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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

EDITORIAL 22.08.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month august 22, edition 000816, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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
















































  8. TAX WARS  

















It is extremely unfortunate that those leading the agitation for a 'tough' Jan Lok Pal Bill to fight corruption in high places should have adopted a belligerent attitude rather than seek to resolve the issue through discussions with the Standing Committee of Parliament which is studying the Government's version of the Bill and has invited suggestions from the people of this country. Are we then to believe that the self-appointed civil society representatives who now occupy the dais at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi see themselves as not part of the general populace of the country but a separate entity entitled to special concessions? Or has the sight of enthusiastic protesters hardened their resolve to push for the adoption of their version of the Bill without any debate and by forcing Parliament to abandon established procedures for law-making? It is nobody's case that the Government's version of the Lokpal Bill is perfect and does not require amendments. Nor can it be said that the Jan Lok Pal Bill drafted by Anna Hazare's team is the right prescription to cure India of its deadly malaise of corruption. Amendments can be made to the official Bill, as they will indeed be made, to remove its lacunae. If for whatever reasons those amendments are deemed to be insufficient by Team Anna, it can always press for further changes when the Bill comes up for debate in Parliament. But it would set a dangerous precedent and be violative of all parliamentary procedures if the Jan Lok Pal Bill were to be forced on the country — it may reflect popular aspirations but it is by no means admissible for passage, leave alone its adoption without debate or voting. To do so would be to tantamount to not only subverting the authority of our elected legislature but also making a mockery of the parliamentary system — we might as well scrap it and adopt a Pol Pot-like regime.

There are three distinct issues involved with Anna Hazare's agitation. The first is to do with mounting corruption in high places. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has much to answer for; Parliament can no longer delay legislation to make those in authority accountable for their sins of omission and commission. There is unanimity over this issue, even if a morally decrepit UPA regime and a discredited Congress are found to be wavering for reasons that do not merit elaboration. Second, citizens of this country have the right to protest peacefully. That right cannot be abridged. To that extent, the Government's handling of the agitation led by Anna Hazare has been appalling and resulted in further erosion of faith in the system. No purpose will be served in quibbling over the details. It is an indisputable fact that the people of India are seething with rage and are no longer willing to see their country be looted by corrupt politicians. This rage has to be adequately addressed; not to do so could lead to unhappy consequences that are entirely undesirable. However, it is debatable whether the Prime Minister and his men, or the Congress leaders for that matter, can douse the flames of anger, having lit them in the first place through their callous disregard for probity. The third issue is of legislation. That must remain firmly in the domain of the legislature which comprises elected representatives of the people. On this there must not be any compromise.







When a high-level Chinese delegation visited Nepal last week, their host country's Prime Minister had just resigned after only seven months in office. His term, like those of his predecessors, had been marked by petty political infighting. The care-taker Government that was in-charge was busy trying to form a national consensus Government from amongst a fractured body politic. Yet none of this growing instability deterred the mandarins in Beijing in any manner. So, a jumbo 60-member Chinese delegation landed in Kathmandu exactly as had been planned before the Government there played its latest round of musical chairs. Headed by President Hu Jintao's special envoy — a senior member of the Communist Party Politburo — the delegation spent three days in the country during which it met several top Nepalese policy-makers from across the political spectrum, including the Prime Minister and the President. By the time the delegation left Kathmandu on Thursday, it had signed four bilateral agreements which included $50 million in economic aid, $24 million in soft loans to build a hydropower transmission line and another $2.5 million to spruce up Nepal Police. In turn, it had won the Nepalese leadership's commitment to a 'One China' policy and ensured, in the words of Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal, that there would be no "anti-China activity on Nepali soil." What this essentially means is that Kathmandu will intensify its crackdown on the 22,000 Tibetan refugees who currently live in Nepal, an erstwhile safe haven for them. Authorities there have shown little tolerance for the celebrations of the Dalai Lama's birthday in what is widely believed to be the after-effect of an earlier $19 million military aid package that came though in March during the visit of the Chinese Army chief, General Chen Bingde.

For quite some time now, Beijing has been perturbed by the chronic instability in Kathmandu, particularly because of Nepal's proximity to Tibet. It has also been seeking ways to expand its political clout in Nepal, in part to combat India's influence. By offering an impoverished Nepal a taste of Chinese largesse, Beijing has effectively killed two birds with one stone. Historically, India has been Nepal's dominant ally but that equation might be changing, especially since in recent years New Delhi has remained strangely aloof from its northern neighbour. For example, compare the highly successful Chinese tour with Union Minister for External Affairs SM Krishna's lacklustre visit. If India aspires to play a role in global politics, it must first strengthen its presence in the region. This does not mean engaging in a faceoff with China but strengthening relations with our neighbours in the subcontinent and beyond.









Illegal immigration from Pakistan and Bangladesh poses a serious threat to our internal security. Thanks to vote-bank politics, our politicians are indifferent.

Our international border is around 15,318 km long, of which our boundary with Bangladesh is 4,000 km long, running along West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura. It is the Government of India's responsibility to guard the country's international border and prevent foreigners from entering our territory illegally as well as control the entry of those travelling with valid documents. This is a responsibility that the Government has clearly failed to fulfil as was evident from a statement by the Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs: "As per information available, 1,283 Pakistani nationals (who presumably entered India legally) remain untraced/missing as of June 30, 2011."

A month earlier, while replying to a query under the RTI Act in July, the Government had said: "It is not possible to estimate the total number of such foreign nationals, including Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals, who have entered into the country without valid travel documents and are staying in the country since entry of such foreign nationals into the country is clandestine and surreptitious." The response also added that over 73,000 people from various countries have stayed on even after their visas expired; nearly 50 per cent of these people were from Bangladesh and about 10 per cent were from Pakistan, according to data available as of December 31, 2009. In 1996, the then Union Minister for Home Affairs, Indrajit Gupta, had informed Parliament that over 25 million Bangladeshis were illegally living in India.

The fact remains that despite the threat of cross-border terrorism faced by the country from illegal immigrants, the Ministry of Affairs does not maintain a centralised source of information on people crossing the border to enter India from Pakistan and Bangladesh without valid documents. Except where it suits its own concerns, the Union Government refuses to act even in the face of judicial pronouncement. The Supreme Court held in 2005 that provisions of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act of 1983 were ultra vires to the Constitution and were accordingly struck down. The Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Rules, 1984, were also determined to be ultra vires and hence were struck down.

The issue of illegal immigration has and continues to figure in high-level meetings related to internal security. It has figured prominently at the Chief Ministers' Conference on Internal Security and Law and Order held in New Delhi . At this conference serious differences emerged among the north-eastern States on the issue of illegal immigration — some States openly accused Assam of contributing to the mounting problem of illegal immigration in the region.

The then Chief Minister of Nagaland virtually charged Assam with not taking any steps to check illegal immigration from Bangladesh. He said, "Assam has almost become a breeding ground for illegal immigrants as they are procuring documents like ration cards in that State and then coming to the hills. This is very dangerous." He also claimed that such immigrants were being settled in areas that were under dispute between Assam and several other States. He even urged Assam to settle its decades-long boundary disputes with Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur in an accommodative spirit as it was the largest State in the region.

According to a former Governor of Assam, "57 of Assam's 126 constituencies were found to have more than a 20 per cent increase in the number of voters between 1994 and 1997, whereas the all-India average was just 7.4 per cent." This dramatic increase indicated the addition of a large number of voters who were really illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. He added that a revision of electoral rolls in Mongoldoi parliamentary constituency in Assam in 1979 detected the names of thousands of Bangladeshi nationals and the entire population of Assam revolted against this development.

The former Governor also felt that without knowing the long-term effects of the issue, Indian Muslims by and large were sympathetic to Bangladeshi immigrants. Thus, the illegal immigrants now have a much larger say in the political affairs of the country. For instance, when the Government of Maharashtra tried to deport a few hundred illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, several parties started a chorus of protests that were politically motivated.

There is a direct relationship between the voting patterns of illegal immigrants and the freebies given by political parties to win their votes in elections. This unholy nexus creates roadblocks at different levels, especially when it comes to checking the continued problem of illegal immigration which also gives rise to the possibility that such elements could possibly become sleeper cells of terrorist organisations and help them launch terror attacks within India.

The truth is that even though all politicians realise the enormity of this problem, their craving for electoral gains and desperation to secure the votes of illegal immigrants make them ignore the imminent dangers of the problem. Politics in our country has become hostage to political expediency which is often disguised as 'principles'. These 'principles' are frequently tailored to suit the occasion.

The trouble is that politicians world over are essentially the same. Most will say anything to get themselves elected to office. Later, they hope that they can escape scrutiny on account of the fact that the people have a short memory and tend to forget pre-election promises. Thus, all of us who participate in the electoral process (as well as those who don't come out to vote on polling day) are responsible for the rise of bad politicians to power. The time has come to tell people who don't vote that they can't complain about the quality of politicians who are elected to office.

A senior politician who has served as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha once pleaded for identity cards to be given to all people in the North-East, including illegal immigrants from Bangladesh living in Assam. A former Governor of Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal holds that at least five million Bangladeshis who entered India illegally have settled in Assam. They constitute a fourth of the State's population of 22 million people. According to estimates prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Intelligence Bureau, Assam's alien population from Bangladesh stands at about four million.

These statistical details not only indicate the magnitude of the problem of illegal immigration but also reflect the enormity of the security threat that the country is facing on account of this. This is apart from the fact that illegal immigration deprives Indian citizens of employment opportunities. All countries, including Western nations, especially the US, ensure and protect their citizens' job opportunities and, unlike our Government, are not apologetic about doing so .

Machiavelli, Hobbes and others have defined man as a lump of matter whose most politically relevant attribute is a form of energy called "self-interestedness." In this context, it means that the issue is simply not one of changing religious demographics or illegal immigration; it is not about being remorseful or repentant for taking a stand wherein we do not protect our own self-interests. As the former Australian Prime Minister, Mr Gough Whitlam, once said: "The punters know that the horse named Morality rarely gets past the winning post, whereas the horse named Self-Interest always runs a good race." The Government should know one horse from another!








The middle-class has time and again shaped opinion through interventionist action. In the 1990s, the middle-class helped VP Singh brand himself as 'Mr Clean' and come to power. The same middle-class rose in revolt against his quota policy. The BJP's rise and coming to power as well as the UPA's electoral victories are attributable to the middle-class which is now in the forefront of Anna's agitation. Here's an opportunity to lead the middle-class

There are many parallels between the middle-class-inspired anti-reservation agitation of 1990 and the current Anna Hazare-led Jan Lok Pal campaign with the middle-class taking to the streets. Most notably among them is the participation of students mobilised by student political outfits. While some may argue the middle-class achieved little politically through the anti-reservation stir of the 1990s, they may be missing the broader phenomenon that followed.

The middle-class is routinely accused of being delinquent at the polling booth and inconsequential to electoral outcomes. However, the middle-class exercises a disproportionate influence on opinion-making that eventually goes on to create a bandwagon effect for broader political outcomes. This was in evidence in the evolution of brand VP Singh as 'Mr Clean' in the late-1980s, paving the way for a grand anti-Congress coalition against Rajiv Gandhi.

The anti-reservation stir of 1990 may have been ineffective in reversing OBC quotas but it marked the beginning of the middle-class's disenchantment with VP Singh, paving the way for the remarkable rise of the BJP over the next successive Lok Sabha elections.

While the middle-class was accused of having let down the BJP in 2004, there was a middle-class bandwagon effect right after. The myth around Ms Sonia Gandhi's sacrifice and the urban legends around Mr Manmohan Singh's image as a decent man and architect of economic reforms have largely been sustained for the past many years by the opinion-making middle-class to create a bandwagon effect in favour of the UPA in 2009.

The theatre of politics in India has been about winning the battle of perceptions over who has the moral high ground. Time and again the middle-class has exercised its disproportionate influence in creating a bandwagon effect around its perception on who has the moral high ground. It is not without reason that political parties failed to dent the moral aura around the Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi division of labour despite its many inherent flaws and political failures. It was only after the middle-class rallied behind Anna Hazare that the moral high ground slipped from beneath the feet of the UPA's leadership.

We may rue the Jan Lok Pal draft Bill's many irrational proposals. We may also denounce the stubborn brinkmanship of Anna Hazare and his team. However, it would be a mistake to ignore the underlying middle-class sentiment. It is premature to comment what influence, if any, this sentiment shall come to exercise in upcoming Assembly elections or the next Lok Sabha election. It is possible that many of Anna Hazare's idealistic college-going young foot soldiers may end up swelling the electoral rolls as first time voters to introduce an X factor in these polls.

Immediate electoral outcomes notwithstanding, this middle-class sentiment could become the prequel to the next bandwagon effect that shapes future political outcomes.

Mr Arun Shourie in his book, We must have no price and everyone must know we must have no price, had made an interesting remark on a potential role for the middle-class beyond mere opinion-making. Lamenting on the lack of a political constituency for a broad agenda of reforms in the sphere of governance, Mr Shourie moots the idea of a "Lobby for Excellence". Mr Shourie rightly points out that such a lobby for excellence is unlikely to emerge from groups that have traditionally been cultivated as vote-banks by political parties either over identity-based victimhood or over entitlements. Such a lobby for excellence could only come from the middle-class and entrepreneurs. The current anger over widespread corruption is a result of delayed reforms in the areas of administration and Government that Mr Shourie speaks of in his book.

Despite the many flaws both in its substance and in its method, the 'India Against Corruption' campaign is perhaps a crude precursor to Mr Shourie's lobby for excellence. But there is a real danger that we may not see that lobby for excellence emerge.

The middle-class may have identified itself passionately with Anna Hazare's persona but its enlightened self-interest does not lie with the ideology that inspires the many civil society leading lights who have scripted Anna Hazare's campaign. Underlying this campaign is a radically Left-liberal ideology that envisions a Robin Hood Lokpal who shall wage a war on behalf of the masses against the Left-liberals' new found enemy — 'neo-liberalism'.

This aspect has been poorly appreciated and barely understood by the middle-class that has thronged Anna Hazare's protest. They don't realise that the next target of those ideologues is the very same economic boom that has vastly expanded the middle-class's opportunities and aspirations over the last two decades. There is a real opportunity here to steer the middle-class sentiment by providing it with real political leadership and in the process showing it where its enlightened interests lie.

It is an open question if the middle-class can become a coherent voting bloc or if its current sentiment can create a bandwagon effect in favour of a broader agenda for reforms. We will not know the answer to those questions unless a bold political move is attempted.

To dither or to be ambivalent would mean ceding this opportunity to a political upstart or surrendering this opportunity to a day dreamer of the Third Front variety.


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Jabina, Fatima and Saleema are victims of the cycle of violence that has left a trail of misery in Jammu & Kashmir. They have lost their land and men. Once well-off and happy, they now live wretched lives in a village far away from what used to be their home

Jabeena, Fatima and Salima come from Kralpura village of Kupwara district in Jammu & Kashmir. They have known each other for long. Jabeena, who is Fatima's mother-in-law, is in her early-50s, while the two younger women are in their 30s. All three look considerably older. Fatima's face is deeply wrinkled; Salima is very thin and listless.

All the women are widows, their husbands were killed in violence that has plagued the State. Together with nine children, all aged under 15, they share two rooms in Langate village. The stench of faeces and rubbish is overpowering. Jabeena and Fatima share one room with Fatima's two young daughters.

On one wall, high up in the style of Kashmir's Dal lake, Gulmarg, Pahalgam pictures, hangs a single photograph of a young, scholarly-looking man in spectacles and traditional Kashmiri dress. Though there is very little light, the picture stands out, for there is nothing else in the room, beyond a neat pile of mats and quilts in one corner, and two burqas hanging on a peg. "That is my son", says Jabeena. "He was called Mushtaq Ahmed, he was killed in action. There was a bullet in his chest and another in his kidney."

Jabeena, Fatima and Salima are internally-displaced people, made homeless by years of conflict. Now, as widows with no living male to help them, they are among the most destitute people in Kashmir. They are also too poor to travel, where (as women alone with small children) they do not feel able to reclaim the land and house they have lost. Salima's husband, Mustafa, died in 1998.

The family, was preparing to flee to safety with other villagers when a stray bullet hit him as he was carrying a first load of belongings out of their house. "There was no hospital to take him to," says Salima. "I simply held him in my arms and he died. We just sat there staring at him, because we couldn't believe it: One moment he was alive, and then he was dead." The other neighbours left for neighbouring Langate after the attack; Salima and her four children stayed behind to bury Mustafa, and thus were forced to make the journey to safety alone.

"The house was deserted. It took us a week to build a new home at Langate, land owned by some known person to my father and to shift from Kralpura to Langate. I had to carry my youngest child on my back. We left behind us a good and happy life. We were all farmers, and we grew vegetables including beans, wheat, cucumbers, and tomatoes. We had apple and apricot trees. We managed well. The children went to school."

When Salima and her children arrived in Langate, she found work doing washing for the more prosperous families, officers, and began spinning and sewing quilts, skills she had used for the family at home. She found a room in the same building as Jabeena and Fatima. "Land on the river side at Langate was empty. We simply moved in, cleaned it up and built a small home of mud with a thatched roof and started living here. But when the landlord returned, he told us that we have to pay `300 per month for each room; now I wonder every month how to pay the rent."

Salima's rent buys her a single room, some five metres square, which she shares with her five children. It has a mud floor, a wooden ceiling and a window without panes. This looks out over a now derelict courtyard, which must once have been airy and pleasant but is now little more than a rubbish heap. Here they have the use of an open latrine and a small extra area used as a kitchen. Salima's eldest son, who is 14, sells Kashmiri handicraft in the market, but curfews and strikes have reduced his earnings to nothing.

Apart from the little Salima makes from her sewing, the family has no income. I asked her what they eat: "For breakfast and lunch, we have bread, and sometimes a little tea. For dinner, I cook potatoes and sometimes the cheapest rice. Sometimes, I have to buy the food already cooked because it is very hard to find fuel. The children search for pieces of cow dung to use as fuel." At night, a very small kerosene lamp gives them a few hours of light. The children are healthy; say the three women and some of them at least are now going to school.

The women themselves do not look well. Jabeena has a constant ache in her few remaining teeth, and Fatima suffers from recurrent bouts of untreated malaria. They think constantly about returning to their village, Kralpura, where they were once prosperous and safe, but fear that they would never manage to make enough to stay alive. "Our houses are no longer standing," they say. "Even the rafters have gone, stolen for firewood during militancy times. Without men, we cannot reclaim our fields. At least in Langate we make a little money by sewing."

Jabeena and Fatima cry when they talk about Hussein, saying that he would have looked after them, and that they had pinned all their hopes on him. "If he had lived", they say, "We would have gone home. We would have been all right." Few months back Fatima travelled back to Kralpura, to see if she could find Hussein's grave. But she found that the village is still under curfew and protest demonstrations, therefore she had to return without seeing where he was buried.

These hapless women have lost everything — husbands, land, homes. They are entitled to nothing and they have nothing. What little money they manage to earn goes into food for the children. It is hard to see how they will survive.

--The writer is a free-lance journalist based in the Kashmir Valley.





A democratic system of governance cannot survive if people are conditioned in believing that every elected representative is corrupt, says CP Bhambhri

The public discourse on corruption in public life has come to occupy a central space in India. The context is important because continuing exposures of cases of corruption against tallest political leaders, high level of bureaucrats and multi-billionaire businessmen of the country have shaken the faith of an average Indian in the system of governance.

A question, however, has been agitating the minds of ordinary Indians about the powerful nexus which exists among politicians, bureaucrats and industrial class who are collectively involved in illegal transactions by bending laws and procedures of Government. Every powerful group — democratically-elected politicians, professional bureaucrats and entrepreneurs — has become 'suspect' in the eye of law-abiding citizens. A feeling has developed that laws of the country are meant only for the poor and helpless masses.

A democratic system of governance cannot survive or, for that matter, thrive if people are conditioned in believing that every 'elected representative' is corrupt and misuses his power to appropriate public resources and finances for private personal and family purposes. This milieu of negativism, cynicism and complete distrust in constitutionally-established institutions for governance can become a fertile ground for the birth of anti-democratic adventurists. Historical evidence clearly shows that democracy can be subverted and sabotaged by anti-democratic military Generals or fascist and Nazis like Hitler of Germany or Mussolini of Italy or General Franco of Spain or near home General Ayub Khan of Pakistan if the 'public mood' turns against electoral process which is projected as villain of the piece because democracy is labeled as a breeding ground for corruption.

Therefore, Indians should be worried about the ongoing high velocity campaign against corruption in democracy because a message is spread that institutional arrangement of checks and balances provided in the Indian Constitution has completely become dysfunctional and has failed to punish the guilty and corrupt. A few facts may be mentioned to substantiate the argument that the ongoing campaign that every elected political representative is 'corrupt' and elections are won only with a purpose to exercise control over public resources for self-advancement could pose a threat to all the institutions of parliamentary system established by the Constitution of India.

Anna Hazare is leading an anti-corruption movement that has a fascist overtone because even Parliament, which represents political diversity of India, is being commanded to accept the so-called Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by Team Anna. Parliament is the pillar of Indian democracy and every Bill gets democratic approval or rejection on the floor of both the Houses of Parliament.

Team Anna during its meeting with Parliamentary Standing Committee which is seized of the Lokpal Bill has asked for rejection of the Bill under consideration of Parliament and 'accept' the Bill prepared by the group. The demand to 'accept' their Bill or 'face' public anger which is manipulated by undertaking emotive steps like 'fast-unto-death' is not justifiable.

It is bizarre, to say the least, that Anna Hazare is adopting coercive methods to achieve his goal. He is challenging the constitutional and legal rights of elected representatives to perform their legitimate functions. The mood of the people is that the Supreme Court and the High Courts are interfering, without any opposition from any crusader of corruption, in the legitimate areas of the functioning of the executive.

Judiciary has decided to launch investigations under its own supervision against suspect corrupt politicians or bureaucrats or captains of industry. Judiciary has served a vote of no-confidence against investigating agencies of the Government which are legally accountable only to the elected Council of Ministers, whether at the Centre or in States.

The honourable judges have not hesitated to directly perform the duties of political executive on the plea that politicians cannot be trusted to launch proper investigations against cases of alleged corruption in public life.

It should not be at all surprising to find judges performing roles which they are not meant to undertake because anti-corruption crusaders have created an atmosphere against politics per se where everyone, including judges, are enjoying a new status of 'cleansing' the country of corruption. Not to be best behind the Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General decided to call a Press conference to release report on corruption.

Media — both print and audio-visual — is a pillar of democracy and in every democracy it acts as a watchdog of public interest, concerns and issues. The media in India, especially, the audio-visual, is enjoying its new power because under the present circumstances, all self-imposed and self-denying limitations get excused because people are interested in stories about corruption in public life. This is the reason that Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare have settled down in the capital of India to launch their tirade against democratic politics because audio-visual media advertises their rhetoric every day.

Even ordinary law and order maintenance forces are often under pressure of judicial or media scrutiny, while dealing with crowd agitating for a sacred and holy cause against corruption in public life. Can democratic governance of any kind function when judiciary, media, Comptroller and Auditor-General, agitators are setting the agenda for political executive, parliament and the apparatus of the state?

The so-called anti-corruption sentiment has become so dominant that every democratic institution of governance is under cloud of widespread suspicion.







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. ***************************************







By voting to impeach Calcutta high court judge Soumitra Sen - found guilty on charges of misappropriation of money and misrepresentation of facts - the Rajya Sabha has set the ball rolling in the judicial reforms debate. Sen could be India's first judge ever to be removed from his post if the Lok Sabha agrees to his impeachment next week. Eighteen years ago Supreme Court judge V Ramaswami had faced similar proceedings in Parliament. The Congress bailed him out, abstaining from supporting the impeachment motion.

Given that the impeachment of a judge is such a difficult process, anti-corruption movements which have erupted throughout the country may explain why things have come this far in proceedings against Sen. For his part the accused has claimed he is being made a "sacrificial lamb in the season of scams to be showcased as an example of cleansing the judiciary". There is no doubt that the judiciary is in dire need of speedy and effective reforms, ranging from appointment of judges to institution of a transparent and non-partisan structure of inquiry, free from legislative and judicial inter-ference, to punish corrupt judges. Sen is just one among many tainted Supreme Court and high court judges, who have contri-buted to the steady erosion of credibility and faith in the judiciary. The question is how to clean up the mess.

An effective remedy can be found by instituting a National Judicial Commission, empowered to appoint judges as well as probe complaints of their misconduct. The present judicial system is dogged by serious conflict of interest issues. Judges are appointed by a collegium of judges, thereby creating an opaque in-house system whose effectiveness is under a cloud. Further, the chief justice's consent is required to proceed on charges of criminal liability against corrupt judges, which could result in the legal fraternity shielding its own. For transparency's sake the National Judicial Commission has to include members from the legislature, the judiciary as well as persons of eminent stature, including jurists and law professors.

Jan Lokpal Bill, which is triggering a churning against corruption, has given top priority to judicial reforms. Recently though Team Anna has indicated its willingness not to press too hard for bringing the judiciary under the Lokpal. The judiciary, in fact, may be needed to keep a check on the Lokpal, as the Lokpal too needs to be accountable. For reforms that could act as a check against judicial corruption but nevertheless preserve judicial independence, a transparently constituted National Judicial Commission, finely balanced between members of the judiciary, legislature and independent experts, is the way to go.







Of all the decisions made to rename places in recent times, the worst must be the one to rename the state of West Bengal as 'Paschimbanga'. It's not that hard for non-Marathis or non-Tamils to wrap their tongue around 'Mumbai' or 'Chennai'. But non-Bengalis will find 'Paschimbanga' quite a mouthful even if their mouths happen to be stuffed with a number of rasgullas (sorry, roshogollas). And much like the sleight of hand of the great magician P C Sorcar, Paschimbanga happens to be just the full Bengali translation of West Bengal - when the 'West' in West Bengal is anachronistic by more than half a century, and therefore superfluous.

Despite the perennial banter between those who trace their roots to the eastern and western parts of what was once undivided Bengal, the ostensible aim of the name change was to facilitate administrative efficiency. Thanks to the 'W' in West Bengal, representatives from Didi's state would be called last for meetings with the Centre. Upward alphabetical mobility was the need of the hour. In that case, simply renaming the state Bengal would have sufficed since there is no East Bengal anymore - with due apologies to fans of the eponymous football club. Ah, but where's the affectation fancied by Rabindranath Tagore epigones in that? Mamata Banerjee's historic journey to Writers' Buildings notwithstanding, she must be aware that today's Bengal (sorry, Paschimbanga) is in stark contrast to the golden state that Tagore described. It would have helped if investors or visitors in the state didn't have such a mouthful to wrap their tongues around.





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The summer of 2011 has been kind to Kashmir. It has spared the Valley the violence that led to the deaths of over a hundred young stone-pelters last summer. The mood in the Valley is turning: tourists are back, the army has largely retreated to its barracks and the necklace of stalls that rings the banks of Dal Lake does brisk business late into the evening. The number of tourists this year (7,54,588) has for the first time surpassed the number in 1988 (7,22,035) - the year before militancy hijacked the Valley.

Exactly seven years ago, in August 2004, on my way to interview the then chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at his heavily guarded Srinagar residence, the roads were deser-ted except for grim-faced armymen with assault rifles. Much has changed for the better in the Valley since. Many shops in Srinagar's
Lal Chowk, shuttered last summer, are now open till midnight. And yet serious problems continue to blight the Valley. The first, much debated, is granting greater autonomy to Kashmir within the elastic boundaries of the Indian Constitution. The second, much ignored, is the question of Kashmir's exiled Pandits.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by chief justice Sarosh Kapadia, is hearing a petition against the Jammu & Kashmir government on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits forced to flee the Valley. The apex court is focussing on two issues: one, jobs promised to the Pandits by the J&K government; two, rebuilding their vandalised homes. Visibly annoyed with the senior counsel representing the J&K government, the Supreme Court bench observed acidly: "We didn't want to go by your dream proposals, but want firm action. Can you show us even one instance where you have set aside the sale (of a Pandit home) and given it back to the victim?"

With the Supreme Court likely to pass a seminal order on their rehabilitation and return to the Valley, Kashmir's Pandits have new hope that they will receive justice after 22 years of the most devastating ethnic cleansing in post-Independence India. Under legal pressure, a special employment package announced by the prime minister has already led to a trickle of Pandits flowing back into the Valley. In a significant if symbolic move, the US House of Representatives recently introduced a resolution highlighting the plight of the dispossessed Pandits.

India prides itself on its absolute commitment to protect minorities. In federal India, Muslims, Christians, dalits and others receive that protection, constitutionally and legally. Sharia, not India's civil code, is the basis for Muslim personal law. Other faiths, including Parsis and Jews, have similar ecumenical rights and guarantees. Today, while Jews have their homeland in
Israel and Bosnia's Muslims have been resettled from where they were driven out by the Serbs, nearly three lakh Kashmiri Pandits remain in exile. Hurriyat separatist leaders publicly ask them to return and offer them fraternal protection - but in a Valley they say must be a part of Pakistan.

Kashmir is historically a plural land: Islam became its majority religion only in the 13 {+t} {+h} century. Sufi Islam and the gentle rishi tradition of the Valley's Hindus were complementary. Pandits and Muslims prayed at the same shrines. Later rulers were a mixed brew: Sikhs, Britons and Dogras. The key moment in the region's his-tory came when the British sold Kashmir, which they had annexed from the Sikhs in 1846 after the first Anglo-Sikh war, for Rs 75 lakh to Gulab Singh, the Dogra Raja of Jammu and the great-grandfather of Maharaja Hari Singh who a century later would sign the instrument of accession of J&K to India.

By the early 1900s, the Dogra rulers had become unpopular across the region. J&K at the time had a population of 3.20 million - 2.5 million Muslims and 0.70 million Hindus. Today the state's population is around 11 million with Muslims comprising 7.50 million (67%) and Hindus 3.40 million (31%) of the total - a demography that has remained relatively unchanged for over 100 years except for the near-elimination of Hindus from the Valley.

Despite being such a large minority (more than double the Muslim minority of 13.50% in India), 3.40 million Hindus in J&K have a muted political voice. The Congress does not espouse their cause for fear of losing its federal Muslim vote. The BJP is supportive but has limited political influence in the Valley. The National Conference plays to the gallery, the PDP to the separatists and the separatists to Pakistan.

Opinion polls have shown that less than 3% of J&K's 11 million people want to be a part of Pakistan. The rest are divided between independence and continued union with India. The silent majority of the Valley's Muslims rejects Islamist radicalism and supports the return of the Pandits. The broadening dialogue between India and
Pakistan on trade across the LoC and confidence-building measures in the Valley are positive signs of a new spirit of reconciliation among Kashmir's stakeholders.

Good governance, infrastructural development, non-intrusive policing and greater political autonomy can help integrate Kashmir constitutionally and emotionally into the Indian Union. In this enabled environment, a way to end the exile of the Valley's peace-loving Pandits must be found.

The writer is an author and chairman of a media group.





The school that carried me through pre-matriculation studenthood had two weekly periods in the evenings; one for garden work and the other for music. While the dwarfish garden-work teacher nicknamed Mr Bonsai was a jolly old soul, the grumpy lady who taught us music seemed to have a heart that never sang. Ravi Varma would have readily used her as a model for a painting he'd have called The Sulking Woman.

Since I did not have what it takes to be a singer, she looked at me as if i was a harmonium without reeds or a violin without strings. While the boys and girls sang a noisy chorus in varying voices that often failed to harmoniously fuse into one, she grimly orchestrated it using a wooden ruler as baton without forgetting to lower it menacingly in my direction, signalling me to keep my non-musical mouth tightly shut. I thought i was a minority peacock in the company of golden-voiced cuckoos and nightingales.

Cut to the quick by this injustice, I complained - but my voice was not heard! Consequently i took to whistling, practising it in the confines of a bathroom. I could not whistle publicly in my school because its girls, though lovely, were highly conservative and might peevishly report it to the higher ups. Besides, my disciplinarian grandpa considered whistling a pastime of skirt-chasing human wolves with pencil-line moustaches, and hence taboo. Furthermore, he added, whistling in the night would bring wicked thieves into our household. This sounded incredible and illogical, but i refrained from pressing for an explanation because of my morbid fear of nocturnal intruders.

Despite this discouragement, i did practise out of the earshot of my grandpa and was even able to do a couple of Thyagaraja's kritis in kalyani and kamas complete with alapana. My humble repertoire also included Subramanya Bharati's 'Chinnaj Chiru Kiliye Kannamma' in raga malika and even popular film songs like 'Awara Hoon' and Pankaj Mullick's 'Aai Bahaar Aaj'. Though i picked up enough courage to petition the music teacher to give me an audition, she turned it down with an impatient grunt. Perhaps she felt that any excellence i had achieved in whistling could not in any way be credited to her teaching skills, and this peeved her.

Vocal music, more so its teacher, might have cold-shouldered me but the plants in the school garden welcomed me with smiling flowers. I learnt the art of digging up and turning the soil, preparing the beds, filling the pots and sprinkling with water can. "You seem to have a green thumb," Mr Bonsai said once. "I only have muddy thumbs, sir," i mumbled, displaying my hands, fondly hoping the plants would not now ditch me and soil my name.

On one rainy evening, Mr Bonsai was surveying the garden after school hours, weeks before the dreaded annual school inspection. "I am worried. The plants are not coming up the way i wanted. What could be the reason?" he asked me as if i were a botanical expert.

"May i volunteer an opinion?"

"I've already asked for it."

"Sir, scientist
Jagdish Chandra Bose had implied plants might grow well if good music is played. Are we doing it in our school? Just listen."

As if on cue, the blast of an off-key chorus of 'Saare Jahan Se Achchha' of a different class bossed over by the music teacher's booming voice descended on the garden.

"D'you think the plants would lend a willing ear to this and grow happily?"

He looked at me sharply, flashing one of his ear-to-ear smiles. The music room was shifted far away from the garden next week.








She first appeared in Slumdog Millionaire and currently stars in Hollywood extravaganza Rise of the Planet of the Apes. International actor and fashionista Freida Pinto speaks with Bharti Dubey about India's image abroad, Woody Allen's filmmaking style and why this Mumbai girl may not fit in Bollywood.

You're doing several Hollywood films - when do we see you in an Indian movie?

Slumdog Millionaire is the first film i did and it's an Indian movie. It captured Mumbai beautifully and was a tribute to the city. The crew and actors were Indian, so how can you not call it an Indian film? Besides that, i've worked with Tarsem Singh, an Indian director, for my forthcoming release, Immortals. Also, one of my next releases, Trishna, is shot completely in India.

Do you fit in commercial Hindi cinema?

I enjoyed watching films from the 1980s. I would've loved to work in commercial cinema when the likes of Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil graced the screena¦I don't want to sign a film and then have the director say Freida could not deliver. I don't want to make a fool of myself. My career is still in its nascent stage. I'd like to stick to my strengths and core interests.

You've been in Hollywood for two years. Has its perception of India changed?

Yes, it definitely has. Films like Slumdog Millionaire, Dev D and Lagaan have made the western world aware of the vast variety of subjects we engage in. They're also aware of our commercial cinema because of its mood-elevating quality. Musicals have a huge appeal and we make amazing musicals. They may not know the names of all the films or songs but they're certainly aware of their existence.

What topics about India does Hollywood discuss?

There are many subjects but i love talking about books and poetry. I usually recommend reading The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh for those interes-ted. Most people there are already aware of Tagore's poetry.

Many Hollywood studios are coming to shoot in India or adapting Indian stories - why?

I guess some of the credit should go to Slumdog Millionaire and, of course, primarily India's booming economy. The impression they had that India was just a land of snake charmers is not true. We've shed our colonial skin a long time ago and that awareness has come to the West. The fact that we are an independent, growing economy has got them interested in our storiesa¦apart from that, Hollywood studios have realised that we are financially sound, able to invest not just in our films but also in international projects.

You've worked with the legendary Woody Allen - what was that like?

What's amazing about Woody is he allows an actor to improvise. You should consider yourself lucky if you get the script for his film beforehand. As tradition goes, he shares the scene planned for a day on that day itself because he believes his films imitate the unpredictability of life. After my audition, when i was signed and received my script, there was a note from Woody saying you're free to make changes as you please.

He didn't let my being Indian alter anything. He said my ethnicity was not his concern. All he wanted from the character is to be a student of musicology who was the alluring factor for the neighbour next door, who has problems and troubles of her own.

I invited Woody to India. Hopefully, he'll take my invitation seriously.

Speculation continues over your relationship status?

I am seeing Dev Patel.






The impeachment process against Calcutta High Court judge Soumitra Sen is significant not only because there is a possibility of history being created (if and when the Lok Sabha votes the way the Upper House has), but also because it has strengthened the argument that we need a national judicial commission for the appointing of judges.

At present, we have a system where judges appoint judges, a kind of old boys' club.

The closed nature of the group makes it difficult to weed out the corrupt and because the impeachment process is stringent and lengthy, many don't think twice before behaving irresponsibly.

The appointments are a closed-door process with judges backing their own candidates; favouritism, nepotism, religion, caste and community — all play a vital role in such appointments.

Naturally, such indulgence will also be shown when it comes to taking action against the corrupt. According to a news report, 305 judges are under scrutiny by the Supr-eme Court; 38 have been made to pay penalties; 17 have been discharged and 75 prematurely retired. Along with Justice Sen, there are two more senior judges in the dock: PD Dinakaran and Nirmal Yadav.

Not to forget that Justice Sen himself in his spirited defence in the Rajya Sabha had pointed a finger at former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan. Sometimes, politics also subverts the impeachment process like we saw in the case of V Ramaswami in 1991.

During the impeachment debate in the Upper House, one of the best seen in recent years, the BJP's Arun Jaitley rightly argued that the present system of appointing judges, the collegium, "is also a system of sharing spoils".

He added that whether the collegium continues or we have a commission, it must be statutorily regulated, so that arbitrariness can be avoided. While the independence of the judiciary is a sign of a working democracy, there are plenty of recent incidents that show that there are many black sheep in the judicial system.

That the senior most legal eagles of the country are not oblivious to the situation is evident from what Justice SH Kapadia has said on many occasions: "For a judge, ethics, not only constitutional morality, but ethical morality, should be the base."

While there is a case for a commission, there is also a need for not delaying the passage of the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, which is pending in the Lok Sabha. If the Bill comes through, then, among other things, some of the routes of possible corruption and nepotism would be closed.

There is also a line of thought that thanks to judicial activism (or overreach, depending on which side of the fence you are on) the executive is trying to curb the judiciary's powers.

For a democracy, the separation of powers is vital. But what is also vital is that the judiciary is in perfect shape and only the best and the cleanest are appointed because it is often the only, if not the last, resort for the people.

For this, if there is a need for introspection and a change in how business is done today, so be it.






One quick and effective way for a new player on the block to mark one's territory is by branding it.

Lions do it by urinating around 'their' terrain; rulers used to do it by destroying the structures made by those whom they vanquished and building their own monuments over the rubble.

Mamata Banerjee has marked the presence of a three-month-old government by renaming the state of West Bengal 'Paschimbanga'.

Well, she has hit one bird with two stones by overseeing a nomenclature change as well as underlining the Bengali identity of the state.

After all, 'Paschimbanga' is a straightforward translation of 'Westbengal' — and we like the Germanic conflation of the adjective and the noun.

It's certainly a decent option considering that in Hindustani as well as in Bengali, 'paschim' is easily identifiable as 'west' — as opposed to the honorary 'east' or 'purba' Banga that befits the nation of Bangladesh.

Nigglers that we are, we do have a few niggles. Our top concern is about pronunciation.

'Bengal' with its closed consonant ending was easy to pronounce by pretty much everyone, Robert Clive included, and was close enough to the Hindustani 'Bangaal'.

Now if we have heard out non-Bengali TV anchors maul the name Kolkata (the soft 'o' mutilated into an overzealous tunnel of a vowel and the soft 't' into a hard, dry, cutter of a consonant), then there is something to fear about the way they'll say 'Banga'.

We can already hear variations ranging from the first half of 'Bangalore' to Berlusconi-friendly 'Bunga Bunga'. We would request that the Paschimbanga government send out an mp3 sample in a woman's and a man's voice to everyone telling them how the second bit of the new name is pronounced: like 'bongo', the percussion instrument.

Now, to change the name of the state's secretariat Writers' Building to 'Kerani Bhavan'. (Another editorial another time to explain that.)









In an attempt to dethrone the political 'monarchy', are we heading towards anarchy? Or in posing such a question, am I rushing in where angels fear to tread? Where mass hysteria rules, isn't there need for a devil's advocate?

The ongoing wave against corruption seems to be sweeping everything and everyone before it. Claims made for it have some truth in them but much is hyperbole.

For every citizen out on the streets sporting a Gandhi cap et al, there are, I'm sure, an equal number if not more wearing their thinking caps and trying to figure out the long-term implications of this 'phenomenon'.

That the country needs ultra-cleansing is unquestionable. That corruption is a malaise affecting all classes in society is equally undeniable. That the present government in power at the Centre is seen to be dragging its feet over effectively stemming this rot is again obvious to all except the concerned party.

So, a clarion call to root out corruption had to and has met with a roaring reception and the result is there for all to see.

A Bernard Shaw would have had a field day dramatising the demagoguery at play here, while Swiftian satire would sport mercilessly with both sides — 'the odious vermin' as well as the self-righteous Houyhnhnms.

There is Orwellian doublespeak from both sides too. We hear Anna and Co being ridiculed and vilified one moment and cajoled and welcomed the next. A forked tongue operates in the other camp as well.

Not a fast unto death but an indefinite fast, a willingness to discuss; Anna's not a messiah nor a second Gandhi… such sentiments are expressed, only to be swiftly negated by reiterating a fast unto death unless the Jan Lokpal Bill becomes law; by a 'second war of independence', and pictures of Anna increasingly made to echo Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

The power of Parliament is simultaneously scorned and upheld.

How many of us rooting for this movement are thinking beyond our own experiences with corruption? How many acknowledge that many among us do not even feebly resist corruption but see it as the easy, even the smart, way out?

We pose as victims; very often we are willing collaborators. Doubtless the people with power need to exercise it honestly. But if we, the people, have the power, as is claimed today, why did we wait so long before putting our individual houses in order, if we have at all?

Even now, how many of us will not hand out currency notes along with our driving licences when caught by the cops? How many parents will refuse to indulge their 16-year-olds' desire to drive a car?

How many will refuse to pay sub-rosa to get admission into colleges? If even 25% of the Anna aficionados remain steadfast in refusing to bribe, the movement would be worth it.

Participatory democracy in the sense advocated by Team Anna is not the cure. It has worked in Switzerland but has pushed California from being one of the richest states to the bottom.

This present juggernaut could well become obstructive and threaten the very fabric of our country's democracy. A reality check is due before the honeymoon is over.

(Usha Subramanian is a Mumbai-based social commentator. The views expressed by the author are personal)




'Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.' Historian, playwright and activist Howard Zinn reminds us: "Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty..."

Democracy is as much about the right to vote as it is about the freedom to disobey and disagree. The spaces democracy nurtures and safeguards for social and political dissent are as central to democracy, as Parliament and the right to vote.

The entirely avoidable storm raised by the government's clumsy and ill-advised attempt to thwart the protest led by Anna Hazare against the government version of the Lokpal Bill contains vital lessons about disagreement and disobedience in public life.

There are lessons here for the State and the entire political class. But there are lessons also for people and their organisations.

The Hazare agitation is by no means the only peaceful protest that governments have sought to crush. Governments of all political hues have attempted to repress whenever they can people's agitations — against police brutality and cruelty; land acquisition; corruption; labour exploitation; oppression of people because of their gender, caste or religion; and fights for self-determination, smaller states, land , water and forests.

They have succeeded in crushing dissent when the protestors were deemed powerless politically, economically or socially. Dissent in entire regions has been suppressed by brute military power. The government felt it could crush the Hazare agitation in the same way.

It completely failed to estimate the power of the Indian middle classes, and the depth of their discontent.

The government blundered from every perspective: constitutionally, legally, administratively, politically and, above all, morally. In its defence, it argues that in a democracy it is only Parliament that can legitimately make laws. This is correct only in the narrowest technical sense.

Most progressive laws are the outcome of people's struggles — labour agitations, farmers' movements, women's movements, battles against big dams and displacement, struggles for Dalit equity, ecological movements, the campaign for the right to information, and many human rights struggles.

The Indian people have fashioned and deployed myriad creative forms of non-violent protest, like fasts, sit-ins, rallies, applying for information and hugging trees. Each of these and countless more have informed and pushed legislatures to create statutes for greater justice. Laws, like the Constitution, are given to the people by the people.

The State and the political class, therefore, need far greater humility and patience in dealing with dissent. But it would be fair to add that lessons in tolerance and forbearance are imperative also for people's organisations that organise protest. Too often we too are self-righteous, rigid and unwilling to listen to perspectives that differ from ours.

We too need to learn better to deal with disagreement. Their demand is that their version of the Bill should be introduced in Parliament. As long as government does not concede this, their leader Hazare will fast. (They clarify that this fast is not 'unto-death', but is 'indefinite'. I find the distinction mainly technical).

The Bill is being currently considered by the Standing Committee of Parliament. Their distrust of Parliament is hazardous, and also unjustified by past experience of free India. India has one of the world's finest Constitutions and many progressive statutes. Each of these has been passed by legislatures, impelled often by people's movements.

Take the Right to Information Act, 2005. Ten years of people's struggles and an enormous range of consultations culminated in the National Advisory Council draft Bill.

The government rejected most of this and introduced a weak draft in Parliament. But campaigners persisted with the Parliamentary Standing Committee, and as many as 153 amendments were introduced there, resulting in one of the most powerful RTI laws in the world.

I believe it would have been more temperate and democratic for Team Anna to have given the standing committee a chance before taking to the streets again.

There are also many people's groups and individuals who disagree with many aspects of not just the government draft, but also of the dissenting Jan Lokpal Bill. Dalit rights activists are scathing.

Arun Khote argues: "It is an upper caste, middle class movement and it addresses their issues — such as bribes paid to the police or at passport offices. Peasants, vulnerable sections don't fall in their purview. How many SC/STs dare to file cases in police stations? Barely 5% cases are filed and 92% are acquitted. In such a situation, how can a lokpal be of any use to the Dalits?"

The National Campaign for People's Right to Information feels that while corruption among judges, legislators and all the bureaucracy must be subjected to strong independent oversight, it is dangerous for democracy to concentrate this oversight in any single institution.

But Team Anna has been dismissive of even these 'friendly' critiques.

It is historically muddled to compare the current agitation to the freedom struggle or JP's battle against the Emergency.

But it is nonetheless significant that young people have taken to the streets with the dream of a fairer India, of more responsive and clean government. I fear these dreams will rapidly sour, unless we battle injustice and inequality, and not just corruption.

And in these battles, both governments and people's organisations must learn better to deal with disagreement.

(Harsh Mander is a member of the National Advisory Council. The views expressed by the author are personal)





In the British urban riots earlier this month, one chain store in the 50 ransacked High Streets (the equivalent of Mahatma Gandhi Roads in India) left unmolested was Waterstones. It sells books. 

Allowing my liberal instincts to prevail I would see the looters, driven by poverty and discrimination, a bulwark against the cruel State and capitalism, denied education and knowledge, longing for the books that youths like Harry Potter read didn't bother Waterstones because they are imbued with the kind of respect for printed matter which my grandmother had for the Parsi prayer book.

They sensibly looted shops selling £100 designer shoes and jeans, mobile phones, computers and TV sets. But having suppressed these liberal instincts I have to conclude that they didn't want the books.

A section of the youth of Britain, in large measure blacks and the sub-class of whites, who choose criminality, dependence on state benefits and dissipation above work, were given the opportunity this week to make a risk-to-reward assessment.

Grab the status stuff you've always wanted as you can see that there's a minimal risk of being caught and punished. These youths were aware of the scanty police presence on the streets.

After the second night of this Lootathon, the prime minister and home secretary cut short their holidays, returned to London and saw that the looters were confronted with three times the number of police patrolling the streets. They issued the threat that these police would have powers to use rubber bullets, water cannon, CS gas and any tough tactic necessary to deal with marauding and arson.

The streets quietened down. No buildings were set on fire. The looters stayed at home.

There are those who even now compare these British riots to the Arab Spring. Wanting to get rid of Assad is different from wanting to get hold of an Armani. For all their wishful thinking (and may peace be upon them), the only challenge to the British government from these riots is to induce them to reverse their decision to cut Home Office budgets for police forces by £2.7 billion.

That's all this government will in the end do, leaving the longer-term analysis of the alienation of these mobs from British society and from their own communities to newspaper philosophers.

It is not difficult to see that a more robust police presence contains the problem but doesn't address or solve it.

That the structures of respect that sustain society have been destroyed by growing inequality, by indulgence and through the capitalistic instinct to engender material cravings, to destroy British working communities in their quest for cheaper labour, to use controlled education as nothing but a means of disciplining and grading the labour force is all true.

A British Tory government — and indeed the Labour one that preceded it — have no imagination, leave aside ambition, to tackle such structural issues at the root. Like most governments in the West today they are trying to balance their books. One of the measures towards this balancing which this government mooted was the reduction of jail sentences for criminals who pleaded guilty.

The proposal didn't play well with the public who were well aware that justice minister Ken Clark was not addressing any principle of fairness or trying to reduce crime but was attempting to save money on the prison budget, currently £1,000 a prisoner a week.

While it may be true that money spent on containing people in prisons could be spent on increasing and reorienting the police forces and thus reduce crime and the necessity to reduce prison sentences.

That remains for the government to debate and decide. What it did last month was abandon Clark's proposal when there was an outcry against it, suffering a publicity defeat of some political consequence.

There is, however, one solution to this budget squeeze and problem of crime and punishment that it doesn't take a Dostoevsky to spot, but one which Ken Clark and the entire cabinet have not considered. It is one with which I am not in sympathy but, if I were Clark, one I would consider as consistent with my party's free-market policy.

I hand him the idea despite opposing it: Why not close all prisons in the country and, accepting the benefits of globalisation, outsource all British penal servitude?

There are no Australias left to which to ship convicts, but there are surely rugged countries in Central Asia, the Caribbean and Africa that would readily construct benign but disciplined jails for Britain's offenders?

One could start perhaps with just the young who will perhaps reconsider and regret their naughty ways when under the tender loving care of say, Afghani or Haitian jailors who I am sure would enjoy contact with black and white British youths?

This would not only cut the prison budget it would contribute to Overseas Aid which today runs to £2.7 billion, the same sum the government intends to cut from the police budget. (Enough of lending my brain to the Tories!)

The most frightening aspect of the riots was not the burning buildings and looted shops, but the murders of three Asian men, of Pakistani descent, who were deliberately killed by a car while defending their shop from rioters in Birmingham.

The hit-and-run murderers were black and it is alleged that they were motivated to kill people who had formed this anti-riot vigilante community force.

Afro-Britons killing Muslim Britons in these circumstances is very likely to lead to retaliatory violence, though one prays, as the father of one of the murdered men publicly and with great dignity did, that good sense will prevail.

If it doesn't, it could result in a black on brown race riot, a prospect fuelled by macho and mutual distrust. After all the looting and free-booting, that prospect should be Britain's single nightmare.

(Farrukh Dhondy is an author, screenplay writer and columnist based in London. The views expressed by the author are personal)




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

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

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

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






Anna Hazare, from the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, seemed to expand the scope of his movement on Saturday. He was also interested, he said, in electoral reforms, and in a land acquisition law that did not expropriate farmers. This is interesting, and indicative of the general nature of the Hazare-led movement: it purports to be about the specifics of certain aspects of a Lokpal bill, but it draws whatever strength it has from a disaffection that is much more wide-ranging than that. It draws strength from a distaste for corruption — by which is meant the continued intrusion of the licence-quota raj into people's everyday lives. It draws strength from a common perception that the government is too remote from the concerns of India's towns. It draws strength from fears that aspirations will continue to be unfulfilled, with a paucity of good colleges and good jobs for the many millions of young people who want them.

Yet the government has been so focussed on dealing with the leaders of the agitation that it has forgotten that its greater responsibility must be to address the disaffection itself. This will require more than just alternative mechanisms for reducing and combating high-level corruption. It will require better communication with the people on the streets, many of whom were instrumental in sweeping UPA 2 to power. The government and the Congress need to demonstrate a renewed commitment to reform, to openness, and to satisfying their aspirations. But instead they have chosen to display their most smug and defensive aspects. The Congress's political failure in addressing the concerns that underlie the Hazare movement is multiplied by its inability to communicate: party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury, for example, has been more than a hindrance than a help if the Congress wished to endear itself again to those in India's towns it has alienated.

And her inept handling of the Congress and government's case invites bigger questions. Why are all the younger MPs who were celebrated as turning a page in the Congress's history in 2009 silent today? Why are they not being fielded? Why, too, is the government not responding to whatever urban anger it senses by pushing the second-generation reforms the prime minister described as "difficult" on Saturday? Dr Singh said the government was open to "give and take" on the Lokpal bill, and the comparison with the my-way-or-the-highway Anna team was noticed, and helped the government instantly. He, above all, must open himself to conversation more. And his government must do more to address the angst of middle India.






While parts of the Arab world have been awaiting their new political order to consolidate itself, the Middle East's original problem still labours under unobtainable solutions. It has been a potential destabilising factor for the Arab Spring. On Thursday, gunmen from Gaza attacked civilian buses near the Israeli resort of Eilat, across the Israel-Egypt border on the Sinai Peninsula. The rest has pretty much followed script: Israel retaliated by chasing the attackers into Sinai and killing them, then launching airstrikes on Gaza. Palestinian militants, certainly Hamas, have fired rockets into Israel. There have been casualties on all sides, but it's the death of five Egyptian security personnel in Sinai, in the course of the Israeli action, that has escalated into a diplomatic row and triggered popular protests in Cairo.

The fallout has been mitigated somewhat by Israel's expression of regret and Egypt's withdrawal of a threat to recall its ambassador. However, the Israeli government and Egypt's interim administration will not make the mistake of discounting the singularity of the "cold" peace that has defined ties across the Sinai since the Camp David Accords of 1978. The Israel-Egypt peace treaty has been the most important deterrent in the Middle East crisis. But Hosni Mubarak's departure had raised concerns in Israel about any future Egyptian government's commitment to the treaty, by which Israel is secured across the demilitarised Sinai.

The short-term interests of Israel and Egypt cohere to such an extent that this row is unlikely to last long. But it's the long term that both states would have to keep in mind, especially since any future government in Cairo is unlikely to offer Mubarak's solid 30-year friendship..






Roughly three decades after Tamil Nadu devised the mid-day meal scheme for schoolchildren, the Jayalalithaa government is working on extending it to breakfast as well. Like neighbouring Puducherry, the state will ensure that schoolchildren are provided a healthy start to the day. Some private and corporation schools have already experimented with the idea.

Tamil Nadu's welfare schemes have been remarkably efficient because of political determination, imaginative policy-making and implementation, and strong grassroots organisations. Its interventions in food security have been singularly successful, thanks to close monitoring, quality safeguards and community cooperation. It is the only state with universal PDS, after early efforts at targeting were abandoned, and has minimal leakages at the fair-price shop level. The ICDS programme is also recorded to work better than in other states, as nutritional outcomes have steadily improved. Tamil Nadu, under M.G. Ramachandran, pioneered the mid-day meal, and then it was expanded and taken up as a national intervention in 1995. In 2001, the Supreme Court directed all state governments to introduce mid-day meals in primary schools, though there are still clear regional differences in the way they are implemented.

Whether at mid-day or at breakfast, providing a balanced meal at schools enfolds several social objectives — increasing enrolment and keeping children in school, social mixing between castes, employment for women as cooks and organisers and, most importantly, easing chronic hunger and malnutrition. To sit together and share a meal is one of the best ways to break the invisible cordons that separate communities in India. The mid-day meal has been directed towards the ends of social equity, for instance, by employing Dalit cooks, or by giving women the responsibility of managing the meal, logistics and accounts. Many children come to school on an empty stomach, and these schemes offer the assurance of at least one substantial meal for all students. Breakfast is the meal that can make the critical difference. The Jayalalithaa government deserves credit for stepping up its commitment to this idea.







In this Walk the Talk on NDTV 24×7, Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority, tells The Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta what he would say to Anna Hazare if sent as mediator — that one law and a tough inspector alone cannot weed out corruption

I am not standing near India Gate or Ramlila Maidan or Jantar Mantar or any of the places from where news comes now. I am standing at Nandan Nilekani's home in New Delhi. Nandan, you are in a good place, an outsider who came inside. Until the other day you were a civil society-wala and then you came to the dark side, but it is a safe place to be right now for you.

Well, I am very happy because I have been in government now for two years and it has been a great experience for me, because I think we are looking at large-scale systemic reforms, the whole idea of giving identity, and all the other things that I am involved with. And I think that's the way really to solve what people talk about today.

So when you see these faces, this anger, Anna T-shirts, caps, slogans, what does it tell you?

Well, these are some of the things that, you know, I wrote about in my book and what Tom Friedman and I talked about in "The Flat World..."

Also in a column, where you wrote that middle classes all over the world are angry right now.

That's right, you are in a hyper-connected world where you have access to everything and there is technology, aspirations unleashed. So I think some of that is playing out.

Because, in your book also you said that aspirations are unleashed and unless you can answer those, you could have a problem.

Yeah, I think we all know that this is demographic dividend but you need to meet the aspirations of the people. And I think it's happening in a big way but it's always a challenge to keep up.

But are we now paying for not doing an adequate job of it?

No, I think things are happening. I think, when you look at this whole issue of corruption, I would look at it in a far more holistic manner. I mean there are challenges of how to deal with natural resources, and procurement, and all that the government is dealing with. But to me the real challenge is how to deal with retail corruption or how, when people meet the state for a public service, you do that in a way which is not intimidatory...

Tariff card corruption.

That's right. And a lot of the work the government has asked me to work on —giving identity to the people who don't have identity, making sure they can open bank accounts without any hassles, making sure that when they get their pensions or scholarships they can go to any business correspondent and withdraw money — they're all fundamentally related to changing the relationship with the individual in terms of public delivery, and to me that is the kind of reform that we need today to really fix some of these larger issues.

The difference between us and a poor person in a village is that, for example, if you are not happy with the service in a particular shop, you can go to another shop — you are empowered by choice, so you can spend your money where you think you can get good service — whereas if you are a person who's getting rations from the PDS, you can go to only one shop because every PDS will have 500 names and your name will be one of those 500. So you are now actually held hostage, because you can't go to any other shop if that particular shop is giving you bad service. It's closed all the time and he claims he has no supplies, he gives you underweight stuff, he adulterates it, you have no recourse at all and you can't say I'll go and file a case in court. It's not practical.

And therefore, I think some of the things that I am working on — and I am now coming out with a report on PDS reforms in the next two to three weeks — will be how to create portability of PDS where, if I can't get it in one shop, then I can go to another shop. The moment you create empowered people with choice, then the bargaining power shifts to the individual and that's how services improve. So my point is to simply get to the bottom of how to use technology, process improvement, incentive design to empower people at the point of service.

So how do you look at this widespread protest now, which is more about locking people up in jail? Is it going to work?

No, I am not a great believer that if you pass a law, corruption will miraculously vanish. Nor do I think that creating a huge army of policemen is going to reduce corruption. You have to go back and look at the systems. I have spent 30-35 years working on how to make systems work and you have to fundamentally analyse and improve the systems themselves and make them much more streamlined, reduce interfaces, reduce discretion, make more technology interfaces. There are ways to do these things. This is just one of the many things that we need and I don't agree that this is the only way we should be doing it.

Why do you think this will not work — just one tough law and having one tough uncle at the top who will watch everybody and punish people?

There are multiple challenges with it. First of course is the idea of concentrating so much power in one individual, but more importantly you are creating a huge army of people who are all going to do inspection. You can't fix problems by creating more layers of inspection. You fix problems by actually looking at the root cause of why it was. I'll go back to the PDS. One of the big problems is that the price at which goods move is much less than the market price. So everybody in the system has an economic incentive to divert it.

There is a huge arbitrage.

Exactly. So you have to fix that arbitrage by making sure that it moves at the market price to the last point of delivery, and when the beneficiary comes and claims it, only then do you give the benefit. That automatically will reduce the diversions. Those are systemic things that one has to do. Or look at bank accounts, why is it that people in this country can't open bank accounts? Because they don't have an ID paper. If you don't have a bank account, you can't save your money.

So how do you solve that problem? Because if somebody doesn't have an ID paper, does he or she get a UID?

For example, the Aadhar. We have already issued 25 million Aadhars and we are finding a large number of Indians who don't have an ID paper at all. We have a concept called introducer. So an introducer is a person who is designated to introduce people who don't have documents and the minute they say I know this person this is his name, this is his date of birth...

So if somebody has a maidservant or a servant at home who doesn't have an identity, then the employer can just take that person to a UID centre?

No, he has to bring him to an introducer. Because introducers are named people, everybody can't be an introducer. But we have a system and I get this request everyday in Delhi — my driver, my maid, my cook and all that. Through introducers you can get IDs and we also now have a regulation with the PMLA that Aadhar is a KYC — Know Your Customer — for all kinds of financial products.

PMLA is Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

Right. The RBI has also notified that Aadhar is a KYC to open small-value accounts. So if you have an Aadhar number, you can automatically open an account.

So in a sense, what you are saying is that the answer to large-scale corruption is not just one more policing mechanism.

Absolutely not. You have to do it through looking at the interface points between the individual and the state, reduce arbitrage.

And get the state out of the way as much as possible.

One of the things that we are working on, in which I am being directed by the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister, is electronic payments. What we are working on is, along with these Aadhar numbers, we are going to give bank accounts to everyone and we will have thousands of business correspondents around the country, which the banks are opening. What will happen then is… let's say you are giving pension payment to an old person in a village. Today, the person has to go and get it from an official and so forth and it has all the consequences of that. Tomorrow, electronically, the government can send money into his bank account. Just send him a text message saying your money has come. He can walk into any business correspondent in his village and withdraw his money. He doesn't have to meet anyone. That's the way you reduce the arbitrage.

So the touchy-feely sort of element of corruption goes out.

Absolutely. So what has happened in the last 10 years is that we have significantly increased our spending on public welfare. Today, if you look at direct payments of the Government of India to individuals, it is 150,000 crore. And another 150,000 crore is the spending through subsidies. So 300,000 crore is the money government spends in giving benefits to the individuals.

It's two-and-a-half times thedefence budget.

But the pipe to reach the people doesn't exist. What we are, and we have absolute support from the government, is about these pipes, giving people this online identity called Aadhar, opening bank accounts with them, building business correspondent networks and getting money to reach those accounts.

So what are you telling all these boys and girls who are now coming out on the streets at the call of Anna Hazare with one slogan, "Jan Lokpal Bill"?

I think that fixing the challenge, making the state much more streamlined with much less corruption, is a complex mosaic of activities. It includes other things the government is doing like auctioning natural resources, but also fixing things through technology. I fully endorse the fact that they want to address the problem of corruption but I think they should look at it in a much more strategic and holistic manner and not by just passing some one law.

So this is unidimensional?

Absolutely unidimensional.

Are there dangers in it? Or do you think it's okay, let this also happen?

No. My view is that there is a Bill, which is with the Standing Committee of Parliament. And I can tell you that I have dealt with this Standing Committee. I have the UIDAI or the NIDAI Bill, which is currently with the Standing Committee on Finance. Let me tell you, this is a very very rigorous process. I have been around the world. I have visited the UK Parliament, the French Parliament, US House, Indian Parliament, I have seen everything. I can't discuss what's discussed, because that's confidential.

Because committee hearings in India are not public hearings.

They know what they are asking. I have been subjected to the most rigorous cross-examination in these standing committees. I am very very impressed. So when there is a Bill which the government has placed in this Standing Committee, I have full confidence that they are the appropriate authority to discuss this Bill. I think we should respect them for the work that they do.

And Anna's team has gone to the Standing Committee.

Absolutely. That's the place to discuss it. These people do their homework. They have asked us tonnes of questions. They come well prepared.

The answer to that is, look, we are proposing a bill that if implemented properly will see half of these MPs in jail. So why would they implement it? They will stall or they will dilute it or they will produce what they call is a Lokpal Bill.

See, I have worked closely with these MPs. I am very impressed with them. They are extremely hardworking, very committed and come with all the right homework. I think we should let them do their job.

And you as an outsider, as a civil society wala? Since you came under the tent, has your respect for the political class gone down or gone higher?

It has gone up.

That's an interesting statement. Tell me how.

One could argue that there are some elements in the political system who are beyond the ethical, but that's so in every business. But they are extremely hardworking, they are very well-informed, they care about issues, they have to deal with multiplicity of their constituencies, they have to deal with Parliament, they have to deal with the party, lawmaking. It's a tough job. And a Lok Sabha MP represents maybe 2 million people. I mean, he is my representative.

But there is a strong anti-politician element flavour to this movement.

I think it's extremely dangerous and completely wrong. I think we must respect Parliament.

Mera neta chor hai?

I think that's absolutely wrong. I would certainly argue vehemently against that. We must give credit to them and let them make the law. I have complete faith, with the interaction with them, that they will come to the right decision.

So, if Anna Hazare said to you, "Nandan Nilekani, you are a nice guy, you are not a politician yet, you are not tainted, you are just in a funny place, so come under my tent for a couple of months and advise me on what to do," what will you advise? Because my intentions are right and I want to fight corruption. People are fed up.

My advice will be twofold, that specifically on this Lokpal Bill, please make all your arguments to the Standing Committee, which is the appropriate authority for this. Let them debate in Parliament and let them come up with a law and abide by the law, specifically on the Bill. And my broader thing would be, if you really want to address the issue of corruption, it is a very multidimensional mosaic of things. Come out with a plan that covers all these things, and when you look at all these issues, you'll find that the Lokpal Bill is just five per cent of the problem.

And 95 per cent is about governance?

It's governance and there are multiple things. Obviously, on the big ticket side, it's about natural resources, allocations through auction, procurement procedure, about discretionary powers.

So are you privy to some of that?

No, I am not really part of that. I am focusing more on the IT-based transformation.

Also widening the pipeline.

Widening the pipeline and making it electronic and automatic, so that a person gets his benefits without meeting anyone.

So which other areas are you going make a difference in, besides PDS?

Electronic, financial inclusion... Actually there is a corollary to that. If you are able to use a electronic way to make money reach people, then the next step would be mobile payments, which again is happening — and it will take off in another two, three years. Once you have mobile payments, then more and more money will go through electronic channels. It will no longer be cash. So reducing the cash in the economy is an important part of what we have to do, so that, again, the electronification of money movement will play a big role in reducing the hold of corruption.

You showed some concern about having one more policing system. What fundamental problems do you see with that?

You have to fix the problem at the root of delivery. You cannot fix it by creating more inspectors. See the quality revolution which happened in Japan. Deming went to Japan in the early '50s... you don't fix cars by having more guys to inspect cars; you fix cars by making the carmaking of high quality, by removing defects in the process. The same thing applies to public governance. If you are going to be giving millions of people food or money or healthcare, you have to make the point of interaction between the individual and the state as empowering as possible for the individual. That's hard work, roll-up-your-sleeves kind of work.

And take out all discretion.

Take out all discretion and bring in automation, have multiple points of delivery . There are a lot of techniques.

I'll tell you of a small reform this year, the income tax refunds being paid before March 31. Scrutiny will happen when it happens. All returns came without anybody having to ask for it, 35,000 crore. If you look at 20 per cent as possible arbitrage on this, which normally a tax officer or somebody would have taken to give this refund to you, Rs 7,000 crore of arbitrage has been taken away from the system.

Absolutely. The important thing is that the income tax reform in this country using technology is one of the huge untold stories. Implementation like this, tax information network, TDS at source, reconciliation...


Then AIR. So in the last decade, when GDP was growing at 8 per cent, when inflation was at 7 per cent, that meant 15 per cent was our nominal GDP growth, and the tax rate collection was growing at 40 per cent, that was happening because you had built better systems. And now the same thing is going to happen in GST. That's a very interesting thing that's happening. I met Sushil Modi [Bihar Finance Minister, heading the GST panel] last week... I am also heading the group that looks at the IT infrastructure of GST. Here again, it's moving very well and one of the things is that the PAN number will be the common tax identifier for all taxes in India. For the first time in Independent India, your income tax, your customs, your excise, your service tax and your sales VAT tax will all use the same ID. Can you imagine the reduction in tax evasion that it can help... So you see, you can't claim one thing in your tax return and something else in your VAT returns.

So everything that you are trying to do, from PDS to tax returns to taxation, is to basically take these spectres out of our life?

Yes. It builds systems through automation, builds systems where your contact is through what you file something — on the Internet or a PC or a mobile phone — and streamline and create accountability and transparency, create portals where you can share data. That's how you're going to fix this problem.

The problem with all this is that, it's not sexy enough. Not the kind of thing for which you would go with flags and sit on a dharna or a fast — because you too have suffered so much because of corruption outside that you would want more and more crooks in jail, and preferably canned in front of you.

I certainly think this is not the way to do it. Approach the problem systemically.

Do you know any members of the Anna Hazare committee?

Well I don't know him personally but yes, I've met some of them, at least two-three of them.

Like Arvind? Kiran?

Arvind I have met, Kiran I have met.

So what's your interaction with them been like?

Well I met them before all this, so...

They are nice people...

I think nobody is going to argue that we should not fix the problem of corruption and I think that's not anybody's argument. But my only point is twofold, One is, let's not do it through creating more and more complex laws and creating parallel bureaucracies, a super powerful guy, and expect him to be honest and create thousands of inspectors.

And unleash another inspector raj.

It's crazy. Also, I don't think that it's some magic bullet that's going to solve the problem. You have to get into how we fundamentally deliver services to the people and the poor.

You used the expression "magic bullet". The Prime Minister says "magic wand".

Whatever. There is no quick fix. This is hard work and slogging, it's a slog over, getting into details and figuring it out.

If I may correct you, because you got your cricketing metaphor wrong: slog overs is when you do things quickly, and this is the first hour of the Test match.

I don't watch cricket. That's the problem.

That's the only thing on which I can speak knowledgeably, in spite of how low I feel.

Somehow I thought it was the other way round. So the thing is like that . See today, we have issued 25 million Aadhars. In another year or so, we will have crossed 200 million Aadhars. And then along with it we are opening bank accounts for these people... We are working with 64 banks to open their accounts; and for every 2,000 accounts the banks open, we are opening a business correspondent. So India is building a very radically new way to deliver electronic payments to people. That has serious benefits to everybody. And then the whole GST thing. So, when I look at what's happening, I see an unprecedented number of initiatives which are transformational in nature. And to me that's the big story.

Well, that story is unfolding, Nandan, and it will keep on unfolding. But tell me in conclusion again, if you were sent out as a mediator by the government to talk to Anna — because you are a trusted person, you are not tainted by politics, you are not tainted by a kind of corporate life — what will you tell them as a mediator?

I would say first, let's prepare a holistic action plan, which covers some 10 different areas. Let's make it a really comprehensive plan to fix these problems in the next five years. And two, there is a Parliament, a distinguished set of people in the Standing Committee who are completely seized of this Bill, let them do their job.

Do you trust them?


And if they say, but we'll go there and they'll never listen to any of our arguments?

I think that's completely unfair. My interactions with the Standing Committe... it's a very bipartisan group.

That's the justification for not making it public. Because the moment you make it public, then everybody will stick with party positions.

I have complete faith in the Standing Committee.

You are not just saying it because you are inside the system now?

No. Look, I've been in this system for two years. I have kept my peace but at some point I have to stand up and say good things the system is doing. This is the time.

Or the good things that the system is capable of delivering. So, in a sense, you are saying your concerns are justified, your anger is justified, your methods and your goals are not?

The methods and the goals are not. A method of agitation when Parliament is seized of the issue is not correct and the goal of the Lokpal Bill is one of the 20 things I would do to really fix this problem.

And that too a Lokpal Bill done from outside Parliament?

Oh yes. Simply untenable.

Simply untenable and don't see it happening...

I mean, look, my representative is my MP and I want him to take decisions on my behalf.

So tell me, as a Bangalore-wala in Delhi, it's your first experience of a Delhi sort of street commotion.

Yes, I guess. It's only two years.

What does it make you feel, although Bangalore is not much quieter either these days? Does it tell you something, that now I know what's wrong with Delhi, what's wrong with India, the way the country is run?

No, actually, it doesn't bother me at all. India is a great democracy with all these diversities. I have enjoyed and I really enjoy being a part of this change in Delhi. I think you have to get back to basics and fix things.

So you will tell Anna's people to go home, work on a larger agenda, for governance reform, and you'll be happy, you said.

No, I have spent 35 years changing systems, spent my life in the private sector as well as in the public sector. And I have done it at a level by actually getting into stuff. So I think I have a broadband view. I'll be happy to sit down and say these are the 10 or 15 things we can do.

So you'll be happy to sit down with them as well?

Oh, yes. Look, if I can help in fixing problems, I am happy to do that. But let's have a strategic approach to all this.

Not a silver bullet.

This is not the way of going about it.

But Nandan, I'll tell you something. It's courageous to say these things these days... To question what is now becoming a popular establishment notion is very dangerous, you know. I committed the indiscretion of pointing out what I saw as dozens of some serious flaws in the new Lokpal Bill, Jan Lokpal Bill, which I thought ushers in a dictatorship, which is neither possible constitutionally nor required in India. And for the first time in my life, I faced a question that I thought I'll never face: "Mr Shekhar Gupta, are you pro-corrupt?"

Certainly, that's absolutely uncalled for — this whole "Are you with us? If you are not with us then you are against me" — the kind of argument used in the Iraq war.

By George Bush.

Yes. That to me is demagoguery. I am as much against corruption as anybody else. In fact, I spent my time, all my time. I gave up my job, to be here and fundamentally see how I can contribute. And I think there is a way to do it. So, I don't buy this argument that just because you have proposed a different path, that means you are against us and therefore you are pro-corruption.

You know, you are breaking one more corporate stereotype, that corporates have no spine.

Well, I am like an ex-corporate.

Once a corporate, always a corporate.

And you, in some sense, I really think, it's time to stand up. And I am quite sure my view will be highly unpopular with the television cognoscenti. But you know you have to stand up for what you believe in.

Well, television cognoscenti is going to watch this show as well. And sometimes it's necessary to nuance a debate because there is no debate if it's all going in one direction.

Right. I would advise, let's all work together and come out with a holistic, strategic, comprehensive plan. There will be about 15 different lists and I'll be happy to contribute to that list, and let's all work on that.

And you'll be happy to work with Anna's team members.

Anyone. I am happy to work withanyone.

You'll sit with them and work on an agenda of 10-15 points

Yes, on what is the wholesale issue, retail corruption, how to fix tax evasion, how to use systems, how to use technologies, how to make the interface for the poor better.

I am glad you are saying this now, Nandan, because no one can take you lightly. One learns always while having great conversations with you. And before I go away, congratulations; your daughter has decided to get married.

That's right. Thank you so much.

So join the crowd of happy in-laws.

I'll look forward to that.

(Transcribed by Jerrin Mathew )










Every doctor knows that prevention is better than cure. In fact, the most talented doctors worry deeply about iatrogenic risks — the problems created by the treatment they prescribe — because deep inside they agree with Voltaire who said, "Doctors prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing." Essentially intellectual humility is the key to being an effective writer of prescriptions.

In a country of a billion people, it is not surprising to have a billion different views on the justness, appropriateness and effectiveness of the current protests in Delhi to cure corruption. Only a fool would question the justness of a protest against corruption in India. Since I am no fool, I agree with the justness of their cause. But I also disagree deeply with their means and strategy. Their current form of protest is inappropriate because the protesters should form a political party and stand for elections. And their current strategy to combat corruption will be ineffective because of the focus on treating corruption rather than preventing it. In other words, it is the wrong thing for the right reason.

Corruption is a cancer that corrodes society, meritocracy and efficiency and eradicating it must be an important national priority. This needs answering important questions. Where does corruption come from? Is corruption a genetic problem among Indians? Or is it a child of shortages where there is not enough for everyone? Is it pervasive because we don't pay our civil servants well? Or is it because we do not hand out the death sentence to public officials convicted of corruption as China? Is corruption higher as a percentage of the Indian economy in 2011 than it was in 1981? Is the absolute rupee amount of corruption in India higher than the converted dollar amount in advanced economies? Does corruption have something to do with how we finance our elections? Is India's growth forcing politicians to shift from being roving bandits (give me whatever you have since I am never going to come back) to stationary thieves (I need 10 per cent of your income but now tell me how to grow your income)? Does shifting from retail to wholesale corruption align development and politics? Is the increased surfacing and exposure of corruption an inevitable concomitant of our reform journey?

Corruption arises from bad public policy and poor policy plumbing rather than bad policing. Eliminating it hardly lies in legislation that creates an unaccountable army of inspectors with abnormal powers. Who will inspect these inspectors? Solutions lie in "drying the swamp" — that is, eliminating the sources of corruption. Wholesale corruption — crony capitalism — arises largely from differences between real and contracted values and is found mostly in land, natural resources, government contracting and education. Sunshine is the best disinfectant so this needs fixing procurement, going live with the national GST (Goods and Service Tax), increasing technology in direct and indirect tax enforcement, and much else. Reducing retail corruption needs creating competition and using technology plumbing — like Aadhar — to change the citizen interface with government. Corruption is often only possible if both politicians and bureaucrats collude or one holds their nose and looks the other way. The different incentives and DNA of civil servants and politicians (selection, tenure, election cycle, constituency, prestige, etc) mean that we can rupture the current incest by reinforcing the backbone of our bureaucracy by re-engineering how we appoint, transfer or promote our civil servants at Central and state governments. Most importantly, we need to end the lie that almost every member of Parliament tells to the Election Commission when they enter Parliament about their total election spending being under Rs 25 lakh. Campaign finance is a complex subject in any country but in India this issue cannot be ignored because of the current arms race in election spending creating an adverse selection among candidates considered by political parties. A combination of state funding, raising outdated caps and greater transparency on contributions could be small start.

Basically the fight against corruption needs to make the shift that science made from classical physics (discrete systems, simple cause and effect) to quantum physics (everything is inter-related, small changes at source have amplified system-wide effects). Finally, and probably most importantly, the current corruption protests in Delhi must recognise that the current George Bush posturing — you are with me or against me — is unfair, unhelpful and unnecessary. People who disagree with many provisions of the civil society version of the bill do not necessarily condone or indulge in corruption. As Einstein said, make things as simple as possible, not simpler.

In the last few years the government appointed National Advisory Council (NAC) unleashed a regime of "Rights" on India with a thought world not very different from the current protesters in Delhi; impatient, intellectually certain, more interested in big ideas than operational details, and disrespectful of government intentions and capabilities. Both are right and wrong. They are right because India erred gravely in 1991 by defining reforms as purely economic. We must broaden our definition of reforms to include procurement, governance, institutions and execution because reforms are not about goofy rich guys buying BMW's but putting poverty in the museum it belongs. But they are wrong because the very different destinies of India and Pakistan born on the same night are the consequences of 30 lakh people in India winning an election of some kind. A government by the people, for the people, and of the people necessarily needs elections, politicians, and a parliament. The members of NAC and current protesters must stand for elections. Whether they win or lose, they will learn — like Obama, Sarkozy and Mario Cumo — that you campaign in poetry but govern in prose.

The author is Chairman, Teamlease Services,







Barely two days after he had begun the bizarre experiment of commanding from his sickbed in Delhi his troops a thousand miles away ('Tough Words from Thagla', IE, August 1), Lt General Kaul hit the ceiling. For, on October 19, he received a sheaf of desperate messages from the front. These convinced him that both the GOC of the 4th Division, Major General Niranjan Prasad, and the commander of 7 Infantry Brigade, Brigadier John Dalvi, had "panicked".

As Dalvi later recorded in his book Himalayan Blunder, he was personally watching the Chinese reinforcing their strength at Thagla and their units "moving to battle locations, which they had reconnoitered during the previous three days". Yet, he was under instructions to send some of his outnumbered men to Tsangle (a position to the north of the Namkachu river, considered "indefensible" by Dalvi, Prasad and others) and denied permission to withdraw even a part of his formation from the river line to higher, more defensible spots. Dalvi was communicating these worries, with an undercurrent of protest, to Prasad, who was passing them on to Kaul.

So appalled was Dalvi that seven years after the event he wrote: "October 19 (1962) was the low water-mark of the post-Independence Indian army... On that evening, 7 Brigade was squarely in the Chinese trap... but there was deplorable apathy (at the level of the higher command) in deciphering Chinese intentions".

In New Delhi on the same evening, the director of military operations (DMO), Brigadier Palit, knew nothing about these goings-on. Evidently, the army headquarters was not in the loop. So he went to Kaul's residence in search of information. On arrival he found that the usual trio of Krishna Menon, Army Chief Thapar and Intelligence Chief Mullik, was already there, sitting by the corps commander's bedside.

Before he could leave, Thapar came out and handed him a "draft signal" to the HQ IV Corps to be dispatched "at the highest priority". According to Palit's version, later confirmed by several other sources, it was "a hotchpotch of instructions to move companies and platoons to Tsangle and other locations, and advice on how to fight a brigade battle in the Namkachu valley. It was another embittering anti-climax; by then I should have grown accustomed to them".

As Thapar was about to drive away, Palit signalled to the driver to stop, and did something that was unusual even for him. He explains that it must have been the "strain" in him, which made him "force" his views on his chief and seek his permission to "amend the draft signal somewhat". Thapar patiently heard him argue that the "most important requirement at that time was to order a pull-back from the river line in Namkachu to Tsangdhar and Hathungla". Palit emphasised that this "would not amount to withdrawal in the military sense of the term, only a re-disposition of defences from an un-tactical to tactical deployment... Now that the Chinese were building up for an attack, the brigade should be allowed to re-dispose the defences... on ground of its own choosing".

The army chief's patience was visibly running out. Even so, he did not tell his DMO to shut up. For his part, Palit repeated his request for permission to amend the draft signal. Gently, Thapar replied: "It's too late. The message has, in fact, been sent, informally by telephone, a half-hour ago". So frustrated, indeed devastated, was Palit that he decided not to go back to his office to dispatch the "highest priority signal". To delay it until the next morning, he told himself, would make no difference. How right he was!

For, at first light on October 20, China launched its massive and comprehensive attack from Kibithoo in the Walong sector of NEFA on the India-Burma border, through the main target in the Kameng divisions where lie both Thagla and the Namkachu valley, right up to the Chip Chap and Galwan valleys of Ladakh. The moment of truth, long considered improbable, if not impossible, had arrived.

The rest of the country knew nothing of the catastrophe that was unfolding in the high Himalayas since dawn because nobody in authority said a word about it for hours. It was after 11 am that we first heard that something disastrous had happened around Thagla. Under Krishna Menon's instructions, the ministry of defence (MoD) called in only the two news agencies and gave them a bald statement to the effect that China had "invaded both NEFA and Ladakh".

The entire press, Indian and foreign, was up in arms, demanding as to why, at the juncture when the biggest and saddest news of the Chinese attack had broken, the MoD had avoided the normal practice of holding a briefing for the entire press corps. The answer was obvious: the government was yet prepared to face searching questions. Since there was no 24x7 TV those days and All India Radio was wholly government-controlled, there was no to know what was going on. Ironically, even the DMO was often dependent on Mullik of the Intelligence Bureau for information. The reason for this, apart from paralysing dismay and disarray at the HQ IV Corps, was that all army signals had to be first coded by the senders and then decoded by the recipients. Mullik's network on the spot was sending its messages en clear.

It was only after 6 pm, when the foreign secretary of the day, M.J. Desai, addressed a press conference, that the mind-boggling enormity of the Chinese advance and Indian defeat and retreat began to sink in. There was some consternation among his audience when Desai announced that not only the much-bruited Dhola post but also every other post and formation that came in the way of the Chinese had been overrun. When asked why, he admitted that the Chinese were more numerous, thoroughly acclimatised to great heights, better supplied and better armed. They had modern, automatic weapons while our soldiers had only Enfield .303 rifle of World War I vintage. He remained silent, however, about the incredibly appalling planning by policy-makers in Delhi and military leaders in the field.

The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator







Anna saheb, I have known of your good work in Ralegaon Siddhi for the past 30 years. One has the utmost respect for Gandhians who still try to live by Gandhian principles. One such person, you, today leads the movement that first brought a handful of Magsaysay award winners together to support Kiran Bedi's legitimate but unsuccessful mission to be appointed Chief Information Commissioner, in the interest of RTI activists. It has now become a movement fuelled by pent-up anger about corruption.

However, there is an issue that needs to be highlighted: People from all walks of life are searching for any kind of way at all to end corruption. As the government needs to listen to the message of the public, you too need to listen to a crucial aspect of the message: they are not fighting in support of your specific Jan Lokpal Bill, they are supporting your fight against corruption. One does not automatically translate into the other. May I humbly suggest that to make the government more flexible, your team show some flexibility too?

Your spokespersons need to explain why they cannot pressure individual MPs further, as well as political parties and the parliamentary standing committee, to persuade them to adopt your propositions and place amendments accordingly. It is wrong to arrogate to yourselves the power of presuming your bill is the best solution and your methodology the only one leading to a satisfactory result. You need to explain whether a fast to gather crowds is more important than continuing meetings with those who represent the political system across the board to pave the way forward. If your group sets itself up as superior to any politician or party, you may go down the wrong road.

Everyone wants a strong Lokpal bill. Both the government draft and yours have many flaws. The collective ego and obstinacy of your team should not get in the way of creating a draft that has been further modified by an additional set of wise minds with as much integrity. They can be from amongst the judiciary (if Prashant Bhushan will permit), the bureaucracy (if Kiran Bedi will permit), other eminent public activists (if Arvind Kejriwal will permit) and political party representatives (if the entire team permits). Currently, your moves seem to be more populist than reasonable, while the government's are more bureaucratic than political. Neither will get us anywhere.

Clearly there is no way the Jan Lokpal Bill is going to take the place of the CBI, CVC and other such agencies. Is your team not prepared to accept an option of asking for a totally independent CVC and CBI, apart from a modified but effective bill? Why not do credible (even radical) things with institutions we already have, rather than propose an outfit that appears to be a non-workable monster? If the public in support of your movement is not given options, it will be fooled into supporting your bill blindly. That is misleading, unfair, and arrogant.

There is a major question of inclusiveness, acceptability and credibility not being addressed here. I do not mean the credibility of your group or the government, but the credibility of those like myself, who have fought corruption all my life from inside a political party and outside for 25 years. Excuse me for personalising this, but it is merely as an example of what many honest political activists are feeling. Being in politics does not automatically mean one is dishonest. I have been entangled by the Congress/UPA government in a bogus corruption case in which the first hearing has been pending in a lower court for five years. The so-called incident took place 11 years ago. I thought of joining your platform at Jantar Mantar, but saw what you did to Uma Bharti and others. Michael Fernandes, brother of George Fernandes, whom you knew well, was not allowed on your platform in Bangalore, despite the known integrity of the Fernandes family. He is a 76-year-old former legislator, who still uses an auto-rickshaw or the metro while moving about. He fasted along with your group, but was not welcomed on the platform, although a well-known liquor company was distributing free mineral water there. Not terribly Gandhian, I would say.

Today I would like to be at the forefront of your campaign against corruption, but you would shun those of us who carry such bogus taints. Are you going to presume that all those accused by the Congress of corruption are indeed so? How sure are you of the credentials of those who form your crowds? How many of them have never given or taken a bribe? Can you certify to their integrity?

Your system of shunning people who are in political life from your stage, and accusing all politicians in Parliament of not wanting to accept your bill alone, is a dangerous form of de-politicisation. A non-political prime minister, and a non-political Sonia Gandhi, dealing with anti-politician groups like yours may leave an ugly, undemocratic land for vested interests to inhabit.

The writer is former Samata Party President







Any parent devoted to bedtime reading knows, the best children's books never resort to icky "teachable moments". Messages about loyalty, friendship and bravery thrum like bass lines beneath the melody of character and narrative. I often stumble across passages in children's books that inadvertently teach economic principles.

I'm not talking about books that give lessons on financial literacy. Nor am I referring to classics historians and critics argue were written as economic allegories. (Is The Wizard of Oz a parable about monetary policy and the gold standard? Discuss.)

I picked up The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright, to read to my 7-year-old daughter. I was struck by the chapter where one of the children stops to watch a large snow-blower at work on a Manhattan street. A crowd gathers, and an old man grumbles that "hundreds of fellas" used to shovel the snow. "Nowadays they do it all by machinery. Ain't no work for nobody." Aha! Capital vs labour. And in The Pushcart War, by Jean Merrill, tenacious pushcart vendors battle a trio of trucking companies who band together to put pushcarts out of business, leveraging cozy relationships with the mayor. Can you say cartel?

According to John Conant, director of the Centre for Economic Education at Indiana State University, children's books provide ripe material because literature deals with everyday life — a terrain shared with economics. Conant tries to help teachers tease out economic lessons from the books they regularly use in class.

One common theme in books reflects parents' fears their children will become "bad" consumers, said Marah Gubar, director of the children's literature programme at the University of Pittsburgh. That often means rampant consumers are cast as villains, or at least losers. Take Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which Augustus Gloop and Veruca Salt are spoiled brats. In Harry Potter, Gubar noted, the appalling Dursleys shower their son, Dudley, with presents, a pointed symptom of the family's wickedness. Such common tropes irk Gubar. "In children's literature, there is often this offensive classism whereby the poor are virtuous and the rich are evil."

Some books teach what happens when there is an underdeveloped market economy. Nicholas Bloom, an economist at Stanford University, said Little House on the Prairie showed his 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son how difficult life was in the absence of specialisation. "For these guys, it was so tough," Bloom said. "Pa built his own house, they grew their own food, they sewed their own clothes. You realise how easy it is to live now."

Sometimes, economists think children's books get things wrong. Dr. Seuss's The Lorax, about the destruction of a forest by a greedy industrialist, "assumes that there is no economic system in place," Conant said. In a modern capitalist economy, he said, the trees "would get very valuable as they got scarce, and the person with the property rights would harvest them at an economically reasonable rate."

By and large, the economic lessons in children's books lean left of centre. "I think the writers are not particularly sympathetic to or don't understand how a market works," said Gary S. Becker, the Nobel laureate who teaches economics at the University of Chicago. For the most part, the economic concepts conveyed in the books reflect values like generosity and equity rather than competition. Raymond Fisman, an economist at Columbia University, said his 3-year-old daughter's favourite books teach the importance of sharing and gift-giving, values that might not lead to the greatest wealth in the real world. But, he added, "I doubt that three is the age where you start teaching people the brutal economic truths of grown-up commerce."Motoko Rich







President Obama was on the way to Alpha when a plea came for him to be, well, more alpha.

LuAnn Lavine, a real estate agent from Geneseo, a rural town just up the road from Alpha, Illinois, the last stop on the president's Midwestern bus tour, told The Times's Jeff Zeleny: "Everyone was so hopeful with him, but Washington grabbed him and here we are. I just want him to stay strong and don't take the guff. We want a president who is a leader, and I want him to be a little bit stronger."

Hers was a gentler message than the sign stuck on a post outside Alpha: "One Term President." But her three words summed it up: Washington grabbed him. Why did this man whose contempt for Congress is clear, who ran on the idea that he could transform a broken Washington, surrender to its conventional timetable and bureaucratic language?

The "supercommittee" that's supposed to save us just sounds like more government bloat — supersizing something just as unhealthy as McDonald's. Is Obama so isolated he can't see that Americans are curled up in a ball, beaten down by a financial crisis, an identity crisis, a political crisis and a leadership crisis?

He got the job by blaming Washington. But once you're in the White House, you are Washington. It's like the plumber who came to fix the sink waiting for the sink to fix itself.

I covered the first President Bush when he took a slide from Iraq war hero to one-term president. A turning point came in the fall of 1991, when Americans were getting jittery about the economy. Conservatives urged Bush to adopt an aggressive agenda. But relying on disastrous advice, Bush waited for more than a month until the State of the Union address and repackaged the same tepid agenda.

President Obama bashed Congress on his bus tour. But after delegating to Congress time and again with disastrous results, he continues to play the satellite to Congress. He shouldn't be driven by the Washington schedule. He should be setting it.

At long last, he promised a clear economic plan. Unfortunately, he had the fierce urgency of next month, when Congress gets back to town. Americans are rattled and want action. They don't know or care what Congress's schedule is. They just see the president not doing anything.

Obama tried to justify not calling lawmakers back to D.C. by saying they'd just continue to bicker. The truth is, he doesn't want them back in the capital any more than they want to be back. It would have screwed up his vacation and upset Michelle, who already feels trapped in the Washington bubble. If Clinton wanted to be president 25 hours a day and W. wanted to be president four hours a day, Obama wants to be president for about 14 hours a day. And that's fine, as long as you don't look like you're phoning it in when the country is dialing 911.

White House officials must be worried about the 10-day Martha's Vineyard idyll because, in a rare move, they put out a picture of the president with furrowed brow and Nike shirt getting a briefing from John Brennan, his top counterterrorism adviser.

There were no pictures allowed of him at the Vineyard Golf Club, only shots of the president shopping for books with his daughters. He was seen in the Bunch of Grapes bookstore on Friday holding Brave New World. Maybe he was brushing up on dystopias and alphas.

He might also want to pick up a volume of Robert Frost for some insight on why Democrats waste time trying to reconcile with ruthless foes. The president still believes he can use his enchanting powers to convert the other side, even though Republicans regard every Obama legislative achievement as the beginning of a campaign to recall it.

Let us take today's lesson from Frost, who deliciously wrote in "The Lesson for Today":

I'm liberal. You, you aristocrat,

Won't know exactly what I mean by that.

I mean so altruistically moral

I never take my own side in a quarrel.Maureen Dowd







The debate over reservations for OBCs in educational institutions could take a turn for the worse with the Supreme Court clarification on a 2008 ruling on the matter. In 2008, after a Constitution Bench gave four separate opinions to rule that reservations for OBCs did not violate the basic structure of the Constitution, it opined on how the eligibility criterion should be framed. The majority opinion was that the maximum cut-off marks for OBCs could be 10% below those for general category students. This, the Bench felt, would meet the need for affirmative action without compromising too much on merit.

This was interpreted differently by different groups and a debate ensued over the difference between eligibility and cut-off marks. Take the example of a college which says a candidate must have got at least 50% marks in Class 12 to apply for college. Based on the marks students get that year, despite 50% being the eligibility criterion, it's possible the college may stop giving admission to general category students who get 90% marks. So, are OBCs to be given admission if they get less than 81% (that's a 10% relaxation over 90%) marks? The pro-reservationists believed the 2008 ruling was clear that OBCs who get more than 45% (that's a 10% relaxation of the 50% eligibility criterion) have to be considered for admission while some universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University thought no OBC below 81% was to be given admission. Which is when the case went to court again, for a ruling on the correct interpretation.

A two-judge Bench, including one of the judges who was on the Constitution Bench in 2008, ruled last week that cut-off and eligibility are really one and the same thing when it comes to the OBC candidates. So, it doesn't matter if the final cut-off in a college is 90% or 95% for general category students, if the minimum eligibility is 50%, then OBC students with more than 45% marks are to be considered for admission—if there is an entrance exam, however, and the minimum marks to be scored are 60% for the general category, then OBCs will have to get at least 54% to qualify. Whether this decision will be challenged remains to be seen, but with universities such as Delhi University not able to fill its OBC quota despite coming out with its 9th list with very low cutoffs, the next battle is likely to be on whether the creamy layer criterion is too harsh—the 2008 Constitution Bench had ruled out reservations for the creamy layer.





Following in the Rajya Sabha's footsteps, if the Lok Sabha also passes the motion against Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court by a two-thirds majority (with half the total membership), then India will see its first-ever impeachment of a judge. It is important to note that parliamentarians of all hues (barring the BSP) spoke in unison in the Rajya Sabha when they rebutted Justice Sen's defence that he was just being made into a scapegoat as misleading, given that the investigation committee constituted as per the provisions of the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968, has found him guilty of retaining client monies that he received as an advocate-receiver and holding on to them even after becoming a high court judge. As this 'misbehaviour' took place back in 1993, the real scandal is that the gentleman was elevated as a judge in 2003 although he had kept withdrawing money that was never his to spend. As Arun Jaitley said, cheques don't lie. And when Jaitley talked about the anomaly of "judges alone appointing judges" while judicial overreach was threatening the "lakshman rekha" between the executive and the judiciary, even Manmohan Singh was seen to thump out an applause. As examples of recent pronouncements on policy decisions that "do not fall within the judicial space", Jaitley referred to the cases of Salwa Judum, a Pakistani prisoner and land acquisition. While we can debate whether or not judicial overreach is taking place in India today, what is indisputable is the need for a less time-consuming and circuitous mechanism for cleansing compromised judges from the system. Such a mechanism must hold to the jurisprudential principle that "No one should be a judge in their own cause." We have seen in the case of PD Dinakaran that he was made the chief justice of the Sikkim High Court after a flurry of corruption and land-grab charges engulfed him in Karnataka. The current practice of appointments to the higher judiciary resting with just a collegium of judges clearly needs an overhaul. An alternative, speedier and more transparent system has been mooted in the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010. This must be passed immediately, because India cannot afford to lose faith in its judiciary.

The system of appointing judges also needs urgent reforms. There seems to be growing support for a National Judicial Commission in this regard, wherein the collegium of judges would see members from the executive and from prominent citizenry added to its decision-making ranks. This too seems rational and advisable.





Is a new economic crisis coming? Is it just a playing out of the financial crisis of 2008? What should India's policymakers do? These may seem like just a tough set of questions from a civil service exam. But they are real challenges that face India's leaders. Unlike their counterparts in the US, Europe and China, India's leaders actually have significant room to maneuver. What should they do, and why?

Let's recap where things stand. Finance is at the heart of capitalism. When it works, it channels resources from savers to productive investors, leading to growth and real returns for both sides, as well as the financial intermediaries. The 2008 crisis originated with Wall Street and the US government. Between them, they allowed financial intermediation to become unhinged from productive investment—Wall Street through greed, dishonesty and incompetence, and the government through poorly chosen fiscal and monetary policies and poorly enforced regulation. Of course, there were many other villains, from Irish and Icelandic banks to the governments of countries like Greece. Bailing out financial institutions that made bad lending and investment decisions, plus pumping up government spending to prevent a complete economic collapse transferred some of the unsustainable private sector debt burdens to the already-stretched public sector.

So the latest crisis is partly fallout from 2008. Deteriorating public balance sheets are also hurting banks again. Assets that looked safe are again turning out to be risky—mortgage-backed securities and other financial derivatives then, government bonds now. Just as saving and lending was earlier channeled into unproductive investment (the housing bubble), now it is connected to unsustainable transfer payments by governments. There is no quick or easy fix, and the global economy will go through more pain. Given that certainty, what should India's policymakers do?

In the short run, the increased uncertainty and dampened spirits surrounding the global economy suggest that the Reserve Bank of India should pause its tightening measures. Monetary policy works with a lag, and it makes sense to wait and see how the Indian economy and inflation are responding to the tightening already undertaken.

If China also slows down, as seems more and more likely, pressure on commodity prices may lessen, and ease India's domestic inflation. Certainly, a slowing global economy is likely to put a lid on inflation expectations. Fiscal policy is already loose, so the prescription would be to stay the course there.

In the near-medium run, clearly the biggest positive policy step for India is implementing the goods and services tax (GST). A simple, well-functioning GST can solidify government revenues and streamline some aspects of doing business, while reducing the distortions that have plagued consumption taxes in India. Getting the GST in place soon is eminently feasible. More generally, the government could strengthen the economy by paying attention to the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index, and making improvements in India's ranking a policy priority. If animal spirits are dampened in the rest of the world, giving Indian entrepreneurs positive signals and encouragement can do much to compensate for a foreign slowdown. One of the US economy's weak spots has been that small businesses are not creating jobs as they would in a normal recovery. Making business creation easier in India can boost employment and tax revenue, and start to ease supply constraints.

Small businesses in the US are also having trouble getting credit from banks that are repairing balance sheets and also meeting more stringent regulatory requirements. In India, the stock market and microfinance receive a great deal of attention, but finance for small and medium enterprises remains systemically weak. Fixing this may be a longer term project, since it will require legal reforms and improvements in managerial capacity and practices in the banking sector. In general, India has tremendous scope to expand its domestic finance sector in positive directions.

Parts of Europe and the US are also starting to reveal wider gaps between existing skill sets and what their economies need. India has faced this problem for a long time. If the 1950s and 60s saw a successful beginning in creating a modern education system in India, much of the recent past has been retrogression. Meanwhile, vocational training has never been on a firm footing in India. Expanding the education sector (and FDI here might be more valuable than in the retail sector) is the best bet for India's long term future.

The second stage of the economic crisis of the US and Europe provides a clear set of lessons for India's policymakers. They should prepare for a softening of global demand, and make sure that domestic investment has a favourable operating environment and that it goes to productive ends. India is well-placed to do these things, if its leaders adjust policy quickly for the short run, and keep their focus on the medium and longer run.

The author is professor of economics, University of California, Santa Cruz





There was something truly surreal about images on various news television channels on the day Anna Hazare brilliantly trapped the government into taking him to Tihar jail. Even as one saw television images of urban Indians pouring out onto the streets to support Anna Hazare, the official channels were showing the historic proceedings of a Kolkata High Court judge Saumitra Sen being impeached for the first time in India's history. In fact, during the very moments that Anna Hazare was defying government prohibitory orders, Saumitra Sen was personally defending himself against the charge of misappropriation of funds before the members of Rajya Sabha.

These contrasting images—an anti-corruption crusader courting arrest and a judge being tried by the upper house on corruption charges—are pretty much intertwined in the complex debate over the kind of Lokpal Bill that our society is striving towards. The impeachment proceedings running parallel to Anna Hazare's arrest also demonstrated the growing tension between   the legislature, judiciary, executive and civil society.

Rajya Sabha members cutting across party lines used the impeachment proceedings to make a larger statement on the general rot afflicting the judiciary. Many members suggested the collegium method of appointing judges (essentially existing judges recruiting new ones) was producing below par outcomes. Senior Rajya Sabha members like Arun Jaitley, Ram Jethmalani and Sitaram Yechury tore into the nature of compromises that were routinely happening in the judiciary in the current system which has little checks and balances.

Or else how do you explain the fact that Justice Saumitra Sen continued to hold R52 lakh in his custody which he had collected as an advocate-receiver appointed by the court on behalf of other disputing parties. Subsequently, when he was appointed judge after some years, he did not inform the court or surrender his receivership. He continued as a judge as well as a receiver! According to Jethmalani, it was his bounden duty to surrender his receivership the moment he took over as judge.

Jethmalani asserted that his misbehaviour as a judge persisted as he continued to stonewall proceedings by another single judge on the matter relating to the receivership. Of course, Saumitra Sen argued in his defence that he had eventually settled all the dues pending in the receivership and the affected parties hadn't complained. However, Arun Jaitley, the BJP leader in the Rajya Sabha, asserted that illegality is not just determined by the outcome of a transaction, it also matters how the process had been undertaken. There are sections in the criminal procedure code which take cognisance of temporary misappropriation of funds even if subsequently they were legitimately settled.

Jethmalani launched a vicious attack on the community of judges in general who resorted to "trade unionism" in order to protect their colleagues. He cited the example of Saumitra Sen who was being protected by his brother judges inspite of his known misdemeanours. After he became a judge in 2003, Saumitra Sen's colleagues helped in expunging an adverse remark against him for his conduct as a receiver! "If he were not a judge he would have been sentenced for at least ten years imprisonment," Jethmalani argued.

Many Rajya Sabha members took the opportunity to suggest that the current collegium system of appointing judges may need a review. Some harked back to the times when the executive had a role in appointing judges! Overall, the debate in the Rajya Sabha reflected the mood of the times. The subtle message that came through was that of the legislature trying to tell the judiciary, "Before overreaching your mandate, just put your own house in order. Or else you are in trouble."

In fact, BJP member Ravi Shankar Prasad was more direct in warning the judiciary that, of late, it had been needlessly trying to appropriate the executive's turf by readily setting up "Committees to monitor the functioning of the administration".

It appears that the law makers are in an angry mood over multiple attempts to nibble at their territory. This feeling comes through even in the context of the Anna Hazare campaign over the Jan Lokpal Bill which, if implemented, will create a super body that will oversee the executive, the judiciary as well as the legislature. There is unanimity across party lines that the Anna Hazare Bill is unacceptable. Even if for academic purposes one would love to see the result of a parliamentary vote on the Anna Hazare Bill! It is doubtful whether votes in favour of the Jan Lokpal Bill will even log a low single digit.

In his reply on the Anna Hazare arrest in the Lok Sabha, home minister P Chidambaram described as untenable the formulation of some prominent civil society leaders that "people have faith in Parliament but not in parliamentarians".

Anna Hazare had earlier been taking the position that India's democratic process was flawed and that the electorate itself was corrupted by the largesse offered by political parties. Hazare had said this before the recent assembly elections. However, the Tamil Nadu polls proved him totally wrong as the people threw DMK out of power despite all the expensive goodies thrown at them.

The current situation can therefore be summed up as one in which the legislature and the executive are deeply distrustful of the judiciary, the judiciary is showing little faith in the executive and, finally, the civil society, as represented by team Anna, is showing no faith in the functioning of any of the other constitutional arms of the Indian State. This fundamental lack of trust in each other, if unresolved, is bound to create a political vacuum in the future. It could then become a recipe for undemocratic, even fascist, politics in the future. The most dangerous development is each one of these entities is seeking to blame "the other" for the all pervasive corruption in society. The need of the hour is for all of them to look inwards and then seek a renewal. As Mahatma Gandhi would have advised, there is no alternative to self-cleansing.







In his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made two important announcements, both relating to education. One affirmed the government's intention to improve the quality of education at various levels and appoint an Education Commission to go into the issues. The other outlined a plan to universalise secondary education as a follow-up to the enactment of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009 to benefit children in the age group of 14 - 16. ( The Hindu online edition, August 15, 2011).

Explaining the need for a fresh study of education at different levels, the Prime Minister said vocational education and skill development had acquired new importance and in view of such "major changes," the government had decided on appointing an Education Commission to go into all its aspects and recommend steps to give "quality education" at all levels.

The second announcement, the universalisation of secondary education (class 9 and class10), is no less important. The RTI Act provides for free and compulsory education only up to class 8. The universalisation of secondary education would make education up to class 10 free and compulsory.

In independent India, several commissions have submitted comprehensive reports and made specific suggestions for improving the quality of education. The Indian Education Commission (1964-66), or Kothari Commission, made excellent recommendations which included "expansion of educational facilities broadly on the basis of manpower needs with an accent on equalisation of educational opportunities, education of improving productivity, education for accelerating the process of modernisation, educating people of all straits of society." Interestingly, it favoured "introducing common school system of public education" and also "emphasising teaching of vocational subjects and science." As for the RTE, although it became an Act more than a year ago, not much has been done by way of implementation in most States. Many States have not even framed the relevant rules. It is vital to build public pressure on State governments to enforce the Act effectively and sincerely. But the uneven nature of the progress made need not stand in the way of extending the right to education to students of class 9 and 10.

In the Tamil Nadu school education case, the Supreme Court observed that the right of a child should not be restricted to free and compulsory education; it should be extended to access to quality education without any discrimination on the ground of their economic, social and cultural background. The judges also said that a common syllabus and a common curriculum were required to achieve the objectives of the Right to Education Act to provide free and compulsory education to every child in the age group of 6 to 14.

Quick judgment, good media coverage

The three-month-long ordeal of thousands of students in Tamil Nadu schools, who had to wait for their textbooks, came to an end in the third week of August. This was made possible by a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court, delivered in a relatively short time after hearing arguments on more than 10 writ appeals and petitions on the implementation of a State Act that aims to provide "samacheer kalvi" (equitable, standard education) in Tamil Nadu schools ("Implement Samacheer Kalvi in 10 days: Supreme Court," The Hindu , August 10, 2011) .

A striking aspect of this development was the wide-ranging media coverage of the events that followed Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's announcement that the second and final phase of "samacheer kalvi" under the Uniform System of School Education Act of Tamil Nadu, 2010 would not be taken up for implementation this year in classes 2 to 5 and 7 to 10. (The new system was introduced in class 1 and class 6 in the academic year 2010-2011.) She said that her government was not opposed to "samacheer kalvi" but found that parts of the textbook contents were substandard, so it wanted to make some modifications with a view to enriching the contents. She also felt that objectionable articles and photographs ought to be removed. The Act itself permitted that, she contended. The Act was amended through the passage of a bill in the State Assembly on June 7.

The decision to postpone the implementation of the Act triggered a controversy and the issue was taken to the High Court and later to the Supreme Court.

For nearly three months, not a day passed without newspapers, both English and Tamil, carrying elaborate reports on the subject, as families in cities and villages alike were affected and the uncertainty for schoolchildren and their parents continued for weeks on end. Newspapers published reports and pictures on the protest actions by teachers, students, and parents, besides youth and student organisations, and the police action against them in some places. Many newspapers published interviews and analyses by educationists and academics. Not surprisingly, the detailed reporting of the court proceedings on the subject in both Chennai and Delhi was well received across the State.

The Hindu provided informative coverage with pictures and Frontline had two long critical articles in two issues. The broadcast media also did not lag behind.

In its August 9 judgment, the Supreme Court upheld the order of the Madras High Court, which declared unconstitutional the changes brought into the Uniform System of School Education (USSE) Act of Tamil Nadu, 2010 (Act 2010) and struck down the amendment adopted by the State Assembly. The court gave 10 days to the State government to implement the Act and provide "samacheer kalvi" for children in classes 2 to 5 and 7 to 10. The Court held that there was no need to stop the functioning of the Act to modify or remove flawed contents in textbooks. The judges recalled that the Act 2010 had been cleared by both the High Court and the Supreme Court when it was challenged.

Under the Act, coming from four streams of education — the State, Matriculation, Anglo-Indian, and Oriental Boards — would be covered by a common syllabus and a common examination. Of the four, the matriculation schools are unique and are functioning only in Tamil Nadu. The matriculation schools in the State, which number 3,655, are self-financing, English medium schools that tend to collect higher, and in many cases hefty, fees from students.

The 'samacheer kalvi' system, which literally means equitable and standard education, has miles to go in meeting its twin objectives of providing equitable, quality education. In addition to the challenge of socio-economic disparities, unless issues relating to caste-based prejudice, community-based discrimination, and the gender bias, which have been allowed to grow over many decades, are addressed seriously and the progress is monitored objectively, equitable education will remain a far cry even in a relatively progressive State like Tamil Nadu.

As pointed out by Dr. S. Muthukumaran, a former Vice-Chancellor of Bharatidasan University, who headed the nine-member committee that facilitated the uniform system of school education, the provision of a common syllabus and common textbooks was only the first step in ensuring social justice and providing quality education in the schools.

Unfortunately, of the 109 recommendations he made to the State government in 2007, only four had been accepted. Unless infrastructural facilities in schools are improved, efficient, sincere, and well-qualified teachers are appointed, and a 1:30 teacher-student ratio is ensured, the system will not be able to deliver.

It is here that the news media can do much more by taking the message of equity, quality, and access to the people, especially in small towns and rural areas, and raise awareness on the issues at stake. The actual follow-up on the government's promise to expand the Right to Education to children in the age group 15-16 needs extensive coverage and close monitoring by the print and broadcast media .





German Chancellor Angela Merkel is insisting that introducing eurozone-wide government bonds wouldn't solve the current debt crisis.

Merkel also said in an interview with ZDF television broadcast on August 21 that she saw "nothing that points to a recession in Germany," which has Europe's biggest economy, after growth cooled in the second quarter. Germany has led opposition to so-called eurobonds, viewed by some as a logical solution to the debt crisis that has pushed up troubled countries' borrowing costs. But critics say they would drive up financially solid nations' costs and encourage others to run up more debt. — AP





In coming down heavily on the Uttar Pradesh government order suspending the screening of the Hindi film Aarakshan , which deals with issues of caste and reservation, the Supreme Court of India has struck another blow for freedom of expression and against the tendency of the state to resort to censorship at the first sign of political protest. Importantly, the court held that the government had no power to suspend screening of a film that had been cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification. The CBFC, or censor board, is an empowered regulatory body constituted to view, rate, and censor objectionable portions of a film prior to its release. To seek to ban or suspend the screening of a film certified by the censor board under the procedure established by law (in this case, the Cinematograph Act 1952) goes against the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution — and is a threat to democratic dissent and artistic creativity. Hearteningly, the court found no merit in the contention that screening the film would cause a breach of peace and law and order. Besides pointing to the fact that the film had been released without difficulty in other parts of the country, the judges referred to the landmark Supreme Court judgment in the 1989 Ore oru gramathile case and ruled that it was for the state to maintain law and order and that "it shall maintain law and order effectively and meaningfully." No democratic society can allow unreasonable restrictions on the freedom of expression under cover of maintaining public order.

As for the merits of the contention that a high-level committee appointed by the Uttar Pradesh government had recommended suspension of the film on the ground that it dealt with the sensitive issue of reservation, the Supreme Court was categorical that public discussion on such social issues was necessary in a vibrant democracy, and that informed decisions could be taken on the basis of such discussion and dissent. On the other hand, shutting out discussion on sensitive social issues, far from aiding public order, would have the effect of deepening social divides and breeding public unrest. Political stability and public order, it is clear, cannot be bought at the cost of freedom of expression and right to dissent. Successive Supreme Court rulings on the issue, which draw force from Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, should deter governments from going down this road again under pressure from organised groups or special interests or for any other reason. The Hindu hopes that Aarakshan will be the last film to face a ban in India.




Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak's announcement of a joint Israeli-Egyptian inquiry into the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) helicopter attack, which killed five Egyptian policemen on August 18, marks Israel's belated and grudging recognition of new ground realities in the region. Mr. Barak's contemptuous initial comment was that the IDF's intended target — Gazans who had apparently crossed into Egypt's Sinai peninsula and then into Israel to carry out attacks near Eilat — had exposed Cairo's inability to control Sinai. The forceful Egyptian reaction, however, made Israel think and Mr. Barak has even expressed regret over the policemen's deaths. Egypt threatened to recall its Ambassador to Israel; it demanded an apology and compensation, and summoned the Israeli Ambassador to receive a formal protest. The Egyptian public, for its part, mounted angry demonstrations outside Israel's Cairo Embassy. And Amr Moussa, former head of the League of Arab States and an Egyptian presidential candidate, declared that Israel must realise that the day "our sons get killed without a strong and appropriate response is gone and will not come back."

The issues go far beyond both Israel's need for Egyptian cooperation to ensure its own security and its dependence on natural gas from the trans-Sinai pipeline — which has been sabotaged several times. The key point is that the Zionist state, which makes much of being a democracy surrounded by dictatorships and despotic monarchies, is finding it very difficult to respond to the changes in Egypt. For nearly 33 years after it signed the Camp David agreement with Egypt, Israel could rely on the autocratic rule of Anwar Sadat and the even more brutal regime of Hosni Mubarak to enforce a one-sided arrangement whereby Egyptian governments avoided any mention of justice for the Palestinians, suppressed internal dissent as well as public support for the Palestinian cause, and restricted their troop deployments in the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt may currently have a military government rather than a full-fledged democracy, but the Tahrir Square protests that removed Mr. Mubarak from office have made the new rulers in Cairo much more responsive to public feeling about their relations with their neighbour. Secondly, the traditional inhabitants of Sinai, the Bedouins, are now demanding redress for what they consider to be decades of discriminatory treatment by the majority Egyptian culture. In the rapidly expanding Egyptian public space, such issues will be increasingly articulated. Going by the evidence, it is clear that the idea of democratic states for neighbours is something Israel cannot handle.





The execution of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev in March 1931 saw a spontaneous outpouring of sympathy for the revolutionaries and protest against the British government across Tamil Nadu.

Be it in Arcot or Coonoor or Dindigul or Devakottai or Kodavasal or Nagapattinam or Panruti or Srirangam or Tindivanam or Tuticorin, people expressed their feelings. Hartals , public meetings, hoisting of black flags and processions were held, a perusal of issues of The Hindu in late March 1931 reveals.

Eminent historian Chaman Lal's compilation of rare documents on Bhagat Singh threw light on the revolutionary's inspiring facets and his impact on the people in different regions of the country.

In Madras

On March 24, 1931, when Madras woke to the news of the execution, carried out in Lahore the previous evening, traders of the Kotwal Bazaar, China Bazaar, Rattan Bazaar and Godown Street immediately closed their shops. Black flags were hoisted on several buildings.

In the evening, a large number of people including women turned up for a public meeting at the Tilak Ghat on the Marina, then called Triplicane Beach. Processions from George Town, Triplicane and other parts of the city terminated at the meeting venue and those who took part in the processions carried the national flag, black flags and the picture of Bhagat Singh. The meeting began with rendering of national songs in Tamil, Hindi and Urdu.

Chaired by freedom fighter Vellore Kuppuswami Mudaliar, the meeting adopted a resolution, admiring the patriotic spirit and noble sacrifice of the three martyrs and condemning the government for having disturbed the atmosphere of peace created by the Gandhi-Irwin pact signed on March 5, 1931.

One speaker said however much one might disagree with the school of thought represented by Bhagat Singh and the other two, one could not help admiring their courage, patriotism and sacrifice.

In Coimbatore, members of the Congress party took out a black flag procession. Students of the Government College-High School came out of their classes. The Pollachi Municipal Council passed an urgent resolution, regretting the execution, before adjourning its meeting.

Hours before the execution, a public meeting at Tenkasi called upon the British government to stay it and commute the death sentence awarded to the three revolutionaries. At Kancheepuram, an organisation — the Conjeevaram Youth League — took out a procession from the Deverajaswami temple [of Vishnu or Chinna Kanchi] to the Javulikadai choultry in support of the demand for commutation of the death sentence.

On March 25, a huge silent procession was taken out through the main streets of Madurai, the State's important city in the south. A public meeting was held at Mayyamandapam on the Vaigai river bed. A. Vaidyanatha Aiyar, who presided, said the sense of grief was so great that all celebrations, originally planned for the successful conclusion of the Gandhi-Irwin pact, were abandoned.

The same day, a complete hartal was observed at Sankarankoil. At Thanjavur, a public meeting adopted a resolution, describing the execution as a "grave blunder." When the resolution was passed, the entire gathering stood up.

The next day, Madurai and Tirunelveli observed a total bandh.

For some more days, people in different parts of the State continued to express their condemnation of the execution.

Years have rolled by. Still, the legacy of Bhagat Singh lives in Tamil Nadu. In many parts of the State, his services for the cause of freedom are remembered on his death anniversary every year.





The Dravidar Kazhagam founder 'Periyar' E.V. Ramasamy (EVR), who admired Bhagat Singh's political views, felt the manner in which he implemented his plans was erroneous and drew on his sacrifice to oppose Mahatma Gandhi.

He wrote an editorial hailing the sacrifice of Bhagat Singh in his journal, Kudiarasu , of March 29, 1931, saying he gave his life for the noble cause of showing to India, nay to the world, the real equality and peace.

Historian Chaman Lal, who has compiled rare documents on Bhagat Singh, found the editorial written by Periyar in Kudiarasu . At his request, an English translation was done and published in the Rationalist .

EVR wrote:"The day when Gandhi said God alone guides him, that Varnashramadharma is superior system fit to govern the affairs of the world and that everything happening according to God's will, we came to the conclusion that there is no difference between Gandhism and Brahminism. We also concluded unless the Congress party that subscribes to such philosophy and principle is abolished it will not be good to the country. But now this fact has been found out at least by some of the people. They have gained wisdom and courage to call for the downfall of Gandhism. This is a great victory to our cause.

"If Bhagat Singh had not died by hanging, there would not have been any chance for this victory to take place in a popular manner. We even venture to say that Gandhism would have gained more ground if he had not been hanged. Bhagat Singh had not fallen sick, suffered and died as it normally happens with people. He gave his life for the noble cause of showing to India, nay to the world, the path of equality and peace. We applaud and sing of his martyrdom from the depth of our heart. At the same time we request those in our government to find out and hang four true persons like Bhagat Singh in each of the provinces."

Known for his forthright expression of views, EVR said he was sad because he could not get the rare chance, which, he said, had delivered Bhagat Singh from the agony of watching the activities of the "idiots and fools who selfishly seek their honour."

EVR reiterated that he was in full agreement with Bhagat Singh's ideas, but felt "he had erred a little in choosing the means to translate his principles into practice."

"The issue is whether a man has done his duty or not. The issue is not whether the action has borne fruit. Yet we agree that we should do our duty, taking into account the time and place of the action. We are sure time, place and the general trend not hostile to the principle upheld by Bhagat Singh. Though it occurs to our mind that he has erred a little in choosing the means to translate his principle into practice. We will never at anytime be emboldened to say that his principle is flawed one," he argued, saying "we would not have called him an honest man if he had not conducted himself only in the way he had found just."

Periyar also recalled Bhagat Singh's letter to the Punjab Governor to reiterate his support for the ideas of socialism and atheism.

Prof. Lal also obtained Bhagat Singh's article 'Why I am an atheist' in Tamil translated by P. Jeevanandam, which was published by Periyar in Kudiarasu in 1935.

According to Prof. Lal, at one time after Partition, the English copy of this essay was not found anywhere. It was then retranslated from Tamil to English, and some websites still carry the retranslated English version of this essay. But the original publication was found and it is now preserved in the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi in microfilm form.

Jeevanandam was then working together with the DK leader in the Self-Respect movement. The British government arrested both Jeevanandam and E.V.Krishnasamy, publisher and EVR's brother. They were released after the two tendered an apology at the behest of Periyar.

Later, EVR himself wrote an article in Kudiarasu , explaining that it was he who forced them to submit an apology and they could not be faulted for their action.

Dravidar Kazhagam general secretary Kali Poonguntran said the incident created a wedge between Periyar and Jeevanandam, who quit the Self Respect Movement to join the Congress.

Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam president Kolathur Mani, who was instrumental in re-publishing Kudiarasu , said EVR's aversion to the Congress was no secret as he regarded the party and its leader Gandhi as proponents of Varnashrama dharma.

EVR reiterated that he was in full agreement with Bhagat Singh's ideas, but felt 'he had erred a little in choosing the means to translate his principles into practice.'





If what we're watching on TV is indeed a revolution, then it has to be one of the more embarrassing and unintelligible ones of recent times. For now, whatever questions you may have about the Jan Lokpal Bill, here are the answers you're likely to get: tick the box — (a) Vande Mataram (b) Bharat Mata ki Jai (c) India is Anna, Anna is India (d) Jai Hind.

For completely different reasons, and in completely different ways, you could say that the Maoists and the Jan Lokpal Bill have one thing in common — they both seek the overthrow of the Indian State. One working from the bottom up, by means of an armed struggle, waged by a largely adivasi army, made up of the poorest of the poor. The other, from the top down, by means of a bloodless Gandhian coup, led by a freshly minted saint, and an army of largely urban, and certainly better off people. (In this one, the Government collaborates by doing everything it possibly can to overthrow itself.)

In April 2011, a few days into Anna Hazare's first "fast unto death," searching for some way of distracting attention from the massive corruption scams which had battered its credibility, the Government invited Team Anna, the brand name chosen by this "civil society" group, to be part of a joint drafting committee for a new anti-corruption law. A few months down the line it abandoned that effort and tabled its own bill in Parliament, a bill so flawed that it was impossible to take seriously.

Then, on August 16th, the morning of his second "fast unto death," before he had begun his fast or committed any legal offence, Anna Hazare was arrested and jailed. The struggle for the implementation of the Jan Lokpal Bill now coalesced into a struggle for the right to protest, the struggle for democracy itself. Within hours of this 'Second Freedom Struggle,' Anna was released. Cannily, he refused to leave prison, but remained in Tihar jail as an honoured guest, where he began a fast, demanding the right to fast in a public place. For three days, while crowds and television vans gathered outside, members of Team Anna whizzed in and out of the high security prison, carrying out his video messages, to be broadcast on national TV on all channels. (Which other person would be granted this luxury?) Meanwhile 250 employees of the Municipal Commission of Delhi, 15 trucks, and six earth movers worked around the clock to ready the slushy Ramlila grounds for the grand weekend spectacle. Now, waited upon hand and foot, watched over by chanting crowds and crane-mounted cameras, attended to by India's most expensive doctors, the third phase of Anna's fast to the death has begun. "From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, India is One," the TV anchors tell us.

While his means may be Gandhian, Anna Hazare's demands are certainly not. Contrary to Gandhiji's ideas about the decentralisation of power, the Jan Lokpal Bill is a draconian, anti-corruption law, in which a panel of carefully chosen people will administer a giant bureaucracy, with thousands of employees, with the power to police everybody from the Prime Minister, the judiciary, members of Parliament, and all of the bureaucracy, down to the lowest government official. The Lokpal will have the powers of investigation, surveillance, and prosecution. Except for the fact that it won't have its own prisons, it will function as an independent administration, meant to counter the bloated, unaccountable, corrupt one that we already have. Two oligarchies, instead of just one.

Whether it works or not depends on how we view corruption. Is corruption just a matter of legality, of financial irregularity and bribery, or is it the currency of a social transaction in an egregiously unequal society, in which power continues to be concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller minority? Imagine, for example, a city of shopping malls, on whose streets hawking has been banned. A hawker pays the local beat cop and the man from the municipality a small bribe to break the law and sell her wares to those who cannot afford the prices in the malls. Is that such a terrible thing? In future will she have to pay the Lokpal representative too? Does the solution to the problems faced by ordinary people lie in addressing the structural inequality, or in creating yet another power structure that people will have to defer to?

Meanwhile the props and the choreography, the aggressive nationalism and flag waving of Anna's Revolution are all borrowed, from the anti-reservation protests, the world-cup victory parade, and the celebration of the nuclear tests. They signal to us that if we do not support The Fast, we are not 'true Indians.' The 24-hour channels have decided that there is no other news in the country worth reporting.

'The Fast' of course doesn't mean Irom Sharmila's fast that has lasted for more than ten years (she's being force fed now) against the AFSPA, which allows soldiers in Manipur to kill merely on suspicion. It does not mean the relay hunger fast that is going on right now by ten thousand villagers in Koodankulam protesting against the nuclear power plant. 'The People' does not mean the Manipuris who support Irom Sharmila's fast. Nor does it mean the thousands who are facing down armed policemen and mining mafias in Jagatsinghpur, or Kalinganagar, or Niyamgiri, or Bastar, or Jaitapur. Nor do we mean the victims of the Bhopal gas leak, or the people displaced by dams in the Narmada Valley. Nor do we mean the farmers in NOIDA, or Pune or Haryana or elsewhere in the country, resisting the takeover of the land.

'The People' only means the audience that has gathered to watch the spectacle of a 74-year-old man threatening to starve himself to death if his Jan Lokpal Bill is not tabled and passed by Parliament. 'The People' are the tens of thousands who have been miraculously multiplied into millions by our TV channels, like Christ multiplied the fishes and loaves to feed the hungry. "A billion voices have spoken," we're told. "India is Anna."

Who is he really, this new saint, this Voice of the People? Oddly enough we've heard him say nothing about things of urgent concern. Nothing about the farmer's suicides in his neighbourhood, or about Operation Green Hunt further away. Nothing about Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh, nothing about Posco, about farmer's agitations or the blight of SEZs. He doesn't seem to have a view about the Government's plans to deploy the Indian Army in the forests of Central India.

He does however support Raj Thackeray's Marathi Manoos xenophobia and has praised the 'development model' of Gujarat's Chief Minister who oversaw the 2002 pogrom against Muslims. (Anna withdrew that statement after a public outcry, but presumably not his admiration.)

Despite the din, sober journalists have gone about doing what journalists do. We now have the back-story about Anna's old relationship with the RSS. We have heard from Mukul Sharma who has studied Anna's village community in Ralegan Siddhi, where there have been no Gram Panchayat or Co-operative society elections in the last 25 years. We know about Anna's attitude to 'harijans': "It was Mahatma Gandhi's vision that every village should have one chamar, one sunar, one kumhar and so on. They should all do their work according to their role and occupation, and in this way, a village will be self-dependant. This is what we are practicing in Ralegan Siddhi." Is it surprising that members of Team Anna have also been associated with Youth for Equality, the anti-reservation (pro-"merit") movement? The campaign is being handled by people who run a clutch of generously funded NGOs whose donors include Coca-Cola and the Lehman Brothers. Kabir, run by Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, key figures in Team Anna, has received $400,000 from the Ford Foundation in the last three years. Among contributors to the India Against Corruption campaign there are Indian companies and foundations that own aluminum plants, build ports and SEZs, and run Real Estate businesses and are closely connected to politicians who run financial empires that run into thousands of crores of rupees. Some of them are currently being investigated for corruption and other crimes. Why are they all so enthusiastic?

Remember the campaign for the Jan Lokpal Bill gathered steam around the same time as embarrassing revelations by Wikileaks and a series of scams, including the 2G spectrum scam, broke, in which major corporations, senior journalists, and government ministers and politicians from the Congress as well as the BJP seem to have colluded in various ways as hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees were being siphoned off from the public exchequer. For the first time in years, journalist-lobbyists were disgraced and it seemed as if some major Captains of Corporate India could actually end up in prison. Perfect timing for a people's anti-corruption agitation. Or was it?

At a time when the State is withdrawing from its traditional duties and Corporations and NGOs are taking over government functions (water supply, electricity, transport, telecommunication, mining, health, education); at a time when the terrifying power and reach of the corporate owned media is trying to control the public imagination, one would think that these institutions — the corporations, the media, and NGOs — would be included in the jurisdiction of a Lokpal bill. Instead, the proposed bill leaves them out completely.

Now, by shouting louder than everyone else, by pushing a campaign that is hammering away at the theme of evil politicians and government corruption, they have very cleverly let themselves off the hook. Worse, by demonising only the Government they have built themselves a pulpit from which to call for the further withdrawal of the State from the public sphere and for a second round of reforms — more privatisation, more access to public infrastructure and India's natural resources. It may not be long before Corporate Corruption is made legal and renamed a Lobbying Fee.

Will the 830 million people living on Rs.20 a day really benefit from the strengthening of a set of policies that is impoverishing them and driving this country to civil war?

This awful crisis has been forged out of the utter failure of India's representative democracy, in which the legislatures are made up of criminals and millionaire politicians who have ceased to represent its people. In which not a single democratic institution is accessible to ordinary people. Do not be fooled by the flag waving. We're watching India being carved up in war for suzerainty that is as deadly as any battle being waged by the warlords of Afghanistan, only with much, much more at stake.

While his means maybe Gandhian, his demands are certainly not.








Aside from the corruption that shadows our politics and politicians, the slow pace of justice, redress mechanisms that don't work, and the cumbersome processes involved in prosecuting those against whom wrongdoing and financial irregularity is alleged, remain as much part of 21st-century India as IBM and Infosys.

It is the latter, which glitters and races ahead with seven-league boots, that has now come around to interrogating the slow-paced, corruption-ridden country. We don't need to look far for reasons. An example serves us well here. It has been reported that the Central Bureau of Investigation is awaiting the sanction of the Centre and state governments to investigate as many as 279 allegations of taint against various officials. The wait is already unconscionably long, and there is no word from these governments which just don't move quickly enough even when well-intentioned, as in the case of the one headed by Dr Manmohan Singh. No wonder the ranks of Anna Hazare supporters are swelling in our major cities, and among Indians living abroad, while the government appears to be at sea.
But it must act and not look lost or helpless. It is duty-bound to defend the democratic Constitution that has brought it to office. That means delivering doorstep justice, which is not possible without rooting out the causes of corruption. It also means rising to protect our much-vaunted institutions of democracy, such as Parliament and the judiciary, that demagogues and some politicians seek to opportunistically run down in their desire to hunt with the hound now that they are done with running with the hare.
Ordinary citizens are duty-bound to demand their democratic rights from the government. But taking heart from the government's current plight, and its inability to protect our institutions, can become a dangerous navel-gazing proposition, should things go seriously wrong. The context provides little comfort. While in some parts of the world — notably West Asia — people have risen up to demand democracy from dictators, in India we might just be gearing up to move in the opposite direction. Power drawn from the streets is sought to be mobilised to distort the institution of Parliament that emerged from the vision of our freedom fighters, and scuttle a government answerable to that Parliament. To some, this might look like using corruption as an alibi for system change if we are not watchful. Government employees were first exhorted to take mass leave. Now people are being urged to gherao the houses of their MPs, ministers and the Prime Minister to compel them to consider only the Anna Hazare committee draft of the Lokpal Bill. Tomorrow a fundamentalist group may unleash a similar demand. How wrong-headed can democracy-seekers get?







In a recent seminar in Beijing, Masood Khan, Pakistani Ambassador in China said, "Our two nations will continue to fight the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. Our solidarity in this regard is rock solid…." He does not see the two-decade-old uprising of 18 million Sunni-Hanafi Muslim Uighurs of that region as a nationalist uprising seeking religious, political, social and economic freedom for the oil and gas rich province of Sinkiang, which comprises 16 % of China's total geographical area. Such a statement is not unexpected of a running dog of Chinese hegemony.
After annexing the historical Eastern Turkistan in 1949, China pursued two important aspects of her policy for this ethnic, religious and social group different from the vast majority in China mainland. One was to gradually change the demographic complexion by resettling Han Chinese in the province where the Uighurs hitherto enjoyed absolute majority. Today the two ethnic groups are evenly balanced but with Han preponderance. The second was to obliterate Muslim identity of the Uighurs and invade their Islamic culture to be replaced by combined communist and Chinese ethos. Chinese was made the medium of instruction, construction of new mosques was frozen, books on history, religion and culture of Islam were burnt in thousands, and the more recent example is of Kashghar Publication House where over one thousand books on these subjects were destroyed. Recurrent riots during past two decades were essentially reaction of Uighurs to the attempts of demolishing their identity, culture, language, economy and demographic complexion. Their economy stands stifled and their trade avenues blocked. Today there is Chinese security in almost every house in Kashghar. All public places, railway stations, airports, market place, squares, parks, play grounds in most of the Xinjinag province witness massive presence of Chinese Han police and security personnel turning entire Sinkiang into a battleground of sorts.
All this has not been of any concern to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a state created for the protection of the interests of the Muslims. The same Pakistan has now officially labeled 18 million Muslim Uighurs, struggling for protection of their rights as an autonomous ethnic group, as terrorists against whom she will gird up loins and fight against side by side with their oppressors for the sake of her masters in Beijing.
Will this double speak go down the throat of the Chinese? Khan's comments came against the backdrop of allegations by the municipal government in Kashghar in Xinjiang that leaders of ETIM who carried out the attacks in the city close to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) last month were trained in terror camps in Pakistan. Chinese officials claimed that seven of the Uighur terrorists captured alive in Kashghar incident confessed they were trained in terrorist training camps in Pakistan. In a White Paper issued some times back by Beijing on situation in Xinjiang, two full paragraphs pertained to the role of Pakistani fundamentalist-terrorist organizations in instigating Uighur separatism and fuelling the uprising there. It was as early as 2002 that Beijing began to suspect Pakistani terrorist hand in Uighur turmoil. In the wake of exacerbated riots in many towns of Sinkiang like Kashghar, Yarkand, Aksu, Khotan and Karamy more than 400 persons were done to death, with 100 in Kashghar alone, and with increasing evidence coming to the hands of authorities in Beijing, President Jintao called Pak President Zardari and demanded an explanation. Though inside story of this telephonic talk is not known but it is anybody's surmise that they talked seriously about Pakistani organizations exporting terror to Sinking. Unnerved by the call from Beijing, Zardari immediately dispatched the ISI Chief to China where he, in his usual way, tried to mollify the Chinese by trading the plethora of untruths and falsehoods.
Pakistan's outright commitment to help China suppress and destroy the East Turkistan Islamic Movement is the unassailable proof that the ruling oligarchs in Pakistan are not bothered about faith and the Islamic ummah whose custodian they claim to be, but only to serve their self-interests of remaining glued to the seats of power. What sort of Islamic brotherhood is it? Why does not the OIC raise its voice on the plight of the Uighurs and whey does it not pass resolution against China as it does each time when it meets, against India on Kashmir. Let Kashmiris compare their freedom of faith, speech, movement and press and platform with what is given to the 18 million Uighur Sunni Muslims of Sinkiang. The comparison will help them to judges better of what their mentors across the border want them to do.







Countrymen! Let us salute the gallant soldiers who fought Pakistani armed infiltrators in village Izmarg, Bagtoor-Kanzalwan in Gurez sector, and let us pay homage to 26 year old Lt. Navdeep Singh who laid down his life defending the country in the fierce fire fight. This was not a simple infiltration; it was a small scale Pakistani commando attack on our forward post planned, equipped and executed with professional precision. Pakistanis were in their black commando uniform, carrying most sophisticated arms and communication system. Crossing the high speed Kishanganga waters in Pneumatic Boat with inflated two 5-man Denghy boats is what the regular Sappers and Miners of an Army usually do to ferry troops across turbulent rivers. This repulsion of Pakistani night assault in which 12 enemy soldiers were killed shows the alertness of our troops and commanders to protect the borders of the country. C-in-C Northern Command had recently said that if Pakistan dared to do some mischief it would be punished adequately. With new and sophisticated arms and equipment, and with renewed strategies and reinforced determination, Army jawans have given a new direction to combating terrorist attacks from across the border. This is the right answer to Pakistan's perfidy. The Army has won the praise and good will of the entire nation for the bravery it has demonstrated and will demonstrate in future as well. Countrymen have a reason to be proud of our army. The language which the 15 Corps jawans and commanders have used against the perfidious infiltrators in Gurez sector is the right language that Pakistanis will have to understand now and in future. We need not pull the hotline between commanders, we need not register complaints with Pakistani mission, and we need not summon their diplomats to a demarche. Let us be realists and let Bagtoor incident be our guide and inspirer.







Janmashtami also known as Gokulashtami marks the celebration of the birth of Lord Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna was born in the 'Rohini' nakshatram (star) to King Vasudeva and Devaki Devi on the eighth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Sravana. This festival is also known as Sri Krishna Jayanti and Krishnashtmi. The actual day of celebration can be on two different days as the star 'Rohini' and Ashtami may not be on the same day. These days correspond to the August and September months on the Gregorian calendar.
Sri Krishna is considered as the eighth avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu's, (one of three major Hindu Gods) on earth. He is considered to be the Lord's most glorious incarnations. It is said that his remembrance true heart brings extreme joy and pleasure because Sri Krishna himself was a manifestation of joy at all levels and in all walks of life. No other God in the Hindu pantheon, or for that matter in any other religion, is associated with so many romantic tales and so fully radiating with all the divine attributes as Sri Krishna.
Since Sri Krishna lived in luxury throughout his life, Sri Krishna Jayanti is celebrated with pomp and splendor. Plenty of sweets are made on this day. Among these are laddus (yellu oonde), chakli, cheedai, payasam (kheer), and so on. In addition, plenty of milk products especially butter, which was Sri Krishna's favorite childhood food, is given in offerings. A wide variety of fruits are also offered. The most common sweets made laddus and payasam.
Great indeed are his many Leelas and the way in which he charms one and all. Several sages and seers have paid homage to him. Narada, Sri Kulashekara Azhwar, Andal, Tirumangai Azhawar, Nammazhwar have sung glorious verses in praise of Lord Krishna who embodies Shudda Satvam. The Bhagavad Gita coming from the Lord is the absolute truth which has withstood the test of time and has formed the basis and inspiration for many Acharyas and Azhwars.
The life and message of Sri Krishna is the most stirring saga of one of the greatest saviour and profounder of Dharma. Born in the dungeons of Kansa who was out to kill him at the very moment of his birth, Sri Krishna's life is replete with many such mortal dangers which he successfully triumphs over. He was the unchallenged hero of his times both in terms of his bodily prowess and his intellectual brilliance.
Sri Krishna Jayanti, therefore, signifies not merely the birth of a great and Divine teacher of mankind in some distant past but the lighting of the spark of the Divine Power in every one of us, which spurs us on to play our dynamic part in this world of practical and hard realities with a sense of high spiritual purpose. Krishna represents the total power of attraction (Aakarshna Shakti) like a magnet of infinite rise. Hence Krishna is the source of joy.
The cultural aspects are represented by the traditionally dressed devotees. The raas or dance is also done with devotees taking part with spiritual fervor. Sri Krishna who manifests all levels of joy, is also the source of spiritual joy, which overrides mental or emotional joy, just as emotional joy overrides physical joy. If all the three are integrated and interdependent, then the observance of the festival takes on the full meaning of Sri Krishnaarpanamastu - let everything be offered to Sri Krishna.
(Courtesy: festivals.







Education is indeed the very foundation of a society which brings economic wealth, social prosperity and political stability. A modern and well developed society can become a possibility when quality of education is improved. In other words education is the very basis of development for a modern society and in this connection the role of technical education is very important.
Technical Education plays a pivotal role in human resource development of the country by creating skilled manpower, enhancing industrial productivity and improving the quality of life. It offers many courses and programmes in engineering, technology, management, architecture, town planning, pharmacy and applied arts and crafts, hotel management and catering technology.
In our country there are many institutes which offer technical education. These institutions are funded by the Central Government, State Government/State-funded Institutions and Self-financed Institutions. Among them, there are 79 centrally funded Institutes of Technical & Science Education.
Several new measures have been taken to implement the Government vision of providing increased access with equity and excellence. Eight new IITs, four new IIMs and ten new NITs have been set up and are functional. IIMs at Udaypur and Kashipur would become functional from 2011-12.
Technical Education through different Programme envisages strengthening the Institutions to produce high quality engineers for better employability, establish Centers of Excellence for focused applicable research, training of faculty for effective teaching, enhancing Institutional and system Management effectiveness.
The Centrally funded technical Institutions have also implemented Central Educational Institutions (Reservations in Admission) Act, 2006 from the year 2007-08 which provides 15%, 7-1/2% and 27% reservation in admission for SCs, STs and OBCs respectively. In the Scheme of Community Development through polytechnics, preference is given to training of rural youths/SCs/STs, women, school dropouts and other disadvantaged groups and helps them to obtain need based gainful employment. Scheme for upgrading existing polytechnics to integrate the physically disabled has also been formulated with the aim to integrate physically disabled persons into the mainstream through technical and vocational education. The objective of the Polytechnics under coordinated action for skill development is to enhance employment oriented skilled man power through them. Under the scheme, financial assistance is provided to the State/UT Governments for setting up of 300 new Polytechnics. Out of 300 Polytechnics, financial assistance has been provided to the existing Government/Government aided Polytechnics for strengthening of infrastructure facility and also for construction of women's hostel. Under the scheme of construction of women's hostel in Polytechnics, financial assistance has been provided to the existing Government/Government aided polytechnic in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and North-East region. Financial assistance has also been provided to 18 districts of Jammu & Kashmir and 27 districts of North-East Region for establishment of new Polytechnics under the scheme of establishment of new polytechnic in the country in unserved and underserved districts.
In the North-East Region of the country several technical institution like Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (Assam); Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management (RGIIM) Shillong, (Meghalaya); National Institute of Technology (NIT) Silchar (Assam); National Institute of Technology (NIT) Agartala (Tripura); North Eastern Regional Institute of Science & Technology (NERIST), Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh); and Central Institute of Technology (CIT), Kokrajhar (Assam) are taking care of the higher education
Since technical education is a key enabler of growth in the country's economy, it has to adopt a facilitating approach to make technical education accessible, affordable and accountable. A need was felt to introduce flexibility and mobility in the system by inviting public – private partnership for funding. The focus of AICTE is now on decentralized decision making the various reforms introduced in the administrative procedures include strengthening of office procedures improvement in security measures and introduction of e-Governance for enhanced transparency, clarity, easy and assured communication.
Technical Education provides various facilities and promotes development in the country in a coordinated and integrated manner. All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) was set-up in November 1945 as a national level Apex Advisory Body. In the National Policy of Education (1986), AICTE was vested with statutory authority for planning, formulation and maintenance of norms and standards, quality assurance through accreditation, funding in priority areas, monitoring and evaluation, maintaining parity of certification and awards and ensuring coordinated and integrated development and management of technical education in the country.The purview of AICTE (the Council) covers programmes of technical education including training and research in Engineering & Technology, Architecture & Town Planning, Management, Pharmacy, Applied Arts and Crafts, Hotel Management and Catering Technology (HMCT) etc. at different level.
There are several schemes for faculty development, namely, Quality Improvement Programme (QIP), Career Award for Young Teachers (CAVT), Emeritus Fellowship, Visiting Professorship, Seminar Grant, Travel Grant, Staff Development Programme, National Doctoral Fellowship, AICTE-INAE Distinguished Visiting Professorship and Financial Assistance to Professional Societies/Bodies. Under the Quality Improvement Programme (QIP), faculty members of degree level institutions are given opportunity to upgrade their qualifications to Master's and Ph.D. levels. Under the Scheme QIP (polytechnic), polytechnic teachers can pursue Master's degree programmes.
In an effort to bring in transparency, accountability, efficiency and swiftness in its decision-making process AICTE has launched the web portals of the AICTE and National Board of Accreditation (NBA) at URL:// and URL:// Some other significant initiatives taken by the AICTE are: Enhancement in seats in Engineering and Management Institutions, Reduction in land requirement norms in Metro & Mega Cities; Establishment of National Board of Accreditation (NBA), as an independent Body of AICTE, for making it eligible for full membership of Washington Accord; Providing 25% flexibility to Management Institutions in allocation of seats amongst different disciplines of Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM),Co-option of foreign Experts on Academic Boards; Conducting of fist Gradual Pharmacy Aptitude Test (GPAT) for Pharmacy Graduates through MS University, Baroda.






The sky thundered and I wondered what was it upto. Before I could crack my brains it roared to its crescendo and lo! tiny drops of water came pouring down. I peeped out of my window, jumped out of the bed and scampered towards the verandah. The familiar smell suffused in the ambience and a whiff of chilled air came filtering through the rain droplets. A cool sensation stirred up in me tempting me to wallow in the pluvial grandeur.
The monsoon has set in and so has the expectations. The hot June has just passed by but to come to remind of its scorching days, it still spring flutters in the mind. How would I forget when my water cooler blew blazing air into the room discarding disloyally its dutiful principles. The electricity played truant like we did in our school days. Time has its own way of taking revenge, so they say.
Before I forget the fretful days of searing June-the rains outside fall in cats and dogs. Temptation bears upon me and before I undress myself- the chip of the same block-my offspring Harry takes the lead and splurges on the rains like a maniac. Thumping his feet in slosh, mimicry printed on his cherubic face he signals me to share the rare. And it is not long when my scrawny legs begin gyrating to the tunes of bucketing down rains. We dad and son, keep on prancing and dancing until my ''bitter'' half in her incorrigible tone yells at me from inside ....Halt!.....and there we are surrendering to the command, back under the roof.
Familiar tangy fumes of Pakoras emanate from the kitchen and diffuse in the air to our nostrils. Globules of viscous saliva dribble down our lips. It is not late when my Shrimati barges in the room with a tray decorated with the expected. I glance gleefully at the rains, feeling now the cool temperature overpowering me. The fan overhead, in the reversal of roles spins spewing chilly air. The setting is perfected when a steaming cup of tea fills the slot. My son smiles sagaciously, I too wag my head in rapture.
Allergy to rains, however, remains many a person's persistent phobia. Lacking aesthetic sense they always curse heavens for His untimely outburst which destroys their jogging schedules and outdoor engagements, some are too timid to face the ''Almighty's tears''. And the one of this kind bumped into me the other day out in the market.The bumpkin checked in under my umbrella uninvited while it was drizzling. He flung freely a plethora of abuses at the taciturn rains. The rain Gods were perhaps angered. They tumbled down more vigorously. The chirpy friend of mine took hold of the stick of the umbrella and shoved me partially out in the showers. Half of my body was flushed with diagonally falling downpour.
Yet I never curse the rains. For they are my friends...friends to be shared, to be felt, to be devoured. O, my friend, come down from the heaven and embrace me in your open arms every moment, every day. Please do not delay...listen....hey !!!








Inequality is increasing across the world. The widespread support to people's agitation of Anna Hazare despite implementation of NREGA is due to this. Recent riots in England are also being attributed to the disaffection in the underclass. This is happening despite the world economy having enjoyed unparalleled prosperity since the Second World War and poverty having been substantially eliminated.
Why should high growth rate have such a negative effect? In a paper titled "Classical Economics on Limits to Growth", Khalid Saeed of Worcester Polytechnic Institute says that economic growth indeed leads to higher production and the demand for labour increases. But simultaneously an increase in the population leads to increased supply of workers and the wages do not rise. The price of labour, like other commodities, is determined by the balance of supply and demand. Economic growth leads to increased demand and, in normal circumstances, this should lead to higher wages. But wages decline if the supply increases more just as the price of tomatoes in the market declines despite higher demand if there is a huge supply.
Furthermore, economic progress means plentiful availability of capital. That leads to lower interest rates. It becomes profitable for the industrialist to use more machines and less labour. At the same time, workers want a share of the growth pie and demand higher wages. The industrialist thus finds it beneficial to use more capital and less labour. As a result economic growth leads to less employment.
How have large number of jobs been created in countries like the U.S. in the last fifty years then? That was a short run phenomenon that cannot sustain. New technologies were being created which were leading to the creation of new jobs. The invention of motor car led to jobs for motor mechanics. The invention of computer created jobs for software programmers. The supply of these new-skilled personnel was initially less hence their wages were high. However, their wages have been declining to subsistence levels as the supply of mechanics and programmers is increasing. Graduates from IT Institutes are often found languishing these days. These high wages are only a short term phenomenon that arises when new technologies are being created.
Such increase in inequality is taking place in India today. The price of agricultural commodities is at historically low levels. The temporary increase in price in the last two years has only very partially compensated for the huge reduction in the last 50 years. Village folk are migrating to the cities in search of better incomes. Inequality between villages and cities is increasing. A similar increase in inequality is taking place within the cities. The wages of urban workers have increased by, say, 20 percent but the incomes of the politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen have increased 20 times in the same period. The point is that growth has come along with a huge increase in inequality which is a natural consequence of economic growth.
Mainstream economists propound that it is necessary to attain 9 percent growth rate in order to remove poverty. High growth will enable the Government to collect more taxes and use the money for running poverty alleviation schemes such as Employment Guarantee. This is correct as far as poverty reduction is concerned. But it fails on the touchstone of inequality. This policy, in fact, is based on veneration of increased inequality. Big companies will be given freedom to undertake production with automatic machines. This will push up the growth rate to 9 percent. Few high-skilled workers will be employed. Total demand for labour will increase nominally, if at all. This tendency is seen clearly in the data provided by Ministry of Finance in the annual Economic Survey. Employment in private organized sectors has increased by about 1.25 lacs persons per year in the last two decades. This is drop in the ocean when seen along with the 65 lac persons entering the work force every year. Huge increase in population combined with small increase in employment in organized sectors will push more people to earn their livelihood by plying rickshaws and other low-paid works in the unorganized sectors. These poor people will get subsidized food grains under BPL card and their poverty will be removed but they will still remain at subsistence levels and get agitated by the display of wealth by the rich.
The high-skilled workers in the organized sectors also will not get much high wages because the supply of skilled workers is increasing. The wages, for example, of the plowshare and the tractor driver are nearly same today-at about Rs 150-200 per day-even though the tractor driver is much highly skilled. This happens because the supply of tractor drivers is more. The tractor driver may produce ten times that of the ploughshare but he gets barely 33 percent higher wages. Wages are not determined, in the main, by the productivity of labour. They are determined mainly by supply and demand in the labour market. Take for example the low wage rates of tractor drivers in our villages. They remain low because the supply of tractor drivers is large. In the result, the wages of workers remains low while the profits of businessmen increase manifold.
Dr Manmohan Singh holds that an increase in growth rate to eight to ten percent will lead to the generation of jobs. But exactly opposite may happen. Higher growth rate would lead to plentiful availability of capital, to lower interest rates, to use of more machines and less labour by the industrialists, and to higher unemployment. Higher growth rate would then lead to higher unemployment, not less.
We face a difficult challenge. We need to use automatic machines for producing goods at a low cost to stand in the global marketplace. This will necessarily lead to a steep increase in inequality and destabilize the society as seen in the Maoist resurgence in India and riots in England. The solution, in my assessment, cannot be found within the four walls of classical economics. The solution will come from change in the culture of the rich. The rich should lead simple lifestyles and make charity liberally. Then their wealth will not irritate the poor just as the bank balance of the beggar does not irritate the pedestrian. Charity will put money in the hands of the poor quietly. Spending on welfare schemes by the Government does not lead to such a happy result for two reasons. One, the rich are implicitly encouraged to disclose and display their wealth through Income Tax returns. Two, the welfare bureaucracy makes much money in distribution and inflicts emotional pain on the beneficiary.
Increase in inequality with abolition of poverty is an explosive combination. The expanding lower middle class will be more restive. We need creative solutions to deal with this. Dr Man Mohan Singh's approach of tax-plus-redistribution will not deliver.



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





Anna Hazare is indeed on a roll. Buoyed by the growing public support to his anti-corruption crusade and perceiving the confusion in the Congress over the attitude it should take towards his movement, he is resorting again to the language of ultimatums. His warning to the Manmohan Singh government to pass the Lokpal Bill by August 30 or else…. is fraught with dangerous consequences. Whatever be Anna's credentials as a crusader, a Bill that is before a standing committee cannot be bulldozed through Parliament. What the country needs is a well-thought-out Bill that will stand the scrutiny of the judiciary and would serve the public purpose of curbing the deadly menace of corruption. Anna's threat that he would not leave Ramlila Maidan in Delhi till the version of the Bill drafted by civil society (the Jan Lokpal Bill) is adopted by Parliament runs contrary to the spirit of his agreement with the Delhi Police before he undertook his fast at Ramlila Grounds.

The flip flop of the government over Anna Hazare's movement has given the civil society activists hope that they can browbeat the government into submission. But while a spirit of accommodation is one thing, it would be wrong for it to capitulate. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has indicated that there is a lot of scope for give and take and the government is open to discussion and dialogue. The Anna team must now reciprocate and return to the negotiating table. Much ground has been covered by the two sides in working out the Lokpal Bill which had been hanging fire for 42 years. It is now time to work constructively to build upon the edifice that was created by the joint panel of the government and civil society.

The Opposition parties have jumped into the fray to draw political capital out of the whole contentious issue. Anna Hazare on his part has redefined his agenda to include land reforms, farmers' rights and an improved education system. But it would be in the fitness of things that the pace of intended reforms on curbing corruption be pursued with purposefulness and single-mindedness. In that task the onus is on the government, the Opposition and civil society, all in one go.









Sharply divergent views came up before the Supreme Court during the hearing of the dispute over the Hansi-Butana canal on Friday as each of the four parties – Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and the Centre – stuck to its known stand. The Centre has suggested the canal dispute be handed over to a committee of experts drawn from Punjab, Haryana and the Central Water Commission. This makes sense. Punjab's fear that Haryana would complete the work of concrete embankment of the Hansi-Butana canal by the time a solution is found can be allayed by maintaining the status quo until the experts give their verdict.


Haryana claims that this being an inter-state water dispute, it does not come within the purview of the Supreme Court and a tribunal is the right forum for its settlement. This is unacceptable to Punjab. Rajasthan's grouse is that the recently built 109-km Hansi-Butana canal has reduced the water supply from the Bhakra main canal to its areas. Punjab asserts that the Hansi-Butana canal's flawed design blocks the natural flow of rain and Ghaggar river waters, leading to floods in its villages. However, a preliminary report by the Central Water Commission has questioned Punjab's claim and maintained that the toe wall being built along the canal may not cause floods in Punjab.


If the CWC report's findings are confirmed, the Akali and Congress leaders in Punjab would be in for major embarrassment as they had launched an anti-Haryana blitzkrieg in recent weeks over the issue. The flood-hit villagers from Punjab and Haryana held a joint "mahapanchayat" recently where they asked politicians not to play politics and instead stop floods by desilting and widening the Ghaggar. Water is the backbone of a state's economy and the lifeline of its people. Instead of arousing passions over the sensitive issue, politicians of the states concerned should rise above narrow interests, sit together with experts and sort out the issue in a spirit of give and take.
















Confronted by the demands of providing adequate medical facilities in rural India and bringing about rapid growth in medical tourism which is projected to go up to $ 2 billion by 2012, according to a CII-McKinsey report, the Health Ministry has to take concrete steps to improve medical infrastructure. For this, the most urgent is a demand for more medical colleges and to plug the deficit of faculty in medical colleges that is reported to range from 25 to 33 per cent, according to a report prepared by MCI (Medical Council of India). To achieve this, the government has announced creation of an additional 7000 MD seats to tide over the crisis of faculty shortage by 2014.


But there is a huge requirement of infrastructure to fill these 7000 seats and to produce competent MDs. Medical education in India has to learn a few lessons from the exceptionally fast mushrooming of engineering colleges in the country, where quality became the first casualty. Of late, the Union Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, had cleared the decks for private companies registered in India to set up medical colleges to increase human resources in the medical sector. He had also proposed to increase the retirement age from 58 to 65, whereas the MCI had proposed the age of retirement at 70. As of now, the country produces only 35,000 medical graduates in a year, it needs to add 10,000 medical seats each year between 2012 and 2016 to get at least 50,000 medical undergraduates over five years.


An alarming 4.5 lakh deaths take place annually in child birth alone, due to lack of trained obstetricians. India has just one doctor for 1,700 people. China's doctor population ratio stands at 1:1063, Korea 1:951, Brazil 1:844, Singapore 1:714, Japan 1:606, Thailand 1:500, UK 1:469, US 1:350 and Germany 1:296. Even to achieve the WHO-recommended ratio of one doctor for every 1000 persons, it will take India another 15 years to get there. Therefore, for the time being, the three-year rural healthcare course can be a good solution to address the acute shortage of doctors in villages.









There are no other words to describe the unfolding events. It appears to be a revolution in the making before our own eyes. The picture of Anna Hazare sitting on the grass at Raj Ghat on August 15 reminded one of Mahatma Gandhi and his satyagraha movement. Anna himself said that he sat there to pray and seek Mahatma Gandhi's blessings before he began his fast on August 16.


The events quickly followed.  He was arrested on May 16 morning from his Mayur Vihar residence after he told the police that he would proceed to Jayaprakash Narayan Park for his protest fast as announced.  The police produced him before an executive magistrate, who ordered Anna's detention for seven days in judicial custody under Sections 107 and 151, Cr P.C. — an arrest to prevent the commission of a cognizable offence. He was then taken to Tihar Jail and was put in one of the enclosures which also had well-known suspects in the 2-G and Commonwealth Games scams like Suresh Kalmadi.  This was a thoughtless act on the part of the authorities.  The Principal Executive Officer in charge of Tihar Jail later shifted Anna to his own office. Soon the Delhi Police authorities arrived to inform him that he was a free man.  Anna, however, refused to leave the jail premises.  


In deference to the demands made by some opposition parties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh read out a statement in the Lok Sabha on August 17 on the arrest of Anna Hazare.  He said that he had high regards for Anna Hazare and his ideals. However, Anna's approach was incorrect and it was not right for him to insist on the Jan Lokpal Bill to be accepted by Parliament.  The Lokpal Bill, prepared by the government, was by now before the Standing Committee of Parliament.  It is unlikely to be passed in the monsoon session of Parliament. This means the Bill will only be passed in the winter session.  However, this enactment may not be the same as the Jan Lokpal Bill put forth by Anna Hazare and his associates.  


The Jan Lokpal Bill covers the Prime Minister, the Supreme Court judges and the MPs while they are left out in the Lokpal Bill of the government.  Unless the opposition parties make drastic changes in the Lokpal Bill draft so as to include the crucial provisions in the Jan Lokpal Bill, the government's Bill, even if passed, would not be welcome to Anna and other civil society activists.


By August 17 afternoon, Delhi was exploding with demonstrations by various age groups — largely youth and middle-aged men and women.  Students, office-goers, government servants, housewives, taxi drivers and people from various other walks of life poured into the streets and squares of Delhi to demonstrate in support of Anna Hazare.  It was a phenomenon not seen in the history of the country since Independence.  Even during the Jayaprakash Narayan-led movement, so much of demonstrations and crowds were not seen.  They were all against corruption in various walks of life and among the various strata of Indian society.  People collected at India Gate on August 17 evening with candle lights, torches, flags and placards; some of them marched towards Parliament House while others went to Jantar Mantar in Parliament Street.  


What provoked this tide of emotions and public outrage?  The defining moment in the Anna saga was his arrest on August 16, when he was taken to Tihar Jail. On August 17 evening, Tihar Jail was witnessing interesting scenes.  Anna refused to go out of the jail as requested by the Delhi Police, stating that he would not move out unless he was allowed to go to JP Park and begin his protest there. Sensibly, the Delhi Police this time dropped the conditions of size of the protesters, the number of cars to be parked, etc.  Eventually, the police also agreed for letting Anna carry on with his fast programme for 15 days.  However, it was agreed that the venue would be Ramleela Maidan.


Some observers drew parallels to the 1975 Emergency and the Jayaprakash Narayan movement of the 1970s.  Prior to Anna's arrest some spokesmen of the Congress party as well as some ministers came out with devastating comments on the integrity of Anna himself.  These pronouncements were misconceived and had the opposite effect on the people.


While it is difficult to say at this stage how the Anna Hazare story will come to an end.  In the coming days, however, one thing is certain – politics in India will never be the same again.  The Anna Hazare movement has brought about a nationwide awakening on the horrors of corruption in India's public life, and the need to eradicate it by effective means.  The overwhelming majority is in favour of the provisions in the Jan Lokpal Bill.  Within the next few days, one hopes some understanding may be reached between the two sides. The revolutionary atmosphere the movement has created throughout the country is unlikely to go waste.  


The main losers will be the government of the day and the Congress party, which leads the UPA ministry at the Centre.  The people's perception, which was shaped by Anna's criticism and his movement, is for a change in public life.


The first impact of the Anna phenomenon may be felt in the Assembly elections in UP and some other states next year.  The parliamentary elections are due in 2014, still three years away, but the people's memory of the Anna movement may linger on to create a hostile atmosphere against the Congress and its allies.  The government of the day should redeem itself with specific measures of positive nature against corruption, black money held abroad, etc.  The coming months will show which way the country is going.n


The writer is a former Governor of UP and West Bengal.








I do not possess charming and attractive looks. Since childhood, I have been at the receiving end of bitter remarks on my physical appearance. I remember, during my childhood when I engaged in a fierce and fiery discussion and had the upper hand, the persons with a different viewpoint used to fire the 'Brahmastra' of commenting on my looks and complexion with all possible adjectives. I was often subjected to various names and similes. After some time I got used to it and started taking it lightly.


But distinct feelings of grudge had started brewing in my head and heart that nature had not been generous to me. The other part of my mind continuously warned me not to let such feeling or complex creep in.


I still remember those days when besides my siblings cracking jokes and remarks on my looks, our servant also never missed an opportunity to fire salvos on my appearance. At times I used to consider myself a loser on this front.


After all these years, now when I am in mid-fifties, having grown up children, I still come across such remarks now and then although inadvertently, from my children. They casually thank god that they resemble their mother and not their papa. And then perhaps to appease me they in the continuity of their earlier uttering pray to god to grant them the intelligence and 
creativity of papa.


One day when our entire family was enjoying supper in the living area, someone asked my nephew (then eight years old), what was the most beautiful feature in each of the persons sitting there. He very energetically started commenting upon the physical features and everybody seemed to be enjoying the moment. I was the last in the line and was deeply engrossed in the thought that my nephew whom I love the most, when asked to comment on my 'beauty spots', would find himself in utmost dilemma as he would not find anything worthwhile.


Finally my turn came. Everybody with an uneasy calm sat there waiting for the 'verdict'-- the voice from an innocent kid is treated as the voice of God. He took his own time, threw a glance at me from top to bottom. His eyes clearly gave signals that the search was futile. Then ultimately he remarked: "Tau tera to bas pyar hi sabse achha hai"(Tau your love is the most beautiful thing in you).


Everyone present there applauded the little boy's remarks and congratulated me as if I had won an ultimate battle. I also considered myself a proud winner. The truth came from an innocent kid, the truth is said to be god, God is love and love is the most beautiful thing in this world. Satyam Shivam Sundaram.









Women and clothes… never the twain shall break. Actually, a woman's obsession for clothes finds a match only in the attention paid by all and sundry to her wardrobe. Be it the fully clothed Pakistan's first woman Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani lauded for her immaculate dressing style or Sarah Palin's politically incorrect expenses on her wardrobe during her Vice Presidential campaign, women's attire — yes those of mighty and powerful too — is always under scrutiny. A subject of endless discussion and debate, it triggers a response almost bordering on frenzy.

But if you thought clothes maketh a woman… well more like marred and mauled by it. The famous science fiction writer Robert A Heinlein may profess: "I don't see how an article of clothing can be indecent. A person, yes.", a majority of men, however, feel clothes do decide whether women are indecent or not.

So men and other members of society in convoluted twist of reasoning attribute sexual harassment meted out to her to her choice of dress or undress. The world may have entered 21st century and women's rights to equality may be a given… they have yet to earn the right to dress as they please. Somehow, somewhere nay everywhere and always a woman's manner of dressing finds a correlation with her desire to please / provoke/ tease men. Women dress up for men, goes the popular conception and thus by default they acquire a moral right to give her a dressing down on how to dress up. Father, brother husband, why even a passer-by, takes it upon himself to offer a sartorial guide (read sermons) to women.

Thus a seemingly private, and one would dare say a trivial; issue is often used as an alibi and ruse to justify sexual violence. Small wonder, Vicky Simister, a SlutWalk supporter and founder of the London Anti-Street Harassment campaign says, "Why is the focus always not on don't rape but how not to get raped."

Indeed, the attention paid to women's clothes hasn't started with SlutWalks. Around the globe women have faced punitive action for not only their dare-to-bare attitude but simply for defying diktats imposed on women's dress. Dress codes for women are a routine affair and in every society varying degrees of strictures are passed on what she can and can't wear. No wonder a statement on women's right to choose their dress free of coercion was submitted by Amnesty International on 55th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March.

Perhaps, how women dress isn't as simplistic and mundane matter as gender correct feminists would like to believe and propagate. Sensibilities, too, vary from culture to culture. In Sudan a woman is fined for wearing a trouser and in Germany a court orders that employers have the right to ask women employees to wear underwear.

The power of dress and the reaction it evokes can't be underestimated. Women are indeed judged according to it and even a fashion stylist admitted that a dress gives a lot of information about the person who is wearing it. May be, some women do dress provocatively to attract attention which again ought to be their business, even when few cross the line of decency. But modesty vs vulgarity…who will be the judge? Moral policing has reprehensible ramifications.

Different societies have different yardsticks. What is provocative to one may be sensuous to another and vice versa. In Islamic nations baring of an arm or even neck is considered unacceptable. So how much skin show is deemed proper in the so-called liberal societies? According to a study, 40 per cent skin show is alluring and attractive.

Does that mean women's natural prerogative and desire to look good is not disputed here? On the contrary as the policeman's remark in Canada that has found an echo in some other male voices too has proved, globally too, hackles are easily raised. Women who revel in their femininity and sensuality are looked at with suspicion if not outright condemnation. Why even the debates on SlutWalks mostly in the West have missed the point that SlutWalk campaigners were making: "Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless of if we participate in sex for work or pleasure."

Strangely, its not men alone, even women thinkers in the West seem to have got the whole objective of SlutWalks upside down. Ironically, it's in India that court judgments have ruled that a woman's character, howsoever, licentious is no excuse for rape. Yet it was in India again that SlutWalk was postponed for organisers couldn't decide on the dress code and finally held one in respectable clothing.

SlutWalk campaigners in Canada rightly say, "Being assaulted isn't about what you wear; it's not even about sex; but using a pejorative term to rationalise inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it's okay to blame the victim." And its this blame game that women — SlutWalk participants or not— have issues with.

Sexual freedom, liberty to dress and body integrity are not disparate ends of the continuum. While women must have the right to exercise freedom over all issues personal, society must provide an enabling mechanism to protect them physically. In the meanwhile majority of women around the world will bear in mind Susan Catherine's thoughts: "Remember that always dressing in understated good taste is the same as playing dead." And would rather be alive and continue to dress, sensuously, sexily even at the risk of being labelled sluts.








On January 24, 2011 Constable Michael Sanguinetti spoke on crime prevention at a York University safety forum. He said that women should avoid dressing like 'sluts' in order not to be victimised sexually or physically. The result was that over 3,000 women gathered at Queens Park, Toronto, (April 2011) and then moved towards the Toronto Police Headquarters protesting against the statement. The issue soon snowballed and protestors in more than 25 countries joined the movement SlutWalk, now branded as a 'social movement', which has seen the participation of women from all walks of life. On June 25, 2011 Delhi hosted the country's first SlutWalk renamed 'Besharmi morcha'.


The issue is -- what is 'decent dress? Do we have the right to prescribe dress codes? A college in Haryana recently prescribed that girl students should not wear jeans. Another institution of higher education in Punjab enforced a dress code of salwar kameej for its girl students. A militant group in the Kashmir Valley insisted that all women were to wear veils. Messages insisting that women wear the veil or face death had been posted outside girls' schools and colleges and as a result attendance in schools and colleges dropped drastically in the Kashmir Valley. Another girls college in Chennai had a workshop in the college where the authorities insisted that a 'decent' dress code is important for women's own good. We are all aware of how the Taliban insists that even the toes of women should not be visible under the 'burqa' because this attracts the attention of men and could lead to sexual violence. What to speak of Afghanistan even in a country like Sri Lanka where women have a high level of literacy and commonly hold important jobs, a school ruled that mothers coming to collect their children from school must wear sarees.


Are we taken to believe that violence against women takes place because women are provocatively dressed and therefore men are 'forced' to make sexually coloured remarks or even commit rape. If yes, the more important question that emerges is where does the problem lie? Is something wrong with the mindset of men who treat women as sex objects or with women's dress?


Behind this diktat or concern lies a device to control. The fear arises out of the belief that if women are not 'appropriately dressed', they will invite sexual violence. This despite the fact that there is no data or study which establishes the fact that the victims of rape or sexual violence dressed in a particular manner. Let us take 'saree' as an example; the most respectable Indian dress can be considered as the most seductive and provocative dress as well. Is it not an issue of dress but basically the mindset of the men who view a woman only as a 'sexual object' rather than an individual to be respected?


I am reminded of a conversation that I had recently with a senior (almost 78 years old) brilliant woman writer and scholar who also happens to be an exceptionally beautiful woman. Her observations on how men view women are extremely pertinent. She noted that although she had made path breaking intellectual contributions in her field of work, but all her life she was always admired more for her beauty rather than for her brains by her male colleagues.


To quote the organisers of SlutWalk in Toronto from Facebook, "when we began Slutwalk, we wanted to loudly and fiercely fight victim-blaming and slut shaming mentalities and ideas that circulate around sexual assault in our city and our country." Whether it is Toronto or Delhi is this too much to expect from those who are expected to govern the state. The other day we had a senior police officer in Delhi advising women not to go out alone at night without being accompanied by a male member of the family.


My daughter never wore a saree while living in Manhattan, (New York). She said that walking down the streets of Manhattan wearing a saree would attract as much attention as wearing shorts or a miniskirt in a sabzi mandi in Delhi. Many of us may have been victims of sexual harassment on the street, in the buses and trains or even in our workplaces or educational institutions despite the fact that we are 'appropriately' and 'decently' dressed. Is it not a common sight to see a group of girls or a girl walking down the road being followed by boys or men passing lewd remarks? I believe that most women and girls have the required sensibility to dress according to the occasion and if some do not, it is their choice. But the notion that 'provocatively' dressed women are to blame for sexual assaults and the victim rather than the abuser is to be blamed is completely off the mark and has to be changed.


However, I am not comfortable with the choice of words SlutWalk because the word slut has historically a negative connotation. But may be a more subtle word would not have caught the attention of the world to the extent required on this important question of women's right to dress as much as 'slut' has.


The issue under discussion is — should society prescribe a 'decent dress code' for women so that our streets are safe for them? Discussions and definitions of sexual harassment are important because it can then educate society and promote conscientious evaluation of behaviour and experience.


(The writer is a Professor of women's studies and director Women Studies Research Centre, Kurukshetra University)








Acouple of days ago, a prominent TV anchor, not associated with the Anna protest coverage, posted sardonically on his Facebook wall that he wanted to go on a fast against TV. He may have been only half-serious but his page was quickly flooded with 'likes' and supportive messages, most of them from cynical TV reporters themselves.


Television channels have been the megaphones of the Anna upsurge but TV news long ago left even the pretence of being objective and value-neutral in this entire drama. The calculation in TV newsrooms goes something like this: our viewership is the middle class, the middle class is furious at corruption, how can we not ride on it. The seductive tricoloured Gandhian imagery and its framing in David versus Goliath terms, especially after the government's ham-handedness, completes the logic of the campaign. And if the facts get in the way of a good story, well, then to hell with them.


Kiran Bedi probably missed the irony but her 'Anna is India and India is Anna' chant is the civil society mutation of the sycophantic 'Indira is India and India is Indira' slogan coined by Debakanta Baruah in the 1970s. In its gushing flagwaving, TV news largely missed it, too.


The dichotomy of the current movement is that while it enjoys widespread support for a general clampdown against corruption, in the end it will boil down to specifics. The devil is in the detail and look at what is being demanded: Parliament is being asked to pass, not just introduce, the most wide-ranging bill that has come before it in years, in just 18 days. It is a bill whose current draft was put together by activists only in December. Even if the idea and other drafts have been around for years, even if previous Parliaments have not acted, surely that cannot be a reason to now place a gun on this Parliament's head and say 'my way or the highway'.


There is no question that the government has messed up and lost its political barometer. Its farcical response oscillated between conciliation and name-calling and ended with misguided repression that backfired. The Congress has been at sea and has got a bloody nose. It's now in an impossible corner politically and will probably have to make substantial compromises on its own Lokpal Bill, including on the issue of including the Prime Minister in its ambit. But all this does not automatically mean that everything in the Anna campaign's self-centred 'tyranny of virtue', as one commentator put it, is justified.


Dissent and protest are integral to democracy but institutional blackmailing on the campaign's particular version of the Jan Lokpal Bill is a dangerous trend. Down this path lies anarchy and a dangerous dichotomy is now being built: a distinction between the people and Parliament. People's movements should influence law-making and most pathbreaking laws have their roots in such pressures but the current discourse is essentially contemptuous of democratic procedures and of institutions. It speaks to middle class fantasies because it is contemptuous of politicians and promises seemingly easy system-breaking solutions, but by insisting that only its version of the Jan Lokpal Bill is correct, the Anna camp is behaving like a petulant child.


The power of the people can quickly degenerate into the power of the mob, especially if a crowd is magnified in close up to look larger than it is on our TV screens, and the seductive TV spotlight seems to have beguiled the Anna camp into forgetting that it is Parliament that embodies the people.


The media market and the Hazare camp have found common cause in a moral crusade but shrill sloganeering and TV evangelism does not justify blackmail in the name of the amorphous category of the people.


By replacing reasoned debate with cheerleading, TV is encouraging a lynchmob kind of mentality. The lack of critical quietening fosters an environment where people can pass on and seriously believe stupid slogans like the SMS message currently doing the rounds that asks people to support Anna Hazare because he will supposedly bring back black money, which will turn India into such a superpower that each district will get Rs 6000 crore, each village Rs 100 crore, and no one will have to pay for electricity or their taxes for another 20 years!
    No one can be against stopping corruption and the government's self-goal in arresting Hazare has meant that even people who did not necessarily agree with him have rallied to his side. Hazare, the man, may have failings, but events have so unfolded that Hazare, the symbol, now transcends the man and represents a much larger battle, symbolic of all that is wrong with our day-to-day interface with government.


In the end though, the general sentiment must coalesce into specific actions and the battle to end corruption needs simultaneous movement on several fronts, like the ones outlined by Aruna Roy and her associates in the National Campaign for People's Right to Information. It needs systemic governance reform, not a half-baked one-stop solution of the kind that the Anna campaign is proposing, that is, that of a Lokpal that could be a judge, prosecutor and jury all rolled into one, without any say at all for elected representatives and without any checks or balances.

It is time for some rationality to return. Or perhaps for that fast against TV.




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The Planning Commission has finally set a growth target of nine per cent per annum for the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17). When the same target was set for the 11th Plan (2007-12), not only was there great optimism that the target would be attained, but it was also felt that India would be poised by the end of the 11th Plan for a double-digit growth target in the 12th Plan. The optimism of 2007 was based on the impressive nine per cent growth performance during the period 2003-07 and a sanguine view of the global environment. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had then said famously, "The world wants India to do well, our challenges are mainly at home."

Then came 2008. The transatlantic financial crisis and the global economic slowdown have meant that against a target of nine per cent growth, the 11th Plan may end with a growth rate of 8.5 per cent at best. Apart from the adverse external environment, the past two years have also been impacted by what many have described as a "drift" in economic policy and governance at home. This year, a combination of a worsening external economic environment and a muddied domestic political environment may produce a growth rate of no more than 7.5 per cent. If this reversal has to be checked and the economy has to return to an average nine per cent growth trajectory, three crucial policy goals should be met: fiscal consolidation and sustainable balance of payments; higher factor productivity in agriculture and manufacturing; and political stability and effective governance. Though all three goals are possible, they are not easy to achieve. They will require political leadership and greater social cohesion.

Addressing a meeting of the full Planning Commission on Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cautioned that "even a nine per cent target is feasible only if we can take some difficult decisions". He should spell out what these "difficult decisions" are sooner rather than later. The government is as obliged to pursue policies that will sustain higher growth as it is to adopt policies that reduce corruption. Amid all the focus on fighting corruption and improving governance, we should not lose sight of the urgent necessity to step up the rate of investment in the economy, increase productivity of investment and of factors of production, and push for higher growth. The best, in the matter of improving governance, should not become the enemy of the good, in the matter of pursuing higher economic growth.

The approach adopted by the 12th Plan – ensuring higher output and income growth in agriculture and increased spending on health, education and infrastructure, enabling an easing of the demand constraint, rational pricing of energy and infrastructure services, which will ease supply constraints, and ensuring that the difficulties posed by an inhospitable global environment are minimal – should help India stay the course on the nine per cent growth trajectory. To move beyond this to the so-called "double-digit growth" rate may come with a price tag that India is not ready to pay. However, if within the global economic and the local political context India is able to sustain nine per cent growth, it would still be a creditable achievement.






Members of the Upper House of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha, stood tall last week as they held a member of the judiciary accountable for his actions. Opposition leaders Arun Jaitley and Sitaram Yechury spoke well — and so did the judge in the dock and ministers of the government. Though the impeachment of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court will have to await the vote in the Lok Sabha, the impressive parliamentary proceedings do raise the question whether the country has to be subjected to such elaborate proceedings before a judge can be expected to step down after being found guilty of wrongdoing by a panel of eminent jurists. The long gap between Justice Sen's acts of commission that warranted this action and the final impeachment does point to the need for speedier procedure in the dismissal of judges as well as their appointment. Mr Jaitley and the Bharatiya Janata Party are right to demand the creation of a National Judicial Commission that would end the existing practice of allowing judges to appoint judges. The commission could include representatives of the executive and the legislature as well as eminent citizens and legal luminaries. The impeachment of Justice Sen offers both the government and the judiciary – and indeed Parliament – an opportunity to reconsider existing systems of appointment and impeachment of judges. Mr Jaitley correctly defined various "minimum qualifications" that any reasonable appointments committee can be expected to insist upon in the selection of judges. Judges must command respect based on their professional track record before they can sit on the bench that demands respects.

The historic impeachment proceeding, especially the learned intervention of the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, is also a wake-up call for the judiciary. Much has been said in the recent past about the misplaced comments of a judge on what he dubbed "neo-liberal" economic policies. Similar examples of expressing "opinions" abound, including a lower court's pronouncements on the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid land issue. Such ideological comments on policy, long perfected by the likes of Justice Krishna Iyer, are outside the domain of the judiciary. Many judges, like anyone with a captive audience, imagine that they can hold forth on any matter and everyone else is obliged to listen! Mr Jaitley rightly emphasised that "courts cannot have an ideology. The only ideology that courts can have is commitment to the rule of law and that law is made by Parliament". To be sure, in India that law is made by Parliament within the bounds of the Constitution. Even so, there are limits to what judges can say or do, and it is best that each arm of the state works within its constitutional bounds. Indeed, that is the message to civil society too. Social activists, however popular and whatever the numbers they can mobilise, cannot make law. That is the privilege of Parliament alone.






India, that is Bharat, is a Union of states. It goes without saying that in an essentially market-based economy like India's, where the share of the state sector has been declining, where the fiscal capability of the Centre has been circumscribed and its political authority has waned, the growth rate of the economy is increasingly a sum of its parts. This is a sobering thought on the eve of the launch of India's 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17).

Even in 1950, the introduction to the first Five-Year Plan (launched by Jawaharlal Nehru with the introductory chapter written by the late Professor K N Raj) ended with the observation: "The fulfilment of the Five Year Plan calls for nation-wide co-operation in the tasks of development between the Central Government and the States, the States and the local authorities, with voluntary social service agencies engaged in constructive work, between the administration and the people as well as among the people themselves."

But then, between 1950 and today India has traversed the curve with the Centre's ability to implement a national plan first having waxed and then waned. Even during the period the Centre acquired the administrative capability to guide state governments and deployed its fiscal and legislative powers, between 1950 and 1990, the overall impact of central planning on altering underlying regional growth dynamics was limited.

If Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Haryana performed better in the 1950-80 period than Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan, it was in large part a reflection of what state governments were doing in the fields of agriculture, manufacturing and education.

If in the period since 1980 states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have caught up, Maharashtra has slipped and Bihar is now picking up, all this reflects the changing competencies, capabilities and interventions at the state level.

In celebrating the 20th anniversary of the economic reforms of 1991, much of the commentary has been on what the central government did in 1991-92. There has been very little recognition of how states responded to the Centre's initiative. The fact is that the central government made itself less intrusive in the economy and ended a regime of controls that inhibited market forces and the "animal spirits" of domestic enterprise and kept the Indian economy locked up, preventing external impulses of trade and investment from impacting the economy.

When those fetters were removed, each Indian state responded to the new opportunity based on its own capabilities. If the pre-1991 policy regime was in fact inhibiting some regions from growing and favouring others, one would have expected to see a new regional pattern of growth. To an extent one did.

The acceleration of growth in states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat would suggest that 1991 had liberated the bottled up "animal spirits" of local enterprise. This is a view I took in a 1995 paper on the emergence of regional enterprise and regional political parties/leadership.

In an important intervention in the debate on regional economic performance, Montek Singh Ahluwalia published a paper that effectively made the point that post-1991 liberalisation had not increased the distance between regions. Rather, there was greater convergence in the growth process. This result now appears stronger with the improved performance of Bihar and Rajasthan in the past decade.

What has shaped this regional performance is, however, regional political leadership and interventions at the state level in education, agriculture and infrastructure.

In the 1950s central planning sought to create a national framework for growth and development that initially delivered impressive results (India's growth in the 1950s was superior to that of China and much of Asia). The 1960s and 1970s were the lost decades when India slowed down and east and south-east Asia marched forward. After 1980 the Indian economy regained speed, initially in a manner that was not fiscally sustainable and subsequently on surer footing.

The importance of 1991 was that it removed the shackles on growth and created new institutions (especially in the financial sector) that facilitated more efficient growth. In the past two decades the Indian growth process has been shaped less by central planning and more by state-level initiatives.

What this means for the 12th Five-Year Plan is that its aim of registering nine per cent growth would depend less on what the Centre does and more on what Nitish Kumar does in Bihar, Mayawati does in Uttar Pradesh, Jayalalithaa does in Tamil Nadu, Mamata Banerjee does in West Bengal and so on. Narendra Modi has already shown the way forward in Gujarat.

The ability of state governments to improve agricultural productivity and rural infrastructure, literacy and enrolment rates, power supply and urban infrastructure will shape the outcome of the next Plan more than any other in the past. Some states will perform better than others.

What can the Centre do on its part? Quite a bit. The most important policy intervention that must come from the Centre in the 12th Plan period is to ensure that the global economic slowdown does not limit India's growth prospects too much. It already has. Second, the Centre's finances need to be improved. Third, there is a need to integrate the Indian market, through reduced inter-state economic barriers to trade and the introduction of a nationwide goods and services tax. Fourth, there is a need for greater national investment in infrastructure like railways, highways and waterways, and power.

Finally, get out of the states' way. Let the state governments experiment — be it with land acquisition or labour market policies. The recent trend of centralising policy initiatives and creating central legislation on state subjects must be reversed. Some states will move faster and show others the way forward. Nine per cent growth will come out of that race, and the wash!







The Government of India has launched discussions on a draft national competition policy. Such a policy is needed to promote healthy competition in the Indian economy, so that growth is assured, inflation is controlled and more jobs are created.

As it is, a number of competition distortions or impediments arise owing to our policy framework in different areas of economic governance. As part of work on a competition policy, the government has undertaken an exercise to unravel the huge range of competition distortions, which may be over 3,000 if we consider the number of policies, laws, regulations and praxis at the level of the central government, state governments and local governments. Such an exercise undertaken in Australia in 1995 showed over 1800 distortions, which led to the first-ever comprehensive competition policy in Australia adopted by a government.

In pith and substance, all such distortions disturb the level playing field between the public and the private sector players. This is also called lack of competitive neutrality, which is one of the core principles upon which competition policy hinges. These cannot be tackled under the Competition Act, 2002 because they are not firm-level conduct issues, but are officially sanctioned anti-competitive practices. In a mixed economy like India's, the issue is more critical since the government operates businesses in various sectors in competition with the private sector.

For instance, one per cent subsidy on agricultural loans is available to public sector banks but the same is not available to private banks. At the same time, asking private sector banks to expand in rural areas as part of their licensing conditions is unfair. On the other hand, such Reserve Bank of India (RBI) policies could be the result of the government policy to ostensibly promote economic welfare of the poor because public sector banks engage in government-sponsored schemes and have a good outreach (financial, geographical and so on). However, if the claim by private sector banks that they have started engaging in government-sponsored schemes is correct, then RBI's direction will only stifle competition in the banking sector. This is because reduction in competition will not be offset by gains in public welfare.

Similar factors seem to be dampening competition in the energy sector. The coal sector is marked by an absence of deregulation, dominance of public sector monopoly and restrictions on commercial mining. In the absence of competition, the sector has become a breeding ground for inefficiency and production has suffered. Drawing from the positive experiences of oil and gas sectors, the government must open up the coal sector to competition from private players.

It is, however, important not to be confined to distortions that strictly fall within the ambit of such comprehension. There are cases of reverse competitive neutrality too, where the private sector has been favoured against the public sector, for extraneous reasons. For example, the closure of three vaccine producing public sector undertakings on curious grounds, or the travails of the aviation sector with discriminatory treatment in favour of private airlines. There are many other instances that call for adequate attention, so that public sector players are not left to bleed at the hands of some government policies.

In January 2008, the ministry of health and family welfare closed down three public sector vaccine manufacturing units on grounds of non-compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices. The three units were: the 103-year-old Central Research Institute, Kasauli; the 100-year-old Pasteur Institute of India, Coonoor; and the 60-year-old BCG Vaccine Laboratory, Chennai. The resultant impact on consumers has been catastrophic since these units accounted for over 70 per cent of the vaccines needed for the country's Universal Immunisation Programme. The number of adverse effects from immunisation deaths among children has risen four times since the three units closed down — it was reported to be 128 in 2010.

Moreover, following the closure, the vaccines were procured from the private sector in addition to those supplied by the World Health Organisation. In the absence of the supply of vaccines from the public sector, competition in the healthcare sector has stifled and the cost of vaccines in the domestic market has gone up by 50 to 70 per cent in the two years since the closure of the units. Evidence has shown that private players offered vaccines at competitive prices before the units closed down, after which the government has been seen to steadily pay higher prices to procure vaccines from them to this day.

Similarly, for many years public sector airlines have been trying in vain to procure aircraft to expand their fleet. As a result, a lot of unused bilateral traffic rights have been allocated to those private airlines that have been allowed to operate international services. Instead of giving Air India the permission to buy aircraft, the ministry allowed Jet Airways to open international services that operated only on commercial routes already serviced by Air India. It may be concluded that the state-owned airlines appear to have been deliberately dumped to allow the private sector to consolidate.

The author is secretary general, CUTS International








Global markets endured another painful fortnight as weak data revived fears of a global recession. At the same time, Standard and Poor's (S&P) downgrade of US government bonds and the uneasiness over the credit-worthiness of European heavyweights like France underscored the fact that policy responses on both sides of the Atlantic are falling short of the challenge. The result was a sharp rise in risk-aversion among investors and the impact on the US dollar of S&P's decision to downgrade US sovereign ratings turned out to be somewhat perverse.

Instead of coming under pressure, the dollar actually benefited from inflows into US treasuries that sought a "safe-haven" trade. US treasury securities rallied after the decision with the 10-year bond yields moving down from 2.56 per cent to the two per cent mark where they currently dwell. Clearly, investors lack viable alternatives to the greenback and the dollar remains the currency of choice in periods of acute risk-aversion. Global equity markets led the sell-off in assets as global investors downgraded their long-term assessment of the global economy. Their specific fear seems to be that fiscal consolidation in the G3 regions at a time when the private sector and households are still paring their balance sheets could bring on another sharp downturn.

The majority of analysts now believe that the onus is now on monetary policy to cushion some of the blow from fiscal contraction and predict another round of dollar infusion (quantitative easing or QE) by its central bank, the Federal Reserve. But the Fed can justify QE3 only if it can convince the markets and policy-makers that the earlier avatars of QE actually helped stabilise the economy and markets. The question is: can it?

The first round of QE was announced in response to the financial crisis back in 2008. The programme was successful, at least in reviving the financial markets and reducing the huge premiums (credit spreads) that risk-averse lenders were charging. To the extent that financial stability itself lends a hand in reviving the global economy, QE1 seems to have played its role. For instance, the TED spread (that is the three-month dollar Libor rate minus the three-month treasury bill) that is used to judge credit risk in the system softened from 458 basis points (bps) to 20 bps by end-2009. In 2010, the Federal Reserve justified the introduction of QE2 on the grounds that it had fallen way short on its objectives of price stability and unemployment. But the specific problem with price stability was not one of impending inflation but rather the risk of deflation, a government's worse nightmare when it is sitting on mounds of debt and planning to borrow more. Core inflation (inflation net of food and fuel prices) had slipped below one per cent and was declining steadily, while the unemployment rate at over nine per cent was way above the targeted "natural" rate of 5.5 to six per cent.

Did QE2 meet its objectives? Clearly QE2 did not deliver on the employment front. The latest print for unemployment (for July) is 9.2 per cent. However, credit off-take by American businesses did pick up after the introduction of QE2 perhaps on the back of soft rates and the easy availability of money. While credit growth has dipped subsequently, it is possible to argue that if the Fed kept its monetary taps turned on, it would have spurred credit growth that would ultimately seep into the labour markets as businesses began to hire. One could also argue that were it not for the supply disruptions that the earthquake in Japan brought on or the spike in oil prices that the turn of events in North Africa and West Asia triggered, QE2 would have fared much better in propping up the economy. On the price front, its success was more visible. Core consumer price index inflation is currently at 1.8 per cent, more than double of what it was last year. Deflation is no longer a clear and present danger.

One could argue that if fiscal contraction does pull growth and demand further in the US, the Fed policy will face challenges similar to the ones that brought on QE2. Thus, votaries of quantitative easing (that includes Fed chairman Ben Bernanke) do have a case for resurrecting this policy. However, this case is far from watertight as the resistance to more monetary easing from three of Bernanke's colleagues in the recent high-power Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting suggests. But despite this opposition to an easy money policy, Bernanke did commit to keeping policy rates on hold until mid-2013. If indeed prices start softening in response to weaker growth, there is likely to be more agreement on the need for QE3. This is possible by the end of this year.

More dollars in the market means a natural tendency for the dollar to depreciate. Thus, by the end of the year or the first quarter of the next, (assuming, of course, that QE3 happens) the dollar could shed some of its recent gains. An abundance of dollars will also tend to push up other asset prices including emerging market stocks and currencies. Thus, the rupee and the Sensex might see some reprieve from the merciless battering that it is currently receiving as the year comes to a close. Some would argue that the markets need not have to wait that long. If Bernanke begins to articulate a case for the third round of QE, investors might begin to "price" this in ahead of the actual announcement. Thus, it might not be doomsday just yet.

The writers are with HDFC Bank. These views are personal







Unlike the crisis of 2008, the current international crisis is not a financial crisis. This is a crisis of confidence. The rating downgrade is a reflection of the lack of credibility in the debt reduction programme approved by the Congress and Senate in the US. More than the downgrading, what is relevant is the slow pace of economic recovery in the US and Europe. It has put policy-makers, analysts and theorists in a dilemma. When the world was enveloped in the crisis of 2008, there was near unanimity on what the course of action should be. Almost everyone advocated expansionary monetary and fiscal policies. Three years down the line, the recovery is slow but the initial conditions have changed. The fiscal deficit in the US has touched 10 per cent of GDP. US Federal debt held by the public has risen from about 36 per cent of GDP in 2007 to 62 per cent of GDP in 2010. Expansionary fiscal policies played a critical role in averting a deeper US recession. But the policy has also resulted in federal debt rising sharply.

Even with a sharp rise in debt GDP ratio, there is a school of thought in the US that urges for a continued expansionary fiscal policy. This group includes two distinguished Noble Laureates. The argument put forward is that despite heavy borrowing, the interest rate remains low and that makes many projects worthwhile. It is also argued that public investment spending will increase GDP and tax revenues both in the short term and the long. Thus, in substance, these economists argue that increasing America's indebtedness now and spending the money on high return investments will pave the way for reducing the long-term national debt. The opposite view is that with debt-GDP ratio soaring to a high level, it will be imprudent to continue with an expansionary fiscal policy. These analysts point to the serious problems faced by Greece and certain other European countries. The rating downgrade itself points to the need to bring down fiscal deficit and debt to GDP ratio to more reasonable levels.


Keynesian economics does not offer a direct solution to the current situation. Keynes himself was not very clear as to how the increase in government expenditure was to be financed. So long as the initial fiscal deficit and debt GDP ratio were low, the Keynesian prescription of expanding the government expenditure seemed appropriate and worked well.

Here is the dilemma. The American economy grew by 1.5 per cent in the first half of the current year. Unemployment remains high at nine per cent. There is a pressing need to find a solution to slow growth and high unemployment. The answer lies in increasing government expenditure but medium-term considerations require that the fiscal deficit is brought under control. In fact, some will argue that even short-term considerations require reduction in the fiscal deficit. The household sector saving in the US is low. It is not adequate to absorb the debt floated by the Federal government. It has to depend on other countries to subscribe to the US treasuries. It is true that US borrows in its own currency. It so happens that the dollar continues to remain world's reserve currency. At present, there is no other alternative currency to replace the US dollar. Nevertheless, high current account and fiscal deficits and a depreciating dollar will cause concern from time to time in other countries. The dilemma can be resolved only if the US government puts in place a credible medium-term debt reduction strategy, while pursuing with a moderately expansionary fiscal policy in the current period.

Transpose the problem to India. Do we face a conflict of the type that the US and Europe face? Under the impact of the international financial crisis, India's growth rate slowed to 6.7 per cent in 2008-09 after having grown at a rate exceeding nine per cent for three consecutive years. Since 2008-09, India's growth rate has remained in the range of eight to 8.5 per cent. This growth rate, though lower than the earlier period must be considered high in the current world situation. The fiscal stimulus provided in 2008-09 and followed subsequently has had the effect of raising the fiscal deficit of the Centre. In 2008-09 as against the original budgeted deficit of 2.5 per cent, the actual fiscal deficit turned out at six per cent. In 2009-10, it went up to 6.7 per cent and it dropped to 4.7 per cent in 2010-11. In the current year, the fiscal deficit is budgeted at 4.6 per cent of GDP. It is going to be a difficult task to achieve this target. Following the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission, the government has set out a path of fiscal correction. It is extremely important to follow this path. This is so for two reasons. First, fiscal prudence is extremely important for sustaining stability over a long period. Of course, the deficit target must be consistent with the obligations of the government and the level of savings of households, which is only the surplus sector in the economy. The target of six per cent of GDP for the Centre and the states taken together appears consistent with the level of household savings in financial assets. Second, as the current account deficit still remains in the range of 2.5 per cent of GDP, the financing requirements are large. So far, the capital flows have been adequate and we have had no problem in financing the current account deficit. We need overall capital inflows of the order of $70 billion every year. In this context, the perception of external investors is also important. Since investors, particularly in the context of the recent developments in the US and Europe, attach a lot of importance to fiscal prudence, we need to ensure that the fiscal deficit does not exceed the target that we have set ourselves.

The policy dilemma in India now is different. It is a question of working out a balance between inflation and growth. We have had a high level of inflation for the last 18 months. Since January 2011, inflation as measured by the wholesale price index has remained above nine per cent. The policy priority should be to bring inflation down to a more acceptable level. Bringing inflation down, though seemingly at the cost of growth, may, in fact, be the appropriate policy for sustaining a high medium-term growth.

The author is Chairman, Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council








The Prime Minister has said that the government wants a strong Lokpal Bill, without insisting that the official Bill, now with the standing committee of Parliament, is the ultimate embodiment of anti-corruption toughness. This is a welcome sign of willingness to accept suggestions to improve the Bill, so that the anticorruption ombudsman it creates would be truly effective. The fasting anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and his supporters, too, should show similar willingness to engage in a dialogue, instead of insisting that only the Jan Lokpal Bill they have come up with would be acceptable. Nor is the demand that the Bill be enacted by August 30 realistic. The legislative procedure will take more time. There is no reason why such an important Bill to create a new institution of governance should be pushed through without proper debate and dialogue. Nor can it be considered legitimate democratic practice for an agitation to seek to tell Parliament when and what to legislate. No gathering of agitators, however large, can claim to represent the will of the Indian people — only Parliament can. While Indian democracy leaves much to be desired, and is easy to deride on many fronts, it is utterly senseless to undermine what is positive and constructive in the institutional structures and practices that have been built up over the last six decades of Independence. The specific contribution of three laws enacted in the first term of the United Progressive Alliance — the Right to Information Act, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Forest Rights Act — in extending and deepening democracy in the country cannot be gainsaid. To dismiss all this in populist rants against the political class is to harm democracy.
The ills of democracy can be cured only by better democracy, in which the people are empowered, mobilised and vigilant. The notion that a self-appointed elite can cure the ills of democracy is elitist and authoritarian, even when the stated intent is to improve democracy. Just as championing democracy cannot be an excuse for defanging the proposed ombudsman, a powerful Lokpal cannot be an excuse for undermining democracy.







The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has fined DLF . 630 crore for abusing its dominant position in the market and imposing unfair conditions on home-buyers. It now wants to probe other realtors for unfair trade practices. While it could be debated whether this is a matter for the competition authority, there can be no dispute that the issues raised by the regulator are entirely valid. DLF has been charged with brutal disregard of consumer rights and firming up sale agreements that are hopelessly one-sided. The clauses — a punitive penalty for a buyer's default, but an insignificant one for DLF; buyers have no exit option except when the realtor fails to deliver within an agreed time; exit clause gives DLF full discretion including abandoning the project; DLF has the discretion to change land use without informing buyers and can make unilateral changes in the deal — show a wholly unacceptable unequal relationship between the home-buyer and the seller. Clearly, this has to change. If the CCI is not the right body to check such unfair trade practices, perhaps we need another agency, in addition to the consumer courts, to protect consumer rights. India needs a stand-alone regulator to oversee the real estate sector and ensure fair practices in a sector where a majority of consumers make their life's single largest investment. Other unfair practices include issuing advertisements for launching projects without securing prior approval of competent authorities and building in hidden costs over and above the initial fixed price. Often, builders don't specify the date of delivery. They do not have a transparent mechanism either to deal with price escalations. Regulation is in order to curb such practices.

The Centre has already drafted a model law that has proposed the setting up of a regulatory authority for the real estate sector complete with an appellate tribunal. It is reportedly pending with the law ministry. The government should expedite passage of the law. It would also help curb money laundering, given that the real estate sector is one of the biggest sinks of black money in India.







Looking at the long faces in government and the swelling crowds of protesters in Ramlila Maidan, you'd think India was poised at the abyss. Nothing could be farther from the truth as far as global investors are concerned. Despite policymakers' gloom and doom — the Prime Minister recently claimed that charges of corruption would undermine growth — the global financial press is suddenly swerving around towards emerging markets, especially India. It's tempting to ask why there's this dramatic divergence in the moods of people at home and investors overseas. Here, people are hassled about graft and the state's inability to curb it. The government is like a rabbit caught in the glare of headlights: panicked, but immobile. Meanwhile, investors searching for returns worldwide see only nice things. First, India's rupee has held up against major global currencies. Second, reserves are strong and growing, so there's no serious economic fear to trigger a flight of capital. Three, exports are surging. Finally, growth, despite our fears, is actually robust.

The price-earnings ratios of India's main equity indices have come off the 20-plus highs and are now trading below 14; that's still higher than Brazil (8.6), China (11.7) or Russia (5), but then, with the exception of China, India's growth is the strongest among emerging markets. From the perspective of the fund manager, who has to move money around the world for returns, India is far cheaper today than it was at the peak and earnings have stayed stable. If earnings improve slightly or even stay constant through another two quarters without a sudden jump in prices, India will look really attractive. That may or may not cheer Anna or the government, but folks who've stayed invested through the turmoil will be smiling.







The evolution of microfinance in India can be put in a theoretical context. There is a case of the existence of 'asymmetric information' where the lender has little in his armory to know that the borrower will repay the loan. In the absence of a clear credit evaluation process, this asymmetry will continue to exist. When there is such asymmetry in availability of information, we run the risk of 'adverse selection'. As long as we are dealing with communities that are known to perform, it will work. But, as we scale up this trust model, then we run the risk of selecting the wrong people. This triggers default and the reason attributed can be high rates being charged in the face of adverse economic conditions for the borrowers. This has a backward linkage with the MFI and lending bank creating financial chaos. The MFIs cannot use strong-arm techniques to recover money. Borrowers now know that if they borrow, they do not have to repay as there is a constituency which will speak for them when the time comes. This raises the issue of 'moral hazard'.

The MFI's Yunus model appeared to be a panacea for the so-called unbankable people and the rate of 30% charged did not raise a stink as these poor people were anyway borrowing from the moneylender at a higher rate. As they had no collateral to offer except peer pressure, banks did not find this social collateral acceptable. With an increase in suicides on account of strong-arm tactics used by the MFIs for non-repayment of loans, regulatory action is being taken to bring this system back on the rails. Is there any alternative way out?
There are some interesting models being experimented with to make MFI credit work. Some of the names that come to mind are Rangde and Milaap — both are startups that have pursued some innovative techniques. The model here aims at targeting investors who are willing to put in money with no expectation of a return on capital or a minimal of 2%. Funds gathered are then lent to MFIs or NGOs that have been carefully screened on the basis of past performance. The final cost to the borrower varies from 8% (for Rangde) to 12-18% (Milaap). Basically, these startups cover their costs with zero profit. The MFIs add their cost to this and are able to lend money at a substantially lower rate than other MFIs. This model has worked with virtually negligible NPAs and is able to deliver credit at a cost comparable with what, say an SME, gets funds from a bank.

In the earlier system, MFIs had a genuine point of paying substantially high cost for credit from banks, which actually pushed up costs. The lower cost of final credit here is evidently due to sourcing of cheaper funds from investors. Prima facie, there is nothing amiss in this model as the organisations are registered with the RBI and their activities are known. But the issue is whether this model is scalable. Tackling communities within specific geographies is easier to accomplish than widening the canvas. Where does one get such philanthropic funds from to scale up operations? And further, while the model has worked well so far, it still does not tackle the problems of asymmetric information, adverse selection and the moral hazard. Banks with their superior credit evaluation skill-sets still encounter problems of NPAs in the organised sector where information is relatively more transparent. Logically, it appears that the system has to crack at some point of time, either in flow of funds or NPAs.

    The thought which comes here is to address the two issues together: cost of funds and adverse selection. A way out is to first make relatively large sets of funds available for this purpose. The government is evidently the entity that can make these sources available as philanthropy has its limits. Corporates would prefer to create trusts with their names embossed rather than donate anonymously to these organisations. While there will be some noise on the fiscal front, central and state governments can actually proportionately keep aside these funds for this purpose. Besides, the government is already subsidising agriculture by keeping rates at 7% and taking on the interest rate differential burden of banks. In fact, given the success of entities like Rangde and Milaap, these could be one-time allocations for specific geographies as it may be assumed that the money would largely return to the lending institution.

These funds could be given to either banks or panchayats or organisations like Milaap and Rangde. Banks have the skillsets of evaluation and are located in rural areas. With funds coming in at zero cost, they could actually lend to MFIs or directly to the borrowers at a low cost. Panchayats would be another option, given that they actually have knowledge of their people and hence the issues of asymmetric information and adverse selections are simultaneously addressed here. For governments, these are capital expenditures and hence will be analogous to the project expenditures incurred by them. For society, the basic lending cost of say 8-18% charged by banks to the MFIs actually comes down substantially, which can make a difference. Quite clearly, the MFI space is one of interest and challenge as it offers better living standards to the poor people. Solutions need to be found within the contours of retaining the sanctity of the financial system in which they operate. Organisations like Rangde and Milaap need to be complimented for showing the way and we need to embellish their operational models with strong financial support to ensure that they are sustainable and scalable.

(Views are personal)










India's pension fund regulator Yogesh Agarwal is clear that the national pension system (NPS) is a sound vehicle to build a retirement nest. Yet, it has few volunteer individual members. The reasons are well-known. There's no incentive for anyone to market the NPS, its transaction costs are high for a small contributor and the fund management charges are waferthin, depriving fund managers of incentives to perform. Agarwal is keen on a coursecorrection, but says he needs to take the government into confidence before making any changes in the incentive structure. "After all, we can't forget that 75% of the funds are from the central government quota," he says.
The NPS, set up to manage pension funds of civil servants who joined service after January 1, 2004 and later volunteer members, has over 2.4 million subscribers. "We made a fundamental mistake while extending NPS to the so-called unorganised sector or volunteer members. We forgot that someone had to play a role in marketing the product and that necessarily involved incentivisation. We simply assumed that the NPS would sell like hot-cakes. Given the state of financial literacy in the country, it was wrong to presume that investors would opt for NPS among competing financial products. There is need for an appropriate incentive structure to market the NPS," he says. And that's essentially what apanel, chaired by the former Sebi chairman G N Bajpai, has recommended. It has suggested better financial incentives for distributors or the so-called points of presence (PoPs) — banks and financial institutions — that open NPS accounts for subscribers. Is it a good idea to pay the distributor a 0.5% commission on the amount that subscribers regularly save? Agarwal is non-committal, saying that a view is yet to be taken on the panel's recommendations.

"I can't give you a time-frame as we need to consult the government before taking a decision. But it's not necessarily the PoPs that need to be incentivised. Incentives can be given directly to the pension fund managers (PFMs) themselves. Ultimately, they are the biggest stakeholders in the whole system. At the moment, the management fee of PFMs is close to nil and, hence, they do not want to invest in promoting the scheme. Once you improve the management fees, they will have an incentive to market the scheme."

Doesn't it make sense for the government to spend money on distribution, transaction and asset management costs instead of giving a subsidy of . 1,000 to every voluntary NPS account? Agarwal disagrees, saying that the poor need such an incentive. Around 7.4 lakh are enrolled under NPS (Lite), meant to accumulate a retirement corpus for low-income workers.

He, however, concedes that both the volume and scale of NPS can be increased, at one stroke, if workers are allowed to migrate from the archaic Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) to the NPS. "We are in dialogue with the government. However, the EPFO is the preserve of the labour ministry and that's where the problem lies. The finance and labour ministries have to jointly take a view. We can do nothing much except to say that ours is the best financial product. Our yields are better. The average return on NPS is around 11% every year and our architecture is superior." NPS advocates argue that this is in contrast to the EPFO, which discovers some hidden treasure in its warped accounting and then declares a return to its subscribers.

For now, the banker-turnedregulator is nudging corporates to convince their employees to join the NPS. He says a number of corporates has evinced interest, after the tax-breaks were given to employers on their contribution to scheme. He is also planning for the long-term — the stage when NPS subscribers start buying annuities. A subscriber to the NPS will need to invest at least 40% of the pension corpus to buy an annuity. Today, nearly 95% of the annuities are sold by state-owned LIC. The insurance regulator or Irda is worried that LIC will be saddled with annuity payouts in the long term. "We will leave it to Irda to handle that," he says. Do we see a turf-war between the pension and the insurance regulator, considering that life insurers are overseen by Irda? Absolutely not; Irda has the remit over life insurance companies, says Agarwal. However, he does see a case for merger of the two regulators. "The government has taken a conscious view that the pension sector needs a separate regulator and there is no case for a merger." The pension regulator is yet to get a statutory backing as the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill is pending before a parliamentary committee now. Once it is cleared, the regulator will have the powers to impose fines and so on. "We are looking at incentives to market the NPS better. At this stage of evolution of the pension sector, it's too early to talk of penalties."



Pension Fund Regulatory & Development Authority








If Juliet could have said, "What's in a name — that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet…", what's all the fuss about Pashimbanga? For surely, "so West Bengal would, were it not West Bengal call'd"! For ages, the educated middle class in this state had prided itself on its English skills and the appreciation of William Shakespeare. Children in West Bengal, even till the early Marxist days, were brought up on a diet of Rabindranath Tagore and Shakespeare, and a couple of lines at random from either were applied by parents ever so often to all situations when it came to describing the vibgyor of Life. So why wasn't the Juliet theory applied in case of West Bengal's change of name?

It's a riddle, which only the infatuation with name changes can explain, a joke that continues despite the change in government. The Juliet of Shakespeare is eclipsed by Mamata Banerjee of Bengal and didn't Mamata herself want a change of name so that the state becomes more visible overall ? So suddenly everybody had an opinion. Talking about pecking orders, what good does the name really do? The United States wouldn't have ruled the world order for ages, were that logic is true. The enormous clout of the "U" is visible even now as global markets slump on fears that the US will slip once again into a recessionary phase. Indeed, during the Cold War days and till Mikhail Gorbachev hit the scene, the world's two superpowers both had a "U" beginning to their names! Alphabetical promotion, therefore, holds very little real meaning in the context of economic prosperity or power. Will the seven-step promotion to "P" empower the state more or augment its coffers seven times? Alphabetologists may perhaps have an answer, but like many other things in Bengal's humdrum life, the furore has been largely for emotional reasons. West Bengal was fine as it was. The new name would make life just a tad more unbearable perhaps, at least officially. But would people refer to the new name or carry on with the old? Most don't use changed names anyway, which is why Park Street is hardly referred to as Mother Teresa Sarani or Southern Avenue as Meghnad Saha Road or Palm Avenue as Bibhuti Bandopadhyay Sarani. You wouldn't find a cabbie who can take you to C V Raman Sarani or Leela Roy Sarani, unless you tell one to take you to good old Gariahat Road.

Circus Bengal is about incongruities galore. While a simple dropping of the "West" would have sufficed, the official mandate in favour of the state's new name through an all-party consensus, is yet another indication of the political establishment's poor sense of logic. The CPI-M government was famous for it. So is Mamata. As railway minister, it was she who changed the functional names of several metro railway stations in Kolkata. So Tollygunj station became Mahanayak Uttam Kumar, Garia became Kabi Subhash and Garia Bazaar became Kabi Nazrul. The metro renaming exercise had become the butt of innumerable jokes among commuters, but the establishment wasn't impressed. The current change of name doesn't, therefore, come as much of a surprise. State governments across the country seem to have been infected by the name change virus over the years, and the desire to go back to ethnic roots in favour of the more popular name has always been strong. Mumbai, Odisha, Bangaluru, Chennai have all followed a pattern. In Paschimbanga, it's bizarre. The choice is always a personality from the pages of history — some known, some unfamiliar. Even then, try tagging the name to the place. Say, why should Maharana Pratap of Chittor and William Carey, the missionary, jostle for a name at India Exchange Place? But that's reality. Both are marked on the road signs, complicating matters even more.
Forever used to dictating terms, chief minister Mamata Banerjee is also learning to change into a more tolerant, more universal personality. Taking a cue from Manmohan Singh's government, she called an all-party meeting to decide on what the new name of the state would be. In her own way, she is even trying to build bridges with the CPI-M, which is why opposition leader Suryakanta Mishra was given a pivotal role to play in the name deciding matter. Such mending of relations is critical for the state's law and order situation and very important for the state's overall development. It's also crucial for the Marxists, who are in a spot due to the Sushanta Ghosh arrest. It's a season of change in Paschimbanga and if Mamata can bring about one in the state's financial and industrial scenario, the alphabetical trigger to the state's name won't really matter.








Consistent with the saying that the show must go on, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, presided over a meeting of the full Planning Commission to discuss the Approach Paper to the 12 {+t} {+h} Five Year Plan. The paper itself hasn't been made public because it must be shown to the Cabinet first but the approach has been shared. And in his statement the Prime Minister finally relinquished his long cherished dream of India touching double-digit growth on his watch. "… the Commission has proposed that we should set the Twelfth Plan target at 9 per cent. In fact, the Commission has pointed out that given the uncertainties in the global economy, and the challenges in the domestic economy even a 9 per cent target is feasible only if we can take some difficult decisions." So that's that then. The only question of interest now is how much below 9 per cent will growth be. Given that the savings rate is likely to be maintained at the current level of around 37 per cent, an incremental capital output ratio of 4, and that foreign capital will surely turn up at India's doors, 8.5 per cent average growth for the 12 {+t} {+h} Plan doesn't seem unrealistic. That's the good news, even if it is no thanks to the Government. The Approach Paper also envisages 4 per cent growth in farm output over the plan period, up from 3.3 per cent for the 11 {+t} {+h} Plan period. If this can be achieved, food inflation at least should not remain a cause for major worry, provided the measures needed for supply chain management are put in place.

The Prime Minister also confirmed what was reported in this newspaper a few days ago, namely that energy and water will be the crucial constraints and that efficient water management would be as crucial as the efficient management of energy. So the caveats are clear, and as the Deputy Chairman, Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, told the media on Friday, higher tariffs seem to be the way to go. Since this means the elimination or reduction of subsidies, some of the "hard decisions" are clear as well. The problem of land acquisition also seems to be weighing on the Commission's mind and the Prime Minister referred to it in his statement as being another critical element in the pursuit of 9 per cent growth. For the rest, the Approach is a much of a muchness with the usual genuflections in the direction of infrastructure and the fiscal deficit — one to go up, the other to go down.

The Prime Minister did not mention, quite naturally, another important issue that will soon demand his attention: the future of the Planning Commission itself. The committee headed by Dr C. Rangarajan is believed to have made some important recommendations in this regard.






There is no end to the tales of woe I hear about the harassment suffered by consumers at the hands of suppliers of goods and services and the fast deterioration in customer service provided even by brand companies.

Here are two typical examples: A well-known bank came out some years ago with a mediclaim-linked credit card, luring the customers with cash-free medical treatment and other facilities. A couple of years ago, it abruptly terminated the mediclaim part of the credit card. Customers came to know of it only when the hospitals to which they had taken the supposed beneficiaries for treatment sprung an ugly surprise by telling them that their assumed entitlement had been discontinued. The bank authorities have stubbornly refused to explain the rationale for this sudden volte face and the lack of transparency and disruption of service, putting many of the customers to inordinate expense in prolonged proceedings before Consumer Forums.

Another customer found that the clutch plate of a high-end car he had purchased gave way within a few thousand kilometres of the use of the car. Despite the occurrence of the mishap within the warranty period, the company which sold the car refused to attend to the complaint. Even without undertaking a spot inspection by sending one of its technicians and getting his report, the company had the temerity to put the blame straightaway on the purchaser for not driving the car properly! And, this cavalier treatment it meted out to one of the nation's prominent public figures.


He took the matter before the Consumers Forum some time in 2008 and since then to this day, the company has been dragging on the case by taking repeated adjournments on one plea or another. This is, in fact, the technique adopted by most companies so that customers are deterred from lodging complaints. Their Web sites do not live up to their florid sales pitch. They do not even reply to email messages.

They are able to get away with their callous disregard of the sufferings of customers because they enjoy protection from being exposed for their misbehaviour by the policy adopted by the media of holding back their names when customers write to them.

The same media have no hesitation at all in taking cudgels against the departments of governments and the public sector enterprises by naming them and their functionaries for their failures.

As regards the working of the Consumer Forums set up under the Consumer Protection Act, on paper, the provisions of the Act leave very little to be desired. It covers most aspects of consumer protection, including speedy trial. But in practice, the Forums have not been of benefit to the consumers to the extent expected.


State Governments do not attach to them the same importance as they do to the regular judiciary, with the result the vacancies remain unfilled for an unconscionably long time. The working conditions in most of the district and State Consumer Forums beggar description: For want of adequate back-up staff, decent accommodation, and necessary furniture, on the one hand, and the absence of any inspection and supervision by higher levels, on the other, the Forums inspire no confidence among those approaching them.

Naturally, the nature and quality of the relief provided by them is also uneven. Some Forums, such as those of Maharashtra, are sharp and sensitive; for instance, in a similar case of clutch plate malfunctioning, the Mumbai Forum ordered the car to be replaced by a new one.

Finally, the consumer organisations. There are relatively few which show the required aggressiveness and drive. Most of them are content to throw the ball back into the consumers' court. For one thing, they too do not have the necessary legal and professional infrastructures. For another, the organisers of these so-called action groups seem to look upon them for building up their own public standing and also rake in some funds on the side through seminars, workshops and the like. Result: Demise of consumer protection.






When comparisons are drawn between China and India's levels of growth, the first criterion used to quantify them is the volume of foreign direct investments, a yardstick by which China usually beats India hands down.

Is it any surprise that the need to ramp up FDI has become an article of faith among most policymakers and analysts, who view the efficacy of policy by FDI inflows at any given time?

Three years ago, a paper by Ramkishen Rajan, Sunil Rongala and Ramya Ghosh, Attracting foreign Direct Investment to India, summed up this position: "A high level of FDI inflows is an affirmation of the economic policies that the policymakers have been implementing as well as a stamp of approval of the future economic health of that country."

In no sector has the need for FDI been more urgently felt than infrastructure. The Planning Commission doubled the 11th Plan requirements to $513 billion and asked Mr Deepak Parekh to find ways of getting that cash.

The committee he headed submitted its report last year and explored the long-term debt route to infrastructure financing; though it did not specify foreign direct investments as such, the notion that foreign capital would play a crucial part even through debt was intrinsic to its innovative approach.

Right now, Parliament is still grappling with the relative positions on allowing FDI in retail trade, but the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council last month jumped the gun, suggesting 49 per cent FDI in every segment except the negative list as the most effective booster shot for a pick-up in growth through higher investments.


It could not have chosen a worse time; FDI has not picked up substantially after the Wall Street crash of September 2008; the current problems in Europe stake a claim on such surpluses as are available with western European members such as France and Germany.

Across the Atlantic, America is still deep in a trough despite very low interest rates even as the President struggles with a fiscal deficit.

One would have thought that given the problems in the developed economies, with Japan still struggling to find its feet, capital would have moved to India; the economy is still on song even with lower GDP forecasts of around 7 per cent, and interest rates are attractive for arbitrageurs.

Yet, the Sensex is taking a beating. Perhaps, inflation has something to do with a cautious stance; perhaps, the corruption issue worries investors about government's capacity to manage crises.

But FDI is not faring well either; in the four months to April, $6 billion poured in compared with $7 billion in the corresponding period of the previous year.

This is a far cry from the period before September 2008. Data provided by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in its "Factsheet on Foreign Direct Investment" to April 2011 show interesting features of FDI inflows through the first decade of the new millennium.

After an initial spurt of 52 per cent in 2001-02 (partly a base effect hike), FDI suddenly collapsed for the next two years to recover dramatically from 2004-05, climbing consistently to 2007-08, the high point being 2006-07 when FDI spurted some 146 per cent to $ 22.8 billion from the previous year. That year coincidentally also marked the high point in GDP growth.


Cumulatively in the three years to 2011, foreign direct investors have found the services sector the most attractive, with non-financial and financial segments accounting for 21 per cent of the inflows, followed by computer hardware and software (8 per cent) and telecommunications, real estate and construction, 7 per cent each. Power got just 5 per cent while petroleum and related fields a mere 2 per cent.

Maharashtra, unsurprisingly, was the highest recipient with 35 per cent followed by Delhi (20 per cent) while Karnataka and Gujarat had to settle for 6 per cent.

Given the direction of FDI inflows, backward states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh got loose change (half a per cent).

What the DIPP data show us is a profile of FDI preference and, by that token, a picture of skewed growth. But what is more worrying is that FDI appears to shore up existing regional inequalities with the most historically developed region being the most favoured.

From a comparative policy point of view, what the data also indicate is a failure of Indian public policy to steer FDI into sectors that would have created more substantive employment and to regions that need jobs the most.

DIPP data show metallurgy and chemical industries at the bottom of the list. This is a far cry from Chinese policy that did just the opposite to sustain a growth that helped it become the workshop of the world.

Who said only portfolio investors were fair-weather friends?






The liberalisation process started in 1991 hastened the integration of India with the global economy. But the free movement of goods and services between the States has been handicapped by ineffective tax reforms.

Considering the country's unique form of federalism, the States will play a key role in the success of a common market. Mr Baldev Raj Nayar's research paper Globalization, the State, and India's Halting March to Common Market: The Political Economy of Tax Reform Under Federalism" ( India Review, Volume 10, Issue 3, 2011) tries to throw some light on this contentious subject.

The paper discusses the relationship between globalisation and tax reform; the evolution of tax reform after economic liberalisation, including the role of the State in that evolution; and the motivations in tax reform. 

 With the Centre making little headway towards achieving a common Goods and Services Tax (GST), he has aptly picked an oxymoron, 'halting' and 'march', for his title.


 One of the issues that came up was the States' concern over loss of fiscal autonomy under the proposed system. The Centre and States have not been able to evolve a consensus on the framework to be adopted so far. Pending this, it may be a tough ask for the Centre to push through the Constitutional Amendment Bill in Parliament. An amendment to the Constitution is necessary for dual GST to be implemented in India. 

The research paper has highlighted the importance of the State (Central Government) role in the push towards GST. "Even though the common market has not fully arrived as yet in India, impressive strides toward it have been made through tax reform… The common market, however, does not follow automatically from globalisation. The movement toward the common market in India underlines the critical role of the State and political institutions in generating adequate responses to the challenges of globalisation." 

The indirect tax system in the country represented by the combination of the Central excise and the States sales tax systems "remains extremely irrational from the economic point of view".

 The idea of the GST is to unify all indirect taxes such as excise duty, service tax and octroi. Once GST is implemented, it is likely to improve GDP growth. This would help in bringing a large portion of the country's unreported economy into the tax net.

 "The cumulative pressure of the high incidence of taxes and of tax cascading (tax on tax) led to massive tax avoidance and tax evasion; additionally, it turned the tax system into one that was increasingly resistant to squeezing more revenue out of it."

 Mr Nayar feels that it is the Union Government's responsibility to streamline GST. "If the Centre felt that tax reform at the State level was essential, the States had to be sold on the idea."  States would have to give up their powers for indirect taxes under the GST and share taxation proceeds with the Centre once they arrive at mutual agreements.  


 The paper dwells in detail on the role of Mr Yashwant Sinha, the Finance Minister of the NDA Government, in pushing the successful agenda of implementing Value added tax (VAT).   

The current ruling establishment can take a leaf or two from 'Mr Sinha's statesmanship'.  "To move state tax reform forward, the Finance Minister, Mr Sinha called a meeting of the state CMs, at which time he showed rare statesmanship in limiting his active role to serving as counsellor and facilitator rather than trying to dominate the tax reform agenda as would normally be the wont of central ministers."

This was an astute move; sales tax was constitutionally within the States' jurisdiction, and Mr Sinha realised that the regionalisation of politics and  consequent fragmentation of the national party system in recent years had made the States considerably more assertive in relation to the Centre. 

Mr Asim Dasgupta of CPI-M (ex-Finance Minister of West Bengal) was appointed as Chairman of the Empowered Committee for the implementation of on VAT.

 This paper could not have come at a better time. The Government recently announced Mr Sushil Kumar Modi, Finance Minister of Bihar from BJP, to the head the panel for the implementation and roadmap of GST.

 The Thirteenth Finance Commission rightly said: "A key economic feature of a nation State is the existence of an internal common market. An important objective of economic policy should be to make sure that this market functions as efficiently as possible."  It is in this context that it endorsed the GST, characterising it as "indeed, a 'game-changing' reform to create India as a common market."

 Let us hope the dreams of late Raja Jesudoss Chelliah, widely regarded as the intellectual father of India's tax reforms, come true soon. 






As I sit down to write my column, my mind is going over the events in India, during the week that just passed. Europe watched with gripped attention the inept and incompetent political leadership when due process was violated. It seems like the little faith that Europeans have in the judicial system is evaporating rapidly. Clearly, the government could have averted the monumental blunder.

My father who belongs to a family of illustrious astrologers has many a time astonished me by his prophesies. Last month, he mentioned to me seriously that the Congress party is suffering from 'death wish'. In politics, sometimes, it's good for parties to die and to be re-born, he said.

From media reports across Europe, it seemed apparent that the government grossly misjudged the public mood on the rapid moral degradation of all aspects of social life and the astronomical level to which corruption has risen.

Europeans are shocked at the way the present crisis is being handled by the government. The reason for the inability to show more sagacity can only be attributed to absence of leadership of any kind within the party and government.

It can now be said with certainty that any political party in India, which hopes to weather storms like the present one, would need a typically Indian mind, understand the Indian psyche and, above all, be truthful to essential human values.

On this benchmark, most Indian political parties fail the test. However, I must add that nationality does not matter in leadership as proved by an H. S. Olcott, Annie Besant, C.F. Andrews, Sister Nivedita, the Pondicherry Mother and Mother Teresa, all of whom rose to become legends of India.


Turning now to the topic at hand, even a technically excellent lawmaking system cannot operate effectively without a culture of openness and transparency within the government. In this regard, Europe has excellent instances of the contribution of civil society.

From this standpoint, the weakest link in lawmaking in India is the detachment of society from the process of drafting and discussion of laws, and, secondly, the "decorative" manner in which attention is paid to public opinion.

George Bernard Shaw once observed that: "all professions are a conspiracy against the laity".

Lawmaking and policy-making are as fundamental to democracy as medicine is to health and they share many of the same tendencies. So how do we avoid Shaw's "conspiracy against the laity", in India? By appreciating the value of consultation and ensuring it takes place.

Consult Civil Society

European rule of law and its development are inter-related. There is an established process of interaction between public institutions, public authority and civil society.

Conferring with civil society in policy development and lawmaking has two important advantages in underpinning democracy, in that it engages people in the democratic process on an ongoing basis — and not simply intermittently at times of elections. It improves the efficacy and quality of policy-making and of legislation.

I would like to share the following three key observations of law-making in Europe.

First, legislation is formulated and adopted as the result of an open process reflecting the will of the people. After all, democratic lawmaking is not just about ensuring that laws are enacted by democratically-elected representatives. It is also about ensuring that the public in general is given reasonable opportunities to contribute, in particular those affected by the legislation and those responsible for its enforcement.

Second , there is not only good law on paper, but also good laws in practice. Europeans consider the process whereby laws are primed, as vital as their content.

Thirdly, democratic lawmaking in European nations means that a more open, transparent and participatory course ensure that new laws are well received, accepted and accurately put into action.

I believe that the European example clearly demonstrates that in a truly consultative lawmaking process, transparency and efficiency are not incompatible but rather mutually-reinforcing.

Lacklustre Leadership

Evidently, the tribulations of democracy can only be cured with more democracy. But, for this, excellent leadership and 'connect' with people is crucial.

The lacklustre leadership that defines the Manmohan years will never be forgotten in India's political history. Because, behind the supple facade is a painfully slow administrator — perhaps, a fragile and very wrong peg forced into the round hole.

All that is left is about a 1,000 days before Dr Manmohan Singh's term ends. Will he continue to condone ineptitude and corruption? Or, will he affirm to fold up his sleeves and get his hands soiled?






Everyone is wondering how this Anna Hazare thing is going to work itself out. His last declaration — that he will fast on till he dies if his version of the Lokpal Bill is not passed, that too by August 31 — has made even his most ardent supporters to do some pranayam.

That he is clear in his mind about what he wants is not in doubt. But the way he has gone about, it is beginning to create serious doubts. His tactics have been successful so far. But they do not quite add up to a strategy.

He seems canny enough to have realised that it is a mistake to get his Bill into Parliament. Once it gets there, it can be rejected, and that will be the end of it.

Indeed, once it gets there, he himself could become quite irrelevant because Parliament takes over then.

That could explain his threat of "my way or highway".

In short, although the Government appears to have mishandled the whole affair, it has, in fact, got Mr Hazare exactly where it wants him to be — between a rock and a hard place, as the Americans so delicately put it.

Bat in the air

How did Mr Hazare allow himself to be run out with his bat in the air?

Readers will forgive me for harking back to game theory but it does often offer the best explanations.

One of them can be found in something I have written about before, namely, the Grim Trigger Strategy. It describes a situation where cooperation between the players suddenly turns into non-cooperation.

Thus, the game between Mr Hazare and the Government started off as a cooperative game. But at some point in the 'game', one of the players decided to stop cooperating.

When this happens, the other player decides to do the same — but forever. This forever part is completely non-negotiable. It defines the grim part of the strategy.

That, too, seems to have happened between Mr Hazare and the Government, although it is hard to say who decided to stop cooperating first. But the reason is clear enough: The insistence by the Government that the serving Prime Minister and the Judiciary will not come under the Lokpal, as being demanded by Mr Hazare.

But who stopped cooperating first, and why, doesn't matter for analysing what the outcome will be.

What matters is the credibility of the threat.

In Mr Hazare's case, for example, the threat is a fast unto death. How credible is this threat?

Not very, when you recall the lady in Manipur, Irom Sharmila, who has been on a fast unto death against human rights abuse by the police for a decade now. Or, as the Gestapo would say to its prisoners, " vehafthe means to keep you alive, ja?"

The moral is very clear: Cooperation will leave everyone better off and non-cooperation will leave everyone worse off.

But the problem in this sort of game is that once trust is broken, there is no going back.

In, if you will, Hazare vs Union of India, we are now seeing attempts by both sides to revive that trust.

Sideline Mr Hazare?

Whether or not these attempts will succeed depends on whether Mr Hazare can be sidelined. Before there are cries of outrage, let me remind readers about at least two honourable precedents: The Congress party sidelined Gandhiji in, and after, 1940; and the Janata party sidelined JP after 1977.

There were good reasons in 1940 and in 1977; and there is a good reason now. As mentioned above, Grim Trigger strategies depend on the credibility of the threat and, as Mr Prakash Karat discovered in 2008, his threat to bring down the government by withdrawing support after the nuclear bill was passed just wasn't good enough.

In the process, he got sidelined.

Many people are beginning to sense this in respect of Mr Hazare as well. It is beginning to look as if he may have threatened once too often, not in the sense that he cannot carry out the threat but that he will be prevented from doing so. Either way, the result would be the same.

After zero corruption what?

But let us assume that his version of the Bill is passed and, therefore, let us also assume that corruption is eliminated completely.

Has anyone given any thought to how we are going to finance this wonderful democracy of ours after that?

An economist friend of mine says we should make donations transparent. But I don't think he knows the scale of funding needed.

In a year, with an electorate of 700 million, at least six national parties and four layers of elections, the sum needed runs to around Rs 30,000 crore in a five-year cycle to finance politics and elections.

Now, if that much is needed anyway, and has to be raised anyhow, it seems unavoidable that those who raise it will skim off the top.

What lies at the heart of the problem of political corruption. What is the acceptable level of skimming?

If the Lokpal can define this, we would have made some progress.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remarks on the revised 12th Five-Year Plan proposals at the full Planning Commission meeting last weekend — where he stressed the need to focus on implementation and governance, while referring to his government's `1,87,000-crore flagship programmes, to achieve its "inclusive growth" objective — are heartening. If these two elements actually become the watchword, the country can easily achieve growth of nine per cent, or even higher. Dr Singh would have liked the commission to aim for a 9.5 per cent growth rate, but the commission preferred to peg growth at nine per cent. Perhaps that august body should have stuck to the 9.5 per cent target because, as the saying goes, if you aim for the moon, you will at least reach the stars! Neither the Planning Commission nor the government has ever really lacked either budgetary provisions or paucity of schemes that would put more purchasing power in the hands of those below the poverty line, or just on the borderline. It was always in the implementation and governance parameters that things went awry. To recall the words of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, barely 10 paise in every rupee actually reached the people for whom these programmes were intended. The flagship National Employment Rural Guarantee Scheme is a spectacular illustration of how a great scheme was significantly hijacked by corrupt officials and politicians and lax state governments. Yet hardly anyone has been jailed for this despite the various reports on the corruption in this scheme that have been published. That's why it is really welcome that the Planning Commission has for the first time a whole chapter on governance and corruption. Perhaps the major missing point in this whole exercise was accountability. Every ministry should be made accountable for the programmes that come under its purview. The lack of accountability, corruption and non-governance, apart from their moral and ethical reflections, hold up development of the economy, which impedes India's progress. The Transparency International chairperson told an Indian business TV channel a while ago that the economic cost of corruption in India was 16.6 per cent of its GDP. Think of it: if the government can cash in on the present environment, when the entire country is galvanised to battle corruption, it can achieve double-digit growth quite easily. One only hopes that the issues raised here are taken into account in the final draft, and that targets in all sectors are revised upwards. If only the Planning Commission were to have more confidence in the country's strengths!






Anna Hazare has already been compared to Jayaprakash Narayan. His devotees also feel he is the new Mahatma Gandhi. But now one of his most high-profile acolytes, Kiran Bedi, has cast a new ray of bright shining light on the man: Anna is India and India is Anna, she piously informs us. This echoes the Emergency days when Congressman Dev Kanta Barooah once famously declared, in utter seriousness, that "Indira is India, and India is Indira". Ms Bedi is of a vintage that remembers those days, and no doubt as a police rookie must have seen up close what the guardians of the law were up to. And even if most of the crusaders who have rallied around the Hazare cause are too young to recall life in the ancient 20th century, some of us remember Indira Gandhi came to grief once the Emergency ended. Arrogance of power can often blind. But less obvious is the arrogance of humility and righteousness. Mr Hazare's blinded followers may be doing him an injustice. They are getting carried away by all the frenzied media attention which demands constant action, and nonstop hyperbole. Quiet, reasoned debate doesn't play well with the mike-wielding television reporters standing by, not to mention the hyperventilating anchors. So every passing minute "Team Anna" has to invent a new phrase, invoke a new metaphor. Last we heard Ms Bedi was planning an entirely new spin — that Anna Hazare can even walk on water!







Frustration and anger poured out on the streets of cities across India just a day after the 65th Independence Day when an elderly man who has been for the past many months questioning probity in public life was sent to Tihar jail — the very place where three powerful members of the UPA are lodged, charged with spectacular collusive corruption. It was argued that he had to be arrested as a preventive measure. Preventive of what? Preventing peaceful protest! Only two months ago, on the night of June 4, sleeping women protesters were prodded with lathis, tear-gassed and beaten up. One protester, Rajbala, is crippled for life. They were protesting, demanding of the government to get back black money stashed abroad. Notably, these protests were peaceful then and continue to be so till today. However, there is a common strain in the way the government has handled them. In both the cases the government has resorted to extreme action — excessive force or unjustified arrest — after engaging with them at the highest levels. To add spice and pettiness to this sordid approach of the government, spokespersons and ministers were slander-mongering and abusing those questioning its inaction against corruption. The height of absurdity was reached when a foreign hand was alleged to be behind the movement. Even as the ham-handedness continues in dealing with those raising their voice against corruption, let us see where the government stands. Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit continues in her position, notwithstanding the CAG and the Shunglu Committee reports. Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde who face allegations for their involvement in the Adarsh scandal continue as ministers. Raj Kumar Chouhan, who was indicted by the Delhi Lokayukta, continues as a minister in the Delhi Cabinet after obtaining a pardon from the President of India. The Delhi government, through the home ministry, had applied for presidential pardon for Mr Chouhan. The Pondicherry lieutenant governor who is alleged to be involved in the fake passport issuance to Hasan Ali, too, continues in his position. Former communications minister Dayanidhi Maran may have resigned from the Cabinet but till date the CBI has not moved an inch in its investigation of the Aircel-Maxis scandal. In the cash-for-vote scandal no action was taken until a court order hit the government. And in free India's history, for the first time, unable to believe the words of the law officers of the government, the Supreme Court of India asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the country to file an affidavit in the notorious Hasan Ali case. Nearly for two years the government indulged in outright denial of fraudulent practices even though many Congressmen themselves and others from the Opposition waved the red flag. The people saw the shameless shielding of those facing allegations for corrupt practices blaming coalition "adharma" by a Prime Minister whose individual integrity was used by the Congress to garner votes. It took two years and a court order for the government to book A. Raja in the 2G scam. He continues to say that his decisions were taken with the approval of the then finance minister and Dr Singh. We are told the words of an accused cannot be relied upon. But Mr Raja was, till recently, a Cabinet colleague of Dr Singh. His statements in the court are raising critical questions which cannot be brushed aside. A deafening silence prevails in the government and the people are watching in shock. Bowing to the pressure in Parliament, Dr Singh appointed the Shunglu Committee to look into the CWG scam, as though the observations made by the CAG were inadequate. The committee's report was consigned to the dustbin by the Congress and its government in Delhi. So much for their respect for a Prime Minister at whose integrity the party would not let anyone point the finger. The UPA has sucked out Air India of its resources. No accountability is being fixed for the mismanagement of the national carrier. Coalition "adharma" here again! Under considerable pressure from the people, after questionable delay, the government ratified the UN Convention against corruption. But the government's ratification was not without certain conditions attached. The government desires to have this convention effective only for prospective cases, clearly excluding, therefore shielding, the offenders of yesterday and today. Doesn't this speak of a complete lack of sincerity in the government's fight against corruption? Does it surprise anyone in this country that people today are out on the streets, protesting and demanding time-bound action? This government is clearly facing a trust deficit. History has shown that repressive methods used to silence or defame people have not only failed but boomeranged too. The protests we see today have spurred debates on the kind of democracy we wish for this country. We have blamed the middle class for being arm-chair critics. Today they are out on the streets. The middle class is omnibus — it includes all religion and castes. It is not just urban. And the protests have been remarkably peaceful. Agreed, a Lokpal is not going to be the magic solution to eradicate corruption at all levels. The frustration, however, is because the anti-corruption agency has been in the making for over four decades. The need for a strong a Lokpal cannot be overemphasised. The government must recognise and respect the mood prevailing in the country today. Wake up, India! Nirmala Sitharaman is spokesperson of the BJP. The views expressed in this column are her own.








All sons of 'Gandhi' Anna fever is everywhere and it is impacting different people in different ways. In Rajasthan, the ruling Congress and the Opposition BJP have been fighting over the right to be closely associated with Mahatma Gandhi, from whom Anna Hazare draws inspiration. In Bikaner, three BJP MLAs courted arrest, along with 142 supporters, in support of Anna, but all protesters introduced themselves as "Anna, son of Gandhi" when the police was making arrests and writing down details of the protesters. Despite repeated insistence, the protesters stuck to their stance, saying, "We all are Gandhi's sons." A Congress leader said it took decades for the BJP to realise Gandhi's importance and contribution. "We are happy to see that now they (BJP) feel proud while associating themselves with Gandhi," he added. The BJP hit back more evocatively. A BJP leader, R.S. Kavia, said, "Of course we respect Gandhi, but we are talking of Mahatma Gandhi, not Rahul Gandhi." Online enthusiasm Saffron leaders in Rajasthan were very enthusiastic when they launched an e-campaign in the state against "corruption" asking people to register their complaints online with the state BJP. The party made all-out efforts to corner the ruling Congress in the state as well as the UPA government at the Centre. But it got only 370 responses. The poor response on "corruption" caused concerns among the BJP leaders. "What happened? Only 370 responses?" asked a party leader of his colleague. But some others heaved a sigh of relief. "It would have been embarrassing if corruption issues in the previous regime had surfaced in the e-campaign," said a party leader. No roman effect Apparently, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has not yet lost hope that "better sense will prevail at the Centre" and it will heed his demand of revoking the appointment of rights activist Binayak Sen, convicted for sedition by a Raipur court, as a member of a Plan panel body. Mr Singh, who vowed not to attend any meeting of the Planning Commission till his demand was met, refused to relent, despite suggestions by leaders of both the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress in the state. "I have asked the PM to choose between a chief minister and a convict," he argued. "It is a legitimate demand. How can a convict be nominated to the highest policymaking body of the country? I have taken the stand in the interest of democracy, not to satisfy my ego." Mr Singh has already boycotted three meetings of the Planning Commission, including the crucial one that finalised the annual plan outlay for the state for the fiscal last week. "By now, the chief minister should have realised who is more important to the UPA," said a Congress leader. Mock blast RTI activist Akhil Gogoi's campaigns continue to keep the Assam government on its toes as an accident during a mock drill of the civil defence force indicated. Facing strong criticism for the use of firearms to control peaceful protesters, mostly organised by RTI activists, the Assam police embarked upon a training programme for its civil defence guards in controlling the mob. At the end of the training, a mock drill was held and a 36-member girls' team, which was trained on civil defence, was asked to play the role of rioters at the Directorate of Home Guard and Civil Defence Training Centre at Panikheiti. However, senior cops watching the drill were taken aback when a policeman acting as a riot controller hurled a 'stun grenade', attempting to simulate a riot situation. The grenade went off in close proximity, injuring 13 mock rioters on the spot. Amidst the commotion and panic, the girls were shifted to hospital. This incident left senior police officers in dismay, who are now wondering whether their trained cadres would really be able to control RTI activists without harming them physically. Amar scare When Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav rushed in last month to support his expelled aide Amar Singh in the cash-for-vote scam, little did he realise the damage he was doing to his own party. Mr Mulayam's pro-Amar statement was seen as a prelude to the latter's return into the Samajwadi fold and it set off an "Amar scare" in the party circles. Four MLAs, who had left the SP last year with Mr Singh but later got disenchanted with his "brand" of politics, were planning to return to their parent party when the "Amar scare" began. Three out of the four MLAs immediately changed their plans and sprinted to join the Bahujan Samaj Party instead of the SP while the fourth one — Mr Madan Chauhan — braved the scare and returned to the SP. "If Amar does come back to the SP, our return would amount to jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire," said one of the MLAs. "He will never forgive us for deserting him and the SP leadership will also bear a grudge against us for quitting the party. We decided it was safer to join the BSP instead."






President Barack Obama was on the way to Alpha when a plea came for him to be, well, more alpha. LuAnn Lavine, a real estate agent from Geneseo, a rural town just up the road from Alpha, Illinois, the last stop on the President's Midwestern bus tour, told the Times's Jeff Zeleny: "Everyone was so hopeful with him, but Washington grabbed him and here we are. I just want him to stay strong and don't take the guff. We want a President who is a leader, and I want him to be a little bit stronger." Hers was a gentler message than the sign stuck on a post outside Alpha: "One Term President." But her three words summed it up: Washington grabbed him. Why did this man whose contempt for Congress is clear, who ran on the idea that he could transform a broken Washington, surrender to its conventional timetable and bureaucratic language? The "supercommittee" that's supposed to save us just sounds like more government bloat — supersizing something just as unhealthy as McDonald's. Is Obama so isolated he can't see that Americans are curled up in a ball, beaten down by a financial crisis, an identity crisis, a political crisis and a leadership crisis? He got the job by blaming Washington. But once you're in the White House, you are Washington. It's like the plumber who came to fix the sink waiting for the sink to fix itself. I covered the first President Bush when he took a slide from Iraq war hero to one-term President. A turning point came in the fall of 1991, when Americans were getting jittery about the economy. Conservatives urged Bush to adopt an aggressive agenda and a muscular stance towards Congress. But relying on the disastrous advice of his budget adviser Richard Darman, Bush waited for more than a month until the State of the Union address and repackaged the same tepid agenda. President Obama bashed Congress on his bus tour. But after delegating to Congress time and again with disastrous results, he continues to play the satellite to Congress. He shouldn't be driven by the Washington schedule. He should be setting it. At long last, he promised a clear economic plan. Unfortunately, he had the fierce urgency of next month, when Congress gets back to town. Americans are rattled and want action. They don't know or care what Congress' schedule is. They just see the President not doing anything. Cruising white Midwestern hamlets in his black bus, Obama tried to justify not calling lawmakers back to D.C. by saying they'd just continue to bicker. But what does he think they'll do in September? The truth is, he doesn't want them back in the capital any more than they want to be back. It would have screwed up his vacation and upset Michelle, who already feels trapped in the Washington bubble. If Clinton wanted to be President 25 hours a day and W. wanted to be President four hours a day, Obama wants to be President for about 14 hours a day. And that's fine, as long as you don't look like you're phoning it in when the country is dialling 911. White House officials must be worried about the 10-day Martha's Vineyard idyll because, in a rare move, they put out a picture of the President with furrowed brow and Nike shirt getting a briefing from John Brennan, his top counterterrorism adviser. There were no pictures allowed of him at the Vineyard Golf Club, only shots of the President shopping for books with his daughters. He was seen in the Bunch of Grapes bookstore on August 19 holding "Brave New World". Maybe he was brushing up on dystopias and alphas. He might also want to pick up a volume of Robert Frost for some insight on why Democrats waste time trying to reconcile with ruthless foes. Obama was truly stung by his budget experience with John Boehner. And now, Senator Tom Coburn, whom Obama called "not only a dear friend, but also a brother in Christ" at February's National Prayer Breakfast, tells a town hall in Oklahoma that Obama's views are "goofy and wrong", and that the President wants to "create dependency" because "as an African-American male", he had received "tremendous benefit" from government programmes. There is no way to sell the idea that being a black man in America gives you tremendous benefit. How does Obama feel after his brother in Christ painted him as something akin to a welfare queen and an affirmative-action President? Let us take today's lesson from Frost, who deliciously wrote in The Lesson for Today: I'm liberal. You, you aristocrat, Won't know exactly what I mean by that. I mean so altruistically moral I never take my own side in a quarrel. By arrangement with the New York Times






Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form. (Bhagavad Gita 4.6). As the world heralds another Janmashtami, Sri Krishna Himself sets the tone for His appearance on Earth. "Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious values, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion — at that juncture I descend Myself." Sri Krishna, like the sun, exists before He becomes visible on Earth, and, again, like the sun, Sri Krishna manifests Himself to our vision on schedule. Sri Krishna's body is aja, (unborn) and avyaya (without deterioration). His birth, unlike ours, is not forced upon Him by pious and impious karma. He is the Ishvara, the controller of the laws of karma, and He appears by His internal prakrti (prakrtim svam), not by His external, material energy. In the Srimad Bhagavatam, it is mentioned that all incarnations of godhead listed are either plenary extensions or parts of the plenary extensions of the supreme godhead, but Krishna is the supreme personality of godhead Himself" — Bhagavan Svayam. According to Vaishnava saint, poet Srila Jiva Goswami: "Lord Krishna is the source of all other incarnations. All insignias of the Supreme Truth are present in the person of Lord Sri Krishna, and in the Bhagavad Gita the Lord emphatically declares that there is no truth greater than or equal to Himself. Lord Krishna has no other source than Himself." Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura, a Gaudiya Vaishnava Acharya, says a devotee who knows the transcendental nature of Krishna's leela becomes free from matter even before leaving his body. Therefore, to understand Krishna in principle we have to go beyond comics, TV serials and bedtime stories, for that's true liberation even in this very world of imprisonment by the senses. On this Janmashtami, let's resolve to take guidance from of authoritative scriptures, bona fide saintly personalities and spiritual masters to cleanse our consciousness so that Krishna can manifest in our hearts. That is truly Janmashtami — the birth of the unborn in our lives. Rishi Kumara Das is director English Media and Corporate Training for Iskon, Delhi. He can be contacted at







TRUMPET-BLOWING and tribute to the soldier are customary when the Defence minister addresses the armed forces ~ courtesy All India Radio ~ on the eve of Independence Day. There was a fair, valid, quantum of that last week. Yet Mr AK Antony opted to go beyond tradition to let the rank-and-file know (as distinct from speeches to the brass at conferences etc) that recent "developments" were causing disquiet. Coming from someone often dubbed a "softy" the points he made to the largest military audience a Defence minister commands assume distinct significance ~ even if his criticism and caution were sugar-coated.
Self-respecting military personnel should accept there must be grave reasons for them to be reminded to "uphold the trust placed by the nation in our armed forces". For the implication is that an impression is gaining ground that both efficiency, and core military values, are in danger of corrosion. And he proceeded to deal with a couple of specifics. Notably, he spoke of "a few" (not "stray") cases of corruption having created "a somewhat negative impact on the image of our armed forces in the public eye".
There was no need for him to mention the Adarsh housing and Sukhna land scams (to cite just a couple) since today's soldiers are well informed. They are aware of the number of senior officers facing probes. Not that another ticklish issue was ignored: "Whereas on the one hand, bravery is required to deal with terrorists, at the same time, our armed forces must perform their duties with utmost caution. Armed forces personnel must take special care of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-east and other places."  The recent incident in Poonch may have been in his focus, yet he was also letting the Army know that incidents of that nature amplified, perhaps authenticated, arguments that demand scrapping of the Armed Forces Special Protection Act.
If Mr Antony's I-Day address is perceived in the context of the concerns he expressed just days ago over ineffective coastal security arrangements, a certain picture appears to be emerging ~ the military-security effort does not quite match the huge budgetary outlays on defence. The brass may snigger, or trivialise the minister's comments, but beyond the uniformed community there will be much admiration for Antony's making bold to let the forces know that there is need for improved functioning. Their reluctance to admit to fault is taking its toll.



West Bengal's fiscal policy, far from coming to grips with a deepening crisis, now bristles with contradictions. Between the Chief Minister and the finance minister, the behemoth and largely under-worked state employees have been presented with two variants ~ a case of one hand giving what the other takes away. Barely 24 hours after Mamata Banerjee quite justifiably announced a freeze on further instalments of dearness allowance, Amit Mitra ~ ever so dutifully quoting the CM ~ has announced a puja bonanza 45 days before the celebrations. "People need cash in hand ahead of the festive season," was his laboured iteration of the obvious in the Assembly last week. While the DA freeze will save expenditure for a parlous state, the festival handout will entail an additional expenditure of Rs 127.2 crore. To that can be added the decision to clear 50 per cent of the Fifth Pay Commission arrears. Altogether it will be a fair amount of expenditure to keep the unions smiling. It is a decidedly disingenuous option exercised by a government that is struggling to clear its debt.
Compared to the CPI-M regime, the Trinamul dispensation has widened the net considerably. And it has been widened both in terms of the amount to be shelled out and the monthly income that determines entitlement. The puja ex gratia has been more than doubled from Rs 1000 to Rs 2,100; the salary slab has been raised from Rs 16,000 to Rs 20,000. Even the interest-free festival advance has been doubled. In the net, an additional ten lakh employees and 4.3 lakh pensioners stand to benefit. The outgo thus will be far higher than that incurred by the previous regime. Well may the Trinamul government convey the impression that it is more benevolent than the CPI-M. But the increased spending on the staff ~ almost a policy decision ~ will also be an act of profligacy like sanctioning additional DA. The coordination committee must be secretly happy. To say this is not to grudge the festival bonanza; only to stress that West Bengal ~ or Paschimbanga ~ sinks further in the mire.


From additional policing to the distribution of foodgrain, the CRPF is set to discharge multiple functions in Junglemahal if the West Bengal government has its way. Subject to the Union home ministry's approval, the Central forces will also be tasked with the distribution of subsidised foodgrain to the tribals. The paramilitary, which has borne the brunt of Maoist violence along the Red Corridor, will doubtless be overstretched, even if one is prepared to accept that distribution of food is a peace-keeping operation. Having opposed the presence of central forces in Junglemahal as an Opposition leader, Mamata Banerjee has eventually realised the compulsions of governance. She is now acutely aware of the utility of the paramilitary in the Maoist belt.  On at least this count, she is now on the same wavelength as her predecessor. Ironically though, this is the issue over which negotiations with Maoists could well get stalled.

The food minister, Jyotiproyo Mullick has made a statement that is a giveaway ~ "Involvement of the central forces will help us ensure that the grain reaches the poor." It is the diversion of foodgrain, earmarked for the Public Distribution System, that needs to be stopped with a firmness that has not been in evidence despite the political paribartan. The minister's justification is an oblique admission of the failure of rural governance to deliver in the poverty-stricken belt of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura. In effect the state would rather that the paramilitary take over the mechanics of the PDS. The decision mirrors  the helplessness of the district administrations. Yet the crux of the issue will remain obfuscated. The commitment on the quantity of food and the price ~ for instance rice at Rs 2 a kg to the forest dwellers ~ may not be fulfilled if the implementation is left to the devices of the state government. The government must reflect whether it would be fair to engage the CRPF in a task that ought to be executed by the food department and the district administration. The state's move lends credence to reports that from one party to another, the panchayats remain cesspools of corruption








THE president-elect of a major US university was given this parting advice by his predecessor: "Treat your 'A' student well, because some day he will come back and be a good professor. But treat your 'B' and 'C' student equally well because some day he will donate you a million dollar lab."
We in India applaud success and idolise  achievers ~ those who secure 95 per cent marks in CBSE, or get into IITs and IIMs, or join the elite civil services, or land a lucrative job in a multinational, with a six-figure salary. But they are only a small fraction of the student population graduating from our colleges and universities. For example, only about three per cent of those taking the IIT entrance examination (JEE) are admitted, even though we now have 15 IITs in place of the original five.
The plight of those who do not make it to the high achievers' category is a matter of concern. Or those who pass their graduate or post-graduate examination with less than 50 per cent marks, or even in the third division. They constitute a sizeable segment of our educated youth. What sort of future can they expect? What opportunities and career prospects does our society offer (or deny) them?
We display an appalling lack of sensitivity and imagination in dealing with them. Take the case of Mohit, an intelligent young man with a wide range of interests. However, he  lacks the knack of  securing high marks in examinations. He has passed his BA and MA in the second division, with about 49 per cent marks. What is his future? He cannot register for a PhD or do research because he does not have 55 per cent in MA. He cannot aspire to teach in a degree college or a university irrespective of subsequent achievements, such as publications in acclaimed journals. He is handicapped by the fact that he does not have 55 per cent marks needed to appear in the UGC national examination. He cannot become a secondary school teacher since he does not have 50 per cent marks in BA, the qualifying mark that is required for the BEd admission test. He cannot appear in the banking service recruitment examination for officers (you need 55 per cent in graduation, in most cases), or even for clerical posts (you still need 50 per cent).
Nor for that matter can he join a professional course ~ business management, law, hotel management ~ even though there may be thousands of vacant seats. Reason: he has failed to score 50 per cent marks in graduation.
What should Mohit do? What should lakhs of Mohits do, those who pass out of our colleges every year? A cynic suggested that Mohit could become a (i) politician, or (ii) spiritual guru, or (iii) underworld don, since these do not require 50 per cent marks in graduation. If you succeed in one of these spheres of activity, it doesn't rain, it really pours.
There is nothing wrong in stipulating eligibility conditions for a specific job or for admission to a course. Not to fix such a benchmark could lead to utter chaos. The distressing feature is that the system uses draconian measures to close every door of opportunity to those who do not possess a certain level of academic attainment.
The final selection is based entirely on performance in a competitive examination with no weightage at all given to marks in board and university examinations. Is it reasonable to insist upon a certain percentage in BA or MA or in Class XII for appearing in a competitive examination?  Aren't we depriving our educated youth of a second chance to prove themselves and improve?
Can we claim that our boards and universities are even minimally uniform in their standards of evaluation? Is 95 per cent in Class XII (CBSE) comparable to 95 per cent in a state board examination? Is 50 per cent in humanities comparable to 50 per cent in the scoring disciplines such as science, commerce or engineering? Regional variations pose another problem.
Even if we assume for a moment that marks in board and university examinations are a reliable index of a person's ability, the question arises as to what sort of ability do these examinations measure? Do they measure a person's intelligence, creativity, imagination, originality and the capacity to think critically?
Man's capacities, to quote Emerson, have never been measured. According to psychologists, only certain levels of intelligence can be measured by board and university examinations. These tests assess academic intelligence ~ an ability to assimilate information coupled with a certain degree of linguistic and quantitative ability. The problem arises when academic intelligence is used as the sole determinant in the evaluation process. Those who lose out tend to develop an inferiority complex.
There are several examples of persons who may not have performed well in school and college, but subsequently distinguished themselves in their chosen fields. Some of my best teachers at Christ Church College, Kanpur, had secured less than 50 per cent in their MA.
Is a person's intellectual ability a static phenomenon, which can be judged once and for all? Do not people grow and improve through hard work and dedication? At IIT, Kanpur, this year, the President's gold medal for the most outstanding student was won by a candidate whose rank in the Joint Entrance Examination was not among the highest. The person who topped the civil services examination this year  made it in the third attempt.
One must give it to the Union Public Service Commission for not stipulating a percentage of marks to be eligible to appear in its examinations. This is giving a second chance to those who for some reason have not done  well in their university examinations.
The real reason to fix a minimum mark to appear in a competitive examination ~ other than that of Public Service Commissions ~ is to restrict the number of candidates, thus making the conduct of the examination manageable. But this is an irrational approach, especially in these days of online examinations. It deprives a large number of our educated youth of career options and opportunities. Even the IITs  now demand 60 per cent marks in Class XII to qualify for admission. If a person with 40 per cent in Class XII can qualify in the JEE, hats off to him, I would say, and specially felicitate him.
There is no adulation of toppers in Western countries. Nor is there any evidence of insensitivity and indifference towards those with average results. At stake is the life, career, and happiness of lakhs of educated youth. They need to be treated sympathetically. We all deserve a second chance. And perhaps a third, or even a fourth.
Back to Mohit. He was selected in the civil services examination in his third attempt, with a moderately high rank, and is now a bureaucrat. And all because he was given a second chance.







The balance of payments is normally a newsmaker amongst economic artefacts. It is full of credits and debits which when netted out give small, unstable quantities. It is particularly newsworthy because India tends to run a current account deficit which, in the absence of reserves, can cause a crisis. Crises were once chronic, occurring at least once a decade. They have vanished after the reforms; as a result, the balance of payments had faded out of news. This is a pity, for it is a summary of the country's external relations, whose importance will increase if India fulfils its promise as a burgeoning superpower.

World trade has passed through considerable turbulence in the past three years. After a negligible change in 2008, world exports fell by 12 per cent and imports by 13 per cent in 2009. India shared in the decline, though its figures — 7 per cent and 1 per cent respectively — were less extreme. World exports and imports recovered smartly in 2010, rising 15 and 14 per cent respectively; India did even better, with figures of 20 and 11 per cent respectively. India runs a trade deficit, but it was offset by a larger surplus in services trade; as a result, the goods and services balance in fiscal 2009-10 and 2010-11 was almost unchanged at $83 billion. A small increase in transfers abroad led to a trifling increase in current account deficit from $40 to $47 billion; an almost equal rise in capital inflows led to an almost identical rise in foreign exchange reserves of $13 billion in both the years.

The modest increase of 7 per cent in exports of information technology in 2009-10 had fanned fears that the long export boom that led India's rise in the past two decades was petering out. The rise of 19 per cent in 2010-11 puts paid to the fears, at least for now. The Reserve Bank of India has raised its symbolic interest rates almost continuously for the last two years. Business considered the rises unfriendly, but the RBI was taking a defensive position against international turbulence. One consequence of the strategy has been the inflow of funds to take advantage of the high rates, primarily in the form of NRI deposits and trade advances. Mauritius continued to be the favoured route for inward foreign investment. But for outward investment, Singapore is beginning to rival Mauritius; its efficient financial sector has clearly begun to appeal to Indian industrialists. These are all small changes; it is impossible to find anything sensational in the figures. This is welcome; when it comes to payments, no news is good news. There could be more news on foreign inward investment policy, which continues to be one of detailed interference; it has been little affected by the reforms. The sound state of payments should give the government courage to liberalize it.







Muammar Gaddafi's fall, which, at the moment, seems imminent and inevitable, will certainly signal a new beginning for Libyan politics. But it is still too early to rejoice, for Mr Gaddafi's exit may just be the starting point for fresh troubles. What had begun as a unified movement to bring down Mr Gaddafi's autocratic regime has now become irredeemably fractured. The rebellion in Libya is currently led by various interest groups, each with its own selfish agenda to push, and lacking a coherent ideology. The National Transitional Council, which is expected to facilitate the process of regime change, is failing miserably to bring the dissidents under control and, as a result, steadily losing the West's trust. While most of the nations lobbying for a new dispensation in Libya — including the United States of America and Britain — have accepted the NTC as the only viable alternative, the future does not look promising for this North African state. In the absence of a consensus among the rebel groups, it is expected that an attempt may be made to strike a deal between Mr Gaddafi and his opponents. If such an arrangement ever comes to pass, Libya will, in all likelihood, end up being an eternally beleaguered nation like Afghanistan, run by a motley group of opportunists, a weak president and Nato forces.

The West is thus expected to get more embroiled in the internal politics of the Arab world, especially with errant states like Syria reneging on pledges made to the United Nations with little fear of reprisal. Days after agreeing to improve its human rights record, the Syrian regime, under President Bashar al-Assad, ordered firing on civilians protesting against the government in major cities. Clearly, the audacity of the al-Assad regime remains undiminished, and the West's patience with Syria is starting to run out. The US president may have plans to quit Afghanistan in the near future, but his country's tryst with the Arab world is unlikely to end any time soon.






Malema did something unusual on August 13. The leader of the Youth League of South Africa's ruling African National Congress apologized for something he had said. "We are a young people who will time and again commit mistakes and are prepared to learn from those mistakes," he declared. There were only three things wrong with his apology. One was the use of the royal "we": it was Malema himself who had said that the ANC should work to overthrow the government in neighbouring Botswana, not some anonymous group of youths. Second, he is not actually a youth: he is 30 years old. And third, his remark was clearly premeditated, and he is not really sorry for making it.

Julius Malema is increasingly seen as a likely future president of South Africa: President Jacob Zuma has said that he is a good leader who is "worthy of inheriting the ANC". But this doesn't necessarily mean that Zuma likes Malema. Most leaders of the ANC dislike him, but they also fear him, for he has the enthusiastic support of millions of the poorest people in South Africa.

The ANC's goal was to bring power and prosperity to South Africa's black majority, but it has only half-succeeded. Seventeen years after it took power, one-third of the country's people are still living on less than $2 a day, and they are almost all black. So there is a promising political niche for somebody who articulates their anger and advocates radical solutions, and Malema has won the competition to fill that niche. He won it by being more radical than anybody else. He advocates nationalizing South Africa's mining industry (by far the country's biggest source of employment and revenue), and seizing the land of white farmers without compensation.

He insists on singing "Shoot the Boer" (the white farmer), the old apartheid-era "struggle" song, despite South Africa's laws against hate speech and the fact that 1,489 white farmers actually have been murdered since the end of the apartheid regime in 1994. So the poorest and most marginalized people in the country love Malema for recklessness, and that gives him enormous leverage within the party.

Real possibility

Only once before has the ANC tried to discipline him, in May 2010, when he was forced to make a public apology, fined, and ordered to take anger management classes after he "brought the party into disrepute" by criticizing Zuma. But he didn't attend the anger management course, and before long he was back at it.

After his latest outburst, calling for regime change in Botswana, which he said was "a foot stool of imperialism, a security threat to Africa and always under constant puppetry of the United States," ANC leaders called again for him to be disciplined, but it didn't happen. Malema made a semi-apology, but he did not abandon his plan to use the ANC Youth League resources to support the opposition in Botswana.

Neither did he repudiate his call for the nationalization of mines, and the ANC is so afraid of him that it has said that nationalization "requires further study" — even though the party leaders know that it would cause the collapse of the South African economy.

So could this reckless, ruthless demagogue end up as the elected leader of South Africa? Yes, he could, and that would be the end of the brave experiment in tolerance and democracy that South Africa has been living through for the past two decades. But it depends on two things: how well the economy is doing, and how badly the ANC is doing in the opinion polls. An ANC that foresees itself losing power in the next election might well turn to Malema in the hope of turning its political fortunes around. That's unlikely to happen in the next general election in 2014, but by the one after that, it could be a real possibility.






As monsoons clouds continued to swathe parts of India and lowering skies moved on reluctantly from others, schoolchildren and choirs practiced for Independence Day celebrations throughout the country. The moment of thanksgiving cannot, however, erase memories or retellings of those carnage-filled monsoon days of 1947, in time, the stuff of poetry, fiction and history. This year marks the 55th anniversary of Khushwant Singh's classic Train to Pakistan; as a young girl growing up in Nehruvian India, I remember it being one of those books — like Gone with the Wind and A Farewell to Arms — that parents and their friends discussed endlessly. They had, of course, lived through Partition, albeit at a safe bureaucratic distance; the nearest my family got to communal tension was when we had to shelter our Muslim bearer in the spacious environs of a Lutyens' bungalow. He had refused to go to the refugee camp at Purana Qila, melodramatically declaring that he would rather die at our doorstep. No such eventuality arose, quite unlike what was happening in the rest of north and eastern India, torn asunder by unimaginable cruelty and violence.

Of the many accounts of those harrowing days, the best-known fictional rendering in English is surely Singh's tightly-woven novel. He had reluctantly left a burning Lahore by road for Delhi on August 12; as he neared the end of his journey on deserted roads, a group of Sikhs stopped his car and triumphantly declared that they had killed all the Muslims in sight. Singh's receptive mind was to hear and absorb many more stories of butchery and suffering and, in a few years, he was to start writing his first novel while living in Bhopal. In preparation, he used to visit the railway station every day and observe the tracks and the movement of trains.

Though Train to Pakistan is a tragic story told with little melodrama and undue emotion, the author nestles snugly under the skin of all his characters. Using his skill of a born raconteur, Khushwant Singh narrates how the Muslim and Sikh residents of Mano Majra, a village known for its railway station situated near the newly-established border between India and Pakistan, learnt to accept that as communal violence would engulf them too, it was best that the Muslim population left for Pakistan. It was not an easy decision as both communities had lived peaceably together for aeons. A simple story weaves together the lives of simple people caught in a maelstrom that they can barely comprehend. There is Nooran, the daughter of the blind Muslim weaver, also the mullah of the mosque, who loves Jugga, known variously as the local "stud bull" and "budmash"; Hukam Chand, the wily bureaucrat who uses his position to acquire young women for the night; Meet Singh, the keeper of the gurdwara, the leftwing, England-returned Iqbal, who finds himself in the village and is soon arrested for no real reason, and many more. Everything happens over a couple of rain-filled days and, in no time, Khushwant Singh's evocative prose and conversations abundantly laced with earthy expletives have the reader racing along with his characters, some of whom display disarming characteristics under stress. The deft use of nature as a counterpoint to the scenario of destruction and anger is an appealing narrative device — "A new moon looking like a finely pared fingernail" and "the shimmering haze at noon making mirages of quicksilver" can hardly not touch those used to the relentlessness of an Indian summer. His descriptions of those monsoon-soaked days when the country is partitioned, of "the shrill, strange call of a bird" that augurs the beginning of the rains — and of destruction — linger on as does the vision of the moon — as he writes — wiping clouds off its face.

When the chaos and violence of the world beyond catches up with Mano Majra, Hukam Chand regrets sending away the young Muslim prostitute (Hasina in the film), only a little younger than his daughter who had died. Meet Singh remains a firm believer in the essential goodness of human nature till the end, and though Nooran gets little sympathy from the mother of her lover, there is an unmistakable softening on the old woman's part when she hears that the girl is bearing her son's child. The extraordinary courage and strength of Jugga, the archetypal anti-hero, lives with the reader for days as does Khushwant Singh's feel for the natural environment. It is hardly surprising then that the thrilling climactic end focussing on a train-load of Mano Majra Muslims bound for Pakistan encouraged the director, Pamela Rooks, to make the book into a film in 1998. With a background in documentary film-making, Rooks was able to combine the ambience of a small village on the border with suitable histrionic embellishments — some of which don't quite come through, such as the growing attachment overnight between Hukam Chand and Hasina. Interesting is her use of colour for the blood and gore and a sudden switch to black and white in the particularly dark sequences in the film.

This medium had been used to its fullest, most gory extent by the intrepid Margaret Bourke-White in her photographs of those traumatic days. In 1946, Bourke-White was appointed by Life magazine to photograph the exchange of populations that followed the partition of India. Life used less than a hundred photographs and some of the unused ones were sourced by Pramod Kapoor and included in a special 50th anniversary edition of Train to Pakistan published by Lotus/Roli Books. Bourke-White carried out her mission with single-minded determination, ploughing through the dead and dying with impunity. Lee Eitington, a journalist who went to the Punjab with her in August 1947, commented that the photographer had no compunction in asking a group of terrified refugees to repeat their action of flight time and again until she felt she had the right images.

Train to Pakistan presents in dramatic sequence a microcosmic interpretation of how Partition affected a few lives against the much larger picture of ten million uprooted from their homes and of the one million slaughtered in cold blood. Bourke-White's camera captures both — trains bursting at the seams, their roofs overflowing with those unsure of their future, mass cremation sites, "vultures in waiting", the endless stream of refugees to inadequate camps, heaps of bones and carcasses — and individual cameos of helplessness and resignation. And there is more — this woman, who had clearly tucked away her emotional self, photographed disembodied limbs, dying old men and women, mangy dogs picking at putrefying bodies.... This brilliantly angled shot of a young man looking sightlessly into the distance, away from the teeming, noisy thousands surging around the refugee camp at Purana Qila below, says it all. He holds his head in his hands; maybe Bourke-White asked him to do so, or maybe that's how he was sitting when she chanced upon him. Another man peeps from behind, his furrowed eyebrows and suspicious look indicating that he doesn't quite trust the woman with the camera. Yet he does not move out of the frame. Far below, a woman with a dark dupatta appears to be observing the photo shoot, a temporary distraction from the overwhelming task of trying to piece together the shards of life.

In re-presenting a text interleaved with searing photographs, Pramod Kapoor has reaffirmed a tradition established as far back as the American Civil War, and later in India, during and after 1857, of visually recording large-scale traumatic events of conflict, death and destruction and combining these with the written word. The photographic visual — whether the still image or part of a cinematic representation — acquires a peculiar salience, an invincible validity; it is both evidence and explanation of events that tore apart countries — and often it goes against the grain of received wisdom or government-speak, providing visual support for a very different understanding of events.


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




Making regulatory bodies in various fields more accountable and their functioning more transparent is an idea whose time has come in the context on the manifold functions they have, the power they are supposed to wield and the responsibilities they hold. The prime minister has indicated that the government is planning to bring in legislation to monitor and regulate the regulators' functioning "without compromising their independence''.

This was in the context of the need to reduce the discretionary powers, vested in individuals, government departments or even regulatory bodies, which may not always be exercised in the best manner. Because of the expansion and increasing complexity of many areas of economic and public activity a number of regulatory institutions have been created. They are there to regulate financial activities and important sectors like telecom and power. It is a welcome idea to strengthen them and enable them to work better.

The draft bill that has been proposed for this purpose, which has existed for over two years, has some good ideas. It mandates that the regulator should submit regular reports to parliament. A real and independent regulator should be accountable to parliament.

Parliamentary committees can oversee their functioning through regular interactions. This practice is prevalent in many countries like the US where Federal Reserve officials regularly testify before Congress. This will minimise the government's control over these bodies. The ministries influence many of their decisions, though they are supposedly independent.

In some cases the regulator has no real power to act on its own. An example is the failure of the Telecom Regulatory Authority (Trai) which could not cancel the licences of many operators who did not fulfil their service obligations. It could only make a recommendation which the government refused to accept. The telecom scandal may not have taken place if Trai had the power to take decisions and act, and had to report on its decisions to parliament.

The system of selection of persons to head the regulatory bodies should also change. It is senior bureaucrats, serving or retired, from ministries concerned with the working of the regulatory bodies who are often selected for the position. This should be avoided. Selection and appointment should not be the sole prerogative of the ministry, as it is at present. A system in which more powers, maximum accountability and greater transparency are interlinked will make the regulatory work more efficient and fair.







A report prepared by a task force and submitted to the human resources development ministry on the severe shortage of staff in institutions of higher education should receive urgent and immediate attention from the government.

For many years the authorities found that it was difficult to get qualified teaching staff in educational institutions of every kind, from the school to the university level. Now the situation has deteriorated so much that even if the bar of qualification is lowered there are not enough teachers available at any level.

The task force has estimated that there is a shortage of nearly three lakh teachers in higher education. This is a huge gap which cannot be easily filled. With enrollment for higher education increasing at 7 per cent per year, the shortage will keep increasing, and one lakh more teachers may be needed every year.

Where and how can so many teachers be found? It is not that suitable candidates to fill up teaching posts are not available. There are many who have the basic qualification but might need specialised training. Appointments for any posts are a difficult process in India.

Administrative problems and delays abound. The task force has suggested simplification of procedures and decentralisation of processes. It will be more difficult to find qualified faculty for high-level institutions like IITs, IIMs and medical colleges. There is a 30-35 per cent shortage of qualified teachers in IITs and other technology institutes. Central universities suffer a shortfall of up to 40 per cent. The government recently allowed IITs to appoint expatriate Indians as faculty. But the response has not been very satisfactory.

The task force has made a number of recommendations to speed up faculty recruitments and to make teaching attractive to young and qualified persons. An important suggestion is to stop hiring guest faculty and avoid appointments on contract.

The challenge in the coming years is going to be massive and the quality of our higher education depends on how we deal with it. Between 2006 and 2009 about 8,000 new colleges and 100 new universities were formed in the country. The staff shortage is to some extent the result of the demands made by the new institutions.

Unless measures are taken to appoint good teachers in good numbers wherever they are needed, the country will not be able to reap the benefits of the fast growth of higher education being witnessed now.







''The children manning Anna's barricades have made laughter their primary weapon.''
The eloquence of Jawaharlal Nehru at the approach of the midnight hour of August 15, 1947 was so magnificent that it has overwhelmed the contributions of other great Indians to that memorable evening, a landmark in the history of democracy and its institutions.

Sixty-four years later, let us also hear the member from United Provinces, the philosopher-academician and later President, Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan. He rejoiced in this wondrous achievement but cautioned about dangers ahead.

He demolished the culture of blame, the favourite alibi of Indians. "Others," he said, meaning the British, "were able to play on our weakness because we had them." The weaknesses that lay ahead were equally dangerous: "When power outstrips ability, we will fall on evil days."

If this precept alone were made part of the oath of office, it might  have a salutary effect — on those capable of understanding it. Dr Radhakrishnan warned that a venal ruling class might turn a dream into a nightmare: "Unless we destroy corruption in high places, root out every trace of nepotism, love of power, profiteering and black-marketing which have spoiled the good name of this great country..."  Corruption and nepotism have become the bookends of Indian governance.

The genius of democracy lies in its ability to offer renewal at a time of despond. That is what Anna Hazare, unknown yesterday and unforgettable today, has promised the children who will shape India's tomorrow. When a ruling party descends to abuse against a simple man and the rhapsodic popular movement he has inspired, then it has sunk to an irrational nadir.

Piloo Mody, thou shouldst be living at this hour! Or, at the very least, we should be able to recall  this wonderful parliamentarian of the 1970s, the last time we had nationwide rage against a government whose power had outstripped its ability. It is a cliche to call someone larger than life; and the phrase is not merely physical.

Piloo had a boom that echoing incessantly  through the  corridors of power, and a wit that reduced any ivory tower to a bamboo hut. These days a Congress spokesman like Rashid Alvi seems a bit reluctant to use 'CIA,' but in the 1970s CIA was the public apotheosis of evil.

Anyone who dared to question the majesty of Congress was immediately driven into that seventh circle of hell. That is where the Alvis of 1974 banished as fine a patriot as Jayaprakash Narayan, leader of the people at another high point of anger. When CIA was considered insufficient condemnation, they added the 'RSS' tag, as if that became condemnation beyond redemption.

Laughter terrorization

Nothing terrorises an autocratic government more than laughter. Piloo Mody knew how to laugh. One day, he came to the Lok Sabha wearing a large badge that said, 'I am a CIA agent.' The government never recovered. Since there is no Piloo Mody around now, the children manning Anna's barricades have made laughter their primary weapon. If the government is not worried by Anna Hazare, it should be seriously apprehensive about the sarcastic, pointed and sometimes hilarious slogans bursting around him. The icons of the Congress might believe that they can distance themselves from the tirades of their silly spokesmen. That is an illusion. People know that a spokesperson is a puppet.

Anger is concentrating against the triumvirate of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh although Gandhi is abroad for medical reasons, Rahul Gandhi is visible only at judicious moments and Singh uses silence as tactical weapon. Anna Hazare has become a symbol in exactly the manner Jayaprakash was in 1974. The specifics of his demands are less important than the fact that he is making them.

The Big Three mobilised against Anna, Lion Chidambaram and Tigers Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid, opened their offensive with a send-him-to-jail roar that shook every television station and made the more compliant ones tremble with excitement. Within 24 hours, the three resembled Alice in Wonderland's Cheshire cat, whose broad fixed grin vanished in stages.

A more competent government would have accepted Anna's initial demand, placed his draft for a Lokpal bill in parliament, and let the long process of legislation take over. This would have also expanded ownership of the official response to all political parties, instead of making it a largely Congress enterprise. But the Big Three decided to be potent, making their current impotence even more abject. If public anger is now focused on Congress, the party has only itself to blame.

There is one slogan eerily reminiscent of JP's movement in 1974: "Yeh andar ki baat hai, police hamare saath hai. (The inside story is that the police are with us.)" Forty years ago, this was condemned as treason. The world has moved on from such plastic prescriptions. This is not about CIA or RSS. Corruption is neither a foreign agent nor a partisan force. It is an evil that the prescient Dr Radhakrishnan foresaw on August 15, 1947.








Whoever said that India's growth story is intact? None other than Pranab Mukherjee. While this may be true to a certain extent, India's growth chart has been fortunate as it thrives in local conditions and does not overbearingly rely on western turbulences. And as the beleaguered government commits one faux pas after another with social activist Anna Hazare, Pranab's statement seeks to dispel doubts of bad governance.


The equity markets, however, did not echo that sentiment as cues from the west sent all expectations haywire and have belied that theory. This was reflected in the bourses on Friday when the Sensex fell by 328 points. Although it fell further below the 16 K mark during intra day trade, it closed above the psychological barrier of 16,000. Let us see what is in store at Dalal Street on a Manic Monday.


Friday's distressing news with regard to top players in the equity market has distressed many. Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) had been briefly relegated to third position after late morning trade on Friday as the country's most valued company.


And while Anna and his anti-corruption campaign shone in all its glory in the monsoon affected streets across various towns in Goa and elsewhere in the country, RIL briefly took another back seat. ONGC took over reigns as the second most valued company when RIL's dwindling fortunes slipped Rs600 crore lower than that of ONGC whose market valuation stood at Rs2,38,528 crore. Certainly, this was a case of history repeating itself in the markets. Coal India Limited had earlier emerged at the country's most valued company. RIL, nevertheless, regained its second position at the end of the day.


There is no doubt that after having been caught on a fresh global storm, there has been a colossal sell-off. But smart investors can use this as an opportunity. Traders too will be keeping a wary eye. After having invested heavily in equities and F&O blocks, buying stocks at this low level could help. This could offset any losses incurred so as to close the gap. 


There are certain lessons to be learnt by the gold surge. In any given bull run, the mantra is never to fight the trend nor impose a limit. The million dollar question now is: where will gold go from here? A global fear notwithstanding, no one really knows how much of this exists. So projections cannot be made. No doubt, the yellow metal has soared due to the fact that it is now an excellent investment plank and, by any given expectation, a sure winner. But limits on the upside are limitless. Gold is like a bubble. An intelligent investor would always park his funds here, when the going is tough, but he would also be the first to withdraw the minute the bulls stage a grand recovery and give the bears a shellacking. That is when the bubble will burst. One has to be careful. In any case, the surge as of now is unbelievable. And most buyers of gold are the greedy ones. 

Back to the Indian economy, there is a certain reason why Pranab da's statement makes sense. The US has actually been losing significance towards India for much of the last decade. Its faster growth in trade and investments with other economies as well as the recession there has softened the country's commercial ties with India. However, dollar oriented export related services like IT and outsourcing will be affected. 


Our country should concentrate on these vital issues and also make positive strides to contain inflation, so that in the eventuality of another 'double dip recession', our resources hold us in good stead. 








Most of our elected representatives seem to believe they are modern day "robinhood". They use this logic to demand bribes, to squeeze out any and sometimes everything from common people and everyday processes. They ensure the robinhood myth is perpetuated by giving out a few crumbs to the less fortunate, while keeping the major part of the pie. Are they really "Robin Hoods?"

The original Robin Hood lived in the forest with his band of merry men. They robbed fat rich men who usually had come by their wealth by dubious means, most likely by exploiting the poor peasant. At no time did we hear of Robin's men troubling poor folks. Robin Hood opposed the Sheriff of Nottingham who was the law.  While the Sheriff ate and drank at the high table, Robin and his band sat around a fire in the forest, but had a merry time all the same. At no time, did Robin and his men attack local traders or businessmen, rob a bank or the government treasury for that matter. Whoever they robbed, no deal was made, the target was relieved of all his possessions and usually deserved no sympathy. All responsibility was owned by Robin Hood for his acts.

When shared, it appeared most, if not all, was handed over to the peasants. From the beginning to the end Robin and his men remained at the same, strong principled men with no possessions. If push came to shove, the entire countyside would have backed Robin of Loxley.

In contrast, to modern day claimants to the title, there are stark differences. For starters, they live in palaces. The road from almost nothing to the titles of many properties is paved with dubious deals. 

These aspiring robin hoods are the law. No one or nothing is spared in the quest to collect the booty. How else would you explain stories of poor people paying for the privilege of getting a government job or losing land to threat of acquisition? Even the act of recommending someone's name for a ration card comes with a price, his vote, apart from the cash to be paid up front. Businessmen and traders are primary targets, any and every occasion is an opportunity to make a deal. The lions share is taken by the aspiring Robin Hood. The businessman, on the other hand, has to make his money short changing the project. 

So you will get a bridge, but less cement will be used so it falls in ten years rather than the hundred it was supposed to last. When enquiries are held, it is only the businessman who has to pay the price. 

The best part I save for last, only crumbs are given out and the cream of the collection is added to the family's silver, gold and BMW collection. These earnings are responsibility free. There is no money back guarantee. In one curious case, aspirants were told that if the government of the day falls and the promised job cannot be given, forget the money paid. They do not rob just people, they rob the exchequer, that affects us all.

In short, these are not Robin Hoods of yore, but simply Robbing Hoods. Maybe we all knew this simple fact but were powerless to do anything. But not anymore. Anna is here. 

The entire country side is up in arms, every nook and corner of India is bursting, the frustration is palpable, the fake Robin Hoods are on the run. 

Unlike the original, who was chased by law, today's Robbing Hoods are using the law to try and suppress this frustration. There is not just one "Sheriff of Nottingham" in India, there are many. They are ganging up to safeguard their ill gotten interests. Therefore, the "peasants" in India too must all join hands with Anna and get not only the Jan Lokpal bill passed, but the Lokayukta implemented in Goa. 

The time is now, stand up and be counted. Stop the loot, bring looters to book. Jai Hind!. 








The escalation in the south contains all the components that allow a prime minister to do what he pleases without significant opposition. Continued rocket fire on Israel's cities, a criminal act that should be unequivocably denounced, comes at a heavy cost to the residents of the south, in lives and property. It disrupts normal life in the country and increases pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rain down destruction on Gaza that will restore "deterrence" and "change the equation."

The pressure comes not only from the right, which traditionally prefers aggressive solutions, or from the inner cabinet or forum of eight senior ministers, whose members mostly represent aggressive worldviews. Even the main opposition party, Kadima, which is supposed to act as a brake and barrier between the government and decisions that might turn out to be Pyrrhic victories, is urging Netanyahu to take advantage of Israel's military superiority over Hamas and the other organizations that have claimed responsibility for the rockets.

The chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Kadima lawmaker Shaul Mofaz, said yesterday morning: "The state must expand its actions vis-a-vis Hamas and bring down infrastructures," while Kadima's deputy chairman, MK Yohanan Plesner, pledged that "the committee will back any move the government makes to restore deterrence vis-a-vis Hamas and the terror organizations."

For her part, Kadima chairwoman MK Tzipi Livni went even further. She announced on Friday that she would back the Netanyahu government if it undertook a major operation. "Terror must be fought with force," she said.

The fact that no significant political entity stands between Netanyahu and a reenactment of the violent military operation of 2008, Operation Cast Lead, shows that Kadima, which should be leading the opposition, is not being true to its function. But more importantly, it exposes a political vacuum that lays all responsibility at the doorstep of one person.

Precisely because all options are open to him, and despite his tendency to buckle under to political pressure, the prime minister must use maximum good judgment and restraint.

It is in Israel's interest not to make the current spasm of violence more extreme, but to act in a proportionate manner while working to find points of consensus that will break the automatic cycle of violence.








One can only hope that the prime minister will not ask his deputy, Moshe Ya'alon, to settle the dispute with Egypt in the wake of the incident in the south. According to Ya'alon's doctrine of international relations, under which "honor is a national asset," Cairo should be consigned to hell. Just as in the matter of the refusal to apologize to the Turks, standing tall and marching in the direction of lowering the level of diplomatic relations with the largest Arab country will without a doubt raise Israel's prestige in Washington and in Paris, and will deter Damascus and Tehran. When the neighbors' actions are motivated by honor, rather than by their interests, with Israeli arrogance, we call this "Arab honor."

The encounter between the Egyptians' prestige and the Israeli leadership's arrogance ignited the big blaze in October 1973. Egypt's honor required erasing the insult of the loss of the Sinai Peninsula, and then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir's arrogance shut her ears to the peace signals from the late Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat. The thousands of victims exacted by that war did not succeed in curing the Israelis of the curse of arrogance. It sticks its nose up so high that it blocks the view around the corner - until the next violent clash.

The protest by the hundreds of Egyptians who are surrounding the Israeli Embassy in Cairo was not born during this past week. For decades, they have been watching Jewish settlers stealing lands that belong to Arabs, with the permission and the blessing of the government of Israel. All these years, the Arab commentators have been reminding the newspaper readers in the Arab countries that the Israelis deceived the Egyptians at Camp David in ignoring the Palestinian chapter in the agreement. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is threatening to revoke the Oslo agreement. It is a wonder he is not threatening to revoke the peace agreement with Egypt.

Two weeks ago, viewers of Al Jazeera watched Deputy Knesset Speaker Danny Danon, of the ruling party in Israel, declare the Jewish people's right to all of the land of Israel, and to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank ) in particular. Danon, who was introduced by his title of World Likud Chairman, asserted that the idea of two states to the west of the Jordan River was utter nonsense.

On the weekend, the Arabs learned that Danon, Lieberman and company are not alone. With a wave of arrogance, MK Shelly Yachimovich, who is vying for the Labor Party crown, granted a social-democratic certificate of kashrut to the settlements and their products. The young colleagues among the social revolutionaries of Rothschild Square, who are demanding social justice, are not evincing interest in the appalling lack of justice towards the Palestinian neighbors.

And this is not all. On Wednesday Israeli public figures will participate in a demonstration of support for Israel, moderated by Glenn Beck, the American preacher-broadcaster who recently declared that Jordan is Palestine. The event, of course, will take place with a mass audience and with television crews in East Jerusalem at the foot of the Temple Mount / Al Aqsa Mosque.

Cabinet ministers, among them Deputy Prime Minister Ya'alon, and Knesset members, among them MK Anat Wilf of Atzmaut, until lately of the Labor Party, alongside Kahanist MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union ) have stood in line to have their pictures taken in the company of the extremist broadcaster who is one of the biggest haters of U.S. President Barack Obama.

They have from whom to learn. Just a short time ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a display from the podium of the House of Representatives of arrogance towards the (short-term, in his opinion ) tenant of the White House. The encounter between Israeli arrogance (and its sister, euphoria ) and ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's duplicitous policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict facilitated maintaining relations with Egypt, as though there were no occupation in the territories, and maintaining the occupation as though there were no Camp David agreement.

The channel between Cairo and Jerusalem remained open even after Netanyahu, in his arrogance, appointed as his foreign minister a politician who holds the patent on the proposal to bomb the Aswan Dam. The new Egyptian government's fear of the reaction by the United State has kept the Egyptian ambassador in Tel Aviv - for now.

This time, the Israeli arrogance is encountering the honor of an Arab street that is undermining the old order. When they see on television Israeli soldiers fighting Arab children on the day after the declaration of a Palestinian state in the UN, the dissidents in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Syria and Libya will not be cracking sunflower seeds in front of the television. I hope I will be proven wrong.







I wonder what caused Shelly Yachimovich to reveal her positions even before conquering the Labor Party. Until now, they were known only to esoterics, including her self-declared ally, Gideon Sa'ar of the Likud. Those who deluded themselves with: "But that's not what Shelly really thinks!" could be given the benefit of the doubt. How did the young leftists who joined Labor because of her feel now? They've always heard her say that she doesn't speak of the occupation because it isn't the main priority. Before making critical decisions, they quoted her, "There must be a society." And how is a society created? Through social democracy, of course. What a lovely, progressive term.

But reading Yachimovich's remarks makes one want to run away from that pair of words. With her, it's neither social nor democracy; it's the social right - like that of Moshe Kahlon or David Levy, two politicians who, in contrast to her, are proud members of the right. Even Beni Elon, Aryeh Eldad and Yaakov Katz would agree with her: The three of them (like many others in the settler right ) are true-blue social-welfare advocates who loathe privatization, support taxes on the rich and more.

They would also agree with her description of her reality, according to which it is a "historical fact" that the settlement enterprise in the territories, which Labor founded, was in the consensus.

Let's put aside for a moment the question of whether every ill that "was a consensual move" deserves absolution. The "fact" is faulty. Gush Emunim's aggressive takeover of Israeli politics may have been done with Labor's disgraceful cooperation - but "consensus"? Was it not in response to angry leftist demonstrations that Menachem Begin declared, "There will be many more Alon Morehs? Did the best and brightest of Israel's ethicists and intellectuals not write dozens of volumes of research and opinion proving that the settlements and the occupation are destructive and that they reduce any possibility of a peace agreement? And did Yitzhak Rabin never exist?

Wasn't it Yachimovich herself who said in an interview with Haaretz in 2005: "While the welfare state here was being destroyed, while investment in the development towns was suspended, an alternative welfare state took shape on the other side of the Green Line... It is completely obvious that the giant occupation enterprise damaged the economy... and the state's social safety net"?

The racist rabbis who preach insubordination, the violence against Israel Defense Forces soldiers, the religious terror of the Zionist ultra-Orthodox, the battle to destroy the justice system, the obliteration of Israeliness and of civil identity in favor of the Diaspora-like insularity of "Jews" versus "goys" - and we haven't yet said a word about the Palestinians - of all these, Yachimovich elects to dispute the populist argument that pits "money for poor neighborhoods" against "money for the settlements."

"I am not in favor of boycotts," she said. Really? What about the boycott of Mizrahi Tefahot Bank over executive salaries? Or is it only boycotts against settlers that are taboo now?

To Haaretz writer Gidi Weitz's question about the tension between Zionism and socialism she says, "I am not aware of such an argument." She should have the devoted party workers she loves to call "ideologues" get her up to speed on that. They could recite the history of the struggle, which gave rise to fascinating sub-sects of socialist Zionism and various syntheses.

But Yachimovich, loyal to her right-wing stance, prefers to measure "Zionism" against the test of military service and standing at attention during the national anthem.

This test, too, is acceptable to the Zionist Haredim, the destroyers of the Zionist idea and its vision of sovereignty and a normal, ethical state. It's been a long time since they were interested in territory per se; their aim is to bring about deep change in Israel. They want all of Israeli society to make the crude, distorted distinction between sanctimonious "social justice" and the horrific injustice stemming from the continuation of the occupation, from the settlements and from the fanatic-nationalistic Judaism that rejects all civil values. That is the foundation of the dream of the big Jewish state, in which Palestinians and Israeli Arabs will be inferior subjects.

The skimpy Labor Party is bruised from misuse. Ironically, just when there seemed to be an opportunity to resurrect the alignment of the left from its ashes, it is now that Yachimovich, apparently convinced of her victory in the primaries, offers to become the "social-oriented" tchotchke of the Likud. No wonder Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished her luck.








The chaos in Gaza allows terror organizations to operate, both in direct and indirect ways. Terror raising its head allows Hamas to reduce prospects of any peace settlement ever being forged.

With its interim, military-revolutionary government, Egypt is not preventing terror on its territory; instead, it is slapping customs duties on the "import and export" of terror, and thereby endangering a strategic asset, peace, which is valuable to it and to Israel. The world keeps quiet, and the United Nations does not even mumble.

Where the chain of events that continues to grip us will lead remains unclear. Nonetheless, some insights may be gleaned from this terror outbreak, the most significant of its kind since January 2008, and the first since the revolution in Egypt.

The most important insight pertains to Egypt, which is currently in an extremely fragile state. The tenuousness of this fragility is connected to the question of who will hold the reins of government that are now in the hands of the army junta, which apparently incited the revolution while cynically exploiting the events in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Officers near the border lines know the truth: Terrorists roam the Sinai Peninsula as though it were their home, terror gangs fire weapons right under the noses of guards at Egyptian military posts, some Egyptian policemen reportedly joined the celebratory gunfire, and retaliatory Israel Defense Forces fire harmed them.

The disingenuous display of naivete in Cairo is a diplomatic necessity. Israel must not let itself be duped at this moment; at this sensitive juncture, Israel would bear responsibility for any form of escalation, since we have a central, democratic government, whereas Egypt's political situation remains unclear.

The sequence of events, its intensity and duration, the array of terror weapons deployed in Gaza, and Hamas' shifting responses (the Islamic organization originally claimed that these events had nothing to do with it, and then it released a surreal statement claiming that "they decided to stop honoring the ceasefire" ) all point to the lesson that must be learned concerning the Gaza Strip: Hamas continues to rule over Gaza. It exploits the chaos in Egypt, and makes optimal use of the blind support conferred by the "beautiful people" who organize flotillas to break up the imaginary blockade.

The border between Gaza and Egypt is porous. Were all the routes used to smuggle firearms and terrorists from one side to the other used instead to relay food and other various consumer necessities and even luxuries, life in Gaza would be much more tenable.

But that's what Hamas is afraid of: It doesn't want a rise in public economic expectations to lead to the formation of tent camps in Gaza City's central square. As far as it is concerned, the time is ripe for another violent stand-off with the IDF; Hamas always comes out as the just side in such conflicts.

Would it be prudent for Israel to swallow the bait right now, no matter how justifiable it might be to do so? Apparently not! The opportunity should be seized to launch pinpoint, localized retaliatory strikes. But should there be another round of full-scale fighting? The region is too fraught with tension right now for that.

The last insight relates to other states of the world, and the UN. This deluded comedy is already starting to get on the nerves of the most patient diplomats.

Here are some highlights of the surrealistic comedy: Lebanon stops the UN from issuing a moderate denunciation of a lethal attack on a passenger bus on an internal road within the state of Israel, not in Judea and Samaria; pressure on Syrian leader Bashar Assad eases because the weekend ended with only 36 fatalities in his country; From its Olympian heights in Ramallah, separated from its people, the Palestinian Authority calls for a reprimand against Israel for its actions against "our brothers," Hamas - these being retaliatory actions for terror strikes that took the lives of civilians.

Throwing caution to the wind, the Palestinian Authority explained that "the government of Israel will escalate the situation in Gaza in order to solve its problems with the social protest movement."

Dear Palestinians, forget it: Israeli society will continue to protest and demand the social justice it deserves, and we will not forget what your real aim is. Did we already use the word, "farce?"








Emile Habibi often used the term, al-farj al-arabi, which freely translated means "the Arab life preserver." When the leaders of Israel were forced into a corner, we would say: "God save us from the Arab life preserver," lest an action against civilians or verbal vitriol turn things around and engage the world in deploring the "extremism" of the Arabs who want to throw the Jews into the sea, at a time when, in fact, the Palestinians were being thrown to the mercies of the 22 brother countries.

This is nothing new. Anyone who rummages in history will find that the expression "Trust the Mufti" is attributed to David Ben-Gurion, whose vitriolic statements only served the aspiration to expel more and more Arabs.

In Syria al-farj is the mendacious vitriol against Israel and the United States. Bashar Assad is using al-farj al-israili as an excuse for suppressing the mass demonstrations in Syria.

The latest "farj" was on Thursday, in the form of a criminal action against civilians. But this time among other things the farj helped squelch the social protest that is beginning to threaten Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's continued term in office. The terror attack was aimed at achieving three goals: Embarrass the Egyptian revolution by undermining its control of the border, to subvert the attempts by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to obtain recognition for a Palestinian state and last but not least - to set the ground on fire once again.

I object to conspiracy theories and I don't believe them. But these three aims of the bloody attack suit Netanyahu's policy: He objected to the change taking place in Egypt and tried to sell the world his own approach, to the effect that that in light of those changes Israel must hold strong.

He is making every effort to undermine the efforts for recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations and he is already planning how to react to a new intifada, the one whose supposed fomenters are saying will not happen.

So at the moment it's back to normal. Because as distinct from dealing with a fresh and contagious public protest emitting rays of light that blind those accustomed to moving in dim mazes, everyone here knows very well how to behave when there is a terror attack.

Everything ticks along like a Swiss watch and the sense of victimhood hovers over all. It isn't pleasant to feel like a victim but it is more convenient to feel that it's a decree from heaven to continue to live by the sword. So it's back to normal.

We are waking up from the rosy social dream as the TV screen becomes occupied by the tiresomely familiar faces: generals, politician and television commentators Roni Daniel and Ehud Yaari, with their Judgment Day faces.

The social protest can wait, because it's not possible to give up the war momentum: bombings in Gaza, missiles on the south and this time the flames are reaching as far as Egypt.

With a foreign minister who has already threatened to bomb the Aswan Dam, it's going to be a lot of fun here.

Seriously, though: It will be sad if the action, its offshoots and its escalations cut down the tender infant born yesterday. As in David Grossman's poem, "Spring is so short here," it is "intoxicated and perfumed - how beauty can heal!"

Will its life be cut short as swiftly as it grew and blossomed and caught on in the whole society? This is the test of the protest movement, this is the test of all the good folks in both nations.




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



Neither Congress, nor federal regulators, nor state or federal prosecutors have yet to conduct a thorough investigation into the mortgage bubble and financial bust. We welcomed the news that the Justice Department is investigating allegations that Standard & Poor's purposely overrated toxic mortgage securities in the years before the bust. We hope the investigative circle will widen.

But a lot more needs to be done to address the continuing damage from the mortgage debacle.

Tens of millions of Americans are being crushed by the overhang of mortgage debt. And Congress and the White House have yet to figure out that the economy will not recover until housing recovers — and that won't happen without a robust effort to curb foreclosures by modifying troubled mortgage loans.

Instead of pushing the banks to do what is needed, the Obama administration has basically urged them to do their best to help, mainly by reducing interest rates for troubled borrowers. The banks haven't done nearly enough. In many instances, they can make more from fees and charges on defaulted loans than on modifications.

The administration needs better ideas. It can start by working with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-run mortgage companies, to aggressively reduce the principal balances on underwater loans and to make refinancing easier for underwater borrowers. If the president championed aggressive action, and Fannie and Freddie, which back most new mortgages, also made it clear to banks that they expect principal reductions, the banks would feel considerable pressure to go along.

The housing numbers are chilling. Sales of existing homes fell in July by 3.5 percent, while prices were down 4.4 percent in July from a year earlier. In all, prices have declined 33 percent since the peak of the market five years ago, for a total loss of home equity of $6.6 trillion.

There's no letup in sight. Currently, 14.6 million homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, and nearly half of them are underwater by more than 30 percent. At present, 3.5 million homes are in some stage of foreclosure. Nearly six million borrowers have already lost their homes in the bust.

Reducing principal is a better solution than lowering interest rates, because it reduces payments and restores equity. Bankers resist, because it could force them to recognize losses they would prefer to delay. The administration has resisted, in part because principal reductions are seen as rewarding reckless borrowers.

But many of today's troubled borrowers were not reckless. Rather, they are collateral damage in a bust that has wiped out equity and hammered jobs, turning what were reasonable debt levels into unbearable burdens.

Housing advocates and bankruptcy experts are calling for the administration to try new approaches. One would have Fannie and Freddie urge banks to let underwater borrowers who file for bankruptcy apply their monthly mortgage payments to principal for five years — in effect, reducing the loan's interest rate to zero.

Another solution would be for Fannie and Freddie to ease the rule for refinancing underwater mortgages for borrowers who are current in their payments. The lower payments on refinanced loans would help to prevent defaults and free up money for borrowers to use for paying down principal or consumer spending.

President Obama is reportedly planning to include housing relief measures in his new jobs plan. Unless the plan includes strong support for principal reductions and easier refinancings, it will not get at the root of the problem: too much mortgage debt and too little relief.






It has been more than three months since a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit accused the Department of Veterans Affairs of "unchecked incompetence" and unconscionable delays in caring for veterans with mental health problems. Instead of working with the plaintiffs to address the court's concerns, the V.A. is appealing the ruling.

The 2-to-1 decision in a lawsuit brought by two nonprofit groups, Veterans United for Truth and Veterans for Common Sense, found that the V.A. bureaucracy was so extremely slow and unresponsive that veterans were being denied their constitutional right to mental health care and to the timely adjudication of disability claims. It cited as evidence the high veteran suicide rate — an estimated 18 a day among the nation's 25 million veterans, and four to five a day among those being served by the V.A.

The judges pointedly noted that the agency had no suicide prevention officers at any of its outpatient clinics and that 70 percent of its health facilities had no systems to track potentially suicidal patients. The court agreed with the plaintiffs that "systemwide" changes were needed at the V.A., especially given the rising flood of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It ordered the case back to the district court so a plan could be devised.

The V.A. is determined to overturn that ruling. It is seeking a rehearing from the full appellate court. It argues, among other things, that Congress had specifically sought to prevent federal circuit courts from "second-guessing" V.A. decisions about benefits under a 1988 law, which set up the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims to review disability claims.

The two nonprofits are urging that the rehearing be denied. They argue, sensibly, that while the 1988 law imposed limits on federal courts' oversight of the V.A.'s bureaucratic decisions, Congress surely did not intend to deny veterans any judicial forum to challenge the systematic and structural denial of their constitutional rights.

The current crisis, they say, is not about federal judges meddling in specific decisions by the agency to grant or withhold some veterans' benefits. It is about trying to compel the agency to fix a grossly deficient process for providing mental health care, a system that is failing nationwide. For veterans who are dying for lack of timely care, due process has been replaced by no process, or process with pervasive delays. These court delays are adding insult to those injuries. This cannot continue.






City and county planners and greenway advocates long have envisioned extending the Tennessee Riverwalk from its current terminus on the north end of the Walnut Street Bridge to Moccasin Bend, making it the green gateway to the Moccasin Bend National Archeological District that was approved by Congress in 2003.

The city also has planned for several years to extend the riverwalk from its terminus at Ross' Landing, rounding the south shore across from Moccasin Bend to the Alstom plant near Main Street, as agreed when Alstom decided to locate in Chattanooga. From there, it would continue to St. Elmo, terminating at the foot of Lookout Mountain. There, it would connect walkers directly to the rich grid of existing trails on the side of the mountain in the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, affording a wealth of hiking options and extraordinary views.

Both projects promise to significantly boost the city's downtown amenities and quality of life, making the city more appealing to outdoor-minded residents and tourists, walkers and bicyclists. And now both, after years of talking and dreaming, are at last getting traction.

Proposals for the south shore extension have been mapped, and a substantial portion of the funding has been committed or tentatively allocated, subject to matching grants. The latest grant of nearly $1 million, a portion of a larger federal bloc grant awarded by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, was announced Thursday. It brought the total of pledged funding for the project to $8.2 million. County officials hope to receive another $2.3 million from TDOT, as well as gifts from other donors, before finishing the detail design and requesting bids.

The funding in hand should prompt work on the entire 3-mile greenway to begin next spring if land easements for rights-of-way across several key parcels of land can be secured. It's hard to see other barriers. The funding already committed is more than enough to kick-start the work. By contrast, the high-end estimates of $10 million to $14 million for the 3-mile corridor seem high, even if plans call for widening the riverwalk from eight-feet to 12-feet to accommodate more bicyclists.

In any case, the new stretch of greenway promises a new and welcome view across the river of the long flank of Moccasin Bend that is now seen mainly from the windows of whizzing cars on I-24 or from the top of Lookout Mountain. It should nurture the revival of the Broad Street area, and at the same time relieve the congestion of heavy pedestrian and bicycle use on the existing riverwalk from downtown north to the Chickamauga Dam.

Though it will take years and significant funding to flesh out, the proposed Moccasin Bend gateway area should provide similar benefits once it is completed. The proposed pedestrian, bicycle and traffic lane designs presented Thursday at a public hearing suggest that well-designed linkage from the north shore along Manufacturers and Hamm roads can make pedestrian and automobile access to the proposed Moccasin Bend Park District's visitor's center both beautiful and functional.

The greening of the connector roads and pedestrian ways would be designed to protect natural resources in the connector area, to complement the ongoing commercial nature of the core connector routes, and to develop a parklike setting between Renaissance Park and the 755-acre National Park land on Moccasin Bend. Collateral planning also will provide a similarly well-designed pedestrian and bicycle connector route to the new 90-acre Stringer's Ridge park.

The planners' renderings of their vision for these new urban greenspaces elevate them from the dryness of abstract concepts to an almost tangible sense of their potential beauty, charm and recreational dividends. They are bound, one day, to provide aesthetic appeal and outdoor resources that will make downtown Chattanooga an increasingly unique mid-sized city, a place laced by a web of interconnected greenspaces amid a vibrant downtown and a nationally unique and historic National Park district just across the river. Construction of these crowning new features can't begin too soon.






The oil and natural gas industry's drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing of substrate shale formations to free oil and gas deposits is not new. But the method, commonly referred to as fracking, has become intensely controversial as toxic, carcinogenic and radioactive chemicals used under pressure in new gas industry wells have been found increasingly in adjacent aquifers and watersheds that provide drinking water for millions of people from Pennsylvania and New York to Texas.

With criticism and public anger mounting, a Department of Energy panel recently announced recommendations for tighter regulations to govern fracking operations. They call for better tracking and more rigorous treatment and disposal of the toxic elements disgorged by wells, stricter standards on air pollution from fracking wells, and establishment of a public database on fracking wells and the chemicals and techniques used in them, and the pollution they emit.

The recommendations also call for a ban on the use of diesel fuels and certain other chemicals associated with the release of toxins and carcinogens in wells to prevent water contamination, and for drilling companies to disclose all ingredients used as fracking chemicals. And they call for companies and regulators to keep a manifest detailing each step of the disposal and treatment process of waste, and the handlers and treatment centers used.

Given the findings of the fracking industry's pollution of water resources and inadequate waste treatment, such rules seem sound. But there remains serious questions as to the ability and willingness of DOE and the industry to abide by the rules if they are adopted, and Washington's willingness to withstand the predictable challenges of the drilling industry.

The debate handily illustrates the most pernicious side of the political theater in which Republicans malign regulatory authorities such as the EPA and the DOE, among others, for regulations intended to protect the public from toxic emissions and polluted public resources like drinking water. They say such regulations hamper industry and kill jobs. But they say nothing about the poison they would unleash in the absence of sane regulation.







It is rather difficult to understand why some people are so upset with the operations against the separatist Kurdish dens in northern Iraq. If for some legitimate and illegitimate reasons the Americans, Iraqis and Iraqi Kurds for so long could not enforce "state responsibility" and stop northern Iraq from becoming a staging pad for terrorist attacks on Turkey, is it not Turkey's legitimate right to take whatever measure – including land and aerial operations – required to silence evil barrels directed at the security of Turkish people?

Indeed, should we not ask whether the terrorists still have hideouts there and whether they have been staging cross-border attacks from those hideouts?

Rather than Turkey, that neighboring country must indeed take required measures and silence the barrels directed at the peace and public order of the neighboring country, but if for some incomprehensible reasons some other strategic perspectives, kinship relations or whatever else override neighborly responsibilities and obligations, what other option could Turkey have but to take action itself to eradicate the den of iniquity there? If Turkey is not to provide security for its people, why on earth does it have the second biggest army in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization? Just to stage coups?

Unfortunately, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government has neglected the security of our people for so long with the pretext of an ambiguous Kurdish opening, hoping that the opening – which the government failed to provide any direction to anyway – would succeed, separatist terrorism would vanish and the threat to the security of our people would come to an end. Thanks to the defeatist delusions of the neoliberals and the efforts of the secessionist lobby, the Turkish people somehow started to perceive separatist terrorism as some sort of a legitimate tool in politics. Instead, there should be no letup in the fight against terrorism and there ought to be a national, resolute condemnation of terrorism.

Is it possible to understand the reactions of some writers and intellectuals who oppose the operations in the Kandil Mountains? Had they said those "aerial operations are not enough, there is an absolute need for a land operation" I would applaud them, but is it possible to reconcile with reason and goodwill an assessment that the operations "are empty efforts as nothing can be achieved by bombarding the rocks?"

Let us wake up and see some bitter realities. With the pretext of the Kurdish opening, the separatist gang was allowed to establish "recruitment stations" just a few kilometers outside some Turkish cities. A blind eye was turned to the gang's ID checks in the streets of some southeastern cities and harassment of some people even though such illegality happened just meters away from a military garrison. While security operations were still continuing in the area, under the guidance of a legitimate political party – which is indeed the political wing of the separatist gang – hundreds of civilians were allowed to cross the border with Iraq to pick up the remains of terrorists killed by security forces…

Yes, mothers should no longer weep for their sons… Of course those who lose their lives battling the terrorists and [most of] the terrorists losing their lives in security operations are all our sons… All criminals of this society are our sons also, but we cannot forgive whatever they do just because they are our sons, they have to face the adequate penalty for the crime they have committed.

Finally, the AKP government appears to have learned – Inshallah – that it cannot turn the other cheek to terrorists mercilessly murdering our sons. After all, are not "providing security and ensuring the right to live" the most important duties of a state toward its citizens?

Rather than allowing terrorists to bring violence to our homes, Turkey should fight them at their dens… That's a requirement of legitimate self-defense.





As the Ottoman Empire vanished after World War I, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk created a new Turkey in the mold of Europe. Controlling all levers of power, including the military, Atatürk implemented his vision by mandating a separation between religion, public policy and government, and by telling his compatriots to consider themselves intuitively Western.

It took a century and a democratic revolution invoked by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP — a coalition of conservatives, reformed Islamists and Islamists that came to power in 2002 — for Turkey's "Kemalist Occident," or dalliance with the West, to end. With the mass resignation of Turkey's military leadership last month, the last standing Kemalist institution, the army, has succumbed to the AKP's decade-long political tsunami.

This political bookend for Kemalism suggests that AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is Turkey's "new" Atatürk. He doesn't have the cachet of being Turkey's liberator, but he enjoys as much power as Atatürk once had.

Simply put, the Kemalists had it coming. When Turkey became a multi-party democracy in 1950, various parties sought for decades to maintain Atatürk's legacy, while the military guarded the system.

Eventually, however, lethargy took hold. Far from remaining the progressive, forward-looking movement of the early 20th century, Kemalism stagnated and then shifted into an ideology for protecting the past. To those of us growing up in Turkey in recent decades, the most visible sign of this process was the emergence of mass-produced Atatürk statues, on almost every town square, after the 1980 coup that ended anarchy on the streets but also gave the country its highly restrictive and military-written constitution.

By turning Atatürk into a cult, the generals also ensured Kemalism's demise.

Even after Turkey became a democracy in 1982, this process would not be reversed: The governing parties, mostly from the center-right, failed to produce ideas for change. The nascent Islamist parties sensed an opportunity and began building grass-roots networks and incubating a forward-looking vision for Turkey, one that cultivated permeable walls between religion, public policy and government, and that embraced the country's Islamic identity in foreign policy.

When the dominant center-right parties collapsed after a debilitating economic crisis in 2000 and 2001, the Islamists used a platform of moderation to attract voters. Once in power, the AKP garnered popular support for change, succeeding in part because of the decade of stable economic growth the party has provided. A buoyant AKP established itself as Turkey's new elite, gradually replacing Kemalist power centers in the media, business, academia, civil society, unions and, after amendments to the constitution last year, the high courts.

The military was the final institution of Kemalism. Since 2007, a court case known as Ergenekon, which alleged that the army was plotting a coup against the government, has crippled the military's power. The army has been criticized for allegedly planning a vicious takeover bid and accused of planning to bomb Istanbul's historic mosques to precipitate a political crisis. Although the assertions remain unproven, the effects are clear: The military's status as the country's most trusted institution is plummeting. In 1996, 94 percent of Turkish respondents to the World Values Survey said they trusted their military, while in 2011 the same poll found that barely 75 percent do.

Recognizing this and the AKP's dominance, the military leadership threw in the towel on July 28.

Now, the AKP, as the dominant elite, can repeat the cycle of a powerful force shaping the country.

Just as Atatürk molded Turkey in his rigidly secular and Western image because he could, Erdoğan will remake Turkey to match his image of rigid social conservatism and Islamic identity.

Domestically, this means a blend of government-imposed social conservatism and popular will. An example of this occurred days after the AKP's victory in the June national assembly elections; officials of the AKP-run Istanbul city government raided downtown drinking establishments and banned outdoor tables (and, hence, publicly serving alcohol). The change prevents potential "sins" in the public eye.

Overnight, drinking disappeared from parts of downtown Istanbul.

In Erdoganist Turkey, the line between public morality and religious values will blur, and the government's popular power will make opposition impossible.

In foreign policy, a Turkey satisfied with its Islamic identity would stop considering itself intuitively Western, especially given the resonance of the notion of a politically defined "Muslim world" since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. This means an increasingly tense relationship between Turkey and NATO, the symbol of all Western institutions. It also means that Turkey will be open to all sorts of non-Western dalliances. An AKP decision to buy Russian weapons, say, or invite the Chinese to a joint naval exercise in the Mediterranean, would be applauded by Turks, including the military.

For a century, the Turks emulated Atatürk because his political descendants controlled all power. Now, it is Erdogan's turn. He has a vision and controls all levers of power. Time will tell how far he is able to shape Turkey in his conservative design.

This column originally appeared in The Washington Post





I am not talking about the Morgans in the recent comedy with Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker, but the investment bank's forecast revisions.

Morgan Stanley significantly downgraded its global growth projections on Thursday, noting that the U.S. and Europe were hovering "dangerously close to recession"- although they underlined that this was not their base scenario.

Other institutions, as if on cue, were quick to follow: The other Morgan, the J.P. one, revised its U.S. growth expectations soon afterward, and my email inbox rapidly filled with reports from others, all with imaginative titles such as "lowering our forecast" and "slow growth ahead".

I am still not sure if it was these reports or Slyvia Plath's poems that made me gloomy as I was doing my Thursday afternoon reading at a Gloomsbury café in London. But the downward revisions are actually very good news for the Central Bank of Turkey.

For one thing, they show that the Bank was right on target with its dismal growth outlook earlier this month. You could argue that the Bank's response of cutting rates was not the right one, and the deflation scenario emphasized by Gov. Erdem Başçı is still not the consensus view. But the Bank was, along with my blog host Nouriel Roubini, among the first to notice the rising risk of a double-dip recession in advanced economies.

This global picture has affected the monetary policy outlook in other emerging markets as well. The tightening bias has all but disappeared, so the Central Bank of Turkey does not look like such a maverick anymore.

Moreover, Başçı, seeing the confusion in the markets on the Bank's policies, is giving communication top priority. He talked to yet another Turkish TV channel last Monday. I would have found his performance top-notch had he not spoken about the lira.

I think the governor is playing a dangerous game with statements like "the Central Bank has views on the currency, but no commitment". If you are wondering, the view is that the lira is 5-10 percent undervalued. That may well be the case, but "verbal currency manipulation" could easily lead to "currency speculation" in a country with a chronic current account deficit and therefore in need of external financing.

Speaking of the current account deficit, while the governor might have addressed the confusion surrounding the Central Bank's policies, markets still continue to worry about the deficit, especially since capital flows to emerging markets are prone to "sudden stops" in the present global environment.

Although the Bank has taken an interest in the current account deficit since it unveiled its unconventional policy mix at the end of last year, it has limited tools to address it. A weaker lira is a temporary fix, which could backfire if it appreciates the real exchange rate by creating inflation, and there is only so much that can be achieved by curbing credit growth.

The true solution to the current account deficit would be through the mysterious word "reforms". Mysterious because it is the usual prescription to the deficit, but no one, including those who use it, actually knows what it means.

I will explain my own understanding of reforms next week.

Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Follow





The title of Adam Smith's famous book is "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations." This book is accepted as the first systematic analysis of economic problems and the author is also accepted widely as the founder of the science of economics. In this book, which was published in 1777, Adam Smith advocated the concept of a "homo economicus," which can be translated as "economic man," who is rationally trying to maximize his economic interests. If all "homo economicus" are free to accomplish this aim, the national economy can also reach maximum wealth. People must be free to buy and consume what they want to maximize their satisfaction, in addition producers and sellers also must be free to produce and supply what they want to maximize their profits. So the key element is the free market mechanism. This is the main "cause of the wealth of nations."

Now after more than two centuries we try to understand the nature and the causes of the economic-political-social problems of Western countries, which still say they closely follow Adam Smith's advice. Is it true? If it is true there is something wrong in his advice. On the contrary, if his advice is innocent and rational, then why haven't Western governments shown enough respect to free market mechanisms? Periods of war and worldwide political turmoil can be accepted as excuses. However, the mistakes and negligence (which caused several unnecessary crises) during normal times must be explained.

Let's begin from the foundation of the eurozone and the acceptance of new members into the community in haste, without seriously evaluating their structural soundness. First, it was not rational to establish a monetary union even between the original members of the union, of which the governments had different political ideologies and as a result different fiscal and monetary policies. Secondly, even if all members of the eurozone follow common policies, it must be accepted that the European Central Bank's authority over individual national decisions would be quite limited without a supranational power. And it must also be accepted that it is not politically possible to give such a power to the ECB. The U.S. example is not suitable for the European Union. The American case is totally different from both a political and an economic sense.

If we continue to discuss the most important weak point of the American case, we must begin from the continuous power struggle between the Democrats and the Republicans, which sometimes overshadows the real national interests. The recent case of the debt ceiling struggle in Congress was the best example of this political deficiency. The other important problem is a serious mistake made in understanding the meaning of free market mechanism. Deregulation in financial markets were accepted as a revolution but were also misunderstood; it does not mean markets are totally free from all kinds of regulation and control. However, maybe because of the difficulties in controling deregulated financial markets, the authorities responsible for following and punishing ill doings partly neglected their job.

Another important question is whether serious and unsolved problems caused erosion in the ideology of Western capitalism. If the repeated economic problems or pessimistic expectations for new crises weakened belief in the virtues of the free market mechanism, even some leading countries might begin to search for new but irrational methods to solve the present problems and stop oncoming ones, as they did after the 1929 crisis.

Fortunately this did not happen after the 2008 crises. The reason is obvious. The American administration and the leading countries in Europe are still hoping that their interventions might bring some solutions to the serious economic problems. If their hopes totally fade away when it is understood that their efforts are fruitless, they naturally will begin to look for different ways. This might bring the world economy in the brink of a full catastrophe, which would be worse than a "second dip."






Time magazine in December 1999 picked Albert Einstein as the Person of the Century and included Mustafa Kemal Atatürk among the 15 most important leaders who paved the way to the 3rd Millennium. Einstein was a great scientist, but his discovery of the atom led to the worst tragedy of the century, the dropping of atomic bombs in Japan, and also to the nuclear disasters, such as the ones in Russia and Japan, with no certain future. John McLaughlin, the host of 'McLaughlin Group" declared that his award for "The Person of the Full Millennium" was for the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, praising him as ''Visionary who turned a Muslim nation into a Western parliamentary democracy and secular state" during his Jan. 1, 2000, end-of-the-millennium broadcast. Professor Arnold Ludwig picked Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as the greatest leader of the 20th century following his 17-year study of over 300 leaders who shaped the world during the 100 years.

It must also be remembered that Greek Premier Venizelos nominated Atatürk for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930 and in 1978, UNESCO declared 1981 as "The Atatürk year". Atatürk's vision for his country and the world was the separation of state and religion and "Peace at Home, Peace Abroad", a more meaningful contribution to humanity than Einstein's inventions. Yet, today and in the second decade of the 21st Century, Atatürk's vision is needed more globally.

The review of Mr. Şükrü Hanioğlu's book "Atatürk: An Intellectual Biography" in his article "A quest for the historical Atatürk" (Daily News, Aug. 6-7, 2011) by Mr. Mustafa Akyol is a big surprise where he finds faults with the times and principles of Atatürk, as he did back in 2007 in his article "The Gospel according to Atatürk" (Daily News, Oct. 11, 2007). His approach and general attitude is similar to many others, including Prof. Dr. Halil Berktay of Sabancı University (Taraf newspaper). They do not miss any opportunity to bring up negative aspects of Atatürk's times, as Berktay did when he wrote "Mistakes of Atatürk," which to me is more than an insult to the greatest leader of the 20th century alone and to the entire nation. One could easily ask, what is their problem and what do they want to accomplish with this sort of "negativism'' on Atatürk, which is also in line with the anti-Turkish propaganda by the Armenian diaspora, especially in a newspaper read by foreigners worldwide.

Nothing and no one is perfect in this world, with the good and not so good, the pretty and not so pretty, and so on, either as an individual, leader, government or a nation. There may have been incidents during the early Republic that some people might not like that happened during the miraculous achievements that changed Turkey, but we owe the founding and continuing existence of the Republic of Turkey and everything to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. We should all be thankful to him and commit ourselves to develop it further.

It is incomprehensible that 73 years after his death, people are still searching for the historical Atatürk, exemplified with Mustafa Akyol's article and it is very strange that a book on Atatürk begins with an episode of a lonely shepherd's observations of Atatürk's silhouette on a hill some years ago, which Mr. Akyol has also picked as a starter in his article. Perhaps, both should have also mentioned another episode where another Turk saw Jesus Christ's image on a tree trunk. Truthfully, I could neither follow Prof. Hanioğlu's reasoning in his book nor the purpose of Mr. Akyol's article, which ends with his quest for the "second Turkish Republic."

Probably the question to be asked is; What is this second Turkish Republic? Atatürk's principles are a model for over 60 least developed and developing countries around the world, striving to reach where Turkey was in the 1920s. The hardest question is; "For whom these books, articles and ideas are meant to serve?"





 Only a few weeks ago, I was begging God to forbid a "domestic war on terror" (Daily News, August 1). Then came the war. In fact, there were many bad omens!

 Many democrats consoled themselves by thinking that increased nationalist discourse was just the result of the pragmatic policy of the governing party for the election campaign; as if election campaigns can be excused of nationalist populism and they can be regarded harmless. Moreover, many negative signals that the governing party gave, concerning its attitude towards the Kurdish problem, are spared of criticism and concern. Very few dared to question the possible implications when the prime minister stated that "there is no Kurdish problem but the problem of Kurdish citizens."

 After the election, the governing party did not express any concern when the judiciary decided against freeing Kurdish MP's who are currently under detention. When the Kurdish party protested the Parliament, they were rather cursed instead of trying to be convinced. Then came the talk of "war on terror" rather than promising more democracy for solving the Kurdish question. These were all bad omens that nobody wanted to discuss much.

 There is no doubt that bloody attacks of the PKK, which killed 13 soldiers in Silvan and 12 others in Hakkari, triggered the last military campaign against PKK camps in Northern Iraq. Nevertheless, only a few days before the Hakkari incident, the prime minister stated that "a big blow is coming by the end of the holy month of Ramadan." Besides, the government, which introduced his plans to form special police units for the fight against terrorism, hinted there was a new understanding of the government concerning how to solve the Kurdish question. The PKK belligerency only enforced this "security first" approach which replaced "democracy first" long time ago. Meanwhile, the main opposition Republican People's Party, or the CHP kept criticizing the government party, but failed to present any coherent alternative policy.

 Now, those who cannot agree on anything positive, are firmly united for the "war on terror." In a very nationalist country like Turkey, it is no surprise. However, this unity does not promise any solution and almost all observers of Kurdish question agree on that point. But it is to no avail. Even the bad signs of increasing social tensions between the Kurds and Turks do not ring alarm bells for the politicians. On the contrary, the prime minister warned "all those who keep them close" referring to "the terrorists" but implying the Kurdish political movement all together. A newspaper which is close to the government published the photo of BDP politicians with the headline which reads, "You are the murderers."

 I was worrying that "a domestic war on terror" will end our all hopes for more democratization. This government claims that, "many dreams came true in Turkey" during their terms. This is not my case; it is my nightmare which came true. But I will keep praying to overcome these troubled times anytime soon.





For some time now, we are living in times when portfolio decisions are made by looking at nothing other than the wristwatch. This is one of those "all that's solid melts into air" periods. Something is happening at every moment, making you jumpy. Consider yourself living in Turkey now. Syria on the south side of the southeastern border, increased Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK activity on the north side of the same border and there is the European banking crisis increasing tensions in global markets. Turkey, on the other hand, has structural vulnerabilities, becoming more visible every moment. Chilly? Definitely. Today let me focus on the deepening European crisis.

The deepening crisis in Europe was in the news last week. The European crisis is a source of macroeconomic imbalance in our region. EU leaders are strengthening an imaginary Maginot line that is as useless as the actual historical one against the Germans in WWI. Futile attempts on the part of the EU leaders, if you look at yesterday's Wall Street Journal claiming that "Fed officials are also concerned about the liquidity situation of European banks." Inaction of European leaders could be the excuse for a third quantitative easing (QEIII) in the U.S. It's a good opportunity for Ben Bernanke to be more active. "You know just to limit the negative impact of the deepening European crisis on the U.S. banking system." We may hear about it shortly, just wait.

Why futile attempts on the part of EU leaders? The EU is still treating a banking crisis as a liquidity crisis. There is a hole in the banking system and everybody is wondering why all the water they are pumping into it is not enough to fill the bucket, the banking system, with water. It leaks, for God's sake! All the liquidity you are pumping tends to be hoarded with precautionary motives elsewhere. Structural problems need to be addressed with structural measures. A banking crisis with holes in the balance sheet needs to be dealt with banking recapitalization operations. Private actors, bank owners should also be a part of the solution. That was where we were in Turkey in 2001.

Why Eurobonds as another attempt to strengthen the imaginary new Maginot Line? Under normal conditions, government bonds are national in the EU. With no fiscal union, everyone has her own risks. But the European Central Bank as an EU institution has supranationalized the government bonds of Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, etc. Now the EU takes over the risk, and can directly issue Eurobonds to support banks. But it is not enough. Two things are missing if you ask me: First, you need to use those bonds properly, for banking recap, not for more muddling through operations. Second, with the EU Eurobonds there is the need for a fiscal union, national budgets becoming more technical and less political documents.

So many years after the Magna Carta, this is something new. Kind of a quantum leap for today's European politicians. And there are so many elections looming ahead in so many core European countries.

So wait for the Bernanke move. Let's have QEIII for Europe's sake.








England's worst rioting in decades has ended, leaving London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham and other cities scarred and large numbers of people shell-shocked at the violent confrontation between the police and angry youth. The rioting, in particular, the looting, has provoked angry condemnations.

Prime Minister David Cameron called the rioters "sick". He ordered draconian police action close to what the Americans call "zero tolerance". He said he would fully back "whatever tactics" the police employ and didn't want to hear about "phoney human rights concerns" regarding intrusive surveillance.

Such responses, and the harsh retribution, as distinct from justice, being delivered to the suspected rioters, including evictions from subsidised housing, miss the point about what caused the violence. So do the tough police methods which have led to thousands of arrests. At the root of the trouble are several pathologies of British society, including the state's growing credibility crisis.

The violence began with the killing of young Mark Duggan, in Tottenham in north London, a mixed-ethnic impoverished area. Contrary to the early police account that Duggan opened fire on them, ballistics tests confirm that he didn't. Angry protests ensued after a police station was picketed. The protesters, convinced that Duggan was killed because he was black, vandalised shops. Unchecked by a police force which has become rudderless after the recent resignation of senior officers following the voicemail-hacking scandal, the violence spread.

There is a context to it, revealed during past investigations into riots, such as the 1981 violence in south London. The Scarman inquiry into this was a scathing indictment of the institutional racial prejudice. It said the violence was "essentially an outburst of anger and resentment by young black people against the police." Part of the context is also high unemployment, great income inequality, and lack of social opportunity.

Haringey, the borough which includes Tottenham, has the fourth highest rate of child poverty in London and an unemployment rate that's double the national level. For poor ethnic-minority groups, says a recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report, "gateways to opportunity [appear] permanently closed, no matter how hard they try, while others seem to have been issued with an 'access all areas' pass at birth". Two-fifths of blacks and South Asians live in low-income households, which earn 60 percent or less than the median British income.

Cameron seems oblivious of this, and even more inexcusably, of the effect his cruel social spending cuts have had on community services, healthcare and education. The cuts have all but destroyed the youth clubs which used to keep the young usefully occupied, doing something creative. Gone is the sense of community and belonging they created.

Being poor is bad enough. Being poor and totally, desperately, isolated is far worse. That's the situation of at least one-third of the British youth, who have no future. Deprivation of educational opportunities – aggravated by huge recent hikes in university fees – has made things worse. There are middle class jobs only for those with a high level of education and proficiency in information technology. The skilled manual worker is no longer in demand.

When young people are given sermons about being virtuous and "workfare", as distinct from welfare, in Margaret Thatcher's words, they are left unconvinced. When they see that their parents are unemployed despite having had some education, they lose faith in the value of education. Thus, when after the riots, Cameron lectured them in a small town in Oxfordshire about being good family men and women, and taking responsibility for their actions, they heckled him. They said the biggest threat to public order comes from his austerity measures.

The austerity measures come on top of dualistic neoliberal policies pursued for three decades, which pamper the rich and punish the poor. Britain is one of Europe's most unequal societies, where the richest 10 percent are 100 times wealthier that the bottom tenth. It has the lowest social mobility among OECD countries.

Britain, which once laid claim to inclusive growth, a degree of social cohesion, and the best free healthcare system in the world (the National Health Service), is both a faltering economy and a deeply divided society, whose rifts cannot be healed by "free-market" policy approaches.

Cameron now talks of reversing "the slow-motion moral collapse" of Britain's "broken" society, which he is unable to relate to these approaches. He said: "We have been too unwilling for too long to talk about what is right and what is wrong... We have too often avoided saying what needs to be said, about everything from marriage to welfare to common courtesy".

This is classic reactionary Tory talk, which celebrates conservative middle-class family values. It blames the poor, and regards their troubled lives as the cause, not the consequence, of the collapse of their communities. Poor children are feckless, lazy and on the wrong side of the law because they choose to be. But it is precisely such Thatcherite thinking, and Tory-style policies, followed also under New Labour, that have brought Britain to the present pass.

Cameron has another pseudo-solution: get former New York and Los Angeles police chief Bill Bratton to advise British agencies on how to tackle "gang culture". The move has angered Scotland Yard officers, who believe it's absurd to get someone "who lives 5,000 miles away". Hugh Orde, a front-runner for the post of London's Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said: "I am not sure I want to learn about gangs from an area of America that has 400 of them...if you've got 400 gangs, then you're not being very effective."

Britain is moving towards US-style tough strong-arm, fear-inducing policing. The gentle, unarmed, Bobby will soon become a relic maintained for tourists, while draconian policing will take over. Already, the British police have been looking for ways to instil fear among the public, especially demonstrators. There have been more than 330 deaths in police custody since 1998.

The post-riot situation should provoke some soul-searching about the many crises and pathologies of British society. Cameron's government would do well to seize that opportunity. If it instead uses brute force as a solution to social discontent bred by bad social and economic policies, it will sink into an even deeper crisis of credibility.

Britain is a special case of a society long poisoned by the ideas of the Right, including Thatcherite celebration of acquisitiveness and greed. This explains to a large extent why the rioters looted fancy shops and stole premium-branded garments, shoes and TV sets.

Deplorable as it is, stealing is only the extreme form of acquisitiveness. If you have been brought up to believe that greed is good, and you see the rich and powerful stealing public funds on a massive scale with impunity, you might as well steal when you can and what you can.

Capitalism has plunged Western Europe into a terrible crisis with the 2008 Great Recession. Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy are in serious trouble and are being forced by the IMF to adopt mindless austerity plans which impose great hardship upon the people and mock democracy.

Growing popular protest is the only redeeming political feature of these societies. It might hold the key to a less gloomy future – if it leads to equitable policies.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email:








Every year on Independence Day the federal government confers honours on persons from different walks of life for distinguished contributions to the nation. The list of the beneficiaries this year has given rise to some adverse criticism for including a number of stalwarts of the ruling party. Is the criticism called for?

The ruling party stalwarts on the list are chairman of the Senate Farooq Naek, National Assembly speaker Fahmida Mirza, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Farzana Raja, chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme, Zumarad Khan, chairperson of the Pakistan Baitul Mal, Salman Faruqui, secretary general to the president, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar, and Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States.

All these ladies and gentlemen are persons of impeccable character, are endowed with fine qualities of head and heart and have to their credit selfless service to society. They never needed any awards or medals for the enhancement of their statures. Rather, their names will add to the prestige that the awards carry. For the recipients it's enough that they are part of a government which is the fruit of tremendous sacrifices and is wedded to making the country a better place to live.

To begin with, Rehman Malik is a symbol of the fight against militants and miscreants, gangs and mafias. If today there is some semblance of law and order in the country, public life and property are secure and the citizens are safe in their homes and walk freely on the streets, the credit goes to Mr Malik, above all. Doesn't he deserve a medal at the least? The fact that he is on the long list of the beneficiaries of the National Reconciliation Ordinance is no cause for belittling his services or lowering his stature.

If Mr Malik is leading the government's crusade against lawlessness, Farzana Raja and Zumarad Khan are spearheading its fight against poverty. It needs hardly be mentioned that poverty is not only a menace in itself but is also the breeding ground for evils such as illiteracy and extremism. Thanks to the duo, millions of people have moved above the poverty line, broken their begging bowls, found gainful self-employment and are leading a dignified life. The PPP is known as the party of the poor and for the poor. The party is committed to stamping out poverty and generating job opportunities. Therefore, it is only logical that the two have been honoured. If both continue to serve the country in the same position for another couple of years, poverty and unemployment will wither away.

The next on the list of the recipients is Hussain Haqqani, who is performing one of the most challenging jobs in the world – defending Islamabad's interests in Washington. Pakistani-US relations have been going downhill since the demise of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May. The death of the Al-Qaeda leader has given rise to several questions in the US, notably whether the Pakistani authorities knew his whereabouts or even protected him all along.

Though publicly the US administration has acknowledged Pakistan's role in the hunt and killing of Osama bin Laden, such statements should not be interpreted to mean that the Americans don't see Pakistan's role in the fight against militancy with suspicion, if not with disapproval. In such a scenario, convincing Americans of Pakistan's seriousness and earnestness in the counter-terrorism campaign is no less than the devil's own job. However, Mr Haqqani has proved equal to the task and if today Washington counts Islamabad among its strategic allies, it's largely because of his inimitable diplomatic skills and tireless efforts.

Farhatullah Babar's job is in essence similar to that of Mr Haqqani. He is defending the president of the republic against his critics and detractors, who leave no stone unturned in casting aspersion on his character and motives. We all know that Mr Zardari is a man of enterprise, who is piloting the ship of state in troubled waters. Regrettably, there is no dearth of people who, instead of acknowledging his matchless leadership qualities, are gunning for him. It's important for a government to perform well but it's even more important for it to advertise its performance and silence its critics. This makes Mr Babar's job no less important and no less challenging than that of Mr Haqqani.

The PPP government may have faltered at this point or that. But still it's one of the most efficient and cleanest governments the country has ever had. While a host of people will claim credit for that, one person stands out among all the claimants. Yes, he is none other than Salman Faruqui, the ace bureaucrat. Though formally not a member of the PPP, Mr Faruqui is a vital part of its administration. It's he who is the mastermind behind many of the good things done by the party during its three-and-a-half years in power. His track record speaks for itself.

Last but not least, the lady and the gentleman who are running the two houses of parliament. In a parliamentary system, the legislature is the most important and powerful institution and holds the key to the success of democracy. The excellence of democracy in a country can in large measures be attributed to the excellence of its parliament. Today if democracy is taking root in Pakistan despite all odds, the Senate chairman and the speaker of the National Assembly are among the persons who deserve accolades for that.

However, the list of recipients does omit a few names. Of these, mention must be made of two: one is the spin doctor of the government – the courageous, fearless, dauntless lady who is never short of words in calling a spade a spade. The other is the MNA from Karachi who is widely known and respected for his sagacity and manners and has emerged as a role model for the young generation. Hopefully, both will be honoured next year.

The author is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad. Email:








 This 14th August while I was waiting for my Chinese food guy to deliver me a combo meal of chicken chop suey and a free drumstick, I was told that the free drumsticks were all finished.

"Would you care for a Sitara-e-Imtiaz instead?" asked the Chinese food guy.


"Aww. What will I do with a Sitara-e-Imtiaz?" I said with tears in my eyes.

"I don't know," said the Chinese food guy. "Put it in your hair maybe."

"But I am hungry. I want my free drumstick."

"O come on, sweetie," said the Chinese food guy. "Everybody is getting a Sitara-e-imtiaz these days. They are even giving a Sitara-e-Imtiaz to Hina Khar's handbag."

"Why?" I asked.

"For providing meritorious services to her wrist," said the Chinese food guy.

Quite disturbed at the idea of being beaten at the game by a bag, I quickly registered my protest with the authorities concerned and asked for my free Sitara ASAP.

"Hurry up," I said, "I have to go and see the new Kalma Chowk flyover. It's taking us into the new era today. I don't want to be late for my new era."

"So what is happening in the new era?" asked the Chinese food guy.

"The Sharif brothers are delivering," I replied.

"What are the Sharif brothers delivering?" asked the Chinese food guy.

"I don't know. I never asked the advertisement," I said.

"Maybe they are delivering drumsticks," said the Chinese food guy.


"Hey, why don't you come to the new era as well?" I asked.

"I can't," said the Chinese food guy. "I don't have gas."

"We don't need gas in the new era." I said. "In the new era we fly over."

"Fly over what?" asked the Chinese food guy.

"I don't know. I don't ask silly questions," I replied.

"I am sorry, but you will have to wait for your era another minute," said the Chinese food guy. "Here, why don't you sit with the other Sitara-awaiting individuals in the corner over there and chat about your favourite things in life. I will just be a minute."


"So what is your favourite thing in life?" called out a smelly journalist from a corner.

"Dr Aamir Liaqat Hussain Bhai," I said.

"Is he your bhai?" asked the smelly journalist.

"No. Is he yours?" I asked.


"No. Is he a real doctor?" he asked.

"No. Are you a real doctor?" I asked.

"No. Does it make any sense?" He asked.

"No. Do you make any sense?" I asked.

"No. I make the news."

"Is that why you smell?" I asked, "Because you make the news?"

"No," said the smelly journalist. "I smell because there is no bijli and I sweat."

"So what are you gonna do?" I asked.

"Well, they are giving me a Sitara-e-Imtiaz instead."

"What about the journalist who got beaten up behind a bush last year. Are they giving him a Sitara-e-Imtiaz as well?"

"No," said the smelly journalist. "They are beating him behind an Obama this time. Bush was uncomfortable."

"You are crazy," I said

"So are you," he replied

So happy was I with this new piece of information that I hopped into a car with the smelly journalist and invited him to go see the new era.

"You never know we might find some bijli in the new era," I urged.

"And some free drumsticks too," He replied

As we sat in our car and got ourselves stuck in a traffic jam, the smelly journalist started where he had left.

"Do you know that Dr Aamir Liaqat Hussain has a video tape?"

"So what else is new? Everybody has a video tape."

"Where?" asked the smelly journalist.

"I don't know. You should know it. You are the one who goes after the video tapes," I said.

"No, I don't go after the video tapes. The video tapes come after me," said the smelly journalist.

"Like, how?" I asked.

"Like, one fine day I get up and there is a video tape. It drops on my nose out of nowhere."

"So what do you do?"

"I enjoy."

"Do you have a video tape too?" I asked


"So when is it going to drop on our noses?"

"It won't."


"Because I am smart. I will cut all your noses before the tape can drop on them."

Shhh! Look out. We are there. At the Kalma Chowk flyover.

"Isn't it beautiful?" I asked. "Look at the twinkling green lights. It's a giant Ferris wheel! Oh, just feel the smoothness of this road. This is huge, man, this is huge. Look at the curve. Oh, just look at the slope of this wonderful, wonderful creation, the gift of the Lord."


"Where are we?" asked the smelly journalist.

"We are at the other end of the Kalma Chowk flyover," I replied.

"Is this the new era?" asked the smelly journalist.

"No. This is Model Town." I replied.

"What's a Model Town?" asked the smelly journalist.

"This is where the Sharif brothers live."

"Don't the Sharif brothers live in the new era?"


"Do the Sharif brothers have a video tape?"


"Do they have a free Sitara?"


"Do they have free drumsticks?"


"Do they have bijli?"

"Do you ever shut up?"


"Like, when?

"Like when I get a free Sitara."

"Are you the one who they beat behind the bush?"

"No, I am the one who they beat around the bush."

"So will you shut up when you get your free Sitara?"

"So will you shut up when they give you yours?"


"Then maybe it is!"

The writer is an academic.








We should remember that independence is not earned without great sacrifice. It is always extremely difficult to get rid of usurpers and dictators. Sacrifice must be sincere and should have a definite objective. Without sincerity, even prayers are not answered. There is a Divine edict that states: "By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give freely of that which you love and whatever you give of a truth, Allah knows it well." (3:92.)

A very visible demonstration of this was given by the Indian Muslims, who sacrificed almost everything for the creation of Pakistan. They left their dear ones and their belongings – properties, lands and wealth. When they reached their new homeland, there was no paper, pens, pencils or pins in government offices. People brought their own stationery and used Acacia thorns as pins. The well-to-do gave their money to pay the salaries of government servants. Ladies donated their jewellery.

Similar passion was demonstrated by the public during the war of 1965, stupidly started by Pakistan. People blamed Bhutto, but if Ayub Khan, as military dictator, was such a lame-duck ruler, then he should have rather become an imam. People raced to the front with food, water and medicines and took care of the troops.

After the ignominious defeat and surrender by our armed forces at Dacca on Dec 16, 1971, Mr Bhutto put the scattered pieces of a demoralised nation together, managed to have 92,000 prisoners of war released and was later hanged by the same ungrateful people. He also started the nuclear programme for our future safety and for the permanent safeguard of Pakistan's sovereignty. At Mr Bhutto's request, I gave up a lucrative and promising career abroad and returned to Pakistan (and got my first salary of Rs3,000 after six months) and was given the heavy responsibility of turning this backward, poor country into a nuclear power. I gathered together a team of highly dedicated, motivated colleagues and we never looked back. By the middle of 1984 we were, for all practical purposes, a nuclear power. Within a few years we also produced long-range ballistic missiles which enabled the country to deliver weapons well into enemy territory. My colleagues and I paid a heavy price for our work in terms of our family life. We were hardly ever at home to take care of our near and dear ones and see our children growing up.

It was Allah's blessing, the nation's best wishes and our own hard and dedicated work that enabled us to achieve what seemed an impossible objective. However, it hurts to see just how ungrateful some of our own people are at the behest of foreign agents. They hanged their benefactor, Mr Bhutto, by implicating him in a false case and they made me a scapegoat for the selfish purpose of prolonging a usurper's rule.

His blinkered vision could not comprehend that by making me a scapegoat he was helping the Western world brand Pakistan as "criminal" for ever. I, as an individual, am of no long-term consequence as sooner or later I won't be there any longer to target, but Pakistan will, Inshallah, always be there. By refuting allegations of wrongdoing we could have come clean, it would have been a game of blame and rebuttal, as had been the case over the previous 25 years. After all, Pakistan had not broken any international laws or treaties. The matter would have died down with time.

What it comes down to is that, on the one hand we have a patriotic, devoted people working for Pakistan, on the other hand we have parasites who are looting this hard-won homeland. We totally forgot the sacrifices of Raja Sahab Mahmoodabad, Nawab Ismail Khan and others like them. Both military dictators and so-called democratically elected rulers destroyed this poor country and have turned its masses into starving beggars. Nothing is left of our self-esteem or "ghairat." The rich have become richer – by any and all means possible – while the poor got poorer and starved.

We must all realise that there is no time left. We all have to work hard and strive to get back on the right path of development and self-sufficiency. The whole country is in a mess at present. All institutions have been destroyed and corruption and nepotism are rampant. The present government has totally failed to correct any of the problems created by the previous ones and to alleviate the problems faced by the masses.

Together, the previous dictator and the present rulers have destroyed the very fabric of the country. We are now no more than beggars, and we have no sovereignty. We can no longer call our country our own. Fresh elections won't make much difference. The same old rotten system will prevail and the same people (read: families) will be running the country. There is no time or possibility for positive change under the present system.

It has become our sacred duty to join hands, put our differences aside and bring about a Peaceful Awami Inqilab (peaceful people's revolution). We have to discard old, failed leaders who are desperately clinging to power. No more time for sit-ins. We need to concentrate solely on one objective – a peaceful public revolution to throw down the yoke of slavery and exploitation. Thousands of kind-hearted philanthropists are doling out millions of rupees to the poor, but there is no change in the level of poverty in the country. The only way forward is to wage a jihad to bring about a peaceful change. Under sincere and honest rulers there would be a change for the better. We don't need any foreign alms or suspicious foreign NGOs snooping around the country. Fight for your rights – take them by force if needs be.

Allah has blessed this country with natural resources and human talent. Our young generation is hardworking, innovative and talented. We should use this latent talent to solve our problems and put the country back onto the road of development. Together we can turn it into an Islamic Welfare State. Naturally we would pass through a difficult transitional period which we would have to face together with honesty and sincerity. China, Japan, Germany, etc., made such transitions before our very eyes. Our elders did it before us. If we don't do something now, our future generations will never forgive us and will curse us for not doing our duty.

I strongly appeal for a start of this campaign. The first and foremost duty rests on the lawyers. Please do stand up, protect the sanctity of Supreme Court decisions and demolish the current rotten, corrupt system. Together we can rebuild Quaid-e-Azam's and Allama Iqbal's Pakistan into a peaceful, strong, neutral, sovereign state. Come forward, one and all!








The writer is a former member of the Pakistan foreign service.

Southern Punjab is economically one of the more disadvantaged parts of the country. One reason is that it has been denied a fair share of the development funds by the provincial and federal governments. The region also has a distinct historical and cultural identity. Both these factors have given birth to a largely leaderless movement for the creation of a separate province, which has been gaining in strength over the years.

This is a legitimate demand that needs to be accommodated through a process of political consensus-building in quiet consultations, rather than through fiery speeches and divisive election-time politics. Above all, it is essential to avoid the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that was witnessed in the Punjab Assembly earlier this month.

But Zardari has different ideas. He sees in the issue a tailor-made opportunity for exploitation in the next election. After having repeatedly and brazenly played the Sindh card to bolster the corrupt and dysfunctional system over which he presides, Zardari is now scheming to exploit the Seraiki card in the hope of consolidating and expanding support in the Seraiki belt. Clearly, nothing is too sacred for him as long as it helps to prolong his rule and enables him to continue enjoying the immunity from prosecution that the constitution grants to a sitting president.

A clear signal of the PPP leadership's plans was given by Gilani last March when he declared that the creation of a Seraiki province would be made part of the PPP`s manifesto for the next elections. Babar Awan hinted last month that an announcement by Zardari on a Seraiki province was imminent, saying that the people of the area would be given the "greatest news in the history of Pakistan" during Ramazan. Since then, the date for that joyous event has been pushed back somewhat. Zardari would now be visiting Multan shortly to seek suggestions on ways of "removing the sense of deprivation of the people of South Punjab," as Gilani has announced.

While PPP pursues its campaign to win votes in southern Punjab by holding out the prospect of a separate province, the party's new-found coalition partner, the PML-Q, is championing the cause of a separate Hazara province. The aim of this division of labour between the two parties is to cut the PML-N down to size in its two traditional strongholds: Punjab and Hazara Division.

The PML-N has clearly been put on the defensive. In central Punjab, where the party's power base lies, the idea of splitting the province is anathema. At the same time, the PML-N does not wish to risk losing further support in southern Punjab by coming out openly against a Seraiki province. The party has therefore recently adopted a more open stance on the issue. Nawaz Sharif declared last month that while it remains opposed to creating new provinces on ethnic and linguistic lines, the party is for setting up more provinces if justified for administrative reasons. The party has called upon the government to set up a 'national commission' in consultation with the opposition to evolve a consensus over the idea of creating new provinces. Not surprisingly, this proposal has been turned down by the government.

The PML-N is right, up to a point. Creating new provinces on ethnic or linguistic lines alone will be both impractical and fraught with risks. Pakistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual state in which people of different ethnicities and speaking different languages have so far co-existed peacefully in different provinces, moving freely from one part of the country to another. (Recent incidents of attacks on 'settlers' in Balochistan are a regrettable exception; and the violence in Karachi has been fanned by unscrupulous, self-seeking and thuggish politicians rather than ethnic discord.)

Creating new provinces, or redrawing the boundaries of old provinces only on ethnic or linguistic basis would therefore be a formidable, if not an impossible, challenge. It will also generate new animosities and fan old ones that have been dormant. This is certainly no time to create new fault lines where there have been none so far.

Besides, Pakistan is home to nearly a dozen or so languages: Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Seraiki, Potohari/Hindko, Balochi, Brahui, Khowar (Chitrali) and Kohistani. In addition, there are Kashmiri, Shina and Balti in Jammu and Kashmir. Some of these languages have only a few million speakers, or even less. But if we are to take the principle of language-based provinces to its logical conclusion, we will have to create separate units for each of them, raising the number of provinces nearly three-fold, some of which would be too small to be viable. A fragmentation of this nature and on this scale of the state's institutional structure would certainly bring no benefit.

At the same time, since language is a very important element defining group identity and is the main vehicle of cultural expression, it is highly relevant in evaluating demands for the creation of new provinces, together with other pertinent considerations such as cohesiveness, viability and the weight of history. Whether all these factors taken together add up must be a matter of political judgment rather than something for determination by a commission of 'experts'.

There are at present four proposals for new provinces that demand attention: Southern Punjab, South Pakhtunkhwa, Hazara, and Bahawalpur. Of these four, the demand for Bahawalpur is the least viable. Essentially, it is a demand for putting the clock back and reversing the merger of a former princely state. If Bahawalpur is restored, why not revive also the other states which were merged in the adjoining provinces: Kalat, Khairpur, Swat, Dir, Chitral and Amb?

The demand for Hazara province was raised only after the renaming of NWFP as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Those now demanding separation might still be persuaded to stay within it if 'Khyber', the prefix to Pakhtunkhwa, is substituted by another word that they and the other non-Pakhtuns can identify with.

The demand for a South Pakhtunkhwa province to be carved out of Balochistan has been made for a long time by the PKMAP. It is now being supported by the ANP. But the Balochistan chief minister and many others in the province are opposed to this. The issue needs to be resolved amicably by the two sides. There is no other alternative.

The Seraiki province is an idea whose time has come. It would not really be a new province but the restoration of an ancient suba known in history as Multan. It existed as a separate entity for more than a millennium under successive Muslim rulers starting with the Arabs in the eighth century. Multan lost its separate status when it was annexed to Lahore after its conquest by Ranjit Singh in 1818, a few years before Peshawar met the same fate at the hands of the Sikh ruler. Peshawar re-emerged as a separate province in 1901 under the name NWFP but Multan has had to wait longer.

The name of the province and its boundaries are also potentially controversial issues. The supporters of the movement for a southern Punjab province would do themselves and the nation a service if they were to do three things.

First, they should make it clear that they do not want to name it after the Seraiki language and certainly not 'Seraikistan' – for the same reason that NWFP was not renamed Pakhtunistan. Seraiki is in any case only a language and not an ethnic group. The province should be given a geographical name; or the old historical name of Multan could be restored.

Second, the province should comprise only Seraiki-speaking territories of the Punjab province. Any move to include Seraiki-speaking areas outside Punjab would be deeply divisive and should be firmly discouraged.

Third, the movement for a Seraiki province should organise itself on cross-party lines and rebuff those who are thinking of playing the Seraiki card.







The writer is a former member of the Pakistan foreign service.

Southern Punjab is economically one of the more disadvantaged parts of the country. One reason is that it has been denied a fair share of the development funds by the provincial and federal governments. The region also has a distinct historical and cultural identity. Both these factors have given birth to a largely leaderless movement for the creation of a separate province, which has been gaining in strength over the years.

This is a legitimate demand that needs to be accommodated through a process of political consensus-building in quiet consultations, rather than through fiery speeches and divisive election-time politics. Above all, it is essential to avoid the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that was witnessed in the Punjab Assembly earlier this month.

But Zardari has different ideas. He sees in the issue a tailor-made opportunity for exploitation in the next election. After having repeatedly and brazenly played the Sindh card to bolster the corrupt and dysfunctional system over which he presides, Zardari is now scheming to exploit the Seraiki card in the hope of consolidating and expanding support in the Seraiki belt. Clearly, nothing is too sacred for him as long as it helps to prolong his rule and enables him to continue enjoying the immunity from prosecution that the constitution grants to a sitting president.

A clear signal of the PPP leadership's plans was given by Gilani last March when he declared that the creation of a Seraiki province would be made part of the PPP`s manifesto for the next elections. Babar Awan hinted last month that an announcement by Zardari on a Seraiki province was imminent, saying that the people of the area would be given the "greatest news in the history of Pakistan" during Ramazan. Since then, the date for that joyous event has been pushed back somewhat. Zardari would now be visiting Multan shortly to seek suggestions on ways of "removing the sense of deprivation of the people of South Punjab," as Gilani has announced.

While PPP pursues its campaign to win votes in southern Punjab by holding out the prospect of a separate province, the party's new-found coalition partner, the PML-Q, is championing the cause of a separate Hazara province. The aim of this division of labour between the two parties is to cut the PML-N down to size in its two traditional strongholds: Punjab and Hazara Division.

The PML-N has clearly been put on the defensive. In central Punjab, where the party's power base lies, the idea of splitting the province is anathema. At the same time, the PML-N does not wish to risk losing further support in southern Punjab by coming out openly against a Seraiki province. The party has therefore recently adopted a more open stance on the issue. Nawaz Sharif declared last month that while it remains opposed to creating new provinces on ethnic and linguistic lines, the party is for setting up more provinces if justified for administrative reasons. The party has called upon the government to set up a 'national commission' in consultation with the opposition to evolve a consensus over the idea of creating new provinces. Not surprisingly, this proposal has been turned down by the government.

The PML-N is right, up to a point. Creating new provinces on ethnic or linguistic lines alone will be both impractical and fraught with risks. Pakistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual state in which people of different ethnicities and speaking different languages have so far co-existed peacefully in different provinces, moving freely from one part of the country to another. (Recent incidents of attacks on 'settlers' in Balochistan are a regrettable exception; and the violence in Karachi has been fanned by unscrupulous, self-seeking and thuggish politicians rather than ethnic discord.)

Creating new provinces, or redrawing the boundaries of old provinces only on ethnic or linguistic basis would therefore be a formidable, if not an impossible, challenge. It will also generate new animosities and fan old ones that have been dormant. This is certainly no time to create new fault lines where there have been none so far.

Besides, Pakistan is home to nearly a dozen or so languages: Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Seraiki, Potohari/Hindko, Balochi, Brahui, Khowar (Chitrali) and Kohistani. In addition, there are Kashmiri, Shina and Balti in Jammu and Kashmir. Some of these languages have only a few million speakers, or even less. But if we are to take the principle of language-based provinces to its logical conclusion, we will have to create separate units for each of them, raising the number of provinces nearly three-fold, some of which would be too small to be viable. A fragmentation of this nature and on this scale of the state's institutional structure would certainly bring no benefit.

At the same time, since language is a very important element defining group identity and is the main vehicle of cultural expression, it is highly relevant in evaluating demands for the creation of new provinces, together with other pertinent considerations such as cohesiveness, viability and the weight of history. Whether all these factors taken together add up must be a matter of political judgment rather than something for determination by a commission of 'experts'.

There are at present four proposals for new provinces that demand attention: Southern Punjab, South Pakhtunkhwa, Hazara, and Bahawalpur. Of these four, the demand for Bahawalpur is the least viable. Essentially, it is a demand for putting the clock back and reversing the merger of a former princely state. If Bahawalpur is restored, why not revive also the other states which were merged in the adjoining provinces: Kalat, Khairpur, Swat, Dir, Chitral and Amb?

The demand for Hazara province was raised only after the renaming of NWFP as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Those now demanding separation might still be persuaded to stay within it if 'Khyber', the prefix to Pakhtunkhwa, is substituted by another word that they and the other non-Pakhtuns can identify with.

The demand for a South Pakhtunkhwa province to be carved out of Balochistan has been made for a long time by the PKMAP. It is now being supported by the ANP. But the Balochistan chief minister and many others in the province are opposed to this. The issue needs to be resolved amicably by the two sides. There is no other alternative.

The Seraiki province is an idea whose time has come. It would not really be a new province but the restoration of an ancient suba known in history as Multan. It existed as a separate entity for more than a millennium under successive Muslim rulers starting with the Arabs in the eighth century. Multan lost its separate status when it was annexed to Lahore after its conquest by Ranjit Singh in 1818, a few years before Peshawar met the same fate at the hands of the Sikh ruler. Peshawar re-emerged as a separate province in 1901 under the name NWFP but Multan has had to wait longer.

The name of the province and its boundaries are also potentially controversial issues. The supporters of the movement for a southern Punjab province would do themselves and the nation a service if they were to do three things.

First, they should make it clear that they do not want to name it after the Seraiki language and certainly not 'Seraikistan' – for the same reason that NWFP was not renamed Pakhtunistan. Seraiki is in any case only a language and not an ethnic group. The province should be given a geographical name; or the old historical name of Multan could be restored.

Second, the province should comprise only Seraiki-speaking territories of the Punjab province. Any move to include Seraiki-speaking areas outside Punjab would be deeply divisive and should be firmly discouraged.

Third, the movement for a Seraiki province should organise itself on cross-party lines and rebuff those who are thinking of playing the Seraiki card.








Walt Disney did it for me. 'The living desert' was released in 1953 and my Mum took me to see it, my first visit to a cinema, age six. I was hooked immediately and have been addicted to film and the magic of cinemas ever since. It is with me still, and for years I have haunted the cinemas in Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Karachi. My wife and I used to go to one near Committee Chowk in Pindi, the Kahkashan; and the Ciros with the big fans coming out of the walls that made it look like a plane was crashing through them. But it was fading as we sat in the dark with our dodgy burgers and Coke. Audiences were dropping, more and more cinemas were screening 'inserts' to the film that I cannot describe in a family newspaper, and going to the movies as a family activity slowly passed into memory.

Now I read that an old favourite, the Odeon on the Mall in Pindi, is to be razed to make way for yet another shopping mall. It is 120 years old and it is 10 years since I last visited – and it joins the list of places I will never be going to again.

But all is not lost – rather all is not lost if you are relatively rich. The cinema used to be cheap. It was also dirty and almost exclusively male unless you discount the women who were renting their bodies during the performance. For less than Rs50 you could spend three hours in suspended disbelief and come out into the light having been thoroughly entertained along with a fair chance of coming down with gastro-enteritis within a couple of hours if you had partaken of the food on offer.

My my, how times have changed. A couple of weeks ago I paid Rs600 for a cinema seat in Pindi. There were hundreds of others who paid the same. They arrived by car, were in family groups with children, or women on their own. We sat in unsegregated seats, all mixed up together with nobody bothered if they were related to the person they found themselves sitting next to. We ate the popcorn and sweets that we had bought in the foyer before the film started at prices to make your eyes water and after the film had finished many of us patronised the international fast-food outlet handily located close by.

The cinema was state-of-the-art. Spotlessly clean. Nobody hooted or threw anything at the screen. Nobody used laser pointers to highlight the 'interesting bits' of female characters in the film, the 3D worked perfectly and we all 'ooooo-ed' and 'aaaaah-ed' in the right places and anybody who talked above a whisper was quickly 'shushed' by those around them. The seats were deep and squashily comfortable and nobody, but nobody, spat paan on the floor.

This was not cinema for the poor. It was middle-class Pakistan out to play and indulging in a little conspicuous consumption early on a Sunday morning. Moreover, cinemas like this multiplex in Pindi are springing up all over the place. They make money according to the owner of one of these new fun palaces located in Saddar, Karachi – so he is going to build another one.

You can still go to the cinema if you are poor in Pakistan but your choices will be increasingly limited. Film-going has become resurgent, colonised by the (relatively) rich and homogenised to the universal cinema experience. Now if we could just see a revival of the indigenous film-making industry...or is that too much to hope for?

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






Walt Disney did it for me. 'The living desert' was released in 1953 and my Mum took me to see it, my first visit to a cinema, age six. I was hooked immediately and have been addicted to film and the magic of cinemas ever since. It is with me still, and for years I have haunted the cinemas in Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Karachi. My wife and I used to go to one near Committee Chowk in Pindi, the Kahkashan; and the Ciros with the big fans coming out of the walls that made it look like a plane was crashing through them. But it was fading as we sat in the dark with our dodgy burgers and Coke. Audiences were dropping, more and more cinemas were screening 'inserts' to the film that I cannot describe in a family newspaper, and going to the movies as a family activity slowly passed into memory.

Now I read that an old favourite, the Odeon on the Mall in Pindi, is to be razed to make way for yet another shopping mall. It is 120 years old and it is 10 years since I last visited – and it joins the list of places I will never be going to again.

But all is not lost – rather all is not lost if you are relatively rich. The cinema used to be cheap. It was also dirty and almost exclusively male unless you discount the women who were renting their bodies during the performance. For less than Rs50 you could spend three hours in suspended disbelief and come out into the light having been thoroughly entertained along with a fair chance of coming down with gastro-enteritis within a couple of hours if you had partaken of the food on offer.

My my, how times have changed. A couple of weeks ago I paid Rs600 for a cinema seat in Pindi. There were hundreds of others who paid the same. They arrived by car, were in family groups with children, or women on their own. We sat in unsegregated seats, all mixed up together with nobody bothered if they were related to the person they found themselves sitting next to. We ate the popcorn and sweets that we had bought in the foyer before the film started at prices to make your eyes water and after the film had finished many of us patronised the international fast-food outlet handily located close by.

The cinema was state-of-the-art. Spotlessly clean. Nobody hooted or threw anything at the screen. Nobody used laser pointers to highlight the 'interesting bits' of female characters in the film, the 3D worked perfectly and we all 'ooooo-ed' and 'aaaaah-ed' in the right places and anybody who talked above a whisper was quickly 'shushed' by those around them. The seats were deep and squashily comfortable and nobody, but nobody, spat paan on the floor.

This was not cinema for the poor. It was middle-class Pakistan out to play and indulging in a little conspicuous consumption early on a Sunday morning. Moreover, cinemas like this multiplex in Pindi are springing up all over the place. They make money according to the owner of one of these new fun palaces located in Saddar, Karachi – so he is going to build another one.

You can still go to the cinema if you are poor in Pakistan but your choices will be increasingly limited. Film-going has become resurgent, colonised by the (relatively) rich and homogenised to the universal cinema experience. Now if we could just see a revival of the indigenous film-making industry...or is that too much to hope for?

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






Interdepartmental rivalries are common in bureaucracies the world over. Some are 'healthy' where rivalry acts as a spur to service improvements; others are toxic and lead to a degradation in the quality of public service. One such has now surfaced within the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) whose primary task is the collection of taxes. Tax collection is currently taking a backseat as a serious internal scrap has broken out, with accusations of file tampering and dark conspiracies zipping about. The conspiracies concern a possible split of the relatively new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) into two separate groups in order to provide tax exemptions to certain vested interests. The tale is complex, but revolves around what appears to be an attempt to circumvent the service structure endorsed by the World Bank as part of the reforms of tax administration. As a part of these reforms the government had merged the income and sales tax department into a single entity – the IRS. This was a move intended to cut back on tax evasion by having a single officer deal with both sales tax and income tax matters. Coincidentally, this may also cut back on the opportunities for corruption within the FBR itself as well as enabling easier oversight.

There have been recent reports of figure-fudging regarding missed targets by the FBR, with it now being alleged that the 'misreporting' of figures was linked to the internal conflicts between officers who took their eye off the ball to play internal power games. This in turn is alleged to have led to efforts to dismantle the newly established Investigation and Intelligence Directorate General (which was established specifically to overlook the IRS), which might reasonably have a close interest in the antics of assorted taxmen. Into the fray comes an external hand in the form of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry which was said to have demanded the separation of the post of inland revenue at the FBR into two – one for income tax and the other for sales tax and excise, effectively turning the clock back. Fascinating as these shenanigans may be to students of the mechanics of taxation, they add up to a preoccupation with internal difficulties for the FBR which is hampering its overall effectiveness at a time when there is a dire need to maximise tax collection. The conflict is also an indication of the depth of the resistance to change within this important department, but change it must if we are to climb out of the tax vacuum we currently live in.






News on the battle against polio in Pakistan is coming in different forms – both good and bad. Taking the bad first, we are seeing our worst year in a decade, with regard to new polio cases. Six new cases have been confirmed since August 15; four from Balochistan and two from Fata bringing to 69 the deadly score thus far this year. Balochistan has been the hardest hit with 26 cases followed by Fata, 22; Sindh, 14; Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 6; and Gilgit-Baltistan, 1. Punjab and Islamabad remain polio free but both are vulnerable to infection mainly because of the mobility of populations. Counter polio measures in Balochistan are currently hampered by a strike by paramedics who have also withdrawn their cooperation with the anti-polio campaign. On a more positive note, we have the 'good if it works' news. The Prime Minister's Secretariat has taken over the administration of the Prime Minister's Monitoring and Coordinating Cell for Polio Eradication. It had hitherto been working under the Ministry of Health but its functions were devolved on June 30. The intention is to provide a national focal point for polio eradication, and given the nature of the disease this makes sense. Whether the provincial health ministries in a newly-devolved setup are going to accept a lead from a federal agency in this matter remains to be seen, but we wish it well.

The good news on polio comes from one old friend and one new. Japan has long supported the polio eradication campaigns in Pakistan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica). The latter has now teamed up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create an innovative strategic partnership, and in doing so, given us an attractive goal to aim for. We are due to repay a $65 million loan to Jica, but the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is offering to pay the loan for us if we eradicate polio by 2013. The mechanism by which this might be achieved is called 'loan conversion' wherein the Gates Foundation will repay what we owe Jica if the eradication programme is successfully implemented thus ensuring (hopefully) governmental commitment to the programme without the accompanying financial pressure. Other partners in the National Emergency Plan for the Eradication of Polio are the World Health Organisation (WHO), Unicef and Rotary International. The eradication of this dreadful disease is something that has been within our grasp in the recent past; but a range of factors have made its final eradication difficult, with last year's floods and a deteriorated security situation principal among these. Now that we have both the mechanisms and the incentive to make a final push, let us all struggle to make 2013 the year that polio is finally banished from Pakistan.








IT appears that like Arab spring, Indians too are heading towards a spring as Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi has been turned into a sea of people where self styled Gandhian anti corruption activist Anna Hazare is on an indefinite fast. From the massive support of all sections of the society, it appears that the upsurge against corruption was not going to die down by half hearted efforts like passage of a law by the Parliament.

India has recently been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals which critics say are evidence of a pervasive culture of corruption in Manmohan Singh's administration. A recent survey said corruption in Asia's third largest economy had cost billions of dollars and threatened to derail growth. In just one case, India's upper house of parliament on Thursday voted to impeach a high court judge for misappropriating large sums of public money during posting at the Calcutta High Court. While launching his fast, Mr Hazare told thousands of flag-waving supporters gathered at the park that his fight against corruption will continue. He was released from Tihar jail earlier on Friday after his arrest on Tuesday that sparked mass protests across India. Mr Hazare, who has triggered a wave of mass protests across India is a diminutive 74-year-old former army driver who idolizes Mahatama Gandhi. His fast is giving the impression of a revolution and even if he does not succeed in bringing about it, Hazare deserves praise that he has brought a hatred and loud voice in the length and breadth of India against corruption shaking the society. In this perspective, Indian Prime Minister in his first comment on the fast of Hazare said the government favours a strong and effective anti-corruption bill and was open to suggestions on it. People have been raising accusing fingers against corrupt politicians but now with more and more names appearing in the media, anti corruption sentiments have reached the peak among the common man. Leaving aside the ultimate outcome of the fast or the course it would take, we would compliment Anna Hazare who has ignited awareness against corruption and given a big jolt to the establishment and corruption mafia in India. We wish in Pakistan too there emerges a Hazare because here we may say that if Pakistan is not ahead of India, it is at par in corruption and strong and urgent steps are needed to rid the society from this menace.







THE Election Commission has come out with various decisions to stem chances of fraudulent practices during elections including introduction of a water marked ballot paper. It is a good beginning made by the election commission for the conduct of next general elections.

Already several political parties have been pointing out the shortcomings in the free and transparent conduct of polls and demanding corrective steps including preparation of fresh electoral rolls. There is a general agreement among the political parties that large number of bogus votes had been got registered by the candidates in their respective constituencies to get an edge over their rivals and return to the elected houses. Addressing a press conference Secretary Election Commission Ishtiak Ahmad Khan Saturday said that the computerized voter lists would be ready by March next year. For this purpose a massive door to door campaign would be launched from August 22 across the country to verify voters. The list would then be handed over to NADRA for preparation of final lists but we may point out that there is always possibility of registration of duplicate votes or even bogus votes on the basis of fake national identity cards that the contesting candidates could manage. Deputy Chairman NADRA Tariq Malik on the occasion stated that over 37 million were unverified voters without CNICs and over 36 million voters have valid CNICs. So a major exercise would be required to not only verify the genuine voters but issue them Identity Cards. We may also point out that after every elections, the losing parties blame for manipulation and rigging of elections while those emerging as victorious call them as the fairest possible exercise. This trend needs to be checked through a comprehensive exercise in consultation with all the stake holders. We would also suggest the introduction of electronic voting machine in the future general elections including the photographs of the voters in electoral rolls to guard against fraudulent means at any level. As democracy in Pakistan is taking roots, it is necessary that people's faith must remain in the outcome of the elections. We therefore hope that every related step would be taken so that the next elections should be exemplary and the government should further facilitate the Election Commission for this purpose.








AN Elite Police Force Cop committed suicide at a picket near Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad on Saturday. His colleagues said he shot himself with official gun and gave the reason of depression and life threatening nature of duty for the extreme step.

The suicide incident indicates that the police personnel are hard pressed as they are forced to perform at least twelve hours of duty in a day which is against all the laws. After the wave of incidents of terrorism, the police force is under constant mental and physical pressure as they have been deployed for duty at pickets in extreme weather conditions with almost no facility for shade, food, water, transport and rest. The security of the two big houses in Islamabad is also unheard off. Not only the two houses on Hill top but throughout the capital city there are security hazards and one has to encounter several check points making the lives of not only the citizens but also policemen miserable. The fact is that police is overburdened while there are much more expectations from it without extending the matching facilities. Though their salaries were doubled couple of years back but the unchecked inflation has taken much from that increase. At the same time policemen at pickets and security duties get exhausted and in emergency they are made to perform almost round the clock duty. Perhaps Pakistan police is having worst type of service conditions and in addition it is ridiculed and made target of criticism by media, civil society and the people at large. We would therefore urge the Police high-ups and the Interior Ministry to go deep into the suicide of the police cop, look at the plight of policemen and take remedial measures including improvement in service conditions to avoid such incidents in the future.








Pakistan has an enviable record of contribution towards global security, peace and stability under the auspices of United Nations. Since 1960, Pakistan has been actively involved in most of the UN peacekeeping missions and today stands at the top with 10,175 troops and observers serving the ongoing missions. So far Pakistan has participated in 41 UN peacekeeping missions in some of the most dangerous conflict zones like Congo, Bosnia, Rwanda, Angola, Somalia, Cambodia, East Timor, Sierra Leone and Liberia; where our soldiers helped in restoration of peace as well as toward provision of humanitarian assistance including medical cover to the needy. Pakistan has made the largest troop contribution to UN peace initiatives and has so for deployed 130,000 peacekeepers from Far East Asia to Central America.

As a signatory of Memorandum of Understanding, of 1996, on UN Standby Arrangement System, Pakistan has pledged a Brigade Group size force, including air force and navy assets for UN peacekeeping missions. Hopefully, Pakistan would now also participate in high profile missions involving enforcement of no fly zones, naval blockades etc. Performance of Pakistani peace keepers have been acknowledged worldwide by numerous leaders of affected zones as well as by the UN leadership. An undisputed professional standing of Pakistani peace keepers has made them the passion of every Special Representative of the UNSG and Force Commander in every UN peace keeping mission. Pakistani peace keepers have persistently sacrificed their lives in the line of duty; fatalities of Pakistani peace keepers account for over 10% of total UN deaths; almost an equal number of Pakistan peace keepers have been wounded over the five decades. Tragically, 122 Pakistani military, police and civilian personnel lost their lives while serving the United Nations.

These peacekeeping missions expose our troops to attacks from warring militant groups, hostile social environment, adverse weather conditions and health hazards. Many in Pakistan vividly recall the tragic episode that occurred in Somalia during 1993. Five groups of Pakistani peacekeepers were attacked by the militants belonging to warlord Muhammad Farrah Aidid's militia. Attackers used women and children as shield. Pakistani troops fought back courageously and ensured that women and children remained unharmed. During this episode, 23 Pakistani soldiers lost their lives, while 56 sustained injuries. Peacekeeping is envisaged as a non-coercive and a politically impartial instrument. Traditionally it has been based on a triad of principles viz. consent of parties to the conflict, impartiality of the peacekeepers, and use of force by lightly armed peacekeepers only in self-defence. In the past, constraints imposed by these principles have led to abandoning some of the missions, leaving the suffering civilian population in a state of limbo.

Genesis of the 'Peacekeeping Mission' is rooted in the contradiction between the rejection of war and the need to keep peace by force. The UN Charter, which is based on the idea of preventing war, does not envisage peacekeeping. Yet this method of crisis management has evolved out of the fear of a war breaking out. Dag Hammarskjöld and Lester B. Pearson "invented" peacekeeping in 1956. Chapters VI and VII of the UN Charter provide for political and military procedures for resolving conflicts. The idea was relatively simple: establish a means for dialogue (Chapter VI) and, if the situation becomes a threat to international peace, take military action (Chapter VII).

Early day missions were timid, involving only military observers. Then it became clear that they had to be protected and that it would be useful if forces were interposed between the parties to a conflict. At first, attempts were made to resolve the problems of protection of peace keepers with allocation of additional resources like increasing the manpower and firepower in the field for protecting the units more effectively. But as difficulties persisted, it slowly became clear that there was a doctrinal gap. First stage of peacekeeping lasted until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Its success depended on the assumption that the belligerents would respect their commitments; and that they could more or less control their forces. This remained the case as long as the conflicts involved national armies.








During a debate focusing on the situation in the Pak-Afghan region, at National Defence University (NDU), Washington, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton declared the relationship with Pakistan as of "Paramount importance." Mr Leon Panetta, the US Defence Secretary, seconded Ms. Clinton and said that US has no choice, but to maintain its relationship with Pakistan, to safeguard its vital interests there. He said that, "there is no choice but to maintain a relationship with Pakistan. Because we are fighting a war there. Because we are fighting Al Qaeda there, and they (Pakistanis) do give us——some cooperation in that effort." We thank these two very significant policy makers of United States for their recognition of Pakistani significance for this sole super power in the region. A very significant feature of this recognition of Pakistani role by these hawks is limited to Pakistan's serving the US interests only. Beyond that, both were very critical to Pakistan role, even to the level of accusing it for having linkages with militants and terrorists.

Indeed, here lies the fault-line in the Pak-US relationships. U.S gives credit to Pakistan for that portion only, where it serves its interest. Nevertheless, once it (Pakistan) tries to secure its own interest, US get annoyed and allege it with multiple charges. For example during the same vary debate in NDU-Washington, Defence Secretary Panetta said that relations with Pakistan have been complicated owing its (Pakistan's) linkages with the Haqqanis, who cross the Pak-Afghan border to attack ISAF troops in Afghanistan. He said that, "It's pretty clear that there's a relationship there." As if this accusation was not enough, he further charged Pakistan with its alleged relationship with Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT). In this, Mr. Panetta was perhaps pleading the Indian case. He categorically said that, "There's a relationship with LeT. And, you know, this is a group that goes into India and threatens attacks there. It has conducted attacks there."

The statement by a very responsible policy maker of US who has been the head of CIA too, clearly exposes the nature of Indo-US alliance and their collective designs against Pakistan. This indeed is a US strategy to compel Pakistan to simply go by its dictates and accommodate Indian desires too. Pakistan can accept neither US dictates nor the Indian hegemony, it believes in the principle of mutual co-existence. Though the following day, US State Department clarified the statement of Secretary Panetta, once the spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, dismissed the speculations, as if U.S consider Pakistan, a state sponsoring the terrorism. In response to a question by a US based Indian journalist, Victoria said, "I think Secretary Panetta spoke to our concern about how these two organisations operate and any relationship that they may have with Pakistan, which is a subject that we talk about with Pakistan, which is a different issue than a state being a sponsor of terrorism itself." Nevertheless, for a Pakistani, Mr Panetta's statement in NDU-Washington has a lot of meaning and indeed, the real US mindset.

United States understands that, for any success in Afghanistan, it needs Pakistani support. On its part, Pakistan has been supporting the US cause with devotion. The only issue is that US has always been discrediting the Pakistani support and sacrifices that it has rendered for this coalition over the years. US always got the credit of Pakistani contributions for any success; it got in Afghanistan and accused Pakistan for its own failure. Besides, US always tried to accommodate the Indian interests at the cost of Pakistan. This biased US attitude has always irritated Pakistan, which would like that its interest too be secured at its immediate neighbourhood, rather of a none-contiguous country.

This difference of opinion then creates mistrust between Pakistan and United States. U.S prefers serving irrational Indian interest for many other reasons, one being preparing it to contain China, the peer competitor of US in the global politics. Pakistan perhaps cannot serve such a US purpose against its all weather friend, China, thus repeatedly faces US infuriation. Secretary Clinton accepts this reality once she said, "There are certain attitudes or beliefs that the Pakistanis have which are rooted in their own experience, just like we have our own set of such convictions."

Like all other Americans, Defence Secretary Panetta was not able to digest the presence of only deterrent; Pakistan has in the form of nuclear weapons. While recognizing Pakistani position, he showed US concern with its nuclear weapons. He said that, Pakistan "happen to be a nuclear power that has nuclear weapons and we have to be concerned about what happens with those nuclear weapons." This again speaks of a malevolence mindset of US about Pakistani nuclear programme. This creates lot of concern in Pakistan, as to what plan US has for Pakistani nukes. We feel that Pakistani nukes are safest in the world with a very effective command and control system.

About Haqqanis, Pakistani has offered US, many a time to bring them on to the negotiating table. United States should have welcomed this offer, if it is seriously considering this group so hostile and effective against its forces in Afghanistan. US, however, seems fixed on the only option to push Pakistan for a military operation against this group, which is not possible for it under the prevailing situation. Otherwise, as a common sense, if the matter can be resolved through talks, why to go for the use of force. Even after the use of force, issues always settled on the negotiating table.

Unfortunately, U.S and Pakistan have different prisms to see the world. The Secretary of State even has recognized this fact during the same debate once she said, "They (Pakistani) are partners, but they do not always see the world the way we see the world. They do not always cooperate with us on what we think, and I will be very blunt about this–is in their interest." Surely American interest cannot match Pakistani interest. We are two different nations with different cultures, values, religions and different histories.

American sees the world through the prism of hegemony and imperialism, whereas, we believe in the sovereignty of nation states, their independence and right to live as per their own desire, as determined by UN Charter. It would be in the interest of US to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan through negotiations with the Afghan stakeholders; rather playing politics of imperialism for a long term stay there in the garb of combating militancy. It could not bring stability and peace in that country through its military campaigns in last one decade and would not be able to achieve that with the same mind set in another decade.

Furthermore, antagonism with Pakistan would not serve US interest too, as Pakistan is not its subservient state. It should consider Pakistan an equal partner and give weightage to its peace proposals seriously, and talk with Afghan factions for a consensus. Such an approach would bring long-term peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan only desires to see a stable Afghanistan, as its people have suffered a lot in last thirty-four years. Afghan sufferance is a Pakistani sufferance, as we are brothers.

—The writer is an International Relations analyst.










Born within the precincts of the Holy Kaaba, in Mecca on Friday, the 13th Rajab, 30 Amulfeel, to Hazrat Abu Talib and Hazrat Fatima bint-e- Asad. Such is the status of this personality for whom the Holy prophet Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH) said " Ali is to me what Aaron was to Moses". Hazrat Ali has thus had the unique honor to be born in the House of God.

Hazrat Ali ibn Abu Talib was one of prophet's PBUH trusted companions and part of Ahl ul Bayt. Amongst the Muslim ummah he is revered as the fourth caliph of Islam. When Muhammad PBUH reported that he had received a divine revelation, Ali, then only about ten years old, believed him and professed to Islam. According to Ibn Ishaq, Hazrat Ali was the first male to enter Islam.

When Hazrat Ali was about five years of age, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) took him away from his uncle Abu Talib to bring him up as his own child. Thus from his earliest days, Hazrat Ali came directly under the tutelage of the Apostle of God, to share his high ethics and morals. Hazrat Ali was ever ready to run the risk of his own life for Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) at times of danger and he was affectionately attached to him with un-swerving faithfulness. The cousins were so fond of each other that they lived together till death parted them.

As Hazrat Ali says: The Holy Prophet brought me up in his own arms and fed me with his own morsel. I followed him wherever he went, like a baby camel which follows its mother. Each day an aspect of his character would beam out of his noble soul and I would accept it and follow it as a command. Ten years in the company of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had kept him so close and inseparable that he was one with him in character, knowledge, self sacrifice, forbearance, bravery, kindness, generosity, oratory and eloquence. From his very infancy, he prostrated himself before God along with the Holy Prophet, as he himself said "I was the first to pray to God along with the Holy Prophet".

Hazrat Ali lived a simple life. He refused any luxury food and wore simple clothes thinking of the poor. He would sleep on the ground and even sit on the floor. He repaired his own clothes and shoes and even did manual labour. He spent nights in Salaah and would fast for three days in a row. Honesty, piety, justice and love of truth were the main marks of his character. In 623 A.H. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) told Hazrat Ali that he had chosen him to give his daughter Fatimah Zahra's hand in marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said to Fatimah: "I have married you to the dearest of my family to me". He was a model of simplicity and self-denial. He led a simple life from the cradle to the grave, and was a true representative of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

He had neither a servant nor a maid when Syeda Fatimah, the most beloved daughter of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was married to him. She would grind corn with her own hands. Purity of motives and selflessness were the keynote of his life. He was a wise counsellor, a true friend and a generous foe. Prophert Muhammad (PBUH) designated Hazrat Ali as one of the scribes who would write down the text of the Qur'an, which had been revealed to Muhammad (PBUH) during the previous two decades. As Islam began to spread throughout Arabia, Ali Ibne Abu Talib helped establish the new Islamic order. He was instructed to write down the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, the peace treaty between the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the Quraysh in 628. Hazrat Ali was a reliable and trustworthy aide whom the Prophet (PBUH) asked to carry the message and declare the orders. He did not leave his simplicity even though he was the Khalifah and the ruler of a vast state.

Once a person named 'Abdullah Ibn Zarir had an opportunity to take meals with him. The meal was very simple. 'Abdullah asked, "O Amirul Mu'minin, don't you like the meat of birds?" Hazrat Ali replied, "The Khalifah has a right in Muslim (Public) property only to the extent sufficient for him and his family." The death of "the lion of God" occurred before dawn of Friday, the twenty-first of the month of Ramadan, in the year 40A.H. He was a victim of the sword. Ibn Muljam al-Muradi, killed him at the mosque of Kufa, which he had come out to in order to wake the people for the dawn prayer on the night of the nineteenth of the month of Ramadan. He lingered through the day of the nineteenth and the night and day of the twentieth and the first third of the night of the twenty-first. Subsequently he died a martyr and met his Lord.

Addressing Hasan and Hussain, he said, proclaim the truth; work for the next world. Oppose the oppressor and support the oppressed. I advise you, and all my children, my relatives, and whosoever receives this message, to be conscious of Allah, to remove your differences, and to strengthen your ties. I heard your grand father (PBUH) saying: "Reconciliation of your differences is more worthy than all prayers and all fasting." He was born in the House of Allah, the Kaaba, and martyred in the House of Allah, Masjid-e-Kufa. The Lion of Allah, the most brave and gentle Muslim after the Prophet (PBUH) himself began his glorious life with devotion to Allah and His Messenger; and ended it in the service of Islam.

"And do not speak of those who are slain in the way of Allah as dead; nay, they are alive, but you perceive not." Quran 2:154. Hazrat Ali is the epitome of piety and chastity. Perseverance, patience and a vast knowledge base are amongst some of the virtues he possessed. Indeed he is one of the most comprehensive personalities to serve as an example for the Muslim Ummah to follow.








Karachi, once the most prosperous, promising and developing financial hub of Pakistan is now at stake. The people of Karachi are left with nothing but a feeling of insecurity and uncertainty. Stray bullets and unidentified killers are ruling over this metropolitan city. In spite of their best efforts the provincial government, the police, the Rangers and even the leaders of various political parties have yet not succeeded in finding out the actual root cause of this blood shed.

The city is turning to a land of horror and fright. Some analysts are of the view that the situation is in fact an outcome of long time ethnic conflicts and differences, fuelled by political forces. Some others are of the opinion that people belonging to different land-mafia and drug-mafia are behind this warlike scenario in the streets of Karachi. God knows better which are the hands trying to scatter and shatter the peace and prosperity of Karachi but one thing is very much obvious that the disturbance and unrest in Karachi is not the result of any ethnic conflict neither it is a racial problem. Whenever there is a bomb blast, a suicide attack or falling down of a building, one can easily find people from all ethnic identities rushing to the spot to help out the effected ones.

One day before the Independence Day celebrations on 13th August, some miscreants set a minibus on fire near a post office in Keamari area of Karachi. There were about fifteen passengers in that minibus. "The attackers set the bus on fire and ran away before the passengers could understand the situation", said the in-charge of the local police station, "The blaze left one man dead and four others injured". The passengers of this unlucky minibus did not belong to any particular ethnic community neither they were the members or workers of some particular political party. It means the miscreants targeted this bus not to victimize some particular ethnic or political segment of society but their only aim was to generate an air of horror and fright. Three weeks prior to this incident the media reported murder of a six years old innocent girl Liaba. It was 10th of July 2011 when Liaba, the only daughter of a poor Pashtun rickshaw driver was returning to her home from her madrassa. She was a few steps away from her door when some stray bullets deprived her of life. The brutal killing of this innocent girl filled all eyes with tears.

Without any discrimination of caste and creed her murder was mourned over and condemned by everyone. In such a situation where the bullet and the target both are absolutely stranger to each other, it seems completely out of place to call such episodes 'target killings'. In most of the cases the victims are rarely targeted on their ethnic or political identity. How can we call it 'target killing' when Innocent people including fruit and vegetable vendors, general stores and tuck-shop owners, labourers, daily-wagers and bus passengers are being sentenced to death pitilessly by 'invisible authorities'.

Worsening of the law and order situation in Karachi is not a new phenomenon. It was somewhere in mid 1980s when people from varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds started hailing to Karachi as their permanent destination. Since then different invisible forces have been trying their best to create an air of mistrust and disbelief among different communities living here. Now after a long struggle of almost three decades these forces have succeeded in changing the face and fate of Karachi.

This city now appears to have entered an era where mass killing of people has become a hobby for the professional killers. Innocent people are being murdered without any rhyme and reason. The local administration seems helpless and the law enforcing agencies seem powerless. In the beginning it was reported that the militant political forces were only targeting their rivals but now attacks on residents are becoming progressively more haphazard. In a recent incident of the same type of 'target killing' on 17th August former Pakistan People's Party MNA Waja Karim Dad and his friend Sadruddin Bhai were shot dead when they were sitting along with other friends at a hotel in the remits of Jackson police station.

The incident shows that most of the time the miscreants have only one aim and objective; to generate an air of fear and harassment and to promote a general feeling of insecurity among the people of Karachi. The situation has become so complex and complicated that people have lost all their trust and confidence in the political government. They feel that the law and order situation in Karachi cannot be controlled without the interference of army.

The situation in Karachi is not very much different from that of Baluchistan and Khayber Pakhtunkhawh. From Quetta to Peshawar innocent people are being murdered in the same way. Bomb blasts, suicide attacks and target killings have become a routine matter. In fact the blazing fire of terrorism which once started from KPK has now reached Karachi after engulfing the fertile lands of Baluchistan. Though the situation seems extremely out of control but someone will have to step forward and take the responsibility of playing the role of savior and rescue this city from the cruel clutches of such a depressing state of horror and fear. The government must not allow the law of jungle hold here supreme. Karachi is an international city; peace and prosperity of Karachi means peace and prosperity of Pakistan. The government of Pakistan must take serious action to control the situation before it is too late.








Ernest Hemingway's collection of stories, "Men without Women," examines tense gender relationships. In a particularly poignant story, a young man convinces his partner to have an abortion, viewing their unborn child as a hindrance to the status quo. Frustrated, the woman gives in.

That story, published more than 80 years ago, remains relevant today in India, where female fetuses face severe risks. According to the 2011 census, the sex ratio of the country's children has dipped from 927 females per 1000 males to 914, a 60-year low. Ratios in the northern states are particularly alarming: only Himachal Pradesh now has a ratio of girls to boys above 900.

Despite being illegal, ultrasound sex-determination tests are being used across India to identify for abortion extraordinary numbers of healthy female fetuses. But there are serious concerns about legal operations, too. Genitoplasty — a sex-change operation on newborn girls — is a mushrooming, and deeply disturbing, business in India. There's only one word for it: gendercide. Left unchecked, it will leave India's next generation of men with a severe shortage of women. Indian couples have a strong cultural preference, bordering on obsession, for sons over daughters — despite the strides in education and employment that women have made over the last few decades. Education and wealth have nothing to do with it — in fact, some of the worst-affected areas are in India's wealthiest cities. However discomfiting a possibility, the real culprit might be Indian culture and tradition itself. The expenses and pressure of the dowry system, and the fact that, in most joint families, only sons inherit property and wealth, contribute to this favouritism. Perhaps just as important is that sons typically live with their parents even after they are married, and assume responsibility for parents in their old age. Daughters, who live with their in-laws after they marry, are viewed as amanat - someone else's property. In short, sons represent income and daughters an expense.

In the old days, when families typically had five to 10 children, this didn't matter so much. The number of sons and daughters often evened out. But for today's smaller families, whether the children are two boys or two girls influences everything from financial planning to preparations for old age. Many have argued that Indian women should stand up to their families and refuse to abort their daughters. But Indian women want male children just as much. Unlike Hemingway's character, they are often more than willing to abort a girl and try for a boy. This raises other questions concerning the consequences of a large shortage of girls. Will women be valued and treasured? Or will the oversupply of men result in more bride trafficking, sexual violence, and female suicides?

Niall Ferguson, the British historian, cites scholars who attribute Japan's imperial expansion after 1914 to a male youth bulge, and who link the rise of Islamist extremism to an Islamic youth bulge. "Maybe the coming generation of Asian men without women will find harmless outlets for their inevitable frustrations, like team sports or video games. But I doubt it," he writes. He warns us not to be surprised if, in the coming generation, "shrill nationalism is replaced by macho militarism or even imperialism."

Unfortunately, there is no instant solution. Saving our girls will require radically altering some of Indian society's family arrangements, traditions, and attitudes. And there is no easy way to accomplish this. Legislation alone won't help, for tradition is a law unto itself. Hindu religious law, for example, allows a woman to claim an equal share in her parents' wealth, but few exercise this right. Culturally, she feels that she does not have an equal claim on her father's property.

Nonetheless, India does need new laws — direct and enforceable — that clamp down on the cultural practices that underpin destructive traditions. For example, India could enforce a ceiling on wedding expenditure — typically a father's biggest expense associated with his daughter. Constrained from spending on the wedding, he would compensate her differently — perhaps with a larger inheritance. Gradually, this would become the norm, and tradition would adjust accordingly. (Interestingly, the state of Kerala, whose people adhere to matrilineal inheritance, has among the most equal sex ratios and literacy rates in India.) A more radical measure, which some have advocated, would be direction intervene, with the state providing benefits for families with more girls. Perhaps the authorities could also penalize families with boys, at least temporarily. India imagines herself as a woman Bharat Mata, or Mother India. The irony is that, unless far-reaching changes are made soon, Mother India could eventually be the only woman left in the country. The writer is a former investment banker.

— Courtesy: The Japan Times







AUSTRALIAN Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes's grim assessment that manufacturing is in one of its worst periods since the Great Depression is reinforced by today's revelation that steelmaker BlueScope will shut down one of the nation's three remaining steel blast furnaces at Port Kembla and shed as many as 1000 jobs in NSW and Victoria.

It comes after OneSteel's announcement that it is retrenching 400 workers. Despite the impending crisis in a sector that employs almost one million Australians, the Gillard government, mired in political controversies, has given little indication of how it intends to respond.

Mr Howes made a good point on Sky News's Australian Agenda yesterday when he argued that Australia should be doing more to join forces with the US to pressure China to float the yuan, which economists believe is about 40 per cent undervalued, giving China a vast advantage selling manufactured goods. Australia's soaring dollar, high raw materials costs and competition from efficient Asian steel mills are blamed for the fact that exporting steel from Australia is no longer profitable.

Lobbying China to float its undervalued currency is just one issue that must be addressed. The more pressing issue - over which the government has much more control - that needs to be exercised is Australia's lamentable slowdown in productivity. As Reserve Bank deputy governor Phillip Lowe and Jonathan Kearns argued in a research paper released last week, if living standards and wages are to continue rising at the rate Australians expect, productivity growth will need to pick up significantly. The economy had moved "out along the risk-return frontier" and was vulnerable to any collapse in commodity prices, the paper advised, and businesses and government should redress inefficient regulation and business practices and the labour market. During the 2008-09 downturn, the authors argued correctly, flexibility in working arrangements meant that the fall off in labour demand was spread more evenly across the workforce, which arguably helped avoid a more serious downturn.

Faced with heavy job losses in manufacturing in Labor's heartlands, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan cannot afford to ignore the advice of senior business leaders who will meet the Treasurer this week to discuss economic reform to boost lagging productivity. Such reform must include industrial relations. On the evidence to date, National Australia Bank and Woodside chairman Michael Chaney is correct in his call for fundamental changes to the Fair Work Act to prevent unions hijacking negotiations and to stop unnecessary strikes. The fact that Fair Work Australia turned its back on the principles of 100 years of arbitration by handing unions the right to "strike first, bargain later" is a recipe for chaos, not for growth.

The Prime Minister and Mr Swan have paid little heed to well-founded complaints from the retail sector that rigid IR laws have undermined performance. They should not ignore the concerns of Macquarie Group and Origin Energy chairman Kevin McCann about inefficient work practices in the energy sector delaying construction of key projects. Nor can they ignore the wake-up call inherent in Future Fund chairman David Murray's suggestion of a fresh accord between the government and unions to jolt-start "a labour market trapped in history". In an era when much higher percentages of Australians were in unions, the Hawke-Keating governments' accords from 1983 to 1995 encouraged efficiencies in return for moderate wage rises and superannuation. A key reform needed is individual workplace agreements with a no-disadvantage test, which would not be a return to Work Choices but a useful means to lift productivity.

The Gillard government's improvements in education and skills training are important factor in lifting productivity. More should be done to tighten other spending to allow for greater investment in heavy infrastructure, especially ports, rail and highways fit for the 21st century. But after two years operation, the weaknesses of the Fair Work system are glaringly obvious. IR reform poses a serious challenge for both the government and opposition.





ATTEMPTS by Labor's factional leaders to strike a deal to provide for a conscience vote in federal parliament over the vexed issue of same-sex marriage will prove smart politics if it prevents the party's federal conference being dominated by a bruising debate over one of Bob Brown's pet issues.

A deal could also save Julia Gillard, who believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, from defeat at the conference or from having to overrule it. Most ALP state branches support same-sex marriage.

The issue would lend itself to a conscience vote in parliament, but as members on both sides of politics found themselves lobbied heavily by proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage, they would be wise not to be distracted from more serious issues confronting the nation, such as the economy and health.

The Australian upholds the rights of individuals to choose how they want to live in private, within the bounds of social responsibility. But same-sex marriage is basically a fringe issue that preoccupies the Greens and GetUp! but barely rates a mention in the mainstream, especially among Labor's traditional base in working-class suburbs. However the party deals with the issue, it would be smart to avoid the impression that Senator Brown is calling the shots.






WHETHER this really is zero hour for Muammar Gaddafi, as Libya's rebels claim, remains to be seen. It looks like it. As the long-hoped-for denouement for the Mad Dog of the Middle East approaches, it is imperative to ensure there is no replay of Baghdad 2003.

Since the start of the uprising, Gaddafi has lost no opportunity to claim that a catastrophe like the one that followed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein lies ahead. Gaddafi's immoral charlatan supporters have painted lurid scenarios of an inevitable bloodbath based on tribal rivalries and what they claim is the influence of al-Qa'ida. They have predicted mayhem and a national collapse mired in tribalism and recrimination. The challenge to the rebels' Transitional National Council and NATO-led coalition supporting it is to prove Gaddafi wrong.

The transition from a crazy dictatorship that has endured for 42 years is not going to be easy, but there are portents that will hopefully prove the doomsayers wrong. Though last month's murder of rebel commander General Abdel Fattah Younes, a former Gaddafi minister, suggested divisions, the rebel movement has mostly been remarkably united. With commendable foresight and Western help, the TNC has a blueprint for a post-Gaddafi Libya that would retain much of the regime's security infrastructure to avoid an Iraq-style collapse into anarchy. Special forces have been training in Qatar to be specifically tasked with stabilising Tripoli and protecting civilians, strategic locations and infrastructure - the antithesis of Baghdad. The council is already working effectively as a government-in-waiting in rebel areas and should be able to take over the administration and ensure supply of food, electricity and water - again, exactly what did not happen in Iraq. In this, the world must not be found wanting. It must mobilise whatever help is needed to ensure the aspirations of the Libyan people for a brave new world of democracy and freedom are fulfilled. The TNC has promised elections within eight months to two years. It must fulfil that goal.

Much now depends on the manner and timing of Gaddafi's going. It behoves the international community to bring him to account. An International Criminal Court arrest warrant is out and no country should allow him escape it. Libyans have suffered for too long. The world must now help them recover.






FOR a coalition representing the losers in the two-speed economy, you could hardly beat the combination of the manufacturing workers' main union and the steel industry. Of course tourism and other service sectors are also adversely hit by the strong Australian dollar, but their products are not so readily substituted by those of other countries.

Yet the push by unions, industry and Labor MPs for a stronger line towards China on its undervalued currency is unlikely to provide a rescue, even if successful. The Chinese yuan is still undervalued, even though it has been allowed to rise a fair bit in the past six years under a controlled revaluation. The problem will continue to be that the Australian dollar has risen, and will continue to rise, against third currencies such as the US dollar because we are so tightly plugged in to China's economy. With China taking 25 per cent of our exports and pumping investment back in to take more of them, investments in our dollar have become a China play without the governance risks of direct investment in China.

A rise in the yuan would add to other readjustments in competitiveness under way. Unrest in China's coastal factory zones, and a growing reluctance among inland China's young people to ''eat bitterness'' in their manufacturing sweatshops, have forced jumps in wage levels. The alternative of shifting factories inland brings higher transport costs. The Chinese economy is thus changing, as older manufacturing powers have long urged, towards reliance on domestic demand, though not fast enough to address international financial imbalances immediately.

The first countries given fresh advantage by this are those with even lower labour costs than China, such as Vietnam and Bangladesh. But almost incredibly, manufacturing in the US is reviving after years of hollowing out. Large numbers of American blue-collar workers, especially in the southern states, are ready to take on factory work at low rates close to the federal minimum of $US7.25 an hour, without the healthcare and pension benefits that used to be the norm. Trade unions are letting them work alongside their members. The labour cost difference is still wide but is narrowing and offset by the better productivity of American workers, shorter transport to US markets and security of intellectual property.

The collapse of the US dollar has helped greatly but would not be enough without the dismantling of wage levels and labour benefits - now compensated partly by Barack Obama's healthcare extension. We do not expect the Australian Workers Union or Labor MPs to advocate this pathway. Nor, given the Australian currency's linkage to China, would it be sufficient to sustain a lot of manufacturing. By all means jawbone the Chinese on the yuan, but the answer for all sectors hit by the high dollar is to concentrate on quality, design, innovation and uniqueness.


Poison, silence and politics

WHEN things go badly wrong, the first, instinctive reaction of corporations and governments is too often to retreat into silence. As well as being cowardly, it tends to be counterproductive. This has been the experience of the mining explosives company Orica, which is now in double trouble at its Kooragang Island plant near Newcastle.

On Friday - even as the company was struggling to contain the uproar caused by what seems to have been an unconscionable delay by it and the NSW government in warning the public of a potentially dangerous chemical leakage from the plant on August 8 - Orica was trying to explain a second unauthorised discharge, this time of effluent containing arsenic.

It will be some relief to residents that, on the information released so far, neither spill seems to have seriously threatened human health or the environment. On the first, involving a plume of hazardous hexavalent chromium that deposited residue in the suburb of Stockton, the Health Department has declared that, while the substance could cause cancer in people exposed to high levels over time, the risk from this incident was "low". Similarly, Friday's apparently unrelated discharge of more than a megalitre of effluent containing traces of arsenic above the allowable level was not expected to affect the health of the Hunter River. This time, in contrast to reactions to the first incident, the company and the government were quick to come clean.

But deeply worrying issues remain. The first, raised by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, at the weekend, is that two such breaches of environmental laws in less than a fortnight - involving different hazardous chemicals at different parts of the plant - suggest systemic failure. The adequacy of the company's safety measures, and its monitoring and reporting protocols, need to be rigorously - and publicly - examined by the inquiry O'Farrell has promised.

Yet the inquiry will not reassure anxious voters unless it also asks hard questions of the Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, and senior officials about the seemingly outrageous delay in informing potentially affected residents of the chromium leak. True, Orica took nearly 17 hours to tell the government, but Parker's office was not informed by officials until more than 24 hours later. She took almost another day to tell Parliament and the public. Residents need to know about dangers to their health immediately.






Laws that foreign police can employ need careful framing.

THERE'S a strange contradiction at the heart of much of the political discussion about privacy. As is evident in the News International phone-hacking scandal, parliamentarians are among the first to condemn the media for invasions of privacy, yet they too often appear reluctant to entertain similar concerns if there is any risk of jeopardising legislative plans or irritating allies.

A new cybercrime bill introduced by federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland in June and sent for consideration to Parliament's joint select committee on cybersafety makes clear this conundrum. The legislation seeks to amend existing laws so that Australia can accede to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, an international treaty on crimes committed using computer networks. It would allow greater sharing of communications data with foreign countries.

At first glance this seems commendable. The convention targets criminals who infiltrate computer networks across international borders and do incalculable harm to civil society: terrorists, pornographers and paedophile rings, illegal traffickers in weapons, drugs and human beings, money launderers and cybercriminals. Its objective is ''a common criminal policy aimed at the protection of society against cybercrime by adopting appropriate legislation and fostering international co-operation''. Among other powers, this grants law enforcement agencies, such as America's FBI or London's Metropolitan Police, the right to search computer networks and seize material that might become important in an investigation. The Law Council of Australia has expressed concern that the threshold test and reporting requirements in relation to information sought in a foreign investigation are not as stringent as those required for domestic investigations. The Age shares this concern.

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Unlike Australians, Europeans have rights to privacy and free speech enshrined in law. By contrast, our fundamental human rights lack the protection of inclusion in the constitution or a bill of rights. As a result, the bill should ring alarm bells in this country. It means the caveat in the convention that it is ''mindful of the need to ensure a proper balance between the interests of law enforcement and respect for fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1950 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms'' gives no guarantee that citizens of this country will be treated fairly.

Surely, if we learnt anything from our government's collusion with the United States in holding Australians without trial in Guantanamo Bay, it was the need to be vigilant about retaining autonomy in international law and not allowing fears about security to override long-established rights.

It is reassuring, therefore, that the cybersafety committee did register concern. It has made 13 recommendations on the bill and has stressed the need to balance rights to privacy against any proposed increase in powers to crack online criminal networks.

It has requested that the bill ''elaborate more precisely the requirement that the authorising officer consider and weigh the proportionality of the intrusion into privacy against the value of the potential evidence and needs of the investigation''.

At a time when the boundaries between what is public and what is private appear to be crumbling, it is imperative that we proceed with care. There is a cautionary tale in the way phone-tapping legislation - introduced for all the ''right'' reasons as a crime-fighting tool - has at times been abused by police and politicians. Experience both at home and abroad tells us that an implied request to ''trust us, we're the government'' is never good enough.

The law itself must prevent governments, both present and future, from abusing their powers and it must provide recourse should they attempt to do so.



TEST cricket is in crisis in Australia. The team has not coped well with the loss of a generation of gifted champions led by Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist. Since their retirement, Australia has crashed from first to fifth in the world Test rankings. The record-breaking era of dominance from 1995 to 2007, when Australia won 35 Test series and lost only five, is a receding memory. Australia has won only five of its past 11 series, and the insipid performance during last summer's Ashes matches provided stark evidence of the decline in quality at the elite level.

The game's governing body, Cricket Australia, is to be congratulated for commissioning a review to seek to find out what has gone wrong and what should be done about it. That review, headed by business leader Don Argus and informed by successful former captains Allan Border, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, has laid bare structural and cultural problems that must be confronted if the Australian Test team is to retain the affection of future generations of fans and potential players.

The Argus report, released last Friday, finds Australia's basic cricket skills are lacking. Our batsman, it says, have lost the ability to occupy the crease for long periods, and technique against the swinging and spinning ball is inadequate. Our bowlers are unable to build pressure on opposing teams by adhering to an agreed plan for any extended period. Fielding, especially catching and ''general athleticism'', is also in marked decline, a commentary on the attitude and professionalism of the elite squad.

Perhaps more damning is the finding that modern Australian cricket is infected by a culture of indulged mediocrity. ''Players can make a very comfortable living without necessarily achieving excellence,'' the report says. ''Today's players are being paid substantially more in real terms than their counterparts in the dominant teams of recent times, despite far inferior results.''

The Argus prescription is welcome. He calls for increased professionalism and accountability at the top of the sport. For the first time, the chairman of selectors will be a full-time job. Player payments will be more closely aligned to individual and team performances. And, in this age of lucrative Twenty20 franchise cricket, the pre-eminence of five-day Test cricket will be reaffirmed.

Any search for ''the next Shane Warne'' is doomed to disappoint; he was unique. But the Argus report is a solid foundation for Australian cricket's quest for a Test team that can once again be the pride of this sports-loving nation.






The umpire used to matches in Scarborough's Beckett Cricket League who found himself officiating over Test-level players

It's the sort of event that for most happens only in dreams. There's a crisis on the stage or the pitch. One of the principals cannot continue; no substitute is available. An appeal is made. Someone who came just to watch is translated to the thick of events – on the way, perhaps, to a whole new career. Something similar happened last week at Scarborough to Fred Bernard, who found himself summoned on to the ground in front of a crowd of 4,000 for Yorkshire's game against Sussex. As an umpire, not as a player; even so, it must have been an exhilarating moment for a man of 75. The call for a qualified umpire had gone out after one of the two who were standing was taken ill. Mr Bernard, who officiates every Saturday in the town's Beckett Cricket League, found himself adjudicating the fortunes of Test-level cricketers – not, by the rules laid down for such occasions, at the bowler's end, but still at square leg, from where run-outs and stumpings may have to be judged. Happily, this was on Thursday rather than the following day, when controversy erupted over a catch claimed by a Sussex fielder to dismiss the young Yorkshire batsman Joe Root, whose score stood at 160. The umpires' acceptance brought loud complaints from the crowd, and, according to the Guardian's correspondent, upset the Yorkshire dressing room too. As it was, Mr Bernard got through his two stints without the slightest whiff of controversy. And next spring, he can hope for the ultimate accolade: his name in Wisden.





Companies find it more attractive to make money suing each other for infringement than actually making things

Most people understand the origins and rationale of ordinary industrial patents. They give, say, a pharmaceutical company which has spent a fortune developing a new drug a window to profit from its investment before the rest of the world can make cheaper versions. But software patents, though legally similar, are very different in practice. Google's $12.5bn purchase of Motorola's mobile phone activities last week caused a stir in the business and technology worlds alike, because the reason for it was not to acquire Motorola's phones but its portfolio of up to 17,000 "software patents", which have become the gold dust of the digital age.

Patents are now a multibillion-dollar industry in which companies find it more attractive to make money suing each other for infringement than actually making things. Until the mid-1990s the computer industry – including Microsoft – was opposed to such licensing. This was mainly because the industry was so innovative without the protection of patents, which in any case involved often quite trivial advances in technology that were regarded as a standard part of an engineer's work.

Then temptation reared its head. Corporate lawyers realised that they could sue others for infringing patents often purchased as a job lot. They were joined by "troll" companies formed just to buy up patents and sue companies and developers, knowing that most would settle rather than face the huge cost of hiring defence lawyers. Today the corporations that formerly opposed patents are in an arms race to acquire them. Microsoft has amassed a vast patent arsenal and can charge a manufacturer like HTC a reported $5 for every phone it sells – even though the Android system (developed by Google) used in HTC phones is "open source" and supposedly available to everyone. With hundreds, if not thousands, of patents now inside a mobile phone it is almost impossible not to infringe some patent in some way. Meanwhile Google, faced with its rivals vacuuming up all the patents in sight, has been forced to buy its own portfolio in self-defence.

Patents were supposed to protect innovation. Now they risk throttling it. Such acquisitions may drag technology companies ever further from their original core competences. Academic research by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society has found that software patents have provided no net benefit to the software industry, let alone to society as a whole. Tragically, because so many corporations which formerly opposed software patents have now joined the system, an effective solution will be harder to find. Once again consumers are pitted against the corporations. Where are the regulators when they are needed?







How and when the regime ends has become less important than the questions of who and what a new era may bring

The struggle in Libya is close to its end. The uprisings in the Tripoli suburbs, the defection of some units defending the capital and, above all, the scenes of jubilation in the streets suggest the regime is at its last gasp. Desperate pleas for immediate peace talks from the principal government spokesman underline that impression. The situation in Tripoli still cannot be accurately measured but there seems little doubt that the rebels are prevailing, thanks in considerable part to the sophisticated and lethal air attack capability provided by the countries to which they collectively refer as "Mister Nato".

Britain and France led the Libyan intervention, drawing in a reluctant United States and other Nato countries, under the misapprehension that the regime needed only a little military push before it foundered in a sea of popular opposition. It was going to be an easy war which would have the large political benefit of putting western countries that had dallied and dithered in their response to the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt on the right side of the Arab spring. It has instead turned out to be a very long pull indeed, while the supposed benefit of backing an Arab revolution has been dissipated as the political euphoria which accompanied change in Tunis and Cairo has faded and Arab suspicion of western motives has increased. Above all, fear that even the lavish application of air power would not bring a clear victory in Libya has been displaced by anxiety about Libya's future after victory.

That anxiety deepened after the recent murder of Abdel Fatah Younis, the rebel military commander, and the subsequent dissolution of the rebel cabinet. Was this an indication of instability, or a move aimed at outmanoeuvring the Islamist forces who may have been responsible for his death? For many weeks now, the how and when of the regime's end have become less important issues than the questions of who and what a new era may bring. The spectre of Iraq of course lurks in the background. That was a country where the invaders inadvertently released forces of whose strength and even of whose existence they had no idea before they intervened, in part because they failed to consult what expertise there was available.

The National Transitional Council, with western advice, has a plan of sorts. One of its features is the retention of parts of Colonel Gaddafi's security forces, thus avoiding the Iraqi mistake of disbanding the armed forces. Yet the Iraqi army had not been involved in the suppression of the civilian population in the way that parts of the Libyan armed forces have, so the parallel is disputable. The Iraq parallel is defective in other important ways, notably because there is not going to be a western military presence in Libya. That lesson has been learned. But, in the absence of the kind of control which America and its allies were able to exercise and, unhappily, also to mismanage in Iraq, who will be able to influence the Libyan situation for the better?

The short answer is Libyans themselves. There is plenty of evidence of common sense, democratic instinct, idealism and decency, as well as professional competence, waiting to be tapped in Libya. Experience, however, shows how such elements can also be outflanked and wasted as more extreme forces scramble for advantage. Libyans will need help. Some may come from Europe and America, and from the broader Arab and Muslim world. Qatar has already emerged as a country which, because of its likely generosity with aid, could have an influence disproportionate to its size. But it is Egypt and Tunisia, the two states which are Libya's neighbours – whose revolutions inspired Libya's own effort to rid itself of Gaddafi, and which would have most to lose if Libya lost its way – that will have a special, and perhaps a weighty, responsibility.

• Please note: the beginning of this article has been changed to reflect events in Libya.






It happens so frequently that expectation does not live up to reality. That is exactly what is happening with the investigation into the corruption scandal surrounding a Southeast Asian (SEA) Games construction project, although the key suspect, Muhammad Nazaruddin, has arrived home after hiding for months abroad and will eventually face the music at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

In contrast to the general public's expectations, his return following his arrest in Cartagena, Colombia, last Saturday, has yet to bring significant progress to the investigation of the scandal, as Nazaruddin turned out to be a different person during and after the questioning by KPK investigators on Thursday.

He was surprisingly silent and shied from the media in a departure from his high-profile appearances in a series of video conferences with a number of media outlets while on the run.

It remains unclear what made him so completely tightlipped when asked about Thursday's inquiry by the KPK and his knowledge of the scandal. Many speculate that the former Democratic Party politician may have been compelled to silence by those implicated in his corruption cases. One thing is certain, however: that the questioning was cut short after Nazaruddin claimed he was not feeling well.

On the run overseas for almost three months after being named a suspect, the former chairman of the Democratic Party has dragged party colleagues, the police and KPK officials — including Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum, Youth and Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng, Democratic Party lawmaker Angelina Sondakh, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle lawmaker I Wayan Koster, KPK deputy Chandra M. Hamzah and former National Police chief of Detectives Comr. Gen. Ito Sumardi — into the maelstrom by hurling graft accusations at them. All, including Anas, Mallarangeng and Ito, have denied their involvement.

But a statement from his lawyer, Otto Cornelis Kaligis, after the questioning session, saying that Nazaruddin had requested that the KPK move him from the Police's Kelapa Dua Mobile Brigade detention center in Depok, West Java, to the Cipinang detention center in East Jakarta and that he had written to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, chief patron of the Democratic Party, to declare his willingness to bear full responsibility and be imprisoned for the scandal in return for the safety of his wife and three children, tells partly — if not completely — the source of his silence. His request for transfer from a police detention center to a government-run facility shows that Nazaruddin "has not been comfortable" with the treatment he had received at the center.

And his letter to the President, which included a promise not to disclose anything that could damage the image of the Democratic Party, the KPK or the nation, and asked for protection for his family members, has in essence revealed a "high-level" bargaining deal.

As a nation ranked among the five most corrupt countries in the world, such a "win-win political solution" is not what we hoped for. Failure to completely resolve this case will only worsen the country's image and credibility worldwide.





The renminbi (RMB) is a potential candidate for a leading international currency. Some pundits have predicted that in the long run the RMB will become one of the anchors of the international monetary system in addition to the US dollar and the euro.

The RMB deserves the international currency status, as China is now the second-largest exporter after Germany and has surpassed Japan as the second-largest economy after the US.

China's economic growth has been at its highest during the past three decades, ranging between 8 and 10 percent per year, and has become the growth engine for both emerging economies and the global economy.

The export-led development strategy adopted by the People's Republic of China (PRC) since the 1980s has produced surpluses both in its current account and capital account that has allowed the country to accumulate huge foreign exchange reserve amounting to more than US$3 trillion at present. Nearly two-thirds of the external reserves are held in US Treasury bills and sovereign bonds.

There are three objectives of the RMB internationalization. First, trade invoicing in the RMB eliminates risks for China in conducting international trade and finance both as a unit of account, a medium of exchange and a store of value.

Second, elevation of the RMB status to a reserve currency reduces the need for China to accumulate large external reserves in other major currencies, including the US dollar.

Third, it would fix the structural weakness of the present unipolar international financial system dominated by the US dollar as a reserve currency.

Unlike a domestic currency that is declared by the government as a legal tender, international money is not mandated by the central bodies of the international monetary system, such as the IMF.

The composition of international reserve holdings are decided by individual economic agents and countries.

Making the RMB a global money requires a wide range reforms in China. The present fixed exchange rate system that pegs the RMB to the US dollar at an undervalued rate should be replaced by a free-floating exchange rate system.

To make the RMB fully convertible, capital account should be liberalized and capital controls should stop.

China also needs to nurture a deep, wide and liquid world-class financial center, ending the financial repression, and corporatize state-owned financial institutions that are presently being used as instruments to pursue the government's industrial and development policies.

In terms of assets and liabilities, the Chinese banks may be the largest in the world, but none of them measure up to the clout of major Western banks in international financial intermediation.

It takes decades and a lot of effort to meet these prerequisites. Only with these modern and market-based systems can the RMB be used as an unit of account, a medium of exchange and a store value for transactions between non-residents of China.

In spite of several calls of the governor of its central bank to shift away from the US dollar, China cannot escape from the present of the US dollar's preeminence as a reserve currency.

China's dependency on the US dollar is partly a factor of the structure of its economy, which is only part of intra-regional trade in East Asia.

China serves as an export platform that assembles spare parts, components and other intermediate inputs produced in Japan, Korea and other Asian economies and exports the final products to the rest of the world, mainly the US and EU markets.

China's exports and imports are expected to be denominated in the US dollar and euro. Energy, raw materials and foods imported by China are also denominated in those currencies.

China will likely use a gradual approach and the ASEAN+3+3 platform (including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao) to pursue its objective in making the RMB a global currency.

Unlike in the European Union, this region has no regional economic common market with a single currency.

However, the regional approach makes sense because trade, investment and financial relations between the ASEAN+3+3 countries and China has became closer and deeper, giving its trading partners an incentive to use more RMB for transactions purposes and reserve holdings.

Currencies of several of these neighboring countries are either pegged to the RMB or to baskets of major currencies in which the RMB has a large weight. In some of its immediate neighbors the RMB is accepted as a substitute for local currencies.

For those countries that fix its exchange rate t o the RMB, it is making commitment to monetary, fiscal and other economic policies aiming at maintaining the fixed rate.

Fostering monetary and financial cooperation in the ASEAN+3+3 region also depends on the progress of the CMI (Chiang Mai Initiatives) and ABMI (Asian Bond Market Initiative). Like the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), the CMI provides liquidity supports in addition to the IMF facility to member countries of ASEAN+3 against financial turbulence.

As they are denominated in local currencies, ABMI reduces currency mismatches and builds deep and resilient regional capital markets. The meeting of ASEAN+3 Finance Ministers in Madrid in 2008 multilateralized the CMI, and enlarged the size of the facility. This was a giant leap toward greater political cohesion in the ASEAN+3 countries as, for the first time they transferred some national powers to a regional institution.

China has taken three steps toward the internationalization of the RMB. First, in April 2004 China introduced a pilot Trade Settlement Scheme (PRTSS) that allows eligible enterprises in China to settle trade payments in RMB with their corresponding enterprises in Hong Kong and other countries. This allows for the invoice of exports and imports from and to selected countries in RMB.

Eligible enterprises in Hong Kong are allowed to open corporate RMB accounts at selected banks in Hong Kong. By the end of 2010, more than 67,000 exporters in 20 provinces in China were licensed to invoice in RMB.

The PRTSS Scheme started with trade between five main cities in China with ASEAN+3 countries and now has been expanded to other cities in China and other regions in Central Asia, Europe, Latin America and Africa. The value of the scheme has also been expanded rapidly from a modest beginning at RMB 5 billion in the first quarter of 2010 to more than RMB 100 billion at present.

Second, it has allowed for the issuance of RMB denominated bonds in offshore markets. Five state-owned Chinese banks issued RMB bonds in Hong Kong in 2007 and were followed by foreign institutions including HSBC, IFC and ADB.

To set benchmark risk-free interest rates for RMB debt instruments for Chinese companies, the authorities issued sovereign bonds denominated in RMB in Hong Kong on September 28, 2009. With huge external reserve holdings, China does not need to borrow to finance its budget deficit.

The third step to expand the use of the RMB for trade settlement was the provision of a currency swap facility with nine countries, including Indonesia, during the Global Financial Crisis in 2007-9. The currency swaps allowed China to receive payments in RMB for its exports to the participating countries.

China collects seigniorage from foreign holdings of the RMB. On the other hand, China has to maintain the RMB outside its boundaries, controlling counterfeiting and providing depository vaults for new currency available to be exchange for old RMB. For these purposes, China has opened RMB trading centers in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taipei.

The writer is professor of monetary economics at the University of Indonesia. He is also a former senior deputy governor of Bank Indonesia.





Investigation of 2011 SEA Games graft case has been a turning point for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in combating white-collar crime.

Through this case former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin has uncovered a series of meetings between several KPK figures with a number of high-ranking Democratic Party officials.

Nazaruddin's testimony about these meetings has been confirmed by several of the KPK officials involved.

Before the KPK was established in the reform era, the public had no confidence in Indonesia's law enforcement agencies such as the National Police, the Attorney General's Office (AGO) and the court system. The KPK was deemed the most credible and capable institution to combat corruption.

However, after the "Crocodile vs Gecko" saga two years ago, the commission's efforts to eradicate corruption have been facing yet another tough test.

There are four forces that support the performance and sustainability of the KPK. First is political support in the form of strengthening the institution through legislation and budget support.

This largely depends on the commitment of political parties to combating corruption.

Regulatory processes — that is the strengthening through legislation and support from the state budget (APBN) — is a political process between the President and the House of Representatives, which shows the attitudes and policies of political parties.

Regulatory support is obviously very important for the continuity and strength of the KPK as an authority.

Meanwhile, budgetary support is also directly related to the performance of this anticorruption agency.

The political support from "above" is often weakened significantly by "counterattacks" from politicians or party officials who view the KPK anticorruption drive as a threat.

Second is support and cooperation from the partners of the KPK, namely the police and the prosecutors.

Human resources support is particularly important, because the KPK does not recruit investigators or prosecutors independently. Its investigators come from the police and judiciary.

Support from investigators and prosecutors who have the capacity and moral integrity is very important for the KPK. This factor could be both a strength or a weakness for the KPK.

It could be a strength since the KPK could obtain investigators, prosecutors, expertise and experience from those two institutions. It could also be a weakness, since the KPK could be dependent on these two institutions.

Third is the internal strength of KPK, the quality of its performance and the personal integrity of KPK leaders.

Capacity, moral integrity, independence and personal courage of the KPK are the forces that support the KPK in combating corruption. Strong political support in the form of regulations and budget, if not supported by a leadership that has complete competence, will make the KPK susceptible to efforts to weaken it.

It could also initiate deterioration from within. Therefore, the threat of a weakening of the KPK could not only come from the outside, but it is very likely to happen due to the degradation of moral integrity or independence of its commissioners.

At this point, Nazaruddin's accusations leveled at KPK figures are important and need to be investigated by the newly formed KPK Ethics Council.

Fourth is support and public confidence. It's also important to support the KPK for the sake of its sustainability. In the past, the level of public confidence in the KPK was very high, and the public perceived the KPK as the most trusted law enforcement agency.

However, after the public heard Nazaruddin's allegations, the public has increasingly doubted the moral integrity of several KPK leaders and officials. As a result, support for the KPK is weakening.

Therefore, the KPK Ethics Council should seriously and transparently investigate whether violations and abuse of authority took place in the investigation into the SEA Games graft case.

In addition, the KPK must prove to the public it does not take a discriminatory approach in eradicating corruption.

There is no other way to restore public confidence and support except for showing the good performance and moral integrity of the KPK.

These four factors should be a buffer against threats to weaken the KPK. This rescue effort is urgent if we are to save the nation's war against corruption.

Finally, the rescue effort should be focused on how far the political support and commitment of the House of Representatives and government go toward recognizing the KPK as the main institution in combating corruption; the seriousness of the KPK Ethics Council in investigations of alleged violations implicating KPK figures; the success of the selection committee in choosing candidates with proven capacity, moral integrity, impartiality and courage; as well as restoring public confidence in the KPK.

The writer is a senior researcher at The Indonesian Institute.





On August 17, Indonesia celebrated the 66th anniversary of its independence. Indonesians have always been proud of the fact that their independence was gained and defended by tears and blood, where the use of bambu runcing (sharpened bamboo) was renowned. The physical struggle has been remembered many years after the declaration of independence.

But history records that Indonesian independence has also been guarded by diplomacy.

On August 19, 1945, two days after the declaration of independence, President Sukarno appointed Mr. Achmad Soebardjo to lead a small-sized Indonesian Foreign Ministry. Its initial responsibility was to deal with the remaining Japanese civilian and military administration and the arrival of the British-led Allied forces in Indonesia to disarm the defeated Japanese troops.

Although a foreign policy doctrine was yet to be envisioned during this formative period, diplomacy turned out to be a critical instrument of Indonesia's foreign policy then.

The newly established Foreign Ministry was anticipating a more demanding role in supporting the government in the later months.

The British-led Allied forces, which docked at Tanjung Priok in Jakarta on September 15, 1945 carried with them the Dutch military personnel and the workforce of the Netherlands Indies Civil Administration (NICA). While serving as part of the Allied forces to disarm the Japanese forces, the Dutch also had a goal to reclaim their colonial power over Indonesia.

The Indonesian government knew more and more that the Dutch were using the American military equipment in their actions. Protesting the use of the American equipment by the NICA, President Sukarno sent a cable to President Harry S. Truman on October 20, 1945.

Diplomacy was increasingly important when the Dutch became more assertive in realizing their reoccupation policy. One important step was the Hoge Voluwe negotiation that took place from April 14 to 24, 1946.

It concluded with no concrete results. Following the unsuccessful Hoge Voluwe negotiation, from November 11 to 13, 1946, Indonesia and met with Dutch representatives at Linggarjati, and both accepted the Linggarjati Agreement.

The Linggarjati Agreement was short-lived. On July 21, 1947, the Dutch carried out their first military action in major cities of Indonesia. This move was aimed to secure factories and plantations vital to their economic interests. It was in breach of the Linggarjati Agreement.

The UN Security Council responded to the situation. The council endorsed the US proposal of the establishment of the Three States Commission. Under the Commission's facilitation, Indonesia and the Netherlands signed the Renville Agreement on Jan. 17, 1948. The Agreement comprised two documents; on a ceasefire and on the establishment of foundations for achieving political accord.

The year was a difficult time for Indonesian diplomacy. In the international arena, the Cold War was steadily evolving. This had several repercussions in the domestic politics of the newly independent country. Muso and his Front Demokrasi Rakjat staged a revolt in Madiun in September 1948, and the Soviet flag was fluttering in the city. A debate among nationalists on whether the republic should align with the Soviet Union-led bloc or with the United States-led bloc had been pressing the government. In response, in his bold and visionary speech before parliament on September 2, 1948, Vice President Hatta outlined the bebas (independent) and aktif (active) doctrine of Indonesia's foreign policy.

A few months after the pronouncement of the doctrine, on December 19, 1948, the Netherlands executed its second police action. Yogyakarta was captured, and Sukarno and Hatta were placed in exile. President Sukarno ordered the establishment of an emergency government of the Republic of Indonesia in Sumatra, with Syafruddin Prawiranegara as president. He also tasked Dr. Sudarsono, L.N. Palar and A.A. Maramis who were then in India to found a government in exile if the plan to establish an emergency government in Sumatra did not succeed.

And once again, the UN Security Council responded to this aggression. After a long session, from March 10 to 23, 1949, the Council endorsed that a Round Table Conference was to be convened in The Hague from August 23 to November 2, 1949. A prelude to the Round Table Conference was the Roem-Roijen Agreement of May 1949. And the Round Table Conference turned out to be the last major effort of diplomasi perjuangan (diplomacy of struggle) during the formative period of Indonesia's foreign policy.

But diplomasi perjuangan did not stop there. It continued to work in the following years. It worked in the Indonesia's struggle for its sovereignty over West Irian, or Papua. It helped revive the Indonesian economy and its international stature in the era of President Soeharto. It was an important part of Indonesia's struggle in securing the support of the international community for its sovereignty and territorial integrity during the rule of presidents Habibie, Megawati and Abdurrahman Wahid.

And today, diplomasi perjuangan is as relevant as ever before. Under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the spirit of diplomasi perjuangan has been reflected, among other areas, in Indonesia's efforts to realize an ASEAN Community, to build a regional architecture that generates peace, prosperity and stability, to build a just, balanced and sustainable global financial architecture, to address a gamut of non-traditional security challenges such as food and energy, and to eradicate poverty and elevate the people's living conditions through the attainment of the MDGs.

As in the past, diplomasi perjuangan could be multi-pronged. In the formative period, it helped the government to tackle foreign aggression, and at the same time to respond to the bipolar pressure of the Cold War. One of the important factors of diplomasi perjuangan is unity in policy and national support. Domestic dissension will only corrode its effectiveness.

In future, diplomasi perjuangan will remain an essential instrument of Indonesia's foreign policy. It is a foreign policy instrument with Indonesia's character. And bebas aktif will continue to serve as its doctrinal vigor.

The writer is an assistant to the special staff to the President for International Relations. The opinions expressed are his own.


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