has been ensured that if any military ruler comes and changes this Constitution, he and his collaborators will be tried for treason.




                                                                                                                                    JUGULAR VEIN



By arresting Anna Hazare a day after Independence Day the sarkar demonstrated its commitment to total freedom, purno swaraj, for India. While sarkars elsewhere in the world - the sarkars of lesser beings such as Barack Obama, and others of that ilk - are niggardly about freedom and its celebration, earmarking celebratory rites only for their respective independence days, our sarkar has made sure that India gets to celebrate freedom every single day of the year, with a bonus dollop of freedom every leap year.

The India that celebrates this freedom is, of course, official India, the India of the sarkar, which celebrates its freedom of doing whatever it likes, wherever it likes, whenever it likes, without having to ascribe any motive for its actions. If this isn't total freedom, what is? The British, from whose rule sarkari India gained its independence 64 years ago, were wimps when it came to exercising their freedom. Every now and then they'd put people in jail for spouting nationalistic nonsense, or beat up people going on a protest march to collect salt. But by and large, there seemed to be a feeling among the most imperial of the imperialists that they were, all said and done, only tenants in India. Tenants on a long lease, granted, which lasted over 200 years, but tenants all the same. They didn't ever actually own India. So the freedom they enjoyed in India, to do whatever they liked, was to an extent inhibited by their sense of transience, of being here today and gone tomorrow, transitory tenants and not permanent landlords.

This changed when the British finally upped and quit India, handing over vacant possession to a forebear of our present-day sarkar. The sarkar that took over after Independence was at first hesitant about freedom, and how it exercised it. There were restrictions on the Indian sarkar's newly won freedom. These restrictions, called rules and laws, were contained in a code of conduct known as the Constitution. It was something of a nuisance, this tether of the Constitution, which restricted sarkari freedom in free India. But it was something that had to be put up with whether you liked it or not. Like summer heat, or winter cold, or the force of gravity.

What India needed to fully enjoy its freedom was a new monarch. Not a foreign, imported monarch this time, but a swadeshi, home-grown ruler, who would preside over India not as a temporary tenant but as a permanent landlord enjoying all the freedoms that are bestowed by full and total proprietorship. The monarch who ushered in India's new dawn of unprecedented freedom was Indiraji I (it is best to add the numeric suffix to the name so as to avoid confusion later on if someone of the same name ascends the imperial gaddi, causing confusion among future students of history). Indiraji I's greatest contribution to India's new freedom movement was called the Emergency. It was called that because what emerged from the Emergency was the freedom of the Indian sarkar - which was synonymous with India (India is Indira, and Indira is India) - to do whatever it chose to, irrespective of what an obsolete and out-of-print publication called the Constitution, which had been sold off to the raddiwala, had to say about it.

Since then, barring a few minor glitches now and again, Anna being the most recent, the freedom movement launched by Indiraji I hasn't had to look back, having gone from strength to strength. Or from scam to scam, some would say. The most illustrative example of India's freedom, sarkari India's freedom, is scams. People who resort to highway robbery or hold up banks are constrained, by their lack of freedom, to put on masks while doing so in order not to be identified by law enforcement agencies. India's sarkari scamsters are free to dispense with such disguises for they are the law.

To have the last word on its freedom, the Indian sarkar just needs to amend one line in its theme song: Jaya hey, jaya hey,/ Jaya, jaya, jaya, jaya hey!/Sarkar bhagya vidhata.





Through the lens of 24/7 television cameras, a visitor to India could be forgiven for thinking that the protests in favour of Team Anna amount to a societal tsunami engulfing everything in its path. Yes, there is no doubt that there is much empathy with the crusade against corruption and respect for the 74-year-old Anna Hazare though we would not go so far as to say that his fast puts him in the league of Mahatma Gandhi. Now that the government and police have caved in and allowed him to conduct his 15-day fast in the Ram Lila grounds at a time of his choosing, things should be seen in perspective.

While huge numbers support Anna and his cause, an equal, if not greater number of people, do not have the luxury of being able to hang out at the Ram Lila grounds or other venues of protest though they may be in full sympathy with anti-corruption movements. As we have seen in the past, such protests tend to take on a life of their own and spread out over public spaces, putting those who want to get from one place to the other out of gear. The protestors who are fighting the good fight should ensure that those who want to get to their workplaces, educational institutions or hospitals should be allowed to traverse unhindered. They should not insist on shutting down educational institutions and other establishments and observing hartals to boost the fight for clean governance. We have seen the results of such shutdowns in places like West Bengal and Kerala where the economy was pushed to the ropes at great cost to the people. Of course, those who want to stay away from schools or work are free to do so, but Anna and supporters cannot create conditions of chaos where normal life comes to a standstill. In the democratic system that we are all fighting to save, maybe not quite as vocally as Anna and his supporters, people have an equal right to get on with their daily lives and not be prevented from doing so by the security measures undertaken by the police or the rallies undertaken by the Anna faithful.

Anna has proved his point, that his democratic right to dissent cannot be taken away by a muscular government. In that spirit, he should exhort his followers to confine themselves to the areas designated for them by the police, and for people who have not come out on the streets to protest in whatever way they see fit as long as this does not intrude into anyone else's space. It now falls upon Anna to ensure that this is really a democratic protest in every sense of the term. The very same cameras which have created a multiplier effect for him, could mirror a less than positive image if he and his followers are seen to create hardship for the common man whose cause they are championing.






The photo wires were on fire yesterday with photographs from Russia, which had been supplied to them by a 'third party'. In other words, the photographs of two fit and trendy men (wearing near-identical clothes and dark glasses) — President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin  — were government handouts, also known as propaganda material. However, at least for once, we will not crib about propaganda but about the aesthetic value of the photographs. But first the story behind the photographs: the two leaders, who are believed to be close to a decision on which of them will run for president, spent a day — not debating the future challenges in chintan baithaks and plenary sessions — but fishing and boating on the Volga river. Then they set off for a boat trip to take underwater pictures. Mr Medvedev even caught a fish(!), though the photograph looked like a set-up. This is not the first time that, at least, Mr Putin has shown his adventurous streak: who can forget a bare-chested Putin (Rambo style) riding a horse a couple of month ago? American presidents are also adept at showing their sporty side with photo-ops of them playing golf or cycling.

But when it comes to India, our netas are stiff as a poker. There are some honourable exceptions like Farooq Abdullah but then it's more to do lifestyle than sports. In short, we have no leader who is sporty (ah, we forgot our tennis ace, SM Krishna) who can do a Putin here. Sometimes, we do see our well-fed, under-exercised MPs don their cricket whites for a lazy game in the winter sun. The only major exercise they get is once in five years, when they have to do daily marathons to woo the voters.

But New India would definitely like some of our shy politicians tell us all about their hobbies. Who knows, maybe the once-loved and now much-maligned leader is a closet martial arts expert. Or maybe a rotund party chief is an ace diver. Even for us, with such fertile imagination, these sound incredible. Alas, there is no other option but to shift our gaze back to Mr Putin.









The forthcoming debate in Parliament will focus on the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils but the more important issue about the diminution of India's strategic leverage to China in Sri Lanka is likely to be lost. Hambantota rings the bell.

Famous for salt flats and arid and hot weather, the sleepy environs of Hambantota district are destined to become the primary port of call in Sri Lanka. Reason? As the political constituency of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, it is central to his Vision Document 2025. It has the world's first inbuilt harbour carved out of land, strategically located astride the busiest East-West shipping lane and poised to challenge the primacy of Singapore's port.

The port, of course, was made in China at friendship prices. Last month, just one ship was berthed in the harbour.

So how did India let China spread its wings over much of the country including Hambantota? Much of it owes to Rajapaksa's strategic decision to reduce dependence on India, a process that has accelerated after the defeat of the LTTE, ironically an outcome in which New Delhi played a key role. Rajapaksa says he wants to reposition Sri Lanka as the 'pearl of the old Silk Route', doubtless an unintended congruence of China's string of pearls concept that envisions a necklace of bases across the Indian Ocean to challenge Indian and American trade and diplomacy. In August 2009, Rajapaksa clarified: "India need not fear China's role in Sri Lanka. The Chinese will come and go. But Indians will stay."

But the Hambantota episode has an Indian twist. The first offer was made to India when Nirupama Rao was the high commissioner there. Rejection was dictated by cost and utility of the port facility. At Port Blair recently, national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon said that 70% of India's shipping is handled by Colombo port which is also being modernised with Chinese assistance.

Speaking about the Indian Ocean Region in 2009, Menon was equivocal about Hambantota becoming a part of China's 'string of pearls'. Publicly, the Indian foreign office expresses no concern about China's enlarging footprint in Sri Lanka though according to WikiLeaks, in November 2007, Mohan Kumar, the joint secretary dealing with Sri Lanka, had told US embassy official Ted Osius in New Delhi that "we are concerned over China's access to Hambantota."

In May 2011 in Beijing, Sri Lankan foreign minister GL Peiris said Hambantota will never be a military port. Yet, Gwadar and Chittagong ports, both constructed and modernised by China, are commercially and militarily 'off the beat' and less attractive than Hambantota which requires just a five-mile deviation from the shipping lane.

At the Shangrila Dialogue in Singapore in May 2011, Chinese defence minister Gen Liang said he was unaware of any plan to use Gwadar as a naval base and he had not heard about any base in Sri Lanka.

Many Sri Lankans are happy at the turn of events. "We are now in a position to juggle India and China but we are closer to China which has no strings attached," noted a diplomat. Another diplomat said China will have storage and fuelling facilities at Hambantota. "So can India," he quipped.

China has become Sri Lanka's biggest benefactor, with its activities increasing dramatically since Rajapaksa took command in 2005. Beijing's substantive political and military assistance during and after the war in tandem with Islamabad has undermined India's supply of defensive weapons. China's assistance now stands at $3.2 billion, overtaking Japan as Sri Lanka's biggest donor. It is Sri Lanka's biggest exporter after India with China-Sri Lanka trade doubling in the last five years to $1.13 billion. China was the biggest foreign investor in 2009. The yuan, not the rupee, has joined the authorised currency list for international transactions.

India's visibility is confined to the northeastern part of Sri Lanka. Still, India holds the ace: the clause in the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987 that "Trincomalee or any other port in Sri Lanka would not be made available for military use to any country in a manner which is prejudicial to India's interest." India, though, should now go by Colombo's deeds, not words.

Ashok Mehta is former commander of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka. The views expressed by the author are personal.





In the last two decades, India has gone from being one of the least globalised economies in the world to one of the most dependent on international commerce. Right up to the late 1980s, foreign travel was a rare and much-coveted luxury for the middle classes. If one got to go abroad, one had to depend on the largesse of foreigners, since you could carry out of India only a measly foreign exchange allowance of (for much of that time) $8. Foreign goods were largely unavailable; visitors from abroad, bringing what for them were routine consumer items, were greeted almost as if they had introduced frankincense and myrrh to Bethlehem.

Today, to use a cliché, India is not what it used to be. The world has changed, and in order to take advantage of it, India has changed too. Our markets are more open, we enjoy a wider range of consumer items than ever, and those who go abroad (far more than ever before) finance their travel and expenses with foreign exchange. Business process outsourcing has tied large numbers of Indians to foreign work environments and business partners. The world is no longer a strange, intimidatingly inaccessible place for most Indians. And in turn, the world sees India differently too.

Indian companies continue to expand outwards.  They continue to set up overseas subsidiaries and partnerships.  From the behemoths like Tata Consultancy Services in China and Bharti Airtel across Africa to small diamond trading units in Belgium or agricultural firms like Harrisons Malayalam buying plantation land in South Africa, to turnkey infrastructure project firms like GVK Power and Infrastructure in Indonesia, and many more examples too numerous to mention, Indian firms continue to expand and operate successfully in the rest of the world.

Now the India that is going global is also a remarkably young country. India's youth population remains an under-utilised economic asset. Census figures tell us that nearly 1/5th of India belongs to the 15-24 age group. By 2020, the average Indian will be 29 years. (At that time, the average Chinese will be 37 years old, the average European 49.) It is precisely this age group that, given the opportunity, seeks to travel, to escape home, to leap past the humdrum of school or college and see the world.

This provides us with a unique opportunity as a society.  We are at a golden moment of being able to create a more globally-aware generation to shore up India's place in a globalised world.

The need is acute. Either we train and prepare our young people for a 21st century global economy, or we face disaster. Each year, based on 2005 figures, we will add around 5 million young adults (between 15-24 years) per year. These are 5 million potentially productive workers. But if they are unemployed or unemployable, they are also potential revolutionaries, Naxalites or stone-pelters. The frustrations of jobless young men lie behind most of the violent protests in the world.

Indian companies that operate outside India should be encouraged, through the diligent application of tax incentives, to use our young people as interns and specialist trainees.  There are two benefits from such an arrangement: the firms get the ability to scrutinise and develop talent in-house for the future, while the young person gets the opportunity to work in a professional setting in a foreign country. Over the period of the contractual agreement, it is only natural that this young intern will travel around, interact with the local societies and — over a period of time — we will have Indians who know the world much better than the generation before.

There are many models we can study to fine-tune such a programme. The French, for example, have a governmental division that oversees its VIE (internship) programme, which is subordinated to the Secrétariat d'Etat au Commerce Exterieur (State Secretariat for Foreign Trade). Young French citizens apply to go work abroad for French firms via this agency. Their remuneration is such that one part of it is fixed, while the other is contingent on local wage levels. Often the retention levels at the firms that engage them are high as well. Over the years, the French have created a pool of young people who have served in far-flung areas — and reinforced Paris' own global vision and sensibilities.

In India, our industries and firms are at the cusp of expanding globally in an unprecedented fashion. Our young people are raring to travel, work and experience the world. There is no reason why we cannot bring them together and why a systematic competitive programme run by the government can't create a new generation of Indians who — while they enrich their own lives' experiences — will help build and project India's reach into the world.

Shashi Tharoor is a Lok Sabha MP and Keerthik Sasidharan is a New York-based investment banker. The views expressed by the authors are personal.



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

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

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

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






The Congress party's inept political reaction to Anna Hazare's movements has been the major contributing factor to allowing Anna Hazare's "movement" the degree of mindspace it occupies today. And even after that, the party seems to have been unable to operate in these times with the wisdom they require. Consider, for instance, how party spokesperson Manish Tewari's poorly thought-out accusation that Hazare was corrupt elided much of the truth. Remember: that accusation came after the government had made conceded space to him as part of the "joint drafting committee." The back-and-forth trick that the Congress has played shows that at no point has it taken the long view; it has hurt its own cause because it has consistently reacted — or over-reacted — on the instincts of the moment.

And those instincts are too often way off-base. Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi on Wednesday accused the US of being behind the Hazare-led protests. Taking off on an ill-advised reference by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Lok Sabha to "many forces" that would not like to "see India realise its true place in the comity of nations", Alvi asked: "Who are these forces?" He then proceeded to answer his question: "What was the need for America to state that Anna's movement should go on? This creates doubt and suspicion." (A junior US state department official at a daily briefing had been asked about the protests in India and said little more than that the US believes in freedom of dissent, and that India, as a democracy, no doubt shared those values, and would let protests continue.) Alvi went on to wonder how the Hazare team had managed to fund itself, implying again that the US was responsible: "We should find out the forces that are working behind this movement... What are the reasons, and why is the US supporting this movement?" With Alvi's off-base rant, the 2010 Congress's similarity to the statist, defensive, "foreign hand"-blaming Congress of the 1970s seems to have become complete.

That the Congress's politics in the public glare has been so awful is another reminder of the importance of Parliament. Of course, the opposition scored a few good points at the Congress-led government's expense, but the very give-and-take of argument that raised the level of debate somewhat restored the executive's equilibrium. The Congress must strive for a more coherent, far-sighted political strategy — and learn to respect Parliament more.






Sitaram Yechury was not exaggerating when he said Rajya Sabha met at a particularly fraught time for Parliament. And it is not just that doubts have been raised on the street about Parliament's capacity to take up issues of corruption — the impression has been all too often strengthened by MPs that they are not committed to bringing due deliberation to debates and legislative business. Certainly, when it discharged the function of a jury to assert the legislature's institutional role in keeping a check on the judiciary, Rajya Sabha would have been expected to rise to the occasion. And it did — engagingly, attentively and thoughtfully. But with the impeachment proceedings now passing to Lok Sabha, the Upper House has set a bar in attentiveness it needs to hold itself to.

Rajya Sabha MPs underscored the importance of the moment in the larger context of doubts being expressed by some — however small in number and lacking in representativeness as they may be — about Parliament's centrality in our democracy. Those doubts don't hold up to scrutiny, though to the extent they spur the legislature to find its equilibrium through activity and debate, it may yet be collateral benefit. However, in past months there have been questions asked about Rajya Sabha's utility, most notably by a chief minister as well as a member of Lok Sabha. Given the manner of nominating and electing MPs, does its composition reflect the voice of the states or the whims of party leaderships? May not the Upper House be a better guarantor of federalism and continuity if its members were directly elected by statewide electorates, in the manner of the US Senate? Can there not be another mechanism to have a smaller percentage of MPs chosen through indirect election to retain the Indian variant of the spoils system?

It's not that Rajya Sabha need account for its existence. Instead, the challenge before the House is to be a chamber always engaged in the issues of the day — and for its members to find their individual voices to give counsel as "elders", perhaps by asserting more often the benefits of a conscience vote.






Twenty years ago, August 18-22 witnessed the short-lived coup attempt against then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, when the hardline putschists put him under house arrest on holiday in Crimea. But much had changed within the Soviet Union to truncate the coup. The biggest was the effective civil resistance led by the late Boris Yeltsin, then president of the Russian Federation, who had become the most powerful voice against the CPSU, thanks to the political reforms under Gorbachev. When Gorbachev returned, his authority was gone. Yeltsin capitalised on the moment, and in December 1991 the Soviet Union was dismantled. Never before in human history had an empire been dissolved so completely without bloodshed, with plenty of evidence of decay but no ringing warning of its sudden demise.

Debating Gorbachev's legacy is a difficult, painful job. Reviled within Russia, revered without, many hold that had Gorbachev overseen the Soviet dissolution, Russia's socio-economic indicators on many counts today wouldn't be worse than the USSR's. Others contend that the force of history was too strong for an individual to make a difference, to say nothing of Gorbachev's conspicuous loss of face.

The key to understanding the great unravelling that ended the world born of World War II is that crisis didn't lead to liberalisation and democratisation, causing the Soviet regime's collapse. Rather, liberalising experiments caused the crisis that swallowed up 74 years of history. Nevertheless, the political and economic reforms that Gorbachev began, along with the end of the Cold War and the democratisation of East Europe, showed him as the wise old man who couldn't deliver a new order but knew what couldn't continue. Thanks to him, the English language boasts "perestroika" and "glasnost".







The Gandhi topis, the non-violent crowds, the banners and other symbols of protest, including tonsuring of heads, meditating mendicants, patriotic songs and fervour and, of course, the fasts, are seen as a throwback to the days when the Mahatma exerted enormous and unquestioned moral authority over the ruling government, political leaders and the populace. Most references to the "revolution" started by Anna Hazare and his group, now immortalised as Team Anna thanks to inventive headline writers, compare Anna himself and his ever-expanding crusade to Gandhi and his principles of ahimsa and public displays of self-sacrifice. Anna Hazare has that part down pat, but there the resemblance really does end. Gandhi's crusade was to do with the eviction of a colonial power and, once that was achieved, the focus shifted to a crusade against communalism, casteism and other social and cultural faultlines in Indian society. Of course, India was too poor and economically backward for corruption to be an issue, but he was perceptive enough to understand that India's core problems were to do with religion and caste and that rural India was the key focus area to solve those contentious issues.

Hazare and his band are taking on their own government, a battle joined from the capital city, and the ever-widening support they are attracting is from so-called "civil society" which they say they represent. It's largely an urban phenomenon, populated by the middle class which finds real resonance with the call for a corruption-free world. There is no dearth of idealism, no shortage of catchy slogans, no barriers to dreaming of a supercop that will ensure the Rajas and Kalmadis of this world are prevented from putting their hands in the public till. No one can argue with their message, even if the methods may be debatable, but there is a hidden danger: a challenge to the established instruments and norms of parliamentary democracy. The problem is that those who sit in Parliament, the politicians, are perhaps enjoying their lowest level of credibility and the issue itself, corruption, has aroused such powerful anti-establishment sentiments that the Hazare movement has taken on a life of its own with very little knowledge of where it will end. History, and events, have been hijacked by a portly little man in khadi and headgear we had forgotten about.

Today's events, in effect, draw great comparison with another movement thousands of miles away. American politics has been hijacked by the so-called Tea Party, and their aims and objectives are very similar to those of Team Anna. The Tea Party movement is an American populist political movement that is bypassing traditional political channels to influence change, attack the Obama administration's fiscal policies and, in their words, return America to the original interpretation of the US constitution. Like Team Anna, the Tea Party is composed of a loose affiliation of national and local groups that determine their own platforms and agendas. Its activity is described as "Astroturfing", a form of advocacy in support of a political agenda designed to give the appearance of a "grassroots" movement. The name stems from the famous Boston Tea Party, a protest by colonists objecting to British tax on tea, an act that triggered the American revolution in 1773.

Like the Anna movement, it is largely backed by conservatives, mainly the middle class, who see themselves as patriots standing shoulder to shoulder defending the constitution. Their main slogan is: "One man with courage is a majority." Sounds familiar? They also have taken American politics by storm, despite nothaving a central leadership, just a man, John Paul, described by some as the "intellectual godfather" of the movement. The candidates they support are emerging as serious contenders to become the next president of the US in a situation where, like in India, the popularity polls for the head of the state are at their lowest ever.

Here are more commonalities. What unites Tea Party supporters is less their geography or demography than their policy views: a deep-rooted conviction that the government has gotten too big and too powerful and a fear, largely irrational, that the nation faces great peril. Here's more. During the last election in America (2008), the Tea Party didn't exist. Now, it has energised the most active segment of the electorate, one that has created a new constellation of political heroes. Indeed, in America, political analysts refer to the Tea Party movement as less a party than anti-party, with a generally dyspeptic view of organised political power.

As Jill Lepore, a Harvard historian whose book about the movement, The Whites of Their Eyes, is scheduled to be published in October, says: "It's a party opposed to the idea of parties." The Tea Party reminds her more of a religious revival than a political movement, and the number of saffron-robed saints and sants and gurus who are congregating at the Anna camp smacks of a similar convergence. In polls and other indicators, Tea Party supporters have been profiled as a deeply engaged, highly sceptical group of people who do not identify with any political party, though they mostly support right-wing Republican candidates. Their main concerns are economic — taxes, national debt, government spending — but they are essentially a group of mavericks (Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin) looking to topple the established political order. Their main battle cry is less government, but what really resonates with the public is their conspiracy theories and the picture they paint of a dystopian future for America.

Like Tea Party adherents, in Anna's case, what has brought the urban middle-class out on the streets is their supposed sense of entitlement in governance. They feel they have earned the fruits of growth, not purloined it, and that allows them to stake their claim to a more transparent form of governance and greater vigilance on its actions. The demand for a more accountable government is in consonance with a new sense of participatory citizenship. The new urban Indian citizen now wants accountability for the tax that they pay to the government, and that is the mood that Anna has tapped into. Yet, if eradication of corruption is predicated on a supposed change in governance, even government, civil society in India must equally take into account the other issues that challenge the idea of India, casteism, communalism, violence against women, to name a few. In America, the Tea Party is seen as blinkered and narrow-visioned. How different is Team Anna?










It will be a mistake to assume that the food security bill, in its present form, will necessarily and sharply reduce India's embarrassingly high rates of child malnutrition. Satiating hunger and providing nutrients that are essential for healthy growth and fitness are not quite the same thing, a fact highlighted by the leading medical journal Lancet in a recent research paper. The article says the prevalence of anaemia in India is higher than that in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Southeast Asian countries. It cites the National Family Health Survey figures that 55 per cent of Indian women in the reproductive age, and 70 per cent of children under five, are anaemic.

While the budgetary allocation on India's nutrition programmes is substantial, a major flaw is a lack of focus. The most vulnerable sections of the population often fall between the cracks. The crucial window of opportunity to counter the adverse effects of undernourishment and malnourishment is in pregnant and lactating mothers and children under the age of two in middle- and lower-middle-income groups. It is a vicious cycle: anaemic mothers produce anaemic babies. Fifty per cent of Indian children under three are underweight, 38.4 per cent are stunted and 19.1 per cent are wasted. These unfortunate statistics have not cropped up simply because of lack of food, but a failure to introduce the right nutrients in the diet at the right age. Apart from iron deficiency, which results in anaemia, an estimated 50 per cent of children receive less than half their daily requirement of vitamin A, zinc and folic acid.

Most of these deficiencies in diet could be addressed fairly easily by reaching out to vulnerable sections through the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). Unfortunately, for years nutritionists and NGOs have quarrelled over the right strategy to adopt. In the bargain, anaemia rates have not declined for over a decade. While half-a-dozen high-powered nutrition committees have in general terms endorsed the importance of a cost-effective, easily doable nutritional intervention like fortification and providing fortified supplementary food to children under three, the Central government has failed to push for such measures.

Towards the end of UPA 1, the ministry of women and child development sent out an excellent set of guidelines to state governments, laying down nutrition norms for the ICDS. It recommended take-home rations of blended fortified mixes for children under three and fortified, cooked hot meals for older children. The guidelines took into account the crucial fact that children between the ages of six months and two years have a much smaller stomach capacity and require nutrient-dense meals rich in energy several times daily, whereas older children have different needs.

The message seems to be slowly percolating down. Fortified take-home rations for under-three children in the ICDS are finally being implemented to some degree in states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. On the other hand, there are states like Kerala, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Assam which stick to the old system of simply providing take-home grain rations for infants. The grain generally ends up as part of the family pot.

One reason why our ICDS policies are not uniform is that court commissioners in the Right to Food case argue that fortified mixes should be supplied only by small self-help groups, which would make introduction of fortification interventions on a nationwide scale impossible. Rajasthan, for instance, is actually contemplating pulling back on some of its pre-mix distribution schemes in the ICDS which are not run by NGOs.

The conventional method of treating anaemia through iron tablets has not proved effective, and hardly 30 per cent of the population has been covered because of distribution problems. It makes sound sense, therefore, to opt for the route of fortifying our staple foods, by adding micronutrients. The costs of fortifying are minimal, the risk negligible and the returns enormous. Wheat, for example, is commonly fortified with iron and zinc. Oil is the vehicle for vitamin A. In fact, 35 countries have made flour fortification mandatory.

In India, Gujarat has been a trend-setter, introducing legislation to make it compulsory to fortify wheat with iron and folic acid and oil with vitamin A. But even enforcing such laws is problematic. Despite a government decree making it compulsory to fortify salt with iodine, around 29 per cent of salt eaten in the country either has no iodine at all or is inadequately iodised.








It was assumed by our Constitution makers that once a judicial committee finds a judge guilty of misbehaviour, Parliament would automatically endorse the finding of the judicial committee and pass the appropriate address to the president with the requisite majority. That was the assumption underlying this provision. Unfortunately, Parliament did not build up a convention on these lines. Therefore, the procedure became difficult and doubtful.

In former Supreme Court judge Justice V. Ramaswami's case in 1993, the ruling party, the Congress under P.V. Narasimha Rao, did not issue a whip to the members and in fact, told them to abstain from the vote. Ramawami's supporters prevailed on the party, and this abstention by the Congress defeated the motion, which set a very bad precedent, and earned a bad name for the party. That event has encouraged some judges to take a very rigid stand: not to resign even when serious allegations are made against them by responsible persons. It has had a negative impact on the minds of these people, as errant judges assume nothing will happen to them since impeachment is such a difficult procedure. This has been a serious setback to the independence and the credibility of the judiciary.

Thereafter, there have been a number of cases involving judges of against whom serious allegations of misconduct have been made. There have been cases where criminal prosecution was also initiated. Shamit Mukherjee of the Delhi high court and Nirmal Yadav of the Punjab and Haryana high court are examples. There have also been some cases where the Chief Justice of India did not give his permission to proceed; such permission is required in law. K. Veeraswamy, a former chief justice of the Madras high court, was prosecuted for having disproportionate assets. The real point is that because impeachment is difficult and uncertain, some judges behave irresponsibly.

In the Justice Soumitra Sen case currently before Parliament, a committee was set up, consisting of a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, Justice B. Sudershan Reddy, an eminent lawyer like F.S. Nariman, an eminent judge like Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal of the Punjab and Haryana high court. That committee found this gentleman guilty of retaining the monies of a client that he received as an advocate-receiver, and of holding on to that money in his account even after becoming a judge of the high court. He returned the money only later, after the high court ordered him to do so. This was considered to be misbehaviour on the part of the judge.

Instead of accepting the findings given by an impartial committee, Sen has chosen to challenge the findings in Parliament. This isn't a healthy development. The Rajya Sabha has since voted for his impeachment. Now it all depends on the vote in the Lok Sabha. According to me, in principle, it is not a wise decision to make MPs the custodians of judicial ethics and judicial conduct. If they are to apply their own standards of probity to the misbehaviour of judges, they might find it difficult to find him guilty of serious misbehaviour warranting removal. Therefore, there should be another method for easier removal of a judge found to be guilty of doubtful integrity.

I suggest an amendment of the Constitution to incorporate a provision permitting the immediate removal of a judge who, in the opinion of the collegium of the Supreme Court is a person of doubtful integrity and doesn't deserve to remain in office. He can be paid some compensation in lieu of the forsaking of service, instead of having to suffer him on the bench with doubts about his honesty in the minds of the public. The judicial system cannot afford to have such black sheep on its rolls.

If such a provision is made, it can be applied to public servants found to be of doubtful integrity. Proving corruption in a court of law is difficult because the bribe-giver and -receiver will thwart all attempts to prosecute them. The same problem arises with departmental enquiries. Even in those rare cases where prosecution succeeds, it takes a long time and by the time the decision comes, the judiciary would have suffered an irreparable loss. On the other hand, if such people are removed forthwith, on payment of some compensation, the system would be much healthier and will enjoy greater credibility.

Those inclined to accept gratification will also be under check for fear of removal forthwith if discovered. It will have a salutary effect even on the existing judges and will instill fear in their minds, so that they do not resort to corrupt ways, and remain honest. Of all the institutions, the judiciary especially cannot afford to have corrupt persons in its ranks. Therefore I strongly recommend such a provision being made in the Constitution. In that case, the impeachment procedure would become redundant.

There is a judicial accountability bill in the works, but well intentioned as it is, it does not go far enough, and does not have adequate teeth to deal with the problem effectively. There should be a provision for the suspension of a judge when complaints against him are being investigated. At the same time, we must take care to ensure that disgruntled litigants do not level false accusations against judges who might have decided against them. We have to protect judges from such baseless complaints. The judicial accountability bill will have the unintended effect of allowing false complaints to be made, which is not conducive to the independence of the judiciary. There is no provision for the speedy removal of an errant judge.

The Supreme Court has been trying an in-house procedure, but it is not a transparent one. There is a feeling that cases are pushed under the carpet for fear of adverse publicity. Therefore, there is a clear need for a transparent mechanism of accountability for judges. Even in the matter of declaration of assets in public, there was hesitation within the judiciary. It is necessary to ensure transparency in these matters in order to sustain the confidence of the people in the system.

The writer is a senior advocate in the Supreme Court, and an expert in constitutional law







In a span of four months, Anna Hazare is on a second fast unto death on the issue of corruption, and for his proposed Jan Lokpal, which he says will substantially curb corruption. The media is all out to boost Anna. The question is essentially framed as a fight against corruption: either one is against corruption and therefore for Anna Hazare, or one is against Anna and therefore for corruption.

There is no middle ground — that asks, for example, whether the proposed Bill will actually reduce corruption. It presumes that a multitude of Lokpals/Lokayuktas will cover about 14 million Central and state government employees. Assuming a modest figure of one complaint per 100 employees, we may have around 140,000 employees investigated every year. These complaints are to be investigated in a fixed time. Even if one Lokpal can handle 100 cases a year, we will still need 1,400 Lokpals.

This figure may be higher then the number of high court and Supreme Court judges in the country. Are we creating a structure parallel to the higher judiciary, but with much greater powers, and very little checks and balance? Anna assumes that all these Lokpals will be most honest, efficient and just. This itself is absurd in an environment where civil society doubts almost all those in elective office — even chief justices and military chiefs.

Their appointment, and, in the rare case, removal, would be substantially outside the powers of the prime minister. Incidentally their removal would be even more difficult than the removal of senior judges, which is already almost impossible.

Much more frightening is the power such a Lokpal/Lokayukta would exercise over the senior judiciary and the council of ministers. By just a simple threat to initiate an inquiry he would cripple the authority of the judiciary as well as the council of ministers. Note that this would run across the entire spectrum: from budgets, to defence, to foreign affairs. Most important, they would even exercise restraining powers over the use or non-use of nuclear weapons. In one stroke the prime minister would lose his administrative aura.

I am surprised the BJP is supporting the Anna movement. Do they seriously want to cripple a future BJP prime minister?

Sadly, in our country the renunciation of power and wealth leads to acquiring a halo along the lines of the Mahatma. But should we not ponder whether the individual is capable of handling the huge responsibilities that goes with that halo? Everyone cannot be a Gandhi. And, just to remind our countrymen, our Dalit brethren very much resent the fast unto death used by Gandhiji at Pune 80 years ago.

Finally, it is time to condemn these fasts unto death. They are blatant emotional blackmail. The tactic may have made some sense for the towering figure of Gandhi, and under colonial rule. But it is totally disruptive of constitutional structure in an elective democracy, where over 80 per cent of voters exercise their rights.

Lest we forget, this civil society has no place for the poor, Dalits, tribals, backwards and minorities.

The writer retired as professor of physics from MS University, Baroda. He is president of the Gujarat chapter of the People's Union for Civil Liberties








The Anna effect

Several Urdu papers have displayed circumspection and wariness about Anna Hazare's movement, and some have sharply articulated their unease.

Mumbai, Kanpur, Bareilly, Lucknow and Delhi-based Inquilab has lashed out at Anna's cheerleaders. Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi has been quoted on the front page: "Anna Hazare camera ke peecche bhaag rahe hain (Anna Hazare is chasing cameras). The real purpose of the movement is to defeat the government." The paper has conducted interviews with some prominent Muslims, who conclude Anna's movement is "backed by communal elements and is an attempt to ruin the atmosphere in the country." The interviewees say that "corruption will not be removed by these types of protests and demonstrations, but by generating an environment in the country against corruption."

Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and Dehradun-based Sahafat has written a tough editorial titled 'The bubble of Anna Hazare's campaign'. It says Anna Hazare violates the Gandhian spirit and principles. The paper says that "when the MNS's Raj Thackeray was busy sending non-Maharashtrians out of the state, Hazare supported Thackeray and even issued a statement in his favour." The paper harks back to the stand taken by some influential papers during the anti-Mandal riots in 1991, who were opposing reservation for the backward classes, and were "90 per cent of the 15 per cent of the population." The paper alleges, "these are the same people who said no reservation, only merit then." Hitting out further, Sahafat is of the view that "the RSS is backing this to distract from its purported links with terror being unearthed." The editorial concludes that "some unelected people cannot be given preference over an elected Parliament." 

Hyderabad and Bangalore-based daily Siasat on August 17 covers the police picking up Hazare. The editorial is titled: 'The non-serious action by the Centre', and comments on how the Centre is "more concerned about cracking down on Hazare's protest rather than cracking down on corruption."

Honour in uniform 

Commenting on the Gujarat government's action against its senior IPS officers, Siasat writes in an editorial on August 12: "The Gujarat government's action is nothing but a punishment for their stating the truth. The entire nation, in fact, the entire world, knows that the Gujarat riots had the support and help of the government. Ministers of the Narendra Modi cabinet had been involved in these riots, and are currently under trial... These actions are motivated by the sentiment of revenge and are part of the conspiracy to deprive the riot-affected of justice. These attempts must be stopped. And the Narendra Modi government should realise that this country still has a judiciary and Muslims will definitely get justice."

Rashtriya Sahara, in an editorial on August 14, writes: "What should have been done was to give promotions and awards to these senior officers for their honesty and courage in raising their voice... But on the contrary, one of these IPS officers, Sanjiv Bhatt, was suspended and a chargesheet for indiscipline was slapped on another officer, Rahul Sharma. This decision came a day after the statement of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram in which he said that the Centre could intervene in the dispute between the Gujarat government and the IPS officers, if the officers themselves demanded such help."

US economy travails

Rashtriya Sahara, in an editorial on August 9, writes: "Somehow, by bowing before the opposition, Barack Obama has succeeded in getting the debt level raised by Congress. But, obviously, this is not a solution, only a small step that postpones the potential humiliation and preserves the US's image."

Inquilab, in its editorial on August 8 titled "America: bacha sako to bacha lo ki doobta hoon mein" (I am drowning, save me if you can), says: "It should be clear that this economic decline began during Clinton's tenure, and George W. Bush made matters worse. Because he had forced his attention and the attention of the American people, in fact, the attention of the entire world towards self-created problems, whose so-called solutions harmed the American economy further. Barack Obama was handed a choking economy. He directed his energy towards ensuring his own stability rather than the stability of the American economy."

Jamaat-e-Islami's Daawat, in a front-page commentary on August 13, writes: "It is amazing that after suffering such huge losses, America and those who support its capitalist system are not able to understand that the remedy for debt is not debt, and nor is the remedy for interest even more interest. Instead, serious economic reforms are needed. The Islamic system of economy is emerging as a clear alternative, capturing the world's interest."

Compiled by Seema Chishti







There are no two opinions on the fact that there is a widening demand-supply gap in higher education. Two months ago, it had yielded a jaw-dropping cutoff of 100% for the BCom Honours course at Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University. Now there is the news of a sensational R1.7 crore worth of capitation fee being collected for a postgraduate radiology seat by a private medical college in Mumbai—imagine the unnecessary tests which will be ordered to recoup this cost! Note that the Supreme Court had banned capitation fees in 2003 but obviously that ban hasn't eliminated such fees, only pushed them underground. Perhaps the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and University Bill, 2010 would provide a more effective counterweight, given that it actually prescribes penalties up to R50 lakh for charging capitation fees, publishing misleading advertisements and similar malpractices. So might the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority Bill, 2010, which seeks to effect quality control by ensuring that every institute goes through a mandatory, independent and rigorous accreditation process. Both these Bills were introduced in the Lok Sabha last year. Both of them have fallen by the wayside, like so much other pending legislation, as Parliament sinks into an internecine quagmire.

The health sector has been one of the most ignored areas of India's economy. The ratio of hospital beds, doctors and nurses for every 1,000 people here is less than half of that in Pakistan, while Bangladesh beats us at the rates of immunisation for DTP3 and measles. Meanwhile, the Medical Council of India has proved itself not just an ineffectual but also a controversy-ridden regulator, with the corruption rot engulfing even its top officials. Yes, there have also been some sunnier developments, like the announcement of a common medical entrance test and the lifting of the bar on the direct entry of companies into the field of medical education. But the addition of seats just isn't keeping pace with the rise in aspirants, and it's the supply side that's critical. Unless matters are fixed at this end, it's the consumers who will really end up paying for price distortions at the training end. A few years ago, Assocham had reported that coaching for admission to engineering colleges was netting such huge amounts as could fund 30-40 new IITs. No doubt a similar calculation for medicine and capitation fees wouldn't be any less dramatic.





TCS and Patni Computer Systems were the first to discover the offshoring model in the mid-70s, and Wipro followed suit a few years later. Yet, if there's one person that defines India's IT prowess, it is Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy who retires today after 30 years, having steered the company he co-founded with R10,000 borrowed from his wife to a $6 billion enterprise. A $6 billion firm in a $60 billion Indian software industry doesn't do justice to Murthy's legacy, and there's little doubt the company appears to have lost its edge of late—the $3 billion of cash it is sitting on is seen as evidence of its conservatism, something that Murthy's successor and ace-banker KV Kamath will have to change.

Though others were there before him, Murthy changed the paradigm with the global services delivery model that he perfected. Others are doing the same now, but it was Murthy who delivered quality services to clients through Infosyians located in different parts of the world—multiple-locations but completely integrated services. And for those who thought Murthy ran just a wage arbitrage-driven shop of coding jocks, keep in mind that the banking industry's most successful 'product' is Finacle, developed under Murthy's guidance. None of this would have been possible without a talented and motivated team, and once again it was Murthy that took ESOPs to an entirely different level—from the time Infosys was founded, the company has given out R50,000 crore worth of stock options to employees.

Though Murthy disappointed admirers for not standing up to the government when he was chairman of IIM Ahmedabad and the government wanted to push its reservation agenda, many see him as the first practitioner of 'do no evil', long before Google adopted this as its motto. He had no difficulty in parting ways with a colleague, widely seen as Infosys' rainmaker, on moral grounds; and when a top client (accounting for a fourth of Infosys' turnover) set unacceptable terms, he chose to walk out instead of cutting corners to deliver the product. Convincing clients of his corporate governance, however, required a lot more, so Infosys was the first Indian software firm to list on Nasdaq.

As Murthy hangs up his boots to create even more entrepreneurs with his Catamaran fund—it has investments in socially useful firms like SKS Microfinance and Manipal Learning—we wish him luck. His investors will cherish his advise more than his money—when the government-run education system didn't deliver, Infosys set up its own training facilities that rival many universities. Now that's thinking.







If one leaves out the smooth CEO succession at ICICI a couple of years ago, we notice that family-run businesses are being more proactive in planning CEO successions when compared to the professionally managed ones. Take the biggest professionally managed companies such as L&T and ITC. CEOs in both companies have been quite indifferent to succession planning and have continued to latch on to their positions for a long time. ITC CEO YC Deveshwar has sought another five year term for himself, while AM Naik of L&T has yet to make any substantial noise on the issue. In contrast, Infosys has undergone a successful transition. Also, the Tata group has demonstrated serious intent in this regard by setting up a committee to appoint a successor to Ratan Tata. These observations raise the important question: How important is succession planning? Why are family-owned businesses paying the necessary attention to succession planning while the professionally managed ones aren't?

Internationally, each one of the top 25 global companies has a clear succession plan in place. In contrast, only 72% of the other companies have a clear succession plan in place. If we dig a little deeper with respect to the processes involved in succession planning, of the global top companies, 94% have been able to uniquely identify and distinguish a leader's current performance vis-à-vis his or her future potential. In contrast, only 64% of the other companies have completed this task. Second, 88% of the global top 25 companies elicit 360° feedback on the incumbent, which enables them to plan better the kind of skills that they look for in the successor to the incumbent. In contrast, only 56% of other companies complete this task. Finally, with respect to preparing a list of potential occupants for select positions in the company, 96% of the global top companies undertake this task. However, only 68% of the other companies do so.

These correlations imply that succession planning is quite highly correlated with firm performance. To consider an anecdote that illustrates this point well, when the former CEO of Bank of America Ken Lewis announced on October 1, 2009 his intention to leave by the end of 2009, Bank of America did not have a succession plan in place. Between September 30, 2009 and December 15, 2009, the period during which the firm searched for a successor to Lewis, its stock fell 10% while the Dow Jones industrial average rose 7.6%. In other words, compared to the benchmark index, the Bank of America stock underperformed by close to 18%, which is a significant drop.

Why do companies not undertake succession planning? Could this pattern differ between family-owned firms and professionally managed ones? Academic research suggests that CEO entrenchment is a crucial determinant in whether or not a firm undertakes succession planning. A CEO wanting to entrench himself may not groom high quality internal successors or may even hinder the career development of subordinate managers. In fact, capable executive directors are found to be less common on the boards of firms where CEOs are more entrenched. Since many companies may be reluctant to hire an outsider for the CEO's job, these findings suggest that incumbent CEOs try to entrench themselves by reducing the likelihood of an insider succeeding in his or her position.

In fact, the CEO's desire to entrench himself or herself may also explain why succession planning may be lower in professionally managed firms vis-à-vis family-owned ones. While corporate boards play a critical role in succession planning in professionally managed companies, the board's role is limited in family-run businesses, where the promoter family takes such decisions. Thus, an entrenched CEO is more likely to be able to capture the board in professionally managed firms, where shareholders are more dispersed. Since a powerless board is more likely to let the incumbent CEO continue when compared to a powerful one, we would expect succession planning to be less likely in professionally managed firms.

Consistent with this power exercised by the promoter family in the area of CEO succession, family-owned companies are increasingly appointing professional managers when there is no suitable candidate within the family. Companies such as Ranbaxy, Murugappa Group and Eicher have set a precedent in this regard. In 1998, when Dabur India realised the might of behemoth MNCs and their scale of operations, it valued the need for a professional to run the operations of the company in order to build a professionally-managed company with a strategic business outlook. And that's when Dabur India roped in an outsider as its CEO, Ninu Khanna, rather than passing the reins to a family-member. Sunil Duggal, Dabur's CEO since 2000, has taken the business to new heights by strategic acquisitions and has expanded the product portfolio to make Dabur a comprehensive FMCG company from an Ayurvedic products seller. Today, a majority of the board members at Dabur do not belong to the promoter family.

The message regarding CEO succession planning is clear. First, to avoid the risks stemming from inadequate succession planning, let the CEO not get entrenched. Second, use a powerful board as a counter-balancing force to keep entrenched CEOs from ignoring succession planning.

The author is a PhD in finance from the University of Chicago and is currently faculty in finance at the Indian School of Business







At the last auction of state government papers by RBI this month, Jharkhand raised debt on better terms than Gujarat. West Bengal was rated a better paper than Andhra Pradesh and the banks and financial institutions thought the Punjab state government was the best place to put their money in, compared to all other states.

Just what sort of a credit appraisal does this pricing show? When successive finance commissions are putting their bets on larger market borrowings to discipline the state governments, the only signal from such a pricing is that fiscal indiscipline pays.

The worrying part of the cutoffs, however, is that there are not unusual numbers. In the world of state government borrowings, what matters is whether the papers have an SLR (special liquidity ratio) grade. The sweetener is whether the Centre has agreed to be the backstop for the state government's loans for the current year, when the deficit has ballooned too much.

Thus, without fail, no matter the time of the year, the state government papers are priced just about 40-45 basis points above the ten year GOI papers. This is absurd when between them these states span the entire range from basket cases to high fliers even by best global standards. In some way the state papers are more like the Euro area bonds, at the root of the present turmoil. Greece needed to borrow more than Germany but as both were borrowing on the strength of the euro, the creditors gave a spread that they should have reserved for Germany.

Something similar is happening in the state government market in India. Armed with the SLR grade, every state government paper passes the first test of reliability.

At the next level, when a state empties out its treasury through freebies, the Centre moves in with a larger plan support. The backstop makes the paper better in the eyes of the borrower.

How significant is this difference? Planning Commission data shows there was a net drain on Punjab's own resources in the last fiscal. In other words the state was using its tax and other receipts to pay off its past dues and had to borrow to even pay its current dues. At the same time the net resources of Andhra Pradesh, despite being strife torn, were covering 46% of its aggregate resources. But the yield on AP papers was worse than Punjab, at 8.56%, against 8.51% for Punjab. The advantage for Punjab is that there is distinct possibility the centre will intervene to reduce its debt overhang, the same as it has done for West Bengal.

Again where West Bengal has a draw on its resources to pay past dues ( as a percentage of aggregate resources, the state's own resources are -18.09%), Uttar Pradesh provides nearly 30% of its budget requirement from its own resources. West Bengal had a cut off yield of 8.55%, compared with 8.58% for Uttar Pradesh.

Essentially, as in the Euro area, the worse off states are borrowing on the strength of their stronger neighbours. The muscle of the central government is in some ways a pooling arrangement the EU lacks.

Bankers concede that the pricing of state papers moves in a narrow range primarily due to their SLR status. When it is fairly obvious that a state could get a bailout the market rates improve. For instance, this month, in the RBI auctions of the clutch of 10 year papers of seven state governments, the cutoff yields ranged in a tight band of 8.52% to 8.58%. The total sum mobilised was R7,012 crore. Officers involved in debt negotiations with the finance ministry at the Centre therefore concede the operative principle for their annual market borrowing limit is how much can the banks pick up, rather than a clear assessment of the risk profile.

If the bottomline, therefore, is an RBI and central government guarantee, how safe should the markets think those are? As the EU crisis and the flood of easy money that the US released show, there is a finite limit to sovereigns' guarantees. That piece of understanding seems to be pretty much absent in the centre-state fiscal relations in India.

But some statistics are rather worrying. The total internal debt of the central government at the end of March 31, 2011 has reached R37,74, 457 crore. That is above 48 % of the GDP. This includes the treasury bills issued to state governments, i.e. cash reserves parked by them with the Centre, but does not include support like that offered to West Bengal recently. So when states want to borrow more from the markets, that should be a cause for concern for the banks and financial institutions that subscribe to these papers. How different is this position from the Eurozone crisis in the essential framework?

These implications have become of consequence when the central government is walking a tight rope on fiscal deficit calculations. The numbers for the Centre could become worse if the international markets gum up soon. For the states, the big worry will be the unmet demands from the state electricity boards. As of now, there is no evidence that banks have become reluctant to pick up state papers. This is despite the excess SLR papers they are sitting on. But at the first sign of discomfort, the world of state government papers could come crashing down.

Again, just as the EU is being forced to accept the inevitability, of a fiscal union as the long-term goal, India too needs to move at an accelerated pace towards the national Goods and Services Tax to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated here.








It was the year 2003. As a part of my efforts to understand schools and children of all ages, I happened to visit a Bangalore school that had a pre-school section. I followed the standard strategy of being a "fly on the wall," observing, absorbing, and when the situation was conducive, asking questions to students, teachers and administrators there.

The four-year-old in the junior kindergarten class was smart and highly communicative. She was very forthcoming with her responses. I asked her what she liked and what she did not like in general. She loved her school, her teacher, her mother, and her grandmother. She did not like it when her elder brother fought with her. She also did not like it when her grandmother told her bed-time stories!

This was rather strange, since I had believed that most children liked stories told by the elders in the family. So I was wondering why she did not like her grandmother telling her bed-time stories. Maybe the grandmother saw too many "Ramsay Brother" movies and told her some horror stories — so I thought.

After some patient interaction, the little girl told us: "When she tells me the stories, I go to sleep. But she wakes me up and asks me — the moral of the story!" I was stunned by her unexpected explanation. What struck me personally was the girl's ability to explain her discomfort. I also began to think about several misconceptions that elders have about issues related to the next generations.

Such as that we believe the stories are told in order that they would understand the moral of the story. Or that children go to the school to learn. Or that employees go to office to work.

Is it correct to assume that children go to school only to learn? They could be going there because that is what is expected of them by their parents. Or because they like to be with their friends in school. Or for the one teacher who tells them nice stories. Or they like the playground and the sports facilities.

The children are not even at a stage to understand the "moral" of the story. They may understand it cumulatively through several stories — which would be sunk in several layers of their understanding, only to emerge later. Or their moral of the story would be different than what we understand it to be. What about the pure enjoyment of the story by itself? What about several other uses of the story — such as understanding the language, relating to the characters, imagining the ethos, the feelings, and so on?

Third-generation learners

As in many spheres of life, one of the biggest challenges in the educational system is that we have a first generation of leaders and educators that decide the education policy, the second generation of teachers that are responsible for facilitating education for the children who belong to a third generation.

Understanding third-generation children is a complex process and needs special efforts on the part of all concerned, including parents.

The third-generation children are fearless, articulate, independent, rational (capable of a high degree of analysis on "what is right and wrong" for them), impatient, non-hierarchical, and have wider methods of accessing knowledge. Therefore, what is likely to work with them is not position, age, seniority, power and experience, but strategies that promote equality, democracy, placing before them hard data for them to analyse and infer, and where required, allowing them to take charge of their own learning.

The steps needed

This requires a radically different organisation of schools and classrooms, including in terms of the seating arrangements, the teaching-learning process, methods and material, and the quality of interaction with the children. Parents and teachers must jointly understand that comparing situations with their own childhood and therefore expecting certain types of responses from the children, will not work.

The first step towards making this happen is to completely overhaul the teacher education agenda. Today's teacher education must educate them with multiple current and future scenarios, provide ample opportunity for teachers to interact with the current generation, understand them in a more systematic way and evolve effective processes to interact with them based on this understanding.

The second big requirement is to develop excellent "Teacher Educators" who have such an understanding — since the teacher educators are even more far removed from the current generation of children and hence add to the list of challenges.

The third important step is to find a method to educate parents to accept the fact that their children are bound to respond differently to situations than what the parents did when they were children.

The fourth requirement is to sensitise the educational functionaries outside the schools to appreciate the need to transcend generations, while determining and understanding the needs of the schools, the school administration and the education system.

Children and their future must be at the heart of any decisions about curriculum, classroom practices, examination system and school management system.

( Dileep Ranjekar is chief executive

officer of the Azim Premji Foundation .)

A radical re-organisation of schools and classrooms and the teaching-learning process has become essential to meet the needs of the current generation of students.






Even by Karachi's own standards, the recent spate of ethnopolitical violence has been brutal and prolonged. For well over a month now, Pakistan's largest city and commercial capital has been on the boil, with 318 people killed in July alone. And, according to a body count done by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), 1,138 people were killed in the first six months of this year.

The HRCP's count, by its own admission, is usually conservative but with 1,456 people killed and still counting — nearly 40 people including a former member of the National Assembly have been killed since Wednesday evening — violence has become a constant in Karachi this year. To the extent that people, according to Karachi-based civil society activist Zeenia Shaukat, have learnt to adjust themselves to the threat levels. "When vehicles are set on fire in a certain area, people don't step out of their houses; when shops are forcibly shut, people wait for a while and try to find out if the grocery shops are serving back door. Also, if one reads on a TV ticker that there is tension in a certain part of the city, and if one is planning to go out, one will take another route." When a city remains in the grip of violence for such long stretches and so frequently, staying indoors is a luxury few can afford.

Especially since the brunt of what is described as "organised warfare" has been felt most in the poorer quarters of the city. Some of the affected have openly said Israeli atrocities on Palestinians are not a patch on what Karachi'ites are going through in this seemingly never-ending turf war among the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). Though there was a time when the MQM — representing the Urdu-speaking populace which had migrated to the city and Hyderabad following Partition — was identified with much of the violence, today nobody can quite say who the biggest villain of the piece is, as all are equally culpable.

What is worse is the extent of the ethnic rivalry. Increasingly, there are reports of one community barring people from the other from being treated in hospitals, burying their dead or sending their children to school in its areas. When violence peaks, such is the level of ethnic profiling that an innocent bystander's attire could get him into trouble, with the Urdu-speaker identified by his trousers and the Pashtun by his salwar kameez.

While all major political claimants to the city — which is said to account for 20 per cent of Pakistan's GDP — have their areas of influence, local media reports suggest that the perennial sense of insecurity is leading to ghettoisation which will only deepen the fault lines. Through it all, as per the HRCP's fact-finding mission, the law-enforcing agencies either looked the other way, abandoned their posts, delayed responding to distress calls or just joined hands with the criminals. In fact, there have been reports of the police suggesting violence to victims as a remedy for their misfortune.

There is a history to this, pointed out columnist Shafqat Mahmood in The News . Recalling the clean-up operation launched in Karachi during Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's second tenure, he wrote: "The hundreds of criminals it [the police] had arrested were released from jail through various political deals, some during Nawaz Sharif's second tenure and later through Musharraf's patronage. They came out and methodically killed police officials involved in operations against them and forced others to run away … No one in the police is ready to risk another onslaught on them and is happy to just watch."

Policing — rather the absence of it — apart, the HRCP team concluded, Karachi is in the grip of a multisided wave of insecurity-driven political, ethnic and sectarian polarisation. "While gangs of land-grabbers and mafias have tried to exploit the breakdown of law and order, they do not appear to be the main directors of the horrible game of death and destruction; that distinction belongs to more powerful political groups and it is they who hold the key to peace."

Ironically, the three key political players have been bedfellows for the past three years at the provincial level in Sindh and also at the federal level except for the brief spells when the MQM walked out of the coalition. This year, the MQM walked out in a huff twice and is poised to return yet again as it grapples with retaining its stranglehold over Karachi in the face of a growing Pashtun population — triggered by a displacement-induced migration from the strife-torn tribal areas and the Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa (KPK) — and the consequent rise of the ANP in the city. Apart from the political turf war, it is a battle for resources and jobs.

From 51.45 per cent of Karachi's population in 1951 and 54.34 in 1998, Urdu speakers now make up 48.52 per cent of the city. While the Sindhi population halved during the same period from 14.32 per cent in 1951 to 7.22 in 1998, the Pushto-speakers have more than tripled from 3.39 to 11.42 per cent. And, this demographic shift is said to have got further consolidated since 1998 with the usual migration that any city attracts, compounded by the displacement of Pashtuns from the tribal areas and the KPK over the decade since the global war on terror began.

In the February 2008 elections, this demographic change assumed political contours with the ANP winning two Provincial Assembly seats from Karachi. The PPP's greater indulgence of the ANP only added to the MQM's insecurities as its influence — despite efforts to make inroads elsewhere — does not extend beyond Karachi and Hyderabad. This erosion of control over Karachi was felt all the more because of the free run the MQM had in the city through the Musharraf years.

The general consensus among Karachi'ites and elsewhere is that the violence has its roots in crime because of the covert and overt support extended by the state and almost all political parties to mafias and powerful predatory groups that have largely come to determine the highly weaponised city's urban infrastructure development. The weaponisation can be traced back to U.S. transit of arms to the Mujahideen from the port city during the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

All three players treat the city like their personal fiefdom. The recent flip-flop over the system of local governance was rather telling. In a matter of weeks, the PPP changed the regime from a local bodies system to a commissionerate and back to the local bodies in what appeared first a punishment to the MQM for walking out of the alliance and cajoling it to its return.

While politicians play out their games of survival in the multiethnic city of 17 million people, the writ of the state is nowhere to be seen. Its absence, says Ms Shaukat, works for everybody. "For rangers and security agencies to continue to dominate the city; for mafias to continue to maintain a presence in the city offering people protection from rival groups. This may also explain the deep divisions among various ethnicities, communities and followers of religious sects. We have a state that is not interested in integration, and we have mafias whose interest lies in deepening the wedge between various groups/communities."

Lamenting the callous manner in which the stakeholders have been operating to further their selfish designs, Rehana Hakim, editor of the monthly magazine, Newsline , asserted that not one of them was making any serious effort to find a solution to the multiple problems that have led to the shutting down of industries and flight of capital from the city. What they have done rather successfully is turn Karachi into a virtual war zone.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says Karachi is in the grip of a multisided wave of insecurity driven political, ethnic and sectarian polarisation.





The focus of UNCTAD's World Investment Report 2011 is on a fast growing but less understood facet of international production and commerce. The term 'cross-border non-equity modes' (NEMs) appears to be an inelegant description of the fairly common activities of transnational corporations (TNCs), such as contract manufacturing, services outsourcing, contract farming, franchising, licensing, and contractual management. However, it does effectively signify the one common element in them: the absence of an equity investment while contracting out manufacturing or licensing patents and processes to a firm located in the host country. International production is not exclusively about foreign direct investment (FDI) and trade. Investments that fund mergers and acquisitions and greenfield investments involve capital flows across borders. Hence it is customary to classify them as 'cross-border FDI'. On the other hand, the NEMs are a mechanism that allows transnational corporations to coordinate activities in their global value chains and influence the management of host country firms without acquiring equity stakes in those firms.

The NEMs, which generated at least $2 trillion in sales globally in 2010, have acquired a significant presence particularly in many developing countries, including India, where governments have tended to put a cap on FDI in many sectors. Under the NEM arrangement, a TNC gains access to the productive capacity of a local partner without putting money into it. In some industries, major NEM firms, including those from developing countries, have become multinationals in their own right. Notable examples from India are software companies that have carved a niche for themselves in the technology outsourcing space. In the process of servicing their clients, they have expanded and established themselves in many countries. Development benefits flowing from NEMs are significant. In many countries, for example, their value addition is as high as 15 per cent of GDP. They employ 18-21 million workers worldwide, a chunk of them in developing countries, aside from boosting entrepreneurial skills and exports. On the negative side, the working conditions are known to be poor at least in some of the NEMs in developing countries. In the West, consumer groups have exposed the seamy side of some contract manufacturing units that have sacrificed safety and environmental standards for short-term profits. It is imperative for the developing countries to beware of the risk of getting tied up with low-value activities and adopt policies aimed at maximising benefits from the integration of domestic firms into global value chains.




A British physicist's frustration with varied data formats and computers coming to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) laboratory in Switzerland from different countries in 1989 launched a revolution that today's generation takes for granted. Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1990 and published the first website on August 6, 1991 with the address, giving shape to a single information network. A common hypertext language, interconnectivity, and the sea of data it has created in two decades are testimony to its profound impact. With nothing more than access to the Internet and a web browser, users effortlessly navigate the online world using hyperlinks. Thanks to the standardised web, they do this without having to master the more complicated Internet technologies in use a generation ago. In many countries, the www has unarguably democratised information. What is even more significant is that today it enables every individual to become a creator of content, and to publish it. The user 'pulls' materials of choice from websites in contrast to the passive consumer of yesterday, who received content 'pushed' by television. Sir Tim's invention swept the planet because of his laudable decision not to patent it.

As the public web enters its next decade, its immense potential for good stands out. Going forward, though, it should place in the public domain the thousands of terabytes of data held by governments and institutions. This will help researchers, scientists, economists and other social scientists, to come up with better solutions to problems. Such data have already been paid for by citizens, and by adopting an open, linked approach to their dissemination, low-cost answers to issues can be found. No one has reinforced this thought more vocally than the inventor himself. Tim Berners-Lee forcefully advocates the publication of vast amounts of data that can be both open and linked, to aid decision-making. These can, for instance, pertain to government, enterprise, science, meteorology, and events. Moreover, this is an activity to which the ordinary citizen can contribute his or her bit. The only factor that stands in the way of this transformation is the secretive attitude of established power structures, including opaque government. Let us also recall the advice given by Berners-Lee against doing away with net-neutrality, the system under which all data on the Internet, including web traffic, are treated equally. Privileging one set of high-paying users by giving priority to their data can only create disparities. The power of good is intrinsic to the free web, now an energetic 20, and to the Internet in general.




The Agriculture Minister of drought-hit Kenya appealed on August 18 for seeds, irrigation plans and infrastructure to avoid a repetition of famine and food crises in the Horn of Africa "every two years."

Sally Kosgei and other delegates at an emergency conference in Rome voiced what they said was a need to look beyond the starving populations' immediate needs and focus on longer-term solutions for the region.

"It is really very important that the world focus now on how to avoid yet another famine or many more famines," Kosgei told the delegates gathered by the U.N. agency Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Tens of thousands of people are feared to have died in the famine, caused by war in Somalia and drought in the Horn of Africa — Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia. More than 12 million people in the region need food aid, according to the United Nations.

Kosgei said that meetings with several delegations from all over the world over the past months have left her with the impression that "long-term solutions we have put on the table have not been taken seriously by those we have met."

"They seem to be more focused on what is to be done now, which is important," she said, "but what to do to avoid a repetition of this every two years to us is very crucial."

The Kenyan official called for drought-resistant crops to be spread across the region, small irrigation plans to be implemented to help small scale farmers, 60 per cent of all farmers in the area, and infrastructure to allow for quicker transportation of foods across the region.

Even those who survive the famine may be unable to support themselves or their families, as their animals are dead and their crop prospects dire, officials said.

Opening the second FAO conference on the famine in East Africa in less than a month, the agency's Director-General, Jacques Diouf, said that "what we are witnessing now is the unfortunate result of three decades of under-investment in agriculture and rural development."

Given modern technology, resources and expertise, he said, it was "inadmissible" that some 12 million people would be exposed to the risk of starvation. He called for building irrigation systems and providing feed and nutritional supplements to livestock, fertilizers and seeds well into the spring rainy season of 2012. — AP






New evidence has emerged in one of the most enduring mysteries of United Nations and African history, suggesting that the plane carrying the U.N. Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld, was shot down over Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) 50 years ago, and the murder covered up by British colonial authorities.

A British-run commission of inquiry blamed the 1961 crash on pilot error and a later U.N. investigation largely rubber-stamped its findings. They ignored or downplayed witness testimony of villagers near the crash site which suggested foul play. We have talked to surviving witnesses who were never questioned by the official investigations and were too scared to come forward.

The residents on the western outskirts of the town of Ndola described Hammarskjold's DC6 being shot down by a second, smaller aircraft. They say the crash site was sealed off by Northern Rhodesian security forces the next morning, hours before the wreckage was officially declared found, and they were ordered to leave the area.

Key witnesses

The key witnesses were located and interviewed over the past three years by Goran Bjorkdahl, a Swedish aid worker based in Africa who made the investigation of the Hammarskjöld mystery a personal quest since discovering his father had a fragment of the crashed DC6.

"My father was in that part of Zambia in the 1970s and asking local people about what happened, and a man there, seeing that he was interested, gave him a piece of the plane. That was what got me started," Bjorkdahl said. When he went to work in Africa himself, he went to the site and began to quiz the local people systematically on what they had seen.

The investigation led Bjorkdahl to previously unpublished telegrams from the days leading up to Hammarskjöld's death on September 17, 1961, which illustrate U.S. and British anger at an abortive U.N. military operation that the Secretary General ordered on behalf of the Congolese government against a rebellion backed by western mining companies and mercenaries in the mineral-rich Katanga region.

Hammarskjöld was flying to Ndola for peace talks with the Katanga leadership at a meeting that the British helped arrange. The fiercely independent Swedish diplomat had, by then, enraged almost all the major powers on the Security Council with his support for decolonisation, but support from developing countries meant his re-election as Secretary General would have been virtually guaranteed if he had lived until the General Assembly vote due weeks later.

Bjorkdahl works for the Swedish international development agency, Sida, but his investigation was carried out in his own time and his report does not represent the official views of his government. However, his report echoes the scepticism about the official verdict voiced by Swedish members of the commissions of enquiry.

Bjorkdahl concludes that: Hammarskjöld's plane was almost certainly shot down by an unidentified second plane; the actions of the British and Northern Rhodesian officials at the scene delayed the search for the missing plane; the wreckage was found and sealed off by Northern Rhodesian troops and police long before its discovery was officially announced; the one survivor of the crash could have been saved but was allowed to die in a poorly equipped local hospital; at the time of his death Hammarskjöld suspected British diplomats secretly supported the Katanga rebellion and had obstructed a bid to arrange a truce; days before his death Hammarskjöld authorised a U.N. offensive on Katanga — codenamed "Operation Morthor" — despite reservations of the U.N. legal adviser, to the fury of the U.S. and Britain.

New evidence

The most compelling new evidence comes from witnesses who had not previously been interviewed, mostly charcoal-makers from the forest around Ndola, now in their 70s and 80s.

Dickson Mbewe, now aged 84, was sitting outside his house in Chifubu compound west of Ndola with a group of friends on the night of the crash.

"We saw a plane fly over Chifubu but did not pay any attention to it the first time," said Mbewe. "When we saw it a second and third time, we thought that this plane was denied landing permission at the airport. Suddenly, we saw another aircraft approach the bigger aircraft at greater speed and release fire which appeared as a bright light.

"The plane on the top turned and went in another direction. We sensed the change in sound of the bigger plane. It went down and disappeared." In the morning at about 5a.m., Mbewe went to his charcoal kiln close to the crash site, where he found soldiers and policemen already dispersing people from the area. According to the official report the wreckage was only discovered at 3p.m. that afternoon.

"There was a group of white soldiers carrying a body, two in front and two behind," he said. "I heard people saying there was a man who was found alive and should be taken to hospital. Nobody was allowed to stay there." Mbewe never came forward with that information earlier because he was never asked to, he said. "The atmosphere was not peaceful, we were chased away. I was afraid to go to the police because they might put me in prison." Another witness, Custon Chipoya, a 75-year-old charcoal maker, also claims to have seen a second plane in the sky that night. "I saw a plane turning, it had clear lights and I could hear the roaring sound of the engine," he said. "It wasn't very high. In my opinion, it was at the height that planes are when they are going to land.

"It came back a second time which made us look and the third time, when it was turning towards the airport, I saw a smaller plane approaching behind the bigger one. The lighter aircraft, a smaller jet type of plane, was trailing behind and had a flash light. Then it released some fire onto the bigger plane below and went in the opposite direction.

"The bigger aircraft caught fire and started exploding, crashing towards us. We thought it was following us as it chopped off branches and tree trunks. We thought it was war so we ran away." Chipoya said he returned to the site the next morning at about 6a.m. and found the area cordoned off by police and army officers. He didn't mention what he had seen because: "It was impossible to talk to a police officer then. We just understood that we had to go away," he said.

Safeli Mulenga, 83, also in Chifubu on the night of the crash, did not see a second plane but witnessed an explosion.

There was no announcement for people to come forward with information following the crash, and the federal government didn't want people to talk about it, he said. "There were some who witnessed the crash and they were taken away and imprisoned." John Ngongo, now 75, out in the bush with a friend to learn how to make charcoal on the night of the crash, did not see another plane but he definitely heard one, he said.

Sole survivor

The only survivor among the 15 people on board the DC6 was Harold Julian, an American sergeant on Hammarskjöld's security detail. The official report said he died of his injuries, but Mark Lowenthal, a doctor who helped treat Julian in Ndola, told Bjorkdahl he could have been saved. "I look upon the episode as having been one of my most egregious professional failures in what has become a long career," Lowenthal wrote in an email. "I must first ask why did the U.S. authorities not at once set out to help/rescue one of their own? Why did I not think of this at the time? Why did I not try to contact US authorities to say, 'Send urgently an aircraft to evacuate a U.S. citizen on secondment to U.N. who is dying of kidney failure?'" Julian was left in Ndola for five days. Before he died, he told police he had seen sparks in the sky and an explosion before the crash.

Bjorkdahl also raises questions about why the DC6 was made to circle outside Ndola. The official report claims there was no tape recorder in the air traffic control tower, despite the fact its equipment was new. The air traffic control report of the crash was not filed until 33 hours afterwards.

According to records of the events of the night, the British High Commissioner to the Rhodesian and Nyasaland Federation, Cuthbert Alport, who was at the airport that evening, "suddenly said that he had heard that Hammarskjold had changed his mind and intended to fly somewhere else. The airport manager therefore didn't send out any emergency alert and everyone simply went to bed." Suspicion of British intentions is a recurring theme of the correspondence Bjorkdahl has examined from the days before Hammarskjold's death.

Formally, the U.K. backed the U.N. mission, but, privately, the Secretary General and his aides believed British officials were obstructing peace moves, possibly as a result of mining interests and sympathies with the white colonists on the Katanga side.

On the morning of September 13, the separatist leader, Moise Tshombe, signalled that he was ready for a truce, but changed his mind after a one-hour meeting with the U.K. consul in Katanga, Denzil Dunnett.

Anger of the West

There is no doubt that at the time of his death Hammarskjöld, who had already alienated the Soviets, French and Belgians, had also angered the Americans and the British with his decision to launch "Operation Morthor" against the rebel leaders and mercenaries in Katanga.

The U.S. Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, told one of the Secretary General's aides that President Kennedy was "extremely upset" and was threatening to withdraw support from the U.N. The U.K., Rusk said, was "equally upset".

At the end of his investigation Bjorkdahl is still not sure who killed Hammarskjöld, but he is fairly certain why he was killed: "It's clear there were a lot of circumstances pointing to possible involvement by western powers.

"The motive was there — the threat to the West's interests in Congo's huge mineral deposits. And this was the time of black African liberation, and you had whites who were desperate to cling on.

"Dag Hammarskjold was trying to stick to the U.N. charter and the rules of international law. I have the impression from his telegrams and his private letters that he was disgusted by the behaviour of the big powers." Historians at the British Foreign Office said they could not comment on Hammarskjöld's death. British officials believe that, at this late date, no amount of research would conclusively prove or disprove what they see as conspiracy theories that have always surrounded the plane crash. ( Read the annotated U.N. cables on Hammarskj ö ld's death and the Katanga crisis at — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

In 1961, Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld died in Africa in a plane crash. Now, a researcher claims he has got to the bottom of the mystery.







The monumental folly of placing Anna Hazare under preventive detention before he could commence his protest fast in New Delhi on Tuesday has been somewhat undone by the government agreeing to let him carry out his plan at another venue in the national capital. It is on this condition that the anti-corruption campaigner — who has gathered star value along the way — agreed to leave Tihar Jail where he had been placed in judicial custody. It is time now to proceed to an informed and nuanced public discussion on the Lokpal Bill, if the proposed protest sit-in is not to acquire intimidatory tones.

The government's first action suggested it had badly misread the public pulse. Possibly, it also reflected a worry about having to deal with potentially large crowds in this age of terrorism and just-beneath-the-surface fires of urban violence which singe us periodically. The second official action — paving the way for Mr Hazare's release — amounts to contrition and appreciation of reality rolled into one. It is to be welcomed. At last there is a signal of politics at work and the dropping of hubris. There appeared more than a hint of arrogance of power in the government's initial reactions in the CVC case, in the Commonwealth Games scam, and in understanding the extent of the anti-corruption mood in the country.

It bears noting that a ruling of the Supreme Court in a 2007 case on Wednesday may also have informed the government's decision to persuade Mr Hazare to end his Tihar sojourn. The court ruled that a person cannot be picked up for preventive detention under Sections 151 and 107 of CrPC — the very provisions used against Mr Hazare — unless there are grounds to believe that he will commit a cognisable offence if not arrested. In any event, some sanity should now be restored to the discourse on corruption and on ways to deal with civil liberties and well-intentioned public protests.

All sides would do well to get on with the job. The Opposition parties and the protesters need to escape from their overblown rhetoric recalling the Emergency. This can continue to be invoked only at the cost of appearing ludicrous, considering what the Emergency meant. On the core issue of the Lokpal Bill, no injury to parliamentary positions can be caused if Congress — rather than the government — representatives call on Mr Hazare, as a matter of courtesy, to explain where they differ on his Jan Lokpal Bill, and why. This is the way politics was conducted for two decades after Independence. The Congress-led government has taken legislative steps to combat corruption. It has to persuade people that it is serious.






The current visit to India of the Speaker of the UK House of Commons, John Bercow, offers an amusing reminder of the similarities and differences between our two Parliaments — one the Mother of all Parliaments, the other the vividly coloured offspring of India's political miscegenation with Britain.
In his interactions with Indian parliamentarians, Mr Bercow has been suitably respectful of the dissimilarities in procedures and practices between the institution over which he presides and its counterpart in New Delhi. Indian politicians have long been proud of the Parliamentary system we adopted upon Independence, patterned as it was on Britain's Westminster model. The choice was not accidental. India's nationalist leaders had aspired to enjoy the democracy that their colonial rulers had long denied them, and had convinced themselves the British system (from whose benefits they were excluded) must therefore be the best. When a future British Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, travelled to India as part of a constitutional commission and argued the merits of a presidential system over a parliamentary one, his Indian interlocutors reacted with horror. "It was as if," Attlee recalled, "I had offered them margarine instead of butter."

Many of our veteran Parliamentarians — several of whom had been educated in England and watched British parliamentary traditions with admiration — revelled in the authenticity of their ways. Indian MPs still thump their desks in approbation, rather than applauding by clapping their hands. When bills are put to a vote, an affirmative call is still "aye", rather than "yes". An Anglophile Communist MP, Prof. Hiren Mukherjee, boasted in the 1950s that a visiting British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, had commented to him that the Indian Parliament was in every respect like the British one. Even to a Communist, that was a compliment to be proud of.
But six decades of Independence have wrought significant change, as exposure to British practices has faded and India's natural boisterousness has reasserted itself. Some of the state Assemblies in our federal system have already witnessed scenes of furniture overthrown, microphones ripped out and slippers flung by unruly legislators, not to mention fisticuffs and garments torn in scuffles among politicians. While things have not yet come to such a pass in the national legislature, the code of conduct that is imparted to all newly-elected MPs — including injunctions against speaking out of turn, shouting slogans, waving placards and marching into the well of the house — is routinely honoured in the breach. Equally striking is the impunity with which lawmakers flout the rules they are elected to uphold.

There was a time when misbehaviour was firmly dealt with. Many newspaper readers of my generation (there were no cameras in the houses of Parliament then) will recall the photograph of the burly socialist MP, Raj Narain, a former wrestl-er, being bodily carried out of the House by four attendants for shouting out of turn and disobeying the Speaker's orders to resume his seat. But over the years, standards have been allowed to slide, with adjournments being preferred to expulsions. Last year, five MPs in the Upper House were suspended from membership for charging up to the presiding officer's desk, wrenching his microphone and tearing up his papers — but after a few months and some muted apologies, they were quietly reinstated.

Perhaps this makes sense, out of a desire to allow the Opposition its space in a system where party-line voting determines most voting outcomes. In India, a raucous mob of MPs descending on the well of the House, shouting slogans and waving placards usually prompts the Speaker to adjourn proceedings — sometimes for half an hour, sometimes longer, and sometimes for the day. Last year an entire five-week session was lost, with not a single day of business transacted, as the Opposition bayed daily for a JPC to be established on the telecom scandal. By contrast, as Mr Bercow delicately pointed out, while he did occasionally need to call on members to reduce their noise levels in the august chamber, he had never — never — actually needed to adjourn the House.
Four decades ago, in more gentlemanly times, an Opposition legislator had ended a debate — whose outcome, given the size of the Congress Party's parliamentary majority in those days, was a foregone conclusion — with the words, "We have the arguments. You have the votes." Years later this very MP, Atal Behari Vajpayee, would become Prime Minister himself, and pride himself in cutting as much slack as possible to the Opposition.
The result is a curiously Indian institution, where standards of behaviour prevail that would not be tolerated in most other parliamentary systems. In India's Parliament, many members feel that the best way to show the strength of their feelings is to disrupt the lawmaking rather than debate the law. Their behaviour is enough to tax the patience of even that most gentle and patient of presiding officers, Speaker Meira Kumar. Yet she fully realises that the option of expelling offenders from the House, or even suspending them for the day — both actions entirely within the rules — are not really available to her, because of the uproar they would cause amongst MPs accustomed to laxer standards of enforcement. And then there is not much she can do if they actually refuse to leave when ordered to — a possibility Mr Bercow would not even need to contemplate.
In the UK, there is a tradition by which a newly-elected Speaker has to be physically dragged to the chair by his colleagues, as if reluctant to assume such a heavy responsibility. That was one British practice we didn't emulate. Given what we put our Speakers through, perhaps it would have been more appropriate here!

Shashi Tharoor is a member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram







Last year, on August 15, The Asian Age published an article written by me, titled Did India Awake? In the article, I had referred to Jawaharlal Nehru's historic speech, delivered at mid-night of August 14-15, 1947, in which he had declared: "When the world sleeps, India would awake to light and freedom." Around this poetic expression, I had built up the proposition that India had indisputably woken up but was walking on an uneven and uncertain path.

Today, when I look at the intervening period between last year's Independence Day and this year's, I find that India's path has become far more uneven and uncertain. In fact, the country has started tumbling over and is hurting badly.
In this period of one year, India has seen its worst cases of "scams, scandals and swindling" — Commonwealth Games, 2G spectrum and Bellary mines. These cases have no parallel in scale or sheer brazenness.

Take, for instance, the Delhi Commonwealth Games, October 2010. The main objective of bringing these Games to India was to enhance its standing among the comity of nations and to make it a more attractive destination for foreign investment, besides providing a long-term boost to tourism. But, after spending over `18,000 crore, all we were left with was a plethora of cases of corruption which have badly sullied the country's image.
Between August 15, 2010, and August 15, 2011, three notable judgments were delivered by the Supreme Court. One relates to the Chhattisgarh Salwa Judum case (July 5, 2011), the second one to the case of sewage workers of the Delhi Jal Board (July 12, 2011) and the third (July 4, 2011) to the writ petition filed by Ram Jethmalani and Others for the recovery of black money stashed abroad. In all these cases, the Supreme Court has, in its own way, pointed the finger at some of the deep and dangerous pot-holes in the path on which India is currently walking.

In the salwa judum case, the court order talked about how "the culture of unrestrained selfishness and greed spawned by neo-liberal economic policy" of the state is largely responsible for the Naxal/Maoist violence and how the "amoral political economy", coupled with scant respect for "the vision and values of Indian constitutionalism", has virtually created a "heart of darkness" in the tribal belt of Chhattisgarh.
With the same insight, the Supreme Court, in the Delhi Jal Board case, talks about how insensitive the state apparatus has become and how, even in the country's capital, sewage workers suffer "high morbidity and mortality" on account of the apathy of those whose duty it is to supply "protective gear" to them.
In the Ram Jethmalani case, by constituting a special investigative team under the chairmanship of Justice Jeevan Reddy (Retd), to investigate and initiate prosecution against the holders of illegal deposits in foreign banks, the Supreme Court has left no one in doubt what it thinks about the growing incapacity of the governance machinery to tackle vested interests. It is this incapacity which has enabled tax evaders to stash abroad amounts which, according to the Global Financial Integrity Report, may total up to $1.4 trillion (`70 lakh crore)

This one-year period also witnessed decline in various institutions of governance. The latest reports of the ministries and field organisations reveal that in 2011, "completion delays" alone are likely to cost the public exchequer additional `1,20,627 crore, and that the biggest casualty would be the key infra-structure projects. The International Finance Corporation and World Bank's report, Doing Business 2011, ranked India low, at 134th position, on the list of 183 countries surveyed for "Ease of Doing Business".

After the grim and gory tragedy enacted by terrorists in Mumbai in November 2008, which resulted in the death of about 170 innocent persons and showed the overall security apparatus of the country in extremely poor light, solemn assurances were held out to the public by the Central and state governments that counter-terrorism-machinery would be effectively strengthened. Massive resources were made available for setting up a National Investigating Agency and a National Intelligence Grid and also for upgrading equipment and operational skills of the police personnel. And yet, on July 13, 2011, the terrorists were able to carry out serial bomb blasts in the heart of Mumbai with ease and confidence.

Not very different is the position with regard to the challenges posed by Naxals who are now working on a new strategy to infiltrate into urban areas. Their aim is to tap disgruntled workers in the informal sector, build a cadre of urban guerrillas to establish supply lines of arms and ammunition to the rural areas.

In the economic sphere, too, the sign-posts do not point to an elevating path ahead.
The prices of essential commodities have risen sharply, and inclusive growth remains on paper. The number of dollar billionaires has increased to 69. They together hold wealth equivalent to one-third of the country's GDP, while about 800 million Indians live on less than `20 per day.

Hardly any housing is being provided to the urban poor and that's why the number of slums in our metros is increasing daily.

There may have been a few bright spots here and there, but the overall journey of the nation, during the year in question, has been extremely hazardous. Is it not time that all right thinking people of India got together to ponder over the numerous disabilities that the country has contracted while traversing the wrong path, and carve out a safer, surer and smoother course for the future?

History tells us in no uncertain terms that those who do not care to see the warning signals of a gathering storm are soon engulfed and destroyed by it.

Jagmohan is a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister








In a high level meeting held in Jammu, the Chief Minister approved Rs. 60 crore 4-lane Circular road project along river Tawi from Panjthirthi to Gujjar Nagar to be executed in a phased manner. The meeting chaired by him was essentially meant to take stock of the damages caused by recent heavy rains to houses, structures, bridges and other items of infrastructure. Chief Minister's personal visit to some of the affected spots in Jammu and Samba districts including inspection of damaged bridge over Uttarbahni and elsewhere, and his interaction with the people whose houses have been destroyed, is appreciable. Without waiting for the monsoon season to come to an end, the Chief Minister's visit is reassuring for the affected people. He has issued instructions to the authorities to implement relief schemes without loss of time. Sanctioning of ten crore rupees for the reconstruction of public infrastructure is a strong indication for the authorities that they are expected to undertake damage controlling exercise without delay.


This is all appreciable. But in a sense this is only piecemeal approach to the phenomenon of the development of Jammu. What Urban Jammu actually requires and towards which the government must focus its attention is not just one circular road from Panjtirthi to Gujarnagar. Entire urban Jammu roads and streets are choked with congested traffic. There is traffic jam everywhere, on every street that you may take to ride to your destination. The number of vehicles is increasing each day in the city making traffic situation extremely difficult. Then there is the power shortage in most parts of the city except a couple of localities where the bureaucrats or ministerial quarters are situated. Shortage of electric power and its frequent cuts have almost paralyzed life in the city. Public demonstrations and protests are of no avail because from the power minister down the line to the local lineman nobody opens his mouth to tell people where the malaise lies. The third major infrastructural deficit is of collapse of sewage system. Jammu city has large number of slums where garbage and litter are deposited for days and weeks before it is lifted. Jammu lacks modern garbage disposal units as well as garbage collection system. Whatever we have is old and obsolete one unable to respond to actual requirements. Water shortage in mot of the localities of the city is another shortcoming that makes life miserable in the city.
Jammu has many woes. These cannot be overcome by piecemeal treatment as the Chief Minster thinks. It has little to prove a modern city. As winter capital of the State, it has not enough that the Durbar movers remain content with basking in the warmth of Jammu winter and escaping the bitter cold of the valley. Urban Jammu needs modernization; it needs new localities to come up as modern townships because as a city of migrants, refugees, relocated and migratory labourers, pilgrims and as the future major rail terminus of Northern India, Jammu needs to be a sprawling, developed and planned modern city. We would therefore suggest that the Government of J&K constitute a special Development Board for Jammu urban, which will draw a comprehensive 30-year plan for developing the city as a modern and upgraded city providing all civic amenities and facilities to the citizens, Government can forward the plan to the Union Government as it has been doing in the case of many other projects like Chrar-e-Sharief reconstruction project in the valley. Piecemeal development in Jammu should be avoided as it might render it useless once a big and comprehensive development plan is scripted







The nation is not happy with the statement of the Prime Minster given in the two houses of the Parliament. What he said is the view of the ruling party only and not of the nation. When addressing the Parliament on a national issue, the Prime Minister is expected to speak for the nation and not just for the party to which he belongs. What does peace mean and what are the conditions of peace? What is actual import of the contention of "disrupting or threatening peace?" There is no easy answer. Kashmir with entire minority extirpated and living in exile, and nearly forty thousand Kashmiris dead, and lakhs of security forces engaged in fighting the terrorists, is now called a peaceful and not disturbed area. Is it true? With Anna sent to Tihar jail and millions of people in all the four corners of the country in a mood of vehement protest, is it a condition of peace? No, it is helping disruption of peace.

The Prime Minister seems to be under pressure from the hawks in his party. This is evident from the terminology used by these hawks in recent days in the context of Anna Hazare's announcement of fast unto death. The speech of the Prime Minister before the two houses of the Parliament is markedly different in tone and tenor from what he said on the subject in his Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort. Why such a sudden shift within one day? We know that the PM was personally of the opinion that the Prime Minister should come under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal if not the judiciary. But he was vehemently opposed by the hawks in the cabinet and had to succumb to their persuasions and withdraw the proposal. What is lurking in his mind is that the right thing is not being done in drafting the bill for Lokpal. This is what he subtly meant by saying that he too wanted strong laws to eradicate corruption as Anna Hazare does.

The Prime Minster is the custodian of the conscience of the nation. We are confident that in the ruling structure he is the unhappy person about how Anna and his movement are handled by the government. We appeal to him to assert according to his conscience and according to the aspirations of this nation. The world outside is laughing at us on seeing how the persons who are charged for corruption and the person who demands strict laws to curb corruption, both are lodged in the same jail and in the same cells, where they have time and space to enjoy their imprisonment. What a colourful nation India is!









The political events of the past few days have been not just extraordinary but unique because never before have we seen a government of India commit political suicide with such speed and efficacy. The best way I can think of to describe what has been happening in Delhi is to do it from a personal perspective. So here goes.
On the evening before Independence Day I agreed to appear on Barkha Dutt's 'We the People' show to discuss whether fasting unto death was a valid form of political protest or just political blackmail. I have consistently opposed Anna Hazare's attempts to ram his Lokpal bill down our throats through his indefinite fasts. I oppose his methods because I believe corruption is too serious an issue to be dealt with in such cavalier fashion and I believe that Anna and his team are misleading ordinary people by telling them that all we need is a powerful Lokpal and we will end all corrupt practices in our very corrupt country.

On top of this I have serious reservations about the members of Anna's 'team'. In my view their leftist political ideology blinds them to the real roots of corruption in India. So we have heard people like Prashant Bhushan and Medha Patkar state often and openly that they believe corruption is the result of economic reforms and allowing the Indian private sector to grow and play a leading role in the Indian economy. If you were watching television when Anna was in Tihar jail you would have heard Ms Patkar make a hysterical speech about how rich and powerful Indians were looting resources and land that should belong to 'the people'. Ms Patkar is a committed povertarian and her most recent protest in Mumbai was in support of a small handful of people who prefer living in slums to being rehabilitated in more hygienic accommodation. Other members of Anna's team include a Maoist sympathizer, Swami Agnivesh, dubious NGO types and retired bureaucrats who seem to be on the lookout for fresh avenues of employment. They are, in my view, a dodgy bunch with dangerous ideas and on Barkha's show I made my views clear. Little did I know that within 48 hours the Government of India would handle Anna with such ineptitude that he would become almost Gandhiji.

The first sign that things were going badly wrong for the government came on the afternoon of Independence Day when Anna appeared at Rajghat, seated on a white cloth, in an attitude of meditation. It was raining and soon someone arrived with an umbrella and sat beside him shielding him from the rain. Within minutes television cameras arrived and crowds began to gather. It should have been a warning to the prime minister and his advisors but they ignored it and went ahead and made the crucial mistake of arresting him and his team. They could not have done him a bigger favour because once they arrested him it became impossible for even a committed opponent of Anna like me to continue with my opposition.

Later that afternoon I spoke to one of the Prime Minister's key advisors and discovered from the short conversation we had that the government had no strategy at all for what to do next. So it should have come as no surprise that by the evening of the 16th the government, panicked by the crowds who gathered for candle light vigils, decided to release Anna. But, by then it was too late. Anna, by now fully aware of his power, refused to leave Tihar jail unless he was given permission to continue his indefinite fast in a public park in Delhi. Instead of conceding that Anna had won every round so far the government continued to defend what it had done and the Prime Minister made his pathetic statement in Parliament. By now the opposition parties had scented the public mood and resolved to piggyback on Anna's movement rather than make a suicide pact with the Government.

The rest is history. It is clear that Anna has emerged as the undisputed symbol of public anger against corruption that has been building ever since the telecoms and CWG scams tumbled out of the government's closet a year ago. He has succeeded so well in using the media to project himself as a decent, simple man whose only goal in life is to serve the country that it should surprise us not at all if in the not too distant future he forms a political party and uses the ideology of his leftist team to create a platform against the economic reforms if which the Prime Minister is a symbol. By the time his astonishingly apolitical middle class, largely urban, supporters realize what is happening much of what India has achieved economically in the past twenty years may have been nullified.

It may not be immediately obvious but much of what is happening is the result of the Congress Party having diminished the institution of the prime minister. For seven years what should be the highest job in a parliamentary democracy has been subordinate to the leader of a political party. We saw the direct consequence of this in the past few days when nobody in the Government of India seemed to know what to do. Until Rahul Gandhi returned to Delhi the Prime Minister and his Cabinet dithered between political paralysis and bad mistakes of which the biggest was the decision to arrest Anna. When public pressure forced his release there was a feeble attempt to credit Rahul Gandhi with this by leaking stories to friendly news channels but by then the crowds that gathered in the streets of cities and towns across India had shown that they were looking elsewhere for leaders. As I write this there is talk in Delhi's political circles of whether the government will survive till 2014. Will the Congress Party's allies in the United Progressive Alliance continue to support it in Parliament? And, even if they do will the government be able to do more than play a lame duck role? A populist movement against corruption has so gripped the imagination of urban Indians that Government and all our political leaders have been reduced to bit players. This is not a healthy development but the Government of India has only itself to blame.







The second war of Indian independence has begun. Anna Hazare symbolically has become the Mahatma of this movement, the expanse of which extends from North to South and East to the West of the country. It begun albeit gradually but is catching up with the masses like a wild fire. Young and old across all demographics have taken to the movement started by Anna Hazare and his trusted lieutenants as if it was the most natural thing to do. And why not, the scourge of corruption has engulfed this nation in an all encompassing grip. The disease of corruption is so wide spread that no part of our daily life has remained unaffected from its effects. This is the reason that everyone wants to be part of this movement.

The Jan Lok Pal Bill drafted by Anna Hazare and his team is the most natural piece of legislation that this country requires. This bill has been prepared by people of unquestionable integrity and even involves some of the finest legal and social luminaries of the country. The bill of Anna Hazare takes into account the views and aspirations of general masses of the country. The paradox here is that a bill that is good for the country and its teeming masses is not good for a coterie of so called law makers who are supposed to be the elected representatives of the same very people. Parliament is supposed to represent the collective will of the people of this country and in this particular instance there is a direct conflict. The matter is serious and as such requires statesmanship of the highest order to wade through the quagmire.

The ruling clique has made it into a point of prestige because they believe that law making is their prerogative and under no circumstances they want to delegate the same to Anna Hazare in this particular case. Without any doubt law making is the primary function of the parliament and nobody grudges them that but here we have an extraordinary situation and it requires a statesmanlike response. Instead the Government seemed to be hiding behind the administrative action of the Delhi police and arrested Shri Anna Hazare.Movement against corruption is an idea whose time has come and no police or administrative action can stop it. It's high time to realize that political problems need to be dealt with politically and it is not always possible to do a 'Ramdev' of Anna Hazare, lest it may boomerang on the Government.

In India we have constitutional supremacy and people are the sovereign of this great nation. We elect our representatives to run the country and that forms the parliament. Of course parliament is a paramount body as it represents the collective will of the people but always the constitution and the people remain the supreme authority. This is unlike the Westminster model of the British where parliament is supreme. They say in Britain, parliament can declare a man to be a woman and a woman to be a man but not so in India, here constitution is supreme. So wherefrom, a few parliamentarians assume unto themselves roles so as to defy the collective will of the sovereigns of this great nation, that is the people of this country. An overwhelming majority of the people of this country want a Jan Lok Pal Bill and of course Parliament shall pass the same. Anna Hazare at no stage has said that he wants to usurp the role of the parliament but he wants that the concerns of the majority of the people so as to bring the important functionaries of the Government within its ambit are addressed in a comprehensive manner.

The Government on its part wants to bring a toothless bill that ultimately would leave all the big sharks out of its ambit. This of course is in the backdrop where the nation is rocked by corruption scandals of a magnitude unheard of in recent history. It's high time that the government reads the writing on the wall and gives its people the law that of course even the most naive would not believe would end the corruption but would be a first honest step towards eradicating it completely.

Gandhi Ji liberated us from foreign rule of centuries and should Anna succeed in his mission he would liberate the soul of this country and would truly herald the emancipation of a people under siege of corruption. In this war there would be opportunities for everybody to prove himself, let nobody say that he did not get an opportunity. In all this there is a silver lining; we are not living in dull times.








Ever since Independence in 1947 regardless of the nature of the economic, political and social order, ensuring equal opportunities or economic justice has been an avowed goal of the government. In the year 2000 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) came forward with Millennium Development Goals that included eradication of extreme poverty, achievement of universal primary education, women empowerment, reduction in child mortality and environmental sustainability.

Measured against the Millennium Goals, India's progress has been lopsided for want of focus and urgency, despite impressive economic growth. Although comparisons are odious on account of vastly different political systems in China and India, larger masses of people have gotten out of poverty in China. The percentage of the population that has missed the bus of economic progress and security in China is 11 per cent as and in India it is 31 per cent.

The latest report of the UNDP shows that India's ranking among 169 nations under the UNDP Human Development Index has slid down to the 119th position. If recalibrated for disparities in income, education and healthcare, it would slide further down. The UNDP Report 2010 shows that Brazil and China are ahead of India with HDI of 0.699 and 0.663 as against India's 0.519. When HDI is adjusted for inequalities in income, education and health care, the Index for India goes down precipitously to 0.319 but stays high for Brazil and China. Benchmarks such as infant mortality, life expectancy at birth are way behind those of other countries such as Sri Lanka and Vietnam. The silver lining is that the Gini coefficient of 36.8 for India is lower than 41.5 for China or 55.0 for Brazil.

Adherents of most economic persuasions welcome this generic sentiment of caring for the poor for the sake of overall solidarity and for broad-basing material well-being. Like Kaushik Basu states "very often the equity objective and the growth objective are treated as two separate targets (for an economy) but that is not right" and "everyone should be included in the growth bonanza." Inflation of the order of 10-15 per cent further exacerbates rich-poor disparities and intensifies social strife.
Now the question is catering to those at the bottom of the economic pyramid. The late C. K. Prahlad would say it is good business to cater to those at the bottom of the economic pyramid. This was also the drift of John Ruskin's Unto the Last, a masterpiece credited with starting the theme of social economy. Given the ethos of mass destitution, often growth increases disparities. Provision of food, clothing, education, health care and crime-free environment would be the best antidote to Maoist-Naxalite terrorist activities in Andhra, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, and elsewhere.

Inequality can be moderated just like under the normal bell shaped curve, with a majority of the households hovering around the mean value and almost all households falling within a couple of standard deviations from the mean. Outliers, the scheduled tribes and castes, on the left-side of the bell curve need the maximum possible uplift. Otherwise, democracies tend to become oligarchies of the privileged.

Everywhere income gaps are widening: The cliched assertion: the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer - is too conspicuous to be missed, even in communist China. China's emphasis on economic growth has ignored greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and ozone. There is thus self-evident environmental degradation, higher incidence of cancer, and a lowering of Life Index (PQLI), thereby aggravating disparities in standards of living. In a 2005 PQLI Report of The Economist, India's rank was 73, China's 60, and Vietnam's 63. There is ample support for environment-friendly technologies and avoidance of cocacolanisation in industrial development. Foreign practices and technology need to be notched to local specifications. Imitation is deleterious and may institutionalise inequity.

Corruption pervades almost all walks of life and aggravates inequalities. Transparency International's (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for India is 87 and for China 78. Everyone has a role in putting an end to the ambiance that encourages officials to extort bribes running into countless crores. There is a serious deficiency in national character worsening the gap between the haves and have-nots. Unearned and tax-evaded incomes increase income disparities.

Nobody would ask the Government to tax incomes 100 per cent and distribute the proceeds equally to end inequalities. What is disturbing is that there is hardly an earnest urge in Indian governance to encourage a just and caring social order. Government and the private sector could promote technology and jobs for the rural masses so that there is an all inclusive growth of all segments and no population segment is left out. It is time to transmit economic progress to the underprivileged to prevent jasmine revolutions like in Arab countries.
It would be unfortunate if radical elements, with little respect for democratic institutions took advantage of the deprivation of the low castes and tribes, and politically hijacked them and created anarchy like in Nepal. Spreading equal opportunities in education, health and minimum standards of living is our best hope for rapid inclusive growth which alone propels all-round progress. (INAV)



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





It is a matter of relief that the standoff between the Central government and the Delhi Police on the one hand and anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on the other has ended for now on an amicable note. The Delhi Police decision not to stand on false prestige and to climb down on some of the 'conditions' it had laid down for allowing Anna Hazare's protest fast is a welcome change. Some of the original conditions had smacked of arbitrariness like the ones laying down a ceiling on the number of protesters who could congregate at the then venue, a cap on the number of cars and a time limit of three days for occupying the venue. The tough conditions had followed a diatribe against Anna Hazare by Congressmen like Manish Tiwari and Kapil Sibal. While there was a subsequent toning down in the comments against Hazare and his team, the new accommodativeness of the police has sent out a signal of conciliation. Shifting the venue to Ramlila Grounds in Delhi has in one stroke obviated the need for a ceiling on the size of the congregation and the number of cars since this venue has more space than the earlier one. The three-day time limit has been replaced by permission to use the ground for Anna Hazare's fast for a fortnight after which there could be a review.


The Anna Hazare team has, on its part, agreed that government officials will do medical check-ups regularly and if anyone is found unfit, that person must discontinue the fast immediately. The time is propitious now for the two sides to sit across the negotiating table again to thrash out pending contentious issues so that the Lokpal Bill can be pushed through without further delay. The Anna Hazare team's insistence that its draft Jan Lokpal Bill be also circulated officially to parliamentarians after which the final call would lie with Parliament needs to be seriously considered.


The Lokpal Bill would be no magic wand. Ultimately, the success of efforts to curb corruption in the country would lie in the sincerity and commitment with which the cause is pursued.









The monsoon is an annual phenomenon. Equally predictable are the tall claims made by the authorities before the onset of every rainy season that all preparations have been completed to grapple with the problem. But the hollowness of the claims becomes obvious once the rains start. History is repeating itself in most of the northern region this time as well with large areas in danger of inundation. This in spite of the fact that the rains have been none too heavy this year. Much of this misery could have been avoided if only adequate measures had been taken well in time.


Work on cleaning up the choked drains and repairing the damaged flood sites must be completed by the end of May but in many areas it starts only after the monsoon has hit the region. Even where it is begun in time, it is never complete before the deadline. There were major floods in the Malwa region of Punjab last year for that very reason. Unfortunately, no lessons were learnt. Once the monsoon starts, it becomes almost impossible to do the repair work, but that is how the drainage departments like to function.


Another reason for the annual trouble for the citizens is the never-ending quibbling among the states over the use of water. The Centre had decided in principle to bail out Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh from the repeated fury of the Ghaggar by sanctioning a Rs 1,150-crore national project, which would have utilised flood waters for ground water recharging, and thus solved two major problems. The three states were required to give an undertaking that they agreed to delink the taming of the Ghaggar from all existing inter-state water disputes. Because of the hesitation of Punjab, the project remained in limbo. It is such lack of farsightedness which perpetuates the misery of the common man.
















Whatever Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar may say about the role of the military, particularly the army, in policy matters, it is the most influential institution in that country. No one will take it seriously when she says, "We sometimes overrate the role of the military and overrate their intentions, specially when it comes to India." History cannot be ignored. Pakistan's history is full of incidents when the army has been in the forefront in deciding the country's policy in any area. It is not only that the army has ruled Pakistan for a number of years since its creation in 1947. Even when Pakistan has had a civilian government, it has been guided by the army. Sometimes the civilian government of the day did not know what the army did, as it happened in the case of the India-Pakistan Kargil war. The then Prime Minister, Mr Nawaz Sharif, was kept in the dark when the army under Gen Pervez Musharraf launched its Kargil programme that proved to be disastrous for Pakistan.


Now take the case of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. When the PPP formed its government after the 2008 elections, Mr Gilani, a Benazir Bhutto loyalist, was chosen to become Prime Minister with an understanding that Mr Asif Ali Zardari would take charge from him later on. However, Mr Gilani proved to be a smart Alec, as he developed closeness with General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. His position became unassailable with the army's backing. Mr Zardari had to settle for the President's post. Even then Mr Zardari kept looking for an opportunity to remove Mr Gilani but in vain. The inference that can be easily drawn is that anyone who is in the good books of the army cannot be touched.


Whether Mrs Khar admits it or not, Pakistan's policy in the case of both India and Afghanistan is decided by the army. Most Pakistan-based terrorist outfits working against India had been created by the ISI, headed by a senior army officer. President Zardari has been giving hints for some time that Pakistan is interested in mending fences with India. There is a large constituency of people in favour of promoting people-to-people contacts. But this is not possible because the army thinks differently.









SEVERAL governments in New Delhi in the past have made mistakes, some of them serious and two catastrophic. But never before has a government tied itself into knots so thoroughly and made itself a butt of ridicule so manifestly as the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government has done. It had erred when it decided to launch an all-out attack on Anna Hazare, the most prominent civil society activist and evidently an icon of the "India Against Corruption" campaign. It then compounded this folly by arresting him even before he had started his fast and later by virtually surrendering to him.


In the meantime, there have been angry demonstrations not only in the national Capital but also in all metros, big cities and small towns in support of him and his cause. The government is apparently ignorant of the intensity of the anger against corruption, but it was one reason for the rulers' retreat. The other — as the CPM leader, Ms Brinda Karat, put it in the Rajya Sabha — was the advice to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the "Crown Prince", Mr Rahul Gandhi.


This said, there is no doubt that the government is absolutely right in insisting that laws have to be made by Parliament, not by unelected and "self-appointed" leaders and activists of civic society. On this score Mr Hazare is certainly in the wrong when he demands that only the Jan Lokpal Bill must be passed, not the "promotion of corruption Bill" the government has introduced. But this is a political issue that has to be thrashed out politically, not by denying Indian citizens their fundamental right to speak and agitate peacefully in support of their demands even if they are absurd. Denial of the rights enshrined in the Constitution and relying on repressive methods unworthy of any democracy, and surely of the world's largest, is disgraceful and totally unacceptable.


The conditions that the Delhi police imposed on Mr Hazare's agitation, no fewer than a score, were unreasonable, consciously contrived and highly suspicious. Then after taking Mr Hazare into "preventive custody" it dragged him to at least three "undisclosed" destinations. These are hallmarks of Pakistan's ISI, and must not be inflicted on India. Ultimately, however, he was hauled to Tihar Jail. That one of the highly respected and responsible dailies has editorially called the UPA government "corrupt, repressive and stupid" speaks for itself. So do other newspaper headlines such as: "Anna arrests government"; "Anna continues fast, makes government eat its words"; "People march, govt crawls" and so on. Some papers have gone overboard and written about the "Second August Kranti (Revolution)".


Reverting to the question of Parliament's undoubted "supremacy", provided this august body does function, and people's absolute right to enjoy fundamental rights, it is shocking beyond words that several Congress ministers, including some eminent lawyers, have been propounding a dangerous, new doctrine. Over TV they have been screaming that when an issue is under discussion in Parliament, agitation against it is impermissible, even "illegal". Nothing more chilling has been heard since the Emergency of the mid-1970s, when in reply to a question, the Attorney-General of the day, told the Supreme Court: "My conscience revolts, My Lords, but even if a policeman threatens to shoot a citizen for no rhyme or reason, under the law there is no remedy". No wonder, many, beginning with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, are asking whether the UPA wants to bring back the Emergency by the backdoor. This fear is unfounded, however.


In any case, the pertinent question is that if Parliament is supreme and civil society has no right to partake in the legislative process, then why did the Manmohan Singh government cave in to Mr Hazare's earlier fast in April and invite "Team Anna" to join a Group of Ministers to "redraft" the pending Lokpal Bill? The leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mr Arun Jaitley, has pertinently asked: "Who subverted Parliament by inviting Anna, not us"? He then rubbed in that civil society activists on the National Advisory Council, headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, were still helping the government draft legislation on food security and land acquisition.


This, sadly, is not the only clumsy lapse of a government so besieged by crises as to be dysfunctional. Even more staggering is its claim — emphatically made by all senior ministers, including the Prime Minister — that whatever was done to Mr Hazare was decided by the Delhi police alone, in pursuance of its duty to maintain law and order. If these worthies believe that anybody would believe what they are asserting, then they are living — to borrow Jawaharlal Nehru's words he used at the worst moment in his long and dazzling political career in 1962 — "in an artificial world of their own making".


The entire country knows that the Indian police, including all Central police organizations, still governed by the colonial Indian Police Act, 1861, ceased to be servants of the law long ago. They are now servitors of the political parties or combinations in power. As far back as 2006, the Supreme Court issued its final directives on the police reform. State chief ministers are not alone in brazenly refusing to carry them out. The Central government has also failed blatantly to enforce the reforms in the Union Territories for which it is directly responsible.


So mindless has the Congress party been in maligning Mr Hazare that a Congress spokesman said that the anti-corruption leader was "corrupt from top to toe". Obviously, the spokesman, usually intoxicated by the exuberance of his verbosity, hadn't done his homework because his charge has backfired since.


Most surprisingly, the government and the party of Dr Singh, who has invested so much in improving relations with the United States, have suddenly discovered that the CIA is behind the "Anna agitation". The Prime Minister said it between the lines in the statement that he read out in both Houses. Others in the party have gone to town on this. They should know that the "foreign hand" ploy didn't work even in Indira Gandhi's time. This time around it might boomerang.


No one knows how Mr Hazare's fast on Ramlila Grounds would work out, but many thoughtful and worried Indians are wondering whether the UPA is losing the plot.n








A woman can afford to annoy the whole world but not her tailor. The truth is that the tailor rules with absolute authority and always wins in the end. Don't let the naive look, the measure tape between the teeth and the pencil behind the ear fool you. This masterji can teach an IIM graduate a thing or two about business management.


One expensive tailor in a busy commercial sector in Chandigarh is renowned for two things : he delivers stitched clothes on time and returns all left-over pieces of cloth to the customer. Thus, punctuality and honesty are both guaranteed, you might think. "What's the point!" wailed my friend, for her new kurti rode well above the midriff. "When he has ruined my kurti, what am I going to do with the extra bits of cloth he has returned!" Being familiar with her troubles, her enterprising husband had discovered a rehri market tailor who could 'repair' the errors of 'designer' tailors for a small price.


You can get a good tailor by word of mouth. But you cannot get a tailor who delivers consistent quality, garment after garment. A conversation between two friends is likely to go thus: "My tailor is terrible. He ruins every third suit." Her friend is likely to sympathise, "Really? That's too bad! Try mine. He only 'spoils' every seventh suit!" This will sound bizarre to you only if you are completely disconnected from the women in your life. (Or if you have no women in it, obviously.)


One encounters tailors with all kinds of idiosyncrasies. One chap asked his customers quite candidly if they had a tendency to gain weight, so that 'provision' could be made for such exigencies. In another case, the customer's delivery was faster than the tailor's, so her college outfit had to be made into a maternity smock. A third was notorious for outsourcing his work to seamstresses who worked out of their homes. So, if you were in a hurry, you were offered the option of picking up the kurta from his showroom in Chandigarh's Sector 17 and the salwar from a worker's home in Maloya village.


My sister, however, is the kind who says she will take no nonsense from her tailor. Some years ago, she entrusted her trousseau to her tailor with the firm instruction, "Please keep ready three dresses at a time, every fifth day." Mohan Tailor was not one to comply meekly. He made excuses every time. In turn, she would bluff on each such occasion, "I will be getting married three days later and today I am still chasing you for my wedding clothes!"


This cat-and-mouse game continued until finally, he packed her last churidar kurta into a pink carrybag. "Behnji, your wedding got postponed five times, sab acche ke liye hota hai, Jai Mata Di", he said with a wicked grin. She retorted with spirit, "Mohanbhai, what to do, with tailors like you, it is good I have an understanding fiance!" I watched in amazement as she completed her transaction and swung out of the shop in triumph, clearly believing that she had had the last word!n







While speaking on the motion for the removal of Justice Soumitra Sen, a Judge of the Calcutta High Court, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, highlighted that those who occupy high offices must live through the scrutiny of highest standards of probity. Excerpts from his speech:


This is a sad but historic moment in the Indian democracy. We have assembled to decide the fate of a man who decided the fate of others. This political house is here to perform a judicial function. We have heard a detailed presentation in the defence of the Judge sought to be impeached.


The power of removal/impeachment of a Judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court is a power which is to be used in the rarest of the rare cases. We invoke this jurisdiction to remove a man and save the dignity of the office, which is paramount.


Judges no longer live in ivory towers. Today, they live in glasshouses where the bar, litigants, public and the media watch them from close proximity. But then we have all to exercise utmost restraint. Judges cannot defend themselves against unfounded allegations. They must neither be summarily tried nor be thrown to the wolves. A Judge, under inquiry, must be candid. He cannot plead only technical defences. He cannot be too clever by half. He cannot invoke a right to silence like an ordinary accused, and shy away from speaking the truth.


In this case, when the Judge under inquiry says that his offence must be proved 'to the hilt' or 'proved beyond reasonable doubt' , he relies on technicalities rather than substance. A Judge is like Caesar's wife. He must be beyond suspicion. Those who occupy high offices must live through the scrutiny of highest standards of probity. A Judge must be unsuspectable.


Proven misconduct?


Justice Sen is guilty of a continued 'proven misbehavior' from his days as a lawyer when he was appointed as a Receiver; and this continued well in to his tenure as a Judge of the Calcutta High Court. He never rendered the accounts as directed by the courts both as a lawyer and as Judge. He created encumbrances, by withdrawing monies, which were in his custody as a Receiver of the court. He transferred these monies unauthorizedly to persons not authorized to receive them. He withdrew the monies himself. He transferred the money to another account, which he maintained as a special officer in Calcutta Fans case. Even after his elevation as Judge in 2003, he continued the misappropriation of monies. His case squarely falling under Section 403 of the IPC of temporary misappropriation of monies is a criminal offence. In any case, he continued to retain these monies till 2006. He only returned the monies under the coercive order of the court and not otherwise.


During his tenure as Judge, he put a false defence before the single Judge, the Division Bench, the in-house inquiry committee and the impeachment inquiry that he had invested these monies in a company which went into liquidation. The liquidated company had nothing to do with these monies. The Division Bench judgment is a judgment with consent of all parties. It does not lay down the law. It is a judgment in personam, which is binding only on the parties, and not a judgment in rem, which binds the rest of the world. It does not, in any way, restrain the jurisdiction of this House under Article 217 from examining a case of 'proven misconduct'.


Justice Soumitra Sen's conduct as a litigant was unfortunate. He led no evidence. He hardly cross-examined witnesses. He claimed the right of silence. He then misrepresented and put up a false defence. He has been held guilty, both by the in-house committee appointed by the Chief Justice of India, and also by the committee appointed by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha. He is conclusively guilty of an offence. A case of 'proven misconduct' is made out against him. A Judge has to lead by example. A Judge cannot rely on technicalities and try to escape the rigours of law. Litigants cannot be Judged by a Judge, who himself is stigmatized. The defence of Justice Sen has thus to be rejected.


Who must appoint the Judges?


The Constitution of India empowers the government, in consultation with the Chief Justice of India to appoint Judges. Since the government has the last word, the independence of judiciary was being seriously compromised. The theory of social philosophy of Judges was propounded in the early 1970s in order to provide for a 'Committed Judiciary' in India. The failure of a section of the judiciary during the Emergency and thereafter compelled the revisiting of the debate as to who should have the last word in the appointment of the Judges. The Supreme Court in 1982, by a narrow majority of 4 against 3, maintained the status quo. This enabled further politicization in matters of judicial appointments. In 1993, the balance of power shifted. The advice of the Chief Justice of India became binding upon the government. In 1998, the authority of the Chief Justice of India was diluted to provide for a collegium to appoint Judges.


The quality of judicial appointments, the best available not willing to become Judges, has not improved. Both the earlier systems have not succeeded. Thus the system of Judges alone appointing Judges must now change. India needs a National Judicial Commission to appoint Judges. It must be a combination of members of the judiciary, the executive and citizens' representatives in public interest who must collectively appoint Judges.


The more important question is what should be the criteria on which Judges should be appointed. Today, Judges perform the Executive function of appointment in an unguided manner. The discretion of the National Judicial Commission, if it is so appointed, or the collegium as at present must now be restricted and regulated by the provisions of the Article 14 of the Constitution of India. There must be objective criteria introduced with regard to the qualification of persons under consideration, their academic credentials, their experience at the bar, their quality of judgments if they belong to the judicial institutions, details of cases argued, details of judgments reported with regard to the cases the lawyer has argued, the number of juniors trained, academic papers authored, amount of income tax paid, and the reputation and integrity etc. Unless these objective criteria enable a candidate to cross the threshold, he cannot enter the zone of consideration.


At present we have an in-house mechanism, which judges the Judges. It is an extra constitutional mechanism which has not succeeded. The process of impeachment is a near impossibility. The National Judicial Commission thus, in matters of judicial discipline, should be the Judicial Lok Pal.


Threats to judicial independence


The appointment of political activists as Judges at times has compromised the judicial independence. The lack of integrity can be on account of several reasons, which influence the administration of justice. These include judgments delivered because of collateral reasons and prejudices on account of religion, caste or personal reasons.


There is an increased trend of the Executive distributing jobs to Judges post retirement. This has seriously compromised the independence of judiciary. In recent times , the cases of Judges delivering judgments in politically sensitive cases on the eve of retirement and getting jobs the very next day from the Government is on the rise. I believe that no Judge should be entitled to a job after retirement. If the age of retirement is sought to be increased in the case of High Courts, as per the existing Bill pending, the same must be accompanied by a constitutional amendment, which prohibits jobs after retirement. The Judge strength of High Courts can be increased and all judicial tribunals must be manned by serving Judges.


Separation of powers


The separation of powers is one the most valuable principles of the Indian democracy. Separation of powers is infringed upon when the Legislature or the Executive encroach upon the Judiciary's space or Vice Versa. It is only judicial statesmanship which prevents a confrontation between the institutions. Of late, with the weakening of the political Executive and serious division in the polity, the tendency of the judicial institution to encroach upon the Legislative or Executive space has increased. It has been argued that if the Executive does not perform its job, the Judges have to step in. This is a dangerous argument. By the same logic, if the judiciary does not perform its job, can somebody else step in? The answer is NO in both the situations. Recent comments and pronouncements with regard to whether India should have liberalized economy or regulated economy do not fall within the judicial space. How terror is to be fought is in the Executive domain. What should be the land acquisition policy, is a concern which belongs to the Parliament and the Executive. Whether a Pakistani prisoner in India should be released or exchanged for Indian prisoners in Pakistan, is to be determined by the Government and not the Supreme Court. Whether FDI is needed in the economy or not is an area that belongs to be Executive or Parliament. Unfortunately, recent aberrations in the separation of powers, have all been on account of judicial activism. Activism and restraint are two sides of the same coin. Each institution must respect the Lakshman Rekha.


A breach of trust


Finally Sir, we have before us a case of 'proven misbehaviour' by Justice Soumitra Sen. It is not that his misbehaviour is restricted to his tenure as a lawyer. There is a thread of continuity in his 'proven misbehaviour'. He became a Receiver of a court property. He opened a bank account in his own name. He was a Trustee of somebody else's fund. He misappropriated the funds. He put them for an alternative use. This he did as a lawyer.


In 2003, when he became a Judge, he continued the misappropriation. He did not ask the court to discharge him. When the court issued him notice, he did not respond. When the court passed strong strictures against him, he under coercive direction of the court returned the money in 2006 along with interest. He mis-representated to the court that he had invested the money in a private company and that the money got lost when the company became insolvent. No part of this money was ever invested in a private company. When the Chief Justice of India called him for an explanation, he moved the Division Bench through his mother and got an order of the single Judge set aside on the basis of concessions made by the advocates. The order shows the members of the bar not in good light. Before the in-house committee, appointed by the CJI, he persisted with his false defence. The committee found him guilty. Before the Parliamentary Committee, he did not volunteer the entire evidence. He resorted to technicalities and silence. He resorted to false defence.


His acts, both as a lawyer and a Judge, had all the ingredients of culpability of breach of trust. He misappropriated the money and he put up a false defence. He was not truthful or candid. This is a case of 'proven misbehaviour'.


I, therefore, support the address to be made to the President, that Justice Soumitra Sen be removed from office as a Judge of the Calcutta High Court. He is undeserving to occupy that office. We recommend the removal of an undeserving man to save the dignity of the office.








If there exists popular perception that this is a government with an embarrassment of vices – an inexhaustible capacity for corruption, inventive mendacity (the dementia defence), and, it now seems, even gross political ineptitude – the Congress-led UPA has only itself to blame. Arresting Anna Hazare, then offering to release him, imposing conditions on his right to protest and then launching personal attacks all tell of a rudderless government bent on committing political suicide by ritual disembowelment.


Among the government's several robberies, the largest is of the space for a civil discourse. The restrictions on Hazare and his arrest are probably illegal and unconstitutional. But because the government acted in a manner that is seen to be highhanded, no one is debating what the two Lokpal Bills actually say. Police actions are used to tar the government's bill and, by necessary implication, push the Jan Lokpal Bill. And, as a direct follow through, you are either "for" Hazare or "against" him; and if you are not for him, then you must be corrupt. This is not debate. This is just mindless.


Critics of the government bill say it excludes MPs. On a closer reading, here's what it does. The government bill excludes the sitting Prime Minister and the judiciary; the inclusion or exclusion of both these is, at the very least debatable. Contrary to what is being put out, the government bill does include past and present Union Ministers and members of both houses of Parliament, companies, trusts, directors and so on. What it excludes is any action of a Minister of Parliament "in respect of anything said or a vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof covered under Article 105(2) of the Constitution". That Article confers immunity on Parliamentarians on things said and votes cast in Parliament or any Parliamentary Committee. The government's bill only keeps intact the Constitutional provision. For this, it is said to be a joke. But the real joke is that the Jan Lokpal Bill demands a wholesale elimination of this Article, without a Constitutional amendment as required by law, and it does so by including Parliamentarians' speeches and votes in its definition of corruption.


There are many glaring holes in the government's draft. One of these is its refusal to accept the role of "whistleblowers". Instead of acknowledging their value, the government bill provides only for severe penalties for making false complaints. Although it has wide powers of investigation, search and prosecution, the Lokpal remains recommendatory in the government bill. It does not say what is to be done in corruption cases involving a certain class of public servants or how the Lokpal's recommendations are to be enforced. The bill is very unsatisfactory, but to argue that its failures cannot be corrected after following an established, constitutionally mandated parliamentary process returns us to the starting presumption that all of Parliament is corrupt. If that is to be accepted, then what is at stake here is our Constitution itself.


On the other hand, in its essential woolliness, the Jan Lokpal Bill is a bubble-and-squeak legislation, full of yesterday's leftovers. It still speaks of nominees being "persons with impeccable integrity and a record of public service particularly in the field of fighting corruption." Fighting corruption is not a "field" of endeavour, an occupation or a profession (or it might be subjected to service tax). And who would these persons be, and where might we find them? Would they include hirsute yogis with a penchant for cross-dressing?
    It is also a truly frightening document. Not only does it demand a budget of not less than 0.25% of India's revenue, but it arrogates to the Lokpal enormous powers, investigative, prosecutorial and punitive, against everyone in public life, from the PM and the higher judiciary to the neighbourhood beat cop. The CBI reports to the Lokpal. The Lokpal investigates, prosecutes, and it imposes penalties directly – including life imprisonment. To give an idea of the kind of power it demands, look at Section 8: the Lokpal has the authority to sanction phone taps and communication interceptions against everyone. If the present government has lost its moral, ethical and constitutional compass, the draftsmen of the Jan Lokpal Bill seem to have forgotten the grammar of liberty.


The government's repeated bleating about parliamentary supremacy in legislation is rightly criticized as hyper-technical tripe. Only a fool would deny that societal demands often force a law into being: labour laws, women's rights, and the Right to Information act were all driven by social pressure. But this is very different from saying that a mass movement will decide the frame of any particular law. That is entirely within the province of Parliament, and Parliament is not meant to merely wink and nod at everyman's stab at drafting legislation. If the Hazare brigade insists on its draft being made law and threatens unrest if it is not, then it is simply blackmail.


However noble their cause, we should beware the men who would be Caesar. And we should be careful what we wish for. We might get it.





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




The news of a meeting of minds between the Union finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on the government's policy on issuing licences to new private sector banks has been widely welcomed. India needs new banks and a transparent and robust policy framework will boost public confidence in the licensing process. Given the heightened public concern about transparent licensing procedures, it is most unlikely that the government and the central bank would do anything to invite criticism. Although the final policy framework will be made public next week, information suggests that the minimum capital requirement for a new bank would be Rs 1,000 crore, of which the promoters' contribution is expected to be fixed at 40 per cent, to be brought down over a 10-year period to half that. As several analysts have noted, the guiding principle for both minimum capital required and the ceiling on promoters' quota should be that they are consistent with existing and widely acceptable risk management norms. The new policy framework is also expected to limit foreign shareholding in new banks to 49 per cent. In defining policy on this issue, the central bank may consider the suggestion made by some analysts that the definition of "foreign shareholding" should include, rather than exclude, the category of non-resident Indians. In other words, anyone permanently residing outside India should be classified into one category of "foreign investors", for both investment and taxation purposes.

The most contentious and controversial issue relating to the policy on new private banks remains the question of whether "large industrial houses" should be allowed to own new banks. The existing policy, defined at the time of bank nationalisation in 1969 and subsequently tweaked, disallows it. There is neither global uniformity on the issue nor an accepted "best practice". Global experience does not establish that there is anything inherently right or wrong about permitting industrial houses to own banks. However, there is no pressing reason for the government to revisit the existing policy at this point in time. It has been reported that the Union finance ministry would like to liberalise the policy, with riders and caveats that would disallow companies in areas like real estate from investing in banking. It is best to leave the matter to the central bank's judgement, which is capable of defining who is a "fit and proper" applicant and what constitutes a "fit and proper" criterion for granting bank licences. The central bank would naturally consider issues like concentration of business power, the need for checks and balances even in the private sector, and the need to identify credible private sector entities that have the resources to set up and run a bank. There are ways in which the power and control that can be exercised by private owners over banks can be restricted and RBI has pointed to this in its original discussion paper. The central bank is the best judge of its capability to regulate, monitor and punish large private sector entities, and should base its policy on an objective assessment of its own capabilities to regulate the private sector.






The United States federal government and the country's generic (out of patent) drug industry are reportedly close to an agreement under which the latter will pay $300 million in annual fees for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to inspect at least once in two years overseas plants from where active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for generic drugs sold in the US are imported. This is important for two reasons. One, 75 per cent of all prescription medicines sold in the US are generics and 80 per cent of the APIs used in all medicines are imported, mostly from India and China. Two, the cost-cutting healthcare reforms that the Obama administration has initiated would entail greater use of generic drugs. The new funding mechanism should speed up the approval process for marketing new products. The new fees are part of a package that also covers branded drugs and medical devices. Both the industry and the regulator have agreed on this financial proposal, so the US Congress is expected to pass it quickly.

Interestingly, the Indian pharmaceutical industry, which has a large number of FDA-approved production facilities and is the foremost exporter of quality generics to the US, has not been told about this proposal yet. Clearly, there is a huge lack of clarity. It is in the dark about the details of the fee structure. Will it be per inspection or per product? It also does not know how the fees will be shared between US manufacturing and importing interests and Indian manufacturer-exporters. Sources indicate that they will be happy to bear their share of the burden if it is done equitably. Otherwise, the fees will amount to a new non-tariff barrier. They can also be used as a weapon in intellectual property disputes. One US manufacturer speaks of the need to keep "falsified" drugs out. What on earth is this animal? Is it patent infringement or substandard and/or spurious medicines? There is a world of difference between the two.

Ideally, India should actively strive to build its own regulatory mechanism to ensure its pharmaceutical companies follow good manufacturing practices — which are as good as the best in the world. The whole Indian pharmaceutical story rests on the claim to marry high quality with low cost. But before it can be made possible, if the regulator of the number one importer makes its inspection and certification of Indian facilities more rigorous then it should be welcomed. The more better practices are mandated, the greater will be the spread of such a culture, which will also benefit Indian consumers. The process is akin to the role played by research and development facilities set up in India by global firms. The fruit of the effort is booked in a country where the company is incorporated, but India gains through the spread of skills and best practices. Finally, it is odd that an individual US industry must pay for the cost of policing it when the US treasury should pay for what needs to be done to protect its consumers. As stated earlier, this can lead to a cozy relationship between the industry and the regulator.







Jaimini Bhagwati assesses the key points in RBI's discussion paper on new bank licences.


A discussion paper put out by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in August 2010 examines the pros and cons of the "Entry of New Banks in the Private Sector". The central issue in the paper is whether large industrial houses should be allowed to sponsor new private sector banks. This article reviews the discussion paper and comments on the six topics listed in it for further debate.


The RBI paper starts with a discussion on widening financial inclusion as one of the objectives in granting licences to new private sector banks. A separate July 2011 RBI paper titled "Financial Inclusion in India: A Case Study of West Bengal" rates Indian states on the extent of financial inclusion achieved. Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka are ranked one, two and three and Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar are at positions 13, 20 and 21. Clearly, there is a positive correlation between social development levels and financial inclusion. New private sector banks could be required to help promote financial inclusion by using profits from their branches in urban clusters. However, such cross-subsidies will not be sustainable since banks can only complement development efforts, not substitute for them.   


The first and second questions posed in the discussion paper are: (a) what should be the minimum capital requirements for new banks; and (b) what should be promoters' contribution? My sense is that these two capital requirements may be Rs 1,000 crore and 40 per cent, respectively, with the latter number to be brought down to, say, 20 per cent over 10 years. The guiding principle for required minimum capital and ceiling on promoters' contribution should be consistency with a risk management framework that includes existing banks. The third question is the extent to which foreign shareholding is to be allowed in new banks. The licensing norms for new banks should not be complicated by simultaneously reopening the issue of caps on foreign ownership of banks in India. If anything needs to be changed on norms for foreign holdings in the financial sector, it is the often misused distinction between non-resident Indians and non-Indians. Everyone permanently residing outside India should be in one category for investment and taxation purposes.


The fourth, and most important, question posed in the paper is "whether large industrial and business houses could be allowed to promote banks". The Indian licensing guidelines of 2001 do not allow "large" industrial houses to sponsor new banks. The reasons go back to the dubious practices of such banks directing credit to preferred borrowers prior to bank nationalisation in 1969. All the disadvantages of allowing industrial houses to sponsor banks are as valid today as before. Among major economies, Canada, UK, Germany and France do not bar industrial companies from promoting banks. In contrast, the US does not allow industrial houses to own banks. It is evident from the dispersed nature of past banking sector breakdowns that permitting industrial houses to own banks or disallowing them was not a good indicator of whether banks would need government back-stop funding assistance. As the RBI paper has suggested, the probability of industrial houses interfering in banks promoted by them could be reduced by restricting banking licences to companies with diversified ownership.


On balance, continuing indefinitely with policies that restrict the entry of new private banks and, thus, inhibit competition would not be efficient. There could be ways through which large industrial houses can provide equity capital without the egregious wrongdoing of the past. The downside risk is that it may be practically impossible for RBI to prevent crony lending practices. Consequently, it is for RBI to assess whether, at our current stage of development, it can consistently monitor bank lending and stand up to pressures from corporate oligopolies.


The fifth question is whether non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) should be allowed to convert into banks or promote banks. A large number of Indian NBFCs are engaged in tax and other forms of financial arbitrage. Hence, while in principle NBFCs can be allowed to sponsor new banks, their antecedents and possible ownership links with corporate houses through non-transparent cross-holding structures should be investigated and taken into account. The last question is what the business model for new banks should be. The short answer is that there is no need for a separate business model for new banks.


Taking a step back, the RBI discussion paper needs to be broader in its outlook and should analyse the causal reasons for banks having to periodically depend on funding support from taxpayers. The section in the paper titled "lessons from the recent global financial crisis" is too short and perfunctory. Indian household and private sector debt, as a proportion of GDP, is lower than comparable numbers in several developed countries. As for smaller Indian companies, they often pledge shares as collateral to borrow. Indian banks have recently had to take over equity stakes in some companies that were not in a position to service their debt. Further, dark clouds are again gathering on the European and US economic horizons.


Consequently, we need to assess if periodic banking sector crises are inevitably linked to business cycles or whether they are more influenced by unconstrained and under-regulated growth of the banking sector as compared to the rest of the economy. For example, the banking sectors in the US, the UK, Iceland, Ireland, Cyprus and regional savings banks in Spain are significantly oversized and/or over-leveraged. It is high time to reflect on the received wisdom that more is good in banking since this promotes growth. A related issue is the extent to which deposit taking and investment banking should be segregated in new private banks in India. In this context, it has been reported that the UK Independent Commission on Banking headed by John Vickers is likely to recommend strict segregation of deposit taking from investment banking (the report is expected in October 2011).

According to press reports, RBI would soon issue draft guidelines for large industrial houses to sponsor new private banks. RBI should take its time to reassess outstanding levels of household, corporate and public internal and external debt, sectoral growth of credit and preferred size of the banking sector versus that of the economy before issuing licences for the entry of new private banks.


The author is India's Ambassador to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg

Views expressed are strictly personal








The government has made up its mind to revive Sindri Fertilizers. The plant, which has been lying idle for several years, will be handed over to Steel Authority of India Ltd. It'll be a tough challenge for the steel maker to operate the mothballed fertiliser plant successfully. It is perhaps a good time to revisit the historical significance of Sindri. Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, firmly believed that the public sector alone could transform India from a poor agrarian country to a modern industrialised one. The private sector, he felt, was driven by the profit motive and not by the national interest. Sindri was among his first experiments with the public sector.

The Bengal famine of 1942 had ravaged the countryside. Two million men, women and children had died of hunger. Cattle in several districts had perished altogether. The government's hands were tied: the naval blockade had kept imported grain from reaching the affected areas by sea, there wasn't surplus grain available in other regions of the country, and trains were all booked for the movement of troops.

The need was felt that India should raise its farm output if such calamities were to be avoided. This would fill the government's silos from which grain could be released in times of shortages. One way to improve output was to use synthetic fertilisers. Indian farmers had so far depended largely on organic manure in their fields. With synthetic fertilisers, there was consensus, they could produce more. The Foodgrain Policy Committee in July 1943 had estimated that the country would require between two and three million tonnes of such fertilisers in a year. Hence, it recommended that a factory that could produce 250,000 tonnes of nitrogenous fertilisers should be set up. Later in the year, the War Resources Committee said that it should be a state-owned factory.

The first task was to find the right location for the factory. The criteria were that it should be close to coal reserves and should have adequate supplies of water and electricity. To help find a site, the government approached Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), the largest fertiliser company in the United Kingdom. A team of three came from ICI in June 1944 and submitted its report five months later. They had selected Sindri on the banks of the Damodar, 15 km from Dhanbad, the centre for coal mining in India. Chemical Construction Company of the United States was employed to make the designs of the factory, supervise its construction and see it into production. Power Gas Corporation of the United Kingdom was contracted to supply the plant. Work started in 1947 and ended in 1951.

But there was a hitch: while the initial project cost was Rs 10.53 crore, Sindri had cost the government over Rs 23 crore. Mr Nehru's detractors – the list included not only businessmen but also several right-wing leaders – had a hawk's eye on the venture. The newspapers wrote endlessly on the subject; there was uproar in Parliament. How could Mr Nehru justify such inefficient use of meagre resources? If these were the project implementation skills of the government, heavens help if it starts to run the factory. The episode threatened to give Mr Nehru's rivals enough fodder to derail his socialist policies.

Mr Nehru had to act quickly and decisively. In spite of his general dislike for businessmen ("I must frankly confess that I am a socialist and a republican and am no believer in kings or princes, or in the order which produces the modern kings of industry, who have greater power over the lives and fortunes of men than even the kings of old, and whose methods are as predatory as those of the old feudal aristocracy," he had said at the 1929 session of the Congress at Lahore), he decided to induct two from the corporate world on the Sindri board: Lala Shri Ram of DCM and J J Ghandy of Tata.

The two took an independent line from the very first day. Mr Ghandy wrote to C C Desai, the then secretary in the ministry of works, production and supply and the chairman of Sindri, on February 12, 1952: "It occurs to me that an attempt has been made in the articles of association to compromise between the authority of a limited liability company and complete departmental control of the activities of the company." He pointed out that the articles laid down that the President will approve all borrowing, fix salaries of all directors, clear all executive appointments of Rs 2,000 per month and above, and direct all allocations of profits to reserves.

Mr Desai, in his letter of March 4, admitted that the provisions were unsatisfactory "which appear to detract from the supremacy of the directors" but said that these would not hinder the independent functioning of the board. "They are more in the nature of experimental provisions at this stage of infancy of industrial enterprise in the public sector to dovetail the freedom and elasticity of the company form of management and the ultimate responsibility of Parliament, of which the government cannot divest itself." Thus began Sindri, torn from the word go between efficiency and duty to the nation.








Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger is probably the world's most famous living pilot. The hero of what is known as the "Miracle on the Hudson" is now a much sought after speaker in business schools, particularly at a time when the world is going through a turbulent economic phase.

The "miracle" story is as follows: In January 2009, a US Airways Airbus A320 struck a flock of birds just after take-off from New York's LaGuardia airport. With both engines out, the cool-headed pilot manoeuvred the aircraft over New York City and ditched it in the Hudson River. All 155 on board were pulled to safety.

That's heroic enough, but what was striking was the way the aircraft's passengers behaved during those tense moments. They were no doubt scared, but what saved them was the absence of panic and willingness to follow the pilot's instructions.

Most of the passengers later said this was because the pilot told them the problem straight out and instructed them how to deal with it. It was clear that the pilot and his team recognised the danger of the situation, assessed what their limited options were and then acted in a way that gave the best possible chance for minimising casualties. That's leadership lesson number one at a time when slowdown signals are getting clearer by the day: leaders can defuse a lot of fear just by communicating clearly about the situation.

It's not a surprise, therefore, that Sullenberger is again being pursued with renewed vigour by B-schools and companies. Everyone agrees that the fear of uncertainty has come back and wants to know how to deal with it. Management experts have a name for it: psychological recession — a feeling of economic and psychological vulnerability and a growing sense that your employer gives a damn about you.

The reason employees are already going through a psychological recession is simple: a recent Harvard Business Review study said the first thing companies do just before a perceived slowdown is to stop hiring, start issuing pink slips, cut promotion budgets and freeze expansion plans. This is despite the fact that such knee-jerk reactions have often boomeranged.

To be sure, unlike in 2009, no Indian company is yet talking about pink slips or curtailing of operations, but that's small consolation as whispers about the uncertainty ahead have already started in office canteens and near the water-coolers. People have started fearing losing jobs, salary cuts, increment freeze — all telltale signs of a psychological recession. Unless managements read the tea leaves and start taking action now, it can cost them dearly — just when you need people to focus and engage, they lose focus and disengage.

The cost of such fears can be heavy since even in normal times, distractions consume as much as a third of the average worker's day and sap productivity.

HR experts say now is the time when top managements should engage employees more through frequent town-hall meetings, direct mailers, personalised meetings and so on, especially with the talent you need. HR heads of enlightened companies treat these town-hall meetings as diagnostic centres so that the doctor knows the exact nature of the ailment.

The root of psychological recession is the sense that people have no control over what happens to them. But winning organisations help people break through that hopelessness and channel their employees' anxieties into results.

In their book – Predictable results in unpredictable times – authors Stephen R Covey and Bob Whitman say the paradigm at the root of psychological helplessness is the widespread belief that people have no control over what happens to them. Martin Seligman has called it "learned helplessness" — a condition in which people act helpless, even when they have the power to change the unpleasant or even harmful circumstance.

Covey and Whitman have suggested three ways to face the problem.

  • Be transparent: Don't assume everybody already knows how the turbulence is affecting the organisation. All they hear are rumours about downturns and layoffs, so they need to hear exactly where they stand and they need to hear that often. Winning companies would have simple goals repeatedly revisited, together with clear targets and strong follow-through, including the measurement of results 
  • Talk about what's next: if you have a strategy, lay it out in clear terms. Give people the chance to share their feelings concerns and, most of all, their ideas. 
  • Focus on clarity: This reduces fear even if what is made clear isn't very positive. A first guideline for leaders is to talk straight and listen with empathy to the concerns of the team. By not communicating, you are asking people to walk straight into the storm. It will crush them — privately, silently, but inevitably.

Sullenberger followed these three principles and came out a winner — saving not only himself but all the 155 passengers on board. What about you?







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. 








Regardless of the outcome of the impeachment proceedings against Justice Soumitra Sen, the process highlights the need for a quicker, less cumbersome mechanism for ensuring accountability in the higher judiciary, specifically, to pass the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill presently pending in Parliament. Under the law, an impeachment motion requires the go-ahead from 100 MPs of the Lok Sabha or 50 MPs of the Rajya Sabha. Once admitted, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is required to set up an inquiry committee to look into (and establish) the charges before Parliament can continue with the impeachment motion. The motion must be carried by two-thirds of those present and voting who must, in addition, constitute a majority of the total strength of the concerned House. After this, the motion has to be passed in a similar fashion by the other House. When both Houses recommend that the judge be removed from office can the President act to remove him.

The long-winded process is intended to ensure independence of the judiciary from the executive and ensure judges are able to take decisions without fear or favour. In practice, however, it has had only one consequence. Not a single judge of the higher judiciary (Supreme Court and high courts) has been successfully impeached to date. Justice Ramaswamy of the Supreme Court came the closest; the inquiry committee found him guilty. But the motion to impeach him did not get the required support in Lok Sabha. The charges against Justice Sen go back almost 20 years, when, as Court Receiver in the Calcutta High Court, he is alleged to have misappropriated large sums of money received by him and then misrepresented facts to the high court. The inquiry committee found him guilty on both counts; hence the present impeachment proceedings. An inquiry committee is investigating charges against Chief Justice Dinakaran of the Sikkim High Court as a prelude to impeaching him. Today, the reality is that it is virtually impossible to dismiss a judge once appointed. This must change, through a new law to hold judges accountable.






Coal India Ltd (CIL) is an unalloyed monopolist, with a multi-year record of stultifying output. The public sector monopoly in coal mining must be repealed without further delay. Continuing with such anachronistic policy would be at huge national cost. Note that against the backdrop of severe coal shortages nationally — never mind that our proven reserves add up to over 60-odd billion tonnes — in the last five years, CIL's total production has gingerly increased by under 20%, to 430 MT. And during the same time period, CIL's net profits have gone up five-fold, to add up to over . 10,000 crore. It is clearly monopoly behaviour: to restrict supply in the face of stepped-up demand for unearned rent seeking. Instead, we need multiple coal producers to compete for custom, subject to regulatory oversight, as is the case in any large industry. The fact of the matter is that absence of proper market design and the sheer lack of proactive policy keep productivity and efficiency levels in domestic coal mining way below global norms.

CIL has replaced Reliance Industries Ltd, for now, but analysts foresee limited upside to the CIL stock. It is possible that RIL would again lead in market cap, especially if it can boost gas output in the Krishna-Godavari basin. But it cannot be gainsaid that domestic petrochemicals major RIL derives much of its value from volumes-based commodity play, which is qualitatively different from the science-based, proprietary-technology driven value propositions of chemical majors abroad. And the glaring lack of proprietary technology and science-based growth restricts RIL's market cap. Meanwhile, Indian coal mining has to see a significant efficiency boost in both production and beneficiation. The unbeneficiated coal from CIL is a source of climate change. Long-wall mining systems and other modern equipment are only sparingly used at CIL. The largest coal producer in the world, CIL, is almost certainly one of the highest cost producers as well. Given steeply rising imports of coal, we can no longer afford to keep repeal of coal nationalisation and attendant policy overhaul on the backburner.







 For avid watchers of reality television, the news from Wall Street gets better, and saucier. W i v e s o f W all S t r e e t, the brainchild of Devon Fleming, who's married to a banker, which this column had noted earlier, might go on air soon. D e al-B o o k reports that auditions have been successful, and the prospective cast includes Melissa Matthes, married to a hedge fund manager for 20 years, who teaches the relation between theology and money and Tamara Hunter, married to an out of work 'Spanish Playboy.' Among others, it'll also feature the wife of a former employee of the French fund manager who killed himself after his investments with Bernie Madoff went up in smoke. And of course, it'll also feature Ms Fleming, playing herself. Indian television doesn't seem to have noticed yet, but the lives of wives are all the rage in the US today. And as K a u n B a n e g a C r o r e - p a t idemonstrated, copying big US reality shows is no crime, but a formula for success. Where is our D alal S t r e e t B a h u s?

Right now, there are 12 shows on misbehaving wives that are on air in the US. There are six franchises of R e al H o u s e w i v e s. Then there are M o b W i v e sand B a s k e t b all W i v e s. A r m y W i v e son L i f e t i m e, S i s t e r W i v e son T L C and P r i s o n W i v e s(wives in prison, or with spouses in prison?) on D i s c o v e r y. There's no chance of the catfights cooling off, either: a channel is now shooting W r e s - tli n g W i v e s, and some pro-golfers' better halves are clamouring for their own show. This list opens up magnificent vistas for Indian televised entertainment. Why stop at S a a s B a h u serials? In addition to D alal S t r e e t B a h u s, you could shoot C r i c k e t T e a m B a - h u sand I P L B a h u s, B olly w o o d B a h u s, C r o r e p a t i B a h u sand K i t t y - p a r t y B a h u s. And in this season of Anna, why not shoot B h r a s h - t a c h a r V i r o d h i B a h u sas well?






Three business leaders have defined the last 60 years. J R D Tata, genteel, principled, a humanist and visionary who shaped the first 20 years and laid the foundation for a modern India amidst the controls of the socialist era. Dhirubhai Ambani, who saw no limits to his dreams and who thought of global scales, huge investments and fostered an enormous investor community and whose success destroyed India's licence quota raj, shaped the next 20. India's liberalisation created the N R Narayana Murthy (NRN) era, of building a global business based on technology, the best corporate governance practices, creating a meritocracy, offering hope to India's educated middle class. This era ends today when NRN bids goodbye to Infosys.

I joined Infosys in 1994 as head of finance and reported to him. It was a fabulous experience. His conceptual ability and understanding of business was total. Within a fortnight he prepared a financial model which explained the business lucidly. He knew the smallest detail of the business and one can aver that he was the best manager of finance India has known.

He kept the business rules simple so that there was no confusion, he made fast decisions, pushed aggressive targets, monitored performance, planned for the future and ensured relentless execution. He said transparency was a competitive advantage. He followed the highest standards of governance, encouraged all of us to set standards in all we did, and set lofty goals for us — listing on the Nasdaq when we were a very small company. He supported us fully when we took decisions, the credit was ours; the failure, if any belonged to him.
A man of great compassion, all Infoscions loved him. He gave them India's largest and most generous ESOP, democratising wealth and forcing corporate India to do more, creating thousands of millionaires. Not once did he publicise his achievements or his awards; yet he must have been awarded about 20 doctorates from various universities.

He had a large holding when he started Infosys but ensured that all his co-founders had good stakes by diluting his own hugely. He built the company ploughing back surpluses, taking a meagre salary for himself. Not once did he use corporate resources for his personal purposes. He met his expenses fully and never involved family in business nor gave favours or jobs to anybody without merit.

He stepped down as CEO at the prime of his life, ensuring that his co-founders could also take their place in the sun. His loyalty to them and faith in them was awesome. He had great foresight investing hugely in the Infosys campuses, forever changing the workplace in India, giving us all we craved for. He invested personally in creating a fabulous sales team, making us successful. He ensured huge investments in internal education and training, creating the corporate university in Mysore, the largest in the world.

He was a stickler for performance, gave no quarter and accepted none. He was harsh on us if we faltered, sometimes we were terrified of what he would say, but when he felt we had done our best, there was no one kinder. He gave all of us the courage and energy to achieve great heights. For him merit was everything. The best argument won the day, not the person, not the position.

Everybody knew he had the last word on everything. He allowed us to argue our positions if we disagreed, but once he decided, all of us toed the line. On the ADR roadshow he pulled out a troublesome tooth to speak better the next day. He would make 9 presentations of 45 minutes each per day, forsaking lunch, with the same energy and drive for the last one as the first.

When he stepped down as CEO, he travelled more to give more space to his successor, pushing us away when we approached him. Yet he was always there if there was a crisis or a hint of things going wrong. He created a fabulous board, invited the most competent people to be members from around the globe. He made sure that board meetings were open, transparent and we called ourselves a debating society. He headed many committees for strengthening standards in governance, reporting, regulations and policies. He had a huge role in the creation of the corporate sector that we see today.

It has been good fortune working with the maestro. He was kind to this writer, almost affectionate, but also drove people hard. My greatest kick was to answer any question before he asked, trying to read his mind, especially on finance. He could dissect data many ways, his finger always on the pulse of business wherever he was. He demanded and got his P&L at 3 o'clock on the last working day of very month, impatient to know our achievements, meeting our numbers was religion.

He was cautious in making commitments, but aggressive in performance, honest in his pronouncements. Investors loved him, he was the messiah of great returns! He created a dream company, "God's own company", which proved all the Cassandras wrong. An exemplar, a role model, the standard bearer, the answer to the great Indian dream.

Now he will retire from his beloved Infy and walk away into the sunset. We will miss him, yet he would not have us feel this way. The journey should go on, the dream should live forever! Infosys should be the top company globally. But for this writer, it is the end of an era.











It is heartening to see DLF slapped with a . 630 crore penalty by the Competition Commission of India for "brutal disregard of consumer rights" and "their hopelessly one-sided agreements" and its plans to initiate suo motu action against other builders similarly exploiting their dominant position vis-à-vis hapless home-buyers. As DLF is pointing out in its 'defence', this exploitation is indeed the 'industry norm".
On May 31, 2008, I wrote an Oped piece 'Dealing with one-sided contracts' in these very columns, stating, how "a typical contract for the purchase of house from a developer is so one-sided as to be a joke", the joke being on the home-buyers.

The piece listed some typical clauses from various real contracts that went something like these: While the buyer will have to pay a penal interest of 18% per annum for a delay of even 15 days on his instalments to the builder, the builder has no symmetric obligation for delaying the completion of the work by any length, often paying a compensation as little as 1% per annum! The instalments may be demanded every three months or upon each stage of completion, whichever is earlier, upon threat of penal interest, implying that the builder could extort payment without completing a stage of construction (which is what led to the Maytas scam in Hyderabad, where banks had released funds for apartments that were never built). The builder is not obliged to complete any of the promised facilities, like a club-house or a swimming pool, that he is supposed to provide at the time of handing over the house or even any time thereafter, even though he may have received payments from the buyers for those facilities. The home-buyers have no say in the quality of construction promised. The buyers cannot have any claim to warranty on defective construction even for one full season, the "guaranty" typically being for six months. The builder is free to encroach upon the buyer's property and build beyond the originally agreed spaces (that's how DLF built 29 floors against the agreed 19 floors) for which the initial buyers have paid full value. That's how skewed the contracts with builders are, leaving the home-buyers virtually helpless.

While CCI's move is most welcome, it still does not help an ordinary buyer at a time when an owners' association is yet to come into being. What is worse, in most cases, the housing cooperatives themselves are controlled by the builders. Few people have the savvy and the energy to get their grievances redressed from the CCI every time.

I had made some suggestions in my aforementioned piece, which I shall paraphrase again. Firstly, an omnibus CCI may not be enough to address most grievances of home-buyers. Home buyers perhaps need a dedicated regulator in the real estate segment.

Secondly, in many other countries, responsible builders associations prescribe standard proformas of contracts that are less skewed. In Australia, for example, there are three major associations of builders, each of which provides standard contract proformas to the potential buyers for various kinds of contracts ranging from purchase of a new property to existing property to renovation of bathrooms and kitchen in order to reasonably protect the interests of homebuyers. In India, we have no such luck. As a matter of fact, according to a written response from the New Delhi-based Builders' Association of India, which has been around since 1941, working on such a template doesn't fall under its mandate, as they are expected to represent only the builders' interests! Perhaps banks (being lenders to home-buyers), and regulators should work closely with builders to create a proforma contract that is less skewed, along the lines of the more informed countries.

Thirdly, at present, the agreements with the builder are linked to the loan contracts, so that the loan disbursals go directly from the banks to the builders. So it should be possible for banks providing the housing loan to require all payments from buyers to the builders to be made through an escrow account. The bank could also, for a fee, hold a limited power of attorney from the homebuyer (borrower) to ensure that the builder has met his obligations and once so satisfied, clears the escrow. In fact, such a service may encourage home loans, minimise cash transactions so prevalent in the building industry and prevent Maytas or DLF-like violations of the home-buyers' interests.

Specific suggestions along the above lines were also made to the RBI governor, the finance ministry, chairmen of HDFC, NHB, Planning Commission, et el, with little response of course. But one is happy to note at least the issue coming to the foreground thanks to the CCI. Well, the government's wheels do move after all, even if they move slowly.







 It is heartening to see DLF slapped with a . 630 crore penalty by the Competition Commission of India for "brutal disregard of consumer rights" and "their hopelessly one-sided agreements" and its plans to initiate suo motu action against other builders similarly exploiting their dominant position vis-à-vis hapless home-buyers. As DLF is pointing out in its 'defence', this exploitation is indeed the 'industry norm".

On May 31, 2008, I wrote an Oped piece 'Dealing with one-sided contracts' in these very columns, stating, how "a typical contract for the purchase of house from a developer is so one-sided as to be a joke", the joke being on the home-buyers.

The piece listed some typical clauses from various real contracts that went something like these: While the buyer will have to pay a penal interest of 18% per annum for a delay of even 15 days on his instalments to the builder, the builder has no symmetric obligation for delaying the completion of the work by any length, often paying a compensation as little as 1% per annum! The instalments may be demanded every three months or upon each stage of completion, whichever is earlier, upon threat of penal interest, implying that the builder could extort payment without completing a stage of construction (which is what led to the Maytas scam in Hyderabad, where banks had released funds for apartments that were never built). The builder is not obliged to complete any of the promised facilities, like a club-house or a swimming pool, that he is supposed to provide at the time of handing over the house or even any time thereafter, even though he may have received payments from the buyers for those facilities. The home-buyers have no say in the quality of construction promised. The buyers cannot have any claim to warranty on defective construction even for one full season, the "guaranty" typically being for six months. The builder is free to encroach upon the buyer's property and build beyond the originally agreed spaces (that's how DLF built 29 floors against the agreed 19 floors) for which the initial buyers have paid full value. That's how skewed the contracts with builders are, leaving the home-buyers virtually helpless.

While CCI's move is most welcome, it still does not help an ordinary buyer at a time when an owners' association is yet to come into being. What is worse, in most cases, the housing cooperatives themselves are controlled by the builders. Few people have the savvy and the energy to get their grievances redressed from the CCI every time.

I had made some suggestions in my aforementioned piece, which I shall paraphrase again. Firstly, an omnibus CCI may not be enough to address most grievances of home-buyers. Home buyers perhaps need a dedicated regulator in the real estate segment.

Secondly, in many other countries, responsible builders associations prescribe standard proformas of contracts that are less skewed. In Australia, for example, there are three major associations of builders, each of which provides standard contract proformas to the potential buyers for various kinds of contracts ranging from purchase of a new property to existing property to renovation of bathrooms and kitchen in order to reasonably protect the interests of homebuyers. In India, we have no such luck. As a matter of fact, according to a written response from the New Delhi-based Builders' Association of India, which has been around since 1941, working on such a template doesn't fall under its mandate, as they are expected to represent only the builders' interests! Perhaps banks (being lenders to home-buyers), and regulators should work closely with builders to create a proforma contract that is less skewed, along the lines of the more informed countries.

Thirdly, at present, the agreements with the builder are linked to the loan contracts, so that the loan disbursals go directly from the banks to the builders. So it should be possible for banks providing the housing loan to require all payments from buyers to the builders to be made through an escrow account. The bank could also, for a fee, hold a limited power of attorney from the homebuyer (borrower) to ensure that the builder has met his obligations and once so satisfied, clears the escrow. In fact, such a service may encourage home loans, minimise cash transactions so prevalent in the building industry and prevent Maytas or DLF-like violations of the home-buyers' interests.

Specific suggestions along the above lines were also made to the RBI governor, the finance ministry, chairmen of HDFC, NHB, Planning Commission, et el, with little response of course. But one is happy to note at least the issue coming to the foreground thanks to the CCI. Well, the government's wheels do move after all, even if they move slowly.








This month, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) turns 14. It shoulders the onerous task of balancing the interests of the consumers who take medicines and the companies that produce them. With the estimated Rs 1-lakh-crore drug industry seeing tumultuous change, especially over the last six years, the NPPA has not really kept pace. At present, 74 drugs on the list of essential medicines are under price control and the rest are monitored if the price increase is over 10 per cent in a year. With medicines accounting for over half the hospitalisation expenses of an individual, it is only natural that there is an ongoing debate on whether more drugs should be brought under price control, as opposed to allowing market forces to achieve the same. Be that as it may, it is possible to carve out the required space for forces of competition, and yet ensure that the NPPA does justice to its assigned role as a price regulator and guardian of consumer interest. The NPPA's road ahead, though, can be re-defined only when the long-pending Pharmaceuticals Policy sees the light of day and aligns itself to the structural changes in the industry over the past decade. The Drafts of 2002 and 2006 have lapsed, and the NPPA is left to operate on the lines of the Drug Price Control Order, 1995. Meanwhile, the amended Indian Patents Act has been operational from 2005, enforcing product patents, allowing companies to protect their intellectual property and keep at bay other companies making similar versions of innovative drugs, at lower costs. Recently, the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry have totally or partially sold their operations to multinational drug companies. This has triggered valid concerns about medicine prices — albeit among the lowest in the world. It's not just an innovative cancer medicine that is priced at over a lakh a month for life-long use; even its generically similar version, at about Rs 10,000 a month for the rest of one's life is no mean sum.

This is where NPPA has a role to play. It is surely possible to crack down on inordinate mark-ups, which are indicative of monopolistic or oligopolistic practices. But NPPA lacks support from the Centre and can hardly make a meaningful impact in delivering affordable healthcare. Merely threatening companies with more price control is unlikely to work, as companies end up taking the medicine off the shelves, saying it is unviable to manufacture. The root problem is the absence of a policy framework that reconciles regulation with competition, and therefore the interests of consumers and producers. But with medicines being just part of healthcare, it is time for the Government to train its guns on other facets of healthcare cost, including diagnostic tests, hospital facilities and doctor fees.






Once again the Americans are in the news. This time, it is thanks to poor choice of words by a diplomat in Chennai.

"… my skin became dirty and dark like the Tamilians," Ms Maureen Chao, Vice Consul at the US Consulate in Chennai, said while recounting her 72-hour train journey from New Delhi to Orissa many years ago. Ms Chao was addressing the Semester Abroad Programme of SRM University.

As expected, everyone present was offended, though the remarks never meant to, with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister demanding an apology for stereotyping, racial slur and what not. The American Mission in Chennai quickly regretted the "unfortunate" remarks, reiterating that it was never the diplomat's intention to hurt anyone's sentiments.

Inappropriate and poor choice of words, yes, it was; but there did not appear to be any intent of a racial slur. Prior to her diplomatic assignment, Ms Chao was a student counsellor for many years at an American university and she wouldn't have lasted there had she harboured any politically incorrect views!

This is not the first time that an American politician or diplomat has courted controversy with poor choice of words. Ms Chao stands in the distinguished company of former President George Bush, the present Vice-President, Mr Joe Biden and the Secretary of State, Ms Hillary Clinton, all of whom were hammered in the media for their unfortunate remarks. But they had not intended to wound, even indirectly.


"We are working hard to convince both the Indians and the Pakis that there is a way to deal with their problems without going to war," quipped Mr Bush in 2002, without realising that the word "Pakis" is a racially-offensive epithet that is not acceptable. In fact, even prior to Mr Bush, Mr Sandy Berger, the National Security Advisor to President Bill Clinton, came to realise the hard way that the term "Pakis" isn't acceptable usage. Of course, it's another matter that Mr Bush was reprieved by Pakistan.

"I would give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was said in passing. I would say it doesn't amount to racial slur," remarked the then Spokesman of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington.

Two years later, in 2004, at a fund-raiser, the then New York Senator, Ms Hillary Clinton, joked that Mahatma Gandhi used to run a gas station in St. Louis. That comment did not go down well, as it is associated with certain ethnic groups running gas stations in America.

"I have admired the work and life of Mahatma Gandhi and have publicly spoken regarding that many times. I truly regret if a lame attempt at humour suggested otherwise," Ms Clinton said in an interview shortly thereafter.

It does not take too much for so-called slurs to be noticed, but what needs to be kept in mind is that there are those Chaos, Bushs, Clintons and Bidens who may mean nothing offensive, except for their misconstrued attempt at humour and poor choice of words. Diplomats are trained to be culture-sensitive, just as scribes are, for the most part, trained to be sensitive to the larger picture. This should be borne in mind the next time such a controversy breaks out.






There is no need to take an entirely negative view of the events of the past few days following the fierce face-off between Anna Hazare and his supporters, on the one hand, and the Delhi Police and the Government at the Centre, on the other, arising from Anna's determined bid to go on an indefinite fast at the Jayaprakash Narayan Park, brushing aside the conditions imposed by the Police and in violation of the prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

That, despite the highly surcharged atmosphere throughout the country, the mass upsurge has remained entirely peaceful with not even a minor untoward incident, is akin to a miracle. At any moment, with tens of thousands, carrying candles and torches, in a fever-pitch of anger and agitation, something could have easily gone amiss somewhere resulting in a horrendous holocaust. The exemplary behaviour of the protesters everywhere is in and by itself proof of the extent to which they have been touched by the greatness and nobility of the cause.

On the developments

There is yet another aspect whose vital contribution to the making of an enlightened citizenry should not be overlooked: The white-hot debates and controversies aired by the print and electronic media have also served to educate the people on a massive scale on the merits and nuances of the various issues relating to the fight against corruption, the part that the people can and should play, and the opinions for and against the Government's and Team Anna's drafts of the Lokpal Bill.

In the period since the first fast of Anna Hazare in April, in the course of my casual chats with autorickshaw drivers, hotel bearers, vegetable vendors and even young school students, I was amazed at their perceptive and constructive analysis of the developments and the practical and purposeful nature of their suggestions.

What is now needed is an earnest introspection on all sides on the rights and wrongs of what transpired and the respective roles of the Government, the police and Team Anna itself. It should be done with an open and receptive mind, without locking oneself into pre-conceived positions.


There is no question that the Government will have to take the largest part of the blame for mishandling the situation. It heavily counted on a legalistic, law-and-order, take-it-or-lump-it approach that went back to days of British imperialism, whereas the challenge before it was a moral one, and called for total identification with the sentiments and sufferings of the people. Instead, it muddied up the issue as one of rule of law, supremacy of Parliament, sanctity of prohibitory orders, obedience to police diktats and the like. It descended to the level of consciously indulging in character-assassination and intemperate vilification through its chosen spokespersons.

If only, right at the start, Dr Manmohan Singh, Mr Pranab Mukherjee or Mr P. Chidambaram had made conciliatory overtures, and kept both the Anna Team and the Opposition engaged in efforts to build a consensus, it could have avoided all the subsequent ugly contretemps.

The police showed little intelligence and imagination in thinking that it can thrust down Team Anna's throat its long list of conditions, many of them absurd and arbitrary beyond belief (For instance, how to count the crowd to keep its size within 5000? Why the number of days of fasting should be three, and not four or five?)

Finally, the largest share of introspection falls to Team Anna itself. To me, Anna seems bent on fasting for its own sake. What is it that he expects to get out of it? Substitution of the official Lokpal Bill by his Bill? Is this realistic and realisable when there are honest differences of opinion among even sympathisers of Anna about many of the impractical features pressed by him?

He could have achieved far more if, on the strength of the enormous moral authority acquired by him from his first fast, he had hammered out an agreed version in concert with the Standing Committee of the Lok Sabha to which the official Bill has been referred.






The Africans as a whole are "not only not averse to cutting off their noses to spite their face; they regard such an operation as a triumph of cosmetic surgery."

The Arabs are worse than most people at linguistic flatulence.

The average Nicaraguan is among the "most dishonest, unreliable, violent and alcoholic of Latin Americans". The 'Icelanders are 'xenophobic, grasping, opportunist, unjustifiably conceited and ashamedly supplicant'.

These observations – and many more in similar vein - are from classified Valedictory despatches written by Her Majesty's Ambassadors and High Commissioners around the world.

The Valedictories, a centuries-old tradition which, to the regret of many, was effectively ended in 2006 by the then Foreign Secretary, were exceptional because they gave the Ambassador the opportunity to be even more wide-ranging, critical and self-indulgent them usual. They were brutally frank – the Foreign Office sought "full, frank and hard-hitting advice" and not always complimentary to the host government or people. They were, for that matter, equally unsparing towards the home government. They were valued because the honest assessments were felt to be critical in enabling re-think and reform in policy and implementation.

This compilation, Parting Shots, edited by Matthew Parries and Andrew Bryson, ( Penguin), is the follow-up to a BBC Radio 4 series broadcast in 2009 in which the editors aired the Valedictories and also interviewed several Ambassadors on their contents. The editors had managed to get 40 Valedictories – they had sought some 60 pertaining to 1979-2006 period - released under the RTI. The quality of the Valedictories, as the editors acknowledge, are not always even; generally though they are of exceptionally high standard.

The diplomatic life is often trivialised as "Protocol, Vitriol, Alcohol." Diplomats, particularly of the developed world, can hardly be blamed if they consider that 'distance, dirt and danger' (as a former British High Commissioner to India put it) are more the norm than champagne buckets at breakfast. The world has become an increasingly dangerous place. The diplomat was never immune from targeted violence; irrational or accidental violence in this age of terrorism has opened up new risks.

Proximity to VIPs dictated by protocol can be heady but, at times, also disastrous. In 1981, the then British Ambassador in Cairo, was two rows behind Anwar Sadat when he was assassinated; he escaped (the Belgian Ambassador seated near him was badly wounded) by diving under the chairs!

More insightful

Diplomats often have a more insightful analysis of their own country's strengths and weaknesses as they see their country from the others' eyes. Several Ambassadors, at different points, warned of the impact of the decline in British economy, the inward focus of the people and the parties, the consequent attacks on and reductions in the aid budget, the need for effectively discharging Britain's historic responsibilities to the peoples of colonial possessions by imparting adequate training in institutions of governance being left behind, inability to use the British Council and other tools of 'soft' diplomacy etc.

On a wider scale, they lamented the nationalism and isolationism of Britain vis-à-vis the continent; some made a similar point about the EU's and the US' neglect of each other. They complained of ham-handedness of the officialdom in London in trotting out mindless rationalisations for actions that could be otherwise justified. There are warnings of the deleterious consequences of the inability to lead — the British reluctance to become an active participant in the integration of Europe conceding space to the French and the Germans. Sir Nicholas Henderson's 1979 valedictory on the eve of Margaret Thatcher sweeping Labour out of office calling for a "new sense of national purpose" lamented lost opportunities which led Britain to lose out on the benefits of European integration to the French and Germans; the malaise had made Britain not just "poor but un-proud".

Errors of judgement

The Valedictories reveal striking errors of judgement. Peter Jay, a political appointee — he was Prime Minister Callaghan's son-in-law — as the Ambassador in Washington predicted a second term for Carter and that Edward Kennedy wouldn't run against Carter. The Ambassador in Moscow, Sir Bryan Cartledge, forecast the continuance of the Soviet system into the 21 {+s} {+t} century barely a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the events that it triggered leading to the collapse of the USSR. The then Ambassador in Tehran, Sir Anthony Parsons, got it all wrong all through 1978 about the continuance of the Shah forecasting that he would be "able to govern, as he is at present, without any genuinely dangerous opposition from any quarter."

The inability of the Embassy to foresee that which was 'blowing in the wind' remained a major embarrassment to the Foreign Office and left a powerful imprint on succeeding generations serving in the region. The error, however, did not do much harm to his professional reputation as a diplomat. He moved to New York as the British Permanent Representative to the UN and later as the personal adviser on foreign policy to Margaret Thatcher. David Owen, the former foreign secretary, subsequently noted, the "worst public servants are those who never take risks, who always hedge their bets;" the best, he wrote, "pose the right questions, but are also ready to give wrong answers."

Little from China

It is a pity that only a couple of Valedictories from China have been included. One dating to 1974 speaks of the 'sufficiency' of food, of 'so much confidence' 'so little fear'.

One can only surmise with the benefit of hindsight that that was influenced by the still-fresh 'opening' to China engineered by the US and a reflection of the Western approach to build up China as a counterpoise to the USSR – an approach which made Moynihan complain that everyone was speaking of the absence of flies in China, but none about the absence of liberties. The Chinese themselves have judged that period otherwise.

Back in 1969, the British Ambassador in Rio (then the capital of Brazil) was pointing to its rich natural resources, hydro potential, demographic advantage and, in consequence, an 'irresistible propensity' to be rich and prosperous.

If that was not so, the Ambassador mused, it was because the country was badly governed, had a bloated bureaucracy and corruption was rife.

At about the same time, the Ambassador in Uruguay was pointing to similar infirmities citing the staff strength of over 800 of the national airline which had but four or five aircraft and could put none in the air. In the three years that he had served there, he concluded, 'materially the country had galloped ahead, but its politics had gone backwards.'

On India

We do not know whether there was a similar assessment regarding India. The two Valedictories from India (1982 and 1998), included in the book, refer to political stability, democracy, of being 'best administered' of all developing countries (this last might be seen also as patting one's own back).

There is reference, too, to India being a "cacophonous cauldron", 'high and growing' level of corruption, "slow and precarious" law-and-order systems, media's "abuse" of the freedoms it has and 'colossal amount of humbug' instead of substantive discussion of national issues or long-range programmes — assessments which might be said to have stood the test of time!

The book should be essential readfor diplomats.






Mr N. R. Narayana Murthy is retiring from Infosys, the company that he founded (with a few of his friends), a company that he led to pre-eminence even as everyone is asking "Why" and not "Why not?".

To a perpetual student of branding like me, Mr Narayana Murthy is the ultimate personal brand — demonstrating in no uncertain terms that people from the corporate world can as much be brands as people from sports or entertainment.

For five years, brand-comm, the company I founded did a business leadership survey amongst management students in India and every year, Mr Narayana Murthy with predictable and monotonous regularity was the most admired business leader as chosen by India's future managers.

We promptly gave up doing the study after five years!

Tempted as I am to wax eloquent about his rise to personal brand stardom, I shall desist and stay with my views of him as a person that I knew. Although my opportunities to interact and learn from him were limited, they were impactful enough to make an impression on me and provide opportunities to learn from.

The early years

I first met Mr Narayana Murthy when I was the head of Mudra in Bangalore and it was our agency that had handled the advertising for the public issue. I remember a team of eight of us going for the meeting. (To those of you who are unfamiliar with the advertising industry,

I must confess that we believe in the strength of numbers rather than in the power of ideas). In those days, Infosys operated in a small office at Koramangala. Today that is a heritage office of the company.

But believe it or not, there were not enough spare chairs in the office and some of the employees went out to stretch their legs. And just see where NRN has taken the company in two decades! A simple lesson — it is not where you are now, but where you wish to be that matters in the ultimate analysis. I did have a small regret though.

The cutting edge campaign that we created for the company was not approved. In hindsight, the company took the right call as the campaign depicted what Infosys could be, and not what it was then. Even in its advertising, the company was not making forward-looking statements — something that other corporates might do well to note.

An unlikely cricket fan

I had wanted to interview Mr Narayana Murthy for my first book One land, one billion minds and he readily agreed. I was carefully noting down whatever he was saying in his cabin when we were interrupted.

He had an unexpected visitor in G. R. Vishwanath, who incidentally was my favourite cricketer. Mr. Narayana Murthy excused himself and when someone introduced him to Vishy, he said, "Of course, I am a great fan of yours. I was at Kanpur at your debut with my friends and can never forget your innings."

To which that wonderful cricketer said with a twinkle in his eye, "Not the first innings, I hope," , as he had scored a duck in the first innings.

While the incident itself was a simple one, it showed a new dimension to the great man. The wonderful game of cricket had an unlikely follower in one of India's leading lights of industry who even knew what the batsman had scored on his debut.

There was another aspect of the great man that I must mention. When the government thoughtlessly decided to control the functioning of the IIMs, the IIM-B alumni association of which I was a part sent a letter of support to over 40 board members of the different IIMs.

We got one solitary acknowledgement — that was from Mr Narayana Murthy who was the chairman of the board of IIM-A. Not even IIM-B, our alma mater, responded!

I have always admired Mr Narayana Murthy's ability to always acknowledge and respond to mails and letters. Sadly not many follow his example in today's corporate world, and perhaps not even in Infosys.

With brains and a heart

It is easy to talk at length about Mr Narayana Murthy's simplicity, his spartan life style, his down-to-earth qualities and the influence of his values on the company that he founded. His phenomenal success over the years had no impact on him as a person.

Even today, when he has become a global brand, he remains the same simple individual that he was in '91. And let us not forget his contributions and those by his family members to various social causes.

I wish corporate India had more gentlemen with brains and open wallets like the founder of Infosys who retires. He leaves with Infosys a legacy of success, values and ethics that few have created in their lifetime.

I am sure the future holds greater things for him.






The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has enhanced and strengthened its transparency and disclosure practices considerably in the post-reform period after the mid-1990s and, thereby, enlarged the open area of two-way communication with the market.

First, the RBI publishes extensive data and information on the central bank's operations periodically. Second, the policy statements have detailed pronouncements and clear statements of stance. Third, the interventions have become more frequent — the two half-yearly statements have now increased to twice a quarter. Finally, such assessments bring out both the upside and downside biases and risks to the RBI's own outlook and projections as also the policy dilemmas.

Speeches by Top Management

One key element of the RBI communication has always been the speeches delivered by top management in different fora. The media eagerly looks forward to such speeches and pick up insights into policy-making. Many a time, such speeches were path-breaking, at times, confronting the public policy environment to bring about desired changes, and establishing the credibility and autonomy of central bank's operations.

The former RBI Governor, Dr C. Rangarajan, in 1993, came out forcefully in favour of procuring greater autonomy for the central bank in his Kutty Memorial Lecture. This paved the way for setting the limit for net issue of ad hoc treasury bills, putting an end to automatic monetisation of government deficits.

Dr Y. V. Reddy, while talking on dilemmas in exchange rate management on August 15, 1997, in Goa, subtly raised the issue of whether the rupee was overvalued or not and pronounced that, as per the Real Effective Exchange Rate (REER), it would certainly appear so, irrespective of the base chosen. This paved the way for a much-needed correction in the rupee exchange rate which helped to tide over the impact of Asian financial crisis shortly afterwards.

Dr Bimal Jalan, spoke less compared to others, but made his strategic thoughts on exchange rate and reserves management policies from time to time. While speaking at the symposium of central bank governors in London on July 5, 2002, with considerable foresight, he enunciated three fundamental requirements, quite unconventional at that time, for a country to prevent a financial crisis: First, careful monitoring and management of exchange rates without a fixed target or a pre-announced target or a band with ability to intervene, if and when necessary; second, a policy to build a high level of foreign exchange reserves which takes into account not only anticipated current account deficits but also "liquidity at risk" arising from unanticipated capital movements; and third, a judicious policy for management of the capital account, discouraging short-term capital for financing investments and encouraging foreign direct investment and portfolio investment. It is now history that these home-grown principles stood the test of time and entrenched in Indian policy-making since then.

Dr Y. V. Reddy, as Governor from 2003 to 2008, had brought out the risk of global imbalances and mispricing of risks in global markets that enabled him to keep a tight leash on monetary policy stance throughout this period.

Dr Duvvuri Subbarao, with his forthright views expressed on several occasions on the role of the RBI in financial stability, promoted amendments to government's intervention on financial stability issues and helped reconstitution of the Financial Stability and Development Council.

Who Spoke on What

The RBI, in the archives section of its Web site, provides a complete list of speeches by top management, at least from 1997. Governors have delivered in all 172 speeches since 1997 and Deputy Governors as many as 322 speeches.

A subject-wise distribution of speeches shows that in order of priority, banking, with 122 speeches, topped the list. Monetary policy attracted only 33 speeches, perhaps because there are regular policy statements issued on the subject. The other major subject areas were Indian economy (65), financial markets (55) and financial sector reform (33)

Functional Delegation

There has been a welcome functional diversification in communication in the recent period. The Communications Policy of the RBI has enunciated the following broad principles: The Governor and Deputy Governor in charge of monetary policy are the only spokespersons on issues relating to monetary policy and the exchange rate; Deputy Governors are the spokespersons in their respective areas of responsibility; and the Executive Directors (EDs) and heads of departments speak only with explicit authority from the Governor/Deputy Governors.

Speeches by EDs were obviously rare till 2009 and, thanks to some activism of Mr Deepak Mohanty and, of late, Mr. G. Padmanabhan, there were as many as 23 speeches by EDs in the last about two years.

Mr Mohanty has been the key architect of the recent changes in operating procedures of monetary policy and has, appropriately, brought out the rationale behind the new operating procedures and the main challenges that need to be recognised. He has observed that the transmission of policy signals is most effective under deficit liquidity conditions and the challenge is to keep the systemic liquidity in a deficit mode consistently.

Any prolonged phases of autonomous liquidity infusion due to sustained capital inflows or liquidity drain due to persistent surplus of government cash balances would call for creating the capacity to conduct operations through instruments such as outright open market operations, market stabilisation scheme and cash reserve ratio, besides a scheme of auctioning government cash balances. There is a need for further deepening of financial markets by removing structural rigidities coming in the way of market determination of interest rates.

Drawing attention to the debate on internationalisation of rupee, Mr Padmanabhan has observed that international interest in the Indian rupee and emerging off-shore markets are consistent with progressive globalisation of the Indian economy and the efforts must be to bring all genuine users seeking to hedge underlying exposures on-shore.

Such speeches have further strengthened the Communication Policy of the Reserve bank and help in providing forward guidance to market participants.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The monumental folly of placing Anna Hazare under preventive detention before he could commence his protest fast in New Delhi on Tuesday has been somewhat undone by the government agreeing to let him carry out his plan at another venue in the national capital. It is on this condition that the anti-corruption campaigner — who has gathered star value along the way — agreed to leave Tihar Jail where he had been placed in judicial custody. It is time now to proceed to an informed and nuanced public discussion on the Lokpal Bill, if the proposed protest sit-in is not to acquire intimidatory tones. The government's first action suggested it had badly misread the public pulse. Possibly, it also reflected a worry about having to deal with potentially large crowds in this age of terrorism and just-beneath-the-surface fires of urban violence which singe us periodically. The second official action — paving the way for Mr Hazare's release — amounts to contrition and appreciation of reality rolled into one. It is to be welcomed. At last there is a signal of politics at work and the dropping of hubris. There appeared more than a hint of arrogance of power in the government's initial reactions in the CVC case, in the Commonwealth Games scam, and in understanding the extent of the anti-corruption mood in the country. It bears noting that a ruling of the Supreme Court in a 2007 case on Wednesday may also have informed the government's decision to persuade Mr Hazare to end his Tihar sojourn. The court ruled that a person cannot be picked up for preventive detention under Sections 151 and 107 of CrPC — the very provisions used against Mr Hazare — unless there are grounds to believe that he will commit a cognisable offence if not arrested. In any event, some sanity should now be restored to the discourse on corruption and on ways to deal with civil liberties and well-intentioned public protests. All sides would do well to get on with the job. The Opposition parties and the protesters need to escape from their overblown rhetoric recalling the Emergency. This can continue to be invoked only at the cost of appearing ludicrous, considering what the Emergency meant. On the core issue of the Lokpal Bill, no injury to parliamentary positions can be caused if Congress — rather than the government — representatives call on Mr Hazare, as a matter of courtesy, to explain where they differ on his Jan Lokpal Bill, and why. This is the way politics was conducted for two decades after Independence. The Congress-led government has taken legislative steps to combat corruption. It has to persuade people that it is serious.






Is it a bird, a plane or a UFO (unidentified flying object)? Humans have always — for centuries — had the curiosity to know if they are the only living beings in the universe or there are others in the cosmic neighbourhood. Time and again they scan the skies and spot a mysterious looking object which they feel is a visitor from a distant planet. There are even stories of people being abducted by aliens. Hundreds of books, films and websites are devoted to the subject. Though many sightings have been exposed as hoaxes, others have remained mysteries and still others shown to be the result of a feverish (and possibly alcohol-induced) imagination, but the UFO industry goes on. The latest such episode took place a couple of days back when a UFO was believed to be spotted over an airport in Jiangbei in southwest China, disrupting flights for an hour. Often the explanations for such sightings turn out to be mundane — an aircraft or a flock of geese or, as in the latest case, probably a balloon. But how dull life would be without some romance and mystery? The scientists who assure us there is no hard evidence about creatures on other planets are spoilsports. Government departments quietly suppress all information about UFOs in secret files. But we know the truth — it's out there. And if you don't believe us, just check YouTube, where you'll get all the proof you need that we — as in earthlings — are not alone.







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.








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 for Tibetans. 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 and mine 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 Tibetans with university and high-school degrees are unemployed. And this is made worse by Chinese 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. Tourists, of course, were banned from visiting during the "celebration." The Tibetan political leadership is still committed to non-violence 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. Finding a lasting solution to the Tibet question, on the other hand, will improve China's image in the eyes of the world and help protect its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Peaceful dialogue could lead to genuine Tibetan autonomy within China. This is a solution that will satisfy both Tibetan and Chinese interests and it will be a victory not only for the Tibetan people, but for all marginalised people around the world.







Last year, on August 15, The Asian Age published an article written by me, titled Did India Awake? In the article, I had referred to Jawaharlal Nehru's historic speech, delivered at mid-night of August 14-15, 1947, in which he had declared: "When the world sleeps, India would awake to light and freedom." Around this poetic expression, I had built up the proposition that India had indisputably woken up but was walking on an uneven and uncertain path. Today, when I look at the intervening period between last year's Independence Day and this year's, I find that India's path has become far more uneven and uncertain. In fact, the country has started tumbling over and is hurting badly. In this period of one year, India has seen its worst cases of "scams, scandals and swindling" — Commonwealth Games, 2G spectrum and Bellary mines. These cases have no parallel in scale or sheer brazenness. Take, for instance, the Delhi Commonwealth Games, October 2010. The main objective of bringing these Games to India was to enhance its standing among the comity of nations and to make it a more attractive destination for foreign investment, besides providing a long-term boost to tourism. But, after spending over Rs 18,000 crore, all we were left with was a plethora of cases of corruption which have badly sullied the country's image. Between August 15, 2010, and August 15, 2011, three notable judgments were delivered by the Supreme Court. One relates to the Chhattisgarh Salwa Judum case (July 5, 2011), the second one to the case of sewage workers of the Delhi Jal Board (July 12, 2011) and the third (July 4, 2011) to the writ petition filed by Ram Jethmalani and Others for the recovery of black money stashed abroad. In all these cases, the Supreme Court has, in its own way, pointed the finger at some of the deep and dangerous pot-holes in the path on which India is currently walking. In the salwa judum case, the court order talked about how "the culture of unrestrained selfishness and greed spawned by neo-liberal economic policy" of the state is largely responsible for the Naxal/Maoist violence and how the "amoral political economy", coupled with scant respect for "the vision and values of Indian constitutionalism", has virtually created a "heart of darkness" in the tribal belt of Chhattisgarh. With the same insight, the Supreme Court, in the Delhi Jal Board case, talks about how insensitive the state apparatus has become and how, even in the country's capital, sewage workers suffer "high morbidity and mortality" on account of the apathy of those whose duty it is to supply "protective gear" to them. In the Ram Jethmalani case, by constituting a special investigative team under the chairmanship of Justice Jeevan Reddy (Retd), to investigate and initiate prosecution against the holders of illegal deposits in foreign banks, the Supreme Court has left no one in doubt what it thinks about the growing incapacity of the governance machinery to tackle vested interests. It is this incapacity which has enabled tax evaders to stash abroad amounts which, according to the Global Financial Integrity Report, may total up to $1.4 trillion (`70 lakh crore) This one-year period also witnessed decline in various institutions of governance. The latest reports of the ministries and field organisations reveal that in 2011, "completion delays" alone are likely to cost the public exchequer additional Rs 1,20,627 crore, and that the biggest casualty would be the key infra-structure projects. The International Finance Corporation and World Bank's report, Doing Business 2011, ranked India low, at 134th position, on the list of 183 countries surveyed for "Ease of Doing Business". After the grim and gory tragedy enacted by terrorists in Mumbai in November 2008, which resulted in the death of about 170 innocent persons and showed the overall security apparatus of the country in extremely poor light, solemn assurances were held out to the public by the Central and state governments that counter-terrorism-machinery would be effectively strengthened. Massive resources were made available for setting up a National Investigating Agency and a National Intelligence Grid and also for upgrading equipment and operational skills of the police personnel. And yet, on July 13, 2011, the terrorists were able to carry out serial bomb blasts in the heart of Mumbai with ease and confidence. Not very different is the position with regard to the challenges posed by Naxals who are now working on a new strategy to infiltrate into urban areas. Their aim is to tap disgruntled workers in the informal sector, build a cadre of urban guerrillas to establish supply lines of arms and ammunition to the rural areas. In the economic sphere, too, the sign-posts do not point to an elevating path ahead. The prices of essential commodities have risen sharply, and inclusive growth remains on paper. The number of dollar billionaires has increased to 69. They together hold wealth equivalent to one-third of the country's GDP, while about 800 million Indians live on less than Rs 20 per day. Hardly any housing is being provided to the urban poor and that's why the number of slums in our metros is increasing daily. There may have been a few bright spots here and there, but the overall journey of the nation, during the year in question, has been extremely hazardous. Is it not time that all right thinking people of India got together to ponder over the numerous disabilities that the country has contracted while traversing the wrong path, and carve out a safer, surer and smoother course for the future? History tells us in no uncertain terms that those who do not care to see the warning signals of a gathering storm are soon engulfed and destroyed by it. Jagmohan is a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister







It feels odd to start a column having failed to persuade oneself that what one proposes is sensible. My problem is this: Whenever I put the thoughts that follow to friends whose judgment I respect, they talk me out of my conclusion. Convinced by their counter-arguments, I banish the idea. Then I wake up in the small hours — and the idea's back. It is this: That should the civil disorder we saw a week ago turn into something more chronic than the chip-pan fire we've just experienced, then those who shape Britain's newspapers, television and radio ought to try — at least to try — to reach some sort of informal sector-wide consensus on a set of voluntary guidelines, necessarily imprecise, on how to report events honestly, factually and comprehensively, in ways less likely to sensationalise or amplify the drama. On the night of August 8, with the rioting at its worst in Britain, all the rolling TV news channels backed their reports, which they kept repeating, with what appeared to be looped videotape of burning buildings. So many sirens were coming out of people's TV and radio sets that it was hard to know whether the emergency was on the airwaves or in the street outside one's flat. After that, billowing smoke and orange flames became the media wallpaper of our week; and wailing police sirens the backing track. Anyone who works in journalism knows there are ways of ramping up or calming down a story without inventing or suppressing facts. Tone, prominence, vocabulary, sheer repetition are tools in any reporter's toolbox which, used skilfully, give shape and mood to a report without misrepresenting or even, strictly speaking, "distorting" the truth. It's disingenuous for us to claim that all we're doing is holding a mirror up to events: there's often a mood we aim for. I simply ask whether there might be national threats where it might be right for editors to talk to each other about what this mood might responsibly be. Well, now to the objections. They are formidable. I concede that they may be overwhelming. This is how my friends respond: 1. Admit you're proposing a kind of censorship. 2. Assuming you don't want government-dictated manipulation of the news, you must be asking media outlets in vigorous competition to dull down their own news reports. This would be an impossible demand. People would break ranks. It wouldn't work. 3. It isn't true that the media have dramatised the riots or inflamed public anxieties. They have simply reported the drama and the anxiety. 4. Hoodies and looters don't read the Times, the Telegraph or the Guardian. Most of them don't read at all. They weren't watching TV on August 8: they were rioting! They communicate by mobile phone, Facebook and Twitter, and it was these informal media that fanned the flames and brought new recruits to the disturbances. Let me attempt what response I can to each. First, that I'm proposing censorship, however subtle. Yes I am. We all censor ourselves, and are in turn censored, wittingly and unwittingly, by prevailing attitudes and our own sense of the public interest. We even accept that there are circumstances — war's an example — when the public interest may require systematised and codified forms of censorship. So this cannot be an argument about censorship in principle, but about where to draw the line. Second, that it wouldn't work. Maybe, maybe not. Many years ago a senior British politician suffered a serious family upset which would have been big news had his office not requested the media to observe a complete ban on mentioning it. The ban held. The public-interest argument for a voluntarily modified approach to riot coverage would be stronger than in that case; the interference with reporting less stark; so can we really assume that any attempt to coordinate editorial policy would be hopeless? Third, that all the media are doing, anyway, is making a dispassionate report. I simply don't accept that. Finally, that the traditional (and influenceable) organs of the media would be without impact on lawless youth. Not directly, I agree, but there is such a thing as a national state of excitement; it influences even those who do not see or hear the national media. Things permeate. A mood settles on everyone. By none of the objections, and by none of my replies, am I entirely convinced. So couch it like this: Would it be obviously futile for editors in due course to convene, informally and voluntarily, to explore at least the possibility that the broad outlines of agreement might be reached on how to report, without inflaming, any future crisis of civil disorder? I only ask.








SOMERSAULTS are frequently performed by circus clowns ~ probably because more demanding feats are beyond them. So too it would appear with the UPA government. Devoid of anything remotely resembling a political strategy to counter Anna Hazare's anti-corruption campaign (pristine though that is certainly not), it has indulged in a series of flip-flops and inconsistencies. Thus not only eroding its credibility among those least attracted to Anna's agitation, but also encouraging those spearheading that campaign to feel they now have a huge advantage to drive home. Just take the botched-up arrest: Anna was taken into preventive custody soon after daybreak, by sundown it was realised that he posed no threat to peace and order, and release-action was initiated. Why? Because it was feared that the apex court would deliver another "rocket"? Or because the rising son (Prince Charming as he has since been dubbed) proved more politically sensitive than Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram, Sibal etc? But not as politically adept as Anna who refused to quit Tihar Jail until the government ~ in the guise of the police commissioner ~ capitulated.

The Ramlila ground had earlier been rejected by the cops, so also the duration of the fast. Glaring were the inconsistencies in what ministers said in Parliament. All this a replication of the flip-flop in first sending a high-powered delegation to welcome Baba Ramdev, then getting the police to "take out" his camp. So also, first setting up a joint-drafting committee, then resorting to near-invective against the non-official members. And a concerted attempt to contend that an adamant Anna was challenging the authority of the legislature.
How? Yes, he is pressuring the government to accept his draft of the Lokpal Bill ~ but at no stage has he been foolish enough to suggest that it be enacted sans the approval of both Houses of Parliament. Such "spin" only points to the UPA's hesitation to counter corruption ~ lest that inflict in-house damage. It is now imperative that Team Anna not betray the unprecedented public support the anti-corruption crusade has evoked.
The gloating over forcing the government to buckle must not lead to the arrogance, rigidity and false prestige which have heaped ridicule and condemnation upon the UPA and its loudmouths. Just as the Prime Minister must "take charge", so too must Anna rein in his lieutenants. All this rhetoric about a "second freedom struggle" and "people power" must retain focus ~ which must be on eradicating corruption, not promoting individuals. Anna must prove himself a true Gandhian.




There are two facets to the tragedy of the gunning down of an RTI activist in Bhopal. It showcases the mortal stifling of a citizen's right to know, in this case a whistleblower. The other is the frequent killing of tigers in Madhya Pradesh, a state noted for its wildlife sanctuaries and eco-tourism. It scarcely needs an investigation to conclude that 35-year-old Shahla Masood was done to death by the mafia, one that is engaged in the surreptitious trade in tiger skins. Through her queries under the Right To Information  Act, she was intent on opening a can of worms. The menace has doubtless assumed serious proportions. The killing of wild life in Madhya Pradesh confirms that humans are a threat to tigers, the superape anxious to go for the kill at the cost of the ape. Bert Haanstra, the Dutch film-maker, would have been aghast at the jungle crime in the periphery of the sanctuaries.

Beyond tracking down the killers of Shahla ~ and they appear to be a well-organised gang ~ a critical task devolves on both the law enforcement authorities and the forest department. Both will have to crack down on the mafia that has been killing tigers at will. They have now killed  the whistleblower as well.
The tragedy is somewhat reminiscent of the killing of doughty officials in UP, Maharashtra and Bihar for having confronted the fuel mafia and the wheeler-dealers of the Golden Quadrilateral. Tuesday's murder of an RTI activist threatens a purportedly flagship legislation of the UPA government. Ironically enough, legislation embroidered with the "flagship" tag have either foundered or have been deliberately scuttled by the establishment or the stakeholders. This is the second death of an RTI activist; Niyamat Ansari was killed at Latehar in Jharkhand last April for exposing the embezzlement of NREGA funds. Shahla Masood's murder in Bhopal has exposed the sinister underbelly of the forest resorts.




THE Sikkim Prevention & Control of Disturbances Public Order Bill, tabled in the assembly on 11 August, will be withdrawn, according to an official press release. The legislation appears to rest on plausible grounds, while simultaneously being self-serving and excessive. It seeks to tackle all manner of social vices and offences such as extortion, drug abuse, menace created by drunken behaviour, use of children as domestic help, preventing those below the age of 18 from smoking and barring them from visiting bars and discos. There are also provisions to punish those who use unfair means to lay water pipes in their houses and tap power illegally. There may not be any quarrel over some of these provisions, and indeed many would be welcomed as reasonable restraints.

But the provisions that have raised hackles of opponents are those that ban street protests, processions, hunger strikes, shouting slogans on public thoroughfares, carrying black flags or display of objectionable acts that  "have the tendency or potentiality of promoting enmity or hatred between groups and communities." Such provisions are obviously aimed at circumscribing citizens' fundamental rights.

The opposition has reason to be apprehensive that the Bill will be passed because the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front government led by chief minister Pawan Chamling does not have any opposition. A man deeply committed to welfare of his people, Chamling needs to ask himself why sitting comfortably in the chief minister's seat for the fourth consecutive term he feels it expedient to come out with laws that could well be deemed tyrannical. Retreat ~ or judicious pruning of the more draconian provisions ~ perhaps will be a wiser course. Chamling's cure could well turn out to be worse than the disease.








THE Supreme Court has banned the Salwa Judum. The provision on Special Police Officers in the Indian Police Act, 1861, has also been struck down. Almost in parallel, a mentally challenged person was killed by a Territorial Army jawan, anxious to win a medal. The death was passed off by the authorities as that of a Lashkar-e-Tayyaiba militant. Both the Centre and the Chhattisgarh government have decided to file a revision petition on the Salwa Judum order.  The matter calls for reflection.

The Supreme Court has ordered the Chhattisgarh government and the Centre to immediately disband the Salwa Judum. By implication, the other states have been ordered to wind up the Special Police Officers scheme. The Salwa Judum was formed as an anti-Maoist militia under the Indian Police Act's provision for SPOs. And this was incorporated in the Chhattisgarh Police Act (CPA), 2007.

In effect, the Supreme Court has put both the Centre and the states on notice. The Chhattisgarh government wants to redeploy the disarmed members of the Salwa Judum in the regular police battalions that have been raised recently. It is a moot question whether this is a rational move or one that will create fresh problems. The concept of the SPO and its utility deserves critically to be examined.

Sections 17, 18 and 19 of IPA, 1861, have provisions for SPOs. Under Section 17, the SPOs (the number has not been specified) can be appointed during exigencies, when the police force is inadequate to control "any unlawful assembly or riot or disturbance of the peace". The request must come from the local police (not below the rank of Inspector) to the nearest Magistrate for  administrative and judicial sanctity.
Section 18 grants the SPOs the powers, privileges, protection, and duties similar to those of ordinary police officers. Section 19 gives them certain responsibilities. It also binds individuals to be drafted as SPOs unless they have "sufficient excuse, neglect or refuse to serve as such".

Obviously this colonial law, that was enacted in the wake of the Revolt of 1857, was designed to ensure compulsory drafting of local communities in the task of defending the Raj in the event of breach of the peace.  Since the person(s) can be excused only if they have valid reasons, the Act was tantamount to conscription for police duties in order to weaken resistance in the event of a local rebellion.

The provisions for SPOs in the police Acts that are in force in Delhi, Mumbai, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh are almost entirely on the lines of the Indian Police Act, 1861.  The rules for recruitment of SPOs for "special situations and reasons" appear to be conscriptive by nature rather than voluntary.
The Chhattisgarh Police Act, 2007, which was examined by the Supreme Court in response to a Public Interest Litigation against the Salwa Judum, mentions the recruitment of SPOs in Section 9 (1&2). It provides for and authorizes the district Superintendent of Police "at any time, by an order in writing, to appoint any person to act as  SPO for a period as specified in the appointment order." As usual, the powers and privileges are the same as that of a regular police officer.  While other Police Acts have virtually used the same conditions as in IPA 1861, the CPA 2007 leaves that undefined and the Supreme Court has taken note of the lacuna. "That would be grant of discretion without any indication or specification of limits, either as to the number of SPOs who could be appointed, their qualifications, their training or duties. Conferment of such unguided and uncanalised power, by itself, would clearly be in the teeth of Article 14, unless the provisions are read down so as to save them from the vice of unconstitutionality"'.

Taking into consideration the Chhattisgarh government's arguments and the "New Regulatory Procedures", the Supreme Court found fault with the standard of recruitment. Those who had only passed Class 5 were being recruited as SPOs. They were being put on combat duty against well-trained Maoist guerrillas and after a two-month training programme, which was optional ~ "Only if the Superintendent of Police is of the opinion that training is essential for him and only if the person has been appointed for a minimum period of one year and is to be given firearms for self defence" (sic).

The Supreme Court observed that the Union Government had not discharged its constitutional responsibility. Its role "is limited only to approving the total number of SPOs, and the extent of reimbursement of honorarium paid to them, without issuing directions as to how those SPOs are to be recruited, trained and deployed and for what purpose."

The Supreme Court cited strong reasons for striking down the provision for recruitment of SPOs under the IPA 1861 or its variants in state Acts across the country. The judgment as well as the provision for SPOs merit discussion for two reasons.  First, the provision as it exists undoubtedly deserves scrutiny. In a sense, it is a form of community policing. Second, the provision has been misused in Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir and the North-east. But the faultlines can of course be corrected.

The Centre, Chhattisgarh and several other states want the Supreme Court order to be reviewed. The judiciary has rapped the executive on its knuckles. What was perceived as a decision in the public interest has been defeated by a Public Interest Litigation petition. The Chhattisgarh government's move to deploy all the SPOs from the disbanded Salwa Judum into the regular police force appears to be a post facto justification of a measure that has evoked mixed feelings. The Salwa Judum was formed in 2005. The Chhattisgarh Police Act made it official in 2007. It has been banned by the Supreme Court in 2011. The state government had six years to raise additional, regular battalions. Why wasn't this done?

The provision should be amended to state that the Superintendent of Police in every district will oversee community policing.

The writer is Honorary Director, Centre for Public Affairs, Noida






Anger against corruption has spread and will link itself to the struggle for land

THE last few days of the Anna Hazare drama have been like a movie ~ unbelievable and almost surreal. It started with loud assertions by Congress ministers and spokespersons who went to the extent of saying that the 74-year-old Gandhian and his small group of advisors were clothed in corruption and had no right to take away the power of Parliament (read the Congress and its cronies); then threatened action against all those taking the law into their own hands and trying to blackmail the government by saying they would go on a fast unto death (wonder what Gandhi would have had to say about that!) and, finally, within 24 hours of facing the people's wrath across the length and breadth of India changing the language from "Hazare" to "Anna Hazareji" and crawling to meet all his demands.

What a pathetic performance by the government. And what an amazing assertion of the people's might that not just challenged the arrogance of those in power but successfully inverted the pyramid of power in a matter of hours. To understand why the Congress did what it did — first attack Hazare and his team, then prevent them from going ahead with the hunger strike, then arresting him from his residence in the early hours of the morning, then sending him to Tihar Jail — it would be necessary to understand the character of a party that has functioned under a Dynasty for decades.

Dynasties survive on servility and, to ensure there is no dissent, become increasingly authoritarian through a chicken-and-egg syndrome, with the one giving birth to the other. Dynasties also generate mediocrity by rewarding loyalty over intelligence and merit. Dynasties exist on a belief of being better than the others and, hence, encourage arrogance, even as they frown on dissent. Above all, Dynasties, as a combined result of the above, lose touch with the pulse of the people, ruling for themselves and their cronies and not the populace at large.
All this and more has been on display for years now, but even more so in the days leading to Hazare's arrest and subsequent release. The Congress and its government were unable to understand the mood of the people, being run by a cabinet of politicians, many of whom who have never faced the people in an election. Most of them are in position because of the Nehru-Gandhi Family and spend all their time in pleasing their rulers than in serving the people.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presided over an amazing drama of blunders, with Congress scion Rahul Gandhi by his side. The Congress missiles — in the form of P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Manish Tiwari — were unleashed on the unsuspecting Hazare and his team with the result that when the people poured out into the streets in visible anger, they all became the targets of criticism. And faced with the fury of the people of India, the government crawled back into the woodwork, desperately trying to undo all that had been done.
The first sign of this worry were the almost apologetic and yet pompous press conferences held by the powerful ministers who have taken extreme delight over the months in issuing threats against all those who question and disagree with government policies. There was this spectacle of the Union home minister insisting that Hazare had been arrested by the Delhi Police and that while he was kept informed he was certainly not in charge of this particular operation. Amazing!

The day that began with Hazare's arrest ended with the authorities begging him to leave Tihar Jail and agreeing to his every condition for the fast. The pomp had gone out of the voices of the Sibals and the Tiwaris of the Congress as the party tried to wade out of the crisis it had itself created.
The story now lies not in Hazare's arrest but in the impact of his arrest and release. The Congress, if it is at all able to read the popular mood, will see the writing on the wall and start counting its days in power. The anger against the Central government has spread across the country and it is almost certain that this movement against corruption will link itself to the very important and vital struggle for land that is going on in several states.
This is imperative to give real substance to the movement, more so as the acquisition of land by the government today for private parties and the real estate mafia constitutes one of the biggest acts of corruption in the country. It was heartening to note that Hazare, in his remarks before the arrest, took care to make these linkages and it can only be hoped that the movement will embrace the ongoing struggles and protests across India.
It is also clear that the political class is already feeling the pressure from the people. The Samajawadi Party, long ambivalent on the issue of corruption for obvious reasons, has come out with a strong statement in support of Hazare. The Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh has taken action against a corrupt minister even though it had defended him in the state assembly at the onset. The Left and the BJP are both on board in this people's movement.

The regional parties, including allies of the Congress, will not be able to swim against the tide now as they know the dangers of being swept away and, despite not wanting to do so, they will have to follow the people who needed only a catalyst to express their pent up anger with the governments of the day. Needless to say, the state governments are under pressure as well, with one of the biggest protests taking place in Bangalore, where the BJP has been taking a free ride on the corruption roller-coaster.

All this, if it follows the logical course, will make the UPA at the Centre shaky and weak. The present Congress leadership and its government will not be able to stem the tide as it lacks the cerebral resources to do so. The people, thanks to Hazare and his team, are in power now and it is unlikely that the government will be able to function as it has been doing for the past eight years. Corruption is clearly one of the issues, judging from the response of the people on the streets. There is tremendous anger as well against the government's attempt to take away the democratic space and the people's right to protest, with an "Enough, no more" message flashing across India from every nook and corner.

The government, of course, has become Gandhi's Little Monkeys ~ unable to hear, see or speak.

The writer is Consulting Editor,

The Statesman






IT is one of the mysteries of Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis: how much damage did the 11 March earthquake inflict on the Fukushima Daiichi reactors before the tsunami hit? The stakes are high: if the 'quake structurally compromised the plant and the safety of its nuclear fuel, then every similar reactor in Japan may have to be shut down. With almost all of the country's 54 reactors either offline or scheduled for shutdown by April next year, the issue of structural safety looms over any discussion about restarting them.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co and the government are hardly reliable adjudicators in this controversy. "There has been no meltdown," government spokesman Yukio Edano repeated in the days after 11 March.

"It was an unforeseeable disaster," Tepco's then president, Masataka Shimizu, famously and improbably said later. Five months since the disaster, it is now known that meltdown was already occurring as Edano spoke. And far from being unforeseeable, the disaster had been repeatedly forewarned by industry critics.
  Throughout the months of lies and misinformation, one story has stuck: it was the earthquake that knocked out the plant's electric power, halting cooling to its six reactors. The tsunami then washed out the plant's back-up generators 40 minutes later, shutting down all cooling and starting the chain of events that would cause the world's first triple meltdown.

But what if recirculation pipes and cooling pipes burst after the earthquake – before the tidal wave reached the facilities; before the electricity went out? This would surprise few people familiar with the 40-year-old reactor one, the grandfather of reactors still operating in Japan. Problems with the fractured, deteriorating, poorly repaired pipes and the cooling system had been pointed out for years. In September 2002, Tepco admitted covering up data about cracks in critical circulation pipes. In their analysis of the cover-up, The Citizen's Nuclear Information Centre writes, "The records that were covered up had to do with cracks in parts, known as recirculation pipes. These pipes are there to siphon off heat from the reactor. If they were to fracture, it would result in a serious accident in which coolant leaks out."

On 2 March, nine days before the meltdown, the Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency, a government watchdog, warned Tepco on its failure to inspect critical pieces of equipment at the plant, including recirculation pumps. Tepco was ordered to make the inspections, perform repairs if needed and report to Nisa on 2 June. It does not appear, as of now, that the report has been filed.

The suspicion that the earthquake caused severe damage to the reactors is strengthened by reports that radiation leaked from the plant minutes later. The Bloomberg news agency has reported that a radiation alarm went off about a mile from the plant at 3.29 pm, before the tsunami hit.

 The reason for official reluctance to admit that the earthquake did direct structural damage to reactor one is obvious. Katsunobu Onda, author of Tepco: The Dark Empire, explains it this way: a government or industry admission "raises suspicions about the safety of every reactor they run. They are using a number of antiquated reactors that have the same systematic problems, the same wear and tear on the piping."
  Earthquakes, of course, are commonplace in Japan.

Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a former nuclear plant designer, describes what occurred on 11 March as a loss-of-coolant accident. "The data that Tepco has made public shows a huge loss of coolant within the first few hours of the earthquake. It can't be accounted for by the loss of electrical power. There was already so much damage to the cooling system that a meltdown was inevitable long before the tsunami came."

As Tooru Hasuike, a Tepco employee from 1977 until 2009 and former general safety manager of the Fukushima plant, says, "Tepco and the government of Japan have provided many explanations. They don't make sense. The one thing they haven't provided is the truth. It's time they did."

the independent







ON 1 September 2011 it would be 13 years to the day when Malaysia first introduced capital controls to stem the effects of the Asian financial crisis on the domestic economy. In 1998, it was heresy to introduce capital controls on capital flows, since it was IMF orthodoxy to liberalise the capital account.
From the perspective of history, one tends to forget that in 1945, when the International Monetary Fund was first established, the consensus opinion amongst bankers and academics alike was for hot money to be controlled. Indeed, the intellectual father of the IMF, John Maynard Keynes, remarked that "what used to be heresy is now endorsed as orthodoxy".

In the old days, courtesy to living persons and the statute of limitations would allow history to be written only after 60 years when official archives were opened to the public. Today, we live in an age of unfettered information, when oral and documented history can be published rapidly, from authorised biographies issued shortly after a leader leaves office to unauthorised leakages from Wikileaks.
The publication of a new book by Wong Sulong, former editor of the Star, called Notes to the Prime Minister: the Untold Story of How Malaysia Beat the Currency Speculators, only two months after the IMF, in April 2011, announced new thinking on capital inflows, is a remarkable achievement. Sixty-six years after the IMF was formed, capital controls have moved full circle from orthodox to heresy and back again to (qualified) orthodoxy.

The Notes comprise 45 notes to the Prime Minister written by Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, minister in the Prime Minister's Department, between 3 October 1997 and 21 August 1998 to then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. In short, they were the key briefs that helped Dr Mahathir make up his mind on the key economic policies to help combat the Asian financial crisis.
For both historians and practising policy-makers, this new book offers deep insights on the serendipity and the practice of successful policy decision-making. There is an element of serendipity, because Dr Mahathir recalled that he spotted Nor Mohamed walking down a street in Kuala Lumpur just before he left for Buenos Aires in September 1997 via Hong Kong, where he attended the World Bank annual meetings and clashed publicly with George Soros on currency trading.

On 29 September 1997, he summoned Nor Mohamed to meet him in Buenos Aires because he needed someone who understood currency trading. It is a tribute to a politician trained as a doctor that he was willing to spend repeated sessions with an experienced currency trader to understand the intricacies of modern financial markets.
Reading the 45 notes in historical sequence, one gets a far better appreciation of how the decision to impose capital controls was arrived at. The notes not only have historical value, but also current day applicability, as they explain not only offshore currency, the psychology of fear and greed that drive markets, but also market manipulation in thinly traded emerging market currencies.

The major problem of the proponents of the Washington Consensus in 1997 was that most of them were macro-economists who had little understanding or experience of how the markets actually worked. Free markets became a dogma and objective in their own right, rather than the means to an end for a better livelihood for all.
The Notes also revealed that in complex decisions under uncertainty, it was vital to understand clearly the key parameters for action. Note 7 clearly pointed out that Malaysia was different from other countries under currency attack because it did not have large short-term external debt. Note 11, dated 21 October 1997, spelt out the factors that determined exchange rates, with a particularly illuminating explanation of market manipulation. Market manipulation was seen as due to concerted effort by hedge funds, using large gearing and available tools and then triggering the element of fear amongst the long-term investors who have legitimate currency risk.
In other words, if the wolves can trigger the herd to move, then the fundamentals can move. The perception of fear changes the whole game.

Note 39, dated 9 July 1998, is an important study on the effect on Malaysia of the Central Limit Order Book for trading of Malaysian shares in Singapore. The note identified that the Clob was a convenient way for capital outflows. Hence, one of the most effective ways for exchange control was to impose the condition that Malaysian shares could only be traded on a Malaysian exchange, which came on 31 August 1998, with exchange controls imposed the following day. In Dr Mahathir's words, "During the financial crisis, we faced two parallel situations; the ringgit was falling rapidly and Malaysian shares were also falling rapidly. So we had to put an end to both."

The IMF has come out with six key principles for formulating capital control policies. The first is that there is no "one-size-fits-all" policy mix. The second is that capital controls should fit long-term structural reforms. Third, capital controls are only one tool and not a substitute for the right macro policies. Fourth, capital controls can be used on a case-by-case basis, in appropriate circumstances. Fifth, the medicine should treat the ailment, and, finally, the policy must consider its effect on other market participants.
It is hard to argue against these common sense "motherhood" principles. The trick in real life policy-making is how to apply them to local conditions.

One of the features of the current Chinese capital controls is that China also has a large amount of Chinese shares listed outside capital controls, such as Chinese shares listed in Hong Kong, Singapore and New York.
This is a book that is a must read for all emerging market policy-makers interested in liberalising their capital accounts and for IMF experts to ponder emerging market experience. I recommend that this new book be translated into Chinese, so that Chinese policy-makers interested in internationalising the renminbi can look at the Malaysian experience.

The writer is Adjunct Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and University of Malaya. He was formerly Chairman of the Securities and Futures Commission, Hong Kong.

asia news network 









As the Eurozone crisis gathers more steam, it is becoming increasingly clear that events have overtaken the countries' leaders in the region, and there is no one in charge. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, met on August 16 in Berlin and proposed electing a permanent head of the Eurozone to bolster its governance to deal with crises like the current one; but apart from the proposal, there was little to suggest that the two most powerful economies in the European Union were going to do anything more right away. The proposal would require conversion into a political union; and, in theory, such a union would have its own quasi-federal debt-issuing agency with discretionary powers and authority like the Federal Reserve Board of the United States of America. The EU's current governance structure has very limited ability to control the fiscal profligacy of its member countries. Further, it is unlikely that countries would be willing to give up their sovereignty over their fiscal affairs. In the years that the Eurozone has been in existence, members have violated the basic agreements in the Maastricht Treaty of keeping their debt-to-gross domestic product and fiscal deficit levels to below agreed-upon benchmarks (of 60 per cent and 3 per cent respectively). With the troubles facing French banks and the slowdown in the German economy, the problems are likely to get worse and the solutions even more difficult to find.

Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy stated their "absolute" commitment to defend the 17-nation common currency, the euro. Some analysts and economists have suggested that an orderly exit strategy for distressed countries — such as Greece and Portugal — is worth considering. The Maastricht Treaty had no provision for it. The exit strategy is one of three ideas that people have put forward as necessary for dealing with the crisis, the other two being to let the European Financial Stability Facility rescue banks and to have an agency that can issue Eurozone level bonds (that would have the kind of relationship with the European Central Bank that the US Federal Reserve Board has with the US treasury department). But both Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy said that it was too early to discuss the introduction of Eurobonds. A solution encompassing all three ideas individually and collectively would be complex and politically difficult to implement. But it is also evident that what has been done so far is unequal to the task of resolving the crisis, and resembles Winston Churchill's aphorism about "feeding the dragon hoping he will eat you last".







Publicity, even of the negative kind, can make careers. But Prakash Jha can hardly hope for such luck. The Bollywood director, who is known for making films with a conscience, has run into serious losses over his latest offering, Aarakshan. It is alleged that the film, which explores the controversies surrounding caste-based reservations in India, has ended up endorsing derogatory attitudes towards Dalits. Three state governments have banned it, and audiences elsewhere are, understandably, wary of going to film theatres that are heavily guarded by the police and liable to erupt in hooliganism any moment. While it is quite possible that the film does not live up to the expectations of certain sections of its viewers, there are civilized ways of recording such disapproval. Banning a film is not one of them. Such a stance violates the basic freedoms that the Indian Constitution gives to every citizen of the country. It is also irrational to confuse reality with fiction — which is what a film is mostly based on. Such neat correspondences become especially problematic when the subject of the film is as knotty as reservation — where right and wrong, black and white are notoriously conflated.

It is unfortunate that India is yet to earn the title of a mature democracy even 65 years after its Independence. Books, films, paintings and plays continue to be banned by the State at the slightest hint of trouble. In nearly all these cases, as with Mr Jha's film, an ulterior motive is usually involved in the demand for censorship. For some state governments, rabble-rousing over the depiction of caste relations in a film may be a useful strategy to gain political mileage on the eve of assembly elections. But such deluded notions are going to hold water with only a handful of party loyals and anti-social elements who need but an excuse to disrupt civil society. Rather than promoting social justice, such outbreaks of violence may ultimately prove detrimental to the advances, big and small, that have been made in the arena of caste politics. And what, one wonders, is the meaning of such State paternalism when there is open trading in pirated books and DVDs on every Indian street and the internet has revolutionized the idea of access?






Among my most enduring memories of the Emergency — which, mercifully, I experienced fleetingly, being overseas for most of the time — was an overheard conversation between two 'progressive' faculty members of Delhi University in early July, 1975. One of the two gleefully told the other of the strange shortage of teachers in the Sanskrit department. "Most of them have been arrested," he chuckled. There was neither outrage nor fear in his voice, just a puerile delight.

The subtext of his happiness was clear to those of us familiar with the university. The Sanskrit department, or so the stereotype went, was dominated by 'Jana Sanghis' and 'chaddiwallas' (the pejorative colloquialism for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh members) and, as such, was unworthy of sympathy, never mind solidarity. In those fear-filled days, there were two ends of the university. At the privileged pole stood the 'progressives' — Congress activists, Communist Party of India members and 'friends of the Soviet Union' — and at the other end were the outcasts — those associated with what the 'progressives' dubbed rightwing, communal and casteist (read Lohia-ite) parties.

According to the 'progressive' version of history, faithfully narrated by India's most prominent textbook historian, it was the desperation of the conservative, communal and casteist forces to "oust Indira Gandhi from power even if the legitimacy of the parliamentary process and the party system was put into jeopardy" that forced the Emergency. As the CPI cheerleaders said in justification, circumstances demanded "a spirit of unity and urgency to inflict a decisive defeat on the forces of fascism and counter-revolution". Since the Emergency was ostensibly imposed to save democracy from its enemies, it naturally followed that there was one place for Sanskrit-spouting enemies of constitutional government: jail.

The dramatic events in Delhi over the past few days, particularly the prime minister's statement that the powers and sanctity of Parliament couldn't be outsourced to the rabble on the streets, are eerily reminiscent of the misplaced constitutionalism that led to the derailment of democracy 36 years ago. At that time too, it was a battle against corruption and arbitrariness that came to be viewed as a challenge to democracy and the parliamentary process. In terms of mobilization, the Jayaprakash Narayan-led movement's ability to get people out on the streets far exceeded the show of solidarity with Anna Hazare. On March 6, 1975, for example, JP led an eight-kilometre-long march to Parliament with a charter of demands that included the immediate dismissal of the state governments in Bihar and Gujarat.

However, despite the apparent similarities, it is facile to suggest that the Manmohan Singh government's approach to the Anna Hazare-led crusade against corruption has produced an "Emergency-like" situation. There are important differences.

For a start, unlike Anna's campaign, which rests on spontaneity, media support and the endorsement of Magsaysay award winners, the JP movement was far more organized and involved the active participation of nearly all the non-Communist Opposition parties and their affiliated student wings. JP played the role of a symbolic leader but the activists were invariably attached to political parties. Many of today's non-Congress politicians, from Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar to Arun Jaitley and Narendra Modi, cut their political teeth in the JP movement.

In 1974-75, when the reach of the print media was fragmented and limited and the electronic media spewed government propaganda, the reliance on established political networks was understandably greater than it is now. The Anna movement has consciously chosen to bypass the networks of political parties. This is partly because of the perception that the entire political class is the problem and partly because the so-called Team Anna is fearful of being eclipsed by politicians who are more accomplished in the extra-parliamentary game.

The detachment from organized politics has conferred a halo of moral superiority on Anna and given many television channels a reason for extending support to an ostensibly trans-political (at times anti-political) initiative. However, it has paid a price for this exaggerated sense of virtuousness. The social depth of the Anna movement is limited: geographically it is confined to metros and the bigger towns and socially it appeals mostly to students, the retired and the small businessmen.

In another age, a movement centred on the frustrations of those who came of age with the post-1991 liberalization would have worried a government but not triggered a panic. Compared to tremors caused by the Ayodhya movement and the Mandal agitation, Anna's movement resembles a good-natured street festival. It is a commentary on both the political ineptitude and the inherent fragility of the United Progressive Alliance government that it was so thoroughly unsettled by Anna that the prime minister had to take cover behind a mythical operational autonomy of the Delhi police chief.

It was the 'Emergency mindset' which initiated the series of miscalculations. Emboldened by its success in out-manoeuvring Baba Ramdev with duplicity and repression, the government felt that the process could be repeated with Anna. The calculated manner in which the negotiations with Anna and his infuriatingly sanctimonious team was allowed to meander into irrelevance and the shrill campaign of character assassination that followed provided clear indications of a brewing confrontation. Had the government confined the clash to a war of words, it is entirely possible that the Anna campaign would have made injudicious utterances and ended up pitting their stage army of the good against a united political class.

The 'Emergency mindset' led to the government converting an innocuous battle over an abstruse piece of legislation into widespread outrage over its scant respect for democratic rights. That high-handedness was also in evidence during the post-midnight police action against Ramdev's followers two months ago. But the government got away relatively unscathed from that encounter partly because Ramdev made an ass of himself by trying to evade arrest by dressing up in women's clothes and partly because media attitudes were shaped by modernist derision for a practitioner of yoga and herbal remedies. With Anna, however, the government dialled a wrong number.

First, the pre-emptive morning arrest of Anna coupled with his peremptory despatch to Tihar jail where the great symbols of corruption and venality are lodged were seen not merely as unfair but an attempt to mock an elderly man who had the country's best interests at heart. It was the unfairness and the undemocratic response of the government that provoked outrage. Secondly, the government erred grievously in underestimating the obstinacy of a Gandhian. Anna, it would seem, has imbibed a sense of politics from his inspiration. Like Gandhi, his response to the government combined steely righteous determination with a clever sense of symbolism. His decision to decide the timing of his own release from Tihar was a masterstroke that left an already disoriented government completely flummoxed. After 24 hours of pleading with Anna to leave prison, the government surrendered unconditionally and accepted all his demands. Anna was not merely a winner but the government, including the prime minister, was shown up to be disingenuous and duplicitous.

The surrender in Tihar exposed the fragility of the government and made it look ridiculous. At the same time, quite intentionally, Manmohan Singh punctured the self-serving alarmism about an impending Emergency-type crackdown on civil rights. The Emergency was the contribution of a strong leader determined to prevail at all costs. Today, the political authority of the government has been further eroded by a non-functioning dyarchy comprising a plasticine prime minister and a 'youth icon' whose role has been taken by a 73-year-old Gandhian. An internal Emergency today is as likely as Don Quixote playing Stalin.







It is now clear that during the tenure of UPA I, Sonia Gandhi managed the coalition with comparative ease, occasionally giving in or extracting a pound of flesh to consolidate her party in the larger public space. She demonstrated her political and intellectual acumen as well as her concern for the masses, who have been neglected and orphaned by an inept, insular, arrogant and a semi-dictatorial administration. She used her influence as party president to pass several bills in Parliament that have begun to question the lack of probity, integrity and accountability in governance. Sonia Gandhi carried the day for her party, and proved that she is connected with the people of this country.

Economic and legal rationalizations after an unforgivable deviation from the fundamental tenets of democracy that include liberty and freedom of thought and expression have shamed our nation. The ruling dispensation has been equated with dictatorships in Egypt, Syria, Libya and suchlike, because it has been seen assaulting its own people who are demanding their civil rights and dignity. This development has put India in the same league as that of other regressive, failed nation states.

For the prime minister and his top advisors in the cabinet to have presided over the arrest and judicial custody of Anna Hazare and his close aides was outrageous. There is no excuse whatsoever for this hazardous act. It is hazardous because it has, in one sweep, discredited and diluted the party and its future leadership. For those outside the exalted and closed doors of government, it is as though a 'State' is operating within the State. This is truly a sad state of affairs, particularly at this moment.

Dishonest game

Over the last few months, there have been debate and discussion over the draft of the lok pal bill. Cogent expressions of concern about the inter-relation of the bill with our Constitutional and democratic frameworks have been raised. Members of the government had managed to garner renewed support after its first major bungle on the same issue, when some of them rushed off to the airport and behaved like political juveniles. The clumsy handling of that crisis had taken a back seat till this recent nightmare came into being.

Hazare, who is no Mahatma Gandhi, is a man who has captured the imagination of India by raising the issue of corruption, a cancer that has spread to every vein of India, afflicting our polity. The government should have sensed the mood of the people and led the movement itself. It would have scored high points in both state and national elections. Sadly, there is no one at the helm of the government who has a finger on the pulse of India and Bharat.

It is acts such as these that trigger hostile reactions. There is no guarantee that the movement will not escalate into a larger protest. Street movements of this kind usually turn into frightening, non-liberal realities. With the government first taking a hard line and then bungling in the task, India could be headed for something worse. Double-digit inflation, rampant corruption, maladministration, political ineptness and government high-handedness have achieved only one thing — resentment and disgust for the ruling coalition that would have had everything going for it had it played the 'game' honestly.

The government should have brought about radical changes and reform within the system over the last few months. Instead, it used some colleagues as scapegoats — something that defied jurisprudence — hoping that the fickleness of public memory would save the day and rescue it from its follies. Is it time for the Congress to split, rewrite and enforce its 'political' task for the future?


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




A long due overhaul of India's education system is on the anvil. In his Independence Day address prime minister Manmohan Singh announced that his government was going to set up a commission to suggest improvements in education at all levels.

Although he has not elaborated on the commission's mandate, it does seem that what is being planned could be comprehensive enough to be a New Education Policy. When India won freedom from colonial rule, illiteracy was among the many challenges it confronted. Although illiteracy has diminished it remains widespread. There are other problems too, including lack of access to good quality education, female illiteracy, uninspiring curriculums in schools and so on that have dodged solutions so far. Hopefully, the commission will have imaginative and bold ideas to tackle these issues head-on.

Twice over the last 60 years the government has laid out a New Education Policy. The first came in 1968. It sought to achieve national integration through education and called for implementation of the three-language formula. In 1986 came the next Education Policy. It launched Operation Blackboard to improve primary education.

It played an important role in encouraging technical education in India and can perhaps take credit for India's emergence as an engineering powerhouse. Much has changed in India and the world in the decades since and there is a need to update India's education system to make it more responsive to the needs of a globalised world.

The prime minister has hinted that universalisation of secondary education will be on the agenda of the proposed education policy. Under the Right to Education legislation, every Indian has the right to secure primary education. The government now proposes to take this further by making secondary education a right too. Commercialisation of education is an issue it must address.

The policies of 1968 and 1986 were announced with much fanfare but much of what they set out to do remains on paper. Thus, making out a fancy framework to guide education policies and programmes must be accompanied by implementation of that blueprint. The vision of the commission will determine the new policy and that in turn will depend on the quality, expertise, experience and outlook of those who people it.

A new education policy is a historic mission. It must not get bogged down in petty politics. The government must seek input and opinions. The process of framing the policy should be consultative.






Nepali politics is on the brink of an abyss yet again. Its prime minister Jhalanath Khanal has stepped down. President Ram Baran Yadav has given parties time till August 21 to find a successor. There are few signs to suggest that Nepal's polarised political parties will meet that deadline. Meanwhile another deadline looms. The extended term of the Constituent Assembly expires on August 31.

The country's politics has never seemed as messy and fragmented as it does today. Khanal's six-month tenure as prime minister was lacklustre. This isn't surprising as he was preoccupied with hanging on to his chair. Right from the start, his own party the Communist Party of Nepal – United Marxist-Leninist and the Maoists, who were supposedly supporting him, were working to destabilise him.

With friends like these, there was little Khanal could do but step down. It may be recalled that it took Nepal 17 rounds of voting and over seven months to elect a prime minister. And now he has been forced to resign leading to fresh crisis. Once again Nepal will have to be prepared for deal-making and endless rounds of voting.

Nepal's politicians have reduced democracy to a joke and parliament to a circus. All they seem to want is a stab at premiership. The figures speak for themselves. Nepal has had 37 prime ministers since 1950, most of them belong to the post-1990 period of mass politics. Of the 37 prime ministers, several have been prime minister more than once.

Since 2008, Nepal has had four prime ministers. If Khanal's predecessor, Madhav Nepal managed to hold on to the post for an impressive 21 months that was because of the 7-month-long impasse to find a successor.

With the issue of finding a prime minister assuming centre-stage once again, the task of writing the constitution has been relegated to the background. It is likely that the August 31 deadline will be extended once again. So serious is the crisis over a new constitution that Nepal's legal experts are saying that the country has entered a period of constitutional anarchy.

The political instability in Nepal is of concern to India. However, New Delhi must not seek a role for itself in breaking the political impasse. However well-intended that might be, it will stir anti-India sentiment in a country that is of strategic importance to India.   







One can see the demand for Lokpal translating itself into a demand for the resignation of the UPA government.
When Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan was arrested by Indira Gandhi after the imposition of the 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 at Delhi because he had inspired a movement to have a Lokpal to 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 (CP) B K Gupta to arrest Anna Hazare and tells the world that it was police's doing. Then the government or its core group decides to release Hazare.

The scene by then seems to have shifted to the 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 a 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 fast. It is a pity that the 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 people 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.

Boomerang effect
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 Lokpal translating itself into a demand for the resignation of the Manmohan Singh government. It is beginning to happen sooner than expected. The stock of the government already battered after the disclosures of numerous scams running into hundreds of thousands of dollars has gone down 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 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 for 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. The Anna 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.  I am hoping for the emergence of a third alternative after the success of the ongoing movement. JP too began haltingly. The government went on making one mistake after another and enabling him to convert the movement into 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. Mrs India Gandhi was trounced to such an extent that she and her son, Sanjay Gandhi, 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 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.

Inder Gujral as prime minister was strongly against the Lokpal because of the dangers entailed in exposing the office to Lokpal. But he was not opposed to having some provisions against the prime minister if, prima facie, a case was established. We cannot afford to keep the office of prime minister outside the purview of the Lokpal.






The tough justice sentences meted out to two rioters sentenced to jail for trying to incite riots in Cheshire over Facebook appears to have been received with some indignation.
The fact that over a 1,000 people have been charged in the UK riots may have been a significant milestone, but this is far from over. UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who has turned on the screws in his resolve to hand down harsh punishments to those who incited violence faced opposition from justice campaigners and defence lawyers that the punishment of a four year jail term, particularly in the Facebook case, would have been appropriate if it involved serious and violent offences. Over here, it was just an incitement. One is entitled to post an opinion on Facebook. No one has a right to punish someone with a jail term for four years on this score.
However, one may argue that given the burning and looting that occurred across towns north and south of London, such punishment could have been justified. But such punishement should have covered those involved.
No doubt, the message is loud and clear. That Britain will not and will never tolerate the mayhem that prevailed and shook London, its suburbs and ordinary middle class residents out of their wits. The coalition government and its partners in UK have every right to punish the guilty. Had there not been massive deployment of police officers in troubled areas, the arson and looting would have continued, and many parts of England would have been smoldering by now. The situation is now under control now. Let us look at what made ordinary Englishmen, irrespective of caste, race or colour, heap untold misery that sent English cities into a state of anarchy. One would have thought that soaring unemployment would have made rioters send out a message that was loud and clear, albeit in a wrong manner. The only way to do this was by rioting. And it is quite true.
If the unemployment figures over the last two years is any indication, then riots in England had a cause. Now David and his men, have to battle something else. And just like the ordinary middle class Indian seeks to root out corruption with the help of Anna Hazare, David Cameron's nervous government would strive to boost the flagging morale of an economy that is faltering with a steep increase of its citizens claiming jobless benefits. Unlike India, the UK system is merciful to its 'bekar' lot. The government undoubtedly is under pressure. Statistics have a story to tell.
Employment minister Chris Grayling had a very grave message to offer. He stated that the road to recovery would be rough. He reiterated that his government is focused on taking steps to increase growth, support the economy and encourage businesses to invest and create jobs. The situation in Hackney, in which recent riots made its mark, had fewer than 500 vacancies for more than 11,000 claimants, while in Lewisham just over 10,000 people were after 487 available jobs. In London as a whole, unemployment as measured by the claimant count rose by 22,000 between April and June, which pushed the total above 400,000. A labour market economist had opined that the younger generation had borne the brunt of the weakness in the labour market. A total of 949,000 16- to 24-year-olds, or 20.2% of the young workforce, were unemployed. 
The government of David Cameron now has another screw to turn and tighten very firmly. It is an issue that goes beyond the tough justice meted out to rioters. It is an issue of containing high inflation, rooting out unemployment by creating more and jobs and bolstering an economy that is threatening to fall apart.







It takes a lot to shut me up. I tend to be first past the post with an opinion, right or wrong, and not much brings me up short in that area.
I must confess, however to falling speechless and slack-jawed for a moment at the sheer gall of a CBS News Internet poll accompanying the story of two men sentenced Tuesday in the United Kingdom ("Brits get 4 years prison for Facebook riot posts," August 17): "Is four years prison too harsh for a Facebook post?" I don't really even have to reach the issue of reader response (although, as I write, 50% of respondents sickeningly declare for "No, fair punishment"). The only thing possibly more appalling than the question itself asked with a straight face is the absence among multiple choice answers of "are you out of your freaking mind? Prison? For a Facebook post?" Folks, this is not an edge case — "fire in a crowded theater" or "fighting words" spoken while brandishing molotov cocktails. It's a clear matter of people sitting in front of computers, typing things intended to be read by other people sitting in front of other computers. Nor, seemingly, did the Crown Prosecution Service pull a fast one with "conspiracy" charges or other trickery to make it look like this was about anything other than speech. 
Over the course of only a year or so, the Wikileaks disclosures and Bradley Manning affair have pushed the US government away from the typical "damage control" approach to disclosure of embarrassing state secrets and into a policy of sparing the state public scrutiny at all costs.The lapdog media with a sudden handwringing interest in "flash mobs" and the temerity to ask questions like "is four years prison too harsh for a Facebook post?" as if the correct answer could conceivably be anything other than "are you out of your freaking mind?" Things will certainly get worse before they get better, but the stink of fear surrounds the state and its defenders. And for good reason. They're living on borrowed time.






By the time this article reaches print, the CM would have announced a new medical insurance policy for Goa, by which all families of five members and below, resident in Goa would be covered to the tune of Rs60,000 per annum for medical expenses. There is no restriction on the basis of income or service provider, if registered and empanelled with the DHS. Reservations in the medical fraternity over the unrealistic schedule of charges (unjustifiably low or high in some cases) were ironed out following discussions between the various stakeholders, the CM, and HM. It was agreed that if the expenses incurred exceeded the sanctioned amount, the patient would meet the additional expenditure from his own resources. The plan is bold and innovative; the only concern at this stage is that the system of empanelling hospitals is not yet in place, the Clinical Establishment Bill (and for that matter the Bill to Prevent Violence Against Health Care Personnel) being still at draft stage. More importantly, we hope this scheme will not end up in the same mess as the Mediclaim policy.
The Mediclaim policy was intended to help the underprivileged. It would be interesting to go through the list of beneficiaries and see how many were truly underprivileged. For that matter how often was a claim filed after the treatment was completed. Patients armed with Mediclaim sanction letters are not entertained in tertiary care centres outside Goa (and some in Goa) unless they deposit Rs1.5 lakh. Cash-less treatment is refused because of outstanding dues going into crores of rupees. In one such case, I was reassured personally, that if the patient sitting in an OPD went ahead, the claim would be cleared immediately. How he was expected to cough up Rs1.5 Lakhs sitting in a Mumbai OPD has not been explained.

Presenting every new born girl child with a fixed deposit for Rs25,000 to be encashed when she reaches eighteen, has also been introduced. We hope that at the age of 18, the poor girl does not end up running from pillar to post keeping the babudom happy; to get access to her money. The drive against skewed sex ratios must be multi-pronged and not just directed against sonography machines. In addition to financial incentives, there have to be community based programs to educate the public. Punjab has demonstrated the efficacy of this approach by its gurdwara base publicity campaigns.
Since its inception, three years ago, the newborn screening program has covered 27,528 patients, at the rate of Rs2,500 per test. The pick up rate of 119 (much higher than the US figures of 1:2000) was admittedly crude data with false positives. However, there were other concerns. Most of the cases were metabolic disorders requiring special imported diets administered under the supervision of experts in paediatric metabolic disorders; where there is no such specialist available. Some of the conditions have incidences of 1:72-126000, and many, like cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, have no cure. Of the 42 conditions that mass spectrometry can detect, only 7 have an A-1 rating, in terms of relevance to treatment as per American College of Genetic Medicine and Laboratory Medical Practice Guidelines. The ICMR has clearly stated that screening should not be done for conditions that have no cures.
Therefore, the ICMR nationwide screening program has only four diseases in its list, and is free. Companies offer private practitioners the Goa tests for Rs1700. Remember, deliveries in private hospitals, and at home account for a little over half the annual total, and are not covered under this screening program. And all this is in a society, where water borne diseases, open defecation, and anaemia still remain major health issues. 
We need the sort of perspective that went into the introduction of the 108 ambulance service. Need based, effective, tangible positive outcomes; and even then requiring careful monitoring. (The author is a member, National Executive Committee, Voluntary health Association of India.)










Benjamin Netanyahu loves serving as prime minister. He knows how to take advantage of the benefits that come with the job - the trips, the receptions, being wooed, and all the rest. More than anything he enjoys maneuvering among his many ministers and deputy ministers. If he so desires, he'll ask their opinion; if he so desires, he'll ignore them. No minister is happy to lose his seat. To a certain degree Netanyahu enjoys the status of a Roman emperor. His royal highness can form a council of sages and then announce that he won't necessarily accept its recommendations. That's what an emperor does. At least ours didn't play the fiddle when the tents conquered the country. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is probably replacing him at the piano.

To Bibi's great good fortune, he didn't serve as prime minister 21 years ago. I have a photo of the main headline in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth of July 19, 1990: "The protest movement of the homeless is expanding, the tent encampments all over the country are multiplying." Fortunately for the prime minister at the time, Yitzhak Shamir, before the tent protests spread all over the country, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and the countdown to the invasion of Iraq began, accompanied by the launching of Scud missiles against Israel.

The 1990 demonstrations erupted as a result of the major wave of immigration, when people really didn't have a place to live. The difference between then and now is that then the demonstrators were entirely without means, while today's demonstrators on Rothschild Boulevard don't have the money to make ends meet or enough savings to buy an apartment. And the difference between then and now is that Israel focused at the time on fear of the Scuds, and people drank water, according to the instructions of Israel Defense Forces spokesman Nachman Shai, as they trembled with fear in sealed rooms, wearing gas masks. The country focused on a mountain of a security threat that turned out to be a molehill.

Today Netanyahu is counting on the "threat" that in September the United Nations General Assembly will declare a Palestinian state. Nobody knows whether a state will really be established, or whether at the last moment the talks will be renewed and Israel will find itself confronting demonstrations by its Arab citizens or the settlers. Everything is still open.

In any case, no security incident will now divert the government from its obligation to address the problems of the middle class, as proven by the small sign that stood out among the sea of signs on Rothschild, on which the following was written with a red marker: "September interests my rear end."






Israel's government views an apology as a blow to its prestige; we can only hope that it weighed the strategic value of prestige against the strategic damage the apology saga has caused.


Fifteen months after Israel intercepted a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to the Gaza Strip at the tragic price of nine Turkish fatalities, the shock waves generated by this incident continue to cause damage. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to inform the American administration that Israel has rejected Turkey's demand for an apology - even before the United Nations has published its investigative report on the raid - is liable to put Israel on an explosive collision course with Turkey.

Israel's government views an apology as a blow to its prestige, and it attributes strategic value to this prestige. We can only hope that it weighed the strategic value of prestige against the strategic damage the apology saga has caused.

It is not superfluous to recall that the flotilla has already resulted in the collapse of Israel's policy in Gaza. In its wake, Israel was forced to significantly ease the restrictions imposed as part of its blockade on Gaza; the raid aroused the disgust of a great many countries worldwide; and it thereby contributed to the swelling support for the Palestinians' bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state. This alone would be enough to make it clear how much damage Israel's prestige has already suffered.

But no less important is the opportunity to improve relations with Turkey, at a time when Turkey is conducting an anti-Syrian policy and is even willing to clash with Iran over this issue, and when Ankara is also cooperating with the United States in the effort to topple Muammar Gadhafi's regime in Libya.

During most of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's tenure, Turkey was a close ally of Israel's - and not only on the narrow governmental level. Aside from their important security cooperation and the multifaceted economic ties, Turkey and Israel had a relationship of deep friendship at the level of the grassroots population. This relationship could have been repaired had Israel been wise enough to consider its relationship with Turkey through a prism other than that of prestige.

Even now, despite Netanyahu's announcement, the prime minister could still think better of this mistaken decision and, upon publication of the UN report, find an appropriate way to rescue the relationship with Turkey. If the report indeed justifies Israel's conduct, Israel will not suffer any loss of prestige by apologizing for the raid's tragic outcome. This is a reasonable price to pay for the expected strategic payoff.








The protest movement is an authentic protest movement of the middle class which carries the entire economy on its back. It works hard, pays high taxes and also serves in the army. Not only does it not get any bonuses from the government, but everyone else makes a profit off it. The middle class is the beast of burden.

The problem is that the leaders of the protest movement are way off the mark their solution. The "team of experts" that was enlisted is also missing the point completely. They are good at empty slogans but their solutions are the exact opposite of what is needed. They do not understand that we do not have a market economy in the real sense of the word. Because in order for there to be a market economy, one basic condition is necessary - free competition. But free competition does not exist in large and important sectors of the Israeli economy.

A considerable part of the economy is composed of monopolies and cartels.There are rich businessmen who have giant conglomerates that harm competition. There are large workers' committees that enjoy benefits. There are tremendous import taxes that prevent imports. And there are large groups in the population (the ultra-Orthodox and settlers ) that take advantage of the state budget. All of this leads to an original economic system - an economy of extortionists.

Take for example the milk market. It is clear to all that, in order to bring down the price of milk products, the milk cartel must be dismantled and the huge custom fees (212 percent on powdered milk and 140 percent on butter ) must be lowered. That will enable cheaper imports to compete with the giants, Tnuva and Strauss.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a festive promise to yours truly that he would carry out the revolution because he is stronger than the agricultural lobby. So he promised. He has not been able to push through even the slightest reform. If that is so, how is it possible to speak about free competition and a market economy?

The same situation exists with regard to other food products. There is a customs fee of 190 percent on imported meat, of 230 percent on the import of potatoes, of 170 percent on the import of cucumbers, and tens of percentage points on the import of olive oil, sardines, canned olives, tomato paste, canned corn, roasted peanuts and so on and so forth. So why should we be surprised that the price of food is sky high? After all, a market economy is categorically opposed to any kind of customs fees. It is in favor of free imports.

Another example of a monopoly that mocks us is the country's ports. On Rothschild Boulevard they speak about the high cost of living, but the workers' committees at the Haifa and Ashdod ports could not care less about that. This week they declared sanctions and 20 ships are currently waiting outside the ports,unable to reach the wharf. Every day of delay costs the ship $60,000 and the result is a rise in expenses which the importers pass on to the price of the products. In a true market economy, the ports would already have been privatized and would be in competition with one another.

And then there is the Israel Electric Corporation with 2,000 unnecessary workers and a humongous debt of NIS 60 billion, which sooner or later we shall have to pay from our taxes. And let us not forget Israel Military Industries. For decades it has been receiving billions from the country's coffers, owing to a horrific lack of efficiency and surplus of workers and salaries. Then there is the government export company, Agrexco, which collapsed recently because of poor management, and the Israel Postal Authority that loses money chronically and has to be revived by the government.

There is also the monopoly over the land held by the Israel Land Administration that has led to the spiraling cost of housing because of that body's failure to market land in sufficient quantities. All these government monopolies are the complete opposite of a market economy.

The problem is that the private sector also suffers from that same illness. There are only two or three players in central branches, and that is really not sufficient. There are two big banks, three cellular companies, two gasoline companies, Yes and HOT, Supersol and Co-Op - how did they allow Supersol to buy Clubmarket? - and gigantic conglomerates that take unfair advantage of their power. In a country that wants a market economy, they should have been disbanded a long time ago.

However, since there is not much of a chance that Manuel Trajtenberg (who heads the committee of experts ) and Netanyahu will carry out the required revolution and march us on the road to a true market economy with social sensitivity, the economy of extortionists will continue to win the day. And the middle class will continue to bear the burden until it collapses.








Israel's tycoons have known better days. Now they have fallen from grace. Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a good friend, is keeping them at arm's length. The wheel of fortune has turned. The tycoons feel betrayed. If people here continue to rejoice at their fall, they'll go somewhere else. And the threat is being echoed in the corridors and rooms of government as well.

This week Michael Strauss joined those who are threatening. "Businessmen won't stay here," he said in an interview to a business supplement, and he shouldn't have said it. After all, we tend to feel affection for this Yekke (German Jewish ) family, for Hilde and Richard, who already in 1936 established a small dairy in Nahariya, in their back yard, of whose flavor something remains.

And all at once the smell has turned bad; suddenly it turns out that the pioneering commitment of those days has soured like stale milk, and today it is commitment with limited liability. Had the leaders of the protest or the doctors come out with such a scandalous declaration, the foundations of the building would have shaken: Look who we're dealing with, those defeatist and unpatriotic leftists.

Because the prime minister is liable to feel pressured, as usual, we feel obligated to reassure him a little: Don't worry, because the tycoons have nowhere else to go. It's not worth their while, and that's something they understand.

Milk and its products are only a parable, but a brief consumer survey reveals that in France and Switzerland they have also learned how to produce cheeses of fairly decent quality. And we also discovered that since a middle-class Israeli cow yields more than all the cows in the world, it can be milked without limits. Nothing can compare with the teats of submissive subjects, who are charged double for a plain yogurt and three times as much for the invention of a Milky chocolate pudding.

Even the British Apax Partners, which has taken over Tnuva, admits: Nowhere else have we found such high percentages of fat. In three years we earned over $1 billion, and thank you to Tnuva chairman Zehavit Cohen who has brought us to this point.

There is no reason to flee because Israel is a safe tax haven. There are not many countries who know how to pamper the mighty rich with benefits and grants, who nullify the taxes and leave a surplus profit. There are not many countries that enable the same people to own both financial and real assets; that permit the construction of huge pyramids alongside miserable cities; who insanely privatize national resources and abandon them to cartels and monopolies; who grant great honor in exchange for small change; who tighten the alliance between businessmen and government officials who not only enhance but also support one another.

If only we had a wealthy man of international stature like Warren Buffett, who wrote this week in The New York Times: "My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress." This is the man who willed his property to civic society because his wealth came from there and will return to it; and property in this case is the soul.

And why flee, if even now one can invest in Budapest and Bucharest, lose everything there and still come out ahead here. Romanian cows don't agree to cover losses with their savings and pension funds. Only in Israel are Tshuva and Zisser, Dankner and Ben Dov considered too big to fall.

Not only can money flee the country, so can people. The path of flight is open to anyone who packs his bags. Even now over half a million Israelis are living in New York. They didn't threaten - they simply left. And if the present protest ends in disappointment, many will follow them. And that would be a national tragedy.

The government must decide which danger looks closer and more concrete at the moment - the flight of capital or the brain drain? Aren't we accustomed to boasting modestly that the "Jewish brain" is the only treasure we have?








At this stage, at least, it seems that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes down in history, it will not be because of his lack of action but to a greater extent because of the unique mechanism that characterizes his leadership - the "Bibism." A "Bibism" is an obsessive striving to get to be, to be seen, to be photographed, and to survive as "the prime minister" without knowing exactly where to strive, and without the talents and stature required for the position.

This is a particularly striking achievement of a "Bibism" in light of the fact that Netanyahu's personal obsession has persuaded and overpowered wide circles of people, among these even the protest movement and his political enemies. His rivals too - whether because they were exhausted or because they themselves lacked that same obsession - not only paved the way for Netanyahu to a second term of office, despite a bad record that is repeating itself, but reconciled themselves with the very fact of his survival as a desired default situation.

Obviously there are people who support Netanyahu out of the belief that "he is a good prime minister," whatever that may mean. But numerous others - from those who vote for the center and left of the center, including the leaders of the protest movement - support the idea that he should continue in office out of the belief that, against his will, he will serve as a "useful idiot" (if we may borrow a phrase from a different political context ).

This belief holds that despite his best efforts to the contrary, Netanyahu will introduce a completely different economic policy from that which he believes in; and against his better judgment, owing to the circumstances and pressures, he will undergo a personality revolution in the diplomatic sphere as well and will lead Israel back to the 1967 borders and to peace with a Palestinian state.

This "pragmatic" approach rests on the possibly cynical, possibly naive, assumption that Netanyahu's longing to remain glued to his seat is so overwhelming that in order to achieve it he is capable of nullifying himself as a person and as a political animal in order to get another year or two in office.

It is interesting that the settlers and leaders of the right also support the prime minister in a similarly "pragmatic" manner even though he has already disappointed them in the past. More than they believe that Netanyahu believes in the Greater Land of Israel, they seem to believe that he will be capable of any diplomatic whim including restoring "the spirit of Masada," simply out of fear of losing political support and losing his position.

The irony therefore lies in the fact that Netanyahu's survival stems from his weakness and is made possible precisely because of the lack of faith in him and his motives. And there is yet another irony: It is precisely this politician who made a career out of taunting others, inciting and undermining the legitimacy of incumbent prime ministers, who has succeeded in entrenching himself behind a self-righteous, almost supra-political aura. Any attempt to topple him is described as "political," as if that was a derogatory word. It is simply thanks to this achievement that it is worth entering the "Bibism" in the bizarre political pantheon.

What does this resemble? A person who has bought from a deceitful salesman a pair of shoes that is overpriced, uncomfortable, ugly, falling apart, and two sizes too small for him, but who has the "pragmatic" hope that the shoes will become more comfortable, will change and will even change direction as the left shoe adjusts itself to the right foot and vice versa.

Needless to say, in this case there is no chance and no way. Netanyahu is no "idiot" - he is one of the best educated and polished of our elected representatives. But he is also not "useful" neither for the left nor the right. He simply does not fit his position - he doesn't have what it takes. And that is why the shoe must be exchanged, rather than the foot changed. Not only are the protest movement and concerned citizens allowed to be political and to demand that Netanyahu be toppled, just as he did to his predecessors - it is their right and duty to do so.




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



It took too long, but President Obama has finally — and unequivocally — called for the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to step down and end his murderous war against the Syrian people. In another belated but welcome move, Mr. Obama also ordered a stiff new array of sanctions, including freezing all Syrian government assets in the United States and banning American citizens and corporations from doing business with the Syrian government.

Washington has limited economic and diplomatic leverage with Damascus. But if there ever was a time to use it, it is surely now. In a fresh show of desperate cruelty, Mr. Assad this week ordered Syrian naval warships to fire on civilians in the port city of Latakia. That came on top of bloody army assaults on many other centers of opposition.

The United Nations estimates that at least 2,000 Syrians have been killed in the uprising since mid-March. A report by the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights cited summary executions and gross violations of human rights that "may amount to crimes against humanity."

In an effort to bring coordinated pressure, leaders of Germany, France, Britain and the European Union also called on Mr. Assad to depart, and Europe announced that it would be imposing new sanctions. These should include a ban on imports of Syrian oil. That would have minimal effect on world oil prices but a big one on Damascus.

Turkey and neighboring Arab countries should also tighten the screws. Any fantasies that Mr. Assad is a guarantor of Syrian stability or could lead a peaceful transition have been rightly jettisoned. His killing spree has become too much even for the absolute rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to stomach. They, along with the somewhat more enlightened Kuwaiti government, withdrew their ambassadors. Such gestures are welcome but not enough. These and other Arab governments should impose sanctions.

Syria's most influential neighbor is Turkey, with $2.5 billion in annual trade. Once an Assad ally, then a would-be mediator, Turkey now declares that it, too, is out of patience. It could make a decisive difference if it followed that overdue judgment with its own economic sanctions.






Stocks on Wall Street dropped sharply on Thursday, with investors spooked, again, about the euro-zone debt crisis and the sputtering United States economy.

Yet, even at this hour, leaders on both sides of the Atlantic seem determined to handcuff fiscal policies — the main tools that can increase jobs, consumer demand and economic growth — with an unquestioning devotion to rigid austerity.

Europe's post-2008 economic problems have differed from America's in many important ways. Washington has mercifully never had to cope with the problem of a dollar torn apart by the separate taxing and spending policies of 17 sovereign governments.

But as the crisis moves toward its fourth year, there are disturbing common threads.

One is the chilling specter of sovereign default, something that never should have come up in the United States but did for a while because of the reckless brinkmanship of House Republicans. A more real threat of default now haunts European bond markets, as chronically underfinanced bailout plans with punitive terms have made it impossible for the debtor countries to grow fast enough to pay down their debts.

Another grim parallel is the refusal by leaders to take politically tough but economically necessary stands.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France again ruled out the two steps most needed to stem the panic in the financial markets: issuing common European bonds and committing more money for Europe's depleted bailout fund. Instead, they proposed more meetings and called on all European nations to enshrine an ill-advised "golden rule" of balanced budgets in their constitutions. Markets are rightly unimpressed.

Excessive indebtedness is a real, long-term problem. But Europe's broad downward trajectory can only be turned around if governments — both those of lenders and debtors — spend more in the near term to put people back to work and get consumers back to spending.

Instead, panicked by market volatility and urged on by Chancellor Merkel, Europe's leaders have made a bad situation worse by prescribing austerity everywhere they look. The results are painfully clear. Growth is grinding to a halt across Europe.

That is true even in Germany, as its export markets falter and domestic demand fails to take up the slack. It is now growing at an anemic 0.1 percent and the euro zone at only 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, debt market panic has spread from smaller economies like Greece, Ireland and Portugal to the larger economies of Spain, Italy and even France. Only emergency lending by the European Central Bank now staves off renewed fears of default, and no one knows how much longer the bank can continue without help from European bonds and a better financed bailout fund.

As the crisis quickens, more enlightened voices struggle to be heard. Christine Lagarde, the new managing director of the International Monetary Fund, is calling for balancing long-term debt reduction with "short-term support for growth and jobs." The financier George Soros this week renewed his pleas for more growth-friendly policies, as has Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister.

Elections are approaching in Spain, France, Germany and other European countries over the coming months. The campaign will soon gear up here. Voters on both sides of the Atlantic need to demand more from their leaders than continued austerity on autopilot.





On Wednesday, 300 foreign students walked off the job and staged a protest rally at a packaging warehouse for Hershey's chocolates, saying this wasn't the America they had paid to see. It was not a good day for the State Department's efforts to promote a positive image of the United States through cultural exchanges.

The students, from Turkey, China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Romania, Mongolia, Moldova, Poland and Ghana, were hired under the J-1 visa program, which allows foreign university students to work in the United States for two months and then travel. The idea, as Julia Preston reported in The Times, is to let them practice English, make some money and learn what America is like. Chances are that if you have ever encountered young people from abroad working summer jobs at hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions, you've met some J-1 students.

What was unusual — and seems clearly against the program's promise of adventure and cultural enrichment — is that these students found themselves working in an industrial park, packing candy and moving boxes, many on the overnight shift. Though they had each paid from $3,000 to $6,000 to participate in the J-1 program, rent and other fees were deducted from their paychecks. When they tried to organize, they said they were warned to stop complaining or they would be kicked out of the program.

As is often the case in the murky world of foreign-labor recruiting, responsibility for this debacle is hard to pin down. Hershey says this is not its problem because the plant is run by another company, which said it used a staffing agency to get its J-1 workers. The State Department uses a California nonprofit, the Council for Educational Travel, U.S.A., to manage the J-1 program. The council's chief executive said that he had been trying to resolve the students' complaints but that they had refused to cooperate.

There is much good to see in this country. And no one should want to sugar coat the tougher side of life here either, including long shifts at backbreaking jobs for low pay that is familiar to American workers. But no workers should have to put up with bullying from bosses or threats of firing (or in this case deportation) if they want to organize. That sort of "cultural experience" should shame us all.






Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey often goes too far, whether it's bullying teachers or rejecting much-needed federal financing for a tunnel under the Hudson. Last month, however, the bluster was aimed at the right targets: ignorance and religious intolerance. He erupted in outrage at critics who attacked his decision to nominate Sohail Mohammed, a Muslim lawyer, to be a state judge.

The nastiest commentary came in January when Mr. Christie announced his choice. One anti-Muslim blogger wrote that it meant New Jersey had "taken its first step toward becoming the Shariah state." Another wrote that Mr. Christie (who insists he isn't running for president) was "off the list."

Some of New Jersey's state senators bought into this irrationality, grilling Mr. Mohammed during his June confirmation hearing about his views on "jihad." Fortunately, rationality finally prevailed and the Senate approved him as a Superior Court judge in Passaic County.

Mr. Christie's response to all this, like a lot of his pugnacious moments, is available on YouTube. "This Shariah law business is crap," he fumed. "It's just crazy, and I'm tired of dealing with the crazies." He praised Mr. Mohammed for his work as an attorney after Sept. 11, 2001, helping to free Muslims unfairly caught in the F.B.I.'s sweep of arrests. And he praised him for later working with law enforcement to combat future terrorist attacks, adding, "I'm happy that he's willing to serve after all this baloney."

We hope those words will shame his friends on the Republican right and finally quiet all the candidates who are cynically trawling for votes claiming, absurdly, that Muslim religious law is threatening to take over the American legal system. As Mr. Christie said, it's baloney.







We are born with what some psychologists call an "explanatory drive." You give a baby a strange object or something that doesn't make sense and she will become instantly absorbed; using all her abilities — taste, smell, force — to figure out how it fits in with the world.

I recently met someone who, though in his seventh decade, still seems to be gripped by this sort of compulsive curiosity. His name is Philip Leakey.

He is the third son of the famed paleoanthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey and the brother of the equally renowned scholar, Richard Leakey. Philip was raised by people whose lives were driven by questions. Parts of his childhood were organized around expeditions to places like Olduvai Gorge where Louis and most especially Mary searched for bones, footprints and artifacts of early man. The Leakeys also tend to have large personalities. Strains of adventurousness, contentiousness, impulsivity and romance run through the family, producing spellbinding people who are sometimes hard to deal with.

Philip was also reared in the Kenyan bush. There are certain people whose lives are permanently shaped by their frontier childhoods. They grew up out in nature, adventuring alone for long stretches, befriending strange animals and snakes, studying bugs and rock formations, learning to fend for themselves. (The Leakeys are the sort of people who, when their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, manage to fix the engine with the innards of a cow.)

This sort of childhood seems to have imprinted Philip with a certain definition of happiness — out there in the bush, lost in some experiment. Naturally, he wasn't going to fit in at boarding school.

At 16, he decided to drop out and made a deal with his parents. He would fend for himself if they would hire a tutor to teach him Swahili. Kenya has 42 native tribes, and over the next years Phillip moved in with several. He started a series of small businesses — mining, safari, fertilizer manufacturing and so on. As one Kenyan told me, it's quicker to list the jobs he didn't hold than the ones he did.

The Leakey family has been prolifically chronicled, and in some of the memoirs Philip comes off as something of a black sheep, who could never focus on one thing. But he became the first white Kenyan to win election to Parliament after independence, serving there for 15 years.

I met him at the remote mountain camp where he now lives, a bumpy 4-hour ride south of Nairobi near the Rift Valley. Leakey and his wife Katy — an artist who baby-sat for Jane Goodall and led a cultural expedition up the Amazon — have created an enterprise called the Leakey Collection, which employs up to 1,200 of the local Maasai, and sells designer jewelry and household items around the world.

The Leakeys live in a mountaintop tent. Their kitchen and dining room is a lean-to with endless views across the valley. The workers sit out under the trees gossiping and making jewelry. Getting a tour of the facilities is like walking through "Swiss Family Robinson" or "Dr. Dolittle."

Philip has experiments running up and down the mountainside. He's trying to build an irrigation system that doubles as a tilapia farm. He's trying to graft fruit trees onto native trees so they can survive in rocky soil. He's completing a pit to turn cow manure into electricity and plans to build a micro-hyrdroelectric generator in a local stream.

Leakey and his workers devise and build their own lathes and saws, tough enough to carve into the hard acacia wood. They're inventing their own dyes for the Leakey Collection's Zulugrass jewelry, planning to use Marula trees to make body lotion, designing cement beehives to foil the honey badgers. They have also started a midwife training program and a women's health initiative.

Philip guides you like an eager kid at his own personal science fair, pausing to scratch into the earth where Iron Age settlers once built a forge. He says that about one in seven of his experiments pans out, noting there is no such thing as a free education.

Some people center their lives around money or status or community or service to God, but this seems to be a learning-centered life, where little bits of practical knowledge are the daily currency, where the main vocation is to be preoccupied with some exciting little project or maybe a dozen.

Some people specialize, and certainly the modern economy encourages that. But there are still people, even if only out in the African wilderness, with a wandering curiosity, alighting on every interesting part of their environment.

The late Richard Holbrooke used to give the essential piece of advice for a question-driven life: Know something about something. Don't just present your wonderful self to the world. Constantly amass knowledge and offer it around.

Paul Krugman is off today.






WITH the debt crisis and the weakening economy fresh on their minds, most Americans have probably concluded that government, as a rule, cannot manage money responsibly. But it can. Just look at Montana.

For six years it has been one of the only states in America with a budget surplus: this year it is a record $433 million, proportionally equivalent to a federal surplus of $858 billion. Thus we've been able to cut taxes, invest in education and infrastructure and keep essential services intact. We recently got our first bond rating upgrade in 26 years.

And we're not simply riding the Western energy boom. The recession has driven unemployment to 7.5 percent, and while we've had a great run with oil, coal and gas, royalties from these commodities account for only 9 percent of our budget surplus.

How do we accomplish what most states and the federal government cannot? I like to say we run government like a ranch. In ranching — my old job — you either pinch pennies or go belly-up. We do the same in government. Perhaps Washington can try it.

For one thing, we challenge every expense. If it isn't absolutely necessary, we eliminate it. When the recession came we found $80 million in savings, which helped us avert a budget crisis. Little things added up: we renegotiated state contracts, cut our energy consumption by 20 percent, auctioned off state vehicles and canceled building projects and computer upgrades.

We even saved by spending: we stepped up our efforts to collect unpaid tax bills from out-of-state and foreign corporations, an undertaking that more than paid for itself.

This type of penny-pinching rarely occurs in Washington. As a small example, I was recently at a military base where a private firm ran security. Why, with the toughest soldiers on earth, would the federal government spend extra cash to rent security guards rather than let troops take turns guarding the fort? Sure, there might be a convenience to contracting, but is it worth the billions spent? No doubt the lobbyists for the security firm sprinkled plenty of money around Capitol Hill to get the contract.

The federal budget contains thousands of similar line items. A government serious about tightening its belt would eliminate them all.

But we don't just cut costs. Like good ranchers, we also leave some grain in the bin in case of drought. When times were good, we stashed away cash in a special savings account. This was a political challenge, because almost every state legislator, from both parties, wanted to spend it instead. But the account proved to be a big help in getting us through the recession in solid financial shape.

I cannot recall the federal government's ever banking surplus funds in a protected account, even during the surplus-laden 1990s. If Washington ever digs out of the current hole and runs a cash balance, Congress should likewise put some grain in the bin.

And even as we've cut costs and socked away money, we've followed another ranching principle: treat your ranch hands with respect. Like other states, we've had to freeze employee pay and reduce the work force. But as in any good organization, many of the best solutions for cutting costs come from state employees. Some look at payroll as a burden; we look at it as human capital, and we work hard to keep up morale in tough times. So when we cut the state payroll, I cut my own salary.

Sadly, many politicians, especially in Washington, seem to relish the opportunity to trash government workers. This is just cheap and ugly scapegoating. More to the point, it does nothing to produce bottom-line results.

Finally, we don't spend money until we've found the lowest price. Around here, government contracts aren't a way to take care of friends. Quite the opposite: we use our purchasing power to get the lowest possible rate. When the real estate market softened, we told commercial landlords who rented space to the state that if we didn't see rent reductions, we'd move to cheaper premises when our leases were up. Most complied, saving the state almost $4 million.

How does the federal government negotiate? Consider Medicare drug purchases, one of the largest federal budget items. We are often told the cost of entitlements can be brought down only by cutting services. Nonsense. In 2003, in one of the greatest sweetheart giveaways ever dreamed up by the White House and Congress, they agreed to pay retail rates for Medicare drugs, even when everyone knew they could negotiate lower, bulk prices. The cost to taxpayers? An estimated $600 billion a decade.

There are savings to be found everywhere in government. Now that federal spending is the country's top issue, Washington should try doing what any rancher or family household does: save money, live by a budget, challenge expenses, find bargains and invest wisely. Montana has proved that it works.

Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, is the governor of Montana.






The rating agency Standard & Poor's took a lot of unjustified criticism from the Obama administration recently when S&P downgraded the United States' credit rating from the top level, AAA, to AA-plus for the first time in our nation's history.

But S&P and the other major rating agencies, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings, had warned of a downgrade if the United States did not take serious steps to reduce deficits. So the administration should not have been surprised that S&P reduced our credit rating after Congress failed to pass the necessary level of spending cuts.

So far, Moody's and Fitch have left their ratings at AAA, but Moody's adds a negative outlook to its rating. And now Fitch says it may lower its outlook to negative if Washington doesn't do enough in the coming months to reduce our trillion-dollar-plus annual deficits or if the economy weakens further.

Fitch said a negative outlook means it most likely would formally downgrade the United States' debt rating within two years.

That is alarming because it could force interest rates up for consumers and businesses, and reduce economic activity at a time when we desperately need it. It could also force the United States to pay even more than the hundreds of billions of dollars that we are already paying in interest on the $14.6 trillion national debt.

The downgrading of our rating by S&P was not an isolated action. S&P's concern about U.S. debt is shared by the other major credit-rating agencies — and, more importantly, by the American people.

It is high time to get serious about cutting the irresponsible federal spending that created that debt.





Warren Buffett's tax advice to Congress, discussed above, makes it clear that very wealthy Americans would not face difficulties if Congress were to bring investment tax rates for multimillionaires closer to the income tax rates that ordinary Americans pay. By the sales figures of companies that cater luxury goods to high-end shoppers, his view is well-grounded.

Those figures show sales of luxury cars, designer clothing, jewelry, furs and other high-end goods rising steadily over the past 10 months compared with the prior year's sales. Sales growth in 2010, in turn, also had zoomed upwards as the economy recovered from the steep 2009 retrenchment, according to a recent New York Times report on data from MasterCard Advisors Spending Pulse.

Porsche, for example, reported a 59 percent increase in profit in the first half of the year. Mercendez-Benz's sales in July leapt almost 14 percent, with much of that coming from sales of its S-class sedans, which can run over $200,000, The Times reported. BMW posted growth in the second quarter of this year that doubled the same period's growth last year.

In the most fashionable stores in the nation's largest cities, designer shoes and bags in the $1,000 to $2,500 range are reportedly flying off the shelves. Likewise, jewelry: Tiffany enjoyed a 20 percent increase in first-quarter sales. Gucci, Saint Laurent and Yves, among other brands, helped the PPR group to a 23 percent gain through June.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, told The Times that growth in the luxury goods category was vital because the top five percent of income earners account for about a third of consumer spending, and the top 20 percent of earners overall account for nearly 60 percent of consumer spending. By contrast, sales are slow at most Main Street retailers who cater to the struggling middle-class, prompting deep discounting.

The disparity is not encouraging, but it is illuminating. It speaks directly to the argument that Buffett makes about asking the ultra-rich to share in the sacrifice that Republicans are now demanding of the middle class through cuts in core social programs like Medicare, Social Security and student aid.






President Barack Obama backs subsidies and other policies that distort the free market and hide from consumers the true, high costs of alternative sources of energy such as ethanol and windmills.

So it was rather strange when he recently told automakers that they don't "understand the market."

Discussing the effect of rising fuel prices on purchases of vehicles that don't get very high gas mileage, the president declared that auto manufacturers should build fewer large vehicles and focus on smaller, more efficient cars.

"You can't just make money on SUVs and trucks," he said at an event in Minnesota. "There is a place for SUVs and trucks, but as gas prices keep on going up, you have got to understand the market. People are going to try to save money."

It's certainly true that consumers will try to save money, and many are already choosing to buy smaller cars to cut down on fuel costs. That's fine when it's simply the "invisible hand" of the free market guiding consumer choice.

The trouble is that the Obama administration and Congress have imposed policies that artificially inflate the cost of gasoline. Too many of the potential U.S. domestic sources of oil lie untapped in places such as Alaska and off our coasts because of onerous environmental rules. That forces us to get too much oil from foreign suppliers, pushing up our gas prices.

That is government manipulation, not the free market, at work.

Automakers have a strong financial stake in giving consumers what they want. If consumers demand more fuel-efficient cars and fewer trucks and SUVs in response to higher fuel costs, car manufacturers will give them that.

But car makers do not need Washington to intervene, ordering them to manufacture more or fewer of certain types of vehicles. And government should not impose restrictions on domestic oil production that needlessly boost gas prices.







Turkish President Abdullah Gül convened the National Security Board, or MGK, with two major topics on the table Thursday.

The one which directly hurts Turkish people's senses was the Kurdish issue and the struggle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. This topic was particularly important after the PKK staged complex attacks on Wednesday, killing eight soldiers and a village guard (contrary to the first reports of 12 killed in total) in Hakkari province, which borders Iraq and Iran.

That had caused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to break his promise not to carry out a military operation until the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, as Turkish Air Force jets and artillery attacked the PKK camps in Iraq all along the night.

After the MGK meeting Thursday, Erdoğan is expected to take a new line to struggle militarily against the PKK and take political steps for a solution to the decades-long Kurdish problem, with the front page story of Hürriyet Daily News Ankara Bureau Chief Serkan Demirtaş giving some details about the plan.

Two opposition parties, the Republican People's Party, or CHP, on the center left and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, on the right have given support to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AK Parti, government for more effective measures. That left the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP – which has been denounced by Erdoğan as helping the PKK – alone in the political spectrum.

This is going to be a major issue in the coming months, since the Kurdish issue is expected to be a major part of new constitutional debates.

The other major topic on the agenda of the MGK was Syria. There were reports before the meeting that if President Bashar al-Assad of Syria does not make a last-minute move to stop firing on his own people who are demonstrating for more rights, the government was to present two contingency plans to the MGK to discuss the Syrian policy from now on.

Assad tried his chance and phoned up United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon before the release of a U.N. report on Syria – and also before the MGK meeting started in Ankara.

That did not stop the U.N. from releasing the report that the Syrian government might have committed crimes against humanity while trying to suppress the unrest in the country.

And soon after the MGK started in Ankara, U.S. President Barack Obama called on Assad to step down in what was probably his first act on Thursday morning.

The European Union Commission followed the U.S., demonstrating that it was a coordinated action. That was followed by new sanctions announced against Syria by the U.S., Britain, France and Germany.

So the position of the Western powers was clear almost an hour before the MGK had finished discussing the PKK and had begun addressing the Syria issue.

That has put Ankara at the crossroads in terms of Syria; it has to decide whether to side with its Western allies or adopt a middle-road policy, since siding with Assad is no longer an option. And Erdoğan has to make this decision under diplomatic and intelligence speculation that the recent escalation in the number of the PKK attacks might have been inspired by not just the Arab Spring but directly by the Syrian regime itself.





If a government starts an "opening" without having any idea of what to put into that opening package and – if for the sake of winning some sympathy among those wishing to see the silence of the guns – invites separatist terrorists to "return" but cannot prevent the event at Habur customs gate with Iraq turning into a "victory" celebration by the terrorists, not only of course is the collapse of that initiative unavoidable, but there is a high probability of further escalation of the problem. That's exactly what has happened to the Kurdish opening of the government.

With Kurdish aspirations and expectations pumped up with the ambiguous opening of the government turned into a rampant disillusionment on the one hand, and with fears and phobias pumped up in the Turkish population on the other hand, for the past many months Turkey has become very tense. Despite the government's pledge that with the opening it would bring an end to mothers' tears for their beloved sons, fire has engulfed the entire country with an increased number of body bags coming from PKK-terrorism hit areas… Besides, the gang has started kidnapping people.

For some time the Justice and development Party, or AKP, has been in efforts to make a U-turn from its "turn the other cheek" approach in dealing with the terrorists. As if the 1993-1995 period was not lived, special police anti-terror squads did not produce thousands of missing people and the AKP government is now rehashing those policies and decisions. The head of the police anti-terror squad was forced out to open a place for a fully-obedient commander, governors who will be in full control of police and military are appointed to many provinces, intelligence was collected under one command… And so on…

The latest heinous action has provided the legitimacy to the AKP government to try to solve with some other means the problem that it could not solve through its ambiguous opening "because of complications created by the Kurds." As bombarding the Kandil and Zap targets will not be enough to achieve that aim, probably the National Security Council discussed yesterday some more detailed action plans… If it cannot be untied, the Gordian knot can be cut… Or perhaps must be cut if the unity of the country is at stake…

Is a surge in terrorism a plot? The escalation in separatist terrorism that forced the prime minister to abandon his Ramadan letup in dealing with the heinous threat reminded me of a recent "fortune telling" by a police-turned columnist. Unfortunately, from the ambush on the prime minister's election campaign convoy to some other major terrorist activities of the past months, somehow this Pennsylvania-illuminated writer was proved to be rather accurate in reporting about the future.

In remembering a May statement by a negligible Kurdish politician that the ruling AKP would be compelled to abandon the government within six months after the June 12 elections, the police-turned "illuminated" writer implied that all the ongoing separatist terrorism-related problems – including the surge in terrorism and the disobedience campaign – faced by the government were pre-planned. The aim? According to the writer, to force the AKP to abandon the government. The writer claims that the conspiracy did not appear to be solely a work of the Kurdish nationalists, but rather as if contracted to the Kurds… He then adds that to understand who might have contracted the hawks of the separatist gang to undertake the conspiracy developments in Syria must be taken into consideration…

Interesting yet confusing, is it not?






In the wake of atrocities against civilians in Syria, the issue of possibility of military intervention has emerged again in the discussions. The idea of military intervention for human rights reasons is relatively new in international relations and it remains quite a controversial one. The end of the Cold War provided the context for the discussion of this issue at the United Nations and other international organizations. It was also promoted by human rights nongovernmental organizations. The arguments were based on two broad reasons: First, there were pure humanitarian reasons. Second, domestic human rights violations are linked to international security. Thus the new norm of humanitarian intervention was developed. The U.N. intervened in several conflicts in the 1990s under the guise of humanitarian intervention, from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Somalia; it failed in all. In 2000s the idea came back under a new name, responsibility to protect, or RtoP. It advances the norm that if a state fails to protect its citizens, then the international community has a responsibility. The new norm was accepted at the U.N. World Summit of 2005.

Most of the discussions about military interventions for human rights reasons revolve around their legality. Some pointed out that these kinds of interventions are against the principle of sovereignty, which continues to be one of the principles of international law also embedded in the U.N. Charter. Those who support RtoP, however, argue that sovereignty is not a privilege, but a responsibility.

However, the problems with new human rights interventionism go beyond the legal arguments. The most important issue is its politicization. First, there is the issue of who decides. For the most part in the post-Cold War era, it has been the U.N. Security Council that decided. In recent interventions, including the Libyan one, it was initially an ad hoc coalition rather than a NATO decision. These states or organizations are seemingly acting on behalf of the international community. However, their status as such is highly questionable. The U.N. faces increasing legitimacy problems because it has failed to reform itself. NATO is a regional organization and clearly only represents a small group of countries.

The second and related issue is how these decisions are taken. There is the problem of inconsistency here; the implementation of this norm has shown that the decision to interfere or not to interfere can be explained by the domestic imperatives and/or the foreign policy interests of the powers that decide to interfere. One can add to this list of political issues a plethora of practical problems as well.

On the other hand, there remains the vital question. As former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked, how should we respond to gross and systemic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity? This remains the most important challenge facing the international community, one that it has unfortunately failed to produce a credible answer to.





The United States may want Turkey to remain focused on Syria, now that there is a growing rift between Ankara and Damascus, but with 43 Turkish soldiers killed by the outlawed Kurdistan People's Party, or PKK, in one month alone, this is unlikely to happen. Matters can, in fact, be expected to get worse from the U.S. perspective on a number of levels because of these attacks.

We already had a foretaste of this with Thursday's air strikes against the terrorist group's training camps in northern Iraq by the Turkish Air Force. Furiously angry Turks want the Turkish army to level these camps in the Kandil Mountains, and strong remarks from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan indicate he is listening.

While wishful thinking in the West, judging by the countless articles on the topic, many want Turkey to establish a buffer zone in Syria against Bashar al-Assad's brutal military machine, but there is more likelihood that this will happen in Iraq instead, where the Turkish military already has a foothold.

Turkish incursions into northern Iraq will of course produce yet more negative fallout for Washington, since it will drive a wedge between Ankara and the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq at a time when the two sides have belatedly come around to laying the groundwork for good ties, especially after Erdoğan's visit to Arbil in March.

Even worse for Washington is that there is no one left in Ankara who will listen to exhortations from the U.S., or warnings from Europe, aimed at stopping Turkey from doing what it feels is necessary in the face of the public outcry against the PKK.

To the contrary, most Turks believe – rightly or wrongly – that the U.S. military in northern Iraq is actually turning a blind eye to PKK members in the region, and that talk from Washington about "helping Turkey against the PKK through intelligence sharing" is merely a smokescreen designed to obscure this fact.

U.S. officials deny this vehemently, of course, but many Turks maintain that if this assistance was "meaningful" then these PKK attacks would not be taking place with such impunity. There is also a widespread notion that the U.S. is actually helping The Party for Free Life of Kurdistan, or PJAK, an Iranian offshoot of the PKK which also has camps in northern Iraq, in order to destabilize Tehran.

In the meantime, ties between Turkey and Iran may have soured somewhat because of radically divergent views over developments in Syria, but the latest PKK attacks are likely to force Ankara to cooperate more with Tehran against PKK/PJAK camps in northern Iraq, once again to the annoyance of Washington.

The bottom line is that the Turkish public is clamoring for retaliation and – just as it was after 9/11 and before the U.S. invasion of Iraq – facts matter little when this is the case. In the meantime, most Turks believe Washington does not want to bloody its hands against the PKK, while it expects Turkey to bloody its hands against Islamic terrorism.

We will never know the extent to which Washington is helping Turkey against the PKK, and how effective this is, since U.S. officials, when asked, say this is "classified information." Given that this is the case, most Turks draw their own conclusions on the basis of what is actually happening.

But the situation that is unfolding now shows clearly that the PKK is becoming a serious liability for Washington as well, given its own expectations for a Middle East that is already in turmoil. It remains to be seen if this will push the Barack Obama administration into changing tack and getting involved more visibly against the PKK.

What is clear, however, is that Ankara is not going to wait for this to happen, given the successful way the PKK has agitated the Turkish public, leaving Erdoğan no choice but to put on his war paint.

*Correction: Due to a quirk of copy editing the title for my previous article which should have read, 'The AKP's first ten years,' was printed as 'The AKP's first 20 years.'






About two years ago, at the peak of the systematic optimism for a landmark peace between the Turks and Kurds, I asked a question in the title of my article, "Profiterole for the Kurds?" (Daily News, Sept. 10, 2009). In that piece, I recalled the early days of outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, leader Abdullah Öcalan's 1998-99 odyssey when a group of Kurds launched a hunger strike in Klafthmonos Square in Athens in protest of Mr. Öcalan's arrest in Rome.

The same square witnessed another event about 10 days after the hunger strike took off: A private company and a cookery school made a world record attempt at baking the largest-ever profiterole, weighing almost 5 tons and topped with half a ton of whipped cream. Shortly after the irresistible aroma of chocolate mousse and cream puff conquered the square the hunger strike ended.

A few months before my "profiterole," President Abdullah Gül had signaled that everything would come up roses on the Kurdish front. We cannot possibly call the hundreds of deaths of Turks and Kurds since then as "everything coming up roses." In a country where the bigwigs never give up their optimism while missing the heart of the matter, I shall never give up reminding everyone of the disturbing facts about the Kurdish dispute.

In excerpts from that article, it is easy to see that things have not changed much over the past couple of years:

"Recently I asked a friend from the anti-terror squad if he was optimistic about the PKK men giving up their arms. He looked at me dismissively, and answered my question with another question: 'Would you like your newspaper being closed down?' Really, what can we do for the PKK men should they agree to surrender their arms? Certainly, we cannot give them desk jobs at various government offices…

"Some press reports are no less naïve. According to one report in Hürriyet this week, Turkey's powerful diplomatic machinery was very close to picking up the fruits of a campaign of pressuring Damascus 'to control PKK men with Syrian passports.' I wondered, assuming there was such pressure, was there not a sane Syrian diplomat who could ask his Turkish counterparts a very legitimate question: 'Then why don't you start by controlling terrorists with Turkish passports?'

"We don't know much about what the government's "Kurdish move," which has not yet been initiated, will contain. But we know more or less what it will not contain. For instance, it will not entail constitutional amendments, which effectively means that the Kurdish language will not be recognized as our second official language. We also know that the initiative will not add Kurdish into the official curriculum.

"Extended Kurdish broadcasting and Kurdish linguistic institutes as part of Turkish universities are just fine. But will they suffice? Will they not be just another profiterole with wonderful aroma for the Kurds?

"Kurds do not categorically want peace, i.e. peace at all costs, but rather peace will come if/when they think the conditions attached to it are deemed 'honorable' by Kurds who are sympathetic to the 'Kurdish cause,' i.e., autonomy/independence.

"A Kurdish homeland is why the PKK has fought its 25-year-long war, although for tactical reasons the separatists retreated, in rhetorical terms, to a large degree of autonomy for the southeast. Sorry, but the PKK men have not killed and been killed because they are a bunch of bloodthirsty sadomasochists. Nor have they killed, including 10 soldiers in the past couple of days only, to win some silly state or private broadcasting in their own language, or a couple of Kurdish language institutes at Turkish universities.

"This war has been about sentiments in the first place, although in later years tens of millions of dollars worth of drug smuggling money was involved too. Muslim Kurds did not shoot at Muslim Turks during the holy month of Ramadan to get a few 'cultural goodies.'"

Still not got it? Forget it then and go eat some profiterole.






The seizure of street musicians' instruments by the municipal police in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul has caused minor public unrest.

The sentence, "Municipal police has seized the instruments of street musicians," is by itself a masterpiece of black humor!

One imagines seeing such sentences following the lead in the story:

"During the operation, seven acoustic guitars, seven percussion sets with high destructive powers, 30 tambourines of various sizes and radii, two accordions with updated keyboards and pages of musical notes and chord notebooks that are believed to be organizational documents have been seized. In the press conference organized after the operation, the municipality police made the captured musicians sign with their seized instruments, "Yakalarsam Muck Muck, Signed: Municipality Police… (If I catch you, muck muck. Signed: Municipality Police)"

Beyoğlu Mayor Ahmet Misbah Demircan issued a statement through twitter, because he was upset that what was experienced was perceived as, "A ban has been imposed on street musicians in Beyoğlu."

But what a statement!

Demircan, after rounding up the topic from his point of view, such as, "There is no particular ban… The municipality police took action because of complaints about loud noise… They are using loudspeakers… This (street music) is pleasantness for passers-by… We had brought in street musicians five years ago… This is a routine operation… We are [I am] not informed of these [routine operations]. Please, let us trust each other… Allow the people to perform their duties…"

After this, all of a sudden, he lets the cat out of the bag:

"If there is no intervention at the right time and in the right place, then anyone can set up an orchestra when it comes to their minds!"

Excuse me?

Let us read it once again for the safety of our eyesight: "If there is no intervention at the right time and in the right place, then anyone can set up an orchestra when it comes to their minds!"

Isn't an orchestra something that is set up when it comes to your mind anyway?

Do we ask the municipality first?

We thought it would be set up with the spirit as Bulutsuzluk Özlemi [A Turkish rock band] said in one of its old songs: "Do you have a guitar at home? Let's go then." We must have been so naïve.

So, do we also need to "Complete the necessary documents," "Receive a permit from the municipality," "Get a health report from a general hospital," and also a "clean criminal record?" What kind of a comment is this?

 "All kinds of cheap usage in Beyoğlu are bothering us," uttered Demiran.

Now I will say, without being able to stop myself, "Since you mention cheap usage, shall we take a look together, on a rainy day, the results of the pavement renewal works that took place a few years ago and tore Beyoğlu apart, took such a long time causing many long-established businesses to close or to come to the brink of bankruptcy?"

Or, if the opposite of "cheap usage" is gilded luxurious usage and its result are to be the derivatives of Demirören Mall at İstiklal, then alas, and again alas!

Let's go back to street musicians…

A scene from one of Fatih Akın's wonderful films, "Crossing the Bridge":

Alexander Hacke goes out to the street following a sound he has heard from his hotel, the beauty Büyük Londra Oteli (Grand Hotel De Londres) where he is staying during the shooting of his film.

Some street musicians are playing a phenomenal song against a spectacular sunset in the park on the Odakule side that faces the Golden Horn.

"Nothing, they know nothing

Know? They don't want to.

Nothing, they see nothing.

See? They don't want to.

If you are not one of them, they will tag you cruel.

Never mind them Khayyam, my friend.

My friend… My friend…"

The group that plays is called Siyasiyabend.

Those whose lives consist of tramping the streets of Beyoğlu (and being tramped by those streets) know the guys very


 One of them explains the street and the musician as such:

"The street, you see, integrates people.

It can align all people, from whatever social class you are; it has such a feature.

A thinner-addict comes and sits beside you, or a passer-by with a laptop in his hand.

We can catch their hearts and make them meet.

And even at times, we fade from the scene and leave them tête-à-tête; they have their own accounts, they settle them."

When we were kids, when somebody said, "Hey, look at me," we used to answer, "The municipality should look at [after]


 If the municipality is going to look after them like this, it better not…





In spy talk, a "sleeper" is somebody who lives his life in the target country, keeping his nose clean and climbing up the ranks of the local hierarchy, until he reaches a position in which he can be of great service to his true employers abroad. It's time to inquire if that description fits former U.S. President George W. Bush.

The question arises because Bush's actions as president did much more for Iran's interests in the Middle East than for those of the United States. Consider, for example, a little-noticed recent development in the five-month-old confrontation between pro-democracy protesters and the Baathist regime that rules Syria with an iron hand.

The Baath Party seized power in Syria in 1963. Since 1970 it has been led by members of the Assad clan – the current president is Bashar al-Assad – and the Alawite (Shiite Muslim) sect they belong to dominates the government and the intelligence services.

Alawites are only 10 percent of Syria's population, and are seen as heretics by many in the Sunni Muslim majority. The Baathist Party is as corrupt and incompetent as it is oppressive, and Syria under its rule has fallen into poverty and decay. It was bound to be challenged by the Arab Spring, and non-violent mass protests against the Baathist monopoly of power began all across the country in mid-March.

The regime's response has been brutal. Justifying its actions with the brazen lie that the protesters are "armed terrorist gangs," Assad's government has sent the Syrian army into one city after another to crush the demonstrations. At least 1,700 Syrian civilians have been killed, and an estimated 30,000 have been arrested. The violence has been so horrifying that even the Baathist regime's former friends have denounced it.

 Last weekend, for example, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu bluntly ordered the Syrian authorities to stop the crackdown, warning that if the military attacks on Syrian cities do not end, "there will be nothing more to discuss about the steps that will be taken." In diplomatic-speak, that is a very serious threat, and Turkey is Syria's most powerful neighbor.

Most of the Arab world has also denounced Assad's regime, including the Arab League, the Saudi Arabian, Jordanian and Egyptian governments, and Yasser Abed Rabbo, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO, who recently said that the Baathist regime's actions were "a crime against humanity."

Even Russia and China voted for the United Nations resolution two weeks ago that condemned the Syrian government for "widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians." However, the regime's only real ally, Iran, remains loyal.

You can't assume that Bush was in Iran's pay just because his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq destroyed that country's two most serious enemies in the region, the Taliban regime in Kabul and Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. It could just have been deep ignorance and ideologically driven blindness. But how else can you explain this?

Iraq, almost uniquely among Arab states, supports and defends the Baathist regime's actions in Syria. Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned the protesters not to "sabotage" the Syrian state. And this Iraqi government was created and nurtured by the Bush administration.

Before the U.S. invasion in 2003, Iraq was ruled by a rival branch of the Baath Party, led by Saddam. He was a cruel and murderous dictator, though not significantly more so than the Assad regime in Syria. And Saddam was Iran's worst enemy.

The Iraqi dictator was not working on nuclear weapons, as the Bush administration asserted, nor did he have any links to al-Qaeda, as it also claimed. Bush had access to the output of the best (or at least the most numerous) intelligence agencies in the world, and they all privately knew that the claims were false.

Iraq had a nuclear weapons program before the first Gulf War in 1990-91, but it was comprehensively dismantled by United Nations teams in the mid-1990s, and Iraq was subsequently under a strict arms embargo right down to 2003. Moreover, far from being an ally of al-Qaeda, Saddam, the leader of a strictly secular regime, was a target for its assassins.

Yet the invasion went ahead anyway, Saddam was killed, and the United States devoted immense efforts to creating a new government. Almost five thousand American soldiers died in support of that enterprise (together with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis). Around half a trillion dollars were spent on it. All that to build a government, led by al-Maliki, that is a close ally of Iran, and Syria's only supporter in the Arab world.

There is a case to answer here, and a Congressional investigation into Bush's secret links to the Iranian mullahs whose cause he has served so well is long overdue. They could start by figuring out where Bush was really born. Tehran? Tabriz? Maybe the "Birthers" could help the investigators to establish the truth.







Karachi is reaching a state of complete anarchy. At least thirty-four people have been killed in the last 24 hours with violence escalating following the death of former PPP MNA Waja Karim Daad. Rival groups used rockets and bombs to launch attacks against each other on Wednesday, plunging the city into mayhem. There are no signs that the havoc has ended or that security forces will be able to get the situation under control anytime soon. In fact, things seem to be deteriorating as more killings are being reported from various parts of the city. The murderous tide has branched out of Lyari and enveloped other parts of the city. At least eight more bodies in bags were found on Thursday. Some 15 others had been discovered the previous day – many of them dumped by unidentified persons even as terrified residents looked on helplessly. The worst aspect of the killings is that no one seems to be able to get matters under control. In fact, the government at both the provincial and central levels has not even been able to articulate precisely what it is planning to do.

The bottom line is that such mayhem simply cannot be allowed to continue. For a long time Karachi has barely seen a day of peace. Things have continued along a path which spells disaster for the people. It is obvious that the killings are a result of growing political tensions in the city and of the schism that has divided people on the basis of both their ethnic background and political affiliation. The absurd statements made in the past by members of the ruling party have only added to the tensions and exacerbated things – much like the vines and creepers of a forest taking over a garden within which people had for some time enjoyed at least relative harmony. It is clear that, whatever security plans exist for Karachi, they are not working. Rangers and police personnel have reportedly stood by and watched as the killers fired volleys of bullets and bodies fell to the ground. Normal life has been shattered and, as has been noted on more than one occasion, the ongoing instability means a devastating blow to an economy which already stands on very shaky ground. Worse still is the formidable human cost of the unrest in a city torn apart by bloodshed.







In principle, there is nothing wrong with the decision by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) to establish a national crime database at the federal level. The DCC has instructed the Interior Ministry to make the database functional on 'an urgent basis' but no date for implementation has been revealed. Details of what the database would contain or how it would be used have also not been made public. Such databases are common in the developed world. They are used to perform background checks for employers and to track the movements of some types of convicted felons. They are expensive to set up and maintain, and heavily dependent on a scrupulously accurate and incorruptible process of record taking and keeping under the tightest security. They require effective inter-agency cooperation and are insulated from political, or perhaps more importantly, criminal interference. Even the most charitable of observers and commentators would find difficulty in seeing a good fit between those parameters and the situation in the country today.

From the little evidence we have thus far it would seem that the proposed database would be a joint military-civil enterprise and would be more geared to the needs of monitoring the internal security environment than keeping individual records of crimes. All such systems are computerised and we already have an effective national database in Nadra which suggests that, if we have done it once, we can do it again. But there is a big difference between setting up a national identity card scheme and a project that aims at the heart of security-related issues. There can be no doubt that we need to more effectively coordinate the work of a range of civil and military agencies to better combat internal threats. A federal database may be one way of doing that but it may be more profitable in the short term to improve existing lines of communication and inter-agency information sharing. These already exist but are often dysfunctional, and making sure we are using what we already have to best advantage may be an option insufficiently explored. Fix what we have before buying an expensive replacement – and in the process creating yet another space where corruption and skulduggery can thrive unseen.







An arrested suspect has every right to expect that they will be produced in court at some future date – alive. The police have a duty of care in respect of those in their custody, but reports of police brutality appear with unsettling frequency. Deaths in custody are far from rare, and the latest unexplained demise while in custody has provoked a large riot in Fatehpur, Muzaffargarh. This incident is significant in terms of the size of the mob that attacked the police station – 2,000 or more. Five motorcycles and a police vehicle were burned and the police had to protect themselves by firing teargas shells and by baton charge. The Rescue 15 station was also destroyed. The incident was sparked by the death in custody of a man called Allah Ditta. There are reports that the Fatehpur SHO and two sub-inspectors have been suspended and a murder case has been registered against them. It remains to be seen whether they will have their day in court themselves or walk free.

The police should not have a licence to flout the very laws they are there to uphold. There is an almost total breakdown of trust in the relationship between the police and the communities they are supposed to serve. Time and again there are credible and verifiable reports of the police abusing the trust they are given, demanding bribes, torturing suspects, falsifying or destroying evidence or refusing to follow through on a case. Is it any wonder that communities such as those in Fatehpur react as they did? The violence of the mob cannot be condoned, but violence begets violence and deaths in custody are a powerful trigger for reciprocal communal lawlessness.







If there is a single country across the planet endlessly obsessed with its origins – how it came to be created and on what basis – it has to be the Islamic Republic, Gen Kayani's Fortress of Islam.

Nuke capability, Allah be praised, we have attained, and when in moments of patriotic emotion we sing its praises, we give the impression that nothing else matters. But simple things, like running municipal services with a modicum of efficiency or being able to think rationally about a basic need such as public transport, seem beyond our foremost abilities.

Colonialism may have been bad in every sense of the word, but at least it gave us two things: an administrative edifice based on that much-abused term "the rule of law" and a basic infrastructure: roads, canals, a railway system, and so on. We can see for ourselves what we have done with this heritage. Where we should have built upon it we have presided over its vandalising. What is more, deriving pleasure from this experience.

If the Islamic Republic has one ruling deity, real estate would beat everything else into second place. Generals have triggered needless wars, but if the military has excelled in anything it is not, perish the thought, the art of war, but the acquisition and embellishment of real estate. Our defence housing authorities have no parallel anywhere else in the world. Nor is there the least interest in abolishing this culture. If put to the test, the army can forego its guns, not its housing colonies.

And this is the army of the Fortress of Islam. Buttressing its flanks is that misty concept used as a punitive instrument to keep the recalcitrant in line, the ideology of Pakistan.

Six decades of fitful existence is a long enough time to put theories of existence to one side and concentrate on the practical aspects of running a country. But, no, a national politician says something sensible – our national leaders not being particularly famous for saying sensible things – to the effect that we should live like good neighbours with India, and the ideology-of-Pakistan school, whose contribution to the spread of national bigotry and ignorance over the years has been greater than anyone else's, rips into him as if what has been uttered is the biggest heresy of all.

Oliver Twist asks for a second bowl of porridge and in the orphanage in which he is lodged consternation breaks out, because the unbelievable has just occurred. From table to table the whisper spreads: "Oliver Twist has asked for more." In the haunts of national ideology we have heard thunder erupting because Nawaz Sharif has spoken of a sensible relationship with India. And because, unspeakable heresy again, he said that the Lord of the Universe was Lord to all of us, not just Muslims.

If the savants of national ideology could have their way India, and Pakistan would not just be at war, their cherished desire, but lobbing nuclear bombs at each other. They seriously ask, what is our nuke capability for? The implication being that if not for use against India, for what then?

The army seriously believes that nuke capability is not enough of a deterrent. In order to achieve nuclear stability, and consequently forestall the use of battlefield nuclear weapons, it is essential that conventional arms capability keep on improving. That is, more rockets and more tanks. This is not just logic reversed, put on its head, but strategy, and the concept of deterrence, gone mad: a recipe for bankruptcy.

Sharif may have started his political journey from the bosom of military rule, but if his remarks on India are taken as a signpost he has come a long way. The fount of misplaced patriotism was always Punjab. And so virulent was this strain of patriotism, championed first and foremost by the ideology-of-Pakistan school of thought, that it spread a message of intolerance.

The people of East Pakistan were alienated. Now it is the youth of Balochistan none too happy with their plight. So for a Punjabi politician to call for a lessening of the paranoia which has been a characteristic of establishment thinking in Pakistan is nothing short of remarkable.

We remain a confused country which could do with less ideological claptrap. But the good thing about the reaction to Sharif's remarks is that the attack on him has come mainly from the trenches and outposts of the far right. Sharif was once a creature of the far right himself. For someone like him, a scion of Punjab to boot, to undergo a shift to the centre is a positive development. While it has become a fashion to be pessimistic about Pakistan's future, we should take note of some of the good things happening.

The other good thing is that extremism seems to have run its course. Or at least it has reached the highest points of its expansion. This may sound like an unnecessarily bold statement but it can be put into context.

Pakistan, more than any other nation in the world, can bear witness to the fact that it has seen every form of extremism: sectarian to I don't know what. With every firebrand and holy warrior taking the shortest route to heaven we have become familiar. The jihadi organisations we have spawned can proliferate no further. North Waziristan or the rest of Fata cannot become more safe havens than they already are. Like a drunk reaching the limits of drunkenness, where his liver can take no more, we have exhausted the limits of extremism.

The ideology-of-Pakistan school has thus served its purpose. Into the hapless body (still not the carcass) of the Republic further ideology cannot be injected. It just can't take any more. We have also reached the limits of hypocrisy. We would have to be more creative than we are to write further chapters in the saga of national hypocrisy. (Have the defenders and warriors of the Holy Grail reached the limits of real estate? This is a question not easily answered.)

Does this mean that the time for reinventing the Republic has finally arrived? But we can move closer to a less ambitious agenda. Asked what communism was, Lenin famously said: "Soviet power plus electrification of the entire country." Why can't we have a similar definition of the ideology of Pakistan?

Why can't the ideology of Pakistan be to put every child in school, have one curriculum for the entire country, have taxis running on meters, have a public transport system in every major city? Why can't the ideology of Pakistan, to the exclusion of everything else, be these things: a crash programme to overcome the energy crisis, a crash programme to revive Pakistan Railways and an overnight programme to rid the republic of that devil's invention which is the polythene bag?

The polythene bag will destroy Pakistan sooner, and more effectively, than the Taliban. Don't we have the eyes to see its ravages? And a favour: if we can't fix simple things, let us at least not waste time and energy on metaphysical abstractions.

We know angels won't descend from heaven to fix these problems. Saladins and Bismarcks we do not have. Greed is a national pastime. The options for change are limited. The stars are implacable in their indifference. We have to create our own miracles, from the material that is available.

But let us also count our blessings, the latest being the confusion into which the ideology-of-Pakistan school has been thrown. Let us agree with Gen Kayani that Pakistan is the Fortress of Islam. Allah again be praised. But we should at least ensure that the drawbridge of this fortress doesn't creak and the chains are not rusty. The origins of Pakistan have been debated enough. After 64 years, shouldn't the age of practicality begin?









 We have become accustomed to times when doom exists all around us. Bad news is a part of life – whether it comes in the form of the political chaos we see in Sindh or in the kidnapping of foreigners. The latest of these in Lahore, where a 63-year-old American who had lived in the country for years and, sensibly enough, had employed a bevy of guards to protect himself, is frightening in the organisation and planning with which it was carried out. As yet, there is no definite news as to the safety of a young Swiss couple, who rather unwisely had driven off into Loralai in Balochistan. There are conflicting reports as to whether they remain in the district or have been whisked away to the Afghan border by the Taliban.

The environment of fear has been aggravated by the perceived threat posed by the ISI to journalists, activists and others; by the continued disappearances in Balochistan and by shootings by forces such as the Rangers in Karachi and Quetta. Life, it is clear, is no longer sacred. And even though we remain obsessed with political happenings, stories of all kinds unfold around us, with a number of international organisations recently expressing fear over worsening food insecurity and the hazards that come with it. Not surprisingly, columns that appeared to mark our 65th Independence Day often featured phrases like "consistent failure" or "inability to progress."

From time to time, however, it does good to see the hope that lies within our land. It can be found, even if this is only in pockets and patches. These splotches of colour in a bleak environment where shades of grey and black predominate possibly offer something to build on and to use to create a brighter canvas. The splotches exist in many places, but most of us have learned not to look at them.

The remarkable story of the Lahore-based Sachal Orchestra, whose first album has topped Western jazz charts, was first picked up by the Western media. Even now, not many at home have heard the tale of the studio set up for the struggling classical musicians of the city by a UK-based businessman touched by the decline of music, mainly as a result of official neglect which began under Ziaul Haq. The high-tech facility was used to create a unique fusion sound which has created ripples – indeed, waves – around the world. The achievement, which came after many years of internal quibbling and a struggle to blend Eastern and Western music successfully, is just one example of the talent we possess.

Musicians like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan have demonstrated it in the past; his nephew, Rahat, for all his tax problems, remains in great demand in India where other Pakistani singers and groups have in the past brought audiences to their feet. Many Pakistani classical singers speak of the greater acclaim and respect they receive across the border.

It is unfortunate we have allowed appreciation for the classical arts to die to such an extent. The effort to revive classical dance continues and, though things have improved markedly since the 1980s, there is still a sometimes terrifying narrowness of minds. This has been exhibited in the last few years by bomb blasts at theatres and performing arts events, and also, most recently, by the horrendous incident at Lahore's Nairang Art Gallery where a police SHO entered, roughed up and abused the female curator on the grounds that she was "indecently" dressed and that the environment at the premises was "unsuitable." The art gallery, owned by leading architect Nayyer Ali Dada, has become a gathering place for the liberal and in many ways replaced the now defunct Pak Tea House.

For all the darkness, the spots of light keep shining through. Remarkably, despite the odds stacked up against them, a number of Pakistani women swimmers have won awards at Asian-level meets and been able to compete in a sport that was once seen as forbidden for women.

Still more extraordinary is the story of Maria Toor Pakai from South Waziristan who now ranks as Pakistan's top woman squash player and has held a ranking among the top 100 in the world. In a region plagued by extremism, Maria was able to achieve her success with the help of her father, a traditional tribesman, who seeing his tomboy daughter's sporting inclinations when she was still very young, moved her to Peshawar and initially had her compete in weightlifting events disguised as a boy. Her rise in squash came with the help of the legendary Jansher Khan.

The story of Maria, who still associates her strength with the hard stones and rocky formations of her home village where women rarely venture out of their homes, has not been told often enough by our own media, which seems too often to focus only on the bleaker aspects of life. This is a part of the news business. It is a global truth that bad news sells better than good news.

But given our particular situation, and the levels of despondency that exist in the country, perhaps there needs to be a greater effort to focus on the positive. The talent we possess in so many areas needs to be brought to the fore. It exists of course not only in music and athletics but only in other spheres. Opportunities need to be created for young people to excel in various areas and to move away from the culture of crime and other illicit activity that is gaining ground in many areas. One example is that of Lyari. The locality once produced some of the best footballers and boxers in the country. Today gangs with guns dominate its streets. We need to think hard about how all this can be changed and the lights switched back on to drive away the sense of perpetual night that has overtaken so many of us and created what appears to be a permanent sense of pessimism.

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor. Email: kamilahyat@






The talk of new provinces is the latest fad in the country which is trapped under a totally corrupt and incompetent government in the hands of people who are not fit to run a district. Not only that, but they tricked people into voting for them on the promise of roti, kapra aur makan and catching Shaheed Benazir Bhutto's killers, a promise they could neither fulfil nor intended to. This truth has dawned on people long ago and they are now trying to break through the web of lies and deceit spun by the so-called "reconciliation" government. However, all has not been well for them and the boat of reconciliation is caught in turbulent waters with the "reconciliators" continuously demanding a greater share of the loot from the government.

The latest in this process is yet another tiff between the PPP and the MQM which has led this government into the blundering process of passing the Commissionerate Bill in the Sindh Assembly, which they introduced three years ago but held back to appease the MQM. Only thirty days later the bill was illegally and unconstitutionally amended by an ordinance which restored Musharraf's district government system in Karachi and Hyderabad only, thereby surreptitiously partitioning Sindh. This created uproar throughout Sindh which this government could not face and the same day restored the old district government system, again by an illegal and unconstitutional ordinance. This has brought back memories of the restoration of the judges of the Supreme Court at 2am, in the face of the long march from Lahore, after Zardari had four times broken the promises to do so.

This comedy of errors has generated the demand for more provinces and all sorts of wild and hallucinatory suggestions are coming from every direction in which the basic and unalterable truth, that Pakistan is the sum total of the Muslim nations that agreed to pool their lands, peoples, wealth, history, powers and traditions to form the new country, is being ignored. The Sindhi, Baloch, Pukhtun, Punjabi and Bengali people were all independent nations which the British subjugated and combined to form the mosaic of India.

However, with the achievement of independence in 1947, their previous sovereign status was restored and they were given the choice to either stay in India or opt for the new country of Pakistan. Thus, the five Muslim nations opted for and formed Pakistan. This was undoubtedly on the explicit and firm promise made by Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League, which is also contained in the Pakistan Resolution of 1940, that these nations would be "autonomous and sovereign" in Pakistan and the central government would be vested only with the portfolios of defence, foreign affairs, currency and communications.

Unfortunately, this promise has never been honoured, hence trouble began in Balochistan within 48 hours of the creation of Pakistan, and within six months in East Pakistan, finally leading to the break up of the country Pakistan has been created by the consenting nations which have not even been designated as states, as in India, but are being called and treated like provinces. If that is not intolerable enough, talk is rampant of carving up these provinces into little pieces to appease those who took refuge on these lands. Of course it is a different matter if a demand for a new province is raised by a people who fulfil the requirements of separate nationhood and whose land has been merged into another province. Their claim cannot be denied, but this is a matter for the affected parties to sort out. What cannot be allowed is for immigrants to go and settle on some other nation's soil and then demand a piece for themselves. Such a practice would throw the world into turmoil as there are settlers in every country.

Apart from the above, there is the ridiculous suggestion that the whole country should be carved up into little administrative units. But are such units not already in existence? Each province is divided into divisions, districts, tehsils and union councils with full-fledged administrative structures. If the proposal is to also add governors and chief ministers with cabinets and separate legislatures, then there will be noting left for the people who are already selling their children to buy bread and families are committing suicides to escape hunger.

This country is in a massive state of turmoil and it is abundantly clear that this government is in no way equal to the task of dealing with the situation. In order to put things right, immediate action is required in the form of a genuinely non-political caretaker government of professionals, closely watched by the Supreme Court, which should not hesitate to use its powers under Article 190 of the Constitution. The escape routes of the usual offenders, who crept back into politics and power under cover of the NRO and are contemptuously refusing to face the cases that stand revived by the NRO's abolition, should be blocked. They should all be rounded up and made to face the old and new cases of defiant loot and plunder they have indulged in.

While this goes on, preparations for elections must be initiated by cleansing the voters' lists of bogus votes, demarcating new constituencies that are not tailor-made for influential candidates, appointing neutral polling staff and ensuring fair counting of votes. Appropriate measures must also be adopted to eliminate disreputable and unqualified candidates. In short, the whole political setup, which has become rotten, must be cleaned up.

The hopeless and highly demeaning practice of treating Pakistan as a nation-state has failed with disastrous consequences. This is a multi-national state, a fact that the creators of Pakistan recognised and catered to. We must have a new constitution based on the 1940 Resolution, which we have adopted as the Pakistan Resolution. Strictly speaking, this proposes a commonwealth of Muslim states, as it is not possible to have sovereign states in a federal system.

However, confederation can be a compromise formula with only the above stated powers vested in the central government. Much water has passed under the bridge since in 1985 the Sindhi, Baloch, Pukhtun Fronts and now the Sindh National Front provided a detailed confederal constitutional formula. Since then, war has been waged in the north and the Shahi Jirga in Balochistan has twice declared that they were not and are not a part of Pakistan. War goes on there also. Punjab is outside the writ of the federal government and makes its own way while Sindh has become the killing fields where no government exists. Thus, it may have already become too late even for a confederation to work, but that is the only hope as everything else has failed and the country is headed towards disintegration.

The writer is chairman Sindh National Front.







In 90 years of the freedom struggle of undivided India, (1857-1947) despite massacres like Jalianwala Bagh and atrocities such as the Black Hole of Calcutta, the number of lives lost did not exceed a hundred thousand. Consequently, by the yardstick of lives lost under their political leadership, the Gandhi, the Nehrus, the Ali brothers of Bombay, and the Bose brothers of Calcutta pale in comparison to the score of Bangladesh's political leadership of 1971. Such is the rationale of civil society in Bangladesh.

The responsibility of motivating an unarmed population to confront the brutality of a marauding Pakistani army is eulogised as a marvel of political leadership. Indeed, the sacrifice of three million lives as yet to be identified or recognised is trumpeted as a statistical testament to the sagacity of the political leadership of East Pakistan in 1971.

Nineteenth century British Raj saw the advent and the rise of a community of Indian toadies of the colonial rulers in Calcutta popularly known as the "Bhadralok Samaj". These were the landed Bengali gentry consisting of the Chatterjees, Mukherjees, and Bannerjees whose claim to fame as "brown sahibs" was their social association with the colonial "white sahibs".

The late twentieth century witnessed the emergence and meteoric rise of the "Bhadralok Samaj" in Dhaka which is euphemistically called the civil society of Bangladesh. These worthies are primarily the sponsors of NGOs funded by western donor agencies. Senior media personalities engaged directly, or through their spouses, in the highly profitable NGO business are also members of the "Bhadralok Samaj".

The Bhadraloks of Dhaka and the diplomatic community there thrive in a mutual backscratching association. Both communities, totally alien to the concerns and aspirations of a majority of Bangladeshis, are very articulate and facile in penning authoritative statements claiming to report on a diverse array of issues ranging from the constitution of the country to the latest buzz word, "climate change". The Bhadraloks send weekly diplomatic reports to Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Rome, Oslo, London and Washington. As a quid pro quo, the diplomatic missions in Dhaka patronise the Bhadroloks by funding the Bhadralok managed NGOs and promoting them as the civil society of Bangladesh.

A particularly high point in the machinations of the Bhadraloks of Dhaka was during the tenure of the 1/11 caretaker government of Moin U Ahmed. Their revealing homage to material interests in serving the cause of the 1/11 bandits has promoted the image of the Bhadraloks as a beacon of light to supposedly marooned humanity in Bangladesh.

Now the Bhadraloks have embarked upon rewriting the country's constitution. They conveniently ignore the axiom that the efficacy of law is dependant on the popular opinion supporting it. The fourth amendment of the constitution was enacted by the first parliament of Bangladesh at the end of two years of its five-year tenure. Perhaps, it would not be too presumptuous to suggest that a lack of popular support for the first parliament resulted in its demise in less than seven months of the one party rule under the fourth amendment to the constitution.

Almost two and a half years of a five-year term of the ninth parliament have elapsed. Recent developments indicate that the electorate cannot be trusted to opine on subjects of such great import in favour of the Bhadraloks' agenda.

It is to the credit of the colonial British that despite the sycophancy of the Bhadraloks of Calcutta, they astutely recognised the pernicious character of the ingratiating spongers of Calcutta and moved the capital of India to Delhi in 1911 - a thousand miles away.

The people of Bangladesh wait to see whether the international community in Dhaka wakes up to the machinations of the Bhadraloks of Dhaka and the dangers of their sanctimonious passions supported by a perverted rationale. Unless the agenda of the Bhadraloks is checked, the people there may not have to wait too long to witness the spectre of yet another demonstration of sacrificing millions of lives and breeding new heroes.

The writer is a former minister.








 Caught between demands of political masters and directives of the Supreme Court, another director general FIA has resigned. He is the third chief of the premier investigation agency to depart in a year.

This is the visible head of a much greater malaise. Throughout the country, civil servants from top to bottom are being shunted around on whims of politicians. The use of influence to get bureaucrats of choice is not new but its scale now is unprecedented. Every significant post has become a political football.

The federal government has gone a step further by pushing civil servants to commit illegal acts. The happenings in the FIA are a classical example. Whether it is the National Insurance case or the Haj scam or earlier the Steel Mill inquiry, bureaucrats are being asked to lie, obfuscate, disappear, do anything to defy superior court orders. The attempt is to make a mockery of the entire judicial process.

Some of the tricks being used would be laughable if they were not serious breaches of the law and constitution. How else to describe a false bomb hoax to stop Zafar Qureshi from entering his office, hiding the case record, sending investigators on forced leave, making key witnesses disappear, even tampering with evidence.

Political governments have come and gone but never before has the permanent state structure been manipulated to this extent to secure political ends. The Chaudhries are of course sitting back, enjoying the spectacle of their historical adversaries going into contortions to save their backsides. What an irony!

As an aside, let me wager a bet. Once the Chaudhries have secured Moonis's acquittal, their attitude towards the federal government is going to change. They will not leave as long as PPP is in power, but start making life difficult for it and stab it in the back if it becomes weak. They are past masters at ditching those who are no longer of use. A forlorn example of this is Musharraf.

The real losers in this entire process are the civil servants. Not only are they being forced to defy the Supreme Court but in the process, they are also choosing by default a political side. As long as they continue in government service, they will forever be tarred with a particular political party's brush.

I have seen careers being made or ruined by such an association. There are many examples of people having no job in one party's government and reach top heights with the other in power. Some may consider this a sound political investment but it militates against the ethos of a democratic state.

The organising principle behind a modern democratic state is simple. The most well known is of course the separation of powers between judiciary, executive and the legislature. The purpose is to create a system of checks, essentially around the executive but not excluding the legislature or the courts, that no one institution exceed its constitutionally mandated authority.

What is often overlooked though is the tacit separation of power within the executive. Politicians elected by the people make policies for their welfare and the bureaucracy carries them out. Decision making on many other matters too rests with the political masters but not in the institutional functions of the state.

These institutional functions relate largely to the regulatory framework such as the State Bank, Auditor General's office, Securities and Exchange Commission, Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority and so on. The executive authority is not allowed to interfere in the functioning of these institutions.

But, it does not end here. There are many other state agencies working under law whose processes are kick started spontaneously whenever an infringement takes place. The most obvious example of this is the police, in its various manifestations at the federal or provincial level. When a criminal act is committed the police does not have to, and should not, wait for political direction to take action.

In other words, the police, and other such agencies enforcing state regulation, are autonomous to this extent in their working The powers of the elected executive authority are therefore not unlimited and do not extend to interfering in the permanent regulatory functions of the state. This distinction is critical to the running of an effective democracy.

It is thus entirely possible that the daughter of the president of the United States, supposedly the most powerful man in the world, could be hauled up for drunk driving. This happened to one of George Bush's daughters. Or British royalty or senior politicians getting tickets for over speeding. No one is arguing that these things work perfectly in western democracies but they do to a large extent. That is what makes their system strong.

Democratic legitimacy and being elected is thus not a licence to ride rough shod over every law and rule in the book. The view among politicians that we have to go back and get elected and so the bureaucracy at every level, particularly the police, should cooperate is ridiculous.

Bureaucracy must obey its political masters in terms of taking directions on policy or in countless other major or minor decisions but when it comes to lawfully mandated functions of the state it should be allowed to carry them out without interference. Democracy is not just about being elected. It means allowing the balance of power within the system to operate otherwise it becomes a dictatorship masquerading as democracy.

One great propensity that the politicians have to overcome is seeing civil servants in 'ours vs them' terms. Apart from those fulfilling political posts, and there are a large number of these in the US, civil servants are not supposed to be aligned with any party.

The problem for the politicians is that having emerged from an adversarial system of elections where you are either 'with us or against us' it is difficult for them to see civil servants as neutral. It is a natural propensity for them to seek personal loyalty in civil servants. This is against the spirit of the system of democracy applicable in our country.

Bureaucrats must serve their political masters loyally and faithfully but there has to be a clear distinction between doing the job well and personal association. It goes without saying that this service must be done within the ambit of law and rules. What the federal government is doing to the civil services is undermining the checks and balances of democracy.

The word democracy is bandied about a lot by politicians of all parties. They are quick to speak of dangers to it from this or that institution. What they need to do is look within. If they keep violating the spirit of democracy then no amount of democratic legitimacy will stop the weariness with the system that is so prevalent now.

It is time that this larger perspective is kept in view when the federal government chooses to defy the courts or subvert the lawful functioning of civil servants. Otherwise, it will have no one to blame but itself.









 Watayo Fakir is a household name in Sindh. The parables woven around the life, times, mysticism and social comment of this legendary wit are famous for their metaphor, simplicity, humour, incisiveness and wisdom. He makes seemingly inconsequential remarks on mundane happenings around him or does something which is either meaningless or provocative in a subtle way. But his words and acts would make people start thinking about themselves and the world around them – questioning their own and other people's beliefs and behaviours. He holds the same place in Sindhi culture and literature which Mullah Nasruddin held in Turkish, Aldar Kaisi in Russian, Jooha in Arabic and Mullah Dopiaza in Mughal Emperor Akbar's court. He is said to have lived in the later part of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth century.

Once on a celebratory occasion, a feast was held in Watayo's village. People were crowding around the big pot of a special rice dish to get their share. Some organisers requested Watayo, being a God's fakir, to take charge of the pot and distribute food. He asked them, "Would you like me to distribute food in the godly way, the way our Creator, the Almighty would do? Or would you want me to distribute in the worldly way, the way we are taught to distribute wealth and inheritance by our predecessors?" The organisers thought for a moment and said, "Watayo, our Creator is the greatest. Do as He will do." Watayo made the first person get a huge portion while abused the next one and sent him back without anything. Then he arbitrarily distributed very big or very small portions of food among people. He would swear at some and make them go away. The organisers got embarrassed and asked Watayo to distribute food in the worldly way of good and just humans.

There was a theft in Watayo's village. People started looking all over for the thief. Watayo went straight into the graveyard and sat there. Passers-by asked him that while everyone is trying to find the thief, what he was doing in the graveyard. He said that eventually the thief would be brought here. I am just waiting." Likewise, when a fire broke out in the village, Watayo wrapped his ralli, the traditional patched cloth of Sindh, around him and said, "It helps to be a on the breadline in such times. Nothing to fear and nothing to lose."

But there is so much to fear and so much to lose in Sindh today. In this latest flurry of death and destruction, the citizens of Karachi and the dwellers of the province face, wider civic life, social structures, economic relations and political settlements negotiated between the different communities of Sindh over decades are put at stake. Sooner than later, everyone is going to suffer hugely if the course is not set right. The MQM remains arrested in the pressure tactics of the 1990s with its politics flowing out of the barrel, the ANP is subservient to the interests of transport, smuggling and land mafias, and the PPP presents a combination of mediocrity, confusion and expediency. Once on a chilly night, Watayo's mother asked him, "Wataya, you are so close to God. Ask him for a spark from the hell so that the poor people could survive the cold of this night." Watayo said, "There is no fire in hell mother. People who are sent there bring their own." All have brought so much fire to the heaven of Sindh that it is turning into a hell.










AS PPP and MQM are preparing for another embrace apparently for the sake of peace and security of Karachi, there continues to be a nose-dive in the law and order situation in the commercial hub of the country. In the latest incident, twenty people including a former Member of the National Assembly belonging to PPP became victim of terror and target killing on Wednesday.

The situation in Karachi is worsening with the passage of everyday rather with the passage of every hour and the gravity gives it a war-like turn. What happened on Wednesday made it a black day in the sense that almost every moment a body fell in a free for all environment where law enforcing agencies, as usual, were rendered irrelevant by the trouble-makers, who had a field day. The entire city was in a state of shock and awe as rockets fell here and there and motor-cyclists sprayed people with bullets as they were having Iftar during the holy month of Ramadan. Bodies kept on bleeding, there was panic in hospitals and mourners wailing over dead bodies of their near and dear ones lodged protest in front of the CM House, conveying a vivid impression that people are losing faith in the capacity and capability of the administration to ensure safety of their life and property, which is fundamental obligation of any Government. But regrettably, there is still no sense of urgency among the power corridors to arrest the ever-deteriorating situation and take measures to restore sense of security among residents of the city. We have been emphasizing in these columns that visits of the Interior Minister to Karachi and hollow statements of the authorities would not yield any positive result, as situation has reached to a stage where the entire city is sitting on powder-keg and anything could happen any moment. A recent meeting of the Corps Commanders had also expressed concern over worsening law and order situation in Karachi but Wednesday's session of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC), which was devoted to internal security, apparently did not come out with any concrete plan to restore normalcy in the city. We believe that Rangers and Police should be given extra-ordinary powers to deal with the situation in an across-the-board manner with freedom of action and without any political interference. One also fails to understand as to why the Government is unable to convene an APC on Karachi when all the parties and stakeholders are publically supporting the idea and are ready to extend a helping hand in restoring peace to the city.







MIAN Nawaz Sharif has surprised, rather shocked every Pakistani by demanding snap polls in the country. In his interview with a private TV channel, the PML-N President demanded of the Prime Minister to announce dissolution of the National Assembly and holding of elections citing various reasons including unabated load shedding, unemployment, price spiral, lawlessness and so on.

To demand mid-term elections is legitimate right of the opposition but at this point of time when Pakistan has become a den of all destabilizing factors, such a demand from a popular leader is unthinkable. We may caution that such forces are emerging in some provinces that could sway the outcome of elections on the basis of some emotional slogans, detrimental to the stability of the federation. Also the people at large are mentally not ready for this exercise. Otherwise too it is unthinkable to hold orderly elections because the law and order, as pointed out by Mian Saheb has virtually crumbled down. Even the long due local bodies elections could not be organised what to say of national elections. Generally speaking there is a consensus that the incumbent government be allowed to complete its mandated tenure for the stability of democratic institutions. Mian Nawaz Sharif has demanded the mid term polls by rightly identifying the problems confronting the country but he has not come out with his proposals for their solution. In every democratic polity, opposition parties have their own shadow cabinets and they prepare different policies and programmes not only to address the problems but to take the country forward in all spheres of life. Unfortunately in Pakistan, this practice is not being followed for understandable reasons because the leadership keeps everyone guessing and only those make to the Cabinet who enjoy close links with the head of the party rather than merit. We would therefore urge Mian Nawaz Sharif to reconsider his demand as head of the main opposition party and in the remaining period of about one and a half years, give concrete shape to his ideas as to how the crucial problems facing the country would be overcome if his party returned to power.








PROTESTS swelled across India on Wednesday in support of an anti-corruption campaigner fasting to the death in jail, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's struggling Government at a loss over how to end the standoff. The PM dismissed the fast by anti-graft activist Anna Hazare as 'totally misconceived', sparking outrage as members of the parliament cried 'shame'.

The way Anna Hazare, an otherwise ordinary soul, has mobilized public opinion against rising corruption in India demonstrated that the country had zero tolerance against the menace and has the will and potential to eliminate it one day. The campaigner brought huge spontaneous crowds onto the streets within hours when he appealed from jail for a mass demonstration and apart from New Delhi, huge protests were held in cities across the country. He attracted support from the middle class and got constant media coverage, making corruption a hotly debated issue in India. It seems that India is on the verge of a positive turn on this front as well, as it did in promoting IT culture which is one of the major contributors to the country's economic and social progress. It also showed that there was maturity in that country and people were aware of the problems and have the resolve and courage to address them squarely. Whatever the outcome of the on going campaign, it is certain that it will deal a serious blow to the menace of corruption. Coming back home, we wish leaders of civil society should also come out against the scourge, which has assumed alarming dimensions in the country. At the moment, only the Supreme Court seems to be determined to take measures to address the issue whereas both the civil society and the Government are showing total apathy towards the grave problem. Unfortunately, our society has become highly politicized and little attention is being paid to economic issues and social evils. Perhaps, the wave of awareness on the other side of the eastern border might cross Wagah and inspire Pakistanis as well.









If during Ayub Khan's Pakistan 40 families ruled the country, as mentioned before in these columns, these days around 400 families are ruling India. They comprise politicians, civil servants, businesspersons and even a few journalists. Indeed, India is blessed with what may be termed "Sarkari journalists", those who are adept in currying the favour of any dispensation that gets elected to power. When the BJP rules, they take out their Sanskrit phrase book and speak with authority of the ancient classics, while during Congress rule, they show off their knowledge of French wines, aware that Europe has a special place in Sonia Gandhi's heart. In the infrequent intervals when smaller parties grab the Prime Ministership, such scribes abandon their Savile Row suits for rough homespun pyjama-kurta,and speak in Hindi rather than in English or (even better) French. Small wonder that fr years, several of these "defenders of the public interest against the establishment" were each given talk shows by the national broadcaster, Prasar Bharati. These usually comprised of interview formats that were of such scintillating brilliance that not even their spouses could bear to watch a full segment. Of course, despite the nil viewership, several lakhs of rupees were paid each month to each "independent editor" by the state broadcaster

Small wonder that there has been an amazing transformation in the lives of the Sarkari journalists over the past two decades. Most have exchanged tiny flats for impressive mansions, and routinely send their children abroad to expensive educational institutions for study. The price of such munificence is silence about VVIPs, the very section of Indian society that accounts for much of the country's problems. Despite frequent boasts about India being a democracy, the mainstream media is almost totally silent about the rampant wrongdoing indulged in by VVIPs and their friends and relatives. Thus, the public remain ignorant about the frequency of the foreign travel of the VVIP set, or of their business interests and personal lives. Even something as non-controversial as health is kept a close secret, as witness the total blackout over the health condition of Congress President Sonia Gandhi. The result is rumor, with some saying that she has a skin cancer, while others aver that it is a brain tumor. Such reticence would be unthinkable in Europe or in North America, but is taken for granted in the feudal culture of South Asia, where some aspects of politics resemble the situation in North Korea more than they do a genuine democracy

The British-bequeathed system that has been the gift of Jawaharlal Nehru to India has ensured that the forms of democracy get preserved, even while the entire substance gets drained out. The very process of contesting elections involves large dollops of Black Money, as the legal limit for election expenses is absurdly low. This money gets provided by dubious interests, including narcotics smugglers and other crime syndicates. The help they give a politician to get elected results in the criminal class getting immunity from prosecution. Many, of course, become elected politicians themselves. Either no case is filed, or if a case get filed ( usually because of the pressure of public opinion), the prosecuting attorneys ensure that their case get presented so badly that the judge gives the benefit of the doubt to the accused. This was the modus operandi used under both the Vajpayee as well as the Manmohan Singh governments to enable the fugitive influence peddler from Italy, Ottavio Quatrocchi, to be acquitted in both Malaysia as well as in Argentina. Government agencies rely on the Law Ministry for counsel, and these are secretly briefed to ensure a walkover for the other side, of course for a price. Small wonder that Law and Justice ( a double misnomer in the case of this particular ministry) is so much sought after by greedy polticians. In any case, the justice system in India functions so slowly that it will be years - if not decades - before a case even gets heard i court.Hence the judicial system is no longer a check on wrongdoing

How can an individual who has spent millions upon millions in Black Money to get elected have the mindset needed to cleanse India of the corruption that is choking the country? The answer lies in the fact that for six decades,the political class in India has refused to get passed laws that subject them to scrutiny and punishment. The laws passed are so riddled with loopholes and exceptions that few get enmeshed in its coils. Which is why the entire political class in India is so horrified at Anna Hazare,who is asking for the Jan Lokpal Bill to be passed.This is an enactment with real teeth,and hence the palpable reluctance of the political class to get it passed. Instead,they are moaning about the "anti-democratic" War on Corruption that is led by Anna Hazare,Sri Sri Ravishankar and Baba Ramdev.Of the three,it is Sri Sri Ravishankar who has the greatest following,that too across the globe. All three are secular leaders. While Hazare is a social activist, Sri Sri Ravishankar is the founder of the Art of Living,that teaches an individual to adopt a harmonious lifestyle. Baba Ramdev teaches yoga,the ancient science of exercises designed to improve health. All three have united to lead the effort to ensure that the India of the 21st century gets free of the filth of the India of the 20th,an era in which only the unethical have jumped ahead,while the honest languish

It ought to be compulsory for every legislator,at the regional as well as the national level, to submit to a polygraph test to determine if she or he spent Black Money during the campaign,or has any undeclared assets.Any person failing the test should get disqalified,and the person with the next highest number of votes should be declared elected (provided that person passes the lie detector test). The political class in India has made common cause with the many academics singing hosannas to "Nehruism" in making a fetish of the so-called Westminister Model.The reality is that India is not the UK,and ought to have evolved its own system rather than borrow wholesale the very system that was created by the UK so as to keep India in submission. Today,there is a growing popular movement against a series of laws and institutions that are in essence no different from that during the colonial period. What India is seeing is a Cultural Revolution,where Mao Zedong's cry of "Bombard the Headquarters" is being reproduced by a saintly 74-year old from the village of Ralegaon Siddhi in Maharashtra. And the people are responding, with the government ( that is so effective in blackmailing and slinking the corrupt,including much of the so-called Opposition) helpless against an honest man. As predicted in these columns,a tide of anger is sweeping across India that will end in the creation of a system of governance that is more transparent and more pro-people ( rather than pro-politician) than the present. Setting a thief to catch a thief has been the prescription of the political class,which has only ensured that corruption grow each year rather than diminish. In contrast, Anna and Sri Sri say that only the honest can catch the crooked,so they should be given the authority to do so.No wonder India's well-fed political class is reaching for blood pressure medication

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.








The unexpected appearance in January of China's first stealth fighter, the J-20, sent shockwaves across the Asia-Pacific region, forcing China's East Asian neighbours to rethink their defence planning but the announcement last June by Chen Bingde, China's top military official that China was developing its own aircraft carrier, sent its protagonists into a tail spin. Now China's first aircraft carrier has begun its inaugural sea trial, much to the chagrin of the US and its factotums in the region. Although Beijing has made a modest beginning and only recently confirmed it was revamping an old Soviet ship to be its first carrier, yet the US, which operates 11 aircraft carriers, and Britain, France, Australia, Brazil, South Korea, Spain, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Thailand, Russia and India also maintain aircraft carriers, find China's humble start worrisome.

The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) had expressed interest in operating aircraft carriers as part of its blue water aspirations since the 1970s, which was logical, considering the threat perception as well as the requirements of a growing force. As part of its quest to build aircraft carriers and acquaint itself with the sophisticated technology, since 1985, China has acquired four retired aircraft carriers for study: the Australian HMAS Melbourne and the ex-Soviet carriers Minsk, Kiev and Varyag. China reportedly bought the Varyag's immense armoured hull—with no engine, electrics or propeller—in 1998 from Ukraine, after it was abandoned by the former Soviet Union due to depletion of funds. The 300 meter, 66,000 ton displacement Type 089 aircraft carriers based on the Varyag, is due to be finished by 2015. Sukhoi Su-33s (navalized Flankers) are the aircraft most likely to be flown from these carriers but China is also developing its own version of the Sukhoi 33, the J-15 Flying Shark.

Beijing last month sought to play down the capability of its first carrier, saying the vessel would be used for training and "research". The first sea trial is just for testing different items, while on-off sea trials would continue for another year or two. Last week Japan voiced concern over China's growing assertiveness and widening naval reach and over what it called the "opaqueness" of Beijing's military budget. The carrier project also comes amid heightened tensions over a number of maritime territorial disputes involving China, notably in the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas and is claimed by several countries. The issue has heated up recently with run-ins between China and fellow claimants Vietnam and the Philippines, sparking concern among its neighbouring countries and the United States.

The United States has declared that it would like China to explain why it needs an aircraft carrier amid broader US concerns about Beijing's lack of transparency over its military aims. "We would welcome any kind of explanation that China would like to give for needing this kind of equipment," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters when asked whether the carrier would raise regional tensions. "This is part of our larger concern that China is not as transparent as other countries. It's not as transparent as the United States about its military acquisitions, about its military budget," she said. "And we'd like to have the kind of open, transparent relationship in military-to-military affairs," Nuland said. "In our military-to-military relations with many countries around the world, we have the kind of bilateral dialogue where we can get quite specific about the equipment that we have and its intended purposes and its intended movements," she said. But China and the United States are "not at that level of transparency" to which the two nations aspire, Nuland added.

Such expression of concern smacks of duplicity, when India, which is being propped up by the US as a bulwark to China in the region, is developing a number of aircraft carriers. The Indian Navy is operating the INS Viraat, a Centaur class carrier in service since 1987. While the INS Vikramaditya, the modified Kiev class carrier is planned to enter service in 2012. On top of it, India is indigenously developing the Vikrant class 40,000 ton aircraft carrier, being built at Cochin Shipyard in southern India and is expected to enter service in 2012, while the INS Vishal, a 65,000 ton aircraft carrier is also being constructed at the Cochin Shipyard. It is planned to be placed under Vikrant class aircraft carrier.

While a media campaign is on to induce China's neighbours to express their concerns over its acquisition of an aircraft carrier, a concerted campaign has started to downplay the effectiveness of China's aircraft carrier capability. Analysts are claiming that they have not seen any catapult or arrester wire system on board from satellite photographs thus they are speculating that China will use its aircraft carrier only for helicopters. Without catapults or arrester wires, the carrier will not be able to operate any airborne early-warning aircraft needed to provide comprehensive radar coverage for fleets. This means the carrier will have limited area awareness, unable to see or respond to threats beyond the horizon of ship-based radar. They claim that logistical constraints will also limit the time the carrier can spend at sea: the PLA-N possesses only five seaworthy replenishment ships, none of them over 22,000 tons.

Another disinformation being propagated is that even if it becomes operational, the carrier and its air groups will be hugely vulnerable and China is unlikely to risk using it in any confrontation with rivals in the South China Sea. Simultaneously propaganda machinery is propagating that Vietnam, another rival of China over South China Sea disputes, is likely to acquire the Indo-Russian BrahMos. With a speed of Mach 2.8, the missile is four times as fast as a US-made Tomahawk missile and would present a lethal threat to any vessel within its 300-kilometer range.

The fact remains that China has every right to develop and build a strong navy that is commensurate with its rising status; the aircraft carrier is an inevitable choice for the country to safeguard its increasingly globalized national interests.










O you who believe! Intoxicants, and gambling, and sacrificing to idols, and divining arrows, are an abomination of Satan's handiwork. So avoid them in order that you may be successful. Satan only wants to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of God and from prayer. So will you not then abstain? Holy Qur'an 5:90-91

The Shariah has prohibited any kinds of financial transactions in which one party gains a sum of money, which it does not legally or morally deserve. Gambling is considered to be part of such transactions.

In the Holy Quran's Arabic language the the root words for gambling are "easy" and "something attained with no effort." The Islamic belief is that prosperity must come from hard work, diligence, sweat, blood and not pure fortune. Therefore, anything won from a simple stroke of luck falls in the ambit of gambling. The practice of lottery tickets, horse racing, prize winning tickets, bets on games and tournaments, cards, poker, money gambling machines are all strictly forbidden.

The first mention in the Quran regarding gambling can be found in Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) "They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say: In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit'" (2:219).

The practice of gambling has an inherent addiction hidden in it. The person who gambles can easily become victim of frustration, anger or sense of loss when the outcome in not favorable. This often sets in motion a cycle of actions which make wining the ultimate objective and extremely desirable at the cost of anything. This burning inclination to win often induces in the gambler a propensity to sell his soul, dignity, honor, religion just to stay at the gambling table! In this process the gambler tends to loosen his grip on the rope of faith and eventually distances himself from the injunctions of the Almighty.

A successful believer is one who lives his life in moderation. Gambling is one of those evils whose participators lose every track of moderation and balance. They inadvertently get skewed towards venturing into the easy earning phenomenon which is explicitly declared unlawful as per Islamic teachings.

One of Prophet Muhammad's teachings in Islam is that gambling is a disease that should be avoided by Muslims. In Surah Maidah, Gambling is called Satan's handiwork, and Muslims are urged to avoid gambling in order to prosper in this world.

One of the roots of this evil is the increasing spiritual emptiness amongst believers. They deceive themselves by assuming that happiness resides with buying material objects, accumulating wealth and winning over these challenging bets based on luck. In the process they get used by those people who are in a position to exploit this hollow mindset.

Prophet Muhammad PBUH says: "Whoever says to his companion, 'Come on, let's gamble,' let him give in charity (as penance)."

The above verse signifies the intensity of consequences of even an offer by a gambler. It clearly demonstrates that in case one gets an invitation to gamble, a believer must atone immediately by giving some charity. Under such circumstances what would become of the atonement of a gambler!

The primary reason gambling has been forbidden is because it takes away someone's money without actually making the effort to earn it. Since the game of gambling just involves taking others' money without adding any value to them or exchanging something with them in return, it is practically equivalent to stealing and Islam has emphatically shunned theft. Also, this money is earned at the expense of other's misery. This is certainly unjust and cruel.

The Quran emphasizes that success does not come through gambling. Gambling causes families to break apart, societies to perish morally, and the economy to plummet. It leads to addictions, drained individual and family resources, and creates a false economy and superficial jobs that add nothing to the local or national gross product.

Gambling done for fun or entertainment is considered equally haraam. It is admonished to the same degree and is leveled as a sin of great proportion as it is the stepping stone towards addiction.

The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) further said: "Whosoever plays backgammon is as if he dyes his hands with the flesh of swine and its blood."

Ibn Abi Al-Dunya has reported Yahya b. Kathir as saying: "Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) passed by people playing back-gammon. He said, "Their hearts are preoccupied in sport, their hands are ill and (their) tongues make absurd utterances. Every game which involves gambling or mischief, is a game of chance"

A true believer will exercise Taqwa in every step of the way. Each of his actions will align with the will of Allah and therefore what is forbidden will not be pursued to avoid the wrath of Allah and to seek His nearness. As the ummah of Prophet Mohammad we must practice morals which are lofty in nature and uphold principles of Islam which make us the flag bearers of the right path.

Islam promotes the idea of justice in society, and forbids the rich from preying on the poor. Gambling victimizes the poverty stricken with a misleading promise of an easy escape from their circumstances. Those who can least afford it tend to gamble most. Thus, gambling amounts to an extra tax on the poor, known in economic terms as a "regressive tax,"

As mentioned earlier this is a temptation fuelled by Satan. It is because Satan desperately desires evil and failure for humans. Satan wants us to suffer and to face defeat, both in this life and the hereafter. It stems from a very deep-set and long nurtured hatred towards Prophet Adam A.S and his offsprings. Satan loathes us. It is to his greatest satisfaction to see our lives astray and in jeopardy. So that that we lose in this world, and burn with him in Hell. That is why he uses every means and ways to seduce us to do things forbidden by Allah. Satan is our greatest enemy. And Allah reminds us of this fact in many verses in Al-Quran. So let us not be fooled and trapped by Satan's nefarious designs and hold steadfast to the trail of faith.

The Quran elaborates that the price of gambling is hatred and discord among men, and studies bear witness to this fact. As access to money becomes more limited, gamblers often resort to crime in order to pay debts, appease bookies, maintain appearances, and garner more money to gamble.

Islam puts high premium on social harmony, amicability and individual's peace of mind. But gambling will cause much agony and will slowly but surely shred the social fabric apart. The devastation is like a ripple in the pond. The destitution starts with the gambler, and it will spread to his family members, and then to more and more people. In the end, the whole society will bear the burden of the misery.








The Gulf News editorial of 8th August flashed, "As the number of casualties rise in Syria with no potential peaceful solution in sight, President Bashar Al Assad seems to be losing support inside and outside his country. Even Gulf states, who are keen on preserving Syrian stability and seemed to have overlooked the bloodshed, are now expressing anger and making sure Al Assad understands that their patience is running out."

What appears to be a continuum of Arab Spring in Syria is actually a simmering volcano with potential to engulf the entire Middle East as well as the rest of Islamic World. Going back into history ,Middle East was divided on tribal blood lines, disregarding the strategic fault lines it would create, thanks to Lawrence of Arabia and the British neo colonist policy of divide and rule. These fault lines, mainly of sectarianism have existed in almost every Arab Country from Iraq to Syria and onwards to Lebanon and Kingdome of Saudi Arabia included. Whereas Iraq was made as a test bed,(where ruling tribe of Saddam Hussain kept the other communities like Shiites and Kurds under suppression),the Coalition under US auspices accentuated the problem by not only encouraging the sectarian violence but also providing fuel to fire. The memories of perception of Shia-Sunni conflict in Iraq( as it was made to appear by the Western media),have strained the relations between the two big players of the Gulf, Iran and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Recent Wiki leaks relating to statements by Arab leadership against Iran were timed to synchronies the strategic effects of the entire drama now unfolding in the Middle East.

The message being aired by the Western media and propagated by their cohorts in the Middle Eastern media is going across in the region like fire, a sustained Shia-Sunni conflict is in the making. This is nothing new; the Western think tanks have been airing this idea since the first Gulf war against Saddam Hussain. In the hearts of their hearts the US lead coalition and their political leadership knew that a fractured Iraq after Saddam Hussian could become a model for further destabilizing of the Middle East. The psychological feeling of uneasiness between Sunnis and Shias in the Middle East can be inflamed by projecting it as a deadly struggle for dominance between two Patriarch of both communities, Iran for Shias and KSA for Sunnis. The Arab spring that started in the Maghreb and Egypt with higher ideals of democracy and impacted the entire Middle East had a catalytic effect on the intelligentsia in Middle East and the rest of Islamic World. After Tunis and Egypt, enough time was available with the political leadership of the region to usher in democratic reforms and heed to voices of the people. Unfortunately, Qaddafi and Al Assads adopted a coercive approach and the results are there for everyone to judge the outcome. Syria, where the demographic imbalance between the ruling House of Al Assads and the majority Sunni community could have logically led to reforms by the Syrian Government at fastest possible pace, unfortunately has chosen the path of self-destruction.

But Syria politically aligned with Iran has the potential of a powder keg which can, not only self explode, but also ignite the sectarian divide to unimaginable proportions. If sense does not prevail in the political leadership of the Middle East, the West will not need to exploit these simmering currents, the Middle East can gradually slip into an abyss of a sectarian conflagration and affect the entire region as well as rest of the Islamic World. Even countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan where the sectarian fault lines have been managed with resolve, the conflagration within the Middle East could become another nightmare.

As the water flows in the Nile and Euphrates and time leaps forward, the leadership in the Middle East, especially Iran and KSA has to play it cool. It may be prudent to call a special session of OIC and join heads together to find an amicable solution in these turbulent times. The Umma cannot afford a war based on sectarianism at this juncture. I will conclude the paper with an advice from the Gulf News, "Gulf states have been the biggest supporters of Al Assad since he assumed power in 2000. They stood by him during the most difficult years of 2005-2010, when Syria faced growing international isolation following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Therefore, Al Assad must take notice of what those leaders, who have always had Syria's best interests at heart, say. He cannot go on with this bloody campaign against civilians and expect the world to remain silent. Syria is in urgent need of speeding up reform initiatives. Its leadership must order an immediate end to the crackdown, allow peaceful expression of opinion and engage the people without portraying all regime opponents as traitors. This is the message sent by Syria's close allies and brethren in the GCC. It was loud and clear. The Syrian leadership better listen before it is too late". I hope Bashar Al Assad heeds to this call in the most critical moments of our times.

—The writer specialises in peace and conflict studies.








The streets of India are choked with anti-corruption crusaders, and walls are marked with busy slogans. In its assertive power, it matches the stunningly successful campaign of Anna Hazare, the born-again Gandhian who has tied up the government in knots with his hunger strikes. Hazare, 74, was released from Delhi's Tihar jail the other day. He refused to depart until he gained further concessions. He only left on Thursday after he was granted permission by the authorities to hold a 15-day hunger strike in a city park. The authorities find themselves in an absurd, unwinnable situation.

Immediately after independence in 1947, many institutions of the modern state were set up or adapted from the colonial period. Some have functioned well, while others have not. In the two decades since liberalisation, these institutions have proved inadequate for dealing with the rapid pace of change. The police and the Central Bureau of Investigation are often incompetent or corrupt. The legal system is woefully slow, and almost a third of senior judicial appointments are unfilled. Basic mechanisms for chasing corruption, whether at state or at national level, do not function properly. In the past year, the government has been hit by corruption allegations over contracts for the 2010 Commonwealth games, the awarding of mobile phone operating licences, and the construction of an apartment block for war widows which was allocated to army chiefs and political cronies.

Politicians, many of whom are the sons and daughters of other politicians, have failed to develop or entrench the reforms of the early 1990s. Effective legislation has not been introduced to make things change. It is this failure that makes people ready to back an outrider. They know the daily consequences of corruption – having to bribe a policeman for a traffic offence, or an official to issue a death certificate for a relative.

Anna Hazare's message is simple. He is an elderly ex-soldier, an ascetic and a disciplinarian. His dress is styled after Mahatma Gandhi. He dislikes alcohol, cable television, the chewing of paan and the eating of meat – indeed when three men from his village appeared drunk, he tied them to a temple pillar and flogged them with his army belt. To his younger supporters, his old-fashioned, undemocratic simplicity is attractive. To combat corruption, he proposes a new body, independent of government, which would administer high-speed justice. It would have the power to investigate and prosecute government officers, judges and politicians – even the prime minister. His opponents suggest that, while well-intentioned, his proposal would create a Gestapo.

A year ago, the name of Anna Hazare was known mainly to rural activists. In April, he catapulted to national attention by going on a public fast at Jantar Mantar, Delhi's equivalent of Speakers' Corner. Crowds gathered, politicians were ritually denounced and assorted movie stars joined him on the dais. In the months since, Hazare and his cohorts have sought to impose their programme on the government, buoyed by noisy public support.

The government led by the 78-year-old bureaucrat turned prime minister Manmohan Singh, has failed in even the most basic aspects of public and media relations. They have not faced down the more preposterous aspects of Hazare's campaign. The ultimate leader of the Congress Party, the notoriously private Sonia Gandhi, who keeps watch over Singh, has been in hospital in the United States. It is apparent that even members of her entourage do not know what is wrong with her, and information about her illness has certainly not been shared with the nation. The opposition BJP has been able to direct the debate over corruption, backing Hazare when and where it suits them, and calling the Congress leaderless.

Now Hazare has cornered the government by raising the pitch of the argument, just two days after India's 64th independence day. A fast unto death is a touchy subject in India because of the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, who used the tactic against the British. The reality, though, is that Anna Hazare is an imitation of Gandhi, pursuing a different agenda. But with the government paralysed, the impetus is on his side.

In their anger and frustration, the striving members of the emerging middle class who feel excluded from the halls of power, have turned to Hazare and his promise of a silver bullet to end corruption. And his success will make it increasingly difficult to argue against proposals which would, in practice, create yet another layer of government in a country that has too much bureaucracy, and would create a body armed with the kind of powers over the lives of individuals that have previously only been given to Superman. — Courtesy: The Telegraph







OUTGOING Reserve Bank board member Warwick McKibbin is worried that a board stacked with business members might go soft on inflation.

Professor McKibbin, an Australian National University economics professor, believes that if the nine-member board continues to include five business members, it might, at some point, resist lifting rates because of the impact on the non-mining economy. Businesses on the slow side of the two-speed economy are being crunched by the RBA's 4.75 per cent cash rate, which governor Glenn Stevens has warned could rise again.

Since late 2007, The Australian has pointed out the limitations of interest rates as an effective tool for controlling inflation. Monetary policy is a blunt instrument that can have unpredictable consequences, especially when major sectors such as retailing and property are struggling. At 3.6 per cent, Australia's inflation is above the RBA target zone of 2 to 3 per cent, but has been heavily driven, in part, by rising commodity prices including oil and high fruit prices following Cyclone Yasi. Such factors cannot be controlled by lifting interest rates, a move which primarily hurts young families in outer-metropolitan mortgage belts and small business. Higher rates can also have an inflationary effect of their own, driving higher wage claims.

The independence of the RBA board, mandated by Peter Costello in 1996, enhanced its credibility. In replacing Professor McKibbin, who has served two terms, with John Edwards, Wayne Swan has broken a 50-year tradition of including a prominent academic economist with technical expertise as an alternative voice. Mr Edwards, an adviser to Mr Swan and Paul Keating, has also been Australian chief economist for HSBC Bank. But Professor McKibbin's argument for appointing three academic economists, three RBA staff and just three business people to the board sounds like academic overkill and would risk the board becoming an "ivory tower". Business leaders from different sectors surely have more practical wisdom to offer. And when they sit down to make decisions in the national economic interest, they are obliged to put special interests aside. So far, there is every evidence that this has been the case. The RBA has done a good job guiding the nation through choppy economic waters and there is no evidence that other central bank board models, in the US, Britain or elsewhere, work better.





WEST Australian Premier Colin Barnett should be thankful he has such a firm grip on the polls. Voters are furious after the scathing Keelty report into the February 6 bushfire that destroyed 71 houses and badly damaged another 39 in the Perth Hills.

Mr Barnett has promised a shake up at the dysfunctional Fire and Emergency Services Authority, but the effort of his Emergency Services Minister Rob Johnson to duck responsibility for FESA's failure "to properly consult and co-ordinate its management" of the fire has undermined confidence in government accountability. Mr Johnson has long bungled his way through his portfolio, but his "I'm not to blame" approach to the devastating fire has been notable. Mr Barnett has left him in place to help sort out the demarcation disputes between FESA (an independent authority that answers to a board and in turn to the minister) and the Department of Environment and Conservation and about 100 local councils, by bringing firefighting under a single commissioner. But there is little in Mr Johnson's history to suggest he is the right person for this task.

The long-standing toxic relationship between FESA and DEC was a key problem on February 6, according to the report's author, former Australian Federal Police boss Mick Keelty. The structural flaw that allowed FESA to operate as something of a lone ranger should have been addressed long ago. But the minister cannot now hide behind this structure and claim immunity. The boss of FESA, Jo Harrison-Ward, has quite properly lost her job: FESA made a meal of fighting the blaze then attempted to cover it up by offering "gratuitous advice" to the inquiry in a submission found to be "inaccurate or untrue" in parts. FESA's chief operating officer, Craig Hynes, is under pressure after some of his evidence was described as "wrong" by the inquiry. He defended himself strongly yesterday, but conceded FESA was not up to the job on the day and that he had made mistakes, a more useful response from that of Mr Johnson, whose future would seem unclear.

What is beyond doubt is that FESA was lucky not to have a death on its watch, given the mismanagement of the fire. It called for help from Victoria rather than local DEC teams; failed to declare a level-three fire, which would have triggered more action from other emergency services; and failed to protect Buckingham Bridge, which was destroyed, making it hard for firefighters to reach the blaze. Mr Barnett has indicated he will move to appoint a fire commissioner with the "command and control capabilities" of the Police Commissioner. The Premier has set up a group to look at the report's 55 recommendations, which include turning FESA into a government department under more direct control of the minister.

Mr Barnett should move quickly: his government has looked out of touch on this issue. It seemed not to notice the extensive material from the royal commission into the 2009 Black Saturday fires in Victoria, for example. The WA government did well to table a report within six months of the fire, but soon it will be summer and the west will again face the prospect of fire. The public needs to know its leaders have learnt from the February disaster.






REGARDLESS of how badly it might set back the federal government's campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council, Australia has no alternative but to join other western nations in boycotting UNESCO's so-called anti-racism summit, Durban III, in New York next month.

The US, Canada, Israel, Italy, Holland and the Czech Republic have already announced their intentions to stay away, for good reason. On paper, but only on paper, the aims of the first two conferences appeared laudable: eliminating racism and promoting tolerance. In reality, both degenerated into anti-Western, anti-semitic hatefests, tarnishing what little credibility the UN had managed to retain.

The initial conference in South Africa in 2001 produced a declaration falsely branding Israel a racist, apartheid state. The follow-up Geneva conference in 2009 was a bitter farce, treated to a 30-minute tirade of racist bile from the only head of state to attend -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He slandered Israel, the Middle East's only stable democracy, as "the most cruel and racist regime" created "under the pretext of Jewish suffering" in World War II.

Unfortunately, Durban III promises more of the same. Its draft declaration, already prepared, affirms the outcomes of the earlier conferences as "the most comprehensive United Nations framework and solid foundation for combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance." If members were serious they would start by renouncing the anti-semitism that pervaded the first two conferences.

Australia's democratic values, stability and constructive engagement with the world have given us a strength and status deserving of a UN Security Council seat. But with Libya on the UN Human Rights Council and North Korea taking its turn as chair of the UN Conference on Disarmament, it is obvious that democratic, civilised values often do not prevail in UN forums. Canada's bid for a Security Council seat was defeated last year, possibly because Canada's conservative government, which like Australia boycotted the 2009 Durban meeting, was regarded by Islamic nations voting en bloc as pro-Israel. Australia's quest for a Security Council seat is not worth the price of compromising any of our foreign policies.






READERS who have followed Natasha Wallace's reports of the District Court case dealing with the birth certificate of a 10-year-old girl conceived by artificial insemination could be forgiven for wondering if the world has gone slightly insane. How can a court edit a birth certificate?

It has always been possible for someone who had a part in the conception of a given child to be recorded as its parent. Some will not know that the child is not theirs, but others - those whose children are conceived with donated sperm, for example - will know. Being listed as a parent records a legal status that may or may not reflect biological truth.

But if the law has always been involved with what is on a birth certificate, the law has clearly yet to catch up fully with modern-day reality. The just-concluded case involved a child conceived by artificial insemination using the sperm of a known donor. The mother was in a lesbian relationship at the time and, before the birth, the two women agreed the sperm donor could have a role in the upbringing of the child.

He was registered as the father and remains close to her. With time, however, attitudes within the three-cornered relationship changed. A change to NSW law in 2009 - which allowed lesbian couples to alter registration details retrospectively to record their status as parents - led the women to seek to remove his name from the birth certificate. Hence the just-concluded case.

Although the women's relationship had also broken down, there was good reason for the mother's former partner to be recorded on the birth certificate, since she had responsibilities in relation to the child. But as only two parents are allowed per child, the judge found he had no choice but to strike out the biological father's name from the certificate.

The father, quite naturally, is devastated by the decision, as the judge acknowledged. Many will find it hard to say - whatever the law - that justice has been done here.

Such cases may not be common but they are by no means unparalleled, and will recur. Whatever the motivations of those involved in this case, it is quite possible that other men may be motivated to donate sperm in the hope of fathering a child they could regard in some way as theirs, and indeed may be willing to do so only if that father-child relationship was part of the deal. As things now stand it is legal to hold out this hope, and then to remove it after the child is born.

The 2009 amendments created the situation, and indeed were expressly drafted to achieve this very outcome. They need to be reconsidered. Much is made in family law issues of the need to consider the best interests of the child. Those interests will never be served by rules that seem almost deliberately designed to maximise the potential for conflicts which go to the heart of a child's very identity.

The Attorney-General is looking at the judgment. He should look at the law, too. A Canadian appeals court set a precedent in 2007, allowing a birth certificate to show three parents: a lesbian couple and a sperm donor. The NSW Law Reform Commission recommended five years ago that Parliament should consider giving a form of legal status to sperm donors as a way to reduce disputes. It is still worth considering.



YOU'VE got mail from Malcolm Turnbull. At least, you will get mail, if the opposition spokesman on communications has his way. Turnbull wants to give every Australian who wants one an electronic pigeonhole for government communications. The reason - as usual - is cost. Email is cheap, and paper, envelopes and postage stamps are not. It is a simple idea and worth exploring.

What might stop it seeing the light of day? There will be those who fear a unique personal electronic address that is managed by governments may over time become a de facto form of identification. Whether reasonable or not, suspicion of Australia Card-type identifiers runs deep in the electorate, and a government would have to allay the fear by banning such a use. The system might also fail if self-promoting governments fill it with their spam. Or if it became dominant without being universal. There will always be technophobes - and not only among the elderly - who reject computers and the internet.

If future governments started to ignore or overlook those who had chosen to remain harder - and more expensive - to contact, the system might make the so-called digital divide worse. The solution to that is vigilance, not something bureaucracies are especially good at.

Turnbull is right, too, to try to move the debate about technology on from discussing infrastructure to discussing ways in which it might be used. This opposition, so far known chiefly for what it is against, needs to make more such positive contributions.






PEOPLE make mistakes. Some matter more than others. When errors are made in hospital, the consequences range from inconvenient and uncomfortable to life-changing and heart-breaking. The death of mother-of-four Kelly Richards after a routine operation in Wonthaggi Hospital will be the subject of inquiries by health officials and the Coroner. This tragedy is awful, made worse by the fact that it represents the tip of an iceberg of errors in hospitals.

Health Department data reported yesterday by The Age reveals an unacceptably high level of ''adverse events'' - incidents that harm patients - across 34 public hospitals in Victoria. A report in the journal Health Policy shows for the first time the full extent of errors. The government discloses only the most serious ''sentinel events''. The study analyses state data for 2005-06, when 91 such events, including 29 deaths, were reported. The full picture extends to almost 20,000 adverse events, ranging from hospital-acquired infections to errors causing permanent disability or death. On average, 17.8 per cent of elective surgery patients and 16.9 per cent of emergency patients were affected. The worst rates were 30.1 per cent and 25.7 per cent at one big Melbourne hospital - compared to the best of 6.8 per cent and 3.6 per cent.

Recent trends suggest the wildly uneven standards are unlikely to have improved. While the highest rate of adverse events was at a teaching hospital, rates at most teaching hospitals were lower or similar to the state average. Some country and suburban hospitals had very high rates, ''especially the ones located far from Melbourne or in areas of low socio-economic profile'', the study found. Possible reasons were ''underqualified or overworked doctors and nurses''.

Soaring demand from a growing and ageing population is adding to the strains on outer suburban hospitals. A three-year analysis showed admissions last year were up 25 per cent at Maroondah in the east and 19 per cent at Sunshine in the west. The Royal Women's and Royal Melbourne treated 13 per cent and 12 per cent fewer than in 2006-07. Victorian hospitals failed five out of nine performance measures last year, one worse than the year before. Australian Medical Association Victorian president Harry Hemley, noting that hospitals such as the Western (Footscray) and Dandenong were struggling to cope, said last October: ''More pressure from government and administration to do more with less will mean more chance of errors and may affect patient care.''

The national health agreement is meant to offer hospitals more. At the AMA's annual dinner, Prime Minister Julia Gillard reaffirmed the promise: ''More funds driven by activity, efficient pricing, performance monitoring, achievable targets and localised control - each addressing the weak points that had made our health system progressively more inefficient and more unsustainable.'' AMA president Steve Hambleton reminded his political guests of the only meaningful measures of whether health policy is working for patients or failing them. ''We will know we have genuine meaningful health reform when there are more beds. We will know we've got health reform when our patients can get into the right place at the right time for the right care.''

For preventable errors to be kept to a minimum, not only must adverse events be rigorously scrutinised, but the government must end the lack of transparency that the AMA has rightly identified as an obstacle to improvement. Before last year's election, Coalition spokesman David Davis, now Health Minister, promised a more transparent system. Yet he refused last week to provide basic details such as the number of hospital beds in Victoria and where promised new beds would go. As for the startling evidence of adverse events, the Health Department refused to comment. The government must do better to restore Victorians' confidence in their hospitals.



ANY fatal attack on innocent people is an outrage against society that demands appropriate reprisals for the perpetrator. When a four-year-old girl is killed and her two female cousins are severely injured in an attack, the ways of dealing with that should be beyond question. But what happens when it is not a person who is to blame but an animal?

Such a point arises from Wednesday night's shocking incident in a home in Lahy Street, St Albans. An unregistered American pit bull-mastiff cross, which had escaped from a neighbour's yard, rushed into the sitting room where a family, including several children, were watching television. The dog fatally mauled Ayen Chol, who tried to fight it off, and savaged five-year-old Nyadeng Goaer and her mother, 31-year-old Anglina Mayout. The animal is to be put down by the Brimbank Council after it has been examined by police. But, as Ayen's mother, Jackline Anchito, says, this will not bring her daughter back.

This is the terrible inevitability of a tragedy which, if laws had been stronger and supervision more vigilant, need not have occurred. It is all very well for the state government to respond to the attacks by proposing that owners of dangerous dogs will, in future, be criminally responsible for attacks; and it is not before time to end the amnesty for registering dangerous dogs, which means those not registered can be seized and destroyed. But these moves have been provoked only by the untimely death of a little girl.

The problem with pit bull terriers - described by RSPCA Victorian president Hugh Wirth as a ''wretched breed'' - is that, indeed, they are bred to fight other dogs or humans, and have redeeming features only their owners appear to appreciate. When pit bulls were first allowed into Australia 27 years ago, the federal government overruled RSPCA objections that these animals attack people. Well, they did and, tragically, still do.

In 2001, The Age argued that new state laws, including classifying all pit bulls as dangerous dogs and confining them to special enclosures with warning signs, did not go far enough; a ban on their breeding or cross-breeding would be more desirable, as it would mean the breed would eventually die out. We hope that the assurance given yesterday by Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh, that pit bulls would ''cease to exist'' in Victoria, is well and truly realised. Far too many people have been killed or maimed by these beasts.







The hope behind western calls for Syria's leader to go is that some in the regime will realise his departure is the only way forward

Yesterday was the day when the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad finally exhausted whatever shreds of international legitimacy he had up to now managed to retain in western countries, with the United States and its principal European allies declaring that he must step down and the United Nations thought likely to refer Syria to the international criminal court. The previous position in western capitals had been that Assad must either reform or resign. The new line is that he is too sullied and compromised to be part of any solution in Syria, a formulation which leaves open the possibility that other figures in the regime, the Ba'ath party, or the armed forces, might be acceptable as agents of transition once he is gone.

Indeed the policy has almost certainly been designed to encourage such an outcome, particularly if, as Washington must hope, it is soon followed by similar declarations from Syria's neighbours. Syria in Ramadan, the month when the faithful are supposed to reflect in peace on the virtues of humility and obedience to God, is indeed a landscape marked by violence, suffering and despair. In city after city the tanks have gone in more ruthlessly than before, followed by the government's paramilitary forces, and protesters have had to retreat or take refuge. Assad yesterday told UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon that military action against protesters had "stopped". There is no reason to suppose that the government in Damascus would not resort to it again if they thought it necessary, but Assad's words may reflect his belief that the five-month-old protest movement has been to some extent contained, as well as his response to international pressure. But the irony of the Syrian president's position is that each successive military step he has taken to bring the cities under control has undermined his credentials as a leader.

It is hard to imagine an Assad government, whatever it might now offer in the shape of reforms, gaining from the majority of the population anything more than, at best, sullen acquiescence. Reform requires a partnership of sorts between regime and opposition. With at least 2,000 dead since the protests began in March, and thousands jailed, too much blood has been shed for that to be a serious possibility. Assad's stance, which was that protest must be extinguished before reform could begin, was evident from the start. His early "reform speech" to the Syrian parliament was lacking in real content, and he never repaired that omission.

Crackdown first, top-down reform later was never a viable proposition, and has become a more and more insuperable handicap. This is not a view confined to western countries. Several Arab states have withdrawn their ambassadors, while the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has tried hard to be the broker of a settlement in Syria, this week compared Assad to Gaddafi. What Syria's neighbours fear most is a collapse of the Syrian polity, but a dismal standoff in which the regime maintains control almost entirely on the basis of its readiness to use force, a standoff which in any case would always threaten to elide into chaos and civil war, would be only marginally better.

The new American and European position may seem strong, but in fact the international community has precious few instruments at its disposal with which to influence the situation in Syria. There is no possibility of military intervention and Syria is comparatively immune to economic sanctions, although Europe, with its stronger trade links, will presumably now bring more leverage to bear. The hope must be that some elements in the regime will have the common sense to realise that the only way out of the impasse, and the only chance of even a qualified fresh start, is to shed the leader identified with policies which may have achieved momentary physical control but have irrevocably alienated large parts of the population.





This year's results day may not only be a life changing moment for students - it represents the final stage in a revolution started by Margaret Thatcher

Congratulations to everyone who got what they hoped for. Commiserations to those who did not, and remember there is always another way. A-level results day can indeed be a life-changing moment. This year's is more than that: it is perhaps the final stage in the revolution begun by Mrs Thatcher a generation ago to make higher education a part of the UK economic framework. So, from next year, every school leaver going to university will be in a system that is not only up to three times more expensive for them, but one in which they have become consumers; one of the two markets (the other, of course, being business) to which universities must pitch their wares. The new system seems unlikely to be good for students, academics or learning itself.

First the results. Unhappily, they weren't surprising. The 10% of the candidates from the independent sector continued to get 30% of A* and A grades. The proportions of students getting the top grades remained broadly the same. Boys did get more of the A*s awarded this year than last, and the girls slightly fewer. The popularity of maths is growing fast, foreign languages (except Chinese) continue their sharp decline and the Russell Group said, again, that state schools still ducked "difficult" subjects. The most exciting news came from Hackney, where the Mossbourne academy has 10 students accepted by Cambridge, including two for medicine, and more than 80% of their candidates got a C or above. Something to celebrate after last week's riots washed almost to their door. On the other hand the rush to get to university while it still costs £3,000 rather than £9,000 a year means that for the second year running there are about 185,000 students chasing 29,000 clearing places, even though the number of school leavers has fallen by 25,000. It is not only students beating the fee rise who are swelling the numbers. With nearly 1 million under-25s unemployed, a degree – even accompanied by debt – is an attractive prospect.

Meanwhile universities themselves are pondering June's higher education white paper. Its purpose, it explains, is to cut government spending, improve the "undergraduate experience" and widen the intake. There is not much to quibble with in those aims. Too few students from poorer backgrounds get to university. There are too many stories of unmarked essays, not enough teaching and dreary lecturers not to recognise that the student experience is often less than perfect. Students should have some input. But what most of them really want is not a great learning experience but a good degree. After all, they were taught at school that education is a means to an end. The government seems to agree.







Brahms's music still thrives thanks to his drive to express the most radical ideas within strictly established disciplines

Aimez-vous Brahms? Answers to Françoise Sagan's question are more equivocal than they once were. Brahms's music is still greatly venerated and regularly played – by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Bernard Haitink at the Proms tonight and tomorrow, for ex–ample. Loving the works of Brahms, though, seems a different matter. Other composers – like Mozart and Mahler – have passionate followers. But Brahms? Brahms seems to inspire more admiration than passion. The era when Brahms was the third titan in music's "Three Bs" is long gone too. Partly, that's because the view that Bach provided the platform on which Beethoven built, thus paving the way for Brahms, classic and Romantic all in one, is over. Yet Brahms's music still thrives, rather like the sturdy but inspired Victorian town halls where his symphonies are so often played. Indeed, as Stephen Johnson argues in this year's Proms guide, Brahms's huge interest in early music as well as his emotional expressiveness – all that wonderful chamber music – makes him almost postmodern. Brahms's lifelong quest to express his strongest and most radical musical ideas within the strict disciplines of established forms gives his works huge creative charge. The balance between tradition and innovation is an enduring conundrum not just in the arts but in religion, politics and social evolution. It's at the heart of Brahms too. We may aspire to have Bach's mastery or Beethoven's inspiration. But Brahms is often closer to who we really are.







Muslims all over the world always anticipate the fasting month of Ramadhan. They believe this month to be a time of blessing, mercy and forgiveness.

Among Muslims, there is also a common belief that Ramadhan is a month for purifying sins.

If this statement holds true, it can indirectly lead to the misperception that Islam offers its followers a facility for sin-laundering.

However, based on the Koran and hadiths, it is clear Islam does no such thing. What Islam acknowledges concerning sins is taubatan nasuha (serious atonement).

However, with the exaggeration of Ramadhan, many believe in this idea of Islam having a concept of sin-laundering.

In fact, hadiths explaining the virtues of Ramadhan are abundant. According to hadith expert proffessor Mustofa Ya'kub, the validity of many such hadiths is questionable. It is a pity that this kind of hadith is so often quoted by preachers. They take the truth of these hadiths for granted.

They may not care about the validity of the hadiths or may just want to make their audiences enthusiastic.

This taking-for-granted of hadiths concerning rewards and forgiveness during Ramadhan and with no comprehensive study on the requirements of taubatan nasuha has contributed to the misperception that the application of the virtues of the fasting month is bound to time and not to the ongoing activities
of Muslims.

It is not surprising, then, that many Muslims wait for Ramadhan when they want to do good deeds, such as donating zakat mal (obligatory Islamic tax according to Islamic laws) and other forms of charity. They think rewards from God will be manifold if they do good things during Ramadhan.

This idea is not in line with the Koran, as explained in Sura al-Baqarah: 261 (The parable of those who spend their substance in the way of Allah is that of a grain of corn: it groweth seven ears, and each ear hath a hundred grains.

Allah giveth manifold increase to whom He pleaseth: And Allah careth for all and He knoweth all things).

What they think and do not only goes against the Koranic verse, but also contributes to two present phenomena: We see more beggars around during Ramadhan than in other months, and Muslims of this misperception have a tendency to be less charitable during other months.

An exaggeration of the holiness of Ramadhan also results in a temporary approach to the spirit of doing good things.

During Ramadhan, mosques and musala (small mosques) throughout the country are busy preparing and providing light food for breaking the fast.

They say what they do is in line with a hadith that says whoever does a good thing by providing light food for breaking the fast will be receive the same reward as those who fast.

Understanding this hadith and applying it in this way is not wrong, but it might be better to understand the context of this hadith so that we have a more comprehensive interpretation of the doctrine of Islam.

Considering what has been seen among the Muslim community, if intellectual Muslims wish to make Ramadhan a stimulus they should not just focus on such hadiths on the virtues of Ramadhan whose validity is questionable. If they must refer to such hadiths, they should explore their intrinsic meaning so that the good values taught during Ramadhan will not end once Ramadhan is over.

To understand these intrinsic values, humans should use their instincts and ego as a starting point. Naturally, humans tend to forget others when they have power.

They will feel they are part of a community and need acknowledgement from others if they don't have power.

In line with this condition, Arabic writers came up with the saying "Jawwi` kalbak yatba`ka" (make your dog hungry and it will follow you). This statement can hold true even if the dog is loyal if it is satisfied.

Such statements were coined based on observations of how humans behave when they, as creatures of Allah and part of the community, don't have power or are in trouble. This attitude is justified by Allah.

One of his hadiths, Hadith Qudsi, explains that within humans there are two pieces of equipment: the mind and desire.

The mind quickly stands to accept its own essence, while desire with its ego only sees itself. Desire with its ego has been made hungry by Allah for thousands of years just because when it was asked "Who are you and who am I?" it has always answered "I am I and you are you".

After being left hungry for that long, desire eventually acknowledged itself as His creature and Allah as its creator.

Symbolically, this Hadith Qudsi shows that if desire controls humans, greed and egocentricity are dominant.

In the effort to control these traits, humans need to be made hungry by fasting so that they see there is Allah to whom they can ask for help and protection, and also so that they see they need to ask the community around them for help when they are powerless.

So, where do the virtues of Ramadhan lie? In our opinion, they lie in Muslims' activities while fasting. We come to see this from the effort of being made hungry with desire by fasting and being requested to do more good things at the same time.

Naturally, when humans are hungry and there is food or a food substitute beside them, they will automatically eat.

However, those who explore the virtues of fasting see that charitable attitudes and vertical piousness should also exist.

The Prophet Muhammad set a good example in this. He gave a date, the only food he had to break the fast with, to a hungry person who came to him.

He just drank water to break the fast. This tells us how fasting teaches Muslims to refrain from eating, drinking and having sex, while giving more infak (liable donations) and sedekah (voluntary donations) at the same time.

This is to educate our instincts that tend to prevent humans giving donations to those in need.

Those who make themselves hungry may face a condition in which they become physically weaker. Muslims whose physical condition is weakened from the fasting but struggle very hard to go on, conduct more religious activities and give infak and sedekah truly implement the virtues of Ramadhan. Muslims of this type deserve what Allah promises: forgiveness and manifold rewards.

When the virtues of Ramadhan are interpreted this way, we believe Ramadhan is endless. Muslims with this interpretation of the virtues of Ramadhan will refrain from their desires, overcome greed and share with others.

Muslims who have received these virtues in their heart and in their practice deserve to get manifold
rewards throughout the year.

For us, manifold rewards lie in the hands of Muslims who share with others and are able to refrain from the desires such as greed, coveting and arrogance.

Mahmudi Asyari obtained his doctoral degree from Jakarta State Islamic University. Muizzudin is a lecturer at
the University of Indonesia.





Since the Papua Peace Conference concluded in Jayapura in July, a whirlwind of events in Papua has raised questions that need answers.

While the violent incidents around the Puncak Jaya highlands remain unresolved, separate violence has occurred in the neighborhood in Puncak regency surrounding a local election.

A few days later, several thousand Papuans took to the streets in Jayapura to express their great hope and support for a conference being held in Oxford, the UK, by the International Lawyers for West Papua (ILWP). The conference discussed the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the decision of the 1969 Free Choice Act.

Although these events are mostly separate, they pose the question to those of us trying to make sense of the situation: What is going on here?

Let's start with the conference in Jayapura. It was the culmination of continuous efforts by Papuan civil society seeking a peaceful solution to the Papuan conflict.

The conference organizer, the Papua Peace Network, was born out of a decade-long peace movement in Papua, which envisaged Papua as a land of peace, free from all forms of violence. The network translates this broad concept of peace into a narrowly defined goal: dialogue with Jakarta.

The first step to achieving this — dialogue during the conference — was realized. Representing Jakarta, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto was present.

For three days, government officials, observers and hundreds of Papuans engaged in intensive conversations to envision politics of hope.

The conference concluded with a final statement outlining its follow up, including appointing select Papuans to negotiate with Jakarta. This conference demonstrates the politics of hope embedded in the network of power in Papua.

Despite the importance of conferences such as this, it is not enough to stop violence, as we have seen in the recent events in Puncak Jaya. Over the last decade, this area has gained more attention outside Papua, sadly, following reports of the violent incidents.

Beginning from the hostage incident in 2001, the hoisting of the outlawed Morning Star flag in 2006 was met with a police raid and now gunmen conduct hit-and-run attacks on security troops.

The death toll is climbing, prompting new Army chief Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo to consider further action. This continuing violence has compelled leading human rights group Kontras to appeal to President Susilo Bambang Yudho-yono to stop the violence.

Puncak Jaya may illustrate other elements within the Papuan network of domination and resistance. The security services representing the power of domination have been met with the power of resistance from the Papuans. But both claim sovereignty of the same territory: Papua.

In a separate incident, local elections at the newly established district of Puncak led to violence. One of the candidates for the position of the regent was denied entry to the registration process by the local election commission (KPUD). The inevitable clash between supporters of rival candidates is no stranger to any local election in Indonesia. Therefore, rivalry is the message here.

Back in the UK, the ILWP organized follow-up action signaling its determination to seek a legal solution for Papua through international mechanisms. This gathering has obviously inspired many young Papuans — especially in Jayapura. It may also reveal the element of merdeka (freedom) within the network of power, which cannot be ignored. The government and many Papuans may now wait for the delivery of ILWP's promise.

It is challenging for anyone to make sense of the relationships between the politics of hope, domination, resistance and ethnic rivalry in Papua. It is even more challenging for our policy makers both in Papua and Jakarta to offer policies to address these interconnected elements of power.

The main difficulty lies in the fluidity of the relations that often escape regulatory responses, as we have seen with the implementation of special autonomy.

Therefore, an answer to these current incidents account for the multiplicity of these relationships and dynamics.

In sum, an approach to Papua should involve greater sophistication to formulate a responsive policy. From experience, a legal response alone seems inadequate. Similarly, a forceful approach may only lead to more violence.

Therefore, the Papuan call for dialogue may be the only medium to reformulate a new power network model in Papua. The first step has been taken. Now, it's time to move further with broader and deeper dialogues. The Indonesian credible experiences with peace processes in Aceh, Mindanao, Mynmar and Southern Thailand have set solid ground for dialog with Papua.

The writer is a Franciscan friar, former director of the Office for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church in Jayapura, Papua, and a PhD scholar at Regulatory Institutions Network at the Australian National University.






The United States has identified Indonesia as a "linchpin" for security in the Asia Pacific region. Indonesia should rightly be proud.

Why? It has the largest economy in Southeast Asia, is rich in natural resources and is the world's third largest democracy. It occupies a strategic location for key international maritime activities — bridging the Pacific and Indian oceans. The country has huge potential to become one of Asia's leading powers of the 21st century.

However, there is something Indonesia lacks — a grand strategy. It has not clearly defined what its geopolitical interests are and has not convincingly articulated what it wants to achieve with its foreign
relations over the long term.

It needs to explain how its foreign policy advances its overall national interests. Indonesia had outlined eight foreign policy priorities in 2009, including taking the leadership role in ASEAN and strengthening partnerships with other Asia-Pacific countries.

As chair of ASEAN this year, Indonesia has shown it can play a significant role in shaping the regional architecture of the Asia Pacific.

Indonesia is setting the agenda of all the ASEAN-related meetings this year — a testing time for Jakarta due to outstanding border disputes between neighbors Thailand and Cambodia and China's claims in the South China Sea. These security concerns come at a time when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton identifies ASEAN as the "fulcrum" of the evolving regional architecture.

By leading ASEAN to discuss these "sensitive" issues during the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meetings in Bali last month, Indonesia is taking a leadership role. Indeed, Indonesia should take heart that it was under its leadership when China agreed to the guidelines of a Code of Conduct (COC) with ASEAN.

But Indonesia's leadership should not end there, or at the end of this year when its ASEAN chairmanship expires. The question that Indonesia needs to define clearly is — how do the successes of this year advance Indonesia's national interests in the long run?

Indonesia's leaders need to remind themselves that their country's involvement in ASEAN or in other international forums is a means and not an end in itself. They should understand that the ultimate geopolitical goal for Indonesia is to become a significant economic and global power.

Being a global power gives Indonesia greater security, stability, prosperity, and access to markets and opportunities. It has the potential to achieve all of these.

But it has to consolidate its military capabilities, maintain high GDP growth and have a stable economy diversified away from natural resources. It should aim to be in the same league as China and India within the next two decades and it should take concrete, strategic measures to achieve that. Indonesia has to diversify its foreign policy and invest more time and resources engaging other powers that have strategic and economic influence in the Asia Pacific. Key pillars of a grand strategy for Indonesia could include:

Strengthening military relations with Australia, India, Japan and the United States. Indonesia's diplomatic relationship with these countries has improved since President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono took office in 2004. Jakarta has to build on this improvement and make more efforts to militarily engage these countries.

They are strategically located across the Asia Pacific, have sustained relatively strong economies and have advanced military technologies that Indonesia could acquire.

Jakarta needs to diversify its foreign policy resources and find common ground with these countries, especially as they have recognized Indonesia as part of their main foreign policy formulations for the security of the Asia Pacific.

Continue taking a leadership role in regional economic architecture. Indonesia should continue to invest in ASEAN and help establish the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.

It has to strengthen its trade relations with China, play a more active role in economic institutions such as APEC and the G20 and consider joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A strategic economic policy is core to a proactive and globally compelling foreign policy.

This will take courage, because it means investing in Indonesia's future competitiveness while exposing legacy businesses to new levels of competition. Trading long-term gains in technology, education, access to markets and innovation for short-term pain to large and inefficient national businesses is in Indonesia's interest.

Clearly articulate Indonesia's foreign policy principle of "active and independent" in the context of
21st-century globalism. The principle of "active and independent" has been used since it was formulated in 1948 by Indonesia's first vice president Mohammad Hatta. This foreign policy was aimed to avoid Indonesia being pulled into the orbit of the big powers' politics during the Cold War.

At present, though, Indonesia needs to look at this principle contextually and not literally. It has to define this ideology in the context of a complex, interdependent world of the 21st century. In short, Indonesia needs to strategically define what it wants to achieve in the long run.

It should not limit its foreign policy to Southeast Asia only. It has to continue strengthening ASEAN because Indonesia's role as an influential global power is limited if ASEAN is weak. At the same time, it has to realize that it has enough clout to bilaterally engage with other big powers.

The writer is an Indonesia researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Southeast Asia Program in Washington, DC. He has a Master's degree in International History and Asian Studies from Georgetown University.




President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono assured in his budgetary speech on Tuesday that all policy instruments to deal with a crisis are in place and ready to be used any time.

One of the contingency measures is Bank Indonesia's policy decision last week to dip into its foreign reserves to buy government bonds in the event of massive capital outflows.

This policy appeared rather strange in the wake of the United States Federal Reserve's further easing of its money stance by keeping its reference interest rate near zero percent (0.19 percent) until mid-2013.

Most analysts have even foreseen a stronger flow of hot money to Asia, including Indonesia, after the Fed's
announcement of its looser money policy.

However, we see the latest monetary measure as strategic in view of the volatile financial market amid the lingering debt woes in Europe and mounting signs of economic decline in the US. It will strengthen the set of monetary tools for Bank Indonesia to prevent and cope with a sudden massive capital outflow in the absence of financial safety net law.

The sudden flight of hundreds of millions of dollars out of our equity and debt markets immediately after the Standard & Poor's downgrading of the US credit rating on Aug. 5 was evidence of how vulnerable our financial market is to a sudden reverse capital flow.

The new monetary mechanism prepared by the central bank will help maintain stability of the rupiah and government bonds in the event of negative market sentiment setting off a massive dumping of government bonds by jittery foreign investors. Such risks remain big because foreign ownership of government bonds was still large, estimated at US$28 billion.

Under the new monetary mechanism, foreign investors do not have to seek dollars on the open market, as the central bank will provide them through its open-market operations. The central bank's foreign reserve holdings have steadily increased to almost $123 billion as of last week, but these reserves are highly vulnerable to the risks of a sudden flow reverse because quite large a portion of them consist of short-term (hot) money that could fly out at the slightest sign of problems, perceived or real.

The risk of a sudden reversal in capital flow has increased along with Indonesia's growing links with the international financial markets.

The latest monetary measure is only one of several instruments the central bank and the Finance Ministry have put in place after the surge of massive capital inflows to the country since early last year. Earlier measures included a requirement for commercial banks to increase their foreign reserves deposited at the central bank to 8 percent and restrictions on short-term lending to foreign borrowers.

The central bank also extended the minimum holding period of its promissory notes (SBIs) from one month to six months to mitigate potential sudden reversals of foreign short-term funds.

The ministries of finance and state-owned enterprises signed an agreement early this year on a bond stabilization scheme that will require state companies pool funds of between $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion for buying government bonds in the event of a sudden massive capital outflow. But all these measures are mostly contingency or precautionary in nature.

As we have often emphasized on this column, our first line of defense against the risks of massive capital outflow is sound macroeconomic management, policy consistency and continued efforts to improve business climate and financial market institutions and infrastructure to woo safer, longer-term capital.


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