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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

EDITORIAL 24.08.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month august 24, edition 000818, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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





































































As relations between Egypt and Israel continue to sour with each passing day, so does the situation in West Asia where the fragile peace of the past few years seems to be yielding space to renewed violence. It was obvious to all except the naïve and the ill-informed that the Muslim Brotherhood and its foot soldiers masquerading as pro-democracy protesters in Egypt would sooner or later force Cairo to abandon the peace treaty that Anwar Sadat signed with Israel and for which he paid with his life. Sadat's successor, Mr Hosni Mubarak, upheld the Oslo Accords which not only ensured peace between Egypt and Israel but also contributed to Arab regimes giving up their instinctive hostility towards the Jewish state. In many ways, the peace agreements between Israel and Egypt, as also between Israel and Jordan, helped keep belligerent elements among Palestinian groups in check while disallowing Islamists the space they have always craved for. But all that now appears to belong to the past with the interim Government in Egypt electing to appease the increasingly vocal Islamists clamouring for a return to Nasser's era when the Arabs were at perpetual war with Israel and lost much more than they ever gained. The 'Lotus Revolution' which was touted as a movement to usher liberal democracy in an enlightened Egypt has turned out to be nothing more than a well-choreographed show by the Ikhwan to first dislodge the established regime and then manoeuvre themselves into a position from where they can dictate policy and programme. There is nothing subtle about this: The manner in which a mob of Islamists attacked the Embassy of Israel in Cairo as the police watched from the margins indicates the direction in which Egypt is moving. The Military Council is either unwilling to act or simply lacks the authority to enforce the writ of the state, or what remains of it.

There is a problem with this rapid unravelling of the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, and that is essentially about the repercussions this is bound to have in the region. It will embolden Islamists in Jordan who are conniving against King Abdullah and aspire to seize power in the Hashemite Kingdom. It is only a matter of time before the clamour grows louder in Jordan that it too should repudiate its peace accord with Israel. Meanwhile, Hamas has called off its truce with Israel, and resumed murderous attacks on Israeli civilians. Malcontents in the West Bank are itching to follow suit. The rise of rabble-rousers across Arabia is bound to see the anti-Israel sentiments amplified which, in turn, will cause Tel Aviv to feel that is under siege and cannot afford to take chances. That is bad news for all countries and people in West Asia and beyond. A cycle of violence will benefit neither the Arabs nor the Israelis; it will prove disastrous for the Palestinians. What makes the situation particularly fraught with danger is Shia Iran making common cause with Sunni Ikhwan to isolate and target Israel. In the scenario that is emerging, not only are Israelis threatened but also those Arabs who do not wish to return to the past and believe that wisdom lies in looking ahead and moving towards a lasting solution to a dispute that has festered for far too long. This is where the international community must step in and play a positive role.






While animal rights activists welcomed the decision of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest to ban the use of bulls for entertainment purposes earlier this month that effectively scuttled plans to revive the controversial tradition of Indian-style bullfighting in Goa, recent reports of large-scale bovine cruelty point to the urgency with which authorities must address the issue of animals that are used for work purposes across the length and breadth of the country. For a country that considers its cattle sacred and its killing sacrilegious, India sure treats the bovine with shocking cruelty. In a recent report, leading animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals detailed several cruel practices that are routinely adopted by cattle-owners who either have little knowledge of animal welfare or are plain insensitive to their plight in a bid to increase their own profits. PETA's report on how cows, oxen and buffaloes are branded using either a very hot or extremely cold iron to allow for easy individual recognition in a process that causes excruciating pain, of how sharp wires and metal rods are frequently jabbed into the necks of these gentle beasts to bring them under control, and how young calves are yanked by passing a thick rope through their nose has had many writhing in unease and rightly so. In India's still largely agricultural, developing economy, cattle forms an important element that literally drives our growth machine. Their rampant abuse is thus a shameful reflection of a cycle of endless greed perpetuated by extreme poverty that has only led to widespread ignorance and bred human insensitivity towards animals. A shocking example of this is the practice of hitching animals of different sizes or two different species to a single cart. This almost invariably leads to both animals being severely injured. What makes matters worse is that often the owners are not even aware of the ill-effects of such practices that nevertheless inflict tremendous pain and suffering on the animal. Then, as they begin to suffer from 'lameness' or arthritis, the animals' affected muscles, bones or joints are treated with red hot iron rods or with chemicals such as mercury iodide or copper sulphate to scald the area without any anaesthesia.

And these only form part of the problem. The equally cruel manner in which cattle in India is traded and even slaughtered is another story that has already brought us international condemnation. Yet all of this is despite the fact that India has laws that prohibit the unrestricted killing of cattle, laws that protect their young and their females. Unfortunately, there is nobody to ensure that greedy masters do not exploit their bovine stock at work.

This is a gaping hole that needs to be plugged at the soonest.








The vicious cycle of violence in which the residents of Karachi find themselves trapped does not portend well for democracy in Pakistan.

We need to take action now; otherwise it will be too late and someone else would come to play their role," the Prime Minster said. In the wake of the Anna Hazare groundswell this sounded like a toughened, wary and decisive Manmohan Singh. Reeling under a popular onslaught for the last several days, it seemed the Prime Minister had decided on being, well, decisive. Shaking off the tag of a man not in control of his office, he seemed to want to demonstrate action. And show control is with him. Except that it wasn't him saying these words and it wasn't him demonstrating resolve.

It was, in fact, the Prime Minister of Pakistan attempting to show resolve and solve a problem that confronts the Governments of Sindh and his own. And it is the problem of Karachi, reeling as it is under the murderous onslaught of various shadowy players and their masters in high places. Even as parts of the port city are painted, literally, in red, political authorities seem incapable of checking the cycle of violence repeating itself. The federal Government, and their partymen in power in Sindh, appear to have abdicated responsibility for the fate of their citizens who are dying by the dozens every day.

July in Karachi is known for its stuffy monsoon weather — humid, hot, sultry and every unbearable climatic thought. But July 2011 in Karachi will also be remembered for its cycle of killings. For when the month passed the number of people killed in retaliatory violence had crossed 300, making Karachi by far the bloodiest city in the world. Even as sporadic incidents continued into August, the levels were lower. Until the killing of a former Pakistan People's Party parliamentarian, Waja Karim Dad, as he broke his day-long fast last Wednesday. This provoked a further round of killings that have continued unabated.

After a particularly vicious weekend, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement called for a 'day of mourning' on Tuesday. It is shutters-down in Karachi, totally. The MQM chief, Mr Altaf Hussein, made the call from London where he lives in exile. And it was implemented with a firmness far in excess to what the Prime Minister has been able to execute, Pakistani or Indian. This is obviously because of the sufferings that the people of Karachi are being made to endure every day. In this case it seems that the MQM has also been at the receiving end. Organisations like the MQM don't call for days of mourning if most victims are not their own. But a victim is a victim, and there have been scores since the killing of Waja Karim Dad. The list of dead has gone up with each passing day. Last Wednesday it was 13, followed by 31 on Thursday, another 27 on Friday, 10 on Saturday, 11 on Sunday and 13 on Monday. Over a hundred dead in less then a week.

Karachi is now the world's largest Pakhtun city. The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and their impact on the border areas of Pakistan caused much dislocation to the people there. Even as lives were to be altered to the whims of millenarian mullahs, the arrival of 'war on terror' caused much physical dislocation of families. Livelihoods were disrupted and economic opportunities dwindled. As is the wont everywhere in the world, people headed to the city that had the most money, in this case Karachi. The Pakhtun migrants are relatively recent, but they alter carefully cultivated political spaces. Even as they continue to arrive daily, it is this demographic change that threatens the MQM's monopoly over local politics that it has long exercised. Having been accustomed to reigning supreme over Karachi, the MQM sees its domination under threat because of politics and demographics. The migration of Urdu-speaking people caused the first demographic — and political — upheaval in Karachi. Sindhis lost their domination with the arrival of these migrants. There were cycles of violence, extremely bloody too. But the cost of those bouts of ethno-inflicted bloodletting remained localised. The current cycles of violence, however, have a deeper impact on Pakistan as a country, rather than simply being a localised Karachi/Sindh issue.

Karachi is today a microcosm of Pakistan besides being its largest city in an economically unviable and abnormal manner. It draws residents from across the Pakistani landscape and countryside. Far lesser in numbers to the Pakhtun, there is still a significant Baloch population that is emerging in Karachi. So when bullets extract their toll in Karachi, the impact may not simply be on a local graveyard, but on the interiors of Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab and the Khyber-Pakhtunwa Provinces. The passage of the bodies from the mortuary to the grave also brings seeds of further hatred, revenge and loathing for perceived ethnic killers. And perceptions are terribly stubborn in breaking down. Mr Manmohan Singh may well have learned his first lessons on that score in his contest with a fasting Anna Hazare.

There is an element of class to the victims of violence in Karachi. Most, but not all, tend to be from the poorer ghettoised parts of the city. This is true of most foot soldiers of gangs anywhere the mafia exists. And it seems certain that a large part of the violence is on account of turf wars between established and emerging gangs. In the ladder of money-making activities, gangs operate at every level, differentiated by sophistication of dealings and the method of talking, bulletd or words. Much like elsewhere, but magnified manifold because of the peculiarities of Karachi politics and politicos. Each political party in Karachi seems to have card-carrying and gun-carrying members — the latter doing what the former are not able to achieve or are incapable of doing.

So, in the bizarre political dance the MQM and the PPP play out over power-sharing, coalition politics, local governance, et al, they continue to entertain people willing to play that contest through the bullet rather than waiting for the ballot. This has dangerous portends for Pakistan, as it would for any society. But more so in Pakistan where there is an Army waiting in the shadows to make its move. Buffeted since the discovery of Osama bin Laden in a cantonment town, the Pakistani Army has been on the ropes of popular ire and contempt. But as politicians remain unwilling to rein in their gun-carrying cadre, the same popular ire may well be transformed into a people's 'request' to the Army to intervene. Thus beginning, yet again, another round of democracy be damned.







To compensate Pakistan for the losses caused by the flood last year, the European Council offered it tariff concession on 75 items. India had opposed it on the ground that it would hurt the interest of our exporters. The Prime Minister's decision to reverse India's position has not only comes as a surprise but also shows he is soft on Pakistan

According to a recent newspaper report, the Prime Minister has "ordered officials to withdraw India's official opposition at the World Trade Organisation to a concessional trade package offered by the European Union to Pakistan."

It may be recalled that in September 2010, the European Council approved tariff concessions on 75 items with a view to compensate Pakistan for the losses caused by the floods. The total worth of the items exported under these tariff lines including mainly textile products is estimated at $1.03 billion and the average tariff on these items is 8.86 per cent. Under the EU proposal, the tariff would be reduced to zero for a period of three years.

India has so far been opposing this move on the grounds that if the EU wished to provide aid to Pakistan it was free to do so but it should not do so by way of trade or tariff concessions. This would be a dangerous precedent undermining the principles of free trade. Moreover, it did not constitute aid but was simply in the nature of trade diversion which would hurt the interests of other exporters.

Speaking more bluntly Mr DK Nair, Secretary General, Confederation of Indian Textile Industry, has argued that "By adopting the 'trade for aid' approach for assistance, EU has effectively transferred the burden of such assistance to the other countries like India, exporting these products to the European markets. Instead of absorbing additional imports from Pakistan, the zero duty access will only substitute imports from other countries like India with imports from Pakistan."

The Prime Minister's reversal of the Indian position on this issue is yet another indicator of how soft he is on Pakistan despite the latter's continued pursuit of policies blatantly inimical towards India such as the export of terror to India, the printing of fake Indian currency, the holding of joint exercises with China on the Rajasthan border, etc. Other instances of the Prime Minister's unnecessarily accommodative stance towards Pakistan were his dalliance with General Pervez Musharraf for a final settlement of Jammu & Kashmir on lines in clear violation of Parliament's joint resolution of February 1994 on this issue, the acceptance of a joint anti-terror mechanism, the resumption of a comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan despite the fact that it has not brought to book the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, etc.

In the instant case the Prime Minister's going soft on Pakistan will impinge adversely on our textile exports, our textile manufacturers, and those employed in the textile sector.

A case could be made for making such a sacrifice if there was a reasonable chance of Pakistan accepting our friendship. Regrettably, the innumerable concessions, as briefly listed below, made by India in an effort to befriend Pakistan have not been reciprocated and, in fact, only served to encourage the latter's intransigence towards us.

Some of these may be enumerated as follows:

·  Payment of Rs 75 crores to Pakistan on account of division of assets of undivided; Rs 20 crores were paid in August 1947 and balance of Rs 55 crores in January 1948 even as Pakistan was attacking India;

·  Non pursuit of its claims vis-a-vis Pakistan for non payment of the latter's partition debt of Rs 300 crores;

·  Conclusion in 1960 of the Indus Waters Treaty under which India, though it had 40 per cent of the catchment area, agreed to an allocation of only 20 per cent of the flows of the Indus Waters. In addition, it agreed to pay Pakistan over 62 million pounds sterling for building replacement canals, reservoirs, etc.

·  Following Pakistan's defeat in 1971 India, rather than imposing a settlement upon it, chose to negotiate an agreement with it at Simla in 1972 for across the board normalisation of relations. In the process India returned the 5386 square miles of Pakistani territory captured by it in Sind (5000 square miles) and Punjab (386 square miles) without exacting any quid pro quo;

·  India obtained "the concurrence of Bangladesh" for the return of the nearly 92000 Pakistani prisoners of war held by it under the joint India-Bangladesh Command without asking for anything in return;

·  India facilitated Pakistan's entry into NAM in 1979 and re-entry into the Commonwealth in 1989;

·  India has for years been unilaterally according Pakistan most favoured nation treatment.

It is conventional wisdom that those who do heed the lessons of history are condemned to relive them. Pakistan has repeatedly spurned India's hand of friendship. Accordingly, we should desist from making any concessions to Pakistan particularly when these impinge adversely on the livelihood and well being of our people. There is certainly no call for our leaders to make our textile industry a sacrificial lamb in their agenda of appeasing Pakistan.

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Arab rulers cannot afford to ignore the message from Tripoli

It's odd, but not necessarily surprising, that critics of the Libya intervention were calling it any number of things: Mistake, quagmire, dangerous, an Iraq repeat, and so on. It is odd because the ultimate outcome — the rebels winning and Col Gaddafi falling — never seemed much in doubt. It was a matter of when, not if. For both better and worse, Libya confirms the reality that the role of external actors (in this case, the United States and Europe) can still be decisive in the Arab struggle for freedom.

We should always tread carefully with counterfactuals. But it is difficult to deny that the alternative to doing something — doing nothing — would almost certainly have led to a bloody, tragic massacre in Benghazi and other pockets of rebel resistance. Libya would have likely been held up as one of the great tragedies of Western neglect or outright subversion, on par with Iran in 1953 or Algeria and Iraq in the early 1990s. When you have the ability to act, doing nothing is no longer a neutral position.

To be sure, this is not a time for settling scores. But it is a time for arguing for the utility, necessity, and morality of a doctrine — the Responsibility to Protect — that seemed, to its opponents, increasingly discredited. Another reality — again, for both better and worse — is that the United States remains something of an "indispensable nation," a notion increasingly in disrepute. Without American support, however belated, the responsibility to protect would have remained mere rhetoric and posturing. The Nato intervention would not have happened.

That said, we should be careful not to overstate the strategic benefits of US President Barack Obama's chosen course of action the past six months. Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell argues that the administration's strategy of "leading from behind" now "seems utterly vindicated". It is unclear why this would be so. If anything, it could be argued, as I did in March, that Mr Obama's excessive caution made a bad situation even worse. If the US and the international community had intervened sooner — rather than at the very last moment when rebels were making their final stand — Col Gaddafi would have fallen sooner and without such loss of life and destruction.

This, lest we forget, is how the rebels themselves saw the situation in March. They were literally begging the United States to take action. When their calls were met with silence, Iman Bughaigis, spokeswoman for the rebels, fumed that "(The West) has lost any credibility." In a veiled but obvious reference to the fence-sitters, she continued, "I am not crying out of weakness... But we will never forget the people who stood with us and the people who betrayed us."

With the Obama Administration dragging its feet, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe conceded that it was perhaps too late for military intervention. In other words, what seems like such a success now was then very much in doubt. Even after Nato stepped in, the complaints continued; Nato could do more but wasn't, rebel officials argued, in part due to US insistence on "letting others lead". There was also an (understandable) reticence on the part of the Obama Administration and its allies to more pro-actively arm and train Libyan rebel forces. But such hesitation, however prudent, came at a cost.

Finally, it is worth nothing that one of the rationales for the Libya intervention — that it would have a powerful demonstration effect across the Arab world — is being vindicated (after being much maligned by Daniel Larison and others critics of the war). In the face of overwhelming repression in Syria and Bahrain and setbacks in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, Arabs needed a victory. There was a growing sense that the euphoria on February 11 — the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down — was rather premature. It was. But, now, all across the region, protesters and revolutionaries are once again emboldened, reminded that the unlikely is still possible. They are warning their own stubborn leaders — Mr Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Mr Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen — that they are next. Today, then, the region's revolutionaries face their own daunting struggles with more momentum and more hope. That is no small thing. Neither is the new-found freedom of millions of Libyans, who will now have the opportunity, for the first time, to rebuild their shattered nation on their own terms.

The writer is the Director of Research, Brookings Doha Center, Fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy. He focuses on Islamist political parties and democratic reform in the Middle East. ***************************************





There were three main stages, in my view, in the process that resulted in the end of the communist Soviet Union in 1991. The first one was the non-signing of the treaty to create a new confederation in June 1991 — the Novo-Ogaryovo process. This practically represented the end of the Soviet Union, because afterwards, the individual republics did not even want to loosely maintain any kind of common structure with Moscow.

Then came the Putsch in August, which was the last attempt on the part of the hard-liners. And then there was December 1991 when the leaders of the three Slavic states met in Belarus — the most important republics in the Soviet Union, the core of the Russian empire — and decided that they didn't want to preserve the common state. From my point of view, the August Putsch was only a part of dramatic developments which started in the 1980s.

The popular resistance to the Putsch played a huge role in the unfolding of events. There are two different stories of the Putsch that are told. One story is through the understanding of contemporary Russians. The other is that of direct observers and witnesses who were around in those days and remember. In my view, the August Putsch was like a real revolution in Russia, but the goal to maintain Communism was lost.

Economically, the Soviet Union was a disaster. The majority of Russian people, and also people from elsewhere in the Soviet Union, felt the need for change, and so they were very much disillusioned and frustrated with the putschists. The hardliners wanted to turn everything back to some kind of old rule. There was no chance for them. They lost all kinds of support from within society, and this broke their backbone. In my view, this was their first mistake: They misjudged the mood of society, which emerged after years of Perestroika as self-assured people who were not afraid to say what they saw. Journalists played a very important role, an honest and courageous one.

This was a huge revolution in Russia. Russia freed itself from Communism, like other nations in Eastern Europe also did at the time in many ways. But of course, the historical fact that Russia freed itself from communism is not present in today's historical discourse in Russia, or in the mindset of the Russian elite. This was something historical, it was a great achievement, something that was deeply important for the future development of Russia.

This, to me, is quite shocking. Russia had a lot of achievements in the 20th century. One was, of course, the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, the victory and the defeat of the totalitarian ideology. The defeat of this hostile ideology was a huge achievement, and is seen today by Russian people as such.

But the 1990s showed that the reforms were being done wrong, and Russia did not have any serious or sincere help from the West with these reforms. There were just too many problems. And because the reforms in the 1990s went wrong in so many ways, Russians have very negative feelings towards the August Putsch and the year 1991, which they see not as the day when they were freed from Communism, but on the contrary, the time when they began 10 years of nightmare and economic catastrophes. This is very sad, because it ignores the fact that Russia achieved something wonderful by gaining freedom by itself, without the help of anyone else. I think that Russia today does not identify with the ideals of Perestroika and the struggle to get rid of Communism in 1991.

The lessons of the August Putsch of 1991 and the events surrounding it are something that we see today in many other countries. We see them today in Syria, we see developments in Tunisia, we have seen them in Ukraine, we have seen protests and demonstrations against the Government and against the current order in several other countries. Those who are in power must understand that in the 21st Century things are completely different. People everywhere in the world will strive for change and for their own rights and for a better economic living.

The Governments of Europe, in many parts of Asia, of course in America, and in Latin America, have to understand in the future that if their people are not happy, if there is economic hardship, social hardship, then people will take to the streets and organise these movements. The Internet has opened communication, allowing people to organise themselves very quickly, to provide global information about what is happening in a demonstration or protest movement.

Through new communication networks, small demonstrations can receive immediate support and solidarity from other groups, from other circles and from other important organisations. The best lesson that Russian leaders today must understand is this. They must have a grasp on the situation and an understanding of what the people want, their fears, their will and so on.

The writer is the Director, Berthold-Beitz-Zentrum, German Council on Foreign Relation for RIA Novosti.






Conceived and propagated by Mahatma Gandhi, our country has for long now know the weapon of non-violence which has dislodged the world's the mightiest powers. This very methodology has even received recognition at the international level. A number of 'non-violent weapons' have been utilised by many social and political groups to achieve the objectives of the Satyagraha that they initiated.

Let us now discuss the various forms of non-violent satyagraha. These include dharnas or sit-ins, strikes, public demonstrations, fasts popularly known as anshans or bhookh hartals, indefinite fasts, fast unto deaths or amaran annshans. It is worthwhile to note that the intention behind undertaking the fast must be a noble one and not derogatory to any common cause.

There have been instances in the past where incidents of adopting such means to get fulfilled the demands by the authorities. The non-violent agitations were being dealt with mercilessly during the British regime. Under the satyagrah, the agitators are not supposed to retaliate in any form. There has been a long history of the fast untill death. It may be recalled that Sri Prkasham in Andhra Pradesh, Sardar Darshan Singh Pheruman in Punjab and recently Sant Nigmanand in Utrakhand lost their lives during their sit in indefinite hunger strike undertaken by them on different causes.

The recent fasts undertaken by Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare drew attention of one and all. The story of Baba Ramdev has been termed as an unfortunate though Anna Hazare has been able to generate more and more heat out of his well-planned gandhian agitation. The people has started using Annagiri as a term after Gandhigiri being used after the success of a film starring Sanjay Dutt.

Since Anna Hazare has shifted his field of operation from Maharashtra to New Delhi, all the fasts undertaken by him, including one-day fast at Rajghat, have attracted masses and been able to ignite a spirit of nationalism across the country. Despite large crowds, well-coined slogans, long marches, peaceful demonstrations and so-called discipline shown by the participants, the mere objective of the movement is yet to be disseminated correctly and injected into the hearts and the minds of the people who has been following the crowd like bhed chaal.

The showdown between Team Anna and the Government is bound to reach the peak though both the parties seems to keen on an early settlement as Team Anna might be aware that it will be too difficult to hold the crowd in fact for a longer duration and the Government will never want it to see it prolonged and might try to end this so-called civilised protest as early as possible since Parliament session is on.

The very issue of the Jan Lok Pal Bill and corruption is not so easy to be resolved with a magic wand. It looks that both the parties have already realised this hard fact and would like to reach some face-saving agreement. Any how the youth who came out in support of Team Anna has no objective other than being part of a movement which has been converted into a mela and a festival to rejoice together to become the centre of attraction.

A sea of Gandhi caps and undignified display of the Tricolour is not being liked by those intellectuals who take the Constitution and freedom movement in high esteem. Any how Ann-shun ie not taking food or Ann by Anna Hazare has become the top story in the news world.









The Arab Spring is close to notching up another notable success, with the imminent demise of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's dictatorial regime in Libya. In a lighting push, rebel forces have breached Gaddafi's seat of power in Tripoli. Backed by Nato air support, the achievement is significant in light of the loose, disparate composition of the rebel militias. Six months since Libya was plunged into civil war, this is the first time anti-Gaddafi forces definitely have the upper hand.

Gaddafi's downfall, when confirmed, would mark a historic moment for the Arab world. Decades of repression have created a groundswell of anger and frustration, finding outlet today in demands for political freedom and regime change. The pro-democracy wave has reached a tipping point and regimes still holding out, such as that of Bashar al-Assad in
Syria, would do well to read the writing on the wall. At this rate 2011 could turn out for the Arab world what 1989 was for eastern Europe - the year when, following Poland's lead (comparable to Tunisia's in the Arab case) communist regimes started coming unstuck all over the Soviet bloc.

As the battle for
Tripoli rages, the rebels must prepare for a post-Gaddafi Libya. Undoing 42 years of autocratic rule and building democratic institutions from the ground up won't be easy. The umbrella Transitional National Council (TNC), representing the rebel political leadership, needs to take along all stakeholders. But as the recent assassination of the rebel military chief, Abdul Fattah Younes, supposedly by an extremist rebel faction proved, the insurgents are far from a monolith. Given the ethnic and tribal diversity in Libya, knitting together a new patchwork of nationhood would be no mean task. The first priority of the TNC should be to prevent revenge killings and establish the rule of law. As the Iraq experience informs us, any move to systematically purge those who were seen to be working for the Gaddafi regime will be fodder for sectarian strife. A new Libya must be built on the principles of inclusion and reconciliation.

Libya and other Arab nations in the throes of transition need significant support from the international community in the rebuilding process. India too must not shy away from its responsibility. For a start it needs to discard its habitual foreign policy timidity and recognise the TNC as the legitimate
transitional government of Libya. The TNC insists it wants an electoral democracy in Libya, and Gaddafi was no friend of India. Given India's stake in the Arab world and also that Arab democratisation is in India's long-term geopolitical interest, this ought to be an easy call.







The way India's Test series from hell ended was a foregone conclusion. More galling than the all-too familiar collapse to England, which saw the last six wickets falling for 21 runs, and far more so than Sachin Tendulkar's missed hundredth century - it was almost an irrelevance by that point - is that the mismatch between the two teams had shown up as far back as the second Test of the series. Hysteria and witch-hunts are entirely counterproductive. But hard questions cannot be postponed any longer. A good look at the structural problems faced by the Indian team is necessary. What we have seen here is no aberration; it is the comeuppance of decisions taken by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) over the past few years.

M S Dhoni and his men must shoulder a portion of the blame, of course. If the plaudits have been theirs, they must own the criticism as well. Loss of form can be countenanced. What cannot is the utter lack of stomach for a fight that all of them save Praveen Kumar and the magnificent Rahul Dravid have shown. The BCCI, of course, hasn't made their job any easier; far from it. Where is the long-term planning and man-management needed to ensure that the players are focussed and injury-free? Where are the structures to groom the young talent necessary for replacing ageing titans? Where are the pace reserves and the batsmen with the grit to battle it out in the "space of the mind", as Dravid put it? It's time the BCCI looked beyond making money and tried to answer these questions. Otherwise, the money may soon stop coming in as well.





                                                                                                                                                            TOP STORY



Judging by even our modest standards, governance at the top has taken a nosedive during the United Progressive Alliance's (UPA) rule. Some of this can perhaps be blamed on the specific actors involved. But there is a deeper structural explanation for it: the vesting of true power to govern outside the government, in the Congress high command. UPA rule has been the longest in our history that this phenomenon has played out. In all previous such episodes, either the executive successfully wrested power back from the external authority or it fell.

Thus, the first time the organisational wing of the Congress seized effective power was immediately following the death of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Known as the Syndicate, the organisational wing successfully kept the heavyweight Morarji Desai at bay and installed the more amicable Lal Bahadur Shastri as prime minister. But once the victory in the 1965 India-Pakistan war had turned him into a natio-nal hero, Shastri began to assert his independence. The battle between him and the Syndicate was already brewing when he unexpectedly died in January 1966.

Following Shastri, the Syndicate once again opted for the lightweight Indira Gandhi in preference to Desai. For almost four years, while the Syndicate and Indira remained locked in an unannounced battle for authority, policymaking suffered. In the end, soon after the July 1969 All India Congress Committee session, Indira broke loose of the "bosses" and went on to launch an era of true hyperactivity in both domestic and foreign policy arenas.

The country witnessed seve-ral episodes of outside entities exercising effective power in the decade from 1989 to 1998. In each case, the executive tried to assert its authority and lost power. Thus, Prime Minister V P Singh, who came to the helm in 1989, was dependent on the
Bharatiya Janata Party for his survival. When he asserted his authority on the Mandal-Ayodhya issues, the BJP pulled the rug from under his feet. Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar succeeded Singh and suffered the same fate at the hands of the Congress. Subsequently, from 1996 to 1998, the governments of H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujral fell victim to the same phenomenon.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who succeeded Gujral, broke the trend. Early in his tenure, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) tried to restrain him from pursuing a reformist agenda. As a seasoned politician, Vajpayee knew that being the only moderate BJP leader accep-table to all coalition partners, he was in a unique position. Therefore, he offered to resign. The SJM quickly folded and Vajpayee went on to implement major reforms leading to the growth acceleration we currently enjoy.

The experience under the UPA has been altogether different. With the power centre residing outside, it has managed to survive a full seven years. Sonia Gandhi's decision to place a technocrat and former bureaucrat has proved masterly: lacking both a power base and political ambition, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has worked amicably with her while she retains the ultimate power.

But this has not been without cost. At her National Advisory Council (NAC), Sonia has been an easy target of NGO capture. While with their "on-the-ground" knowledge, these latter can be very effective at bringing to notice issues of importance, drafting legislative Bills is neither their mandate nor their expertise. Yet, that is what they now do at the NAC. For her part, Sonia is at ease with the quick fixes for the poor they propose, often invol-ving ever-rising expenditures.

But this is a slippery slope. On the one hand, the taste of drafting the country's laws has whetted civil society's appetite leading it to ask for more and more, culminating recently in something even Sonia cannot deliver: a Lokpal with the autho-rity to investigate all including her! On the other hand, the government has lost the moral authority to question the legitimacy of the NGOs to write legislation. Thus, when the prime minister accused Anna Hazare of shortchanging the parliamentary process by drafting the Jan Lokpal Bill, opposition leader Arun Jaitley was quick to point out that the NAC, which wrote Bills for the government, too had civil society activists in it.

But the greatest harm from this power structure has come from the prime minister losing the authority to govern while remaining answerable for the lapses of his government as well as the party. Because the Cong-ress high command cuts the deals with coalition partners and effectively makes decisions on cabinet appointments, it remains the object of the latter's loyalty. As a result, we have seen ministers getting away without reprimand even after criticising government policies in a foreign country. And since fund-raising for the party too is done at the behest of the high command, ministers often bypass the prime minister on major decisions, further weakening the institution.

Ironically, when scandals break out or civil society groups begin clamouring for more than what the government can deliver, it is the prime minister rather than the
Congress high command that must answer! While the prime minister struggles, few have asked where the Cong-ress high command stands on the Lokpal issue. What the endgame of this agitation is going to be is anybody's guess.

The writer is a professor at
Columbia University.







The US-led war in Afghanistan targeting the Taliban allowed India to help with reconstruction. New Delhi is the fifth largest donor to Afghanistan, providing $750 million in humanitarian assistance. With America now beginning a phased withdrawal of troops, Kabul-based Sylvana Q Sinha of the United States Institute of Peace spoke to Sameer Arshad about Afghanistan's prospects - and India's stakes:

What work do you do in Afghanistan?
I work in
Kabul on rule of law issues including transition, traditional dispute resolution and constitutional interpretation. We work closely with the government of Afghanistan and the donor community, especially the US embassy.

What does America's phased withdrawal of troops mean to India's interests?
It is absolutely in India's interest for a sustainable peace to be achieved in Afghanistan. All politics is local and all geopolitics is regional. If the US withdrawal leads to the instability that many Afghans are expecting, there will be an opening for an alliance to emerge between
Tehran, Islamabad and Kabul.

This would certainly threa-ten India's regional political and economic influence - not to mention its security.

The US has acknowledged it's been in talks with the Taliban. Does that impact Indian interests?
The best-case scenario for India would be a stable Afghan state where the Taliban's role is minimised. A stable Afghan state that can provide the rule of law to its people will threaten Pakistan's regional influence there. The current negotiations going on with the Taliban are happening behind closed doors. It is totally unclear what is being traded - it would serve India well to try and better understand the nature of these negotiations, and what the expected endgame will look like, so it can influence that outcome.

The scenario seems a throwback to post-Cold War Afghanistan, when the international community abandoned the country - seeing it emerge later as a terror haven. Isn't it vital for the global community to safeguard Afghanistan?
America and Nato powers are focussed on leaving Afghanistan; they will not necessarily suffer the consequences as immediately or directly if a stable peace is not achieved - India will. If New Delhi can have a better understanding of the ongoing negotiations, perhaps it can influence others in the region, such as the
UAE, to become engaged. If other regional powers are more involved, it'll certainly increase the chances of a more successful negotiated solution.

Also, India and others in the international community must play a key role in forcing the Afghan government to involve civil society in any negotiations. It's well-documented that the inclusion of civil society in any negotiated settlement is a key precondition to a sustainable peace. The Afghan government has for the past 10 years marginalised civil society as much as it can. The international community and the Americans in particular have tolerated that under the guise that everything should be Afghan-led. But if a sustainable peace is desired, civil society must be able to influence the negotiations.

How do ordinary Afghans envision their future today?
There is a real sense of despair in Afghanistan right now. Most Afghans I have spoken with seem to think this is one of the lowest points in their country's history for at least 30 years.

I think this comes from the sense that without the presence of international troops, things are likely to degenerate quickly into civil war and chaos. The Taliban may or may not be victorious - though most Afghans I have spoken with think the Taliban probably will win a civil war - but either way, things are expected to get worse before they get better.






Is Anna India, as Kiran Bedi has claimed? An unfortunate remark, which echoed the Emergency mantra: India is Indira, and Indira is India. However, for his million-plus following, which is apparently growing every day, Anna is indeed India, an India emerging victorious from the deadly quicksand of corruption. But there are those who would disagree with Anna's India with its single-point anti-corruption agenda. And those in disagreement needn't necessarily belong to the Congress party or to the government, whose monumental mishandling of the situation is a case study in how not to contain a political crisis.

Several civil society representatives and social activists, including Aruna Roy, while expressing sympathy with Hazare's cause have decried his methods as being undemocratic, in that they challenge the authority of Parliament and, in doing so, undermine the Constitution, on which the republic is founded. Constitutional niceties apart, the anti-corruption movement has been stigmatised as being 'casteist' by a number of dalit leaders and other champions of marginalised communities, like the adivasis.

The BJP's politically motivated espousal of the anti-corruption crusade is only part of the reason for dalit unease. Though like everyone else in India, they too are affected directly or indirectly by rampant graft in their daily lives, for dalits and tribals the most baneful C word is not corruption but caste, and the often vicious oppression that it continues to engender. The dalit's bible is the Constitution, whose chief apostle was Ambedkar, the great emancipator. Anything which is seen to question the supremacy of constitutional law is for such communities the gravest threat of all. Author and activist Pinki Virani cites the words of Ambedkar: "When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us."

For very different reasons, the northeast in general, and Manipur in particular, has also not been swept up in the anti-corruption fervour. In Manipur, and other parts of northeast India, the hateful C word is not corruption but conflict. Here, as in Kashmir on the other side of the country, the grammar of anarchy is only too evident as innocent civilians remain caught in a murderous crossfire between secessionary forces and the unleashed might of the state, particularly as manifested by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which empowers defence personnel to open fire upon, "even to the causing of death", any person "acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons". Furthermore, under AFSPA, any person can be arrested without a warrant, on the mere suspicion that he is about to commit an infringement of regulations. Victims of AFSPA cannot seek redressal under law, because the Act immunises enforcement agencies from prosecution for any action committed in discharging their duties.

Remote from the media glare surrounding Anna's fast, 38-year-old Irom Sharmila has been waging a similar but unsung battle against the state-sanctioned licence to kill since November 2, 2000 when 10 unarmed Manipuri villagers were gunned down by troops in pursuit of militants. Sharmila has been fasting for over a decade for the repeal of AFSPA, in Manipur and elsewhere, and is being force-fed by nasal drip in an Imphal hospital, far from Anna's India.

The greased palm of corruption does indeed pose a dire threat to our democracy. But no more so – some would say much less so – than centuries of caste oppression or conflicts which involve the use of legally sanctioned murder.

Anna is India? Perhaps. But there are other, more grievously imperilled Indias that lie beyond the spotlit domain of Anna and his followers.






The battle for Tripoli may continue for a few more days, but the war for Libya is coming to a close. There is now little doubt that the brutal and unpredictable regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is now in its death throes.   That Gaddafi, a person who combined a love for

comical acts of showmanship and a cold-blooded support for stray terrorist activities, could have ruled Libya for 41 years without serious challenge is a testament to the political rot that has been the hallmark of the modern Arab world. But the uneasiness which many developing countries, India included, had about Western military intervention in an internal rebellion is a reminder of the difficulty of drawing a line between sovereignty and humanitarian intervention.

Libya will be the first regime to topple in what can be called the second phase of the so-called Arab Spring or the jasmine revolutions. The fall of the regimes of Egypt and Tunisia was comparatively non-controversial. The revolts that broke out were clearly popular and homegrown. The violence proved limited and the regimes short-lived once the militaries of both countries declined to fire on their own people. Libya, Syria and, to some degree, Yemen were the second wave of regimes to see their people turn against them. But these were always going to be bloodier affairs. Their societies were more tribal in nature, their armies less professional. Syria continues to be wracked with civil war because the military has stood steadfastly with President Bashar al-Assad. Libya saw its military split. And Yemen's polity has all but fragmented into a half-dozen armed factions. There are strong ethical arguments for intervening in a conflict like Libya's. One, a protracted bloodbath would radicalise the opposition, pushing them into Islamicist or terrorist hands. Two, a regime like Gaddafi's had a record of almost uninterrupted trouble-making for the past few decades. His was a rogue State whose mischief was held back only by its size. Third, and arguably the most important reason for intervention, was that the fact that the Arab world had become the least democratised region of the world was a key reason for its being the source of so many of the world's more perverse ideologies and most twisted political challenges. The majority of Libyans were opposed to Gaddafi so it made sense to boost the Arab Spring forward by giving his regime a little push.

However, it is a fine line between helping a popular uprising and being an imperialist busybody. The West itself split over intervention in Libya. If the rebels succeed in putting together a genuinely representative government they will ex post facto legitimise intervention. But it is unlikely that future countries will provide so clear cut a case. Which is why it still remains a truism that violations of sovereignty should remain the rarest of rare cases and carry the approval stamp of legitimate multilateral organisations.






There are two ways in which one can look at the 0-4 loss of India in England: one, that England was a far better cricketing team in every department of the game and deserved drubbing Dhoni's drummerboys; two, that the Indian team displayed fantastically bad cricket somehow perhaps believing that reputation is the key to winning matches. No, we won't go down the route of bemoaning the level of fitness in the Indian team. And the excuse of RP Singh being plucked from the reserve bench all of a sudden and without the requisite training may cut ice in the Delhi Gymkhana Club where folks talk about cricket basically to avoid exchanging notes about their old, knobbly knees.

When Sachin Tendulkar's 100th international century, awaited back home by the media like a 30-year-old still waiting to pop his cherry, becomes an occasion more important than saving matches, we can understand how, as Arundhati Roy forgot to mention, the Anna Hazare agitation made us forget about the real important things in life. The shove from the top Test spot by a top-notch side without overt stars but with a solid team isn't the real cause for humiliation. What is profoundly embarrassing — and cricket if not taken profoundly is really, as an ignorant Yank once said, baseball on valium — is the speed and the ease with which Dhoni and Co crumbled.

To take succour in the perception that England trounced India because of injuries in the visiting team and/or a lack of will is laughable. A team of 11 is a world-class bunch if they put up a strong fight against an excellent team. With the drubbing, we now see Team India for what it is: a bunch of grapes. We'll see how serious our motley crew of ligaments, elbows, thighs and joints and floundering wills are about getting up from the mat to play. As for England, congratulations! And do pass the dregs of the bubbly if something's left.









Till a chubby, fragile, 74-year-old man reminded India of the power of mass movements, several myths about political action had become established facts. The media today would like to see itself as the harbinger of the revival of the Indian street. But this same media, over the past two decades was painting an entirely different picture before people.

Political leaders with a bureaucratic-technocratic-economist-managerial mindset were encouraged by all parties — especially the Congress and the BJP. This led to the latter's defeat in 2004 and the now the Congress stands at a crucial crossroads. The greatest tragedy of the Congress has been that party managers did not allow hard-boiled, real-world Indian politics, with its pro-poor policies, to prosper. Effectively, Congress managers have been smothering their own baby.

This alliance mentioned earlier fails to understand mass dynamics. For instance, it has failed to see that the past 20 years of economic reforms have also created a new desire for political reforms. In the pre-liberalisation era, Indian society, following the mixed economy logic, was plagued more by nepotism -—  by a sifarish (facilitation), rather than a rishvat (bribe) culture. Barring the top layer of the establishment, money as such did not play such a big part earlier. In the post-liberalisation era, the amount of money pumped into the economy increased ten-fold, leading to plenty of scope for crony capitalism — and corruption became directly related to capital generation.

Somewhere down the road, the line between politics and business, politicians and criminals, became blurred. Politics was seen increasingly as consisting of money-media-muscle power. The concept of 'masses' and mass power in the political equation disappeared.

Which has led to people not buying the logic that Parliament is distinguished enough to be the sole forum to frame the laws of the land. Frankly, the Anna Hazare movement shows that the Indian people's trust in Parliament is tenuous. This is very much a constitutional-democratic, rather than an 'anti-democratic' or an 'anti-constitutional' urge.

The truth is that democracy for many is too important to be left only in the hands of Parliament. That the Indian Parliament has a serious trust deficit for most people is something that shouldn't be denied. The agitation for the Jan Lokpal Bill is just a strand of a larger response to this crisis.

( Amaresh Misra is convener, Anti-Communal Front, Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee )

The views expressed by the author are personal





There have been protests in Syria since March and after 41 years of repressive one-party rule, things seem to be coming to a pass. The movement for democracy has been sparked partly by the developments in Tunisia and Egypt and now, in Libya. Unfortunately the government of Bashar al-Assad has chosen to respond with force, security forces killing nearly 2,000 already, arresting thousands and torturing many in custody. Despite government repression, the protests have escalated throughout the country, with increasing demands for justice.

On August 18, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillai asked the UN Security Council (UNSC) to refer Syria to the Inter-national Criminal Court for the investigation of alleged atrocities against anti-government protestors. A report by her office found "a pattern of human rights violations that constitutes widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population, which may amount to crimes against humanity." Just before Pillai's deposition, US President Barack Obama and the European Union had recommended sanctions and called on Assad to step down. Obama said the Syrian president's "calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people."

The Syrian government's response was a predictably fierce denial. The UNSC's past sanctions against Iraq and its recent involvement in Libya have made more than a few countries wary about its possible role in Syria. It is, therefore, crucial for emerging powers, particularly those that claim to speak for the less powerful, to comprehend fully the situation on the ground in Syria.

India, traditionally, shies away from any public comment on events unfolding in another country. With India worried about protecting its own sovereignty and anxious about any criticism of its actions in Jammu and Kashmir or in its anti-Maoist operations, the idea is to offer that same reticence to other States that it would like for itself.

However, as an emerging power, India now occupies a significant place in global diplomacy — or, at any rate, should. In fact, when Syrian vice foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad visited India recently, he sought diplomatic support. India publicly encouraged his government to exercise restraint and "abjure violence".

Together with Brazil and South Africa, India initially resisted efforts to raise Syria's crackdown at the UNSC, largely motivated by concerns over Nato action in Libya and because New Delhi accepted Damascus' claims that the violence was provoked by armed groups. However, soon after India took over the rotating presidency of the UNSC on August 3, the council issued a statement unanimously condemning the Damascus for "widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians".

Later in August, India, Brazil and South Africa ('IBSA') sent a delegation to Syria. The aim was to encourage the Syrian government to exercise restraint and to initiate talks with the opposition. In a public statement after the visit, IBSA said that the delegation had "called for an immediate end to all violence" and recommended "respect for human rights and international human rights law". Unfortunately, Damascus has refused to heed any such demands from the international community.

The Syrian government intensified its crackdown and continued to refuse access to a human rights fact-finding team mandated by the UN Human Rights Council. Damascus also promptly conveyed a misleading portrayal of the IBSA delegation, having the Syrian State news agency report that the delegation agreed there was a "campaign targeting Syria in the UNSC," and opposed any interference in Syria's internal affairs.

Faced with such defiance, India will have to make choices. Several governments from the region have already expressed their dismay with Syria's actions. Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia have recalled their ambassadors to Syria. The Human Rights Council scheduled an emergency meeting for August 22 after 24 countries, including all four Arab members, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, joined the European initiative to convene the meeting. A resolution was passed, but India chose to abstain, claiming that it prefers dialogue.

This is a pity. India presently holds membership both at the UNSC and at the Human Rights Council. Its silence on Syria is becoming deafening. To avoid being labelled an eternal fence-sitter and  a democracy that shies away from human rights protections abroad, India should urgently join in international efforts to escalate pressure on the Syrian government. It should take the lead.

( Meenakshi Ganguly is South Asia director, Human Rights Watch )

The views expressed by the author are personal





Some commentators have compared the struggle led by Anna Hazare with the movement against corruption led by Jayaprakash Narayan in the 1970s. A man of integrity and courage, a social worker who has eschewed the loaves and fishes of office, a septuagenarian who has emerged out of semi-retirement to take on an unfeeling government — thus JP then, and thus Anna now.

Superficially, the comparison of Anna to JP is flattering — to Hazare at any rate. But let us look more closely at how Jayaprakash Narayan's movement unfolded. JP's papers are housed in the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi. These papers are worth revisiting in light of the struggle of which Anna has become the symbol and the mascot.

Once a hero of the Quit India Movement, then a founder of the Socialist Party, Jayaprakash Narayan abandoned politics for social work in the 1950s. Two decades later, he returned to politics at the invitation of students disenchanted with corruption in Bihar. At first, JP focused attention on his own state; then, much as Hazare has now done, his struggle moved outwards to embrace the whole of India.

In the late summer of 1974, as his movement was gathering ground, JP went to Vellore for a surgical operation. While he was recovering, his associate Acharya Ramamurti kept him up-to-date with the struggle. Ramamurti's communications, note, with some alarm, the entry of a political party into a professedly "apolitical" movement. While JP was away, wrote his colleague, "the leadership of the movement at least at local levels, is passing into the hands of the Jana Sangh". Ramamurti also worried that "the common man has yet to be educated into the ways and values of our movement, whose appeal to him continues to be more negative than constructive".

After some weeks in hospital JP returned to Bihar. In September 1974, he invited his friend RK Patil to come observe the situation at first-hand. Patil was in his own way a considerable figure, who had quit the Indian Civil Service to join the freedom struggle, and later worked in rural development in Maharashtra. He now travelled through Bihar, speaking to a cross-section of JP's supporters and critics, and to many bystanders as well.

On his return to Nagpur, Patil wrote JP a long letter with his impressions. He appreciated "the tremendous popular enthusiasm generated by the movement". However, he deplored its disparaging of political parties in particular and constitutional democracy in general. As a man of intelligence and principle, Patil was "well aware of the patent drawbacks of the Government presided over by Indira Gandhi". But he did not think it "wise to substitute for the law of 'Government by Discussion', the law of 'Government by Public Street Opinion'". Patil reminded JP that "there is no other way of ascertaining the general opinion of the people in a Nation-State, except through free and fair elections".

The materials of history thus suggest that the parallels between JP and Anna are less comforting than we might suppose. Front organisations of the Jana Sangh's successor, the BJP, are now playing an increasingly active role in 'India against corruption'. While Anna cannot be blamed for the infiltration of his movement by partisan interests, he certainly stands guilty, as did JP, of suggesting that the street — or the maidan — should have a greater say in political decision-making than a freely elected Parliament.

Such are the parallels in the realm of civil society. What then, of the other side? The main difference here is that while the prime minister of JP's day, Indira Gandhi, was excessively arrogant, the present prime minister is excessively timid. Despite his personal honesty, Manmohan Singh is complicit in the colossal corruption promoted by the ministers in his government. Further, he is guilty of a lack of faith in the procedures of constitutional democracy. His decision not to stand for a Lok Sabha seat does not violate the Constitution in law, but does so in spirit. Because of his unwillingness to face the electorate, his claim to defend the primacy of Parliament lacks conviction.

An arrogant politician can be chastened by defeat — as happened with Indira Gandhi in 1977. But it is hard to believe, based on his recent record, that Singh can act boldly now to recover the reputation of his government. By not sacking Suresh Kalmadi after the media revelations of his misdeeds, by not sacking

A Raja as soon as the information on the spectrum scandal was sent to his office, by sanctioning an election alliance in Tamil Nadu with the heavily tainted DMK, by refusing to rein in loose-tongued Congress ministers — in these and other ways, the prime minister has contributed to a widespread public revulsion against his regime. It is time that Singh made way for a younger man or woman, for someone who has greater political courage, and who is a member of the Lok Sabha rather than the Rajya Sabha. As things stand, with every passing day in office his reputation declines further. So, more worryingly, does the credibility of constitutional democracy itself.

To restore faith in the constitutional process some heads must roll in government. But serious introspection must take place within what passes for 'civil society' as well. The movement led by Anna Hazare has focused sharp attention on the corruption of our political class. However, the task now is not to further polarise State and society, but to find democratic and transparent ways of making politicians more efficient and less venal.

The scholar and public servant Gopalkrishna Gandhi recently observed that the arteries of constitutional democracy have become clogged, contaminated by years of abuse and disuse. One needs, he said, a bypass surgery to restore the heart to its proper functioning. The image is striking, and apposite. The current movement against corruption may come to constitute such a bypass, so long as it does not claim to be the heart itself..

( Ramachandra Guha is the author of India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy )

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






The anger against corruption that drives some in urban India to the streets must be properly understood. It follows the investigation and prosecution of several high officials of state, and the sums that they allegedly cost the exchequer were widely disseminated as being astronomically high. It is easy for some, therefore, to lazily blame the 20-year reform process. Where, but for reforms, this argument runs, would so much money have existed in order to be purloined, anyway? The hollowness of this argument barely needs to be expanded upon. Further, it fundamentally misunderstands the causes and nature of the anger on the streets, and therefore lays us open to suggesting solutions that will not, in the least, help the underlying problem. The cause of this discontent is the present government's consistent neglect of urban India, and the consequent sense of disconnection from politics and policy that some in our towns feel. Part of the spark was an awareness of continued crony capitalism; it was aggravated by the thousand little pin-pricks of the continued presence of an indifferent, sometimes grasping, state in people's daily lives.

It is precisely those pin-pricks, the petty humiliations and tyrannies of the licence-quota raj, that the reforms process was supposed to remove. It was not just about increasing India's growth rate, so as to finally address the basic needs of the abjectly poor. It was about bringing about a degree of dignity in a citizen's interaction with the state. It is a similar quest for dignity that motivates many of those who have gathered at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, and the government's solution should be more reform, not a further slowdown. It is fortunate that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, at the golden jubilee of the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta, made it clear that any diversion from the path of reform would be a grave error. We cannot but agree that what is needed is a "comprehensive restructuring" of government procedures, and reform in the speed and independence of trials for corruption.

More, and quicker reform, not less, is how, in the medium- to long-term, urban discontent must be addressed. UPA 2, however, has been tardy and neglectful of the reform agenda. Dr Singh's words have, once again, reassured; but he must speak more often, and his government must be seen to be desirous of cleaning up its act — and also of being more quick-moving and responsive than it has been hitherto.






Andhra Pradesh politics has been roiled again, this time by a CBI report that takes on Jaganmohan Reddy, and also names his late father and the Congress's former mainstay in the state, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. Twenty-six MLAs and two MPs have resigned, claiming they could not take the insult to their departed leader. They have written a blistering letter to the Congress, and its seeming commitment to erasing YSR's image from the hearts of the people, dropping his welfare schemes, even trying to brand him as criminal.

Their accusations are at least partly true — the Congress has tried its best to deny and disavow YSR's legacy, perhaps because that idea can be easily exploited by his son, Jagan. Instead of making a bid for YSR's memory and carrying on his strategies (his famous padayatras and welfare schemes, his co-opting of the opposition), the Congress has relied on people like Chiranjeevi to counter his charisma and question his integrity.

There is another, troubling aspect to this drama: the claim that this FIR is "motivated", that the CBI is again acting as the tool of a vindictive Congress. The CBI, our premier investigative agency, certainly has a sorry history of political pliability. The Congress, because of its long years at the Centre and its past disregard for the independence of such critical institutions, cannot escape the blame for this perception. Despite the 1997 Supreme Court judgment that reminded it of its mandate and its autonomy, the CBI has been the government's little helper — it has appeared to oblige the Congress over Ottavio Quattrochhi and the BJP over the Babri riots, it has conveniently retracted its own assessments over and over again. It has now got to the point that any accused person, from Mayawati to Jaganmohan Reddy, can blithely shrug off the CBI's charges as political vendetta. This situation corrodes the credibility of our public investigators, it also hurts the Congress. Allowing the CBI to be scrupulously independent is a political essential for the government. Which is why the recent decision to keep the CBI out of RTI scrutiny, for instance, makes little sense.






Recent events have a surreal quality — how could the sphere of legitimate and serious politics cede so much space, so rapidly, to this brigade of righteously aggrieved people?

Regrettable as this turn of events is, UPA 2 has only itself to blame. It has failed to speak up forcefully for its own arguments, whether with opposition parties, allies, or even an extra-parliamentary caucus like the NAC, and it has been strangely weak-willed in pushing the legislative agenda. By exposing its vulnerabilities, it practically invited this "civil society" insurgency. The trouble, after all, began with the government's first capitulation — inviting Team Anna to a joint drafting committee for the Lokpal bill, but not the opposition. The government broke with established process and enlarged Team Anna's aura then by choosing it as a stand-in for all of civil society. And after the negotiation went off the rails, the government then turned around and announced that Anna Hazare's agitation encroached on the legitimate role of Parliament. This episode has been nothing but a straightforward crisis of statesmanship, as the opposition was quick to point out. It is an instructive study in what happens when the government slacks on law-making, and undermines Parliament with its own lack of direction. UPA 2 has displayed neither the courage of conviction to stick to its stands nor the ability to work at legislative compromise, to soften the opposition in the interest of getting critical bills moving. The last two sessions were largely thrown away, holding up crucial legislation intended to directly take on some aspects of this ongoing discontent.

There is little denying that the void left by Parliament in the last few months, and a lack of administrative quick-thinking, has contributed to a sense of disillusionment among certain constituencies. It is the government's own lack of mindful application, even on small, doable reforms, that has been exploited by Hazare and his supporters. Even though there are several bills in the works meant to do away with discretion and take on official corruption — the public procurement bill and the judicial accountability bill, among others — there is no sense that the government is throwing its girth behind any of its initiatives in Parliament. As the opposition rightly pointed out in a recent debate, it is the government's lack of statecraft that is now costing it so dearly.







I write this letter with some hesitation about a matter of great national significance, succumbing to the constant pressure of many eminent citizens with the background of considerable public service and experience of governance at the highest level. Naturally, they are disturbed as I am, as you must be most of all, by the urgent need to prevent the clear and present danger of the prevailing unrest crossing a Rubicon, by taking steps to end the imbroglio.

As the head of the government, you alone can, and have to, perform this onerous task. With the commitment of "We, the People of India" to a democratic polity, I am sure, the people also clamour for a peaceful solution.

The nation is focused on the urgent need to combat corruption at all levels, which most affects the common man in every aspect of daily life. The demonstration of their anger on the streets is sufficient evidence that remedial measures cannot be delayed. The rule of law, which is the bedrock of democracy, is in peril. No referendum is needed to know that the nation is unanimous on the necessity of taking prompt remedial measures, which is the prime responsibility of the government, to be discharged with the aid of citizens doing their duty. The people's participatory role in governance is the justification for the public outcry against corruption and the inordinate delay in taking remedial steps.

The prime need of your government, therefore, is to convince the people of the government's equal commitment on this behalf. This can be done only by you, and none else! The malaise of a lack of political will and an erosion of individual rectitude, which is the foundation of national character, has to be arrested and reversed. This, too, can be done only by you!

Anna Hazare has rendered yeoman national service by mobilising public anger against corruption, and by identifying the causes of the malaise that needs to be cured. The next important step now is to decide on the way forward, and to move in that direction. Not merely curative or punitive, but preventive measures also have to be taken. Obviously, this can be done only in a congenial environment, with the government engaging with all sections of civil society, and donning a thinking cap. It is the government's responsibility to create this environment by gaining the confidence of all of civil society.

No one has, rightly, doubted that the final act of enacting legislation has to be performed by the legislature; and then the law has to be faithfully implemented by the executive under constant public gaze and judicial scrutiny. This is, undoubtedly, our constitutional scheme, to which everyone is committed.

What is the way forward now, at this stage?

It is unnecessary, in this context, to reiterate my views on some of the contentious issues relating to the jurisdiction of the proposed Lokpal and the contents of the existing drafts of the bill. Substantially, they are already in the public domain. I confine this letter to my suggestions for your consideration about the way forward. These suggestions have crystallised after due reflection, and also consideration of the responses of some equally concerned eminent citizens. These are stated hereafter.

Mr Prime Minister, after your government constituted a joint committee with a few members of the civil society to draft the Lokpal bill, the logical corollary of that decision has to be accepted. This means that the views of the entire civil society must be presented by your government, along with the government's draft, to Parliament for consideration during the debate on the bill. In an "inclusive" democracy, which undoubtedly our republican democracy is, every section of civil society, and every individual, has a participatory role in governance, including policy-making. The demand of Anna Hazare to send to Parliament the draft bill prepared by his team cannot, therefore, be denied. This I say, notwithstanding my differences with some points in that draft, and the mode of his protest.

This procedure has to be equally applied to the views and drafts of other sections of civil society, including individuals, if any, offering any serious suggestions. I am also of the view that the government needs to hold a few national consultations to give all sections of civil society an opportunity to participate in the exercise by offering their views for due consideration during the debate in Parliament. This exercise must be performed within a reasonable time.

Accordingly, the drafts already prepared by sections of civil society and in the public domain, namely, those by the Anna Hazare team, the Aruna Roy team and the Jayaprakash Narayan team may be presented to Parliament as the first step in this direction, to end the imbroglio. The additional views, offered in national consultations, can follow. This is the logical corollary of your government's decision to involve civil society in the preparation of the draft Lokpal bill. Having commenced that process, it cannot be arrested midway or after part performance.

May I also suggest, in all humility, that this plan of action (if approved by you) needs to be conveyed by you directly to the nation in a broadcast through the active 24x7 media, which is busy these days disseminating information only on this issue, for its due impact.

The writer is a former Chief Justice of India










For a brief moment, the fog of war cleared. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, bearded and ecstatic, waved to the people near a Tripoli hotel. Supporters circled him, some carrying placards of the Brother Leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who had gone into hiding. Less than 48 hours before that, the rebels had jubilantly announced that they had captured Saif, who was once the heir apparent to Gaddafi. In Libya, six months after the launch of Operation Odyssey Dawn, there is much confusion and speculation in the air, amid gunfire.

"Nobody knows what's going on," said Mohammed Sarjiani, a Gaddafi aide, in a phone conversation. The Colonel could be anywhere, he said, but Gaddafi could fight and those loyal to him would keep fighting — despite the rebels' successes.

What began on March 13 reached a critical moment less than a week ago when the eastern town of Zawiyah, a mere 46 km from the capital, fell to the rebels. Zawiyah is crucial: it is the only guaranteed source of gasoline for Tripoli and Gaddafi's supporters. Its fall and the flight of government soldiers paved the way for the rebels' entry into Tripoli.

The National Transitional Council (NTC), the government-in-waiting, sent out, perhaps a little hastily, mass text messages: "We congratulate the Libyan people for the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. Long live free Libya." This, when the government spokesperson, holed up in the Hotel Rixos, claimed that the eccentric leader still commanded 65,000 soldiers. France, the torchbearer of this operation, offered words of celebration and Paris as the location for the Friends of Libya meeting that would discuss reconstruction of a country wrecked by six months of civil war and 42 years of Gaddafi rule. In several Libyan embassies, the NTC flag was hoisted.

But where is Gaddafi? His last public appearance was in May but since then a stream of audio messages has been flowing out. In the past few days, these have picked up pace. "Pick up your weapons," he asked his supporters as Tripoli came under attack on August 15. Less than 14 hours later, another message came through, this time for tribal leaders to join the fight against the rebels and finally in the penultimate address for the night, he asked, enraged, "If Tripoli was to burn like Baghdad, why would you allow this to happen?"

Yet he remains ominously absent from public view. Some postulate he is on the run, attempting to cross over to Algeria; there are reports of South African planes that may or may not fly him out; he could hide in Malta or Venezuela. There are rumours that he's in the Libyan Desert.

Here is what we do know: as the rebels crossed into Tripoli at an astonishing speed, they were aided by an intensification of the air campaign, with Nato strike missions attacking key targets. This was decisive in shifting the balance. Britain and France played a role on the ground in training and arming the rebels who soldiered forward. This not only gobbled up Libya's military infrastructure but also rendered the Colonel's forces weak and unable to move or re-supply.

But are celebrations and the news of the fall of Tripoli premature? Most foreign correspondents are still in lockdown in the Libyan capital, except perhaps for Sky News's Alex Crawford who is riding with the rebels in Tripoli. So information coming out has been spotty and scattered. And the course of the battle, of the endgame, is far from clear.

Here is what we do know. Whatever the outcome of the war, the NTC will face tremendous challenges in uniting the rebels. First, there is the question of the eastern tribes. Gaddafi has favoured the western tribes and suppressed the eastern tribes. How will the NTC, a largely eastern outfit, bring the remainder of the tribes into its fold? Though the NTC is made up of West-leaning intellectuals, businessmen and the odd Islamist, how will the outfit unite a country that has no public institutions, no experience at the ballot box and no political parties?

Further, Gaddafi, a master manipulator, kept his power by agreements with the Megraha and Warfalla tribes. These tribes, located in the east and the south, have remained loyal to him, and have already extracted their revenge. Then there are tribes, like the Gaddafa, that were recipients of his patronage. How will the new government, the NTC, rebalance the distribution of power?

In the videos coming from Benghazi, men in plainclothes fought in the most violent of the Arab Spring in Libya. The question is, will they wear one uniform when the sole target of their anger is eliminated?







There are two broad governance issues that concern every citizen in this country today: corruption at different levels in the government, and grievances arising from the government's poor functioning. The last few months have seen an outpouring of emotions related to these issues. It is amply clear that the people of India want no one to be above the law; everyone, irrespective of the position they hold, should be accountable.  Equally, citizens want their day-to-day grievances related to the government addressed in an effective, time-bound manner.

Recent events have undoubtedly put these two issues at the centre of public debate, and forced the political class to pay attention. Now, however, is the time for reasoned debate. A rational solution needs to be evolved to address these challenges.

As the Parliament debates the Lokpal bill, we very strongly believe that two principles must inform all discussions on the matter. First, too much power and responsibility must not be concentrated in any one institution — power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The corruption we see today is a result of unaccountable and unchecked power. Therefore, the institution set up to tackle corruption must itself have a proper system of checks and balances, to ensure that it is accountable to the people of the country. Rather than setting up a single "super"-institution which deals with all problems — corruption at high levels, corruption in the middle- and lower-level bureaucracy, judicial corruption and public grievances — multiple institutions, adequately empowered, must be set up to look into each of these issues. Second, existing institutions and laws must be strengthened to enable them to tackle corruption effectively, and to protect those who blow the whistle on corrupt practices. If democratic institutions falter or weaken, there is no alternative to repairing and strengthening them. Failure to address the problems in existing structures will result in transferring the same problems into any new institution that may be set up.

In our view, an Anti-Corruption Lokpal, equipped and empowered to deal with big-ticket corruption at the state and the central level, covering all elected representatives (including the prime minister, but with certain safeguards), senior bureaucrats and all co-accused is critically required. This body would investigate and prosecute everyone involved in large scams like the 2G, CWG, Taj Corridor and Adarsh affairs that rocked the nation in recent times.

For mid-level and lower bureaucracy, the existing institution of the Central Vigilance Commission must be empowered to effectively deal with all cases of corruption. This would entail removing bottlenecks — like the "single directive" and the lack of adequate resources — which have so far impeded its effective functioning. Parallel state vigilance commissions at the state level would also have to be set up.

The judiciary must be made accountable to an independent, autonomous institution. The Constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary. What is needed, in our opinion, is an independent

National Judicial Commission to look into all cases of corruption and misconduct related to the judiciary at all levels — from the lower judiciary to judges of the Supreme Court. The Judicial Accountability and Standards Bill, currently with the parliamentary standing committee, needs to be substantially amended and strengthened to ensure its effectiveness.

Whistleblowers must be offered protection under all these institutions through an effective Whistleblowers Protection bill. This can be achieved by suitably amending and strengthening the "public interest disclosure" bill currently before Parliament.

One issue that impacts every citizen of this country is the lack of an effective mechanism to deal with everyday grievances — non-receipt of pensions, poor delivery of rations, broken roads, non-availability of adequate water, poor sanitation and drainage etc. Effective grievance redress requires a decentralised system, equipped to deal with grievances in a time-bound manner. There is an urgent need to draw on successful grievance redress mechanisms where they exist (like in NREGA) and evolve an appropriate legislation to set up an independent institution empowered to effectively redress public grievances.

India is a huge country, and the problems we seek to address are complex. No single quick-fix legislation, no single all-powerful institution is likely to deliver us the clean, vibrant, participatory democracy to which we aspire. A well-thought out, considered and informed solution, in line with the basic structure of our Constitution, will have to be evolved through a process of public consultation and debate.

Parliament too cannot take any shortcuts. It has to provide a genuine platform for discussion in line with its constitutional role. It has to invite comments from across the country before passing the legislation.

India Against Corruption's lack of faith and belief in the parliamentary process may be an expression of angst against its ineffectiveness. But to bypass it would be self-defeating for the people of India. Our experience with the Right to Information and NREGA legislations shows that the standing committee can be an extremely useful platform, where the legislations can be discussed, debated and strengthened.

The RTI bill which was introduced in Parliament was an extremely watered-down and weak version of what civil society activists had drafted and proposed. However, groups from all over the country, including the NCPRI, petitioned the parliamentary standing committee, and debated the legislation clause by clause.

Eventually, Parliament took on board most of the suggestions of the standing committee — and finally made 153 amendments to the bill, passing one of the most progressive right to information access legislations across the world. The movement which finally led to the passage of the RTI Act, provides an insightful example of how civil society can agitate and work towards a strong pro-people legislation. without compromising or demeaning parliamentary, democratic processes. 

Roy and Bhardwaj are members of the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI)







The wonders of civil society as the spontaneous expression of the will of the people stand revealed to us in all the glory of the Anna Hazare Roadshow (AHR), claiming a mantle of legitimacy superior to that of any institution in the country.

There are two dangerous implications of privileging such "real" expressions of the people's will over that expressed through what is being rubbished as a phony democracy. First, anybody who can queer the pitch sufficiently, assisted by the media, can present themselves as the authentic representatives of the people's will. This is not just procedurally dubious; it is also alarmingly vulnerable to being misused by any demagogue who can tap into popular outrage, seduce the media into providing round-the-clock coverage in a mutually beneficial embrace, and exploit social networking to whip up a cyber-frenzy — blurring the difference between the numbers of those on Twitter and those on the streets.

The second problem is more intractable: if we allow civil society (or any segment of it, however well-intentioned) to dictate the law to Parliament today, on what grounds do we deny the same privilege to others tomorrow — corporate lobbies, for example? The Niira Radia issue confirmed what everybody knows: that just because lobbying in India is unregulated and unacknowledged doesn't mean that it does not exist, and that companies have sophisticated ways of influencing public policy in areas that affect their interests. They do this through direct pressure on the executive, but they do it also by influencing legislative opinion, sponsoring parliamentary questions, and even openly and egregiously weighing in on the government.

If civil society is given the legitimate prerogative of formulating the law, are there any principled arguments that can be used to deter industry bodies from demanding the same? Do we not undercut the very grounds on which we could deplore an inordinate influence of capital over law and policy? On what basis will we then be able to delegitimise the power of one (capital) as we legitimise the influence of the other (civil society)? What tests of representativeness can possibly be applied to either? As both claim to speak in the name of the collective good — one for the prosperity, and the other for the welfare, of citizens — how and by whom might such representational claims be arbitrated?

The advocates of civil society of course argue that theirs is the true voice of the people, but the evidence for this claim — the household referendum that was conducted by the AHR — makes one despair, and even contemplate Brecht's sardonic advice to dissolve the people and elect another. The other justification they offer is that if the National Advisory Council with its civil society membership can formulate law, why not civil society that is not government-sponsored? But the NAC is not a civil society organisation. It is more like a quasi-government think-tank, such as many governments across the world have instituted in the practice of "network governance", typically entailing the participation of handpicked elements of civil society.

The other side of this valourisation of civil society is the conviction that the state is inherently repressive, nothing but concentrated evil. By incarcerating Anna Hazare, Dr Manmohan Singh's government has provided not just the AHR and its admirers, but also others distrustful of the state with just the stick they craved to beat it. It is hardly surprising that a prominent item in the ten-point charter of measures against corruption proposed by a leading national daily is reducing the role of the state in the lives of citizens to the absolute minimum. This may be music to corporate ears as well as to some in civil society — but maybe someone should ask the poor whether they too wish to dispense with the state?

It was the inexplicable foolishness of the Central government in arresting Anna Hazare that led to the events of the past week getting hyper-constructed as an adversarial issue with the government pitted against civil society. The real parties to this dispute, however, are not government and civil society, but Parliament and civil society. Over the past week, while opposition MPs have rightly spoken in defence of civil liberties, the right to dissent and freedom of protest, they have been oddly reluctant to assert their own constitutional prerogative to legislate. This may be because few parties are free of the taint themselves and because the credibility deficit involves the entire political class.

This self-denial is perhaps inadvertently blessed by the argument of a senior journalist that Parliament is the author of the law in only the most technical and banal sense, that it is the Constitution rather than Parliament that is supreme, and that history is replete with examples of people being the real makers of the law. This in turn can only be rhetorically true, for the supremacy of the Constitution is normative, rather than practical; and popular movements are not generally engaged in the nitty-gritty of drafting laws, which can be the only analogy that applies in the current context.

To oppose the AHR and the Jan Lokpal bill is not tantamount to endorsing corruption, or to being any less outraged by it than the next person. Our disappointment with our frequently under-performing legislators cannot mean that we discredit Parliament as a worthless institution. Giving civil society overweening power over our lives must not be allowed to become a recipe for weakening government and strengthening the market.

It is paradoxical that the issue that led to the unravelling of the most scandalous corruption in the highest of places — the Radia tapes followed by the 2G scam — is the very issue that has energised this purportedly massive upsurge of civil society. The supreme irony is that to give in to the demands of the AHR would be tantamount to opening the doors to legalising the very forms of influence on which Hazare is so generously staking his life.

The writer is a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi






Your observation that "in its seven years in power, the Congress shunned the urban middle classes so much it has even stopped being on talking terms with them", hits the nail on its head. India though 65 years old, is still a young country — with even much younger people who are confronted in their everyday lives with harassment of greedy minions of governments and local authorities. And they are now fed up — fed up to the teeth!

The present agitation — whatever the views of the five "holy cows" — is not about which of the two bills should be accepted and passed, but an expression of anguish that nothing concrete has been done or implemented by the government of the day, particularly by the Congress-led government at the Centre. This is a great tragedy. An instance in point is the 12-year-old 166th Indian Law Commission Report (1999), which not only recommended the confiscation of properties of those who had been proven to be corrupt, but had also drafted a detailed bill, which had only to be adopted in Parliament and made into law. Sadly and significantly, neither the NDA government (in its five years of "glory") nor its successor UPA 1 (another five years) nor even UPA 2, have even thought of introducing this ready-to-enact bill! Protestations are many, but the will is lacking, and the lay public has now caught on.

If the agitation of the very recent past has taught us anything it is that no government, whether at the Centre or in the states, can ignore the voice of the people — neither at election time nor even between elections. This is a good thing, more pragmatic than Jayaprakash Narayan's solution of a right to recall: the watchword of today is the right to effectively (but peacefully) protest the ineptitude of those who govern us, and so compel a change. It will come.

—Fali Nariman, eminent jurist

Middle class vote

While I agree with your views, I would like to add two minor points. The UPA mandate of 2009 was as much to do with the fact that the middle class was frustrated with the Left parties and the fact that there was no meaningful option in the opposition. I think a lot of people voted for the Congress from urban India due to a lack of options. Also, coming out of the global meltdown, India's recovery was creditable and the Congress got the benefit from urban (middle class) India.

On education, starting with Arjun Singh as HRD minister, it has been one disaster after another. Even today the number of vacant/ under-utilised schools of the government are enormous. There is no focus on teacher reforms to make sure that government schools are made efficient — alternatively, they must work on a PPP model that is acceptable. The RTE act will create huge social discord in its present form and reduce further capacity for middle-class India. While FSA etc, will become a problem down the line, just getting existing government schools to fill up can be a start. In addition, working with two shifts can also be a model to be pursued to ensure fixed asset utilisation.

—Ashish Bharat Ram, Managing director, SRF Ltd

Accountability now!

I think that all of India, not just the middle class, is fed up of politician obscurantist doublespeak and the smokescreens that politicians create to serve their own monetary and other self-interests, which they clearly do illegally. I believe the rot started from the top and continues to be led from the top. Ministers and chief ministers, and prime ministers and leaders of political parties directly, indirectly, or by turning a blind eye, demand and build corruption into the system by instructing compliant bureaucrats to collect funds for election war chests. Turning a blind eye when this is happening has the same effect as doing it yourself. In the quest to create huge banks for political power, national assets are grabbed by the political class, and policy tilts in favour of those who contribute the most in cash or kind to votes. Hence criminals and leaders who can deliver votes by any means are valued and rewarded by politicians and also end up in state and national legislatures.

The power so amassed in the last 50-60 years has been so great that all redressal systems have been either silenced or made dysfunctional.And where do we find ourselves? Every aspect of our life has been spoilt by corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and officials.

Let me tell you what I encounter during a typical day in my super-privileged life. I wake up to breathe polluted air. The milk in my tea is toxic with antibiotics and hormones injected to cows. The fruit and vegetables I eat have toxic levels of pesticides. I don't know how much of the morning paper I read has paid-for news. If I take my car out, I'm driving through craters. If I walk, there are no footpaths I can safely walk on.

I'm stuck in traffic for hours because for decades there has been stunted vision and minimal implementation of any infrastructure plan for this great megapolis I live in. The water that I get in my tap is transported by a tanker because the government can't give us 24-hour water supply in an area where there is abundant rainfall. The water that the government does supply is contaminated as in my ward, where the chief minister lives, the sewage pipe leaks into the water supply pipe. Throughout the year, there are puddles in the city where mosquitos breed.

I have a simple open-and-shut breach of contract case pending in the high court for years and I have no idea when I will get justice. There is no accountability in our country and justice eludes us all. Anna Hazare is insisting that the corrupt, at all levels, be brought to book. And this is what I buy into. I want the loot to stop. When this happens, parliamentary democracy will work as intended. And I believe that every Indian wants this, not just the middle class because corruption has affected every socio-economic strata of our society.

In my view, the politicians will make another monumental blunder if they see this as a limited movement of one class of society. Anna is what he is because he is not corrupt, because he is fighting for a cause greater than himself, because he is an incorruptible nationalist who walks his talk and this is why he appeals to all, no matter how rich or poor they are.

—Kavita Khanna, Mumbai-based lawyer

India has changed

I normally agree with your views, but not this time.

The PM is the CEO of the country. For over four decades now, our PMs have, for one reason or another, appointed persons to their cabinets who they and the country know to be crooked. This has the unintended effect of making the PMs complicit. In the instant case, the very original government appointee list to the Lokpal panel says it all. It is as if Al Capone were to find place in a temperance committee. I feel not just exploited and disdained, I feel as if my government has slapped me in the face.

All pompous talk of the majesty of our institutions and the supremacy of Parliament is pulling wool over our eyes. Our institutions have long since been hollowed out and eaten up by corruption. What we see of these institutions is just the shell.

I have deliberately used strong language to express a raw emotion. Because in my interaction with scores of people, deep within, I have found this to be the only raw emotion that is driving the movement. It is a feeling of a personal affront.

Why now, why not earlier, is a harder question to answer. This may not be unrelated to the winds of change sweeping across North Africa and West Asia. Maybe, over time, we became used to being exploited, and are only now recovering some of our lost self-respect. Maybe it is an idea whose time has come. Maybe it was just waiting to happen, and required ordinary folks like Hazare and Kejriwal to stand up and say boo.

To me, the details of the Jan Lokpal draft matter less. Someone had to stand up, someone has! In civilisational terms, that is an inflexion point of far greater long-term import. India will not be the same again.

— Sanjeev Aga, Mumbai-based commentator








My daughter has introduced me to a new word: "fremdschamen". Its origin is German or Dutch; there are two dots (an umlaut) above the "a". It means being embarrassed and ashamed on account of the behaviour of others, especially that of friends. I cannot say that I am friendly with the present government of India, but on occasion I have had cordial feelings towards them. Over the past several months, they have been repeatedly embarrassing me. I experience fremdschamen!

Everyone in the telecom industry says that the 2G licence and spectrum allocations were a scandal, and this fact was universally known. But not to our government. And they expect us to believe that! Things got worse as events unfolded. The government fought the 2G revelations to the bitter end, postponing resignations and investigative action until they were forced into it reluctantly — oh so reluctantly, kicking and screaming. Instead of thanking the Comptroller and Auditor General for defending the fisc (in which activity he is supposed to be an ally and supporter of our government, which too is supposed to defend the fisc), they have gone out of their way to attack the CAG, claiming with alarming disingenuousness that the loss to the state was "zero", drawing attention to the leaks of reports rather than responding to the substance of the reports and so on. Even the prime minister took umbrage to the fact that, unlike his predecessors, the current CAG holds press conferences. But that is because in the past, governments reacted constructively to the CAG's reports.

I have written earlier as to how a distinguished finance minister of Punjab, Dr Gopichand Bhargava, thanked the CAG's department for being a "partner" of the government in protecting the state's finances. Dr Singh: your government would do well to imitate Dr Bhargava. The present government is also spreading the story of so-called judicial overreach without having the grace to concede that but for such "overreach", the 2G and the cash-for-votes scandals were moving towards quiet burial through delay. This shameless focus on attacking constitutional institutions on matters of "procedure" and ignoring the shocking "content" of the issues erodes the government's credibility again and again. The CAG would much prefer a co-operative government which shares its files with him promptly, and the Supreme Court would much prefer it if the CBI investigated fairly and speedily on its own without judges having to prod that worthy institution! It is out of a feeling of extreme fremdschamen that the CAG goes to the press, or that the Supreme Court monitors CBI investigations in detail.

On the CVC matter my fremdschamen is intense. Here was a committee of three including the prime minister, the finance minister and the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha; the committee was given three names; there could have been unanimity on two of the three names. The two ministers insist on going with the third name by majority vote. They do not look at enough documents. For a government given to endless dilatoriness on vital issues that affect the country, suddenly the CVC decision has got to be made hastily, in defiance of a written dissent from the opposition leader. And when the matter goes to court, the government ties itself up in comical knots. No graceful exit is contemplated. The Supreme Court is literally without any choice but to nullify the CVC appointment — a case not of judicial overreach but of judicial anguish! Citizens are left with that taut feeling of fremdschamen as we contemplate our government's cussedness and ineptitude.

And talking of ineptitude, what does one make of l'affaire Hazare? The government chose not to include opposition parliamentarians in the joint committee along with the ministers and Anna's nominees. Now the government is stuck with opprobrium rather than credit in how it handled this melodramatic committee. Why bother to go through the motions of a joint committee, if the government is going to submit only its version — which is so much at variance with the inputs not only from Anna's folks, but from the members of the government's own darling NAC?

The government's bill is a travesty, an insult to our intelligence. The Lokpal is to investigate public officials, not NGOs. If you want to regulate NGOs and bring transparency to their operations, by all means do so with a separate law and an independent regulator like Sebi. Why try to slip these provisions into the Lokpal bill by sleight of hand? The Lokpal is supposed to protect whistleblowers; the government bill seems to be designed to harass whistleblowers. Who is kidding whom?

Many have considerable reservations about Hazare's demands, and his operating style. But the government wanted to make sure that all people who might have been in the anti-Hazare camp should in fact become his ardent supporters! The government therefore decided to violate his civil liberties. He was asked to comply with nonsensical conditions for his rally which the Congress party would never have agreed to for itself. When he justifiably refused, he was arrested. I started thinking about the Rowlatt Act, and others started thinking about the events of 1975. To its credit (and this is the first time during this long sequence of events, I did not feel any fremdschamen), the government avoided the ruthless responses of Indira Gandhi and the cruel tactics of General Dyer. The government backtracked — and let me assure you, Dr Singh, this is not a sign of weakness as some around you may be telling you. This is a sign of statesmanship and good sense.

In the perilous days ahead, Dr Singh, I hope that you are guided by a spirit which does not assume that your opponents in constitutional institutions, politics or civil society lack patriotism. Your government needs to work with all these groups dealing with the "content" of issues and not hide behind procedural technicalities.

The writer is an entrepreneur







With India Inc's forex exposure rising to $437bn at the end of December 2010, compared to the country's total forex reserves of $279bn, it's tempting to feel the situation is getting out of control. For one, companies with a substantial global presence could end up earning less due to exchange fluctuations—think Bharti Airtel in some quarters, for instance. In other cases, if the rupee depreciates, India Inc could end up with higher debt-

service obligations than it has bargained for. Indeed, the fact that several companies are facing redemption pressure on their FCCB borrowings does seem to reinforce this impression. This view is unnecessarily alarmist.

For one, of the total liabilities, the equity component is up to 52.5% now, up from 45% in December 2008. Since investors would face a considerable capital loss in case of sudden withdrawals, a higher proportion of equity investments is a good thing. Two, while India Inc's forex liabilities have gone up by around $80bn

between 2008 and 2010 (from $362bn to $437bn), the assets have gone up by a similar amount (from $333bn to $407.5bn). Though India Inc is keen to be allowed to borrow more from abroad—interest rates are lower and the rupee is expected to appreciate in the long run—RBI is right in being cautious about forex exposure since any sharp fluctuations in exchange rates can cause a problem.





Though S&P insiders are putting out the view that the decision of its president Deven Sharma to step down was in the works for the past six months—after S&P owner McGraw-Hill split its data, pricing and analytics division from the ratings one, this left Sharma with much less to do—it's difficult to believe the US government's pressure had no role. Indeed, it is difficult to reconcile this explanation with the fact that, on Monday, two of McGraw-Hill's shareholders had a meeting with company officials and said the rating firm needed a "well-known independent oversight figure to help manage increasingly complex global regulatory landscape and improve dialogue with investors, regulators and the public". The two investors, hedge fund Jana Partners LLC and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan collectively own 5.6% of McGraw-Hill and would naturally be worried about the statements coming out of the US government after the downgrade—given that McGraw-Hill has been buying back part of its shares for many months now to please investors, this would suggest it would pay great heed to such suggestions by large investor groups.

It is true, as US Treasury secretary Tim Geithner said after the downgrade, that S&P had got its maths wrong—it got the US 2021 debt projections wrong by $2 trillion, or 8%. It is also true, as others have pointed out, that given the dollar's status as the global reserve currency, the US is unlikely to default on loans. But what triggered S&P's fears was the fact that a significant number of US politicians actually wanted a default to take place and, two, at 99% of GDP, the US debt burden was getting oppressive, especially in the face of a slowing in US growth for a protracted period of time. Indeed, as FE columnist K Vaidya Nathan pointed out using US government data (, the actual US debt is more like $52 trillion once you take into account the shortfall in the funding for Medicare and Social Security, among others—that's more than three times the publicly cited figure. So, the technicalities of reserve currencies aside, or the absurdity that countries in Europe that are in worse shape have a higher rating than the US, the fact is the US is not in great financial shape and this is what the downgrade reflected.

S&P, of course, is not the only one trying to sell the story that Sharma's stepping down after the US downgrade was a coincidence, the US government has been doing much the same. Soon after the downgrade, reports surfaced saying both the SEC and the Justice Department in the US were investigating S&P—while the former was looking to see if the downgrade information had been leaked beforehand, the latter was examining the process of rating mortgage-backed securities that had triggered the 2008 financial crisis. All the while, the US government made it appear the actions were unconnected. Given the timing, it does appear Sharma has been sacrificed in the hope of lenient treatment from the US authorities. S&P has just downgraded itself.





Telis Demos & Robin Wigglesworth

Signs of a faltering global economic recovery have rattled markets, sending the FTSE All World index down 19% from its May peaks. But one ray of light could be corporate buy-backs, which are still picking up pace from the lows set in early 2009.

More US companies are set to buy back shares this month than in any month since the peak in 2007, according to Biryani Associates. Companies in Europe and the UK have also stepped up buy-back programmes, according to Thomson Reuters data.

In recent weeks, companies including AOL, brewer Molson Coors and retailer Lowes have announced plans to buy back their own shares.

While it may be a welcome signal of confidence that companies are willing to splash out valuable cash on their own shares, the return to buy-back levels last seen in 2007—just months before worries about the global financial system became a full-blown credit crunch—raises important questions: are companies good judges of the value of their own shares, and what does the current spate of buy-backs indicate?

A company's shares tend to rise in the six months after a company's buy-back announcement, according to Allen Michel, a finance professor at Boston University, by an average of 2-4% more than they would otherwise.

Buy-backs are carried out for many reasons—such as to give to executives who are exercising their stock options or to appease activist shareholders—and on balance investors usually welcome the signal of confidence and the improved financial metrics that a lower share count entails.

The record for the broader market is more complex, says David Ikenberry, dean of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado and a long-time buy-backs researcher.

He points to pick-ups in buy-backs following the 1987 stock market crash in the US, and the mini-crashes that followed in 1991 and 1992 as periods when companies seemed to time the market correctly.

But Howard Silverblatt, who tracks buy-backs for Standard and Poor's, notes that buying was strong during the entire bull run from 2004 to 2007.

"That period was marked by the actions of investors who bid up stocks from issues that did buy-backs. This 'reward' pushed companies to buy more stock. As with all such circles, all was well, as long as all went well," he says.

Directors' deals—or trading by company senior executives—has been a more mixed indicator. While such 'insider buying' was at historic highs in early 2008, just as the crisis began, insider selling was also strong during those periods. "You sell stock for many reasons, but you buy for only one: to make money," says Lawrence Creatura, a fund manager at Federated. "Insider purchases can be meaningful, but it depends on the pattern of that individual's behaviour in the past, and their existing positions."

Worryingly, company directors still appear to be cautious. Although the buy-to-sell ratio in terms of volume has spiked this month in the US, the UK and Europe, in most cases company insiders remain net sellers of shares in terms of value, according to Directors' Deals, a data provider.

In the US, insiders have offloaded $3.5bn of shares already this month, less than half the amount in July but far outstripping $725m of purchases, says Directors Deals. In Europe, insider sales have shrunk to 465m euros ($668m) this month, down from 2.5bn euros in July, but still outpacing 346m euros of buy orders.

Fund managers point out that many company directors are paid in shares, and sales will therefore very often be outpaced by purchases. However, the amount of sell orders still indicate that insiders aren't entirely confident about the future.

In any case, not all investors celebrate share buy-backs, and remain sceptical of insiders' ability to time market turns. Income investors, for example, prefer steady, predictable dividend growth, and many others prefer companies conserve their cash for longer-term value creation such as investments and acquisitions, or to fortify their balance sheets against uncertain economic times.

"If companies have a genuinely inefficient balance sheet with lots of cash and very little debt then buybacks are fine, but I would prefer companies to keep robust, flexible balance sheets," says James Laing, deputy head of UK and European equities at Aberdeen Asset Management.

© The Financial Times Limited 2011





The protests by Anna Hazare come at a time when the world economy is also battling a credibility issue, with a global slowdown being conjectured for the current year. One thought that hits us is whether or not these protests will have any wider ramifications for our economy. The global slowdown has evoked a mixed response with arguments being on both sides, with a distinct tilt towards a neutral situation for us. How about the current political and social unrest? Will it upset the clichéd apple cart?

There are two aspects to this protest. The first is whether or not foreign investment will be affected, and the other is whether the domestic economy will witness a backlash. The protests so far are more political in nature, which, at its exaggerated best, has probably some traces of the scent of the jasmine backlash in Tunisia, Egypt and the rest. Hopefully, it does appear that it will remain confined to demonstrations with the more affluent sections of society also using this opportunity to be seen with the rest. The interesting conjecture here is its implications for the economy.

Growth in the economy is driven by three sectors: agriculture, industry and services. Agricultural output is impervious to what happens in Delhi as long as the pricing policy is correct and the FCI is in action. Therefore, there should be no concern from this quarter. Industry is more worried about interest rates, demand and policies. Currently, the concern is that interest rates will drive back consumerism and investment, which is not good news. RBI is evidently looking at inflation to consider interest rate decisions. Therefore, there should be no impact of such demonstrations. Policies are of course important for industry and this is where there can be concern because important discussion time is being used up on the governance issue rather than economic affairs. There are important policies on pension reforms, insurance, FDI in retail, and so on, which will obviously miss the bus as Parliament time is diverted to Ramlila grounds.

There are two ways of looking at it. A more cynical view is that these policies have been on the agenda anyway for long without really derailing growth and hence should not matter. While this is true to the extent that immediate prospects may not be affected, further deferment of such issues will come in the way of future progress. This is so because once Bills are held back, it takes a long time to get them back on the discussion table. One can recollect the infamous FCRA amendment, which has been pending since 2003 and has not seriously been discussed as sessions close and the papers have

to be reintroduced. Therefore, definitely in the medium run, growth will be held back as long as there is a status quo on the policy approach, which is not desirable.

The services sector is a dominant one, with around 45% of its output coming from the unorganised segment, which is largely insulated from any such thought-based revolution. The rest of the sector will be driven by the normal course unless there are any disruptions physically, which, though not expected, cannot be ruled out. We have seen that events like strikes or blockages of transport take their impact on the movement of goods and people, which eventually affects certain sectors like transportation or tourism. But, assuming that the movements will be largely peaceful, as this is the core of the ideology here, disruptions should be minimal.

This then turns attention to foreign investors. Here, again, there is a pragmatic way of looking at things. India has not really been anywhere close to high on the World Bank's chart of doing business and remains in a static state—notwithstanding economic reforms—when it comes to other morality and governance indices used globally. This, in a way, is a comfort because a peaceful relentless move against such issues should not stop foreign investment from coming in. Portfolio investors will still prefer to look at the future growth convictions in the Indian economy, which is strong even today in a world that is sliding down the grease pole. With strong growth numbers still expected in such adversity from India, it remains an attractive market for all purposes.

Foreign direct investment, on the other hand, has been coming in good numbers this year, and evidently the

opportunities that exist are an ex post vindication of the economy's prospects. Gross inflows have been $13.4bn in the first quarter as against $5.7bn last year. Therefore, foreign perception of Indian markets should remain unaltered here. In fact, governance standards would definitely improve in the aftermath of what is happening today.

Hence, it may be concluded that it should be business as usual except for some further delays in discussing Bills that anyway do not solicit broad consensus. Our economy is fairly mature and resilient to such occurrences and there is an inherent strength that has been displayed in the working of the economy. Our policymakers have been pursuing policies quite independently with a single-minded focus—be it RBI, finance ministry or Planning Commission. We have seen that even a change of government with different ideologies has not derailed the broader vision or growth path. Quite clearly, Ramlila or any other venue should not come in the way.

The author is chief economist, CARE Ratings. These are his personal views







The brutal 42-year-old dictatorship of Muammar al-Qadhafi is close to collapse and his own whereabouts are unknown. But the confusion over the Libyan situation cannot obscure the problems caused by the military intervention of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato). Heavy fighting continues in and around the capital, Tripoli, with Nato giving heavy bombing and shelling support to the rebel body, the Transitional National Council (TNC); and atrocities by both sides have been reported. This is, in large part, the outcome of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 — which bars landings by foreign forces but allows member states to use "all necessary means" (diplomatic terminology for military action) to ensure Libyan compliance with the Resolution. Humanitarian intervention as conceived by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France under cover of the U.N. has meant using highly advanced weaponry in helping the TNC, which includes militant Islamists of the sort who have been fighting Nato and other western forces in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade, to bring about violent regime change. This western commitment to regime change, which could not have been achieved without Nato bombing, amounts to a total U-turn from the time, barely a year ago, when the same leaders were making much of Mr. Qadhafi in order to win access to Libya's substantial oilfields.

The entire rebellion and the Nato campaign are riddled with inconsistencies. Western proponents initially claimed the campaign would be over in days. It has lasted six months, is yet to end, and has cost the U.S. alone more than a billion dollars. Secondly, there are severe tensions among the TNC's three main factions; it is still not known who murdered the rebels' top officer, General Abdel Fattah Younes. Furthermore, many leaders among Libya's 140 tribes, including longstanding Qadhafi supporters, will want office in the new order. Above all, the western powers will almost certainly exact a heavy price for supporting the uprising. Their demands are likely to include — as they did in Iraq — preferential, if not monopoly, access for western oil corporations. It is no coincidence that as reports emerged of the rebel advance on Tripoli, the price of Brent Crude fell 1.7 per cent to $106.8 per barrel in futures trading. There are also likely to be lucrative contracts for western companies to rebuild Libyan cities; and the European Union members of Nato may want the new government to impose tight controls on Libyan migration to the EU. In effect, the U.S., Britain, and France, with help from Italy, have used the U.N. and Nato to bring about regime change and pull off a gigantic oil-grab.





Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty that engulfed the global financial markets, ordinary investors and governments alike turned to the sanctuary of gold. That response is not uncommon: during the previous crises — for example, the global financial meltdown of 2008 — gold benefited as equity stock prices sank. However, even after normalcy returned and stocks rallied, the price of gold did not fall back as one would expect. It seems likely that investors, traumatised by the crisis, were not fully convinced of the sustainability of the recovery and continued to keep a part of their money in recession-proof assets, of which gold ranks very high. That, however, cannot explain the phenomenal worldwide demand for gold in recent weeks and the consequent spike in its prices. Setting new records practically every day, gold touched an all-time high of $1,900 an ounce on Tuesday as investors, spooked by the prospect of a return to recession, sought out safety in the precious metal. Gold prices have more than doubled since the recession began in 2007. They have risen by 19 per cent since June when the eurozone debt crisis grew in intensity and threatened to spill over into its stronger economies.

Economic uncertainty has always added lustre to gold in the eyes of investors, and in recent weeks there has been no shortage of unsettling developments. The downgrade of the U.S. sovereign debt, after its politicians nearly drove the country to the brink of a default, was one significant upheaval. And by the close of last week came reports that pointed to a sharp economic slowdown in the developed countries. While gold has always won the vote of investors seeking safety from turbulent financial markets, the sharp rise in prices has now brought on a new set of buyers, those who take high risks for quick returns. Demand has come from yet another direction: Central banks in developing countries are switching their currency reserves to gold. Purchases by the world's central banks more than quadrupled during April-June this year over that a year ago. In India and some other countries gold is, of course, much more than an investment opportunity or a currency substitute. Ahead of the festival season, the demand from the jewellery industry has risen to unprecedented levels. Investment opportunities in gold and gold-backed instruments have been expanding in the country. Some non-banking finance companies in Kerala have seen an explosive growth in gold loan business. But, as this much-sought-after metal bounces along another volatile phase, the gold loan boom points to the risks ahead as much as to the potential.






A couple of weeks ago, there was wide coverage in the print media about a successful pregnancy outcome in a 60-year-old woman in a fertility clinic in Tamil Nadu. The triumph of technology over natural barriers, be it in the field of medicine, science, environment and so on, undoubtedly gives a sense of achievement and satisfaction to all scientists, especially when such innovations are productive to mankind. However, every invention has its pros and cons, and it is more so in the field of fertility medicine as it involves complex human relationships. The picture of a 60-year-old mother holding a newborn conceived from a donor oocyte does raise a few concerns.

In India, nearly 15 per cent of all married couples in the child-bearing age (about 15 million of them) are infertile, and the management of the condition ranges from sex education, weight loss and medication to advanced assisted reproductive techniques (ART). The rapid evolution of newer technologies in assisted reproduction has given an opportunity for older women to achieve motherhood, but this has also spawned new ethical concerns. Parenthood at an older age is not just a medical issue but a complex, psycho-social issue. The rates of medical and surgical complications are much higher in older women both during fertility treatment and pregnancy. The maternal mortality rate in pregnant women who are 45 and above is high because complications such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, haemorrhage, pre-term delivery, stillbirth, and caesarean section delivery are three to four times more among them than among younger counterparts.

Guidelines; adoption

The second issue is the use of donor oocytes in ART. The average life expectancy of an Indian is 64.4 years: among men it is 63 years and among women it is 66 years. This fact points to the risk of a child born to parents beyond a certain age becoming orphaned. Studies have revealed that the incidence of growth retardation, learning disabilities and behavioural disorders is higher in children following the death of their mothers, or their being orphaned during early childhood. The Central Adoption and Resource Agency based in New Delhi has set down clear guidelines on the age limit for adoptive parents and adopted children. In order to be able to adopt a child less than one year in age, the composite age of the adoptive parents should be 90 years and neither parent must be older than 45. The parents' age is relaxed in accordance with the age of the child — for a one-year-old it should be 46 years, for a two-year-old it should be 47 years, and so on, with the upper age limit of the child being 12 years and that of the parents 55. Fertility clinics should discuss and encourage adoption among older women instead of exposing them to serious risks involved both during treatment and pregnancy. Therefore, a public debate is required to create awareness about the ethical issues involved.

Draft on ART

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, working with a group of experts, formulated a draft on assisted reproductive techniques in 2010. It is comprehensive with effective guidelines and protocols that would enable standardised, qualitative safe practice methods within the legal framework. However, a consensus has to be created on issues such as the upper age limit for fertility treatment, donor anonymity, the rights of the child, guidelines on publicity and advertising, and the availability of health insurance. The draft suggests that the disclosure of the donor's identity to the recipient couple or individual or to anyone else be made a punishable offence.

In the United Kingdom, the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HEFA) created under an Act in 1990, removed the donor anonymity clause in 2005. This was based on the rationale that at the age of 18 a person has the right to know about the origin of his or her birth. The cultural values and attitudes in India may be different from those in the U.K. However, the formation of social attitudes is an evolutionary process. Therefore, two decades from now donor anonymity may well become unnecessary.

Need for a central repository

In order to equip ourselves for the future, the creation of a central repository of information on all donors should be considered. HEFA does not allow women above 45 years of age to be recipients of donor oocytes. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine recommends a thorough medical examination and a high-risk obstetric consultation for all women above 45 years of age receiving donor oocytes. And, in order to undergo ART they need to get cleared by a peer review committee.

At present the number of donor oocyte recipients may be only a few thousands in India. But an increase in female literacy could encourage women to focus on their careers, use methods of contraception on a wider scale, and marry late. These factors could alter the reproductive epidemiology in India as in the western world. The optimum child-bearing period is between 20 and 35 years, and nearly 85 per cent of the women in this group will conceive naturally. Difficulty to conceive and the risk of miscarriage increase after 35 years of age. The success rate of live births following in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment even for women below 35 years of age is 31 per cent, and this rate drops to less than five per cent in women over 42 years of age. Therefore, it is important to create awareness among the public on the issues surrounding late motherhood.

Article 16 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1948) indicates that "men and women of full age, without limits due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to found a family." India is no longer in the league of poor nations, yet it is a country of paradoxes: it has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world and a very high incidence of infertility. Therefore, there is an urgent need to take a wider consensus on the draft on assisted reproductive techniques and to convert it into a cohesive regulatory Act for the ethical implementation of ART. The fundamental aim of such an Act should be to ensure that the basic human right "to found a family" should be achieved by voluntary means, and not through coercion, or the wilful display of the wide array of newer reproductive choices that are available.

( The author, a practising obstetrician and gynaecologist, is a former Tamil Nadu Minister. E-mail: )

A public debate is required to create awareness of the ethical issues involved in fertility treatment procedures.





President Obama was a reluctant warrior in Libya, drawn into the rebel uprising over the warnings of his Pentagon chief and his own qualms about getting the United States entangled in yet another war in the Muslim world.

Now that the rebels have seized most of Tripoli and driven Col. Muammar el-Gadhafi into hiding, Mr. Obama claimed a victory for his much-doubted strategy. But that victory is tinged by the same uncertainties that made the President so wary of getting involved in the first place.

With Colonel Gadhafi's loyalists still fighting in pockets, the United States and its allies are confronting a chaotic, potentially treacherous transition. They must help Libya's new rulers — people they did not know six months ago — set up a functioning, credible government in a country divided by tribal conflicts and a dearth of state institutions.

Mr. Obama acknowledged those hurdles, interrupting his vacation here to praise the rebel advances, even as the fighting continued and the whereabouts of Colonel Gadhafi remained a mystery.

"Your courage and character have been unbreakable in the face of a tyrant," the President said in a sombre seven-minute address. He urged the Libyan Transitional National Council, which the United States recently recognised as the country's legitimate government, to pursue a peaceful, inclusive transition to democracy.

"True justice will not come from reprisals and violence," Mr. Obama said. "It will come from reconciliation and a Libya that allows its citizens to determine their own destiny."

"In that effort," he added, "the United States will be a friend and a partner."

Unlike Egypt, Tunisia

That could be difficult long-term partnership, analysts said. Unlike Egypt or Tunisia, which had established institutions to smooth the transition from long-time dictators, Colonel Gadhafi's "revolution" — essentially a four-decade-long cult of personality — has left little for a new government to build on.

"They are basically starting from scratch," said Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Now will really be the test for the United States, because there are a lot of centrifugal forces that could pull this apart."

Republicans who had criticised Mr. Obama's handling of Libya, including the presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jon M. Huntsman Jr., were more muted on Monday, with Mr. Romney shifting attention from the military campaign to the need to extradite those behind the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

While the President's tone was determinedly not triumphal, his aides insisted that the weekend's events had vindicated his strategy — heading off mass killings in the eastern city of Benghazi, marshalling a broad coalition to press Colonel Gadhafi, giving the Libyan opposition time to take root and plan a transition, and, above all, limiting American involvement. "All of this was done without putting a single U.S. troop on the ground," Mr. Obama noted.

Even now, though, he appeared less personally invested in Libya than he has in other big issues. Though he spoke to his National Security Council and to Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain before his remarks, he went right back to his vacation, playing basketball with aides. (Mr. Cameron cancelled his holiday to hold meetings in London.)

A wary approach

At first, the President's wary approach seemed to satisfy no one — hawks in Congress who called for boots on the ground, doves who demanded a pullout and foreign policy experts who warned of a quagmire. Those doubts only deepened as the NATO military campaign that Mr. Obama had suggested would last weeks dragged into months.

On Monday, administration officials argued that six months was not long in the context of Colonel Gadhafi's 42-year reign, and that the coalition was critically important in sustaining pressure on him. "This was a unique operation in that the U.S. wasn't left to bear the bulk of the burden itself," said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a Deputy National Security Adviser. "The burden was spread effectively wide that we were more than able to sustain the pressure for six months, and frankly, would have been able to for many more months to come."

For all that, Mr. Obama seems unlikely to get much political pay-off from the events in Libya. Part of the reason stems from his multilateral approach — very different, for example, from the commando raid he ordered on Osama bin Laden. That gave him a measurable bounce in the polls, though it, too, proved fleeting as anxieties about the economy crept back.

Nor is it likely to improve his relations with Republicans in Congress. Two Republican hawks — Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — said Mr. Obama did not deserve credit because the operation had taken too long. They attributed that "to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower."

On Monday, those who supported the campaign — largely Democrats — offered tempered encouragement, urging the United States to step up its involvement in Libya. But several Democrats also called for the focus to turn to Pam Am Flight 103.

"The release of al-Megrahi was a total miscarriage of justice," said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, referring to Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi, one of the convicted masterminds of the bombing, who was released by Britain and returned to Libya.

"Seeing him participate in good health at a pro-Gadhafi rally recently was another slap in the face not just for the families of the Lockerbie victims, but for all Americans," she said.

Mr. Obama paid homage to those victims, as well as other Americans who had been killed by Libyan-sponsored terrorism. That subtly reinforced another point: on this President's watch, another violent strongman who vexed Washington for many years was gone.

While officials said they did not expect that to help the President in the polls especially, it could help him counter a narrative that often dogs Democratic Presidents in elections.

"It helps lock in and solidify the idea that he's the guy who keeps us safe," one senior official said. "Reagan targeted Gadhafi; George W. Bush targeted Bin Laden; Obama has done both." ( Jennifer Steinhauer contributed reporting from Washington .) — © New York Times News Service

It seems unlikely that he will get much political pay-off from the events in Libya.





The Central government's flip-flops on Anna Hazare are obvious: it went from abusing him (through the Congress spokesperson) for sheltering corruption, to extolling him for his idealism; from arresting him, without any justification, and getting him remanded to judicial custody for a week, to releasing him within a few hours. But the Anna group's flip-flops are no less striking: it moves from "we-have-a-democratic-right-to-protest-and-place-our-views-in-public," which is an unexceptionable proposition, to "Anna-will-keep-fasting-until-his-bill-is-adopted-or-amended-with-his-permission," which amounts to holding a gun to the head of the Centre, and by implication of Parliament, and dictating that the bill it has produced must be passed, or else mayhem will follow. The government's flip-flops are indicative of incompetence; the Anna group's flip-flops arise because of the compulsions of a particular style of politics on which it is embarked, which can be called "messianism" and which is fundamentally anti-democratic. The fact that it is striking a chord among the people, if at all it is (one cannot entirely trust the media on this), should be a source of serious concern, for it underscores the pre-modernity of our society and the shallowness of the roots of our democracy.

Democracy essentially means a subject role for the people in shaping the affairs of society. They not only elect representatives periodically to the legislature, but intervene actively through protests, strikes, meetings, and demonstrations to convey their mood to the elected representatives. There being no single mood, freedom of expression ensures that different moods have a chance to be expressed, provided the manner of doing so takes the debate forward instead of foreclosing it. For all this to happen, people have to be properly informed. The role of public meetings where leaders explain issues, and of media reports, articles, and discussions, is to ensure that they are. The whole exercise is meant to promote the subject role of the people, and the leaders are facilitators. Even charismatic leaders do not substitute themselves for the people; they are charismatic because the people, in acquiring information to play their subject role, trust what they say.

Messianism substitutes the collective subject, the people, by an individual subject, the messiah. The people may participate in large numbers, and with great enthusiasm and support, in the activities undertaken by the messiah, as they are doing reportedly at Anna Hazare's fast at the Ramlila grounds, but they do so as spectators . The action is of the messiah; the people are only enthusiastic and partisan supporters and cheerleaders. If at all they ever undertake any action on the side, this is entirely at the messiah's bidding, its ethics, rationale and legitimacy never explained to them (no need is felt for doing so); whenever they march they march only in support of the messiah, not for specific demands that they have internalised and feel passionately about. When they gather at the Ramlila grounds, for instance, the occasion is not used to enlighten them, to bring home to them the nuances of the differences between the government's Lokpal Bill and the Jan Lokpal Bill, so that they could act with discrimination and understanding. On the contrary, the idea is to whip up enthusiasm among them without enlightening them, through the use of meaningless hyperbole like "the government's bill is meant not for the prevention but for the promotion of corruption", and "Anna is India and India is Anna". If the venue was one where discussions, debates, and informative speeches were taking place, the matter would be different, but those alas have no place in the political activity around messianism.

Informative speeches have been the traditional staple of political activity in India. Maulana Bhashani, a popular peasant leader in what is now Bangladesh, used to give marathon speeches that were interrupted when people went home for lunch or dinner, or even for a night's rest, and resumed when they re-assembled afterwards; and the speeches contained much information about everything, not just politics but even crop-sowing practices and the best means of irrigation. A speech was virtually a set of classes; it had an educative role. I myself have heard election speeches in West Bengal by the inimitable Jyoti Basu, and also others. The speeches were based on solid homework, and conveyed information and argument to the audience. They also sought to rebut what was being said by the opponents, and hence carried forward a debate in public. Political activity of this kind assumed a subject role of the people and prepared them for it; it was quintessentially democratic . Messianic political activity does no such thing; it quintessentially creates a spectacle , not just for the audience but above all for the TV cameras upon whose presence it is crucially dependent.

I am not concerned here with whether the Jan Lokpal Bill is the best piece of legislation on the subject; nor am I concerned with the possible RSS links of the Anna campaign. These issues, though important, are not germane to my argument. My concern is with the "dumbing down" of the people that messianic political activity entails: "leave things to Anna but do come to cheer him." Just as in a potboiler Hindi film the hero single-handedly does all the fighting required to rid the locale of villainous elements, messianic activity leaves all the fighting, that is, the subject role, to the messiah. The people stand around with sympathy, and cheer. When the Anna group announces that he will take up issues like land reforms, corporate land grab, and commercialisation of education, once his fight against corruption is over, one almost feels that Shekhar Kapoor's "Mr. India" has finally arrived on the scene! The problem, however, is that "Mr. India" is a negation of democracy; and relying upon "Mr. India", like relying upon the arrival of an incarnation of Vishnu to cleanse the world of evil, is a throwback to our pre-modernity. It is not just an admission of a state of powerlessness of the people that may prevail at the moment; it reinforces that powerlessness.

Messianism is fundamentally anti-democratic because it is complicit in this objectification of the people, this self-fulfilling portrayal of them as dumb objects that need a messiah. When the Anna group uses the term "people" as a substitute for itself (referring to its own bill as "the people's bill," its own views as the "people's views"), it is implicitly carrying out a conceptual coup d'etat , namely, that messianism is democracy! But quite apart from the fact that the messiah is not elected by the people, a point made by many, there is the basic point that nobody, whether elected or not, can substitute for the people in a democracy.

This presumption, however, explains the flip-flops made by the Anna group. If Anna is the people, then democracy, where the people are supreme, demands that his version of the bill must be accepted over any other version, including what the parliamentary Standing Committee may come to formulate. The people's supremacy over Parliament entails ipso facto Anna's supremacy over Parliament. Messianism necessarily implies an "Anna's-bill-has-got-to-be-adopted" position. Members of Anna's group, many of whom have been associated for long with people's causes, may have occasional discomfort with this messianic position, and may retreat to a "we-are-only-exercising-our-democratic-rights" stance; but since they do not repudiate the messianic position, they perforce come back to the "Anna-is-the-people-and-hence-supreme" stance. To accept that Anna's version of the bill is only one of many possible versions, which the final bill could draw upon, amounts to seeing Anna as one among equals, and not as the messiah, that is, to an abandonment of messianism; the Anna group is loath to do this. "Negotiations" with the government therefore come to mean negotiations to make it accept Anna's version; "compromise" comes to mean a compromise that makes Anna's version final.

It may be asked: if the people prefer "messianism" to "democracy," then what is wrong with it? Those thronging the Ramlila grounds or marching in support of Anna in the metros are not necessarily "the people" of the country, and it is dangerous to take the two as identical. Besides, even if a majority of the people genuinely wish at a particular time to elevate a messiah over Parliament, this is no reason to alter the constitutional order, just as a majority wishing to abandon secularism at a particular time is no reason to do so. The Constitution is the social contract upon which the Indian state is founded, and it cannot be overturned by the wishes of a majority at a particular time. If perchance the government accepts messianism out of expediency, it would be violating the spirit of the Constitution and undermining democracy. Besides, any such licence will make multiple (quasi-religious) messiahs sprout, who would compete and collude, as oligopolists do in the markets for goods, to keep people in thralldom.

(Prabhat Patnaik recently retired from the Sukhamoy Chakravarty Chair at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.)

The substitution of one man for the people, and the reduction of the people's role merely to being supporters and cheerleaders for one man's actions, is antithetical to democracy.





The term 'satyagraha' ( satya is truth, and agraha is firmness) was coined by Gandhiji to designate his struggle of 'passive resistance.' He initiated it in South Africa during his agitations from 1894 onwards against the oppressive British regime there.

As president of the Congress in 1924, Gandhiji transformed the party into a fighting organisation, and launched several satyagraha agitations to involve people in constructive programmes.

The Calcutta Session of the party (in December 1928) gave an ultimatum to the British government that unless Dominion status was given to India by December 31, 1929, the Congress would launch a Civil Disobedience Movement. When no favourable response was received, at midnight on December 31, 1929, the Indian National Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, or Purna Swaraj . The party's Working Committee gave Gandhiji the responsibility to launch the first act of civil disobedience.

Salt satyagraha

Gandhiji chose to begin with a satyagraha against the Salt Tax imposed by the British. The Salt Act of 1882 gave the British the monopoly on the manufacture of, and collection of tax on, salt. Several leaders including Jawaharlal Nehru, the Congress president at that time, had felt that there were more important issues to be taken up as a part of the demand for full independence. But Gandhiji felt that the salt tax was a richly symbolic choice since salt was something that was used by nearly everyone in India. He believed that the protest would dramatise the demand for Purna Swaraj in a way that would be meaningful to even the least Indian.

On March 2, 1930, Gandhji wrote to Lord Irwin, the Viceroy, offering to stop the march if 11 demands were met, including a reduction in land revenue assessments, an end to the enormous exploitation of the people, and the misuse of public funds by the British. Gandhiji added: "If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the eleventh day of this month I shall proceed with such co-workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard the provisions of the Salt Laws. As the Independence Movement is essentially for the poorest in the land, the beginning will be made with this evil tax."

The Viceroy's reply simply expressed the opinion that Gandhiji was "contemplating a course of action which is clearly bound to involve violation of the law and danger to the public peace."

Gandhiji selected the first batch of 78 satyagrahis, all members of the Sabarmati Ashram. On March 6, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel set out to make arrangements in the villages and regions through which the Dandi March would pass. On March 7, Sardar Patel was arrested as he was about to address villagers at Kheda; he was sentenced for three months. There was speculation that Gandhiji and the satyagrahis too might be arrested.

On March 12, at 6.30 a.m., Gandhiji started off with his satyagrahis on the Dandi March. After covering 241 miles in 24 days, they reached Dandi on April 5. A large number of journalists from India and abroad had camped there. For them, Gandhiji wrote a short note: "I want world sympathy in this battle of Right against Might — Dandi, M.K. Gandhi." ( see reproduction )

On the morning of April 12, Gandhiji raised a lump of salt in his hand and declared: "With this, I am shaking the foundation of the British Empire." He then boiled it in sea water, producing salt illegally. Gandhiji's satyagraha became a mass satyagraha throughout India.

Then, the government resorted to repressive laws. Jawaharlal Nehru was arrested on April 14, and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment under the Salt Act. On April 28, C. Rajagopalachari was arrested, to be sentenced to six months' rigorous imprisonment after he and his satyagrahis entered the Coromandel coast at Vedaranyam.

While these leaders were being arrested, Gandhiji was going to other places near Dandi to defy the salt law. The climax of the campaign came when Gandhiji was arrested on May 4, 1930. He was resting at the Karadi Camp three miles from Dandi. At midnight, the District Magistrate, along with several police officers armed with pistols and 30 policemen bearing rifles, entered the room. Gandhiji asked about the charges under which he was being arrested. The Magistrate said it was under Regulation 28 of 1927 which allowed imprisonment without trial. At 1.20 a.m. the police put him in a lorry on the way to Yerwada Jail in Poona.

Gandhiji's arrest and internment led to hartals and strikes across in India, and there were sympathetic demonstrations all over the world.

On May 12, a second batch of satyagrahis led by Abbas Tyabji was arrested. On May 21, Sarojini Naidu and Manilal Gandhi were arrested; some 2,500 satyagrahis being led by them were beaten ruthlessly by 500 policemen commanded by British officers. In this action, four persons were killed; more than 300 persons were hospitalised with severe injuries. Still the satyagrahis observed absolute non-violence and discipline.

Reports on Gandhiji's campaign during the Dandi March appeared each day in 1,350 newspapers across the world. Time magazine declared him Man of the Year, commenting on his march to the sea "to defy Britain's salt tax as some New Englanders once defied the British tea tax."

The Press Ordinance promulgated by the Irwin regime caused 67 Indian newspapers and 55 printing presses to be shut down. Over 80,000 Indians were jailed without trial under the Salt Law.

The civil disobedience movement continued until early 1931. The rest is part of the political history of India — from the Gandhi-Irwin Pact leading to the Second Round Table Conference, to the Quit India Movement, and the emergence of independent India.

The Salt Satyagraha challenged the very existence of the British regime in India. Sir Charles Innes, who was a provincial Governor, wrote thus about the events of 1930 struggle: "England can hold India only by consent. We cannot rule it by sword."

It is true that the 1930 Salt Satyagraha was not successful with respect to many of its aims and demands. However, it was a historic turning point: thereafter every political move on the part of the Congress was to assert Purna Swaraj as the basic demand.

Hazare's satyagraha

The events that marked the supreme authority of the British regime in India — and the stupid atrocities committed by it — are now being blatantly followed by the United Progressive Alliance government.

Anna Hazare's movement has become a symbolic protest against the most corrupted government of free India. At least, Lord Irwin's government arrested Gandhiji under a primitive Salt Act after the event. The high lords of the UPA government, living in the ivory towers of power and authority, sent the police to arrest a person who was planning to observe a peaceful agitation — without rhyme or reason. It was a mockery of governance to arrest a person in the morning and to order him to go out 12 hours later.

While Gandhiji invited openly the press in India and abroad to support his 'battle for Right against Might,' the UPA government, creating crisis after crisis, blames the media for every discord that is created.

Demand for ombudsman

During the Lok Sabha Debates on Demands for Grants of the Ministry of Law on April 3, 1963, Law Minister A.K. Sen said on the demand for an Ombudsman in India that it was a matter for the Prime Minister to decide. However, he observed: "In this country, my own view is that to make it effective, a constitutional provision should be made, as of the Election Commissioner or of the Comptroller and Auditor General. I think that if you really want to set up an effective organisation like Ombudsman with over-riding powers and spreading over the entire field of governmental activity, you will have to give him some constitutional position."

The Lokpal Bill was introduced in May 1968. When it was considered on August 13, 1969 in the Lok Sabha, S.M. Joshi said: "Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru speaking at the AICC at Jaipur on 3 November 1963 said that the system of Ombudsman fascinated him; for the Ombudsman had overall authority to deal with charges even against the Prime Minister and confidence of all."

As far as I know, that is the only remark on the subject recorded in Parliament Debates. None from the government side contradicted that statement.

While it is desirable to establish Lokpal as a constitutional authority, I feel that the government and the civil society team should come around to some sort of a bill. Hitherto the members of the public who have been supporting Anna Hazare have been non-violent and disciplined. In the event of a critical situation arising, things could turn ugly. After some time, amendments could be brought in to make the legisaltion more effective.

If UPA-II is certain of the support of Parliament and the people to its position on the issue, let it go to the electorate, or conduct a referendum on the specific issue of the Lokpal Bill.

( Era Sezhiyan is an eminent parliamentarian and author .)

The events that marked the supreme authority of the British regime in India are now being blatantly followed by the United Progressive Alliance government. But time is running out.






Recent events in Libya have been confusing. Three days ago US President Barack Obama gave the impression to the world through a publicised statement that the 42-year-old control of Col. Muammar Gaddafi had all but ended as the rebels fighting him these recent months with heavy Western support had virtually wrested the capital, Tripoli, from forces loyal to the dictator. This clearly appears not to be the case so far. While Col. Gaddafi is said to be traceless, his loyalist forces have by no means surrendered. His son and presumed successor, Seif-al-Islam Gaddafi, was thought to have been taken into custody by the rebels, but he surfaced on Tuesday at a luxury hotel in Tripoli along with many international correspondents.
Indeed, some apprehension is now being voiced in Washington and London that Col. Gaddafi may well strategise to lure the rebel forces into Tripoli while shifting to another theatre within the country to open a new military front. Should that materialise, it would signal that the West had placed too great a trust in a disorganised anti-Gaddafi coalition riven with dissensions, and provide a setback to diplomatic and military efforts concentrated by the United States, France and Britain with the support of leading governments in the Arab world. In Iraq, it may be recalled, a greedy and deceitful anti-Saddam Hussein politician, fattened on CIA money, had all but lured US forces into commencing military operations.
The West worries about long-term violence and disorder in Libya if the rebels' Transitional National Council led by Mustafa Abdel-Jalil is able to end Col. Gaddafi's hold but is unable to restrain rebel fighters from inflicting revenge on pro-Gaddafi military units and tribes and ethnic groups that have stood by his side. Should this happen, prolonged chaos in Libya is assured, and this is exactly the opposite of what the Western triumvirate seek to achieve. Western nations extol all rebels they support anywhere as the epitome of democracy. Repeatedly this has been seen to be a propaganda line to legitimise the decisions they have endorsed. The fears are that this may be coming true in Libya as well.
The surprise is that Col. Gaddafi has held out so long in spite of a Western-imposed naval blockade and international sanctions. Reports suggest that his forces are in some disarray and may only be depleting. A cusp moment such as this calls for wariness and sagacity on the part of those who have choreographed the rebels' political, diplomatic and military moves with the aid of the United Nations. The greed to capture Libya's oil supplies must be kept on hold.






At this stage of Anna Hazare's fast it is unnecessary to discuss the monumental folly of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in first arresting him and then abjectly surrendering to him. To draw attention to his and Team Anna's manifest obduracy would be equally pointless. Their demand that only their heavily flawed Jan Lokpal Bill should be passed by a certain date, and no other version of it, is totally unacceptable.
How the current confrontation between him — which has touched a raw nerve in the country and has drawn huge support from the urban youth — and the government would end is immaterial to my present theme: Whether fasts, finite or indefinite, currently denounced as "blackmail" or attempts to "dictate" to elected institutions, have any legitimacy.
Incidentally, such fasts, whether for political or social ends, aren't and have never been absent from the Indian scene even after the tryst with destiny. To give only one of countless examples, Potti Sriramlu starved himself to death in 1953. This virtually forced Jawaharlal Nehru to separate Andhra from what was then the multi-lingual state of Madras and is now Tamil Nadu. Fifty-six years later, the fast of the Telangana Rashtriya Samithi leader, K. Chandrashekhar Rao, drove Union home minister P. Chidambaram to announce that the "process for the formation of Telangana state had been set into motion," only to backtrack later. In between, before "Punjabi suba" was conceded in 1966, Darshan Singh Pheruman had fasted for precisely this cause. The then authorities in Amritsar had handled both the fast and its explosive aftermath with exemplary skill.
Medha Patkar has been fasting all the time of which little notice is taken because her demands are usually local and she fasts far away from the national capital. Shortly after Mr Hazare's first fast in April, an obscure swami in Uttrakhand gave up his life while fasting against illegal mining; New Delhi did not bat an eyelid.
In distant Manipur, a brave lady, Irom Sharmila, has been on hunger strike for 10 long years, demanding a repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, and nobody is bothered because the police periodically force-feeds her.
The difference this time around is that "Fast Anna" has created an enormous storm across the country against rampant corruption. "Generation Y" is up in arms. The Lokpal Bill doesn't matter; Anna's personality does not matter. The man and the moment seem to be made for each other, and the bumbling government knows not what to do.
Despite this backdrop, I have always believed that in the public life of independent and democratic India, there is no place for fasts for political ends even if there is no law banning them. Since everyone embarking on a fast harks back to the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi — Mr Hazare's supporters have gone overboard and are calling him "second Gandhi" — the argument of those of us opposed to fasts used to be that the Father of the Nation had used this weapon against an alien and colonial government. There is no justification for wielding it against a duly elected and easily replaceable government. Deeper thought and some research reveal, however, that the reality is different.
According to Gopal Gandhi, a grandson of the Mahatma and a former civil servant, diplomat and governor, his grandfather fasted on 30 different occasions. One-third of these were directed against no one other than himself. These were occasions for "atonement" or "self-purification". Another one-third of the fasts were meant to influence the attitudes of Indian society or parts of it.
For instance, in 1918, the Mahatma went on an indefinite fast because mill-owners of Ahmedabad had declared a lockout against the striking mill workers. Within 48 hours of the beginning of the fast, the mill-owners scurried to lift the lockout.
A profoundly important fast in this genre he undertook in 1930 was to persuade the Harijans (as the Dalits were then called), led by Bhimrao Ambedkar, to give up separate electorates for them offered by the British. The Mahatma argued that this would vivisect each of the half-a-million villages of the country. Ambedkar agreed and settled for reservation of seats in legislatures.
The remaining one-third was meant for "pressurising" (some said "coercing") the British government. These succeeded some time and didn't at other times. During the last of these in 1943, at the Agha Khan Palace in Poona where he was detained, the Viceroy had made arrangements for Mahatma's funeral. But he lived to perform a miracle by his fast in Calcutta in the aftermath of the Great Calcutta Killings. In three days flat, the one-man army of Gandhi put an end to the mad frenzy and mindless slaughter.
What knocks the bottom off my case to differentiate between an alien and a national government is that the first Indian to go on a fast in the heart of Delhi against the government of Nehru and Sardar Patel was none other than the Mahatma. His two lieutenants had refused to transfer to Pakistan `55 crore this country was bound to give it under the Partition Agreement. Their argument that the money couldn't be handed over while the first Kashmir War (1947-48) was on. On the second day of the fast, the cash was sent to Karachi post-haste.







It is time to disentangle the various strands that go to make up the Anna Hazare phenomenon. The Maharashtrian peasant leader is riding on the crest of a wave of frustrations and aspirations driving the middle class and other sections, and his main theme of busting corruption has struck a chord with vast sections of the population. Second, there are no two views on the maladroit moves of the government and the Congress Party in coping with Mr Hazare's second fast. Third, the Anna team, drunk on
its own success, has taken up unreasonable positions and is indulging in a new form of arrogance.
Indeed, the surprise is that the form of public diplomacy the team has adopted has left the government far behind in the information war. It has used social sites to great effect, was ready with video clips of Mr Hazare's homilies after his arrest, a stupid act, and getting the former policewoman, Kiran Bedi, to film him on a mobile camera while he was refusing to leave the Tihar jail, later linking it to television channels. But it is a sign of the new arrogance the team has developed that Ms Bedi harked back to the slogan of the hated Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975 to amend the slogan "Indira is India and India is Indira" to "Anna is India and India is Anna". Another sign of intolerance is the totally unrealistic deadline given to Parliament to pass their version of the Lokpal Bill.
It is clear that Mr Hazare's Jan Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill, as opposed to the government's Lokpal Bill initially introduced in Parliament, will be a disaster for the Indian system of parliamentary democracy if passed in its present form. It would institute a hydra-headed monster of a panel of men and women who would sail above every form of democratic governance on the assumption that they are demi-gods immune from the temptations of the flesh.
The proposals of social activist Aruna Roy make more sense in their methodology of tackling corruption, but thus far Team Anna is not listening, convinced of the irrevocable righteousness of its own panacea seemingly set in stone. There will conceivably be retreats from this impossible position in the days to come, but Mr Hazare and his team must adopt a posture of some humility in suggesting curbs on the evil of corruption that has spread to every aspect of life.
There are, of course, wider aspects of the Anna phenomenon that will leave a mark on the Indian political system. The declamation that it represents a "second independence movement" can be dismissed as populist propaganda. An attempt to link this movement to other movements concerning land acquisition and industrialisation seems a tentative testing of waters.
But the Anna phenomenon will need all its wisdom to guard against being hijacked by the BJP, its mentor the RSS and the various affiliates of the Sangh Parivar such as the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which has already indulged in depredations in its efforts to force schools to close on a particular day.
Judging by the slogans being raised by the supporters of Mr Hazare's movement, a pro-Hindu and an implied anti-Muslim (and anti-minorities) tinge is already becoming apparent. It is no secret that the BJP is desperately seeking to return to power at the Centre after two successive defeats, but it is a new BJP under the thumb of its mentor, the RSS, which is setting the agenda for the party and the country. The Sangh Parivar is obviously hoping that the Anna phenomenon will do for it what the incendiary Ayodhya movement did for it to catapult it into power in New Delhi.
The political undercurrents swirling around the Anna phenomenon are a handicap to the spirit of hope the movement initially brought about, gathering a motley crew of a newly empowered middle class and other frustrated and aspiring sections of the population. In a sense, the youth are asserting themselves in a political culture in which wisdom is equated with age and the so-called Young Turks are in their forties and fifties. A beginning has been made in inducting the princelings — men and women related to established leaders and political families — but it is thus far a timid beginning.
What of the future? A government in drift is not in the best position to impose its agenda and the official version of the Lokpal Bill is found wanting in several respects. What remains to be seen is how and when the Anna team will dismount from its own hobbyhorse of the Jan Lokpal Bill or nothing. The Manmohan Singh government has been forced to show greater flexibility and many formulations are in the air to resolve the crisis.
Both the Anna team and the country will pay a heavy price for a contest of wills, if taken beyond a point. In India, a disinterested soul spurning power and pelf for achieving his objectives has an abiding appeal. But an artificial propaganda barrage calling Anna Hazare "a second Gandhi" or "a second JP (Jayaprakash Narayan who led the movement that unseated the Congress Party for the first time in New Delhi)" is doing as
much harm to Mr Hazare as it does to the memory of two exceptional leaders.
Having won the first round, Mr Hazare should show maturity and humility in gathering the fruits of a new era of hope he has set in motion. In a sense, that has been the easier part. His real test lies in the future in guiding the thrust of his movement towards a new system that makes corruption subject to effective laws and an implementation mechanism to punish offenders not in a spirit of vengeance but in rendering justice to the abused, particularly those belonging to the poorer sections. Both the government and civil society must use their reserves of wisdom to take advantage of a new beginning to make the country a better place to live in.

S. Nihal Singh can be contacted at






In early August two important developments took place in Burma, which at first glance seem unconnected but are, in fact, intrinsically linked to where Burma may be headed in the years to come. The first was US' appointment of a special envoy to Burma who would have the rank of ambassador, and the second was Burma's rice agreement with North Korea, which is based on a barter deal. Both these incidents signal a clear shift in terms of how the international community views and will engage with Burma.
The rice agreement may not seem significant but underlying the deal is the Burmese government's growing demand for nuclear technology. While Burma claims that it seeks nuclear know-how for peaceful purposes, the country's continued isolation and its close ties with North Korea (whose clandestine nuclear programme is already a cause for
worry), are likely to trigger reactions among the nuclear nations.
For North Korea the rice deal is a lifeline the country's reclusive political elite desperately needs. With changing dynamics in the region, North Korea is keen to be free of its dependence on China. Importing rice from Burma will give North Korean leaders more flexibility and also address the issue of severe food shortage.
Since 2007, isolated and impoverished Burma and North Korea have been entering into deals for closer cooperation. As two countries which have been shunned by the international community, their interdependence grew and is now becoming a cause for concern. In fact, Burma's isolation had made the junta very paranoid towards most countries, except China and North Korea. But with regional countries now trying to ensure that Burma does not go the North Korea route, this is changing.
The appointment of a special envoy to Burma, Derek Mitchell, who will officially coordinate the US and Burma's relations, is an important shift in America's policy towards Burma. For a country that has for decades followed a policy of stridently calling for sanctions against Burma, this is a huge step forward. The Clinton and Bush regimes followed the sanctions policy against Burma to little positive effect. It only pushed Burma closer to China.
The Obama administration has taken a different stand. While the US' earlier sanctions policy had the objective of regime change, the current policy under Obama is to push the process of political reforms.
The changed US position became evident as early as 2009, even though it took more than two years for concrete action. This change became possible after the Burmese government expressed willingness to effect political reforms.
The Obama administration has spoken of "pragmatic engagement" with Burma, an approach based on a principled combination of sanctions and engagement. But given the lost ground as a result of sanctions, the US needs to be flexible and open. It must be willing to accommodate Burma's political class and seek reform in a slow and sustained manner. The first step towards this should be normalisation of ties.
The preconditions for normalisation of ties are the issues of political prisoners, human rights violations and Burma's adherence to the UN non-proliferation requirements. The possibility of Burma going down North Korea's nuclear route is worrisome. Intense isolation leaves few friends and dependence on recalcitrant states like North Korea only pushes a country backwards.
Given the US' strong non-proliferation agenda, the nuclear technology issue will be a critical factor in pushing engagement. And political reforms and human rights may indeed become the camouflage under which hard security decisions are encouraged. To achieve this, the US will have to learn to balance on the fault-lines evident in the region, including hard-line posturing by China and its allies.
With Asean still playing a significant diplomatic role in maintaining regional peace through its informal approach, the tug of war on Burma will be crucial for the region. Given that the US has made significant headway in its policy shift, it would, perhaps, be best to let Burma be the Asean chair in 2014. The pace of political reform in Burma is painfully slow, but its engagement with the international community can act as a catalyst. The willingness of the Burmese government to be more open to international engagement, and therefore act responsibly when holding the Asean chair, may be the most effective restraining order

Dr Shankari Sundararaman is an associate professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the School of International Studies, JNU








Stiff opposition to the common seniority move by medicos from both Kashmir and Jammu regions has brought under focus subtle nuances of favouritism in the most sensitive services namely medical services. While the Valley-based medicos argue that the move was aimed at "favouring certain blue-eyed doctors", their Jammu counterparts say it was being done at the instance of a handful of clever and influential junior faculty members, who are trying backdoor entry into their home institutions where they could otherwise not got selected." Government's move to frame a common seniority list of doctors working in Government Medical Colleges in Srinagar and Jammu regions seems to have been made by a handful of influential persons connected to bureaucracy-ministry nexus to help their favourites get adjusted at locations of their choice. It is rather unbelievable that a Government should be functioning more in hegemonic manner than a democracy in which major decisions have to be taken collectively and not individually. When the career of thousands of medicos is involved, it is indefensible on the part of the Government to treat the issue as a private and kitchen-cabinet subject for arbitration. To recapitulate part of the background of this cynical move, it has to be reminded that to prevent de-recognition of medical colleges in the State the then State Government in 2007 had separated the seniority of the two colleges after careful discussion on the issue. This decision had put an end to the practice of litigation to which affected doctors were forced to resort in order to protect their rights. It stopped transferring the faculty from one GMC to another as none from Jammu wanted to go to Srinagar and vice versa for various reasons. The doctors hailed this step because transferring them from GMC in Jammu to GMC in Kashmir could cut both ways; it could be a special favour in some cases but at the same time a punitive step against unwanted others. The present coalition Government wants to reverse the decision of the then Government run by the Congress-led coalition. How come that Congress being the coalition partner of NC-led government now does not object to reversing a decision it had taken after due consideration in 2007?
Explaining the motivation behind the entire episode the President of Medical Teachers Association said that the common seniority is being drafted "at the instance of a handful of clever and influential junior faculty members, who are trying backdoor entry into their home institutions where they could otherwise not get selected. All of them had taken a conscious decision of applying through the J&K Public Service Commission for the vacant posts in these institutions. Some of them also took advantage of the reservation in particular institutions to get selected. This is how the Government is interested in making things complicated for the doctors and for it also. The consequences of a motivated action of the government should not be too difficult to visualize. The MTA has already hinted at the drastic response it might contemplate in case the Government persists with its motivated decision, a classical example of brazen favouritism. Therefore we would suggest the government not to precipitate matters but let status quo be maintained. If there are any genuine cases where transfer is desired on purely humanitarian grounds, the Government can find a way out. But generalization will cause great complicacy especially at a time when security and other issues have conditioned entire society in the region. Doctors should not be forced to take an extreme reactionary step like going on strike because it is the common man, the poor man, who is made to suffer by the Government that claims to be building a welfare state.






State Police have a glorious record of fighting terrorists in the State ever since armed insurgency surged in 1990. They have been performing a very difficult and dangerous job of taking on the terrorists who are much better armed in terms of sophisticated weaponry and training. Many policemen have attained martyrdom while defending the State and essaying for return of normalcy. They have been able to establish efficient surveillance and gather intelligence about the movement and hideouts of the terrorists who sneak in clandestinely. In the process our policemen and officers have received updated training in combating armed terrorism. Besides that, the State police have been put to another crucial test of containing the protesting mobs or stone throwing youth in large numbers. The police have met these challenges not as an oppressive but as a defensive force. Police have also given exemplary proof of cooperating with the security forces in containing armed insurgency. We know that among various tactics pressed into service by the terrorists and their mentors one is to malign the police and bring baseless charges against them of violation of human rights of the civilian population. In most of such cases, no charges leveled against the police have been proved. But cases of default have not been let go without punishment.
Having said that, we must make mention of the sacrifices the police have been making and the precious lives they have laid down in defending the country. Those who laid down their lives are all local policemen and officers most of them gunned down by mercenaries from across the border. The attacks of the adversaries on policemen and police stations have been frequent and fierce. This can have adverse effect on the morale of the police which the terrorists want to break. Thus we have some cases where either out of fear or because of some specific motivation some of the policemen have deserted their battalions and absconded along with guns and ammunition. In some cases, the absconding policemen have joined hands with the terrorists but were captured while fighting side by side with them. In a very recent case two Special Police Officers (SPOs) and an Ex-SPO were among four absconders apprehended by the police on Monday along with four AK rifles. They had fled away on 9th August along with their weapons. Earlier also such instances have happened. Having been caught alive, the law will take its natural course. But the point that we would wish to make is, first, no generalization has to be made of disloyalty of police force in the light of a couple of unsavoury incidents. And second, the police authorities should demonstrate more care and caution while make recruitment of fresh candidates in the police ranks. New and old both should be kept under close watch on their movements and ideological reach. This might necessitate inception of a watchdog mechanism over the police recruits for some reasonable time. Tryst with militancy has to be foiled at the very outset.







Lokpal is Devnagri language word of Scandinavian expression Ombudsman and Common Law terminology Parliamentary Commissioner, which when established cleansed the corrupt and maladministration ridden societies that eventually made those societies the developed societies of the world. These developed societies in the globe were not angels and free from the deceases of corruption, maladministration, abuse of office, nepotism, arbitrariness, bias, prejudices, favouritism, and fiefdom. They, too, were the victims of New Despotism. They suffered from 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'. Sweden (1809), Finland (1919), Denmark (1953), Norway (1963), New Zealand (1962), England (1966), Australia (1976), etc. have adopted this institution with the basic idea to control effectively the activities of, and prevent abuses by, public officials after it came to be realised that the existing procedures and mechanism for the purposes were hardly adequate and efficacious. The institution in these countries very strongly helped to redress individual grievances arising out of bad administration caused by corruption and corruptive practices. It was realised that it were not eccentric to observe that if there was more administration, there would be more maladministration, officialdom, fiefdom and corruption.
The societies that continue to perpetuate their survival in-office with the aid and AID of bad governance and corruption continue to exist with titles of developing and least developing countries in the world. The reasons and examples are not far to seek.
India realised the need of the institution of Lokpal as far back as 1960s with the introduction of the proposal by a jurist Dr. L.M. Singhvi at the Jaipur Congress session. The Administrative Reforms Commission in its report of 20 October 1966 advocated the adoption of a strong Ombudsman, because it felt it's imperative need since there was a widespread public suspicion of administrative corruption which has very much undermined public confidence in the administration and had extensively corroded its moral authority as well as image. The redressal of citizens' grievances through Lokpal will strengthen the hands of the government in administering the laws of the land, its policies without fear or favour, affection or ill-will and enable it to go up in public faith, confidence and image without which development would not be possible. The institution would be the genesis of good governance. The model suggested by the Commission was considered by the Lok Sabha but it somehow could not be carried out for the reasons best known to the politicians in office or out of office. However, the successive attempts to enact the Lokpal law in 1971, 1977, 1989, etc. proved abortive because of the 'soft State' attitude to the imminent issue. Be that as it may, the need for a strong system of Lokpal is inasmuch as imminent to meet the challenges of corruption in all walks of life as it existed earlier.
The present movement against corruption and bad administration of the "WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA" led by Anna Hazare is about an uneasy feeling where the process of departmental decision making is entirely closed to outside scrutiny, injustice might be done for which no redress --- political or administrative or legal --- is possible. In this context the present movement of the WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA is to improve the supervision of the administration at all levels, be that the governmental or private or education or hospital or corporate or all that adversely affect the citizens' life, liberty and dignity. Lokpal or Citizens' Defender or Peoples' Watchdog or Protector of Little man shall be known as a modern institution in the annals of administration to protecting the life, liberty and dignity of the Little man against the Big Government, her actions as well as deeds.
With diffidence, modesty and humility it is submitted that first of all India should now be a 'hard State' to the successful sustainability of democracy. Second, the Lokpal should include all public functionaries within its purview including the Prime Minister of the country without any exception. Law is the King of Kings; none is above law howsoever one high or low may be. Nation is first and then the individual. Third, all public institutions, either governmental or private or corporate, must be brought within the purview of the Lokpal, because corruption and bad administration is ubiquitous. Fourth, judiciary, too, should be under the scrutiny of Lokpal by making an additional Lokpal who should be responsible for "Judicial Accountability". Defence and law enforcement agencies should also be considered bringing them under the purview of Lokpal by creating an additional Lokpal. It means a multi pronged Lokpal is needed with multi pronged strategies. There is no denying the fact that it is the prerogative of the Parliament of India to enact the law in this perspective, but there should be no obsession to ignore the public opinion or conscientious public sentiments. The Parliamentarians should look at the movement not with a 'blame-game' gloss, since the public opinion is against the vile man. The Parliamentarians should take note of the prophetic words of Dr. Rajendra Prased : "... India needs today nothing more than a set of honest men who will have the interest of the country before them. It requires men of strong character, men of vision, men who will not sacrifice the interests of the country at large. ... Let us launch on this new enterprise with confidence, with truth and non-violence and above all with heart within and God over head". Let us move from degeneration to regeneration of anew renaissance of having a strong Lokpal, lest we may have to sing in melancholy:
"Khola Kafas To Taqate Parwaz Hi Nahin
Bulbul Tere Nasib Ko Sayyad Kya Kare"







The eloquence of Jawaharlal Nehru at the approach of the midnight hour of 15 August 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 Radhakrishna. 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 Jaya Prakash 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.
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 Dr Manmohan Singh although Mrs Gandhi is abroad for medical reasons, Rahul Gandhi is visible only at judicious moments and Dr Singh uses silence as tactical weapon. Anna Hazare has become a symbol in exactly the manner Jaya Prakash 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 15 August 1947.




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 !!!







Nearly quarter of a century after work began on the project aimed at integrating the revolt-torn territory and bolstering the supply route for troops deployed there, barely a quarter of the 345-km (215-mile) Kashmir track has been laid.
Tunnels collapsed, funds dried up and, faced with the challenge of laying tracks over the 11,000 foot (3,352 metre) Pir Panjal range, railway officials and geologists bickered over the route, with some saying it was just too risky.
The proposed train, which will run not far from the heavily militarised border with Pakistan, has also faced threats from militants fighting Indian rule in the disputed region, with engineers kidnapped in the early days of the project.
China's rail system has been plagued by scandal. A bullet train crash in July killed 40 people and triggered a freeze on new rail project approvals, but the country managed to build the 1,140-km (710-mile) Qinghai-Tibet line, which crosses permanently frozen ground and climbs to more than 5,000 metres above sea level, in five years flat.
It has also built bitumen roads throughout its side of the frontier, making it easier for Chinese troops to move around-and mass there, if confrontation ever escalates. Indians have long fretted about the economic advantages that China gains from its infrastructure expertise. But the tale of India's hardships in building the railway line also shows how China's mastery of infrastructure could matter in the territorial disputes that still dog relations.
Both train networks, China's running far to the north and India's hundreds of miles away in the southern reaches of the Himalayas, reflect the desire to tighten political and economic links with their two restive regions-the Tibet Autonomous region in China's case and Kashmir for India. But they would also form a key element of military plans to move men and armour in the forbidding region in a time of conflict.
Should India-China relations ever deteriorate to the verge of military confrontation and if riots in Tibet erupt, the People's Liberation Army's mountain brigades can rapidly deploy to the region. Railway and road construction have been China's Himalayan strategy for decades.
"China outstrips India in at least three respects: the ability to execute large and complex projects; rapid implementation; and-importantly-the foresight to embark upon these projects for economic and strategic purposes," said Shashank Joshi, at London's Royal United Services Institute, who has written extensively on India-China ties. He also said China was also more proficient at concealing its failures because of its closed political system and excellent information management.
On the other hand, India hasn't yet determined its priorities in the region, which shares borders with both Pakistan and China. "India has to decide what it wants to be. If integrating Kashmir is a top national priority, then the project should have moved on a war footing long ago," said one visibly exasperated military commander in Kashmir.
Here in the lower stretch of the line, workers are struggling to build tunnels through soft mountains to bring the track from the railhead in Udhampur, 25 km away. Of the seven they built over the past four years, one has collapsed and the other is seeping water. Now engineers have gone back to the drawing board to figure out an alternative route.
"That is the way the project has been undertaken. You tunnel and then you find it is not holding. You then try and skirt around it like a bypass surgery," said Chehat Ram, chief administrative officer of Northern Railway.
This is only the first of the tough stretches of the network that will run through some of the world's most spectacular mountains and gorges, offering an alternative to the single highway that connects Kashmir and is vulnerable to bad weather.
Bigger challenges lie further down the track, including building the world's tallest single-span bridge over the river Chenab at an elevation of 387 metres (1,270 feet), higher than the Eiffel Tower at 324 metres.
Across the valley floor are signs of the struggle to build a network that even the country's former British rulers gave up on after briefly considering it in 1898 because of the forbidding and often uninhabitable terrain.
A tunnel built into a cliff edge has been abandoned near Tikri in the lower section; at another place work has been stopped after workers found that the section in the hills they had blasted and drilled through had become waterlogged.
The train station built at Katra in anticipation of the line is looking worn out, with paint peeling off and moss growing on the building, two years after it was completed. Local herdsmen leave their ponies to graze in the grounds around the eerily empty building.
"People have lost their land, there are no jobs and there is no train," said Lal Chand, a herdsman. The deadline for completion of the project was August 2007, but it has been pushed back to 2017, and even that is seen as an optimistic assessment. Cost estimates have jumped, from 45.5 billion rupees ($1.0 billion) in 2002 to 195.6 billion today.
China, meanwhile, began work last year to build a rail spur that will connect the Tibetan capital of Lhasa with Shigatse, the monastery town that is the seat of the Panchen Lama, the second-most powerful figure in Tibetan Buddhism.
Joshi said China was in a position to bring far greater resources to public sector investment than India. For instance, Indian investment in railways in 2010 was about $9-10 billion. In China, it was $118 billion.
"If the Chinese had to build the Kashmir track, they'd do it faster and better than the Indians - but it might still fail, and they'd plough much more into it. For the hard-hatted men tasked with building the railway line, comparisons with China don't sit easily. "These mountains are full of surprises. Normally you would survey one to two kilometres and then, based on the results, extrapolate the geological pattern for the rest of the stretch, but here it changes every 50 metres," said chief engineer L. Prakash.
Most of the line runs either through tunnels totalling 109 km (68 miles), the longest of which is 11.4 km (7.1 miles), or across more than 780 bridges, many of which span deep gorges.
"The comparison with the Tibet railway is overstated. The Tibet line is largely flat, only 10 per cent passes through mountainous terrain and the rest is through plateau," said Northern Railway's Ram.
"It is not to belittle the challenges they faced. To build a network at that altitude and with those kinds of weather conditions is creditable. But the comparison doesn't stand. They had to do a lot less tunnelling, far fewer bridges." (INAV)


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





After spending Rs 550 crore on the renovation of the Bathinda thermal plant between 2001 and 2006 the Punjab government has decided to dismantle it. If the reason for the plant's closure is environmental pollution, as has been reported in the media, then the government may have to shut all other government-run thermal plants in the state too. According to the latest CAG report, all thermal plants in Punjab violate air/water pollution norms and operate without the consent of the Punjab Pollution Control Board. The coal-run thermal plants belch out fly ash, which is toxic and causes respiratory and eye troubles.


If the people of the area feel relieved by reports of thermal plant closure, their relief may be short-lived. Apart from the existing two thermal plants four more are being set up within a 50-km radius of Bathinda. The town is set to meet the fate of Uttar Pradesh's Singrauli, which has five thermal plants and fly ash released by them has made fertile land unfit for cultivation. Even if the private firms setting up the thermal plants in Punjab are forced to strictly follow the anti-pollution norms, which is unlikely given the flexible ways of governance, the concentration of so many thermal plants in such a small area is ill-advised.


In its zeal to nurture Bathinda, represented in the Lok Sabha by Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the myopic Badal family ruling the state keeps announcing projects for the area regardless of their long-term consequences. Clean energy sources are paid little attention, while private firms are handed over power projects without competitive bidding and disregarding the adverse effects on the environment. The viability of such plants is also in doubt. Due to shortage, coal prices are climbing and imports have become inevitable. As global oil prices soar and the cost of coal transportation escalates, will the power produced by private thermal plants be affordable to consumers? Will the state have to subsidise it? Experts need to discuss these issues.









It seems almost certain that the 42-year-old reign of Col Moammar Gaddafi in Libya has come to an end. The dictator is no longer in control of even the country's capital, Tripoli. There are different stories making rounds about his sudden departure from his palace in Tripoli. Rebel forces, with the backing of NATO air strikes, have captured most parts of Tripoli. The rebellion against the Gaddafi regime that began nearly six months ago has finally brought about the much desired regime change in this oil-rich North African nation. The fight by the rebel forces earlier appeared to be disorganised and not strong enough to bring down the dictatorship. But with large-scale defections from the government's forces, the rebels have now surprised everybody, though pockets of resistance from Gaddafi-loyalists still remain.


Col Gaddafi's son Saif Al-Islam, who had emerged as the real ruler after the rebellion broke out, is making claims in desperation. The rebels are receiving congratulatory messages from different Western capitals. Many Arab governments have also hailed the takeover of Tripoli by the anti-Gaddafi forces. Even the Arab League chief, Nabil Al-Arabi, extended his support for the efforts to capture power by the rebel organization, the National Transitional Council. Wherever Colonel Gaddafi is hiding, he should at least now accept the will of the people and call it quits. The problem, however, with him is that he has been so power-drunk all these years that he has never bothered about what people think of his rule.


The Arab Spring that has resulted in the dethronement of another Arab dictator — after Algeria and Egypt — poses a fresh challenge for Libya. How to run the country's affairs during the transition period — from now till a democratically elected government is formed — is going to be a difficult task. Rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil is being promoted by the West as the man who can be given the command of the new government. But that may not be as easy as it appears. More claimants for the top job in Libya may emerge soon. There is no democratic culture in the region. The West and the rest of the world must come to the rescue of the Libyans in their hour of crisis.
















In sports, defeats are routine, with somebody or the other bound to lose. But it is the competitiveness, the fighting spirit and the never-say-die attitude that draw spectators, reveal character and display skills. An improbable victory snatched from the jaws of defeat or losses by narrow margins stop hearts or fill them with unbounded joy. But the Indian cricket team's abject surrender to England in the Tests, barring the defiance by Rahul Dravid, showed neither talent nor temperament nor displayed any application or attitude. The comprehensive defeats in all the four Test matches, the first series defeat for Mahendra Singh Dhoni as skipper, also signalled the first whitewash for the Indian team in the last 11 years. Outplayed in all departments of the game, the Indian team and the Board of Control for Cricket in India ( BCCI) have, however, shown no inclination so far to own up responsibility for the pathetic show. Dhoni's own alibi have ranged from poor luck to injuries to 'too much cricket' while the BCCI is yet to utter a single word of remorse for precipitating the most humiliating series loss in recent years.


The Indian cricket fans will undoubtedly forget the nightmare of the Test matches if India were to win the ODI ( One Day International) series that follows. But nothing can absolve the BCCI and our 'crorepati cricketers' of unprofessional conduct . While the English team is openly discussing how their pre-series planning against the Indian team paid them rich dividends, the Indian team on the field has looked bereft of ideas. Many of them appeared unconcerned about the basics of the game and many an Indian fan would have flinched to see the Nawab of Nazafgarh standing at short mid-on with his hands in his pockets as the bowler approached the crease. Getting into the Tests with a solitary practice match and arriving in England barely a week before the series, the Indian team was clearly unprepared and unfit.


Sacking coaches and dropping players are the easiest options. But the BCCI is required to make both short-term and mid-term changes in its priorities and planning. It can make a beginning by identifying and grooming different sets of cricketers for the different versions of the game.









In an unusual outburst, China has for the first time publicly blamed Pakistan for the trouble in its Xinjiang province where around 20 people were killed in a flare-up a few days back. Even as the ISI chief, Lt.-Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was visiting China, the state-run Xinhua news agency lost no time in declaring that "initial probe has shown that the heads of the group had learned skills of making explosives and firearms in overseas camps of the terrorist group East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in Pakistan before entering Xinjiang to organise terrorist activities." It was a stinging indictment of an "all-weather friend" and the world duly took note of it.


China launched a major crackdown against Uighur Muslim separatists after massive riots in Xinjiang in 2009 between Han Chinese and minority Uighurs that resulted in the killing of almost 200 people in the region's capital, Urumqi. Xinjiang, China's Central Asian frontier bordering Pakistan, Afghanistan and Russia, has been a hot-bed of ethnic conflict and a sometimes violent separatist movement by Uighurs, who argue that they have been marginalised in their own land with the heavy influx of Han Chinese in the region. The Uighurs remain economically disadvantaged, suffering a long systematic policy of repression at the hands of the Chinese government. The fundamental causes of Uighur disaffection remain domestic and the tag of terrorism is merely employed by the Chinese government to provide a cover for their harsh policies.


Beijing has been pressing Pakistan to get a handle on ETIM militants for some time now, but so far it had refrained from raking this issue publicly. After all, Pakistan is a close ally of China and the two share a relationship that has been described as "higher than mountains and deeper than oceans."


Pakistan enjoys a multifaceted and deep-rooted relationship with China underpinned by mutual trust and confidence. Islamabad has prioritised close ties with China, and Beijing has provided extensive economic, military and technical assistance to Pakistan over the years. In fact, Pakistan enabled China to cultivate ties with the West, particularly the US, in the early 1970s, as Pakistan was the conduit for the then-US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger's landmark secret visit to China in 1971 and was instrumental in bringing China closer to the larger Muslim world.


Over the years China has emerged as Pakistan's largest defence supplier. The Pakistani nuclear weapons programme is essentially an extension of the Chinese one. This is perhaps the only case where a nuclear weapon state has given weapons-grade fissile material — as well as a bomb design — to a non-nuclear weapon state. China was perhaps the only major power that openly voiced support for Pakistan after Osama bin Laden's assassination in May by publicly affirming that "Pakistan has made huge sacrifices and an important contribution to the international fight against terrorism, that its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity must be respected, and that the international community should understand and support Pakistan's efforts to maintain domestic stability and to realise economic and social development." It is an openly stated Chinese policy that it would like to be an "all-weather strategic partner" of Pakistan.


To underscore its commitment, China has agreed, more recently, to provide Pakistan with 50 new JF-17 Thunder multi-role jets under a co-production agreement, even as negotiations continue for more fighter aircraft, including those with stealth technology. Despite this, Pakistan wanted more from China — underscored by its expressed desire to have China take over the operation of Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea, west of Karachi, in which China has invested heavily in recent years and which serves as an important role in the projection of China's naval prowess in the region. Two weeks after the Abbotabad raid that killed Bin Laden, the Pakistani Prime Minister was in China during which Pakistan's Defence Minister suggested that the port could be upgraded to a naval base for Chinese use. China, however, immediately rejected this offer, not wanting to antagonise the US and India with the formal establishment of a base in Pakistan.


It is in this context that China's latest public criticism of Pakistan should be viewed. China has for long not been sympathetic to the Indian concerns about the export of terrorism and extremism from the jihadist infrastructure in Pakistan, fully aided and abetted by the Pakistani state. Beijing did all it could to prevent the United Nations Security Council from declaring the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) as terrorist organisations. It was forced to change its position only after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008.


Today, the strategic realities in Af-Pak are undergoing a rapid change. China has a huge stake in the stability of the region, not only because it would like to use the economic opportunities in Afghanistan and the larger Central Asian region but also because the dangers of emboldened radical Islamists are as severe for Beijing as they are for New Delhi. Since ethnic rioting in 2009 in Xinjiang, Beijing has been especially wary of radical Islam filtering in from the Central Asian nations and Pakistan and Afghanistan. Amid worries about the potential destabilising influence of Pakistani militants on its Muslim minority in Xinjiang, China has started taking a harder line against Pakistan.


This presents a unique opportunity to India to make a case to China that building a moderate Pakistan is as much in Chinese interest as it is in India's. This will also test China's true intentions towards India. Recent Chinese posturing on elections in Arunachal Pradesh and revelations that China might have been behind the biggest global cyber attacks that targeted India along with a host of other nations point to trouble ahead for Sino-Indian ties. But the deteriorating regional security environment and the rising tide of Islamist radicalism might just force Beijing to change its course towards India. There is no harm in making one last try.


The writer teaches at King's College, London.








In current times life has been reduced to the level of a status update. Unless one constantly lets people know where one is and what one is up to, one could become totally irrelevant.


Thus the propensity of regulars on websites like Facebook to keep updating friends about their whereabouts (at times falsely) and their activities (mostly falsely) by the hour, or even by the minute. The level of these updates is often so outlandish that unsuspecting visitors to the site could come across a status like 'having a bath right now' and be suitably shocked.


'Out for golgappas' is an update that one saw recently, and one wondered what kinds of people eat golgappas in these risky monsoon days, while secretly feeling jealous of those who have the gumption to do so.


Others are more imaginative. 'Going for a movie alone…does anyone want to join me?' a young lad posted on his account recently, thereby drawing responses by the dozen from pretty-young-things who ended up having a cat-fight on the comments page before long. The boy seemed so much in demand that the house watched with bated breath as to who would win the argument. The lad himself seemed at a loss as to which contestant to choose as his date and maintained a discreet silence. No one knows whether and with whom he finally went for the film.


Some 'updaters' have great presence of mind, such as a journalist friend from Delhi who often comes up with imaginative updates and links them to the hot news of the day. He recently posted an update with a picture of his sumptuous breakfast spread, stating that while many people were going on fasts these days, he had absolutely no intention of joining them.


One middle-aged newcomer on Facebook got a rude shock last week when he updated his personal profile details and Facebook promptly declared that he was 'now married'. He has been the subject of much mirth and leg-pulling since then, with friends wondering why he'd got married again and how their 'bhabhi' of two decades was taking it!


Offline too, the demand for an update is compelling. Husbands, for example, have to update their better halves about their whereabouts a dozen times a day!


The walkers club at one of the parks has a rather drastic viewpoint. Most of its members are senior citizens and they have a hearty laugh at what the world has come to. They take life with a pinch of salt and even mock death itself. When they do not see a regular walker for a few days they wonder where he is. On such occasions one can even hear them remark: 'We didn't see his picture in the obit column either!'


Updating all and sundry on a regular basis is thus vital nowadays, else we may as well not exist!









The civil war in Libya went on longer than expected, but the fall of Tripoli came faster than was forecast. As in Kabul in 2001 and Baghdad in 2003, there was no last-ditch stand by the defeated regime, whose supporters appear to have melted away once they saw that defeat was inevitable.


While it is clear Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has lost power, it is not certain who has gained it. The anti-regime militiamen that are now streaming into the capital were united by a common enemy, but not much else. The Transitional National Council (TNC) in Benghazi, already recognised by so many foreign states as the legitimate government of Libya, is of dubious legitimacy and authority.


There is another problem in ending the war. It has never been a straight trial of strength between two groups of Libyans because of the decisive role of Nato air strikes.


The insurgents themselves admit that without the air war waged on their behalf — with 7,459 air strikes on pro-Gaddafi targets — they would be dead or in flight. The question, therefore, remains open as to how the rebels can peaceably convert their foreign-assisted victory on the battlefield into a stable peace acceptable to all parties in Libya.


Precedents in Afghanistan and Iraq are not encouraging and serve as a warning. The anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan won military success thanks, as in Libya, to foreign air support.


They then used this temporary predominance arrogantly and disastrously to establish a regime weighted against the Pashtun community.


In Iraq, the Americans — over-confident after the easy defeat of Saddam Hussein — dissolved the Iraqi army and excluded former members of the Baath party from jobs and power, giving them little choice but to fight.


Most Iraqis were glad to see the end of Saddam Hussein, but the struggle to replace him almost destroyed the country.


Will the same thing happen in Libya? In Tripoli, as in most oil states, the government provides most jobs and many Libyans did well under the old regime. How will they now pay for being on the losing side?


The air was thick on Monday with calls from the TNC for their fighters to avoid acts of retaliation. But it was only last month that the TNC's commander-in-chief was murdered in some obscure and unexplained act of revenge.


The rebel cabinet was dissolved, and has not been reconstituted, because of its failure to investigate the killing. The TNC has produced guidelines for ruling the country post-Gaddafi, which is intended to ensure that law and order should be maintained, people fed and public services continued.


It is far too early to know if this is a piece of foreign-inspired wishful thinking or will have some beneficial effect on developments.


The Libyan government was a ramshackle organisation at the best of times, so any faltering in its effectiveness may not be too noticeable at first. But many of those celebrating in the streets of Tripoli and cheering the advancing rebel columns will expect their lives to get better, and will be disappointed if this does 
not happen.


Foreign powers will probably push for steps towards forming a constituent assembly of some sort to give the new government legitimacy.


It will need to create institutions which Colonel Gaddafi largely abolished and replaced with supposedly democratic committees that, in effect, policed his quirky one-man rule. This will not be easily done.


Long-term opponents of the regime will find it difficult to share the spoils of victory with those who turned their coats at the last minute.


Some groups have been empowered by the war itself, such as the long-marginalised Berbers from the mountains south-west of Tripoli, who put together the most combat-effective militia. They will want their contribution to be recognised in any new distribution of power.


Libya does have several advantages over Afghanistan and Iraq. It is not a country with a large and desperate part of the population destitute and living on the margins of malnutrition. It does not have the same blood-soaked recent history as Afghanistan and Iraq.


For all the demonisation of Colonel Gaddafi over the last six months, his one-man rule never came near rivalling that of Saddam Hussein for savagery.


In Afghanistan and Iraq, the outside powers reacted to military success by overplaying their hands. They treated their opponents vindictively and assumed they had been defeated never to rise again. They convinced themselves that their local allies were more representative and effective than they really were.


It is in the heady moment of victory that the ingredients are created which produce future disasters. —The Independent


Out with the old, in with the new
The rebels


Mustafa Abdul Jalil: The former regime justice minister switched sides after seeing regime forces kill protesters. As head of the rebel leadership he faces a daunting task.


Mahmoud Jibril: The diplomatic chief is seen as someone with whom the overseas leaders can do business. He has visited Brussels to discuss post-war relations with EU.

Abdul-Hafiz Ghoga: The deputy leader of the council and a former Benghazi human rights lawyer who represented families of prisoners killed at a Tripoli jail 15 years ago.

The Gaddafi regime
Muammar Gaddafi

After 42 years in power, Muammar Gaddafi was never likely to go quietly. As rebel forces moved into Tripoli, he issued a final plea to his supporters to rally to his cause.

Saif al-Islam: Once seen as the likely successor, he played an increasingly prominent role during the uprising. He now faces charges of crimes against humanity.


Khamis: Youngest son and military leader, ran a tank-led rearguard action to defend the leader's compound. Recent reports suggested his body had been found.


Mohammed: The second son, with al-Saadi, to be detained by rebels, although last night he was reported missing. He tried to distance himself from the regime.


Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi: The Prime Minister was recently reported to be on Tunisian Island of Djerba. Why, and even if, he was there remained a mystery.


Abdullah al-Senussi: Intelligence chief who also faces war crimes charges. Last seen at the weekend blaming West for the destruction. Reports, unconfirmed, said he may have also died. 


Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah: The former interior minister slipped into Egypt to become the highest profile defector since ex-foreign minister Moussa Koussa.


Potential troubles ahead
A strong State


During his 42 years in charge, Muammar Gaddafi kept a tight grip on the political system and created an "institutional wasteland" says Middle East expert Professor Fawaz Gerges. The rebal leadership has been riven by its own disputes, including between the two most prominent military chiefs. One, Fatah Younes, was killed in murky circumstances in July, prompting the break-up of the rebel cabinet because of its failure to investigate properly.


The Islamists


Ideological differences exist between nationalists and Islamists in the anti-Gaddafi camp. Western intelligence officials reportedly expressed alarm about the rise of Islamism within the rebel leadership. Some fear that militant Islamists could exploit the security vacuum. The regime tried to exploit a split by saying it had stuck a deal with the Islamists to attack the other rebels, and that militants were behind the Younes killing.




With the destruction of the state, tribes and regional power-brokers have key roles to play in post-Gaddafi Libya. However, rebels in Misrata, the country's third city, have already refused to take orders from the Benghazi-based rebel leadership. And long-marginalised Berbers who swept down from the Nafusa mountains to take strongholds west of the capital will want their role recognised. Will the new institutions be strong enough to adjudicate disputes?








THE WORLD'S leading powers yesterday were scrambling to prevent the violent overthrow of the Gaddafi regime from descending into chaos, even as they to be handed out by a new government in Tripoli.


Last night Western diplomats had a host of concerns, ranging from how Colonel Muammar Gaddafi should be dealt with to post-revolution security and whether the rebel alliance, represented by the Transitional National Council (TNC), would hold together now that its immediate and unifying goal has been achieved.


The TNC, said President Obama, should avoid civilian casualties and pursue a transition to democracy that was "just and inclusive" for all of the people of Libya. A season of conflict, he said, "must lead to one of peace".


In London, David Cameron warned of "undoubtedly difficult days ahead" but said that ordinary Libyans were "closer to their dream of a better future".


But signs of disagreement over the fate of Colonel Gaddafi were an early hint of possible problems. Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations secretary general, insisted that all UN member countries (of which Libya is one) should comply with the decisions of the International Criminal Court. The ICC has issued arrest warrants for Colonel Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and Abdullah al-Senussi, his head of intelligence — who was last night reported dead — for crimes against humanity. But the rebels, who have captured Saif and possibly two other Gaddafi sons, indicated that they should face trial in Libya, before a Libyan court. Later, Saif escaped.


Similar tensions may emerge over a transitional role for the UN as a new government is installed. While some Western countries might favour such a step, Mansour Saif al-Nasr, the rebel movement's spokesman in Paris, ruled out suggestions that a UN force should provide security on the ground, as well as humanitarian aid in the coming weeks.


Some of these issues could be settled at an international meeting next week of the Western "contact" powers on Libya, to be attended by top TNC figures, announced by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, which along with Britain led the Nato air support operations for the rebels.


Hardly less pressing is the reconstruction effort that will be needed after months of fighting that has caused considerable infrastructure damage and reduced the flow of oil from Libya, the world's 12th largest exporter, to a trickle. Resources will be available — the World Bank says it will quickly resume involvement with Libya, while Britain and Germany were among countries promising to unfreeze tens of billions of dollars in assets held by the old regime, to help a new government to establish order and revive the economy.


Italy, Libya's former colonial power and largest trading partner, has meanwhile sent a team to the rebels' "capital" of Benghazi to work on plans to restore oil and natural gas production to pre-war levels. The Italian energy group ENI is the largest foreign producer in Libya.


But international competition to secure a foothold in the new Libya is likely to be intense, involving not only the traditional industrial powers but also China, which has already moved to bolster its oil and raw material supplies in deals with other African countries.


—The Independent









After all that hullabaloo over pregnancy clauses and breach of contract, it now appears that Aishwarya Rai's impending motherhood is a miraculous stroke of luck for filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar. He might be reshooting his film following a forced delay and hiatus, but the new actress aboard the film could not be better cast – even if she's charging a bomb. In fact, that dramatically large payday merely strengthens her case for being the best woman for the job.


Not just does Kareena Kapoor become India's highest paid actress with a paycheck substantially larger than her peers for the upcoming Heroine, but she has negotiated her way into a significant profit-sharing deal with UTV. This makes her the first Indian actress to do so – only the Khan triumvirate and, occasionally, Akshay Kumar, it is heard – ask for a cut of the proceeds. Reportedly being paid Rs 6.4 crore straight-up plus profits, means Bebo will be pocketing quite a phenomenal chunk of change, even if the film only does moderately well.
    Clear the throne, seat-warmer, Kapoor's back where she belongs.


Or, at least, where she believes she belongs: which really is more than half the battle won. Kareena sauntered into Bollywood as if she was meant to take over, a natural successor to a legacy her illustrious khandaan left her. Wrapped in a self-contained perpection of entitlement might not be the healthiest or sanest approach to life, but – if and only if – you have shoulders big enough to support a delusion that large, you indeed believe in your own magic and, abracadabra, you're it.


Over the years, Kareena has indeed honed herself as an actress, but that's not at all uncommon: in an industry tragically starved of fresh on-screen talent, most youngsters learn on the job. What Kareena brought to the mix was extreme confidence, albeit perhaps coming from misguidedly premature conviction of being the best in the biz even without knowing the biz. That cocksure superstar swagger, mostly seen in the men of the megastar species, coupled with her often-ethereal looks, made for a woman positively committed to glamour. And the thicker she poured it on, the better she worked it.
    She's a star in the same way as, say, Salman Khan: constantly larger than life, hits and flops holding little sway on the public perception or star value, and someone who owns the room and is visibly proud of doing so. Her screen presence is extraordinary, and while Sallu's given up even pretending to try at acting, she's a very capable performer indeed. It's just that her strengths as an actress – spontaneity, candour, vulnerability, expressiveness – all often get overshadowed by the way she blossoms under the spotlight. I'd suspect she doesn't mind at all, so long as the hoardings look gorgeous enough. And, naturally, large enough.

Fitting, then, that Khan plays Bodyguard to her next week. And even more appropriate that Bhandarkar, who titles movies with an awe-inspiring lack of ingenuity – labelling them in a word or so to indicate just what facet of the obvious stereotype he will next exploit – has Kareena as his Heroine.




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With all the domestic preoccupations this week, few in India are paying attention to momentous developments in West Asia and North Africa (WANA). With the siege of Tripoli by rebel forces, aided by European powers, the bell tolls for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. In Syria, the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) initiative to prevent a Libya-like attack and secure political change through peaceful means is now facing new obstacles. Having ensured a change of regime in Libya, after Egypt, the West may well focus on Syria. India has had long-standing good relations with Libya and Syria, but neither is of great strategic importance to India today. Rather, the Arab nations of the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other Gulf states, matter more for India from a purely economic (oil and remittances) as well as a strategic perspective. This part of the Arab world remains relatively stable for now.

India also has important strategic relations with Israel, a country that must now behave with greater maturity given that the regional balance may be shifting in its favour. Libya is not an important source of oil for India, but people-to-people relations between India and Libya have remained good and strong and the Indian government must move quickly to ensure that good relations are established with the new regime in Tripoli. China has been fleet-footed, since its dependence on Libyan oil is higher than India's. A spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Office said on Tuesday, "The Chinese side respects the choice of the Libyan people." India has maintained silence till now. Libya accounts for about 2.2 per cent of global crude oil production, while Syria's share is just about 0.5 per cent. Libya is the 11th largest source of oil imports into China but is an insignificant supplier to India with a share of just about 0.5 per cent in Indian crude oil imports. India has diversified its oil import sources in recent months, buying more from Venezuela, Iraq and Nigeria, apart from the traditionally more important sources in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

In the end, for India the main concern over the situation in Libya and Syria is less about direct oil supplies and more about oil prices and overall economic activity in the region. If Libyan oil exits the world market in the near term, as a consequence of the instability that is likely to follow Mr Gaddafi's final exit and the inevitable regime change, global crude supplies will be hit. This would push the prices up in the near term, till new supplies can be secured. Apart from this, the continued turmoil in West Asia will hurt overall construction and other economic activity in the region, impacting inward remittances of dollars from Indians working there. All of this could push oil prices up at a time when India remains under pressure on the inflation front and its current account deficit is rising once again. Indian diplomacy in the region has vacillated between hesitant support for popular uprisings and the desire not to rub Arab opinion up the wrong way. It is in India's interest to take a long-term view of its geo-economic stake in good relations with the Arab world and adopt meaningful postures that serve her immediate and long-term economic and strategic interests.






The recent decision by the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) to free urea prices and bring urea under the nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) regime should have been taken along with the decontrol of phosphatic and potassic fertilisers in April 2010, if not earlier. In fact, the process of switching over to the well-conceived NBS system has been inconclusive without urea being covered in it. As a result, most of the key objectives of this move have remained unmet. These include promoting balanced application of plant nutrients to preserve soil health, encouraging production of innovative and situation-specific fertiliser products, rationalising fertiliser subsidy and attracting fresh investment in this sector. Surprisingly, though most of the ministries concerned – including those of agriculture and finance – favoured extending NBS to urea, the main administrative ministry, the fertiliser ministry, continued to have misgivings about it. Its main worry was that it would lead to an abnormal rise in farm gate rates of urea which might hurt farmers. However, the fact is that the rise in prices, though inevitable, would not be unreasonable since the government is not abandoning the policy of subsiding fertilisers to keep retail prices lower than the production cost. The EGoM has now decided to allow a maximum of 10 per cent increase in urea prices in the first year of decontrol, after which firms would be free to fix prices in a competitive market. For calculating subsidy under NBS for urea units using different feedstock and of varying vintage, the committee of secretaries, headed by Planning Commission member Saumitra Chaudhuri, has suggested a useful formula to the government.

However, decontrolling urea prices is only the first step in the urea sector reform. To take this process to its logical end, the government will have to address the issue of supply and pricing of gas for fertiliser production and draw up a policy to end the nearly decade-old drought of fresh investment in capacity addition. The Saumitra Chaudhuri committee report can be useful for this purpose. One suggestion that merits consideration is notional pooling of natural gas prices. This will ensure contracted prices for the public and private sector gas suppliers and a uniform feedstock cost for a level playing field for all urea units, regardless of their technology and age. The uncertainty about sustainable gas availability at reasonable prices has, in fact, been one of the reasons for the failure of the government's 2008 investment policy to attract fresh funding in this sector. Of course, there have been concerns about the implementation of the policy on parity pricing for imported urea. Since urea is a highly capital-intensive industry, investors seek assured and adequate gas availability and reasonable returns. For this, the new and expansion projects may also need some fiscal sops, such as infrastructure status or a tax holiday or concessions for the first few years. Addressing these issues would help reduce India's import dependence in urea.






Bismarck famously said of the United States that it had managed to "surround itself on two sides with weak neighbours and on the other two sides with fish". India, unfortunately, does not enjoy this luxury of splendid isolation: instead of fish it has Pakistan on one side and China on the other, a China that is on the verge of becoming economically dominant, sharing that status with the United States for now and enjoying it exclusively in the near future.

The India-China relationship is fraught, having to contend with a number of things: the mutual resentment created by history (India's stemming from its humiliation in the 1962 war and China's from having to endure the Dalai Lama's flight to, and long-term exile in, India); tensions of contiguity; anxieties of a hierarchical geography with upstream China controlling downstream India's access to possibly the most precious of all future resources — water; and the unavoidable rivalries of large growing economies competing for markets, commodities and seats at the high table of global decision making.

Goldman Sachs, in creating the grouping BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China), thought that the common denominators of size and promising growth prospects could somehow wish away or at least dilute these complications and create common purpose and interest. Alas, that will not be the case. So, a strategic question for India is: how should it respond in the economic arena to a dominant China?

On the one hand, trade and economic relations between China and India are intensifying, creating opportunities for both countries and mutually reinforcing stakes, and imparting a positive-sum dynamic to the relationship. On the other hand, the economic relationship is seen, politically, as increasingly imbalanced. India runs a large and growing trade deficit with China, and the pattern of trade is reminiscent of trade during the days of empire. India exports predominantly raw materials to China and imports high-value-added and sophisticated goods.

Indian industry and government officials have complained about China's policies on trade, industry, foreign direct investment and exchange rate that aid, often opaquely, Chinese industry and exports. China's government procurement policies have impeded Indian pharmaceutical exports and the fear is of a large China using its size to create and set standards (for example, for telecommunications equipment) that others have no choice but to follow. Not just the content but even the tone of these complaints can resemble the emanations from the China hawks in the United States.

India, like China's other major trading partners, has to grapple with the question of how much it should engage with China bilaterally and how much multilaterally. India's dilemma is that its negotiating strength in a bilateral context is limited owing to the stark imbalance in economic size, yet it is unable to embrace multilateralism as conviction, preferring a reluctant and opportunistic multilateralism that can end up as ineffective multilateralism. Why the latter?

India has been a habitual naysayer in its multilateral dealings. It was a "sovereignty hawk", in Strobe Talbott's famous words, trying its best to minimise having to do what it would otherwise not want to do. In the trading system, for example, India lobbied hard and strong over the past three decades to preserve the right to protect its economy through tariffs and quotas. Sovereignty, in this arena, was equivalent to the freedom to protect or prevent the imposition of rules and obligations that would deprive India of this freedom. Of course, this objective, in turn, flowed from an economic ideology that initially viewed liberalisation and market opening as unhelpful to India's interests, and later, when it recognised the benefits of liberalisation, it still viewed it as something to be undertaken at India's pace and on India's terms rather than have it dictated by outsiders.

But if India was a naysayer, it was one with a following with the old G77 serving as a forum for India to intellectually lead, and speak on behalf of, several developing countries. Leading this pack became a habit, a mindset, even an entitlement.

In recent years, as India's ideological moorings have shifted, it has been able, although gradually and episodically, to back away from playing the recalcitrant partner, stymieing efforts at international cooperation (Jairam Ramesh's constructive role in the climate negotiations at Cancun is one example). But its officials have been less able to renounce the mantle of leadership, and hence less willing to join multilateral coalitions where leadership is shared or even sacrificed. In short, it has been easier to repudiate ideology than to spurn the spotlight.

As a result, India finds itself in an interesting situation. For example, in discussions on China's exchange rate policy, India has chosen not to align itself with the United States as part of a multilateral coalition for fear of endangering the broader relationship with China ("we live in a rough neighbourhood" is India's response with some merit), and because it believes that the United States can "handle" China alone without India's participation. The consequence, of course, is the classic free rider problem where all countries that think similar contribute to the breakdown of co-operation.

Even where the need for forging coalitions is recognised, the Indian instinct is still to seek out developing country partners such as South Africa, Brazil, or Indonesia rather than the United States and Europe.

If China is to be tethered to the multilateral system – an imperative for countries such as India against an unbenign exercise of future Chinese dominance – India must become part of the effort to forge successful coalitions that will strengthen multilateralism. Going forward, the United States cannot do it alone. Coalitions must be broad and require easy engagement between the old powers and emerging ones. Thus, India must become a visceral multilateralist which would entail coming to terms with a demotion in status and require reaching out to all partners, not just erstwhile comrades in the G77.

The appealing symmetry in future efforts to engage China is to induce a greater humility in both the United States and India. The United States will have to spurn the temptation – rather shed the delusion – that it can exercise exclusive leadership and dominance in shaping outcomes. India will have to stop coveting the mantle of leadership and instead participate in multilateral co-operation as an important but humble drone rather than as the queen bee.

The author is senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics and Centre for Global Development.
This piece is based on his forthcoming book,

Eclipse:Living in the Shadow of China's Economic Dominance








The government's decision yesterday to nominate Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as its chief negotiator to hold talks with Anna Hazare should expedite an early resolution of the stalemate over the Lok Pal Bill. However, the decision is also likely to trigger a question that would surely embarrass the top leadership of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Why did it appear that the government dragged its feet over using the services of Pranab Mukherjee, the UPA's most experienced politician and administrator, to defuse the crisis caused by the Hazare agitation?

Indeed, since the arrest of Mr Hazare on August 16 and the order of his release the same evening, several key ministers in the UPA government appear to have gone into hiding. Until August 16, you could watch them on television and read about their views in newspapers. No longer, after the government committed its biggest blunder in recent times — by first facilitating Mr Hazare's arrest, then realising its mistake and ensuring the order for his release in less than 24 hours.

Even before the August 16 fiasco, the role of some UPA ministers had become intriguing. None of the ministers belonging to the non-Congress alliance partners associated themselves with the government in its bid to tackle the Hazare challenge. Trinamool Congress leaders stayed away from such consultations, barring a statement from Mamata Banerjee extending support to the prime minister. So did the Nationalist Congress Party leaders. Leaders of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam had already become quiet after the arrest of one of its ministers in the UPA government. The message that came out loud and clear from this was that the Congress alone, and none of its alliance partners, would come together to respond to the Hazare movement against corruption. 

That was the first stage where the Congress became isolated within the UPA. This was ironic because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had earlier attempted to rationalise irregularities, particularly in the 2G telecom scandal, by claiming that these arose out of the compulsions of keeping an alliance government intact. Indeed, charges of corruption were levelled primarily against ministers belonging to the non-Congress coalition parties.

Within the Congress, a few ministers experienced a different kind of isolation. Mr Mukherjee appeared to have withdrawn himself from such issues ever since he came under criticism for having gone to New Delhi airport to meet the yoga guru, Ramdev. The idea of that meeting was to persuade Ramdev against holding his agitation against a host of issues including corruption at the Ramlila grounds in New Delhi. That was a risky move. If he had succeeded, nobody in the Congress or outside would have raised an eyebrow. In politics, failure is an orphan. Thus, Mr Mukherjee had to eat humble pie.

In contrast, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Telecom and Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal had emerged as the new stars of the Congress. Law enforcement agencies used force to throw out the followers of Ramdev from the Ramlila grounds at night. The police later apprehended Ramdev while he tried to run away from the venue of the agitation and packed him off to Hardwar. That was the end of Ramdev's campaign against the government.

Mr Hazare posed a different and more formidable challenge. The Congress leadership made a big mistake by assuming that it could handle Mr Hazare the same way it took care of Ramdev. His arrest on August 16 changed the contours of the debate. The popular mood turned against the government not so much for the issues concerning the Lok Pal Bill as for the manner in which Mr Hazare was arrested for merely threatening to violate the police orders. It goes to the credit of the team behind Mr Hazare that it lost no time in exploiting that opportunity to the hilt, helped in large measure by the UPA government of Manmohan Singh which seemed to be bereft of ideas to tackle the Hazare challenge.

It was not just Pranab Mukherjee, several other senior Congress leaders may have felt the same way. What use did the government make of A K Antony, defence minister and a member of the core group of the Congress party? Neither Mr Mukherjee nor Mr Antony could be seen explaining the government's position on the matter. The irony is that the Congress has many stalwarts who could effectively present the party's case on the Lok Pal Bill. There is Veerappa Moily, Salman Khurshid and Jairam Ramesh, just to name a few. However, the manner in which the Manmohan Singh government functioned seemed to suggest that it had become a ruling alliance without leaders. Only from yesterday did it appear that the government indeed had these ministers at its disposal to defend and explain its position on the issue.

One explanation of such listless, and often rudderless, government functioning could be the absence of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who is abroad recuperating from an illness. Remember that the Hazare challenge is perhaps the biggest the UPA has faced in its entire seven-year long history and Ms Gandhi is not around to advise the government. If that indeed is the case, then the Congress is in deep crisis and Sonia Gandhi must be having sleepless nights.








Ardent admirers of the Supreme Court will credit it with starting three revolutions in the past three decades. In the 1980s the public interest litigation (PIL) movement opened the doors of the court to every citizen, especially those who could not reach it due to poverty, illiteracy or backwardness.

Around the same time, the court sowed the seeds of citizens' right to know in a few judgments, asserting that sunlight is the best disinfectant. This led to the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The third wave, the creation of an anti-corruption mechanism, also germinated in the court room, when the hawala cases, the 2G scam and other mega swindles led to momentous orders.

Like all revolutions, they have a tendency to overshoot themselves and lead to unintended results. PIL has grown into a wild bush and the courts are now trimming its branches and punishing interlopers and frivolous petitioners. Last week, the Supreme Court found that the right to information was also going too far. In a judgment, Central Board vs Aditya, the court stated that "this cherished right is intended to be a formidable tool in the hands of responsible citizens to fight corruption and to bring in transparency and accountability."

However, it warned that indiscriminate and impractical demands or directions for disclosure of all and sundry information (unrelated to transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities and eradication of corruption) would be counter-productive as it will adversely affect the efficiency of the administration and result in the executive getting bogged down with the non-productive work of collecting and furnishing information. The Act should not be allowed to be misused or abused, to become a tool to obstruct national development and integration, or to destroy the peace, tranquillity and harmony among its citizens. Nor should it be converted into a tool of oppression or intimidation of honest officials striving to do their duty.

"The nation does not want a scenario where 75 per cent of the staff of public authorities spends 75 per cent of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties. The threat of penalties under the RTI Act and the pressure of the authorities under the RTI Act should not lead to employees of public authorities prioritising 'information furnishing', at the cost of their normal and regular duties," the court said

Last year, the court dismissed an appeal in which a litigant who lost his property suit in all courts below wanted information as to why and for what reasons the judges had come to their decision against him. "A judge is not bound to explain later on for what reasons he had come to such a conclusion," the judgment in Khanapuram vs Admn Officer said.

Some high courts also receive petitions that seek irrelevant information or to settle scores against public officials. One case was decided by the Delhi High Court recently in which the judgment opened with a lament on the "maladroit manner in which a beneficial legislation and judge-made law" was used to mortify a deputy commissioner of the municipal corporation. In this case, Paardarshita Public Welfare Foundation vs Union of India, a non-government organisation sought information on the official's alleged sexual disorders, DNA test, hospital records on alleged piles and sterilisation surgery. This was only half of its litany of demands.

The high court dismissed its application with costs, which will go to the benefit of the Blind Relief Association. The judgment stated that the petition was "beyond the perception of decency and in fact invasion of privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution. It is a reflection of extreme vengeance proclivity and is in bad taste and definitely would not come within the realm of the RTI Act."

The Supreme Court judgment last week dealt with the right of examinees to access their evaluated answer-sheets. The court held that students have a right to see their answer sheets because it is "information". It is not in the protected category listed in the Act. The Calcutta High Court had also taken the same view before in this appeal case.

However, the Jharkhand High Court has a different take on this. In its recent judgment, Jharkhand PSC vs State of Jharkhand, it ruled that it was dangerous to disclose evaluated answer-sheets. The information will reveal the names of the examiners, supervisors and others associated with the process of the examination. It will "endanger the life and physical safety of such persons."

The Chhattisgarh High Court also upheld the decision of the information officer not to supply answer sheets of police constables participating in departmental promotion. The high court stated that the disclosure would be harmful to the competitive position of other candidates. The Patna High Court in another recent case stated that the names of members of the interview board to recruit police lab assistants could be disclosed, but their photographs or residential addresses should not be disclosed. The high court judges seem to know the ground situation in their territory better than the Supreme Court brethren, who have their heads apparently in the clouds.







From sampling to surveying to estimating, the the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) continues to use methods that are consistent across time. However, the economic structure is changing and so is the proclivity of Indian households to respond to surveys. Methods that were developed in the past will not work as well now, and these methods need to change. The changes will require innovative practices that will need to be developed not just in research institutions such as the Indian Statistical Institute, but also within the Central Statistical Organisation and NSSO.

Take sampling, which requires the survey agency to randomly choose from all households in the country. But in an era where temporary and permanent migration is rampant, the base data need to be updated very frequently. Such updated data do not exist all the time. The Census develops a universal list every 10 years that gets dated even before it is released. The Election Commission's list is supposed to be close to universal, but in practice rarely is. Unique Identification (UID) will have universal coverage after many years. In the past when the numbers were smaller, it was easier to overlook this problem, but now it is much more serious.

Are there solutions? Yes there are, and we need to identify such possibilities and develop new methods that incorporate them. Take remote sensing data, which can help us identify where new habitations are coming up on a real-time basis. The triangulation of mobile usage can help us identify the major centres of mobile usage and consequently human presence. Admittedly, methods may not currently exist to use such information, but the tools of collecting such information do exist, and new methods can be developed.

The need for having a lot of information has led to a very large questionnaire that can take hours to respond to and consequently many households refuse. Detailed item-by-item queries running into thousands are impossible for anyone to recall and respond to. Respondents, rich or poor, who have other more important things to do, will obviously refuse or fudge. Some researchers reward households for taking the time to respond. Yet other methods involve multiple questionnaires with one set of queries that are asked of all households, and other questions asked to only some households. Econometric methods then can be used to help generate a common set of estimates. These are just some among many experiments that need to be tried.

Policy-makers love the five-yearly large sample surveys that have greater than 100,000 respondents. The annual "small sample" surveys of as many as 40,000 or 50,000 respondents are rarely used. Why? Because 50,000 households is considered a small sample. Time and again, basic statistics has shown that you don't need such a large sample. And increasing sample size beyond a few thousands does not generate significantly better estimates. People who have directly managed large surveys will tell you that the larger the sample size, the tougher it is to maintain quality. Large surveys requires large teams, greater monitoring and control, and there are control losses across each hierarchical level. In other words, large samples typically have lower data quality than small samples when you are in the range of tens of thousands. (Of course we cannot obtain dis-aggregated estimates, for instance, at the sub-state level, but currently we have a problem at the all-India level. Let's solve that problem first.)

In other words, we should try to reduce the sample size as much as is possible. And the resources so saved need to be put into ensuring better quality sampling, questionnaires, responses and methods to convert those responses into estimates.

To underscore the same point, currently the small sample surveys generate results that vary greatly year on year, poverty being one example. That is obvious. There are millions of people in very close vicinity of the poverty line, and so small changes in the poverty line can have a very large impact on poverty. The yearly fluctuation in estimates of poverty is natural and not necessarily a flaw in the underlying data-generating process. But even if there is a problem in that process, it is that process that needs to be strengthened.

A related aspect is on price index and inflation estimates. Good and timely inflation estimates are required not just for monetary policy purposes but also for estimating poverty. Collection of price data of a predefined set of commodities is among the easiest data collection tasks. But we have a large number of items that are not updated regularly, there are missing data, and reported prices do not appear to be in line with the ruling prices. In short, the problem is the same — we need to invest in control and monitoring of this system.

But there is an additional problem. The government already collects masses of information that is just not used. The ministry of corporate affairs collects company financials, the ministry of commerce collects information on exports and imports but only releases highly aggregated numbers many months after collection, the Provident Fund organisation collects data on employment, the Reserve Bank of India on credit and deposits and so on. But these data are either not used, or released with such a major time lag that not much can be done to feed into policy. The Census also makes it impossible for unconnected researchers to access its raw data. All of this data can help cross-check, calibrate, and fine-tune the data being generated on the Indian economy by other arms of the government.

Finally, the data collection machinery needs to go back to its roots and reconnect with the era where innovation ruled and highly structured administrative mechanisms had not killed initiative. The best minds entered such organisations, were mentored, and they created something unlike anywhere else in the world. We can do it now if we could do it in the past.

Concluded. The first in this series "Wanted: New ways to figure the facts" appeared on August 6. And the second part "Mis-reading the numbers" appeared on August 13








 As you sow, so must you reap' might sound like an old-world saying far removed from the modern world of banking. But some truths are eternal. So public sector banks (PSBs) are, perhaps, realising! Having lent aggressively at the government's behest to shore up the economy in the aftermath of the 2008 global crisis, the chickens are now coming home to roost! Gross nonperforming assets (NPAs) have already risen in the last quarter on a quarter-on-quarter basis and if, as feared, there is a slowdown in the growth momentum, could rise further. The country's largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) has seen its NPAs grow to 3.52% in the last quarter against 3.14% on a quarter-on-quarter basis. It is not alone. In contrast, private sector banks are sitting pretty. Unlike their public sector brethren, they were able to use their commercial judgment (read, be conservative in their lending during the downturn). It is no surprise, therefore, that the problem of rising NPAs is largely limited to PSBs. Nonetheless, given their dominance in the banking sector, the overall level of NPAs is bound to increase as rising interest rates and increasing input costs take their toll. Add to that the prospect of a slowdown in GDP growth — the baseline projection is now 8.2% compared to 8.5% in the previous year — and you have a recipe for a further increase in NPAs. Inevitably, the Bankex (stock market index of banks' shares) has fallen more than Sensex, reflecting fears that banks will be relatively more severely affected by any slowdown in growth.

The good news, however, is that despite the rise in NPAs, Indian banks, including PSBs, are in a far better shape than a few years ago. Part of the credit must go to prudent provisioning as a result of which the rise in net NPAs (gross NPAs less provision) is far less alarming than in gross NPAs. And part, to helpful tweaking of the definition of NPAs! In the coming months, if banks continue to feel the crunch, the RBI might be tempted to indulge in more such tweaking. But that would be unwise. It would be better, by far, if the government were to allow PSBs to function on commercial lines in the first instance, instead of resorting to smoke and mirrors later.







 Though initial reports about the fall of Tripoli and the arrest of Colonel Gaddafi's sons appear presumptuous, and fighting has flared up with pockets held by forces loyal to Gaddafi still resisting the rebels, it appears as if the endgame in the Libyan conflict has arrived. The stunning entry of opposition forces into Tripoli — given that at one point the war seemed like it would turn into a stalemate with even the unsavoury prospect of a divided country looming — heralds another historic moment in the Arab world, which has seen sweeping rebellions against seemingly unassailable authoritarian regimes. The best option even now, to avoid further bloodshed, would be for Gaddafi and his sons to accept the revolution and either surrender or seek an exit. Failing that, the task before the opposition Transitional National Council would be to ensure, once Tripoli is under its control, that a functional government takes shape and no reprisals are carried out against the Gaddafi regime's supporters and his clan members. The problem in Libya is that it is a much more clan/tribe-based society than, say, Tunisia or Egypt. But it is hoped the opposition, which steadfastly refused international military presence on the ground — though undeniably aided by air support from western nations — will soon proceed with the much-needed establishment of political parties, institution-building and national reconciliation.
It was clear that the eccentric and, in recent times, increasingly irrational Gaddafi regime would not give up easily. But what seems to have undone it was a sort of mass uprising within Tripoli as the opposition forces streamed in. Also, apart from the fact that Libyan diplomats and politicians had defected in droves, members of the regime's army also seem to have deserted regularly. It is to be hoped that violence would end quickly. And it will be immensely heartening for the entire Arab world if a country that was run like a familial-tribal fiefdom transforms into a democratically functioning state. India must welcome the end of the Gaddafi regime and do what it can towards making that democratic state a reality.







When the senior Supreme Court judge Justice Altamas Kabir checked in at the official Kumara Krupa Guest House in Bangalore on the night of August 5, an attendant directed him to an ordinary room instead of the VVIP suite allotted to him. Justice Kabir, who had come to preside over the convocation of the prestigious National Law School University of India in his capacity as the NLSUI chancellor, had opted to stay at the state guest-house instead of at a five-star hotel. However, the room he got at Kumara Krupa was shabby, the bedsheets were stained and the toilet-towels torn. The next morning when the matter was brought to the notice of Karnataka Chief Justice J S Kehar, the state chief secretary SV Ranganath and another senior official rushed to the guest-house and ensured that Justice Kabir was shifted to the VVIP room.

But questions remain to be answered. While four staffers, including the attendant at the reception, have been suspended, shouldn't action also be taken against those senior officials who are responsible and accountable for the behaviour of their subordinates? The other question is whether the basic standards of cleanliness should be missing from the non-VVIP rooms in state guest-houses. This incident, coming as it does in the wake of the Lokayukta report on the major mining scam in Karnataka, further highlights the extent to which standards of administration have deteriorated. In the good old days, the then Diwan of the princely state of Mysore, Sir M Visvesvaraya, refused to use the office pen and stationery for personal work even when he was touring on official duty and staying in the state guest-houses. The region has since been transformed into India's Silicon Valley but standards of governance have sadly plummeted!






The story of India's march to socialism between 1969 and 1976 under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi offers an interesting parallel (and contrast) to the last seven years. Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who succeeded Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964, unexpectedly died in January 1966. The Congress party bosses, known as the Syndicate, chose lightweight Mrs Gandhi over rival Morarji Desai in the hope of continuing to rule the country by proxy.

In the February 1967 elections, the Congress fared poorly, winning just 283 out of 516 seats in the Lok Sabha. Morarji Desai won his seat with substantial following in the new Parliament. This forced the Syndicate and Mrs Gandhi to accept a compromise whereby Desai became deputy prime minister and finance minister. A group of radical socialists, loosely organised under the Congress Forum for Socialist Action, had been active within the Congress since the late 1950s but without influence on policy. So long as he was Nehru was alive, his pragmatism prevailed and after him the Syndicate, which was more sympathetic to business, kept them at bay. But by 1967, some firebrand radicals known as the Young Turks had begun to make their influence felt.
Coincidentally, Mrs Gandhi was keen to challenge the authority of the Syndicate following the election. But she lacked the necessary political base. While she is said to have had no strong views on socialism yet (according to historian Ramachandra Guha, she had "rarely invoked the word 'socialist' before 1967"), her principal secretary P N Haksar was a doctrinaire leftist. Perhaps on his advice, she decided to make a common cause with these young socialists, helping them push their Ten-point Programme through the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in June 1967. Fearing that opposition by them may split the party and leave them without power, Syndicate bosses played along. The implementable agenda in the Ten-point Programme was long on curbing the wealthy, short on aiding the poor. It sought social control of banking institutions; nationalisation of general insurance; nationalisation of export and import trade; public distribution of foodgrain; curbs on monopolies and concentration of economic power; limits on urban incomes and property; better implementation of land reform; and an end to princely privileges and privy purses.

Rather than social control, the Young Turks had sought nationalisation of banks. But Mrs Gandhi, who had different political goals, demurred. For now, she preferred to let Desai take the lead and establish social control. A parliamentary Act toward this end was passed in 1968, which the Young Turks saw as wholly reflecting the views of Desai. Until as late as April 1969, when the AICC met in Faridabad, Mrs Gandhi publicly opposed nationalisation. But the death of President Zakir Hussain in May 1969, which threw open the question of the nomination of the Congress candidate for presidential election, brought to a head the conflict between the Syndicate and Mrs Gandhi. The decision on the candidate was to be made by the Congress Parliamentary Board (CPB) at the July 10-12, 1969 AICC session. Recognising that she lacked the votes in the CPB to see her candidate through, Mrs Gandhi acted strategically. She took a 180-degree turn and sought a resolution for the nationalisation of the major banks. To avoid direct public confrontation, the Syndicate once again acquiesced and the AICC passed the necessary resolution.

With the resolution in hand, Mrs Gandhi moved swiftly. She stripped Desai of the finance portfolio on July 16 and promulgated an ordinance nationalising 14 largest banks on July 19, 1969. The move eventually split the Congress, but 220 Lok Sabha members stayed with Mrs Gandhi. Two communist parties provided the balance of the votes necessary for majority.

    The nationalisation made Mrs Gandhi an instant national hero, leading her to fully own the socialist agenda. The radical socialists had, thus, scored complete victory. In the following years, Mrs Gandhi nationalised insurance, coal mines and oil industry; severely restricted investments by large firms under the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969; reserved many labour-intensive products for exclusive manufacture by small-scale enterprises; tightened controls on exports and imports; nearly banned foreign investment under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973; effectively denied the firms with 100 or more workers the right to layoff workers; and severely limited the ownership of urban land under the Urban Land Ceilings Act, 1976.
The results were devastating: per-capita income rose from . 775 per month in 1969-70 to just . 815 per month in 1976-77 at 1999-2000 prices. The average per-capita income growth during the period was just 0.8% with no reduction in poverty achieved. India had lost almost an entire decade.

It was not until 1991 that socialists were forced into retreat. The reforms during the 1990s and early 2000s undid some of what had been done between 1969 and 1976. But history repeated itself in 2004. The reformist government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost the election and the Congress came to power, once again with the aid of communist parties. This returned the socialists within the Congress to the forefront of policymaking but with a difference. The debacle under Mrs Gandhi and accelerated growth in the 1980s and 1990s had taught them the value of growth. They now understood that growth brings larger revenues so essential for large-scale social programmes. Therefore, even though they would not push growth-centered reform agenda, they resisted the instinct to curb the incentives for wealth creation that the past reforms had put in place. Nevertheless, a lacuna remained: they still did not appreciate that social sector required reforms, too. Social engineering is more than just spending money on social programmes.












Anna Hazare's agitation in defence of his version of the Lokpal Bill seems to have revived public memories of the 1974-75 Jayaprakash Narayan-led anti-corruption mass agitation, especially among the new generation of technology-driven middle class youth in metropolitan towns of India. But can Anna Hazare's anti-corruption crusade become a benchmark comparable with the historical mass mobilisation movements launched by Gandhi from 1920 to 1947 or the one popularly known as the JP movement of 1974-75? A mass movement has to be distinguished from political mobilisation undertaken by every political party in a competitive democracy because, unlike parties which mobilise their voters and supporters for winning an election, people's movements are launched for cleansing the system of its fundamental ills. Gandhi prepared Indians to fight the struggle for Independence and for this mass struggle he created a united social bloc of castes, classes, religions, regions and women. The Gandhian movement was socially broad-based and inclusive of all major group identities of the country. The JP movement, unlike Gandhi's struggles, had a limited reach, where he raised anti-corruption issues facing India.

Further, JP, unlike Gandhi, had no mass base of his own, and he led the movement on the basis of cadre provided by Lohia socialists, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Jan Sangh. Essentially, JP launched a movement on the corruption issue primarily directed against Indira Gandhi as an individual and as a leader of a corrupt party and government.

The lesson from the JP movement is that a large-scale mass movement has to be a product of preceding small-scale mobilisations as Gandhi did from the 1920s to 1947. Anna Hazare's movement has some salient features that are a replication of the JP movement, but it has nothing in common with Gandhian movements. Hazare's movement has spread in towns and cities, especially after his arrest by Delhi Police on August 16 and angry people have come out on the road in support of him. It is a repeat story, because the JP movement had assumed an all-India status only when the Allahabad High Court judgment of June 1975 set aside the election of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

This support of the urban middle and lower middle class to Hazare is not only because of his anti-corruption crusade but because it is also an expression of their general frustration with the existing situation for which the easy whipping boy is the Manmohan Singh government. Further, Hazare himself and many of his supporters on the streets are targeting corrupt politicians, but in reality they are themselves apolitical, even anti-politics, in their daily life and ideological value system. Hazare has debunked the system of elections by publicly stating that 'elections are won by bribing the voter' and his complete lack of faith in the democratic process of India can be summed up in his oft-repeated statement that 'the transfer of power after 1947 was from the 'white' to the 'brown' and 'black' Indians and 'nothing has changed during the last 64 years of India's Independence'.
Further, unlike Gandhi, Hazare who has no faith in democracy, has adopted 'fascistic methods' to get a seal of approval by Parliament for his demand. This has nothing to do with Gandhian movements because Gandhi suspended his movements and never feared to negotiate with the colonial rulers. Anna, like JP, has been compelled to depend on the mobilisation machine of the Sangh Parivar and its communal-fascist cadre of the RSS. The BJP within Parliament and the whole joint family of the Sangh Parivar on the streets are providing the whole structure of support to keep the pot boiling to stigmatise the Congress, its main rival in politics.
Gandhi's movements had a long-term impact on Indian public life, Hazare's movement, like the JP movement, has political consequences and its impact will be felt only in electoral politics. The age of large-scale united all-India mass movements has come to an end because a socially and regionally fragmented country will have, and has been, witnessing local/regional movements or caste-based movements. Our national identity, which was created by Gandhian struggles from Kohima to Peshawar, has been pushed to the background by movements launched by 'fragments' on particularist demands of sections of society. Political competition among parties around 'local grievances' has become the reality of democratic India. It is no one's case that 'politics' will be missing from social movements; the only issue, as raised by the German philosopher Habermas, is that every social movement should be critically evaluated on the basis of its leadership, its social base, and the social cause pursued by the leaders. On the basis of the analytical yardstick suggested by Habermas, Hazare's movement and the social support generated by it clearly reveals that the communal-fascist Sangh Parivar is the main driver of this movement.








The Prime minister's recent announcement to form an education commission for improvements at all levels of education should not lead to the postponement in the implementation of reforms that are already on the table. The Prime Minister himself set up the National Knowledge Commission. Other government-appointed committees include the UGC committee on academic and administrative reforms, Yashpal committee on renovation and rejuvenation of higher education and more recently, the Kakodkar committee on restructuring of IITs.

Three science academies have independently submitted a report on 'restructuring post-school science teaching'. The thrust of the reforms include bringing research back to the universities, unitary-mode universities (with most of the general and professional subjects and both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees), strengthening undergraduate education and bringing in interdisciplinarity. A reasonable choice to students in their course work; uniform semester-mode education; credits and transfer of credits; reduction in the number of entrance exams for higher education; transparency in admissions; examination reforms; faculty and course evaluation by students; and economic and academic help for students from weaker sections of the society also feature in the suggestions. A committee is working on the implementation of these recommendations. However, a core issue like the lack of quality teachers has not been addressed so far. India's new IITs should have, say, at least 50% of faculty trained abroad. For the cost of one IIT, we can train the best of our students by sending them for doctoral work to leading institutes abroad and bring them back as faculty. The differentiation between general and professional education should go. State universities need greater support and less political interference. With the expanding role of the private sector in education, only those following good standards should be encouraged.

To carry out reforms, the government will have to show a sense of urgency and Parliament has to seriously discuss the issues and make the requisite laws. The journey for excellence in education has a long way to go.


MADHAV CHAVAN FOUNDER & CEO PRATHAM We Need Political Will to Reform

Without political leadership, no recommendations can help. What happened to the recommendations of the Knowledge Commission? A commission can help only if it has a political direction and mandate to come up with a plan that is to be executed. There are issues of setting up a new agenda at every stage of education and creating a larger learning environment beyond institutions. Although the ideal of a 'learning society' has existed for decades, it is possible to create it today as never before, thanks to communication technologies. However, our old-style thinking and mechanisms are often a hindrance.

Basic adult literacy has to catch up with the national average of 75% in many regions, but there is a need to redefine literacy that we require for the new economy and society. In fact, adult literacy has to be transformed into adult continuing education, training and retraining on the vocational side. The main challenge in school education over the next decade, as we continue to grow at 9%, is quality of education. People's aspirations are changing rapidly, and with it the demand for private schools. The government system cannot match these aspirations.

Sanctity of assessment and certification is a need almost central to all education and training. On the one hand, we dilute standards and on the other, even those assessments are not reliable. We need to create certification options of general standards and of excellence. Both are needed from school certification to universities. Encouraging specialised assessment and certification with job market connections is needed. Unique ID provides opportunities to create simple systems student loans and repayment from vocational training to higher education. While subsidies and grants will have their place, loans are not only a means of improving financing but also accountability.

Finally, recognising that education is a business and there are profits in a business is where political consensus and leadership is needed the most. It's not necessarily an advocacy for for-profit education. However, inthe changed economic environment, there is a need to separate for-profit education, to bring it under business laws and to regulate it like an industry with the application of consumer laws.









Talking about the Anna Hazare movement on corruption, the perspective from West Bengal could perhaps be useful. The people of the State were tired of Marxist rule in the State for more than three decades and were at their wit's end as to how they could change the political complexion of the Government.

The dam finally burst when Mamata Banerjee provided leadership in the wake of the Singur faux pas of the Left Front Government as also the Nandigram deaths in police firing in March 2007.

No honest Indian will suggest that corruption in all spheres of the average citizen's life has not been increasing since 1947. Indeed, the scourge has become so devastating as regards the silent damage it is wreaking on the fabric of national life that even the President of the republic focussed attention on it in her Independence Day Message .

Clearly, the citizen is fed up with the corrupt behaviour on the part of Government officials at all levels. The pressure has silently piled up over the decades, and now the outburst of angst against corruption, as given specific and pointed shape by Anna Hazare and his band of followers, has provided the leakage point through which the pent-up general frustration has begun to pour out into the streets all over the country.

There is little doubt that a tsunami of concern about corruption in public life has begun to take concrete shape, and when it starts to roll it will sweep away all those standing in its way.

Such being the prospect, it is incredible that some politicians, including Ministers in the UPA Government, are still trying to argue that, in terms of the Constitution, "civil society" – which actually encompasses the entire country now and does not comprise only the Anna Hazare group – is doing the wrong thing by encroaching on the law-making domain of Parliament which, come to think of it, comprises people who have been sent to the Lok Sabha by those who are protesting.

Uncivil response

Take one senior Minister who, in trying to give Indian legislators an exalted position in the Republic, has gone totally against the spirit of the Constitution itself.

Among other things, he declared: "The way the civil society movement is continuing in the country, it gives an impression that the leaders have become legislators. Nobody can be compelled that a law has to be drafted as per his or her desire. It is for Parliament to decide. And what Anna Hazare is doing is akin to challenging the constitutional authority of Parliament, which is not acceptable".

Another senior Minister proclaimed: "Here is one man who is saying that only my law should be enacted and if it is not my way, I will go on fast," averring, "There was no way in which we can allow Parliament's right to make laws to be taken away by a few civil activists".

The stakes for the republic are just too high for such mechanistic views to be taken seriously. Intense negotiations at a very high level between the Government and the citizens must begin immediately if this great nation of ours is to weather the current storm.

Parliament must bend and accommodate the will of the nation because, after all, Parliament is the nation's creation.





The recent protests of farmers at Maval, near Pune, against the diversion of water from the Pavna dam to the Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal corporation, are a grim reminder that conflicts over the use of water for rural and urban needs may well escalate in the future, in view of the rapid rise in urban population. What's worse, farmers feel alienated from the Government on issues of land acquisition and water diversion for non-agricultural purposes, and do not buy the latter's assurances. Whether it is the NOIDA land acquisition fracas, or water diversion to industry from irrigation projects in Maharashtra, or the agitation by farmers in Orissa for a greater share of water from the Hirakud dam, the farmer feels short-changed. As a result there have been protests against power projects in Maharashtra because of apprehensions that the new plants will reduce the quantity of water available for irrigation.

In fact, the protests over power and steel plants could get louder if they are bound up with inter-State disputes over water use, as is probable in Karnataka. The setting up of steel and cement plants in the Krishna basin area in northern Karnataka could impact water availability to downstream farmers in Andhra Pradesh, a concern expressed by the State's Irrigation officials. When the Global Investors' Meet was staged in Karnataka in 2010, there was little or no emphasis on water conservation, though the envisaged projects would draw large quantities of water from the Alamatti dam. The Twelfth Plan approach paper lays special emphasis on water management, yet there is no evidence of serious forethought on how these situations can be sorted out. Just as a Bill on giving farmers a better deal in land acquisition awaits Parliament approval, an institutional framework must be created for water distribution that addresses the interests of all stakeholders — farmers, the urban population and industry.

The model Bill on groundwater — the Groundwater (Protection, Conservation, Management and Regulation) Bill, 2011 — gives us some leads. It accords top priority to livelihood needs, generally estimated at 70-150 litres per capita per day, and spells out the need to use water for livestock, fishing, irrigation, power generation, industrial and recreational uses. Agriculture and industry can improve their water efficiency. Irrigation accounts for over three-fourths of all water used; there is scope to reduce water usage in crops such as rice and sugarcane, in particular by using better varieties. With appropriate water tariffs, industries will be persuaded to adopt water recycling and conservation practices. Likewise, municipal bodies can reassess water pricing for residential consumers to reduce wastage, while, however, ensuring that every person's needs are met. Conflicts over land and water may become disturbingly common if we do not develop the institutional framework and long-term policies to ensure their equitable distribution.






It was the discovery of a sepia-tone cassette in the house that blew open my world to Indian cinema's original rockstar Shammi Kapoor and his avaaz (voice), legendary singer Mohammed Rafi. My discovery was way after the silver-screen had adoringly captured the enchanting hero — his chocolate-box looks and daring ability to carry off with elan, even a sack-like outfit that looked like it had been stitched from a blanket!

Rafi's brilliance

And taking the Shammi experience to heady and electrifying heights were his songs — where Rafi's musical brilliance matched ever so perfectly the actor's irrepressible  pagalpan (madness).  No romantic could miss the tease in the rendering of taarif karoon kya uski, where Shammi pursues the young Sharmila Tagore and claps his way off the boat he is in and falls into the lake!  Or as he dangles from a helicopter, in a bath suit, singing Aasman se aya farishta. There was intensity in Dil ke jharoke mein tujko chipa kar, madness in Sooku sooku or the iconic Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe" and sheer melody in " Deewana  hua badal among several others – all rendered by Rafi. The unputdownable aaja aaja, mei hoon pyar tera may be an undisputed retro dance number, but it is said Asha Bhonsle took over a week to get the gushing western number right. The male counterpart, Rafi again, sang with made-to-order perfection, portrayed with head-banging passion by Shammi.

Did someone actually choreograph Shammi's uninhibited dance or the tumble down mountains of snow?  Did the actor and his avaaz discuss the romance they brought into the songs? Shammi is quoted saying that he used to be present at the recording of his songs and discuss how the scene would be enacted.  In fact, reports have Shammi saying he was "incomplete" without Rafi. The inextricable relationship between the actor, his music and the singer who sang for him, is something that dominates blogs and youtube tributes to Shammi and Rafi, both no more. .

Magical moments

But the magical moments they created transcend their generation and continue to entertain fans, exposed to their brilliance, well after many of these movies and songs were created in the first place.  On his movies, Shammi candidly admitted in a television interview that he was not an actor of the calibre of Dilip Kumar or Raj Kapoor. In fact, there is no message too, he says, adding that his movies just made the viewer happy and comfortable — he could leave "with a tune in your heart". And that certainly is what the Shammi-Rafi magical duo do — leave you with a spring in your step and a song on your lips, never-mind if you heard it from an old-world cassette or watched it on the Net through youtube.  






With the government's conditional nod to FDI (foreign direct investment) in multi-brand retail seemingly around the corner, the question arises: does organised retail really require FDI? The unequivocal answer: 'Yes'.

Although Indian retailers have made steady progress in the past decade, their efforts fall short in matching global norms in a sector estimated to be worth more than $450 billion. Consequently, organised retail has barely more than 4 per cent market share in India. Indian retailers simply lack the deep pockets and in-depth domain expertise required to be on a par with global models. The presence of foreign retailers through joint ventures and other means could certainly speed up the process of transforming India's retail trade.

Multiple intermediaries

There's a broad consensus on the need to enhance efficiencies in the domestic trade of consumer goods. Efficient management practices and economies of scale, coupled with the adoption of global best practices and modern technology, could vastly improve systemic efficiency.

Presently, retail trade is disorganised and largely inefficient. As in other economic activities, minimising costs and maximising efficiency are imperative in retail trade. Like their foreign counterparts, Indian consumers too are entitled to receive quality products, produced, processed and handled under hygienic conditions via professionally-managed outlets. Unfounded apprehensions that small retailers will be adversely affected are not reason enough to deny millions of consumers access to world-class products.

Moreover, today's intermediaries between producers and consumers add no value to the products, but add immensely to final costs. By the time the products travel from the farm-gate to the marketplace via various intermediaries reduces, they lose freshness and quality resulting in huge wastage. Nevertheless, intermediaries reap huge profits by spreading wastage losses between producers and consumers. This is achieved by buying products at low prices from producers, but selling at highly marked-up prices to consumers. In an unsound system with multiple intermediaries simply for logistics, only intermediaries benefit.

With organised retail, every intermediate stage – procurement, processing, transport and delivery – adds value to the product. This happens because it uses global best practices and modern technology, ensuring optimum efficiency and minimum wastage. Organised retail enables on-site processing of produce, scientific handling and quick transport through cold storage chains to the final consumer. Once modern retailers introduce an organised model, other vendors, including small retailers, would automatically copy this model to improve efficiencies, boost margins and stay in business. Organised retail would thereby bring more stability to prices, unlike the present system where hoarding and artificial shortages by profiteering intermediaries push up product prices.

Convenience of kiranas

Concerns about kiranas closing down after the advent of organised retail are not based upon facts. Given the huge population and large number of cities and towns , it's erroneous to conclude that organised retailers would drive small stores out of business. Small stores offer customers the convenience of quick doorstep delivery, even extending a month's credit. No organised retailer can match such convenience.

This is one reason why FDI in retail in other nations, including China, did not lead to closure of Mom-and-Pop stores. China's experience indicates that both organised retail as well as Mom-and-Pop stores can co-exist. China first allowed FDI in retail in 1992, capping it at 26 per cent, while India capped FDI in single-brand retail at 26 per cent. Only in 2004 did China permit 100 per cent FDI. Since then, Chinese Mom-and-Pop stores have grown from 1.9 million to more than 2.5 million. Conversely, organised retail has just 20 per cent penetration , despite operating there for almost 20 years.

More jobs

Some stakeholders speculate that millions of jobs would be lost due to FDI in retail. Actually, it will be the other way around. With the entry of modern retailers, the market will expand, creating millions of additional jobs in retail and other tertiary sectors. Given their professional approach, organised retailers will allocate some amount of resources towards the training of people they hire.

This has already happened with the Bharti-Walmart joint venture, which has joined hands with some State Governments in opening training centres in Amritsar, Delhi and Bangalore to train local youth for jobs in retail. Training is totally free and more than 5,600 local youth have already been trained . Retail jobs don't require higher education or highly specialised skills.

Finally, considering the conditions incumbent for the opening of multi-brand retail, it should be clear that this will be a win-win situation for all parties. One of the crucial norms in the formal proposal for permitting FDI is that 50 per cent investment will be mandatory in back-end infrastructure, which includes cold storage chains and warehousing.

The minimum FDI investment would have to be $100 million. Retail stores would only be allowed in cities with more than one million people. Front-end operations would be allowed only in States that agree to permit FDI in multi-brand retail. It will also be mandatory for retailers to source minimum 30 per cent of the value of manufactured goods, barring food products, from small and medium enterprises.

Such stipulations will serve as sufficient safeguards for small retailers. Ultimately, farmers and small producers will benefit from better prices for their products and produce, while consumers will receive quality products at lower prices along with better service.

Unfounded apprehensions that small retailers will be affected are not reason enough to deny consumers access to world-class products.






The suffering caused by the drought in Somalia depicts not only the inability of the weak or poor economies to deal with the failures of rainfall, leading to disappearance of food supplies, but also the aggravating actions of man in stymieing supplementary support. The fact of millions of people suffering from lack of access to food is startling, after all the experience across the world in dealing with droughts.

Droughts have occurred before, caused misery and the general response in the long-term has been to push production frontiers, conduct more research to achieve higher productivity, and push for higher productivity in crops production under varied production conditions so that the benefits are widely available.

But it is also the case that as farm output turns out to be competitive because of higher productivity, demand for farm output continues to rise from the other non-food sources such as energy. Producing more grains does not necessarily mean availability of more food.

India obviously has to do all it can to help the needy. The challenge posed by extreme calamities and the current phase of persistent high food inflation requires policy responses from a longer term perspective. Our ability to build up the stocks of foodgrains, while being economically inefficient, is an assurance of availability of food for a country of more than a billion.

However, holding the stock by itself is no assurance of either the ability to distribute it when needed and hold it to a quality standard. Will large international foodstocks restrain further investments to improve productivity in this sector?


There is also the argument that we probably will not be able to hold enough reserves to meet all emergencies. International reserves are more efficient than each country building its own reserves, provided there are fair rules on access to such a reserve. While this issue of an international grain reserve is important in the realm of understanding uncertain future scenarios, the importance of immediately available surplus food for meeting emergencies can hardly be ignored.

Lack of such surpluses leads to knee-jerk reactions of trade bans and high tariffs in countries — where such surpluses are, in fact, available — when demand in the international market increases. If the markets are to ration the available supplies it is likely that poor would be left out.

There are probably no easy ways of providing safety nets for the failures of rainfall, or for that matter other calamities, other than collective support provided by other nations. Fortunately, nature has been considerate in India's case. More widely distributed production and varied agro-climatic conditions in which food is grown also mean that if there is crop failure in one place, it may not be the case everywhere.

Large countries have the protection of such diversified production conditions within themselves. For smaller countries, access to trade supplies is the only recourse in the case of crop failures. Predictable or reliable channels of trade are as important as raising production to even out deficits and surpluses.

The path India will take in its agriculture would be significant for the supply of, and demand for, farm commodities in the global markets.

The emergence of large foodgrain stocks even as there is a large proportion of population that is poor and vulnerable should not lead us into believing that the problem is only on demand side of the equation. If the high stocks are a result of low consumption demand, the scenario is likely to change as the production pattern begins to reflect consumption pattern: rising demand for high value output. The margin of stocks now seen may begin to decline. Strategies for ensuring access to food at the global level will require that global trade in food also remains an effective tool for this purpose. Trade should ultimately lead to larger supplies, and not only to higher prices.


The push for higher agricultural growth in the next Five Year Plan is important when we consider the implications of the alternative of low growth in the global context. Higher growth also has to be sustainable in the medium to long term, given the experience so far that demand for farm output will come not only from food requirements, but also from other requirements.

The large deficits in farm productivity when we compare ourselves with developed and some developing countries are an assurance that there will be significant rewards for new investments in agriculture.

Warnings of droughts and crop failures in any part of the world should catalyse strategies for improvements in access to food at the global level. It is less clear if droughts will lead to measures to mitigate the effects of conflicts.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 24, 2011)







Anna Hazare's agitation against corruption has caught the imagination of the youth not only in India but abroad as well. His message and non-violent protest to press for its acceptance seem to be highlighting a new path for the civil society. It is worth examining the reasons underlying its success in the Indian context.

In stark contrast to the role it played in the freedom struggle, the middle class had remained, since Independence, a mute spectator of the turn of events in the country, from elections to socio economic reform, from financial crises to communal disturbances and labour unrest.

Barring the anti-Mandal protests in the early 1990s, there was hardly any significant expression of challenge by the middle class government's actions or inaction. The middle class just did not count in politics because of its small numbers and poor vote bank support. Low voter turnout in urban centres during elections was taken as an indicator of apathy to politics.

Political parties could afford to ignore the urban public opinion, given the large rural vote base. Hence, they vied with one another for the rural vote almost to the exclusion of the urban one.

Swift metamorphosis

A socio-economic feature after the economic reforms from 1991 has been the growth of the middle class. In the urban melting pot, the caste system based on birth has begun giving way to a class system based on education and entrepreneurship. The widening economic opportunities have been seized by the educated and the enterprising leading to the emergence of a dynamic middle class, different from the earlier risk-averse, closed, static entity.

This development marks the metamorphosis of a hitherto silent section of the society into an articulate and assertive force in India's public life.

The massive shift of India's economic base from agriculture to services and industry has swelled the urban headcount immeasurably. The concentration of economic activity, particularly of the services and construction sectors with their large employment potential, in urban areas which now account for close to 40 per cent of the country's population. In some States, the figure is even higher.

By 2030, as much as half the population of the country may live and work in urban areas. In any future delimitation of electoral constituencies, the number of seats in urban areas is bound to increase challenging the traditional rural vote bank.

Along with the rise in its political stature, urban India has been reaping the fruits of the demographic dividend in the form of a large, young work force. This advantage would continue to be available well into this century.

Youth to the fore

A predictable, strong economic growth in the years to come with its promise of employment opportunities and steady incomes has instilled a sense of confidence in the young. Hence, more than anyone else, the youth are the people most keen to ensure that the opportunities are not wasted away either by themselves or taken away by those responsible for the political and economic stewardship.

Corruption is being perceived by them as one single factor that may stand between them and their dreams. It is in the above context that one would like to view Anna Hazare's campaign against corruption among public servants, including politicians and members of the judiciary.

The campaign, run by relatively young people, has garnered a huge following. Sporting jeans and T-shirts, they are willing to brave the sun and the rain and the fatigue of prolonged cheering and waiting.

The predominantly urban youth seemed to be waiting for a chance to make its collective debut in active politics and having got a chance, seized it with alacrity.

To many at Ramlila Maidan or Azad Maidan or on the Marina, the finer points of the debate between the government and Team Anna may be elusive and esoteric. They may not be well versed with the provisions of the Indian Constitution or of legislative procedures.

They find graft at any level, high or low, distasteful. They read newspapers and tune in to TV news channels that feature reports of bodies such as the Transparency International relegating India to a sorry position in the honesty table or in the ease of doing business or in obtaining judicial redress. They perceive corruption as a major drag on the country's advancement and their personal development. The Anna Hazare-led protest is quite different from what one witnessed recently in Britain or in yesteryears in the US.

The protests abroad were the outcome of social and economic deprivation and despair over the future and partly of withdrawal of state-run welfare measures. They were not the outcome of plentiful opportunities. It is this feature that makes the Indian protest unique. Given the persuasive and non-violent conduct, they deserve sympathetic treatment by the government.

On its part, Team Anna needs to get down from the high horse it rides now and anchor its feet on solid legal and constitutional grounds and above all keep in mind practical compulsions. Its campaign has just begun and has a long way to go before even a modicum of control over corruption can be achieved. The Team must realise that politics is the art of the possible, not of the absolute.






The spokespersons of the UPA Government have been misleading the people by painting the mode of protest undertaken by Team Anna as being against the tenets of both the parliamentary system of government and democracy.

The first document to spell out with clarity the imperative duty of the people in a democracy was the American Declaration of Independence. It proclaimed bluntly that governments are instituted among men in order to guarantee the inalienable rights of the people to good governance, and they derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Going one step further, it stated that "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it….". That is the clarion call for any people to rise against an unjust and oppressive government by way of venting their anger and do everything possible to replace it.

It is not that this principle applies only in the case of a dictatorship or despotism. Nor does it mean that the people, as the sovereign masters, should be helpless spectators when elected assemblies and the governments in power turn freebooters, showing callous disregard for the well-being of the people and using their authority as a licence to let loose a monstrous reign of corruption and plunder of public coffers to enrich themselves.


When a government, regardless of whether it is democracy or dictatorship, descends to such depths of insufferable depravity and venality, it deserves to be removed by the exercise of people power. That is the rationale behind the US and most nations of the world accepting the legitimacy of mass uprisings by the people to overthrow the regimes of Marcos in the Philippines, Milosevic in Yugoslavia, Ben Ali in Tunisia, and Mubarak in Egypt, with Gaddafi in Libya and Assad in Syria already on the way out, unable to bear the wrath of the people.

In the light of the above, mouthing stock phrases and stale notions about democracy, Parliamentary processes, and so on, becomes meaningless, when those very concepts and processes have been perverted and subverted by members of the political class and MPs and MLAs who are supposed to function as custodians of people's interests. The people are then left with no alternative but to take charge and show who the boss is.

India's political class is, as expected, closing its eyes to the radical shift in the mood of the people. It is yet to realise that the people are no longer prepared to suffer in silence the harassment, humiliation and hardship heaped upon them by insensitive and repressive governments. They are determined to enforce submission of the Government to the people's will and commands, or else.


During Anna's campaign, India's political vested interests had been propagating the nonsense that Gandhian methods fashioned for throwing out colonial rulers are repugnant to parliamentary democracy.

Gandhiji himself, in answer to a question by the Hunter Commission inquiring into the Jallianwala massacre, unambiguously declared that he would not hesitate to launch the same kind of satyagraha as he did against the British against any government in free India if it went against the people's interests. His favourite exhortation to the people was to be fearless in fighting injustice and be steadfast in upholding their rights.

People power, as a renowned political analyst and former US Ambassador, John W. McDonald, puts it, constitutes "an emerging trend of genuine deep democracy across the globe which governments and international organisations will increasingly have to contend with in their policy-making."

He points out how new leaders have emerged from among the masses who are drawn to the ideals and techniques of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. and determined not to let the organs of state stray from them.

He also brings out some interesting features common to people power movements the world has witnessed so far. Most such movements which proved successful in rallying the people in their hundreds of thousands revolve around a powerful and poignant message with which the people could instantly identify.


In some instances, the protesters won over the doubters and sceptics, as also the forces of the state ranged against them, by highly imaginative gestures such as offering roses to security personnel and hugging them (as in the Rose revolution of Georgia, a former State of the Soviet Union).

The role of the media has been crucial in making the achievements of people power possible. Besides their in-built motto of keeping people informed, they are also an integral part of the civil society. It is no surprise that they should associate themselves with a popular cause of such compelling and profound importance as ridding the body politic of all the revolting and corrosive elements that are eating into the vitals of the nation. Technologies and social networks, in the form of cell-phones, Facebook, Twitter and the like have buttressed people power to such an extent that governments are going to find it extremely hard to cope with it.

People power is with us to stay. To quote from Mr McDonald's paper: "If this new phenomenon of peaceful revolutions is to be dealt with effectively, in a manner that protects civil freedoms and human rights…., governments will soon find it necessary to begin creating policies and institutional mechanisms to respond to these demonstrations of people power.

"Most importantly, governments must learn how to listen to their people to determine what their needs are before violence occurs; once a conflict begins to escalate to violence, it becomes astronomically more difficult to resolve peacefully. Presently, governments are not changing with this new reality, and their people are leaving them behind."





                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




At this stage of Anna Hazare's fast it is unnecessary to discuss the monumental folly of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in first arresting him and then abjectly surrendering to him. To draw attention to his and Team Anna's manifest obduracy would be equally pointless. Their demand that only their heavily flawed Jan Lokpal Bill should be passed by a certain date, and no other version of it, is totally unacceptable. How the current confrontation between him — which has touched a raw nerve in the country and has drawn huge support from the urban youth — and the government would end is immaterial to my present theme: Whether fasts, finite or indefinite, currently denounced as "blackmail" or attempts to "dictate" to elected institutions, have any legitimacy. Incidentally, such fasts, whether for political or social ends, aren't and have never been absent from the Indian scene even after the tryst with destiny. To give only one of countless examples, Potti Sriramlu starved himself to death in 1953. This virtually forced Jawaharlal Nehru to separate Andhra from what was then the multi-lingual state of Madras and is now Tamil Nadu. Fifty-six years later, the fast of the Telangana Rashtriya Samithi leader, K. Chandrashekhar Rao, drove Union home minister P. Chidambaram to announce that the "process for the formation of Telangana state had been set into motion," only to backtrack later. In between, before "Punjabi suba" was conceded in 1966, Darshan Singh Pheruman had fasted for precisely this cause. The then authorities in Amritsar had handled both the fast and its explosive aftermath with exemplary skill. Medha Patkar has been fasting all the time of which little notice is taken because her demands are usually local and she fasts far away from the national capital. Shortly after Mr Hazare's first fast in April, an obscure swami in Uttrakhand gave up his life while fasting against illegal mining; New Delhi did not bat an eyelid. In distant Manipur, a brave lady, Irom Sharmila, has been on hunger strike for 10 long years, demanding a repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, and nobody is bothered because the police periodically force-feeds her. The difference this time around is that "Fast Anna" has created an enormous storm across the country against rampant corruption. "Generation Y" is up in arms. The Lokpal Bill doesn't matter; Anna's personality does not matter. The man and the moment seem to be made for each other, and the bumbling government knows not what to do. Despite this backdrop, I have always believed that in the public life of independent and democratic India, there is no place for fasts for political ends even if there is no law banning them. Since everyone embarking on a fast harks back to the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi — Mr Hazare's supporters have gone overboard and are calling him "second Gandhi" — the argument of those of us opposed to fasts used to be that the Father of the Nation had used this weapon against an alien and colonial government. There is no justification for wielding it against a duly elected and easily replaceable government. Deeper thought and some research reveal, however, that the reality is different. According to Gopal Gandhi, a grandson of the Mahatma and a former civil servant, diplomat and governor, his grandfather fasted on 30 different occasions. One-third of these were directed against no one other than himself. These were occasions for "atonement" or "self-purification". Another one-third of the fasts were meant to influence the attitudes of Indian society or parts of it. For instance, in 1918, the Mahatma went on an indefinite fast because mill-owners of Ahmedabad had declared a lockout against the striking mill workers. Within 48 hours of the beginning of the fast, the mill-owners scurried to lift the lockout. A profoundly important fast in this genre he undertook in 1930 was to persuade the Harijans (as the Dalits were then called), led by Bhimrao Ambedkar, to give up separate electorates for them offered by the British. The Mahatma argued that this would vivisect each of the half-a-million villages of the country. Ambedkar agreed and settled for reservation of seats in legislatures. The remaining one-third was meant for "pressurising" (some said "coercing") the British government. These succeeded some time and didn't at other times. During the last of these in 1943, at the Agha Khan Palace in Poona where he was detained, the Viceroy had made arrangements for Mahatma's funeral. But he lived to perform a miracle by his fast in Calcutta in the aftermath of the Great Calcutta Killings. In three days flat, the one-man army of Gandhi put an end to the mad frenzy and mindless slaughter. What knocks the bottom off my case to differentiate between an alien and a national government is that the first Indian to go on a fast in the heart of Delhi against the government of Nehru and Sardar Patel was none other than the Mahatma. His two lieutenants had refused to transfer to Pakistan `55 crore this country was bound to give it under the Partition Agreement. Their argument that the money couldn't be handed over while the first Kashmir War (1947-48) was on. On the second day of the fast, the cash was sent to Karachi post-haste.







Divorce can be pretty tough on the heart and can also play havoc with bank balances. But apparently a split is also bad for the waistline. For women, marriage and adding pounds have a direct correlation. It's called a "weight shock", and was discovered by researchers who surveyed more than 10,000 people over two decades. The findings were clear: marriage and divorce led to weight gain. There is an important caveat: it happens only after age 30 and before 50. It's not for us to pick an argument with university researchers — who obviously are heavyweights in their field — but their findings do seem a bit counterintuitive. We were always under the impression that men went to seed almost immediately after getting hitched, since there was no need anymore to spend hours in the gym once the girl of their dreams had become their wife. Marriage, after all, brings contentment and beer bellies. How many sinewy athletic types we know have become couch potatoes as they bask in domestic bliss?







Recent events in Libya have been confusing. Three days ago US President Barack Obama gave the impression to the world through a publicised statement that the 42-year-old control of Col. Muammar Gaddafi had all but ended as the rebels fighting him these recent months with heavy Western support had virtually wrested the capital, Tripoli, from forces loyal to the dictator. This clearly appears not to be the case so far. While Col. Gaddafi is said to be traceless, his loyalist forces have by no means surrendered. His son and presumed successor, Seif-al-Islam Gaddafi, was thought to have been taken into custody by the rebels, but he surfaced on Tuesday at a luxury hotel in Tripoli along with many international correspondents. Indeed, some apprehension is now being voiced in Washington and London that Col. Gaddafi may well strategise to lure the rebel forces into Tripoli while shifting to another theatre within the country to open a new military front. Should that materialise, it would signal that the West had placed too great a trust in a disorganised anti-Gaddafi coalition riven with dissensions, and provide a setback to diplomatic and military efforts concentrated by the United States, France and Britain with the support of leading governments in the Arab world. In Iraq, it may be recalled, a greedy and deceitful anti-Saddam Hussein politician, fattened on CIA money, had all but lured US forces into commencing military operations. The West worries about long-term violence and disorder in Libya if the rebels' Transitional National Council led by Mustafa Abdel-Jalil is able to end Col. Gaddafi's hold but is unable to restrain rebel fighters from inflicting revenge on pro-Gaddafi military units and tribes and ethnic groups that have stood by his side. Should this happen, prolonged chaos in Libya is assured, and this is exactly the opposite of what the Western triumvirate seek to achieve. Western nations extol all rebels they support anywhere as the epitome of democracy. Repeatedly this has been seen to be a propaganda line to legitimise the decisions they have endorsed. The fears are that this may be coming true in Libya as well. The surprise is that Col. Gaddafi has held out so long in spite of a Western-imposed naval blockade and international sanctions. Reports suggest that his forces are in some disarray and may only be depleting. A cusp moment such as this calls for wariness and sagacity on the part of those who have choreographed the rebels' political, diplomatic and military moves with the aid of the United Nations. The greed to capture Libya's oil supplies must be kept on hold.







Satyagraha literally means an insistence on truth. If we consider the movement against corruption that has gripped our national imagination today as a contemporary satyagraha, we must also be willing to examine the truth and all its constituents, beginning with ourselves. The truth of any situation is usually contextual and relative. It depends on which part of the elephant you are standing next to, as illustrated in the popular story of the blind men and the elephant. The one who touched the tail thought it was a rope, the one its legs thought it was a tree, and so on, demonstrating how individuals can have their own circumstantial truths. There does exist a larger concept of truth — an overarching principle, philosophy or set of values that most human beings respond to and agree to accept. These include the "goodness" of kindness and compassion, the "wrongness" of wilful infliction of violence, and so on. These can fluctuate according to the times and prevalent cultural norms, for example the belief in the sanctity of life, which might include all life for some and only human life for others. There is a truth beyond this, too, which has been referred to as "perennial philosophy" — the kernel embedded at the heart of all wisdom traditions. It is the belief that there is a truth that powers and underlies reality, and whose "suchness" remains unaffected by events, circumstances and time. What this truth is, and how it can be experienced, is interpreted and explained by wisdom traditions in diverse terms. Which of these levels of truth are we dealing with in the satyagraha against corruption? Clearly, perennial truth is ever-present and needs no insistence to establish. Seeking it is the journey of a lifetime (or lifetimes) the spiritual aspirant commits to undertake. However, it is not divorced from other quests for truth, including the one related to practical truth, which might be relative to persons and circumstances. To exist and survive for as long as it has, we must accept that the culture of corruption is not just out there, practised by a few bad guys. We have all been complicit in its perpetuation in some form or the other. And we can all be part of the efforts necessary for its eradication as well, provided we begin by questioning our own motivations and actions. This is so because one cannot presume to question another if one does not know one's own truth. We must ask ourselves, "Am I incorruptible? If not, what is it that prompts me to indulge in any form of corruption? Because it will make life easier? Because I will have more money?" And follow it up with, "Am I willing to give this up?" Only when we have established this truth within, can we presume to embark upon the crusade to root out corruption. Swati Chopra is the author of Women Awakened: Stories of Contemporary Spirituality in India, Buddhism: On the Path to Nirvana and Dharamsala Diaries.






It is time to disentangle the various strands that go to make up the Anna Hazare phenomenon. The Maharashtrian peasant leader is riding on the crest of a wave of frustrations and aspirations driving the middle class and other sections, and his main theme of busting corruption has struck a chord with vast sections of the population. Second, there are no two views on the maladroit moves of the government and the Congress Party in coping with Mr Hazare's second fast. Third, the Anna team, drunk on its own success, has taken up unreasonable positions and is indulging in a new form of arrogance. Indeed, the surprise is that the form of public diplomacy the team has adopted has left the government far behind in the information war. It has used social sites to great effect, was ready with video clips of Mr Hazare's homilies after his arrest, a stupid act, and getting the former policewoman, Kiran Bedi, to film him on a mobile camera while he was refusing to leave the Tihar jail, later linking it to television channels. But it is a sign of the new arrogance the team has developed that Ms Bedi harked back to the slogan of the hated Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975 to amend the slogan "Indira is India and India is Indira" to "Anna is India and India is Anna". Another sign of intolerance is the totally unrealistic deadline given to Parliament to pass their version of the Lokpal Bill. It is clear that Mr Hazare's Jan Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill, as opposed to the government's Lokpal Bill initially introduced in Parliament, will be a disaster for the Indian system of parliamentary democracy if passed in its present form. It would institute a hydra-headed monster of a panel of men and women who would sail above every form of democratic governance on the assumption that they are demi-gods immune from the temptations of the flesh. The proposals of social activist Aruna Roy make more sense in their methodology of tackling corruption, but thus far Team Anna is not listening, convinced of the irrevocable righteousness of its own panacea seemingly set in stone. There will conceivably be retreats from this impossible position in the days to come, but Mr Hazare and his team must adopt a posture of some humility in suggesting curbs on the evil of corruption that has spread to every aspect of life. There are, of course, wider aspects of the Anna phenomenon that will leave a mark on the Indian political system. The declamation that it represents a "second independence movement" can be dismissed as populist propaganda. An attempt to link this movement to other movements concerning land acquisition and industrialisation seems a tentative testing of waters. But the Anna phenomenon will need all its wisdom to guard against being hijacked by the BJP, its mentor the RSS and the various affiliates of the Sangh Parivar such as the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which has already indulged in depredations in its efforts to force schools to close on a particular day. Judging by the slogans being raised by the supporters of Mr Hazare's movement, a pro-Hindu and an implied anti-Muslim (and anti-minorities) tinge is already becoming apparent. It is no secret that the BJP is desperately seeking to return to power at the Centre after two successive defeats, but it is a new BJP under the thumb of its mentor, the RSS, which is setting the agenda for the party and the country. The Sangh Parivar is obviously hoping that the Anna phenomenon will do for it what the incendiary Ayodhya movement did for it to catapult it into power in New Delhi. The political undercurrents swirling around the Anna phenomenon are a handicap to the spirit of hope the movement initially brought about, gathering a motley crew of a newly empowered middle class and other frustrated and aspiring sections of the population. In a sense, the youth are asserting themselves in a political culture in which wisdom is equated with age and the so-called Young Turks are in their forties and fifties. A beginning has been made in inducting the princelings — men and women related to established leaders and political families — but it is thus far a timid beginning. What of the future? A government in drift is not in the best position to impose its agenda and the official version of the Lokpal Bill is found wanting in several respects. What remains to be seen is how and when the Anna team will dismount from its own hobbyhorse of the Jan Lokpal Bill or nothing. The Manmohan Singh government has been forced to show greater flexibility and many formulations are in the air to resolve the crisis. Both the Anna team and the country will pay a heavy price for a contest of wills, if taken beyond a point. In India, a disinterested soul spurning power and pelf for achieving his objectives has an abiding appeal. But an artificial propaganda barrage calling Anna Hazare "a second Gandhi" or "a second JP (Jayaprakash Narayan who led the movement that unseated the Congress Party for the first time in New Delhi)" is doing as much harm to Mr Hazare as it does to the memory of two exceptional leaders. Having won the first round, Mr Hazare should show maturity and humility in gathering the fruits of a new era of hope he has set in motion. In a sense, that has been the easier part. His real test lies in the future in guiding the thrust of his movement towards a new system that makes corruption subject to effective laws and an implementation mechanism to punish offenders not in a spirit of vengeance but in rendering justice to the abused, particularly those belonging to the poorer sections. Both the government and civil society must use their reserves of wisdom to take advantage of a new beginning to make the country a better place to live in. S. Nihal Singh can be contacted at








ONLY limited would the public sympathy with now-retired Mr Justice VS Sirpurkar and his brother judges be for the indigestion suffered when viewing the televised debate of the Rajya Sabha's first impeachment motion. True that members went beyond the alleged misdoings of Soumitra Sen, a judge of the High Court of Calcutta, and questioned the system of judicial appointments while reviving demands for a National Judicial Commission. But if it was "an unpleasant experience" and "not at all digestible" it was not a totally inaccurate reflection of public opinion. It would be unfortunate if their Lordships blinded themselves to some harsh realities ~ there could be more of the same when the motion is debated in the Lok Sabha ~ or over-simplistically wrote that off as the legislature seeking to re-assert itself. They must be wary of adopting an ostrich-like attitude: the government did so as the corruption angst snowballed, now it is floundering. For while thus far there has been no open slamming of the judiciary ~ do archaic "contempt" laws have much to do with that? ~ none can deny the rumblings. As the case in focus confirms, not all those on the Bench are like Caesar's wife, and the internal corrective mechanisms are woefully inadequate. Else there might not have been cause for Parliament to attempt to enforce discipline and probity. So too are there serious shortcomings in the appointment system in which "networking" plays no small part. Going beyond points raised in the Rajya Sabha, the competition among ex-judges to head commissions of varying status fuels suspicions that some tend to favour the government as the shadows lengthen on their days on the Bench. Did a former Chief Justice of India's settling for a middle-row seat in the Elders actually do the judiciary proud? That too after heading a key inquiry commission, and not that he had entered active politics after hanging up his robes. Propriety demands the judiciary look within ~ the best way to avoid external pressures. Even if there was some tit-for-tat it was not entirely unprovoked.
Their Lordships would insist that the judge under scrutiny is an exception, an aberration, and there must be no besmirching their collective image. Yet are they not guilty of frequently passing sweeping comments against all and sundry? Quips and observations that get more caustic when there is a large media presence in the courtroom ~ but which hardly find mention in the written judgments?




AS hyperbole follows hype in writing the story of the Indian cricket team's recent performances, perhaps it was apt that the most sagacious response should have come from India's most accomplished batsman this summer. Rahul Dravid chose to express his surprise at selection for the one-day squad by announcing that at the end of the series he would retire from shorter versions of the game. This wasn't so much a snub to selectors for having ignored his claims in recent years as it was a genteel averment that a wise man knows his body better than anyone else. Perhaps there was even a mild suggestion that others similarly placed ought to carefully consider their options. More than the loss of form and apparent fatigue with the game, the striking feature of India's essay in England was the lack of fitness of its key players. The openers were clearly out of sorts, and the announcement on Monday that Virender Sehwag hasn't recovered fully from his shoulder troubles raises questions about the Delhi player's decision to offer himself for selection for even a part of the series. Gautam Gambhir was perhaps unfortunate to have sustained two debilitating injuries during the series, but he had also missed the West Indies tour following an injury suffered in the Indian Premier League. Zaheer Khan was rested for the Caribbean tour, but looked unfit before he strained his hamstring at Lord's. Even Sachin Tendulkar looked less than himself, although it was only during the second essay of the first Test that he was reported to be unfit. Ishant Sharma, who toiled manfully on both tours, has now collapsed with an ankle injury. Harbhajan Singh succumbed during the tour, as did Praveen Kumar. This is a pathetic commentary on the physical fitness of our cricketers just as it is on the apparent dishonesty of some of them in claiming to be fit when they weren't. It also speaks of the utter incompetence of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, for having managed its most precious resource in as cavalier a fashion as Sharad Pawar handles the agriculture ministry. India deserved to lose to England. Not because their cricketers weren't good enough, but because they weren't fit enough. And because they weren't honest enough to admit it.





WEST Bengal is set to borrow almost as a matter of policy. Yet a virtually bankrupt state is scarcely in a position to dictate the terms and conditions of loans. This precisely is the Trinamul government's contemplated course of action in its dealings with such entities as the Asian Development Bank. And the chief condition that has been set by the administration is that international funding agencies must not set any pre-condition, as a report in this newspaper suggests. Not least because the primary pre-condition might run counter to the populist agenda in a state where populism tends to get the better of sound economics. In real terms it implies the imposition of water tax in the Kolkata municipal area, a term of engagement that had been set by the ADB during the CPI-M's dispensation. If the Left had fought shy on electoral considerations, so too has the Trinamul. But the government will only be deluding itself if it imagines that international funding may yet materialise in the absence of an effort towards resource generation. There is no scope for delusory economics in a parlous state.
At stake is a defining scheme on urban development, notably the Kolkata Environment Improvement Project (KEIP). The state's letter to the Centre's Department of Economic Affairs is a virtual rejection of the ADB's terms for the KEIP loan ~ West Bengal will not be able to accept pre-conditions save those relating to "good governance". The state ought to have been forthright on the point that it doesn't intend to generate resources ~ let alone impose water tax ~ lest it offend manush, the third facet of the government's guiding principle. Yet the KMC is ambitious enough; it has sought Rs 900 crore from the ADB under the KEIP  to increase water supply and revamp sewer lines and solid waste management. A decade after the ADB had set the condition, there is no indication that water meters will be installed. Even the bureaucracy concedes that the attitude of the government and KMC is "unreasonable". The official scepticism over the loan suggests that the state is headed for another phase of urban regression.









I AM an ordinary citizen who reads newspapers and watches television news channels. For the past year my conscience has been stirred with some big names being accused of corruption or of having facilitated the loot of the nation's wealth. Theoretically, they must be prosecuted and put behind bars to cleanse the society of corruption.
The big names are those of Suresh Kalmadi of CWG notoriety, Ashok Chavan for the Adarsh Housing Society scam, A Raja and Kanimozhi for the 2G scam, Yeddyurappa for illegal iron ore mining in Karnataka, and now Sheila Dikshit, also in connection with CWG. I wonder why they should be prosecuted in the first place; and how will their prosecution  help society.
  We, the people, constitute society. The politicians, the judiciary, the media, and the bureaucracy are supposed to be the four pillars of society. Kalmadi and Yeddyurappa are said to be corrupt. Agreed. How did they get the opportunity to be corrupt? First, they were voted, supported and elected by us ~ the society ~ to represent us in the legislature. Not that they were honest or known to be honest before the election. They didn't get the votes  for their honesty or integrity but for their political affiliations, their religion, their caste. How would they be useful to the electorate? How much would they be able to spend? Whether or not they were honest or corrupt before the elections, the fact is that they won a majority. They didn't change colours overnight after the elections.
Let me furnish a very recent example. Society had to choose between Dilip Vengsarkar, an honest and veteran cricketer, and Vilasrao Deshmukh, an implicated politician, for the post of president, Mumbai Cricket Association. The voters chose the latter.
  Even after the elections, Kalmadi and Yeddyurappa didn't become chairman, CWG organising committee or Karnataka's chief minister of their own accord. Someone else entrusted them with the responsibilities out of many options that were available ~ the Prime Minister in the case of Kalmadi and the Karnataka assembly vis-a-vis Yeddyurappa.
Is it fair and just on the part of society to ask for heads of those whom it itself gave power to be corrupt? Yes, they are the culprits, but those who empowered them are the greater culprits. And natural justice would demand that they be punished before the Kalmadis and Yeddyurappas are punished.
  What happens in a bureaucracy? The rogues and corrupt are given top and choice postings (of course, this doesn't mean all senior postings go only to the unscrupulous).  And when scandals strike, fingers are pointed at them. Those responsible for having positioned them to indulge in the loot go scot free.
  Let us look at it in another way. What does Indian society do to people who show exemplary courage to fight corruption and even attempt to cleanse the same? It treats them as pariahs, kills them, or abandons them to suffer and perish. All the four pillars ~ the politicians, the judiciary, the media, and the bureaucracy ~ combine to be the perpetrators or to feign helplessness when such people are persecuted. Their families suffer.
Sanjiv Chaturvedi, the forest officer in Haryana, and I are two recent examples. At least two others have been killed, notably Satyendra Kumar Dubey and Manjunath. I am not aware if either of them has been honoured even posthumously by the state. Does not Indian society by its actions demoralise those who tend to serve it? Does it not motivate one to be corrupt? Is  it just for the same society to ask for punishment to a few caught in acts of corruption?
  Society must realise and accept that it often prompts the worthies to be corrupt. To say this is not to condone their wrong-doings. Indeed, we are really a strange set of people. We cry hoarse over corruption and yet indulge in or accept corruption in our daily lives and with a sense of indifference. We look down upon those fighting corruption from within as unwanted or undesirable aberrations.
In a well-reasoned  article in this newspaper, Mr Rajinder Puri, for different reasons, has posed the question whether the world is sane or mad. The answer is evident.
  The media's sense of proportion is bizarre. There is a television channel that goes on harping about the loss of a few crores of rupees for months in the CWG scam. Apparently, the annual loss of lakhs of crores through leakage and wastages in the procurement of goods and services in the public sector is not worth reporting or mentioning.
Clearly behind postures, the big names have their own axe to grind. No problem. But when they selectively ask for the heads of Kalmadis and Yeddyurappas, the attitude is revolting. At the slightest opportunity, they sing paeans to those actually responsible who remain entrenched in positions of authority. In other words, we are impervious towards the source of corruption.
I have read and listened to a number of accomplished leaders and social luminaries giving assurances, making convincing arguments, blaming one another, taking credit for the wonderful work done and so on. While they keep themselves engaged in the game of one-upmanship, I learn that out of one rupee of public money spent, lesser and lesser (less than fifteen paise) is reaching the public. The number of people below the poverty line and that of starving or malnourished children is increasing by millions.
  The heads of Kalmadis and Yeddyurappas won't help me, the society or the country as long as the trends mentioned are not  reversed. And the trend will not be reversed if a few heads are made to roll. There are lakhs, if not millions, who deserve similar treatment. I wonder how the prosecution of a handful  will help society.
Without addressing the basic problems, the obsession with Kalmadis and Yeddyurappas will be a waste of  time. It is akin to severing the heads of Ravana; before long, more heads will prop up to take their place. And let us not delude ourselves by hoping that the basic problems will ever be attended to by the current dispensation. In the words of Churchill, we have been allowing and facilitating rascals, rogues, freebooters and men of straw to lead us since Independence.
  There are more freebooters and men of straw than rascals and rogues. In their utterances, the ministers and ruling party spokespersons are engaged in competitive shamelessness. Society allows these leaders to prosper. When the likes of Baba Ramdev take up the cudgels on behalf of the masses, they are just driven out by the authorities.
Mahatma Gandhi was neither joking nor was he being foolish when a hundred years ago he compared the parliamentary system to a prostitute and a sterile woman. We have opted for that system of governance. We have chosen our leaders; they don't choose themselves. The attempt to identify scapegoats in Kalmadis, Rajas, and Yedyurappas will not help. It will be an exercise in self-deception. Unfortunately, we have historically been past masters in self-deception.
The writer is a senior Railway officer. These views are personal






Two categories of theories try to explain the mystery behind the extinction of the majestic dinosaurs that roamed the earth aeons ago.The gradualists feel that changing evolutionary trends such as competition with mammals and changes in vegetation and climate slowly eroded their numbers whereas catastrophists attribute it to one catastrophic event (a meteorite impact is usually cited) .
Seeing that the population of women in some states in India is steadily declining one needs to reflect (while it is still early days) whether some regional types of women too, could gradually become extinct? Regions lend their own special flavour to the entity we call woman. It would be hard to imagine our country without the brightly-attired women with their long veils from Rajasthan, the tall, fair sardarnis from Punjab, the recently successful sportswomen from Haryana and so many others…
An observation of prevailing trends reveals that a woman's very survival is challenged at many stages of  her life. This is more so in the poorer socioeconomic strata and in some parts of the country. For some women, it requires the right combination of luck and sheer tenacity to reach adulthood safely.
The illegal practice of letting parents know the sex of the child before its birth, continues. It has been found that first pregnancies usually are not aborted, but second and third pregnancies are. An overwhelming number of aborted fetuses are female. A recent study in Lancet  found that sex selective abortions are on the rise in India. The national family health surveys have found a similar trend. Sex-selective abortions are more prevalent in the northern states.
Apart from the aborted foetus , the mother is also at definite risk. Although the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act has made nearly all types of abortion legal, for various reasons, more than 70 per cent of abortions are carried out under unsatisfactory conditions in small, poorly-equipped, unsanitary clinics run by inadequately-qualified owners. Such abortions frequently lead to maternal mortality due to sepsis or undue bleeding. India has amongst the highest number of abortion related deaths.
The birth of a baby girl is not a unanimously joyous event in our country. Some families view girls as a social and economic burden and kill newborn girls with impunity. Some in desperate conditions carry out this act to save their girl from a possible future of pain and hardship. Convictions occur regularly for all manner of crimes but how many deaths of infant girls have been seriously investigated and how many parents convicted? Almost none. The rampant female infanticide is reflected in dwindling sex ratios. The average sex ratio for the country (rural and urban) is 940 women per 1000 males. Some states are well below this average and the concentration seems to be around Delhi (866 ), Chandigarh (818), Punjab (893) and Haryana (877), with Haryana having among the lowest sex ratio among all states. Only the Union Territories of Dadara (775) and Daman and Diu (618) have lower ratios. It is disturbing that such low figures should be recorded at the National Capital and its neighbourhood, where there is relative economic prosperity.
The women who are born under more favourable conditions and thus escape this "unnatural selection" then start attending school. Alas, every child does not have a carefree childhood. Many small girls are married off just after attaining puberty. Child marriages are still highly prevalent in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal (with Rajasthan being the worst offender) despite there being an act against this. Teenage pregnancies are associated with a much higher mortality ratio ~ twice as high in the 15-19 age group compared with early 20s. Some teenage mothers who survive may have damage to their still immature internal organs and become incontinent. Also, many teenage girls are abducted and sold into prostitution. The life expectancy is shortened for such girls owing to a combination of lack of hygiene, forced use of drugs, injuries inflicted by violent male clients and sexually transmitted diseases, notably HIV. Some are simply raped and killed.
After this gruesome attrition process during the earlier years, the more fortunate women who are able to actually complete an education and reach adulthood relatively unscathed then enter the domestic phase of their lives. They encounter the dowry menace then. Dowry deaths are as prevalent in the educated classes as among the poor. Although there is some conviction rate for this ghastly crime, it is clearly not enough of a deterrent since it is still widely prevalent and seemingly on the rise.
For the woman who makes it past these hurdles, to the state of motherhood, it's not safe passage as yet. The odds are still stacked against her, specially if she is poor. India boasted of one of the highest maternal mortalities in the world in the earlier part of this decade.The latest statistics show some improvement (212 according to the census commission) but we still have a long way to go to reach international targets ~ 109/1000 by 2015. Among the states, Assam (480), Uttar Pradesh (440) and Rajasthan (388) seem to have the highest maternal mortality figures as per Government of India statistics, 2006. Notable among the reasons are: still prevalent child marriages leading to teenage pregnancies, unsafe delivery and abortion, lack of good hospitals for skilled care in rural areas, poor basic health of women leading to easy susceptibility to infection. Considering that supplementation needed during pregnancy consists of the very economical iron and folate tablets and two tetanus injections, the high rate of maternal mortality is very poignant. It is even more ironical when we consider that India is emerging as a medical tourism destination.
It seems that only at menopause does a woman's fate appear to be a little more secure. However now the combination of her advancing years and the woman's propensity to neglect her own health while looking after her children, husband and in-laws, make her more susceptible to the general problems of old age.
The government, non governmental organisations and even individuals have been carrying out a number of initiatives involving literacy, health and incentives for the family of a girl child.  But this is clearly not enough. We need to reinforce some actions and make imaginative changes in those measures which don't seem to be working. We also need to change social perceptions and outdated mindsets.
Attention should be focused on the states which have high maternal mortality rates, low sex ratios, high percentages of child marriage, and poor literacy levels such Jharkhand (56%), Bihar (53%), Rajasthan (53%), Uttar Pradesh (59%) and Arunachal Pradesh (59%). The states with multiple risk factors are at greatest risk of losing their female population and  should be attended to on an urgent basis.
Female infanticide should be taken seriously as a crime and concrete arrests made. When a death is reported from a particular area, the village must be also put under surveillance. Awareness and counselling programmes should be undertaken to prevent more such deaths.  This could be the responsibility of the district collector. Alongside, the danger to baby girls must be removed by taking measures to ensure that girl children are not seen as a "burden". More stringent dowry deterrents should be put in place. A written undertaking should be sought from prospective brides and grooms about not indulging in monetary transactions before the marriage licence is issued. The government should institute more scholarships for girl children.
The child marriage Act has not been enforced at all and convictions are unheard of. A jail term of three months is simply not enough for offenders. A hefty fine should be slapped on the parents of underage brides and grooms alike. The village sarpanch should ensure that all households know where to go in a gynaecological emergency and should ensure that some means of transport is available. Also, it will make a huge difference to maternal health if iron and folate tablets are distributed in a manner as organised as the one evident in the distribution of anti-tubercular and anti-AIDS drugs. Perhaps the same distribution channels can be used.
At the social level, perhaps the time has come to remove the Indian overemphasis on marriage. If the government prioritises women's empowerment, many young girls would not be forced into arranged marriages and the complexities of resultant dowry demands. The terribly skewed sex ratio should serve as a warning to the government. It's time it woke up.

The writer is a freelance contributor






The UN human rights office has urged the Pakistani government to investigate numerous reports of abductions, disappearances and extrajudicial killings, particularly of journalists, according to a Press release issued in New York. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has received numerous reports of rights violations, spokesperson Mr Rupert Colville told reporters.
The office stated that it received reports on the killing of Munir Shakir in the western province of Balochistan on 14 August, and the disappearance of another journalist, Rehmatullah Darpakhel, earlier in North Waziristan on 11 August. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Navi Pillay spoke out back in March about the escalating trend of violations against journalists, human rights defenders, and political activists in Balochistan.
"We are very concerned that such incidents are not abating in Pakistan," Mr Colville said in New York. "We call on all responsible parties to immediately stop such violations of human rights and we urge the government to take immediate steps to independently investigate these cases." He noted that Pakistan is one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous, places for media professionals, with at least 16 journalists killed in 2010.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, nine journalists have been killed in Pakistan so far this year. "None of the cases have been investigated to the full," Mr Colville said. He added that in Balochistan alone, there were reports that 25 people, including journalists, writers, students and human rights defenders, had been subjected to extrajudicial killings within the first four months of 2011. He noted that a report issued in June by Pakistan's human rights commission revealed 143 cases of disappearances in Balochistan, including journalists, in May. The report also listed 140 missing persons who were found dead in Balochistan between July 2010 and May 2011.
According to a statement issued by the UN's acting deputy spokesman Mr Farhan Haq in New York, the world body also condemned the suicide attack on a mosque during Friday prayers in the Khyber tribal region in north-west Pakistan, in the strongest terms. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the deliberate attack at a place of worship during the Muslim holy month of Ramzan, and the reported use of a teenager to perpetrate the attack killed 40 people and left more than a 100 injured. The statement noted that the UN continued to stand by Pakistan in its efforts to combat the scourge of terrorism. Mr Ban extended his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and the government of Pakistan, it the statement reads.

Bangladeshi flood victims
The world food agency said that it was providing food assistance to 57,000 people affected by floods in southern Bangladesh. "Thousands of poor families have been devastated due to the effects of the flooding. A vast number of ultra-poor people are stranded on embankments, with no access to food and shelter," reads a  press release, quoting acting World Food Programme country director Mr Michael Dunford, issued in New York. The agency noted that several areas of Satkhira district had been submerged owing to severe flooding caused by heavy rainfall. "Satkhira is an area where malnutrition is endemic, so this food assistance is absolutely vital," Mr Dunford said. WFP has allocated 34.5 tons of high-energy biscuits to 11,500 households to cover the needs of over 57,000 people in the district, with the help of the Australian government. The agency said that each household will be provided with 40 packets of fortified biscuits, will serve as a vital source of food and nutrition for the severely-vulnerable people hit by the flooding.
WFP will monitor the situation and will expand its support if necessary. The agency has been working in Bangladesh for 37 years in the areas of food security, nutritional well being and livelihoods. It is also working with communities vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, building their resilience and livelihoods through innovative food and cash-for-work programmes.

Israeli settlements
The UN committee on Palestinian rights called on the international community to take "credible and decisive action" to compel Israel to halt its settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory. "Recent Israeli settlement announcements undermine international efforts aimed at bringing the parties back to negotiations," the Bureau of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People said in a statement.
It voiced deep alarm at Israel's "illegal" approval of 5,200 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem in August alone. "They have a corrosive effect on confidence and undermine goodwill, absent which serious and genuine permanent status negotiations are unlikely to succeed," the statement reads.
The committee noted that the issues of settlements and Jerusalem were among core issues to be negotiated by the stakeholders. "All unilateral actions by Israel which prejudge the outcome of negotiations by creating faits accomplis on the ground have no legal validity." It strongly condemned Israel's "illegal and provocative acts", which it said were aimed at encircling and separating East Jerusalem from the rest of occupied Palestinian territory behind a wall of settlements.
They also stressed on Israeli control over the West Bank by fragmenting it in ways which would render a viable, contiguous and sovereign Palestinian State impossible to achieve in accordance with the two-State solution. It referred to the internationally-approved roadmap that seeks to resolve West Asia crisis on the basis of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and within secure borders.
The Bureau called on Israel to immediately cease and reverse these unilateral actions, freeze all settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the so-called "natural growth," and dismantle outposts erected since 2001, obligations Israel undertook in accordance with the roadmap. "While welcoming the recent expressions of concern by the (West Asia) Quartet and other members of the international community, the bureau calls for credible and decisive action to compel Israel to abide by its legal obligations and to protect Palestinian civilians under prolonged military occupation from the damaging effects of settlements and settlers," the Bureau said in the statement. "The Security Council and the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions bear a special responsibility in this regard," reads the statement.

anjali sharma







After many years, and assuredly in the fullness of time, the Calcutta Improvement Scheme has been given legislative form. The project has been under discussion since 1896 when the Calcutta Plague Commission drew attention to the almost incredible overcrowding in the Northern portion of the city, where the population was huddled together to the extent of 145,000 persons to the square mile. A Building Commission appointed in 1897 accepted the opinion of the Plague doctors that the only cure for this congestion was to be found in the construction of new roads and the provision of open spaces. In 1899 a modest scheme was formulated by the Lieutenant-Governor of the day, but it was wisely resolved to deal with the conditions in a more comprehensive fashion. Consequently in 1904, at a conference convened by the Lieutenant-Governor, the present scheme was drawn up. In the following year the proposals were published in order that they might receive the criticism of public bodies, and, after much consideration by the Bengal Government, the Government of India, and the Secretary of State, they came before the Bengal Legislative Council, where the Bill has passed through the stage corresponding to the Committee stage in the House of Commons in the space of six days. That a measure containing 195 clauses can be adequately discussed in less than a week is an obvious impossibility, and the fact that the Bill has been disposed of in so brief a period testifies in an eloquent manner to the nature of the opposition and criticism directed against its provisions. The simple fact is that every amendment moved has been designed to impede the work of the Improvement Trust, to limit the application of the scheme, in increase the compensation awarded to owners of slum property, and in a word to render the scheme costly and unworkable. Had a like Bill been introduced in the House of Commons efforts would have been made to extend its scope, to reduce the compensation to owners of property, and to increase the powers of the Trust in every direction.









Inertia becomes policy and thus a deadlock is the source of excitement. This apparently paradoxical statement seems to be the only way to describe the prevailing political situation. The government is not doing anything after the bravado of arresting Anna Hazare completely backfired. From that point of time, Mr Hazare has continued to hike up his demands and the level of support that his agitation is receiving has also increased. The prime minister has had no response to this. He appears to believe that by ignoring the agitation he will make it go away. It is true that the agitation is led by a complete maverick and is an urban phenomenon. There are suspicions that some political and cultural formations are providing support to Mr Hazare. What is equally undeniable is that Mr Hazare has tapped into a spring of popular anger and this is why people, educated and intelligent people, are willing to turn a blind eye to the many contradictions and dangers inherent in Mr Hazare's demands and appeal. What is becoming alarmingly obvious is that this inertia cannot continue. If nature abhors a vacuum, politics loathes a deadlock.

What is bizarre in this situation is the impression conveyed by the government that no one is actually in charge. The prime minister is not an assertive person at the best of times. But in these worst of times, there was the expectation that he would firmly put his hand on the tiller to steer the ship of State. This expectation has been belied. He is either unwilling to assert his authority or unable to do so. The shadow of an absence has encumbered the prime minister's political will. Sonia Gandhi, if she had been in India, would have provided political counsel, but there is surely a difference of perspectives between that of a government and that of a political party. The government has failed to clarify to the general public that there are at least two distinct issues involved in the continuing stalemate. One is the eradication of poverty in public life and the other is the challenge being posed to the supremacy of Parliament. The principal reason for this failure is that the government has been tardy in dealing with corruption in its own ranks and what is worse is that the government's own record in upholding the dignity and supremacy of Parliament is not exactly exemplary. The government is in a glass house and thus hesitant to throw stones.







It is never easy to do business in a place where politics is routinely reduced to extortion. The situation must be truly alarming if the chief minister of a state has to publicly ask the business community not to surrender to extortionists belonging to the ruling party. Few chief ministers would actually do so, but Mamata Banerjee has been known for her penchant for doing unconventional things. By publicly making the appeal, she has done two things that should be reassuring to the business community. First, she has shown that she does not want to skirt the issue. Even if the ugly reality of extortion involves politicians belonging to her own party, it has to be faced and dealt with. In a country where political leaders are known to condone their followers' crimes, she has shown both courage and transparency. Second, by asking businessmen to refuse to pay even her own party leaders, she has risen above party politics and acted like an administrator. This approach to governance is new in a state where administration and party politics became one and the same thing under the long reign of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

However, the chief minister's appeal is best seen as the statement of an objective. It will take much more than an honest intention to let the business community live and work without the fear of extortionists. Ms Banerjee cannot afford to dissociate herself from the actions of her party's leaders and activists. If some lower-level leaders of the Trinamul Congress are harassing industrialists or threatening to shut down their units in case they do not pay protection money, she needs to not only identify the culprits but also punish them in accordance with the law. It is also not a question of protecting businessmen alone from such political activists. A government has a constitutional and moral obligation to offer a similar protection to all sections of society. The first thing that the people in a civilized society want is to be able to live without fear. If the people of Bengal gave her a massive mandate to rule the state in the last elections, it was primarily to ensure that they could live without the fear of the party. That mandate was certainly not for seeing the TMC replace the CPI(M) as the agent of fear. Ms Banerjee would do well to follow up her message to the business community with some exemplary action.






In the current hullabaloo about the lok pal bill and the Anna agitation, one question has frequently been raised, both by protagonists of the Congress and the government and by constitutionalists and legal experts: however laudable the goals of Anna and his supporters, aren't the methods adopted by them illegitimate? Doesn't a fast unto death amount to blackmail of the legislature? Isn't it an attempt by the unelected to usurp the functions of Parliament and thereby to undermine the foundations of democracy?

In answering this question, a basic principle needs to be kept in mind: laws can only be promulgated by Parliament. The government's adversaries are under no illusion that they can by themselves produce a new law against corruption without first engineering a violent revolution, an option that they specifically — and, given the age and health of the main actors, very credibly — abjure. All that the advocates of the jan lok pal bill — or the diffuse mass of their supporters — can do, or are trying to do, is to persuade or pressure our representatives in Parliament to their point of view. Our question therefore boils down to a much simpler issue: are the methods being employed by the agitators to persuade or pressure the legislators legitimate tactics? Shouldn't they have walked the path being so thoughtfully laid out by the government for them — quietly making representations before the select committee or asking legislators who agree with them to introduce private member's bills or amendments to the government's bill and then awaiting Parliament's sovereign decision? Why create so much of a public rumpus?

Once we rephrase the government's objections to the current agitation in this way, the charge that the agitators have launched an assault on democracy appears singularly hollow. So long as neither violence nor bribery is employed, democracy does not impose any further restrictions on the methods we use to persuade our representatives. It is at least partly a matter of taste whether one goes about it in the genteel fashion that would have pleased Messrs Manmohan Singh and Kapil Sibal or with high-visibility fasting and high-decibel drama.

In large part, however, our techniques of peaceful persuasion must depend on the urgency of the issues involved, the technology available for the dissemination of protest and the kind of people we have to persuade. No one can doubt that the issue we are presently concerned with is absolutely central to the future of our republic. Over the last several years, the members of this government have plundered the country on an unprecedented, indeed, astronomical, scale in the shelter of a supposedly incorruptible prime minister who adopted as his role models the Japanese monkeys of legend who saw no evil, heard no evil and spoke no evil. The credibility of the Indian State is in tatters.

Moreover, the deep penetration of mobile telephones into the countryside, the rapid expansion of rural television viewership, of literacy and computer-literacy, and the proliferation of social networks have changed the parameters of dissent. Victims of endemic corruption in the remoter reaches of rural India had been condemned earlier by sheer isolation to suffer in fatalistic resignation what they believed to be the unalterable order of things. Now they have the option of being part of a nationwide upsurge of outrage and protest. To fully exploit this potential for reaching out, a non-violent protest must be dramatic and telegenic. Invisible representations before a standing committee deep in the chambers of the Lok Sabha cannot compare in media impact with a very public fast unto death in full view of thousands of spectators and participants with flags, speeches, music and all the works. The outreach of the former method will fall far short of the latter, and so will its capacity to influence parliamentarians concerned about their future electoral prospects. Anna and his allies are creating a public spectacle that is keeping the voter's attention firmly focused on the question of corruption and thus generating enormous electoral pressure on our legislators.

None of this is undemocratic in the least. Perhaps it is ungentlemanly: it hits members of parliament below the belt; it seeks to force them to vote in a particular way regardless of the dictates of their logical faculties or their moral sensibilities (not to speak of their party whip). Is this quite cricket?

A few facts are pertinent at this point. In 2004, the Election Commission, for the first time, made it mandatory for all candidates for the Lok Sabha to disclose their criminal histories. It turned out that 128 of the winners in the elections of 2004 — nearly 25 per cent of the Lok Sabha membership — had criminal records. This led to much heartburn and breast-beating and many campaigns against voting for criminals. However, in the 2009 elections, the number of winners with criminal histories rose by 20 per cent — to 153. This does not include individuals who achieved celebrity status later, such as A. Raja or Suresh Kalmadi. Nor does it include people like Mohammad Azharuddin, the former Indian cricket captain, convicted of match fixing by the Board of Control for Cricket in India and banned for life from the game, but now the Congress MP from Moradabad. There are no doubt many others whose criminal activities have gone unrecorded because of the extreme reluctance of the powers that be to register cases against them. Despite these exclusions, almost 30 per cent of the members of the present Lok Sabha have criminal records.

These distinguished gentlemen are far from being the least influential members of the House. Mohammad Shahabuddin, four-time MP from Siwan, debarred from the 2009 elections by the EC on account of his conviction for murder, was the Union minister of state for home affairs (in effective charge of the police, no less) in the government of H.D. Deve Gowda, now a close ally of the Congress in Karnataka, until vociferous media outrage led to his omission. During the first United Progressive Alliance regime, Shahabuddin was wanted by the police on many non-bailable charges (from murder to kidnapping, to smuggling and to the possession of a vast cache of military weaponry, some of it with Pakistani markings). But the Delhi police simply could not trace this elusive Scarlet Pimpernel who, like Osama of blessed memory, had been 'hiding in plain sight', in his MP's house and regularly attending Parliament as a loyal supporter of the government. It was only after Nitish Kumar's victory in Bihar in November 2005 that a posse of Bihar police succeeded in arresting him (from his MP's house, where else?) by the simple expedient of not informing Delhi about the plans. Another four-time MP and convicted murderer, Pappu Yadav, wielded a degree of influence nearly as great. Shibu Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha was accused and convicted of murder while coal minister in Manmohan Singh's government, though the conviction was overturned on appeal. One could multiply examples indefinitely.

The author is a former teacher of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is currently affiliated to ISI, Delhi







When it comes to naming, like the chief minister of West Bengal I too believe in consulting everyone. And, as it turned out, everyone was happy to pitch in. An old friend, a Delhi wit, and apparently a fan of the work culture of this state, wanted it to be called Rest Bengal. But, as I pointed out to him, we really don't make much progress in the list of states if we go that way. A couple suggested Bongo, after the musical instrument, on the grounds that "state ka to baaja baj gaya" (the state's music is over, meaning, for those who do not read Hindi, that things are pretty much finished for the state). I thought that was a little too negative, as was perhaps the suggestion of a local cynic who insisted on remaining anonymous: Bhongo (literally, 'breakage', to commemorate, he said, what has been done to the state over the last many years).

As is the fashion these days, I decided I will instead try to learn what I can from the global experience of renaming. The trouble is, as I discovered quickly, that most countries prefer not to be renamed, unless they are forced to do so by events (Germany got unified, while Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, not to speak of the Soviet Union, fell apart). But there are, of course, examples to the contrary. Congo became Zaire under Mobutu Sese Seko, and sank to the bottom of the list of countries, in almost every possible way. Burma became Myanmar under the military junta, and this has not stopped the country from being one of the saddest corners of Asia. And the Khmer Rouge renamed Cambodia Kampuchea before turning it into killing fields.

Up the ladder

What about countries that went the other way, as we hope to accomplish in Bengal — up the alphabetical order rather than down? Well, Zaire is back as Congo, but things have not really improved much; Dahomey became the Republic of Benin when the country came under a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship and went into an economic tailspin, but in the last 20 years, it has been doing much better after abandoning its hardline policies and embracing democracy; and Cambodia is back, and is doing better.

Given this rather inconclusive evidence, I decided that it was important to get the right name rather than jockey for a good position on the alphabetical order. After all, we can jump past Punjab by going to Paschimbanga, but what's stopping them from revising the state's name to 'Panjab', which is what we Bengalis call it? Substance, I felt, should take precedence over mere rank-mongering. What place, I asked, would we want to be like? Which is the second fastest growing state in India in the last few years, and one where even the Bharatiya Janata Party is committed to communal harmony? Which state's chief minister was recently described by Bill Gates as having demonstrated that "the best leaders can overcome the worst circumstances"?

Go east

My proposal is that we turn ourselves into East Bihar. It will move us way up the alphabetical order — which seems to be a priority. Like Paschimbanga, it provides some clues regarding where to look for it on the map (and it celebrates East rather than West — which seems more appropriate). And it ties us to a rising tide.


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




With Libya's capital Tripoli falling to Nato-backed rebels, Muammar Gadhafi's 42-year-rule has ended. Gadhafi ruled Libya with an iron hand. So weak was political opposition to his rule – he had ruthlessly suppressed it for decades – that few would have believed even a year ago that the Libyan strongman could be shaken let alone overthrown. But the ousting of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt changed that.

Suddenly it seemed that even the most entrenched of dictators could be removed from power. Libya's opposition unlike that in Egypt was able to draw on robust western help. Nato backed it vigorously by supplying them with weapons. It also bombed military installations to weaken Gadhafi and bombarded cities to facilitate the advance of rebels. Forces loyal to Gadhafi put up a strong fight but in the end could do little in the face of Nato's superior fire power.

The 'king of kings of Africa' as Gadhafi liked to be called is no more Libya's strongman. However, it would be premature to write him off.  Rebel claims appear rather overstated. They said they had Gadhafi's son Saif-ul Islam in their custody but the latter surfaced before the international media in Tripoli on Monday.

Besides, while it is true that Tripoli fell to the rebels without much resistance from Gadhafi's forces, the latter may have retreated rather than been routed. This means they could have melted away only to strike again later. It is possible therefore that the scenario unfolding in Libya is similar to the one that emerged in Iraq after the fall of Baghdad in 2003. Post-Gadhafi Libya could be convulsed in violence. Thanks to militarisation of the country and now Nato's generous supply of arms to the rebels, Libya is awash with weaponry.

With Gadhafi gone, the unifying goal of ousting him that held rebels together hitherto too has gone. They can be expected to begin fighting among themselves. The main group, the National Transitional Council, which was last month recognised by Britain, France and the US as the legitimate representative body of the Libyan people, has said it will establish a new democratic government. Its tasks are not easy. It will have to act quickly not only to establish control over the levers of power but also improve the lives of ordinary Libyans.








There was a touch of the inevitable to India's spineless capitulation at The Oval, a surrender that was illustrative of the extraordinarily ordinary brand of cricket showcased by M S Dhoni's men on a most forgettable Test tour of England.

The 4-0 whitewash was no more than Andrew Strauss and his team deserved because they outplayed the unit they deposed as the number one Test team most comprehensively. India might offer multiple excuses, some justified, for their worst outing in more than a decade, but there can be no excuses for four consecutive drubbings, two of them by an innings, in a series where with the honourable exception of Rahul Dravid, India appeared a pale shadow of the juggernaut that conquered the world in April.

Knives have been sharpened and it's almost certain that heads will roll in the immediacy of this miserable display. India were put through a most stern examination by a team that had everything to gain and nothing to lose, and came up woefully short, found wanting in skills, desire, temperament and character.

Most disheartening was the lack of fight and spirit from a team that has made bouncing back its calling card, raising doubts about the motivational skills of new coach Duncan Fletcher, who inherited an enviable legacy from the well-liked Gary Kirsten. Fletcher can take perverse pleasure in having done his bit for England – he was the England coach for a record 96 Tests – but his immediate task is to haul India out of the morass.

By no stretch of the imagination are India as bad a team as the run of results in England suggest. Saying that, the immediate need is to identify the core group for the future, especially given that batting giants Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar, as well as the injury-prone Zaheer Khan, are on their last legs.

The England tour is perhaps a precursor of things to come. There can't be immediate replacements for these giants, and more disappointment will be in store when they call it a day. The prudent course of action will be to plan judiciously. That will involve identifying young men with mettle, and reposing faith and confidence in them even in difficult times.

India have gone from number one to number three in the Test rankings in the space of a month. The climb back to the top is unlikely to be as swift or dramatic.








Politicians, officials have long understood that civil society is unorganised and that renders it voiceless and mostly toothless.
Corruption has been eating into the vitals of this country for far too long. Morally bankrupt representatives of the people have held fiefdom over the resources and assets of this country  too. If the decay had set in sometime after Independence, it has been running riot ever since and has been ravaging the very fabric of life in this country. Why?

There are two aspects to the answer: one gross, the other subtle. Let's look at the grosser aspect first.  It is easy to blame our politicians and bureaucrats for all the ills of governance. But we must realise that we have elected our leaders ourselves. We have given them the mandate to govern and rule this country. Yet there is a catch here.

They have come from our own stock! They carry the same culture and attitudes that our social fabric is suffused with. If they represent us they also represent our national character.

An honest look at ourselves reveals our national character in all its dim and dark, indeed dismal details. It is not an aspect of ourselves we can be proud of – at least not yet. Just look at the mass media. Crime and sensation grab the headlines more frequently than stories of the goodness of the human heart.

News channels vie with each other to bring scenes of human depravity into our drawing rooms. What we see and read everyday are stories of human turpitude, perversion, and venality. So, today, just as we witness societal degradation, we see that in our politicians and bureaucrats too.

Politicians and bureaucrats have long understood that civil society is an unorganised sector – and that renders it voiceless and mostly toothless. And in any case, the common man doesn't really care; demonstrating a general inertia when it comes to politicians and their capers.

As long as there is bread on their tables and a roof over their heads, the working class is a safe bet. And as long as the middle class can keep up with the Joneses – with their bourgeoisie, sometimes kitschy, dwellings and their Maruthis – they generally aren't much trouble either.

And the haves of this country, the movers and shakers are busy in their own private enterprises, and corporate juggernauts to bother too much about the murky world of politics. So politicians generally find themselves in a clear playing field, barring the occasional voice of dissent through letters in the newspapers or feeble public interest litigations.

Little wonder they've been treating the public exchequer as their private bank account, natural resources and assets of the land as their private property, using public money for self aggrandisement, and stashing away millions and billions in far off bank accounts and other save havens.

Solution lies within us
So, if we are to look for a solution to this Frankenstein called corruption that is threatening to rip apart the assiduously created notion that everything is alright with our world, we will find a solution in only one place: within ourselves. If we can pause for a moment, step back from the minutia of everyday life, be able to see our own lives and our society from a larger perspective, we will see that the solution lies in each one of us changing from within – that will then bring about a shift in our national character, which will mean a change not just in ourselves but also in our elected representatives.

Let's now look at the subtler aspect of the answer to the question raised in the beginning.  Anna's struggles epitomise the long repressed resentment of the people to the oppression of the misrule and misdemeanours of our leaders. And Anna's struggle happened because its time has come. Just as in various other parts of the world, wherever there are, or have been oppressive rulers and regimes – heralding as it were a shift in the very consciousness of mankind.

However, when we view the oppressors – or the corrupt and the dishonest – as the villains and ourselves as victims, we necessarily have to create a kind of duality: we against them. We draw a line between the villain and the victim -- 'he' and 'I' -- so we create fissures between the oppressor and the oppressed. But as long as we create fissures between people, identifying ourselves as separate and divided from other humans who we label as wrong doers, we remain separate and divided from the very essence of our own being and humanity.

Understanding this calls for major changes in our thinking. And the cornerstone of creating major life changes is first understanding the truth about who we are and our oneness at a fundamental level, first as people living in the same social milieu, then as citizens of the same country, and finally as humans. As long as we do not understand these nuances, we remain stuck in dysfunctional ways and sabotage our own progress.

So while Anna's crusade is the need of the hour because it brings to the fore in a revolutionary manner a long-pending need for change,  there is also the need to counterbalance this external revolution with one that is internal, played out deep in our psyche and our hearts, so that we do not forget our humanness and our souls in the process of bringing about external changes.

So even as we express our dissent and revolt we need to be receptive to the voice of our hearts and souls. Our spirit requires a balance of expression and receptiveness – what the Chinese call the yin and yang energies.







In the bloody sport of boxing, there is a mechanism which prevents considerable body damage becoming a danger to life and limb. It's called a "time out" where the boxer on the ropes gets a chance to calm down, get some treatment and then start afresh.

The government of India seriously needs that time out for its own health and well being, because Anna Hazare's physical health may be failing, but the government's ethical, moral, political and strategic health is on the ropes.
It was veering on the precipice and would have fallen into a very deep gorge if the last ditch attempt at meeting Team Anna late on Tuesday night had not materialised. The meeting cracked the ice a bit and allowed a thin lifeline to the government to attempt that time out.

In real terms, it has run out of options. The best that it can do in this situation is to allow the flawed government's version of the bill to lapse. That is step one. Once that is done, it can open discussions on fine tuning the Jan Lok Pal bill of Anna Hazare with a firm commitment of involving all stake holders and keeping the broad principles and introducing it in parliament to be debated.

  In addition, it has to fulfill its promise made in the late night meeting with Team Anna that if the higher judiciary is not included in the mutually agreed upon Lok Pal bill, a Judicial Accountability bill which covers corruption in the judiciary has to be introduced along with the Lok Pal bill.
If the government can wriggle out of this battle ground, this is the only way. In any logjam of this nature, both sides have to feel that they have salvaged something out of the situation. In a people versus the state battle where the people have clearly won, the state can only hope to be able to say that it did not let the Jan Lok Pal bill get introduced in the same form but left it open for discussions. That is a small concession that Team Anna should make to enhance its already elevated stature.

But there is no doubt that this movement has spurred the national imagination beyond all imagination. People of India seriously feel there is another world beyond bribes and power games. The Anna movement has cut through the cynicism of the people of India that nothing will ever change.

Having said that, the discussion table needs to be visited more than the agitation ground, in the coming few days with the possibility of getting back to the agitation ground if the government appears rigid and unreasonable. Team Anna needs to release its stranglehold a wee bit, only to allow the government to breathe and think this over clearly. Team Anna made two very good suggestions, one  having a citizens charter in every department outlining the role of each officer and the deadline he has to clear cases or files and secondly  to make it mandatory for all states to have a Lok Ayukta to cover all state officers.

The second is extremely important from Goa's point of view since this state has been denied a Lok Ayukta inspite of the assembly voting in favour of it. Though this Goa government wanted to withdraw the Lok Ayukta bill and introduce a fresh one, the old bill still stands in the house with the new bill nowhere in sight.
For the not so wise men in the government, hearing the call of the nation will be smart thing to do. They need a time out but people have already won this bout.






So, how many Goan expats are there in different parts of the globe? As things stand, we probably don't have a clue, but only very rough estimates and exaggerations.
Recently, a statistician John Nazareth (his roots are in Moira, and he lived in Uganda and Canada) undertook the hazardous task of calculating Goan migration levels worldwide. According to his count, there could be 4.5 lakh Goans settled across the rest of India
(including four lakh in Mumbai, ten thousand in Delhi, and twenty thousand each in Mangalore and the rest of India).
He believes there could be 50,000 Goans in the UK (including 32,000 in London and 8,000 in Swindon alone), and 43,000 in the Gulf countries (13,000 in Kuwait, 10,000 in the UAE, 8,000 in Qatar, 5,000 in Oman and 7,000 in Bahrain).
Some of these figures are calculated guesses. Nazareth predicts some with a "high level of confidence", and others based on guesswork. In Canada, his estimate is 34,700 Goans — including 28,000 in the Greater Toronto Area itself, with other pockets in Montreal (2,000), Vancouver (1,500), Hamilton (800), Calgary and Edmonton (700 each).
Karachi has 6000 Goans, though the number could have been as high as 25,000 in around 1956. Goans based in Karachi, like the businessman-social networker Menin Rodrigues calculate the figure to be higher though. Their story is a strange one. It involves pre-partition economic migration, and the reality of getting caught in a communal divide they had no part in creating. Returning home today, the Pakistani Goans have a tough time with visas and police reporting.
If based overseas too, their place of birth makes them suspect in the eyes of Indian consular officials. There are Goans scattered in other parts of the globe too. Some 5,800 in Australia  (over half in Sydney alone).  Another 5,500 in Kenya (four-fifths in Nairobi, most others in Mombasa), and just 130 surviving post-Idi Amin's Uganda. At its peak, between 1955 and 1965, there were nearly 8,000 in Uganda - some also in Entebbe, Mbale, Jinja and elsewhere.
Tanzania has some 2050 Goans, according to Nazareth (not just in Dar, but also in Tanga and Iringa), Portugal has 5000, Germany 300 and there are even 200 in Zambia, 100 in Malawi, 200 in Malaysia and 50 in Singapore.
What do these figures tell us? This is a resource we've been ignoring for too long. Unfortunately, the Goa-expat equation is still based on mutual selfishness; Goa looks to its expats only for their remittances, and to make a fast buck on their affluence. At the same time, the expats have traditionally thought of Goa only as a place for the occasional holiday, and to flee back to in case of a crisis. For example, Kuwait in the early 1990s and Uganda in the 1970s.
Expats are politically-un-influential (though that could change with voting rights) and ignored by politicians. Given the chance, today's political class would happily gobble up their properties; the way mundkar laws were worked out in an emigration-prone State is a case in point.
In a way, we're all expats. We have lived somewhere else, wish to go there, or have relatives overseas. This is particularly true of the Goan Catholic community, whose numbers dwindled here due to out-migration, in part. But now, every second politician is in a big hurry to get their children migrating overseas, despite all the "development" they have bestowed Goa with.
Tiny Goa whose strength has long been its ability to plug-in to the outside world, would ignore this potent resource at its own peril. More so in times when knowledge is increasingly the lever of power in our planet.







 Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat did the right thing yesterday by asking the chairman of the Israel Film Council, Nissim Abouloff, to suspend implementation of the council's decision to limit the movie "Hashoter" ("The Policeman") to audiences 18 and over. The council, whose members are nominated by the culture minister and approved by the cabinet, gave the film the most restrictive rating without explaining its decision. And it did so in a way that raises fundamental questions about the criteria it is applying.

The film, directed by Nadav Lapid, won the special jury prize at the Locarno Film Festival and three awards at the Jerusalem Film Festival. It tells the story of a young policeman in an elite antiterror unit; there is a separate plotline about young Tel Aviv revolutionaries who decide to fight Israel's extreme economic disparities by kidnapping wealthy businesspeople.

The film focuses on the connection between aggressive economic forces and heavy-handed tactics by the police and army, raising the specter of middle-class youth aspiring to change the government. To a great extent, the film foretells the current Israeli reality as reflected in the tent protest that got its start on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard.

According to film council rules, movies can be limited to audiences 18 and over in cases involving an "obscene film or one that offends public sensibilities." "Hashoter" does not include such content. It does not contain major violence or pornography and does not even offend public sensibilities other than those of the council members themselves.

Since the film's power derives from the context of current events, the rating stirs concerns that the council was trying to cater to its patrons and limit the film's audience to prevent younger people from adopting some of the tactics depicted in the film - tactics that don't square with the accepted public order.

Of course, it's not the film council's role to make such a link. The power of "Hashoter" stems in part from the possibility of challenging dominant political and economic perspectives and seeking to undermine them via art. The suspension of the decision on the film's rating should therefore be a first step toward repealing the rating.








On Sunday, at 9 P.M., the nation was watching. The Hamas cease-fire was due to go into effect, and all eyes turned to the television screens to see where the next rocket would fall. "Will they keep the cease-fire?" the commentators asked and rushed to answer: "Of course, we cannot depend on that." After all, Hamas is perceived to be a mad organization whose actions lack military or political reason.

However, Hamas has for some time now been more than an organization, and at least in the eyes of the Israeli government, it is also a government, which Israel considers responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip. It does not matter whether organizations like Islamic Jihad or the Popular Resistance Committees, "the Palestinian Army of Islam" or some freelancers fire on Israel. Hamas is the address to ensure there is calm in the Strip. This is something one sovereign state requires of another, and of one from whose territory hostile actions are initiated. This is how Israel behaves when it comes to Egypt, which it justifiably considers responsible for what takes place in Sinai, and that is how it perceives the governments of Lebanon and Syria when it comes to Hezbollah.

It's a security deal Israel cuts with Hamas, and not with the other groups, and not even with the Palestinian Authority. After all, there is no point in demanding control over the Strip from the PA, and not only because of its inability in practice to control the area. Israel's political logic holds that it is preferable to conduct direct or indirect dialogue with Palestinian groups rather than a Palestinian state. It's an efficient method that does not require withdrawal from the territories, discussion of the right of return or official recognition of Hamas. It's also convenient for Hamas, which has built up a deterrent against Israel and can carry on running its affairs with the PA without feeling threatened or having to recognize Israel.

So both Hamas and Israel share a common interest - that Hamas continue to run the Strip so long as it manages to keep the violent opposition at home at bay. On the face of it, Israel could not have expected a more successful partner for managing the occupation. Because Hamas has the power to determine not only the military agenda but also the political agenda of Israel and the Palestinians. Hamas succeeded in shaking the Israeli public when it kidnapped Gilad Shalit and caused Israeli governments to negotiate with it indirectly. It also managed to get Israel in trouble with Turkey, and as we saw this week, also to force itself into the fragile relations between Israel and Egypt.

The signing of the reconciliation agreement with Fatah strips Mahmoud Abbas of the ability to decide independently on establishing a Palestinian state, or even a Palestinian government, without Hamas. As long as Israel is fighting recognition of an independent Palestinian state, the partnership between Hamas and Fatah serves Israel's agenda. It can wave on the international scene the Hamas threat to torpedo a Palestinian state, and it can rely on Hamas to provide Israel with pretexts for blocking the diplomatic process. Because, without the Gaza Strip there is no Palestinian state and without Hamas there is no Gaza.

Thus, Israel and Hamas have succeeded in transforming Hamas into one of the core issues to be resolved ahead of an agreement. As far as Israel is concerned, this is a safe "core issue," because it carries no international pressure to recognize Hamas. Hamas is the best guarantee Israel has at this time for preserving the status quo vis a vis the Palestinians. The result is that anyone who talks about destroying Hamas undermines the strategic interest of Benjamin Netanyahu. Without Hamas there is no excuse for delaying a Palestinian state.

This is the sort of exceptional status to which every group aspires. Hezbollah is following a similar policy. Both groups have an independent existence, but have been smart enough to make use of the nature of Israel's rejectionist policy to build themselves up to a level much greater than that of just a group.

"Will Hamas keep the cease-fire?" The question is repeated, granting Hamas the final say. Israel itself could have answered the question were it to hold real negotiations with the PA, and in September have agreement on the nature of an independent Palestinian state. Now, it will have to rely on Hamas as if it was a life jacket. Absurd? Just foolishness.








LONDON - Even before Britain began to celebrate the fall of Muammar Gadhafi, as if it were Britain's own private victory, former Foreign Secretary David Owen recalled his brief moment as a supporting actor on the world stage at the end of the 1970s. Owen, who had urged Tanzania to invade Uganda and help topple Idi Amin, remembered fondly Saudi Arabia's decision to grant Amin asylum. If Amin had not had that option, Owen told The Independent over the weekend, Amin would have fought a life-and-death battle - his own and others.

Owen made the remarks while talking about Libya and Syria. Gadhafi's last days in power and the ostensibly ever-tightening stranglehold on Bashar Assad have reignited an old argument: Should mercy be shown to cruel tyrants, allowing them to seek asylum in another country? This would avoid more killing and destruction in tyrants' countries at the height of uprisings. But the issue is not a judicial one, despite the establishment of an international court as the ideological continuation of the trials of senior German and Japanese officials accused of war crimes during World War II.

Sometimes expediency translates into a proposal for a pardon. Saddam Hussein, in 1991 and more so in 2003, refused to retire to a vacation home - that is, assuming a country could have been found to host him, as Saudi Arabia did Amin. And the host country would not be able to fear the new rulers the way the Islamic regime in Iran was feared when the shah fled Tehran.

The formula for going into exile is simple. The ruler gives up the fight and the people who revolted against him, or the outside force that brought him down, gives up on punishing him severely. In fact, house arrest, or mansion arrest, will be imposed on him abroad. And those who were his victims or their relatives and friends will restrain themselves and not get back at him. The emotions of individuals will be canceled out by the good of the nation, which justifies reconciliation and the setting aside of settling scores. This was the case with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission established by Nelson Mandela in South Africa after the collapse of apartheid.

As alluring as the idea might sound to Western ears, it isn't likely to succeed when tyrannical regimes fall. Tyrants, ostensibly, have it all, but they don't have a pension (or a tranquil spirit ). Only death will release them from their powerful office. The way down for self-appointed presidents is almost as difficult as the way up.

New rulers will never be free of the fear that the ousted leader remains a locus of power and is plotting from afar a counterrevolution and return to power. They will want to put a quick end to the matter. This is what happened in most revolutions in Arab countries. And one needn't be an Arab, as seen by the end of Nicolae Ceausescu, or even a tyrant. During World War II, after King Edward VIII was forced to abdicate, he was suspected of being a German sympathizer to such an extent that some feared the Germans would back him to retake the crown if they occupied the British Isles.

The establishment of a retired tyrants' club in some isolated spot like Devil's Island or placing them in protective disguise on foreign soil is impractical. Their successors will send assassins after them; they themselves will dream and plot incessantly to regain their lost power.

This is true not only of an individual ruler, but of a group, sect or tribe. Gadhafi's end might not deter Assad, it might spur him on to muster the Alawites, who know that his fall will be their fall. Anyone who hopes to see the same conclusion in Damascus as in Tripoli will have to write a different end to the story.








A moment before fatigue, waves of criticism and the Middle Eastern reality weaken the tent protesters, we should take a moment to look at the past, even if simply and without interpretation, and to read the Israeli 14th of July in light of its great progenitor, the French Revolution.

The social comparison is clear: a hodgepodge of groups that were squeezed into one "class," which was tired of the burden of maintaining an aristocracy - whether a remote one or one of capital and government. Both groups discovered a weakness in those confronting them: a king who stretched out a hesitant hand, and a visible hand that slanted market prices downward.

From the parallels we can also see the great differences: The French protest was quickly translated into the wording of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, which was also the preface to a decade of bloody political battles. About 50 more years of wavering between conservatism and revolution ended with the victory of the latter. Alexis de Tocqueville, one of the first thinkers to explain the revolution, said that more than it was revolutionary, it was an evolutionary and dialectic process whose conceptual roots were planted deep in French history.

In Israel there are some who want to implement the "social justice" slogan as though it were a part of the instant culture in which worlds are changed by means of a Facebook "like" or a text message. But the speed and superficiality must be rejected in order to leave room for the need and the desire to think, to agree, to be deterred, to have regrets, to experience trial and error. All those take time. Momentary agreement and a comforting counter-declaration are not a solution for the profound change demanded by the protest.

Social justice, which is now seen as a change, is in effect a motif in Judaism, which was part of Jewish society during the period of settlement in Palestine and even during the first 19 years of the state - even though social justice was not applied to the other nation living here. Contributing to society was also one of the prominent characteristics of practical Zionism, before it was labeled pure colonialism.

Now, among the ideological rifts, the protesters want to return to the foundations and to leave politics aside. But it is doubtful whether the discussion of the gaps can be silenced; for example, the gap between the funding for the Judea and Samaria Academic College and that of the public colleges inside the Green Line; the generous funding for the special schools of the ultra-Orthodox, and the sweeping exemption from military service, under the aegis of "the tents of Torah."

A divorce from politics is difficult even on the theoretical level. De Tocqueville compared the French Revolution to the religious revolutions, referring to the transition from idolatrous beliefs to monotheism, to religions that recruit believers and are constantly spreading. The Israeli protest is also recruiting believers and spreading. The Rothschild encampment, which was at first depicted as nothing more than a hedonistic celebration, inspired dozens of encampments and thousands of Israelis who believe in their ability to change their future with their own hands. It turns out that the burial of the era of ideology was premature, and if there is ideology, politics will march hand in hand with it.

Years of patience and deposits of faith are necessary in order to benefit from the fruits of the change, not the crumbs that will be tossed to the hungry masses by politicians or committees. If there is a revolutionary spirit, then it should go all the way: with patience and an ongoing discourse, even at a time of external threats. If the French did not retreat before the ire of the kings of Europe, the Israelis can also take a deep breath and continue.








Were Shelly Yachimovich the only one to raise the banner of selective justice, there would be no need to state here that the settlements are no sin in exactly the same way that traffic in women is no crime and concentrating Jews from Arab lands in weakened towns on the periphery is no injustice. There would be no reason to recall that once, there was a consensus over slavery, and that there is ever only one Master; he merely changes his name from time to time: men in a patriarchal society, whites in South Africa, Jews in the state for Jews-above-all.

Unfortunately, however, many activists in and supporters of the Israeli protest movement accept the logic of social-nationalist justice. Were Yachimovich in the minority, at least 10 percent of the quarter-million demonstrators would have protested against the wall of sin in Walaja, Bil'in, Na'alin and Ma'asara. They would have marched en masse to the stolen Nebi Saleh spring and liberated it. Then, they would have returned home with the soldiers, together prevented the destruction of houses in Lod and demonstrated in front of the Interior Ministry until its bureaucrats were ordered to immediately prepare a master plan for every unrecognized village, starting with Al-Araqib. It's so simple.

Because Yachimovich represents the many, does that mean that leftists (both Jewish and Palestinian ) ought to desist from their internal debate over whether to participate in a protest movement whose justice is selective and simply walk away? If this new social movement were a final paper awaiting a grade, the answer would be "Yes. This is a movement that launders the dispossession of Palestinians both past and present with superficial yuppie charm. We do not belong in it, so we'll return to the tear gas, the rubber-coated steel bullets and the arrests."

But the social movement that sprung up in Israel this summer is not a final paper. Nor is it a political party. It is a process, a new and developing situation that reinvents itself frequently, an intensive course in developing political understanding. It must not be left to the new-old social right.

In effect, the challenge goes much deeper than merely conflicting opinions. Yachimovich frankly enunciated our position as Israeli Jews: We are profiting from the occupation even as we groan under regressive taxation. Whether our families came from Katrielevka or Baghdad, we are profiting from the structural discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and from the very fact that they have become a minority in their own land.

So is the solution to this troubling existential dilemma simply to leave? To emigrate to countries free of injustice and dispossession, like the United States of America, Germany or South Africa, in which apartheid based on class is competing successfully with its predecessor, apartheid based on race?

Internal contradictions are the daily fare of liberation struggles, and purist excuses for not participating don't resolve them. As the female activists of every national liberation struggle know quite well, patriarchy is not a secondary, negligible mechanism of oppression compared to colonialism. Sexism was present in the Solidarity Movement in Poland and the African National Congress in South Africa. Nevertheless, women joined these movements and were active in their ranks.

The role of the left - for whom the value of equality is its Ten Commandments - is not to look on from the sidelines and make do with handing out grades. The left must try to influence this new, dynamic process. Its role is to learn from other people's struggles and to teach, without lowering itself, while abandoning the arrogance of the past and bearing in mind the terrible wrongs committed in its name.

Leftist activists are educated to make use of their excess privileges insofar as possible to fight the whole system of privileges. Now, when, there is a collective awakening from long years of apathy, the left can and must use the experience, knowledge and human and cultural capital it has accumulated. For there is now a great chance of proving to at least parts of this awakening public that the benefits of occupation today are the strategic danger of tomorrow.




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



Most low-income Americans cannot afford a lawyer to defend their legal interests, no matter how urgent the issue. Unless they are in a criminal case, most have no access to help from government-financed lawyers either.

In civil proceedings like divorces, child support cases, home foreclosures, bankruptcies and landlord-tenant disputes, the number of people representing themselves in court has soared since the economy soured. Experts estimate that four-fifths of low-income people have no access to a lawyer when they need one. Research shows that litigants representing themselves often fare less well than those with lawyers. This "justice gap" falls heavily on the poor, particularly in overburdened state courts.

There is plenty the government, the legal profession and others can do to improve this shameful state of affairs. With the economic downturn, only around two-thirds of law school graduates in 2010 got jobs for which a law degree is required, the lowest rate since 1996. That leaves the other third — close to 15,000 lawyers — who, with financial support from government and the legal profession, could be using their legal expertise to help some of those who need representation.

While the Constitution requires that defendants in criminal cases be provided a lawyer, there is no such guarantee in civil cases. The Legal Services Corporation, created by Congress, gives out federal grants that provide the bulk of support for legal aid to the poor. Over the decades, that budget has shrunk — it was $404 million in 2011, about one-third less than it was 15 years ago, adjusted for inflation. The House Appropriations Committee has proposed reducing that to $300 million for 2012. The cut would be devastating; the budget should, instead, be increased.

Half of the people who seek help from legal aid offices are already turned away. Some offices are so understaffed that they must engage in triage, so that in, say, domestic abuse cases, they will only assist someone seeking a restraining order against a violent partner if that person is in immediate danger of being hurt again.

State bar associations could help address these needs by requiring lawyers to report their pro bono service — such disclosure would likely increase many lawyers' service to the recommended 3 percent to 5 percent of their paid work. Another step is to allow nonlawyers into the mix. The American Bar Association has insisted that only lawyers can provide legal services, but there are many things nonlawyers should be able to handle, like processing uncontested divorces.

Legal education must also change. The Carnegie foundation recommends that all law students be given experience in public advocacy, of which providing legal services is one kind. At the same time, law schools should expand loan forgiveness programs for legal services lawyers. A few have such programs, but most schools do not — and not enough schools view tuition as a source to help support future legal-services lawyers.

The justice gap is widening. Government, law schools and the profession need to work together to redesign and fortify the grossly deficient legal services system.






Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has taken a strong stand against gerrymandering. He put forward a good bill that would create an independent commission to draw political districts and promised to veto any new maps that are "partisan." Albany's pols are not giving up.

Mr. Cuomo's bill went nowhere, despite the fact that a hefty majority of legislators signed a pledge in 2010 to support such a commission. The old-style task force is now drawing up maps, and the business-as-usual crowd is trying to figure out how to get around the veto threat.

The word on the street is that they may stall the release of the new maps for the 2012 election (and the decade to follow) until early next year. Then lawmakers can say it's too late to use anything else.

Mr. Cuomo needs to fight back now. He should press the Legislature to create the real independent commission that was promised to the voters. If that fails — things don't look promising — he should name his own commission to draw alternative maps, using the best redistricting practices outlined in his bill. Those include such basics as ensuring that each district has about the same number of voters, makes geographical sense and isn't drawn to guarantee the election of one party or candidate.

The governor's maps could provide guidance — or shaming — for the Legislature's task force. Or, if Mr. Cuomo vetoes the Legislature's package, and it goes to the courts, the courts could use them to draw up final maps.

There is no time to waste. A federal law now requires that absentee ballots be sent out to military personnel 45 days before an election. That means New York's legislators will have to move up the usual September primary in 2012 to August or perhaps June, to have enough time to certify results and mail out the military ballots. An earlier primary means new district maps for legislators and members of Congress must be ready sooner.

Mr. Cuomo should set a firm deadline for new maps to be made public before the end of the year. By then, he should also be ready with maps of his own.





Long after Tuesday's dismissal of sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, people will still be debating the facts and how the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., handled the high-profile case. What seems clear is that Mr. Vance was right to notify Mr. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers and the court in July about troubling inconsistencies in the account of the accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, and to drop the charges this week.

There is a legitimate concern that his decision may discourage rape victims from coming forward in the future. Women who have been assaulted often worry, with reason, about being victimized a second time in court. And those with problematic backgrounds must feel confident that they can demand and receive justice.

We will never know what really happened in that hotel room. In the 25-page dismissal motion, prosecutors recounted the inconsistencies in Ms. Diallo's three conflicting descriptions of what happened during and after the alleged assault at a Manhattan hotel.

They said they were also troubled by a "pattern of untruthfulness" about her past, including a convincingly delivered, though fictional, story of being gang raped by soldiers in her native Guinea and a recorded conversation that prosecutors say captured her discussing making money from the case, which her lawyer disputes.

DNA evidence showed Mr. Strauss-Kahn "engaged in a hurried sexual encounter" with his accuser, but there was insufficient evidence to establish force or a lack of consent, prosecutors said. That meant the case hinged on Ms. Diallo's testimony.

Her lawyer and others have suggested that a jury should have heard the case. But as a legal and ethical matter, Mr. Vance had to dismiss charges when the prosecutors concluded that since they could no longer "credit her version of events beyond a reasonable doubt, whatever the truth may be about the encounter," they "cannot ask a jury to do so."

Rape cases often boil down to a he-said, she-said situation, in which defense lawyers sometimes pounce on a victim's background. That's why it's so critical that Mr. Vance and other leaders reassure the public that the district attorney's office will handle assault complaints with seriousness and prosecute credible cases vigorously.







The death of Jerry Leiber, the lyricist who brought us "Stand by Me," "Yakety Yak" and other early rock 'n' roll classics, gives us a moment to pause and give thanks for sugar cane. Sugar cane led to a great wave of Chinese immigration to Cuba, which, through a roundabout process of musical pollination, put an idea into the heads of Mr. Leiber and his collaborator, Mike Stoller, when they were still teenagers breaking into the business in Los Angeles.

The story goes like this. In the 1940s, a musician in Havana, Kiko Mendive, records "Chinito, Chinito," about brassy Cuban girls heckling a Chinese laundryman walking down the street. The record becomes a hit, makes its way to Mexico City, then to the barrios of Los Angeles. There, a young Mexican-American bandleader, Don Tosti, records his own version — a little faster, more rocking — in 1949.

Let the guitarist Ry Cooder, who got this tale from Mr. Stoller, pick it up from here: "Now, here's Mike Stoller, and one day he's sitting around with Jerry Leiber. And he hears this song on the radio. 'Wow!' they go — because they understood Spanish — 'that's a wicked little song. It's street life. Listen to how they're doing this scene from the street. We can do that.' The rest is history."

There is a lot more to Leiber and Stoller, of course, than that one influence. Leiber and Stoller mean rhythm and blues. They mean Elvis and "Big Mama" Thornton and Peggy Lee. But they also mean Los Angeles, a city rich and ripe in cultural collisions and musical storytelling. It's no wonder that so many compelling characters overflow from their songbook: sullen teenagers, angry dads, steadfast friends and hound dogs. A lonely guy who can't make time with one thin dime. Three cool chicks, swinging their hips, splitting up a bag of potato chips. Leiber and Stoller told stories from the streets. It's our luck that their streets were as interesting as the streets of L.A.







IN February, a 19-year-old Cornell sophomore died in a fraternity house while participating in a hazing episode that included mock kidnapping, ritualized humiliation and coerced drinking. While the case is still in the courts, the fraternity chapter has been disbanded and those indicted in connection with the death are no longer enrolled here.

This tragedy convinced me that it was time — long past time — to remedy practices of the fraternity system that continue to foster hazing, which has persisted at Cornell, as on college campuses across the country, in violation of state law and university policy.

Yesterday, I directed student leaders of Cornell's Greek chapters to develop a system of member recruitment and initiation that does not involve "pledging" — the performance of demeaning or dangerous acts as a condition of membership. While fraternity and sorority chapters will be invited to suggest alternatives for inducting new members, I will not approve proposals that directly or indirectly encourage hazing and other risky behavior. National fraternities and sororities should end pledging across all campuses; Cornell students can help lead the way.

Why not ban fraternities and sororities altogether, as some universities have done? Over a quarter of Cornell undergraduates (3,822 of 13,935 students) are involved in fraternities or sororities. The Greek system is part of our university's history and culture, and we should maintain it because at its best, it can foster friendship, community service and leadership.

Hazing has been formally prohibited at Cornell since 1980 and a crime under New York State law since 1983. But it continues under the guise of pledging, often perpetuated through traditions handed down over generations. Although pledging is explained away as a period of time during which pre-initiates ("pledges") devote themselves to learning the information necessary to become full members, in reality, it is often the vehicle for demeaning activities that cause psychological harm and physical danger.

About 2,000 alcohol-related deaths occur each year among American college students. Alcohol or drug abuse is a factor in more than a half-million injuries each year — and also in sexual and other assaults, unsafe sex, poor academic performance and many other problems.

At Cornell, high-risk drinking and drug use are two to three times more prevalent among fraternity and sorority members than elsewhere in the student population. During the last 10 years, nearly 60 percent of fraternity and sorority chapters on our campus have been found responsible for activities that are considered hazing under the Cornell code of conduct.

Why would bright young people subject themselves to dangerous humiliation? Multiple factors are at play: the need of emerging adults to separate from family, forge their own identities and be accepted in a group; obedience to authority (in this case, older students); the ineffectiveness of laws and other constraints on group behavior; and organizational traditions that perpetuate hazardous activities.

Alcohol makes it easier for members to subject recruits to physical and mental abuse without feeling remorse and to excuse bad behavior on the grounds of intoxication. It provides a social lubricant, but it impairs the judgment of those being hazed and lowers their ability to resist.

Even more distressing, although 55 percent of college students involved in clubs, teams and organizations experience hazing, the vast majority of them do not identify the events as hazing. Of those who do, 95 percent do not report the events to campus officials.

Doctors, nurses and other student-health professionals have tried to address high-risk drinking and hazing through individual counseling, a medical amnesty process that reduces barriers to calling for help in alcohol emergencies, and educational programs. But the problem has persisted.

There are signs of progress. Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth, has helped organize a multi-campus approach to identifying the most effective strategies against high-risk drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has established a college presidents' advisory group to develop and share approaches to this problem.

There is a pressing need for better ways to bring students together in socially productive, enjoyable and memorable ways. At Cornell, acceptable alternatives to the pledge process must be completely free of personal degradation, disrespect or harassment in any form. One example is Sigma Phi Epsilon's "Balanced Man Program," which replaces the traditional pledging period with a continuing emphasis on community service and personal development.

We need to face the facts about the role of fraternities and sororities in hazing and high-risk drinking. Pledging — and the humiliation and bullying that go with it — can no longer be the price of entry.

David J. Skorton, a cardiologist, is the president of Cornell University.






After seven months of war, are the rebels ready to rule and what should the West do to help?

IT'S called a street, but it's really a neighborhood. Al Sarim Street in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, falls between low-lying Nasr Street and elevated Al Jumhuriyya Street. Its older buildings date from the Italian colonial era. Most were built as single-story homes on the upper side of the street. I used to drive down this street daily on my way home from my law firm nearby.

But on Saturday, the day before rebel forces poured into Tripoli, this calm neighborhood, which empties out at noon to allow traffic to pass through its wide streets with ease, became a fireball.

Last fall, a few months before the revolution erupted, I was summoned to the regime's party headquarters in Tripoli, where I was interrogated by seven pillars of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's security establishment. They were angry about an article I'd published in the newspaper Oya criticizing undemocratic laws. They accused me of instigating anarchy and refusing to obey the law. My phone was tapped and a guard was posted at the door of my law office. In March, I left my law practice behind and fled to Canada with my 3-year-old daughter.

The neighborhood we left behind is clean, calm and uncrowded, despite the presence of several businesses and public buildings and its proximity to downtown Tripoli. As soon as you reach the western end of Al Sarim Street, the Mediterranean coastline stretches up ahead of you, and you can see a large park. The neighborhood contains the houses of the well-to-do, but it is also home to the first public housing complex built in Tripoli, a cluster of gray four-story buildings that blend into the rest of the neighborhood's buildings, and are indistinguishable from them.

When life in Libya became harder, the majority of the people living on the upper side of the neighborhood converted the street-facing parts of their homes into shops and artisanal stores. They also added extra floors to their homes, in response to a growing housing crisis that had overtaken the nation.

The area is also known as Al Zuhur — the neighborhood of flowers — because of the trees and plants that flourish behind the walls of houses, and the fact that the street is shaded by the decorative trees with their intertwining branches. The higher part of the street is planted with evergreen shrubs that hang all along the slope until Nasr Street, where the fortress of the state television building sits.

Typically, the neighborhood youths stand on corners and intersections, or in front of the shops, talking, joking or just staring at passers-by.

But last Saturday was different. That evening, the call to prayer began from the minarets of the Ben Nabi and Buhmeira mosques after sundown and continued to ring out for longer than usual — a signal to take to the streets. The young men ran out of their houses to the rhythm of "God is great, God is great, thanks be to God."

Some left their homes with dates in their mouths that they hadn't yet had time to chew, while others rushed out still swallowing the day's first drink of water after the Ramadan fast.

They left without having organized themselves beforehand, intent on achieving freedom or martyrdom. The youths of Al Zuhur were jasmine trees whose petals had scattered, night-blooming flowers that had blossomed with sunset, their beautiful nighttime scent wafting through like the Arabian jasmine that the young men of Tripoli sell to Libyan ladies in traditional attire on their way to weddings.

As chronicled in phone calls to Al Jazeera from Tripoli and in Facebook posts, Al Sarim Street and its young men rose up with the rest of Tripoli, the city whose head was yanked back by the hair and whose teeth were broken each time it raised its head to try and smell the scent of freedom.

The young men rushed out, during the iftar meal that breaks the daily Ramadan fast, their mothers ululating behind them and their fathers praying along with the mosques, knowing deep in their hearts that they would either return with their heads raised high, carrying the torches of freedom, or not at all.

Last weekend, all along Al Sarim Street, martyrs fell victim to the bullets of cowardly snipers hiding on the roofs of buildings, fighting for their freedom tooth and nail as they broke their city's humiliating blockade. They fell on the street right in front of their mothers and fathers, who stood on balconies and doorsteps, bidding them farewell with cries and prayers.

The corpses mounted on the hot pavement, a testament to the birth of Tripoli's freedom. The light in their still open eyes will not be extinguished, and their blood, which has spilled on the streets, will not cool until all of Tripoli is free, the scent of flowers and henna returns, and its people come out singing an old Libyan tune by Tripoli's blind but visionary singer, Nuri Kamal: "Jasmine flower, you have reminded us of his smile and days from our past."

Azza Kamel Maghur is a Libyan lawyer and human rights activist. This essay was translated by Ghenwa Hayek from the Arabic.








Despite the carping by critics, I'm glad the president went on vacation because one of the most useful things he could do right now is play golf — a lot of golf — but not that friendly foursome thing with his aides that he usually does. No, real golf: Match play, head to head, with real money on the line. Match-play golf is a great teacher. As any good golfer will tell you, the first rule of match play is this: Never play not to lose. Do not wait and hope for your opponent to make a mistake. Always play the course, always play to win and always assume your opponent will do well — will make that long putt — so you have to do better.

For months now, Obama has been playing not to lose, keeping his own plans for a "Grand Bargain" on debt, deficits, taxes, jobs and investment vague, while waiting for the Republicans to say crazier and crazier stuff — like promising the return of $2-a-gallon gasoline, or insisting that climate change was made up by scientists to get research grants (but politicians taking millions from oil companies can be trusted to tell us the truth on this issue), or that Texas has a right to secede. But while the G.O.P. candidates have been obliging the president with their nuttiness, it has not helped Obama's poll ratings.

Many Americans can see that most of these G.O.P. candidates are closer to professional wrestlers than politicians — with their fake body slams and anti-Obama bluster. All they are missing are the Tarzan outfits. This is the silly season. But I would not assume that Republicans won't come up with more serious candidates when it counts, or that some of these candidates won't move to the center. I would definitely assume that they'll do better.

That's why the last few months have been so worrying to Obama supporters. Obama surprised everyone by broaching the idea during the debt negotiations of a "Grand Bargain" — roughly $3 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade and $1 trillion in tax increases — as a signal to the markets that we're getting our fiscal house in order. It was absolutely the right idea — as long as it is coupled with investments in infrastructure, education and research — but House Speaker John Boehner could not deliver his Tea Party-led G.O.P. caucus.

Yet rather than flesh out his Grand Bargain in detail and take it on the road — and let every American everywhere understand and hear every day that he had a plan but the Republicans wouldn't rise to it — Obama dropped it. Did he ever try to explain the specifics of his Grand Bargain and why it was the only way to go? No.

This left his allies wondering whether he was committed to it — and really did have his own party on board for it. And it left his opponents thrilled and setting the agenda themselves. It is why Obama's recent bus tour fell flat. People don't want to cheer just the man anymore. They want to cheer the man and his plan — a real plan, not just generalities and tactics to get him re-elected with 50.0001 percent and no real mandate to do what's needed to fix the country now.

Without his own Grand Bargain on the table — imprinted on the mind of every American — Obama has been left playing defense, playing to get the least-bad deal, or playing not to lose. That's what's producing all the "What happened to Obama?" talk and its silly variants. (He's a loser; he's not very bright; he's Jimmy Carter.)

It's all nonsense. Obama is smart, decent and tough, with exactly the right instincts about where the country needs to go. He has accomplished a lot more than he's gotten credit for — with an opposition dedicated to making him fail. But lately he is seriously off his game. He's not Jimmy Carter. He's Tiger Woods — a natural who's lost his swing. He has so many different swing thoughts in his head, so many people whispering in his ear about what the polls say and how he needs to position himself to get re-elected, that he has lost all his natural instincts for the game. He needs to get back to basics. 

It's crazy what's happening in America today: We're having an economic crisis and the politicians are having an election — and there is almost no overlap between the two. The president needs to bring them together. But that can only happen if he stops playing not to lose and goes for broke himself. Our problems are not insoluble. We need a Grand Bargain — where each side gives something on spending, taxes and new investments — and we're on our way out of this.

 Run on that, Mr. President: At best you'll generate enough public pressure (now totally missing) to shame sane Republicans into joining you, and we'll get a deal, and at worst you can run in 2012 on a platform, which, if you win, will actually give you a mandate for the change the country needs.

Meanwhile, Mr. President, on a rainy day, rent the movie "Tin Cup." There is a great scene where Dr. Molly Griswold is trying to help Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy, the golf pro, rediscover his swing — and himself. She finally tells him: "Roy ... don't try to be cool or smooth or whatever; just be honest and take a risk. And you know what, whatever happens, if you act from the heart, you can't make a mistake."






FoodCorps, which started last week, is symbolic of just what we need: a national service program that aims to improve nutrition education for children, develop school gardening projects and change what's being served on school lunch trays.

I've been looking forward to this for months, because it's such an up: 50 new foot soldiers in the war against ignorance in food. The service members, most of them in their 20s, just went to work at 41 sites in 10 states, from Maine to Oregon and Michigan to Mississippi. (FoodCorps concentrates on communities with high rates of childhood obesity or limited access to healthy food, though these days every state has communities like that.)

I'd be even more elated if there were 50 FoodCorps members in each state. Or 5,000 in each, which approaches the number we're going to need to educate our kids so they can look forward to a lifetime of good health and good eating. But FoodCorps is a model we can use to build upon.

Curt Ellis, co-creator of the movie, "King Corn," is running the show with Debra Eschmeyer, formerly of the National Farm to School Network, and Cecily Upton, formerly of Slow Food USA. FoodCorps is part of the AmeriCorps, from which it receives about a third of its budget. Most of the money comes from sources like the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and individual donors.

Is FoodCorps necessary? The organizations that are fighting childhood obesity on the front lines seem to think so: 108 groups from 39 states and the District of Columbia applied to host FoodCorps, which chose to work at locations that had already begun to improve school food and needed help in expanding their work.

Potential participants were turned away at a crazy rate: More than 1,230 people applied for 50 positions. (It's easier to get into Harvard.) Nor is this a program for the college grad who wants to do some soul-searching by playing in a garden for a year. "Many service members," says Ellis, "have firsthand experience with the communities they're serving. Some are going back to the towns they grew up in; others were raised on food stamps or overcame obesity. They understand these challenges from the inside."

They're also smart, well informed, and articulate; Ellis told me there wasn't a day last week that he didn't tear up from something that one of them said. (I'm going to post some of their initial sets of beliefs and, I hope, ongoing reports from the field on my blog.

FoodCorps members will be paid $15,000 for the year. On this they must find places to live and pay for food, though those without other sources of income are being encouraged to apply for help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (usually called SNAP, and formerly known as food stamps), so they'll live like many of those they're serving. (Those eligible will also receive a $5,550 federal education award to apply to their student loans when they finish.)

How, I asked Ellis, will we know if FoodCorps is successful? "This year we expect about 60,000 kids to benefit from improved food education," he says. (This will be sadly easy to achieve: currently, elementary-age kids typically get less than five hours of nutrition education annually.) "Gardens will be begun or fortified to try to get kids more excited about fruits and vegetables; fresh food will be sourced from local farms; and parents and community members will be more invested in school food."

FoodCorps will cost less than $2 million for the first year. Thus for less than a million bucks of our money we are getting a program that will start to roll back the $147 billion it costs us each year to deal with the health consequences of obesity, while changing the way thousands of young people grow up thinking about food.

Not to burst any bubbles, but let's note that this in no way levels the playing field. That $2 million invested in FoodCorps — well conceived, raised with the best possible nonprofit intentions, and ultimately well spent (a bargain!) — was starkly contrasted last week with the $30 million that a new group of corporate farmers and ranchers intend to spend to promote the idea that they're "committed to providing healthy choices." As anyone who's followed the news in recent years knows, agribusiness has done pretty much the opposite, relying on direct federal subsidies (also our money) to the tune of at least $5 billion annually to produce precisely the kind of junk food that is largely responsible for the tripling of childhood obesity in the last 30 years.

Here's the problem: raising $30 million for a corporate public relations campaign to defend the rights of Big Food to continue to produce junk is easy; raising $2 million to promote healthy eating in our children is hard. Ellis says that his dream is to have 1,000 service members a year working in all 50 states by 2020. I say let's have 10,000 by 2015.

But let's end on a happy note: FoodCorps is up and running. Hallelujah!







Rising public anger, concern and frustration with the state's new voter photo-ID law was entirely predictable — and as a needless as the law itself.

Voter fraud, the Republicans' pretext for passing the law in Tennessee and a number of other newly Republican-controlled state Legislatures, is and has been exceedingly rare in Tennessee and most states.

The law's main effect, and chief partisan political purpose, is that it will likely disenfranchise many Democratic-leaning voters -- mainly seniors, minorities and lower-income citizens -- who simply have never obtained a qualified photo-ID document, such as a photo-driver's license or passport, because they have never needed to get one. They ride buses, or they are aged or home-bound, or their old driver's license let them opt of a photo when they reached the age of 60.

But if they fail to get a bona fide voter ID card before the next election, the law, akin a poll tax, will disenfranchise them. If they go to the polls without a qualified photo-ID, their old standby voter registrationz card, even if their signature matches the one on that card and on the precinct match list, won't be good enough to let them cast a ballot.

Fortunately, county election commissions officials and voter register advocates here and elsewhere in the state have begun campaigns to alert voters to the requirements of the law, and to help them meet those rules, which can be onerous and time-consuming.

The advocates' work is needed. As a report by this paper's Ansley Haman confirmed Tuesday, many voters yet do not know about the new law. Joe Rowe, a veteran grass-roots worker in minority affairs, is among those helping start the Hamilton County Voter Empowerment Team to aid churches and civic organizations reach qualified voters who need help to get a qualified voter ID. His view is that the new law is a throwback to the pre-civil rights era "in terms of empowerment, jobs and justice."

"All you have to do is go to the bus lines and see people without driver's licenses," Rowe asserted.

"People don't realize this is a law," said Hamilton County Election administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan. She added, "Nobody can tell me there was voter fraud in Hamilton County."

State lawmakers -- under strong criticism regarding the law and pressure from a state attorney general's adverse ruling -- did finally agree to make a state driver's license ID free for the purposes of voting just before they passed the law. Even so, the process for many voters is still a barrier to voting.

To obtain a free driver's license photo-ID, residents must travel to a state driver's license center -- less than half of Tennessee's 95 counties have one. There, they must produce proof of citizenship, such as a certified birth certificate or qualified federal confirmation, as well as a voter's registration card, and two documents that confirm residency, such as a current utility bill or bank statement.

Then they must wait in lines that can take hours for regular driver's license applicants to pass through. One st ate official claimed that express lines would be available for free photo-ID licenses for voters.

There's great irony, and blatant disregard of voters' rights, in this process, which the state says will cost an additional $438,100 this year. It would be far simpler, and cheaper, for people who already possess a voter's registration, and also those seek one, to go directly to their friendly local county Election Commission and obtain a photo-ID registration card. Those who already have a valid voter registration card -- the same documents are required -- could simply swap their old card for a new one.

State officials, however, claim it is too expensive to give each of the state's counties a photo-ID card machine. That's baloney. They very obviously just do not want to make it easy for certain voters to register or to update their existing registration card.

Regardless of one's politics, this is gross and unjust interference and tampering with a citizen's right to vote. The law should be changed.





Barack Obama very much wants to keep his job as president, and several Republicans very much want to replace him. But who wins next year may depend on how many of the American people have jobs -- or don't have jobs -- when Election Day comes around.

More than 9 percent of would-be American workers are officially jobless today, and millions more have either given up the search or can get only part-time jobs.

Indications are that unemployment could be the decisive issue in 2012. Unemployed voters and sympathetic friends and family of the unemployed likely will take their strong feelings about our economy into the voting booth.

Obama, already running for re-election, says Congress should "do something" to promote jobs. So you can guess what's on his mind: more federal stimulus spending on various infrastructure projects around the country. He also wants to extend a reduction in the payroll tax that funds Social Security.

"These are commonsense ideas -- ideas that have been supported by both Democrats and Republicans," he said in a recorded address. "The only thing holding them back is politics."

Actually, the bad track record of "stimulus" spending is holding back Congress from approving more stimulus. We're still waiting for the jobs the first stimulus was supposed to create.

Republican hopeful Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, meanwhile, is understandably campaigning on his state's strong job growth. He says he knows how jobs are created, and that he will seek to replicate that nationwide.

GOP candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has her own prescription. It includes things such as reducing the corporate tax rate and capital gains taxes to spur investment, as well as providing tax advantages when job-creating businesses buy equipment. She also wants to roll back costly ObamaCare and its massive regulations.

Republican former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney favors ending ObamaCare, cutting spending, opening more foreign markets to U.S. goods and boosting America's energy independence.

Obama's job policies -- which amount to more government intervention -- aren't working. But his GOP opponents needn't think that alone will win one of them the White House. They will have to convince voters that their smaller-government plans will work. We'll know soon enough how persuasive they are.






Airline passengers in this country have had reason to be frustrated, if not irate, in recent years. They've faced rising fares, shrinking numbers of seats, heightened security measures, the near-elimination of once-common amenities and the implementation of a maddening array of fees. They've put up with the changes and paid up when necessary, but not happily or quietly. Their palpable anger did not go unnoticed.

New federal airline passenger protection rules took effect Tuesday. Airline passengers and their advocates praise them, though they understandably lament the fact that airline lobbyists were able to secure postponement of additional reforms. Even so, the skies in many instances should be far friendlier now than they were prior to Tuesday.

The new rules address issues that particularly vex travelers: Oversold flights, long tarmac delays for international flights and lost baggage, In every instance, passengers gained new protections and benefits.

The regulations raise the mount passengers can collect if they are bumped from a flight. The old rules limited the amount to between $400-$800; the new law puts it between $650 and $1,300. In both instances, the lower amount is applicable if the airline can get passengers to their intended destination within an hour or two of their original arrival time. The higher amount applies if they are unable to do so.

Airlines, obviously, don't like the rule, but the impact it could have on their bottom line, particularly if more individuals forego the offer of a voucher in favor of the new and higher payout, should help reduce the odious practice of purposefully overbooking flights.

The new delay rule requires carriers operating international flights at U.S. airports to allow passengers to deplane after four hours on the tarmac or face huge fines. There are exceptions for safety and security reasons, but the regulation should put an end to excessively long delays that occur with some regularity. The rule, however, would be far more equitable if the three-hour delay rule in place for domestic flights was applicable to international traffic, as well.

The baggage rule is straightforward. If a passenger pays extra to check a bag and the airline then loses or damages it, the carrier must now refund the fee in addition to compensating the passenger for the bag. That makes so much sense that one must wonder why legislators were reluctant to approve it. Oh yes, the lobbyists.

The airlines did delay utilization of other flier-friendly rules until late in January. Those will require airlines to disclose all fees on their websites and would prohibit raising prices after a ticket is purchased. Those regulations are fair, despite industry claims otherwise.

Those who travel by air are almost universally united in praise for the new regulations. Kate Hanni, the president of, a highly respected travelers' advocacy group, spoke for many fliers when she said, "The new regulations are the most sweeping bill of airline passenger rights ever passed. More airline passengers will have comprehensive remedies available when something interrupts or delays a flight."

It's about time that was the case.





A 12-member "super committee" in Congress has the task of finding up to $1.5 trillion worth of reductions in federal deficits over the next 10 years. In the face of our country's $14.6 trillion debt, $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts is inadequate to the point of being absurd.

But to make matters worse, Democrats on the committee will be pushing to make tax increases -- not just spending cuts -- part of the package that the committee will present to the full Congress for an up-or-down vote. The president and Democrats in Congress also want to spend billions more dollars to "stimulate" the economy -- despite the failure of the previous "stimulus" to create the jobs that the administration predicted it would create.

Before Congress and the president go down the destructive path of raising taxes, promoting more "stimulus" and not really getting our spending under control, they might want to consider the views of the American people and a lot of economists.

A recent McClatchy Newspapers-Marist survey found that Americans overwhelmingly favor cutting the debt over more "stimulus" spending. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed said the United States should reduce the debt. Only 33 percent said it would be better to have more stimulus.

Republicans favored debt reduction over new spending by 79 percent to 15 percent. Among independents, the margin was 61 percent to 32 percent in favor of debt reduction. Only Democrats slightly favored more spending versus reducing the debt -- by 50 percent to 45 percent.

Meanwhile, a new survey of hundreds of economists found that they think the best way to reduce deficits is exclusively or primarily with spending cuts -- not tax increases.

The National Association for Business Economics -- made up of economists who practice their profession in the business world -- surveyed 250 of its economists.

Nearly three-fifths said deficit reduction should be accomplished mostly or entirely by cutting spending. Only 37 percent said there should be equal spending cuts and tax increases.

Congress and the president should listen to the American people and to real-world economists, and drop any plans for more "stimulus" spending and higher taxes.





With the economic crisis weighing heavily on the minds of most Americans, some economists are saying it isn't likely there will be another recession in the next year.

But the 43 economists surveyed by The Associated Press also say it's not likely there will be any significant economic improvement.

You can decide for yourself whether the glass is half-empty or half-full.







It was interesting to see that the NATO messenger to give assurances to the rulers-to-be in Libya was Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

Davutoğlu had been the first foreign minister from the Western alliance to set foot in the Libyan opposition stronghold Benghazi last month; there, he staged a spontaneous open-air rally, addressing Libyans in their own language, Arabic.

Libya was not the first to explode. But the uprising in Tunisia was a short one and ended with the rather quick departure of its dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to Saudi Arabia.

Then Libya exploded in an unprecedented way, then Yemen and Egypt and Syria…

Egypt was something big and the cries of the masses refusing to leave Tahrir Square of Cairo forced its dictator Hosni Mubarak to resign when the army remained idle; Mubarak is now in jail. Barely saving his life from an assassination attempt, Ali Abdulah Saleh of Yemen also escaped to Saudi Arabia in the meantime.

In Syria, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated an escalating use of force against his fellow citizens, who are also demanding more rights for themselves. Despite warnings from all over the world, including neighboring Turkey, who tried a lot to buy some more time for him so that he would not face the same fate as Gadhafi at the hands of NATO, Assad has shown no intention of moderating his stance.

Israel is not easy at all. Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu warned his Cabinet members yesterday to calm down because his country did not feel comfortable in fighting another war in Gaza with Hamas, especially when there are signs of reconciliation between them and Palestinians and within Palestinian groups as well.

However, the Israeli Foreign Ministry keeps challenging Turkey on the Mavi Marmara flotilla tragedy last year in which Israeli soldiers killed nine Turkish citizens carrying aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip. Perhaps it knows that it will not cause an armed conflict but only the further cooling of relations with Turkey, as well as increase the concern of the United States…

Turkey, on the other hand, is busy with terrorism related to its Kurdish problem that is inspired by the Arab Spring.

The trouble across the Mediterranean Sea is not only along its southern and eastern coasts. The northern coast line is dealing with economic crises and related political problems. Greece, for example, is troubled with a terrible economic crisis that caused a joint Franco-German-led European Union effort, but the rich countries with economic growth figures of close to zero are troubled by immigration and xenophobia problems. The possibility that crises in Italy and Spain could deepen is hovering over Europe like a nightmare.

The level of tension across the Mediterranean is too much to be afforded for too long by everyone. Something has to be done to decrease this tension before the Arab Spring turns into a storm affecting everyone in the region.





An army of international TV networks, including CNN, which held the list of bombs dropped on Baghdad during the Gulf War, were all in Tripoli for the latest edition of the theater of cruelty, the leading actors in which were on one side the little ferocious man from the Palais de l'Élysée suffering from an acute inferiority complex and on the other side the mad man of the neighborhood suffering from an incurable superiority complex.

No one was as successful as the bomb-listing TV network during the Baghdad bombing. None of the TV networks managed to bring to our homes scenes matching the fall of the giant Saddam statue [though it was learned later that it was pre-planned and indeed orchestrated by the American military] to rubberstamp a clear victory. Reports of capture of two of the sons of the mad man of the neighborhood Moammar Gadhafi died out within two days with Seif al-Islam hosting some reporters in an armored 4X4 vehicle Monday night.

Whatever Seif or even Gadhafi might say, irrespective how big media or PR events in their secluded hideouts they might host, and though Tripoli has not fallen yet, the game is indeed over. Obviously, whatever might be said, the era of Gadhafi has come to an end in Libya. Today, tomorrow or the day after, it does not matter much when, but it is clear that Gadhafi has no future under the sun in his North African country. If he somehow escapes being killed, he definitely will have a rather bleak future; either the gallows, the death squad or worse life-term for four decades of crimes he committed or ordered to be committed. Even worse, an international warrant has long been issued for him and his sons. Even if he somehow escapes Libya, he very likely will not be able to escape the international manhunt.

Since the weekend flush of the opponents into Tripoli, the carnivores have lined up for a share from the "new Libya"; reminding the National Transitional Council, or NTC, how much they deserved to be awarded by the "new regime" after all the sacrifices they made and after all those great interests they turned their backs by withdrawing support from Gadhafi. Even those countries that shyly supported the international – to be honest Western or indeed NATO – aerial bombardment of Gadhafi's military capabilities rushed to remind yesterday's rebels that they started to consider as the new legitimate government of Libya the principle of pacta sund servanda stressing the deals they established with Gadhafi's Tripoli were "mutually beneficial" and thus should be maintained by the NTC's Tripoli.

Diplomats of the Libya Contact Group will be meeting soon in Istanbul to consider what urgent help they might extend to the NTC to steer Libya toward normalcy. The heads of the African Union, European Union, Arab League and other regional groups will attend a summit on Libya in New York, probably also on Thursday or Friday. And of course, France is considering calling a ministers' conference to take the lead from Turkey while the Turkish foreign minister became the first foreign dignitary to visit Bingazi – the seat of the rebel NTC for now – to reaffirm Turkey's support.

Gadhafi? He is still hiding out somewhere… for now. Tomorrow? Of course he will be either killed or captured. Then, will that be all? Will the Gadhafi era end as if someone turned off the light – though it took a long and bloody six months – and turned it on for an era of the NTC and successors? Already, the rebels have been in disarray as was demonstrated with the murder two weeks ago of Gen. Abdelfattah Younis. Besides, will the NTC be able to draw lessons from Iraq's experience and reconcile with the technocrats who remained loyal to the Gadhafi regime throughout the siege of Tripoli? Once in power, will the NTC manage to preserve its legitimacy by sharing power and authority with the tribes beyond the east?

As is said, this rice will consume a lot more water.





The victory of the National Transitional Council in Libya will likely continue to hit the headlines of the local and international media for some time. Meetings will be held to plan the future of the oil-rich country this week in Istanbul and next week in Paris, focusing on one hand on politically reshaping Libya and on the distribution of gas and oil resources on the other.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu became the first leader to visit Benghazi on Tuesday, just a day after Moammar Gadhafi's forces lost control of Tripoli. He pledged full support to the new administration and called on the new leaders of Libya to build a democratic and free country. In earlier remarks, he said the success of the Libyan revolution should be a lesson to all, obviously referring to Turkey's southern neighbor, Syria.

On the same day Turkey congratulated Libya, another message to the National Transitional Council came from Tehran. Iran Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani issued a congratulatory message to the people of Libya for ousting a dictator following months of struggle. "The people in Libya stood up to their tyrannical ruler and proved that the era of despotism and tyranny is over and that all should respect the rights of nations," read the message according to the Iranian news agency, IRNA.

However, only a day before Larijani congratulated the victory of the opposition backed by NATO, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly told Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a phone conversation on Sunday that the failure of military intervention in the North African country was proving the failure of the "bullying powers' interventionist policies on the region."

According to the Tehran Times, an English-language newspaper published in Iran, Ahmadinejad told Erdoğan: "The interference of the United States and European countries in the region is unacceptable because regional issues have no Western solutions. All regional issues could be resolved through adopting Islamic approaches in a way that people gain their rights without suffering damage."

Iranian leadership will play all of its cards to keep the NATO and other Western powers away from Syria and the Middle East. Ahmadinejad's messages to Erdoğan for cooperation on Syria is just a start. Only a few days ago, the Iranian press criticized Turkey for its double-standard stance vis-à-vis Syria, comparing Ankara's fight with the PKK with that of Damascus' crackdown on dissidents.

In the event of Turkey turning a deaf ear to Tehran's calls, some diplomats in Ankara argue the Iranian leadership will not hesitate to introduce new cards to change regional parameters. Perhaps this will be the moment for all of us to learn what happened between Turkey-Iran and the PKK in recent weeks in terms of rumors about the capture of high-ranking PKK leader Murat Karayılan.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç's statement Monday that "there are wheels within wheels" regarding Karayılan's fate makes the situation much more complicated and mysterious. And perhaps, negotiations between Ankara and Tehran over Karayılan have already begun….





Some of the foreign observers who follow Turkey's endless conflict with the PKK, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, wonder why there is such a big deal at all. "Why don't you give these guys their Kurdistan," one of them asked me recently. "So that they might be happy, and leave you alone."

Well, if only things were that simple. If only Turkey could give several provinces in its pre-dominantly Kurdish southeast to the would-be founders of a "free Kurdistan," and find peace of mind. As someone who values human lives more than national borders, I would happily support such a peaceful partition.

Ethnic intermix:

Things, however, are not that simple. One reason is the extensive integration of Turkey's Kurds. Unlike in Iraq, where most Kurds live in the north and thus were able to secure an almost clear-cut Kurdistan region, Kurds in Turkey are quite scattered. There are no exact numbers, but polls and studies show that more than half of Turkey's Kurds live outside of the historical Kurdish areas. Over the decades, big cities in Western Turkey attracted a lot of Kurdish immigrants, who became part of mainstream society. That's why the biggest Kurdish city in Turkey (and actually in the world) is not Diyarbakır or Batman, but Istanbul.

On the other hand, what would be "free Kurdistan" is not homogeneously Kurdish either. In almost every pre-dominantly Kurdish province, there are large numbers of ethnic Turks and in some cases Arabs as well. Mardin, for example, is a perfectly Kurdo-Turko-Arabic city, not to mention its Christian Syriac community.

Because of this ethnic intermix; there is no clear-cut Kurdistan region in Turkey, such as, say, Scotland. Therefore, any effort to draw an ethnic border will undoubtedly lead to a lot of tension, if not conflict. Kurdish nationalists will try to maximize the size of their future state, as their extravagant maps clearly indicate. The rest of Turkey will try to leave them as little as possible.

What will further raise the risks is the ethnic homogeneity that both "free-Kurdistan" and "smaller Turkey" will probably seek. Turkish nationalists will probably be enraged with "Kurdish treason," and tell their Kurdish neighbors "go home!" The newly founded Kurdistan will probably be at the height of nationalist ecstasy, and very suspicious of "fifth columns" within.

That's why my fear is that a divided Turkey might experience a horrific exodus and inter-communal violence akin to what happened during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.

PKK matters:

What makes things more challenging is the mindset of the party that will undoubtedly dominate "free Kurdistan": The PKK. Unlike the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or the KDP in Iraqi Kurdistan, which is more traditional and less ambitious, the PKK is a violent totalitarian organization which has zero tolerance for dissent. It considers every Kurd which departs from its line a "traitor." Since the 80's, thousands of such "traitors" have been killed by PKK's guns. Even some prominent members of the movement were killed for daring to criticize the organization's jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan.

That's why, although the PKK has many fans among Turkey's Kurds, it also has many dissidents. No wonder while Kurds make up some 15 percent of the population, pro-PKK votes never exceed 6 percent. Those non-PKK Kurds, most of whom vote for the incumbent AKP, will not wish to live under a PKK-dominated, Marxist-Leninist and poor entity. They will either immigrate, or be oppressed.

Therefore, although I have respect for Iraqi Kurdistan, which is a different story, I am not in favor of carving an autonomous Kurdistan region, let alone an independent state, from Turkey. We are just too integrated to be divided, and division promises nothing but violence and more nationalist zeal on both sides. What we rather need is truly liberal and democratic Turkey, in which Kurds, as equal citizens, will flourish and prosper.





It has been more than two and a half years since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told to Israeli President Shimon Peres's face, "You (Jews) know well how to kill." Prime Minister Erdoğan has also declared more than a few times that the main obstacle to peace in this part of the world is Israel, once calling the Jewish state "a festering boil in the Middle East that spreads hate and enmity." In this holy month of Ramadan full of blood on Muslim territories, let's try to identify who are the ones who know well how to kill.

As the Syrian death count clicks every day to come close to 2,000, the Turkish-Kurdish death count does not stop, already over 40,000 since 1984, both adding to the big pool of blood called the Middle East. Only during this Ramadan, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK's, death toll has reached 50 in this Muslim Kurds vs. Muslim Turks war. This excludes the PKK casualties in Turkey and in northern Iraq due to Turkish military retaliation since they are seldom accurately reported.

Let's speak of facts.

Sudan is not in the conventional Middle East, so let's ignore the genocide there. Let's ignore, also, the West Pakistani massacres in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) totaling 1.25 million in 1971. Or 200,000 deaths in Algeria in war between Islamists and the government in 1991-2006.

But a simple, strictly Middle East research will give you one million deaths in the all-Muslim Iran-Iraq war; 300,000 Muslim minorities killed by Saddam Hussein; 80,000 Iranians killed during the Islamic revolution; 25,000 deaths in 1970-71, the days of Black September, by the Jordanian government in its fight against the Palestinians; and 20,000 Islamists killed in 1982 by the elder al-Assad in Hama. The World Health Organization's estimate of Osama bin Laden's carnage in Iraq was already 150,000 a few years earlier.

In a 2007 research, Gunnar Heinsohn from the University of Bremen and Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, found out that some 11 million Muslims have been violently killed since 1948, of which 35,000, (0.3 percent) died during the six years of Arab war against Israel, or one out of every 315 fatalities. In contrast, over 90 percent who perished were killed by fellow Muslims.

According to Mssrs. Heinsohn and Pipes, the grisly inventory finds the total number of deaths in conflicts all over the world since 1950 numbering around 85 million. Of that, the Muslim Arab deaths in the Arab-Israeli conflict were at 46,000 including 11,000 during Israel's war of independence. That makes 0.05 percent of all deaths in all conflicts, or 0.4 percent of all Arab deaths in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In another calculation ignoring "small" massacres like the one that goes on in Syria and other deaths during the Arab Spring, only Saddam's Iraq, Jordan, the elder al-Assad's Syria, Iran-Iraq war, the bin Laden campaign in Iraq, the Iranian Islamic revolution and the Turkish-Kurdish conflict caused 1.65 million Muslim deaths by Muslims compared to less than 50,000 deaths in the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1950, including fatalities during and after Operation Cast Lead which came after the Heinsohn-Pipes study. For those who don't have a calculator ready at their desks, allow me to tell: 50,000 is three percent of 1.65 million.

Golda Meir, the fourth prime minister of Israel, or rather the "Mother of Israel," had a perfectly realistic point when she said that peace in the Middle East would only be possible "when Arabs love their children more than they hate us."





Fish farms that have been opposed by the residents of the Aegean town of Bodrum and especially by those residing in the vicinity of the Güllük Gulf because of the sea pollution they cause have turned into a significant source of exports for Turkey.

The ultra-modern facilities of Kılıç Water Products that I visited off the coast of Bodrum's Salih Island several days ago are a telling sign of how rapidly Turkey has made progress in the area of fish farming.

The statements issued by Sinan Kızıltan, the president of the Sector Committee of the Turkey Water and Animal Products Exporters' Union, are also significant.

Turkey has risen to second place after Norway in fish farming by leaving Greece behind in seabream and bass production during the first six months of this year, according to Kızıltan.

"Turkish bass" has turned into a brand name in Europe, according to Kızıltan, the vice president of the Executive Board of Kılıç Water Products, a family firm.

Indeed, I personally witnessed how the bass raised in our seas sold out like hot cakes at the Tesco Kipa Store that I visited alongside Industry and Trade Minister Zafer Çağlayan last year in Poland on the occasion of the "Turkish Week" there.

One must not turn a blind eye to this one truth, however:

It is the Greek crisis that lies behind Turkey's elevation to second place in Europe after Norway this year in fish farming.

Worth a luxury car

After all, the crisis has also struck the fish farming sector in Greece, as with every other sector.

As İhsan Bozan, the production supervisor for Kılıç Water Products whose facilities I toured with him, said, both fish feed as well as fish screens require hefty capital investment.

The cost of the daily feed for fish behind the screens is equal to that of a luxury automobile, Bozan indicated.

If we take into consideration the fact that Kılıç produces around 280 million fish per year, it turns out that the quantity of those luxury cars is pretty high.

It has benefited our own sea food product exporters in the end that Greek producers could not invest adequately in the sector due to the banking crisis.

The rate of the upsurge in sea food products exports since April amounts to 42 percent, according to figures provided by the Aegean Exporters Union.

Sea food product exports are expected to top $1 billion on a yearly basis.

Sea food products constitute the sole type of animal product that Turkey is able to export to the European Union.

As such, it is natural for this sector to be prioritized.

Egemen Bağış lends his support

The participation of Turkey's Water Products Promotion Group in the European Seafood Exposition held in Brussels in last May for the first time and the visit paid by European Union Minister Egemen Bağış to the fair both testify to the support lent by the government to this sector.

The point reached in fish farming, of course, is a welcome development for Turkey, which lacked a coherent strategy in fishing and maritime affairs until this day, despite being surrounded by seas on three sides.

The vision presented by Kılıç Water Products, the biggest of its kind in terms of aquafarming and hatcheries, also demonstrates how fast this sector is to grow in the coming years.

Although it farms bass and seabream off the coast of Bodrum, Kılıç has been conducting tests with other types of fish in more recent times as well, such as leer fish and dentex. Kılıç is also gearing up its efforts to establish fisheries in Morocco, Tunisia and Panama, both to gain proximity to European and U.S. markets, as well as to minimize transportation costs.

Production Supervisor İhsan Bozan is shuttling back and forth between these countries these days.

He is also developing joint projects with Miami University for production in Panama.






Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Tunisia are among many Arab states who recalled their ambassadors to Syria, while Italy is the only EU country that did the same. The Gulf Cooperation Council, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League issued statements asking al-Assad to end the bloodshed. Turkey, meanwhile, not only hosted Syrian opposition conferences, but has also been the most active actor on the scene. And Russia, China, India, South Africa and Brazil are once again the usual suspects: They might oppose a UN resolution targeting Syria.

We witnessed a similar evolution in Libya. Only seven out of 28 NATO countries participated in combat actions. The operation, the first in a long time, has been initially led by France and the United Kingdom, with the United States playing just a "supportive role." It has three Muslim countries with military contributions: Qatar, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. And the operation was endorsed by the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council. The African Union also called for "urgent African action."

It is not just the composition, but also the quality of the newly emerging coalitions that is dramatically changing. In the post-Cold War era, security threats are too many, ranging from terrorism, failed states, environmental issues, energy security to cultural extremism. These threats and risks relate to more countries than ever before. The disparity in the interests of these countries does shake alliances of the Cold War era. To quote Donald Rumsfeld, who I am not a big fan of: The mission determines the coalition, not the other way round. Moreover, in this new environment, all you can do is respond and respond quickly. However rigid alliances are not designed for quick responses. And finally, the staple of this new era is the apprehension of the limits of the American power and the emergence of regional powers challenging its dominance. This in turn dictates new kinds of coalitions.

The failures in Iraq and Afghanistan made not only the U.S, but also the wider world come to terms with the urgent need to transform the traditional alliances. We are going through a major paradigm shift, which signals the end of the post-Cold War era. Coalitions mixed of the willing, of the half-willing, of the unwilling and of the unable are being formed in the post-post Cold War period. Regional countries and organisations are also on the scene. Each country assumes a different role, contributing in a different way. In the coming years, we will witness not only half Western-half regional coalitions, but also purely regional coalitions, some of them backed by the dominant powers. Even transnational non-governmental organizations might take prominent roles in coalitions. What a cocktail.

Today's world is not "post-alliance"; but it is certainly "post-fixed alliance," coined by Professor Christopher Coker from London School of Economics. Some others name current alignments "a la carte coalitions." Hence, no fixed menu at a fixed price. You will buy only what you want.

In such a world, some have speculated that Turkey is pressing NATO to back her intervention in Syria and even that Ankara has drawn up operational plans. Some others tacitly encouraged Turkey to initiate a military intervention in Syria, by glorifying her rising regional power and immense capabilities. There are some in Turkey more than ready to bite this poisonous bait.

Well, I am completely at ease. Turkey will certainly not forget that in an a la carte menu one must be aware of the prices to avoid being overcharged.







The constant state of crisis has taken its toll on people everywhere. Right now it is on Karachi that the camera lens focuses. Deaths continue in the city; the toll has reached over a 100 in five days. Close-up images filling screens show weeping mothers and traumatised children. The Supreme Court has taken suo motu notice of the situation and sought footage from the electronic media. The strike called by the MQM paralysed life in the city on Tuesday. For now no light appears to be visible at the end of the tunnel. But this is not the only catastrophic situation we face; food-price inflation – caused by the decision to push up the wheat-support price dramatically – adds to hunger. The steady increase in utility and fuel prices adds a strain to every household. Our economy is in a shambles, the energy crisis refuses to ease up, the militancy claims lives almost every week, the relations with the US remain somewhat strained and more and more reports describe Pakistan as a country on the verge of collapse. We should never have fallen this low.

For many of us, the phrase 'poor governance' is nothing more than a small piece of rhetoric used again and again by columnists, analysts and anchormen. But now we are seeing the full impact of what such incompetence means in real terms. It is like seeing the aftermath of a botched surgery or an inefficient attempt at plumbing repairs. Only in this case the lack of capacity of the ruling set-up to deal with the mounting problems we face means we are locked in a constant struggle for survival, for dignity and for some sense of unity. There is little sign we are succeeding or that the leadership has the ability to hold us together as a nation. This lack of leadership has landed us already in disaster. As things continue there is a real risk the situation could worsen. A tremendous amount of harm has been inflicted already. Like Humpty Dumpty, we have fragmented into many pieces. Only in this case there was no accidental fall from the wall; we were pushed off by those who should instead have been our protectors. The question now is if anyone can pick up the pieces and painstakingly glue them together again, so that we can emerge as a really intact people once more, able to walk uphill rather than stumbling unsteadily into one ditch and then the next because the drivers holding the steering wheel appear to have no idea how to move the vehicle forward smoothly and towards a predetermined destination.





The finding by the Human Rights Commission of India that more than 2,000 bodies have been buried in unmarked graves in Kashmir Valley where a freedom struggle against New Delhi has continued since the 1990s only highlights the extent of the abuses taking place in Indian-Held Kashmir. The Commission, which was set up by the Indian government in 1997 but operates autonomously, has refuted the Indian government stance that the bodies were those of militants and holds that a sizeable number – some 574 of the over 2,700 bodies handed over by police to local people to bury – were identified by people as their relatives. Many of these are thought to be of the 800 or so people who have gone 'missing' in Kashmir after being 'picked up' by security agencies over the past two decades.

The unfolding events do not just involve militants sent in by Pakistan, as Indian authorities claim. This factor, if it now takes place at all, is only a minor component of the struggle in Kashmir which is driven on by the people. Atrocities such as mass disappearances, torture and killings only add to the anger and complicate a situation that has gone on for too long and caused the most terrible suffering to the people of Kashmir. The dispute needs to be settled and such grotesque abuses stopped immediately. The international community needs to act too for this purpose and exert more pressure on New Delhi to stop the crimes taking place.






The Election Commission of Pakistan, with the cooperation of Nadra, has begun the vital process of verifying and updating electoral rolls ahead of the next general election, which must be held by February 2013. The process is a vital one – given that our entire democratic process hinges on the casting of ballots based on these rolls. The ECP expects that some 83 million voters will cast their vote this time around. The process that has now begun is thus crucial. This is especially true in the context of our recent history and the allegations that fly around at election time. Allegations of foul play in the writing up of rolls, of names being taken off them or of bogus ones being added and of NICs – necessary for voting – being issued on political grounds, are widespread.

Foul play must not be allowed to compromise the upcoming elections process. The political tensions that already exist could foment very dangerous developments, including violence, if the elections are not held in a transparent and fair manner. We must hope the use of computerised cards verified by Nadra can help prevent wrongdoings. But even in this system, there are potential flaws. What we need in ideal terms is an independent, autonomous EC – as exists in India and many other nations – sadly, like others before it, this administration seems least interested in setting up such a body and ensuring that the electoral process is an uncontroversial one.









 "High station occupied by men who have no large and generous heart; ceremonial performed with no reverence; duties of mourning engaging the attention, where there is absence of sorrow; how should I look on, where this is the state of things?"

This dark introspection of a dirty governing lot, was made centuries ago by Confucius (born 500 BC). But he could easily have been talking about our government of the day. Surely, the evilness of human spirit transcends the confines of time. Just as the rulers of Confucius's era, ours too go through the motions of caring when they care not. They quarrel amongst themselves for little treasure troves, to us they lie. Someone extremely close to the top man in Islamabad confided that the government "had complete details of all those involved in killings and other macabre crimes in Karachi but action was being postponed because the president wanted to first develop a consensus with all political forces". Why would the political stakeholders, who are themselves the patron saints of such devils, agree to any extreme action? Why wait to do develop a consensus of the wrong to do the right, as hundreds continue dying due to inaction? To these naive questions, the only response came in the form of a shrug of the shoulders. When asked about the possibility of soliciting army's help to quell the violence, as demanded by the business community and other desperate sections of a terrorised society, an even more revealing response was in order. "The army has not been officially asked because I have been told, that the army has indicated its unwillingness to come into Karachi", he whispered, even though we were the only two souls in that plush office.

Was that really the case, I wondered. The truth needed to be known not because I view army intervention as the best of solutions but because the reply pointed at two grave possibilities: that the army did not give two hoots to the orders of the political dispensation and that by doing so it actually wanted matters to deteriorate further to a point of creating a national cacophony for knights in the shining khaki armour. "Ridiculous" was a curt dismissive answer of a very important corps commander, who is definitely in the know of the most important things. "Would the corps commanders conference publicly express its concern over the Karachi situation if we did not care? Don't we know that once you express your concern then the very next moment you can be asked to help out with cleaning up the mess also? The COAS even put in plainly that the institution was there to serve if so ordered. The question is not of whether the army wants to help out in clearing up crime and criminals from Karachi, but on whose terms". The army is very clear. It wants to help out with the mess but only on the condition of having an absolute free hand. "Not only will we move against everyone across the board, regardless of political affiliations or consequences, but the public too would be told in detail about who did what on whose orders and under whose protection", said a top general, adding, "and all this talk of army being too stretched to help out is misleading. What is required in Karachi are not brigades and brigades of troops but the will to take action. The capacity and the requisite information are there already. What's missing is sincere leadership". One may not agree with the khaki solutions to most conundrums but who could argue with this accurate assessment of our civilian (mis) rulers.

Just as the civilian intelligence outfits have compiled their complete briefs on the identity of the criminals and their protectors, so have the non-civilian agencies, and while the civvies and the khakis may not agree on many things, in this instance the thick files of both cross check perfectly and bear complementing data. The federal and the Sindh provincial government would have everyone believe that feuding criminal gangs have turned Karachi into a deadly war zone. One incident is painted as a clash between bhatta mafias, another is portrayed as drug outfits battling it out, then there is finger pointing done at land grabbing mafias protecting their illegal assets. And these 'official' rationales (lies actually) keep piling up, just like the hundreds of bodies of poor innocent citizens.

What the government has conveniently papered over is the fact that all these elements had been fighting it out in the past as well but in isolation from one another and at timings of their own compulsion. Never before had there been such a synchronizing of these unrelated so called gang wars so as to emerge as one bloody tsunami. Such planned timing never happens by chance, but only by design. The argument of all the criminal gangs having hit the mattresses at the same time is plain hogwash.

The appalling reality is that the macabre happenings in Karachi are purely a politically orchestrated mayhem, designed by and meant to benefit the ruling criminal political elite. PPP has its own Baba ladlas, MQM its Arshad pappus, and ANP its own braving Khans. Having 'earned' their right to represent the dying masses through ballot, these very political forces are now busy securing, and expanding, their political and economical turfs through bullet. So what if a few hundred innocent and irrelevant abjectly poor citizens die in the process. Ironically, these very people were the most irrelevant when alive, but in their deaths they are contributing to the strengthening of the 'democratic' process by proving precious bargaining and propaganda chips.

Add to this the not so hidden foreign-hidden-hand (more Caucasian than south Asian for a change) helping implement the objective of ensuring Pakistan's choking economy to come to a virtual standstill so as to enable the forcing down our throats of multiple agendas. The picture of doom becomes ever more complete. And while all this happens, the PM and president feign concern; Mirza tells Malik to stay out of Karachi; MQM flip flops in the power corridors; Shahi threatens to quit while Asfandyar happily breaks bread with Zardari, and the khakis silently watch from the blood soaked sidelines. Everyone a silent spectator, while the noisy violence devours the living.

The people were never as despondent or as defenceless, having lost the most precious possession of all: trust in their government. The significance of this critical loss is clearly lost on our shortsighted, criminal rulers, totally oblivious to the long-term disastrous consequences of such a national sentiment.

When Confucius set off on a journey to the State of Wei, Ran You, his disciple, drove the carriage for him. When they arrived at Wei, Confucius saw a lot of people there and exclaimed, "What a dense population". Ran You said, "Since there are already so many people, what next should be done for them?" Confucius replied, "Enrich them". To this the question came, "And when they have been enriched, what next should be done for them?" Confucius said, "Educate them". "Suppose you had no choice but to dispense with one of these three, which would you forego first?" "The military equipment", Confucius replied. "Suppose you had no choice but to dispense with one of the two that were left, which would you forego?" he was asked. "Food", Confucius said, "Death has always been with us since the beginning of time, but if people have no confidence in the ruler, when there is no trust, the common people will have nothing to stand on". (Analects, X11: 7)

And in such an unfortunate state of affairs, the state will have nothing to stand on either. Confucius may well have been advising us yet again, telling us to move before we turn still forever. But does anyone really care, including those watching silently from the sidelines?

The writer is editor The News, Islamabad.







Corruption and abuse of office for personal gain have reached alarming proportions in our country. Combatting this ever-growing menace would require the three pillars of the state – executive, parliament and judiciary – to apply all their energies and authority to the problem. However, given the capture of the executive and parliament by the corrupt and the tax-evading Birkin Handbag brigade, there is little one can expect from these two institutions. When young scions of major political leaders across party lines gang up to defraud public institutions, it is a grim indicator of the gravity of the situation.

The Supreme Court has taken up a few high-profile corruption cases, which is a step in the right direction. However, the SC needs to expand its focus to a more comprehensive judicial review of the country's anti-corruption infrastructure – comprising laws, policies and institutions – to destroy the environment wherein the powerful see corruption as a low-risk, high-reward activity.

Unsettling entrenched and systemic corruption requires administering a shock in order to disturb the corrupt equilibrium. Given the civil society's helplessness in this area, and in the absence of an Anna Hazare of our own, judicial activism is the last hope against this irresponsible parliament and government, and a check against the privileged power abusers of society.

In the context of the high-profile corruption cases, and taking into account the best anti-corruption infrastructure of countries that have been successful in breaking the back of corruption (South Africa, Singapore, Chile and Hong Kong), the SC needs to review the following aspects of the corruption menace:

First is the adequacy of the laws. Comprehensive anti-corruption legislation is an important prerequisite to reducing corruption, and must fully cover and clearly define the following kinds of corruption: bribery, nepotism, fraud, embezzlement, administrative corruption, abuse of office, and political corruption that influences the formulation of laws and policies. In addition, there need to be laws to ensure witness protection.

Ranking second on the list are institutions for investigating and preventing corruption. The case about the appointment of the Nab chairman could be the platform for the SC to review these broader issues of institutional responsibilities and the internal functioning of anti-corruption agencies. Presently, the roles and responsibilities are spread among Nab, the FIA and anti-corruption bureaus in the provinces.

In line with best practice examples from successful anti-corruption agencies, the SC should review the following: (i) the feasibility of a single agency at the federal level investigating and prosecuting grand cases of corruption. Such an agency would also actively prevent corruption by recommending changes in practices and procedures of government departments and public bodies to reduce opportunities for corrupt practices. This would be the main tool for lowering petty corruption involving public dealings of key government departments (police, lower judiciary, heath, education, irrigation, city governments, licence and permit issuing agencies etc). It would also educate the citizens and civil society about corruption, enlisting their support in the fight against graft.

As in the countries noted above, the above mentioned agency needs to be fully independent. It must be headed by people with strong prosecutorial and public administration experience, and not judges. It should have its own professional staff – not staff from other departments – to prevent the arbitrary removal and postings of staff members investigating crimes.

Third, in the context of the Haj quota and the NICL land scam, the SC needs to review the broader issue of public procurement and economic decision-making. The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) needs to be strengthened, made independent of the government, and it needs to have stronger oversight of large (say, over Rs 100 million) public contracts.

Furthermore, (i) evaluations of all large contract awards should be placed on PPRA's website before the actual award of contract (ii) at the time of signing the contract, representatives of the electronic media should be invited and in their presence the signatories to the contract should make written and oral declarations that no commissions or kickbacks have been given or received in respect of the contract.

The transparency of the government's economic decision-making process needs to be reviewed to reduce corruption. For example, once a cabinet or ministerial decision is taken in respect of economic policies, all related papers should be put in the public domain so that citizens are fully aware of the basis for the decision.

The SC needs to review the following administrative policies which induce corruption and in fact legalise it: (i) allotment of subsidised plots to civil, military, judicial and elected officials (ii) civil servants and public office holders taking up positions as board members of public corporations, going on travel paid for by private companies and donors, using cars provided by public corporations, and membership of committees taking decisions in respect of contracts in which firms owned and managed by close relatives and friends are participating (iii) retiring senior civil, military and judicial officers seeking government jobs – which makes them susceptible to undue influence of the political parties in power.

In the context of eligibility to hold public office, the SC needs to look at the broader issue of screening by the Election Commission (EC) of returns filed by candidates. Prior to elections, the EC neither has the time nor the resources to fully examine the returns. As a minimum, the EC should have world class forensic audit capacity to conduct an independent audit of all financial returns filed by elected officials with the objective of verifying their reliability and faithfulness, especially matching the personal lifestyles and assets of candidates with their declared sources of income. This exercise is a critical first step in reducing corruption at the top, and reducing the influence of the corrupt in the political system. Needless to say, corruption at the top will prevent any meaningful anti-corruption drive.

Countries with widespread corruption cannot expect high-growth rates in relation to entrepreneurship and innovations. When corruption, which is an unproductive and destructive activity, provides high returns, entrepreneurs will indulge in corruption instead of focusing on productive wealth-creating activities. No country has eliminated corruption, but many have reduced it to very low levels.

In an environment where the fox guards the chicken farm, most citizens have no hope of any meaningful action on the corruption front. Corruption is not about an amount of money changing hands or about "grease in the wheels of business". It is about the future of the nation. Therefore, in the absence of meaningful action by the government and parliament, the Supreme Court needs to take the lead.

The writer is former operations adviser at the World Bank. Email:






Every inch of this country has its defined administrative identity, but the tribal areas are neither a province nor a division, nor part of any province or division. Parliament can legislate for any area of Pakistan except the tribal areas. The Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction over these areas and their residents cannot appeal to any court in Pakistan.

The president of Pakistan is the chief executive of these areas, but up to this day not a single person from these areas has reached that position. The fact is that the Pakistani elite are not ready to accept the residents of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas as Pakistanis in the same way as the rest of the citizens of the country are. Previously the Political Agent used to be the ruler of the area and now this authority is shared with the militants and the military. The people of Fata cannot approach a court in case of injustice, nor can they voice their grievances through political means.

To maintain the status quo, the elite maintain that tribal traditions do not allow the residents to assimilate with mainstream Pakistani society and if the existing archaic system is disturbed the result will be calamity. The fact is that the same tribesmen live in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar with no cultural problems. Their students achieve good grades in Pakistani educational institutions. Hundreds of men from Fata are serving in the bureaucracy and the police. Some are or have been generals in the army.

People from Fata are a sizable proportion of the Pakistani workforce serving in Gulf countries and Europe. If they are capable of adjusting to foreign societies and their laws and rules and regulations, why can they not adjust to Pakistani society and laws, and when they are themselves Pakistani, not aliens?

Besides, the same Shinwari, Afridi, Mengal, Safi and other tribes are living on the other side of the Durand Line. In Afghanistan they follow laws, rules and regulations emanating from Kabul. But here in Pakistan the strange argument is presented that if the tribal people integrate into Pakistani society the change will destroy the whole balance in Fata. The backward tribesmen portrayed in the books of history do not have actual existence in the 21st century. The media and modern means of communication have brought the tribal people culturally at par with mainstream Pakistani society.

Currently it is clear that Zardari used all political forces and Pakistan for his political objectives, but Fata members in parliament under the leadership of Munir Orakzai have used Zardari so many times. Even the MQM has not been able to cash in on its position on as many occasions as the Fata members did in the case of theirs.

The special administrative status of the tribal areas was designed to serve British interests in the Great Game. After the departure of the British, the Pakistani bureaucracy inherited the status. Before the Sept 11 attacks, only bureaucrats having connections with the president and the prime minister were appointed as Political Agents. As had happened under the British, a kind of local political mafia of Maliks and other elites developed. In return for the favours they received, they ensured smooth and uninterrupted rule by the bureaucrats. They fabricated all the myths that defend the status quo.

Members of parliament representing Fata could not legislate for their own areas, but since they themselves belonged to the elite they also favoured the status quo and resisted any real change. After the Sept 11 event, two new actors started sharing power in the tribal areas: the militants and the military. The military resisted change because it feared possible mismanagement if the change came about. On other hand, the lawless areas suit the militants. So the present situation in the tribal areas is very gloomy. These areas are a goldmine for the bureaucracy, the local elite and the mafias and a laboratory for local and international establishments and the militants.

The present government in its early days promised to end the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) and to bring the tribal areas into the mainstream. After three years its has at last fulfilled its promise, but only partially. The present reforms related to Fata, thought far from enough, are indeed better than no reforms. Allowing political activities will at least produce some change, although it is going to be slow. The right to appeal against the decisions of the Political Agent is granted to a tribunal. If the jurisdiction of the appellate courts on the provincial and federal levels were extended to Fata, that would have resulted in real and substantive change in the tribal areas.

The fact is that changes in the FCR or political activities being allowed in Fata are not sufficient to help the tribal areas. There is a lot to accomplish. One element is the serious problem of unclear financial and administrative boundaries. The governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa administers these areas but the tribal areas have no representation in the provincial assembly. In the same way, the chief minister of the province is not allowed to interfere in the tribal areas but his subordinate, the chief secretary, heads the bureaucracy of the tribal belt. At the same time, on all issues related to law and order the Political Agent is bound to report to the home secretary of the province. There is no separate service structure for the area, so the provincial government provides its civil bureaucracy and the required human resources.

Besides the administrative confusion, problems related to financial matters are even worst. There is no transparent procedure to guarantee accountability, nor audit of public spending. Administrative matters are overseen by the Governor's House in Peshawar while human resources are actually part of the provincial government. So, characteristically, every matter related to the tribal areas in Pakistan had to move back and forth among the main actors. And now the military has joined the club.

So the need of the day is to define the administrative status of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. There are some political elements in Fata who have raised the demand for the territory to be given provincial status. On the other hand, the Awami National Party (ANP) is of the opinion that Fata should be integrated into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The ANP formula appears to be more feasible. But the key to the solution of the long-existing problems of the tribal areas is for their administrative status to be clearly defined. It would be wise to discuss this status at the same time as the issue of new provinces in Pakistan comes under serious discussion.

The writer works for Geo TV.








Writing in this space last week, Dr Atta-ur-Rahman made some radical suggestions for a new constitutional structure to ensure good governance. He is a distinguished member of our society well known as a teacher, researcher, administrator and visionary. Good enough reason that he be taken seriously.

His basic assumptions are that 'the British parliamentary system of democracy has been an abject failure'; 'military interventions were necessitated by corrupt governments' but the 'military governments failed to punish those criminal politicians and bureaucrats who amassed vast fortunes abroad'. Hence, we need a system of governance, which will 'root out and prevent corruption and promote development of a strong knowledge economy'. For that purpose he has made recommendations on constitutional reforms, investment in education and prompt access to justice.

The centerpiece of his recommendations is the replacement of the present parliamentary system with a presidential form of democracy where 'eminent experts in their respective fields' shall be appointed as members of the cabinet by the president from outside the parliament. The government secretaries should be 'persons of international repute' and selected on merit through open competition. This would ensure 'a competent government of technocrats'. Parliamentarians should be 'highly educated' as their primary job is lawmaking'.

Next, the election or appointment to important positions should first be screened by an 'Eminent Citizens Committee' to weed out persons of 'doubtful reputation'. Important positions include that of the president, secretaries, parliamentarians, heads of public-sector corporations and of such organisations as the FBR, the FIA, and Nab. The list of appointees to be screened does not include cabinet ministers, but that could be an unintended omission.

The Eminent Citizens Committee would itself be appointed by the 'Judges of the Supreme Court', which in practice would mean appointment by the Chief Justice as it actually happens in the case of appointment of judges by the Judicial Commission.

Pakistan would, thus, be governed by various appointees and selectees, whose chain of appointment would be initiated by the appointment of the Eminent Citizens Committee. The author of the new dispensation has been careful not to stray into the forbidden territory of appointments in the armed forces.

The other recommendations about other matters include allocations of 30 percent of the annual budget to education as in Malaysia, and formation of 'independent military courts' to clear the mess 'until cleanup is achieved'.

Coming from Dr Rahman all this is rather astonishing as neither his assumptions nor the proposed remedies are consistent with an objective appraisal of our past or the present, or even with the ideal that should be or could be achieved. Regrettably, out of more than 150 words that the English language has for different forms of government, the one that comes closest to the proposed setup is not 'democracy' but, perhaps, technocracy (government by experts), or aristarchy (government by the most qualified), or kritarchy (rule of judges). In the end, however, it will turn out to be a government by persons appointed through a process of selection. We are all familiar with this form of government. It is commonly known as bureaucracy.

Now, to begin from the beginning, 'regular military interventions' were not 'necessitated by corrupt governments'. At least prior to the first three military interventions there was not even a hint of 'loot and plunder' by 'criminal politicians and bureaucrats who amassed vast fortunes abroad'.

Second, the parliamentary system in Pakistan is not an 'abject failure' as it has hardly ever been allowed to operate. In fact it is the presidential system that failed after three long experiments under Ayub Khan, Ziaul Haq and Musharraf with a parliament elected and selected almost in the same way as suggested by Dr Rahman.

Third, what could be the intention behind proposing that the parliamentarians should be 'highly educated'? Dr Rahman is obviously not satisfied with mere graduates who adorned the parliament when Dr Rahman was part of the administration. Would a PhD in Chemistry do?

Fourth, while we should invest as much as we can, even more than 30 percent if we can, is it not realistic to quote the example of Malaysia which is located in a peaceful neighborhood, and has no external or internal threats. Recommending allocation of 30 percent of the budget to education, while not saying a word about how do we, then, meet or get rid of our liabilities is irresponsible slogan-mongering. Dr Rahman could, but hasn't, suggested, for example, that the defence expenditure should be reduced by 30 percent. He still has the opportunity to say that.

Fifth, the concluding proposal is that since the normal legal system has failed, there should be established 'independent military courts' to clear up the present mess. Good idea if the military courts can be persuaded to punish those responsible for disappearances in Balochistan.







 The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.

The greatest danger to the country's stability today comes from a worsening economy. This danger has been further heightened by the far-reaching economic impact of Karachi's descent into bloody mayhem.

The economic outlook has been steadily deteriorating. With policy paralysis setting in and no corrective actions or reform measures in sight, an economic breakdown might be unavoidable. Political leaders are already in campaign mode and prone to fiscal profligacy in distributing patronage to garner votes.

There are two views on Pakistan's near term economic prospects. The official view is that the country will continue to coast along and face no serious economic peril as a number of advantageous factors are in play. They include a marked improvement in the current account of the balance of payments. Foreign exchange reserves have increased to $18 billion. This includes nearly $8 billion from an IMF standby loan. It also reflects unexpected export earnings of over $24 billion this year ($19 b last year) and an unprecedented rise in remittances of $11 billion, up from $8.9 billion in 2010. What are in fact windfall – and transient – factors have produced a sense of official complacency.

This has become the basis of the government's calculation that it needs to do little or nothing as the economic situation will hold till elections – for the Senate as well as general elections, which may be called early if the ruling party secures a majority in the upper house. Thus a government that has shown little will to reform expects to muddle through into the polls and beyond.

In coming months this 'favourable' scenario based on windfall factors, providing comfort to the government, are all likely to reverse themselves. The large oil price bill will begin to exert pressure on the balance of payments. As will external debt repayments. The rise in exports has reflected a price, not a volume effect, and was a consequence of an increase in global commodity especially cotton prices. With cotton prices already coming down, the 'extraordinary' export performance may be short-lived. In its last quarterly report the State Bank sounded a warning on this count. July's figures already indicate a declining trend. Imports meanwhile will continue to rise pointing to a widening of the trade deficit ahead.

As for remittances, the sudden rise appears to partly reflect export proceeds that are being channelled back as remittances to avoid taxes. Signs are that having reached a peak these will begin to come down. Even if they continue for sometime, remittances are not a durable way to manage the balance of payments deficit.

The higher oil import bill, levelling off in exports, accumulation of external debt obligations, as well as a build up of domestic demand pressures (reflecting rising prices due to excessive money creation) will all combine to deplete the country's foreign exchange reserves. Real reserves are in any case less than the officially stated $18 billion as they include around $4 billion of the State Bank's own deposits. Part of the remaining $14.7 billion is also borrowed money.

That is why the more compelling and realistic view of the economy is that a combination of factors including unaddressed structural problems and the external economic environment are contributing to a brewing crisis that can acquire dangerous proportions if strong policy actions are not taken now to avert that.

For the past year or so the economy has been on a downward trajectory. This is due mainly to the deteriorating fiscal position and the failure to achieve revenue and expenditure control targets as well as the continued financial haemorrhaging of public sector enterprises. Instead of fiscal consolidation the government has engaged in excessive borrowing from the State Bank and commercial banks.

This has inescapably fuelled higher inflation. This fiscal year's trillion-rupee budget deficit will be financed by printing more currency notes and commercial bank borrowing in the absence of significant revenue mobilisation and spending restraint measures. This will push prices up further.

Several indicators point to an economy that is now like a runaway train hurtling towards derailment, with little to stop a train wreck given the ruling coalition's priorities and lack of reform commitment. This risks pushing the economy into a crisis in 2012 as a result of one or both developments mentioned below. The increasingly likely global economic slowdown and associated recession in Pakistan's major export markets will also have deleterious effects on an already fragile economy.

Indeed large and accumulated foreign debt payments combined with a larger oil import bill and a falling trend in exports and remittances can set into motion a declining trend in foreign exchange reserves. This can gather momentum within months leading to a foreign exchange crisis. If a direct reserves crisis is delayed for a set of reasons, the build up of inflationary pressures will lead to an increase in import demand, depreciation of the exchange rate and a depletion of reserves. The economy has little resilience to withstand such a challenge.

Meanwhile three consecutive years of low growth have left per capita incomes stagnant, aggravated poverty and worsened unemployment. This has generated widespread public discontent.

The slowdown in growth reflects many factors including falling public and private investment, inflationary pressures as well as the uncertainty produced by a worsening law and order situation. It also reflects production disruptions caused by crippling power outages and energy shortages. These disruptions will dampen growth further, hit exports and erode business confidence. Lack of resolution of the continuing circular debt problem in the energy sector will compound these issues and impose a mounting burden on the budget.

With no restructuring planned of the mostly insolvent state enterprises any one of them could collapse in coming months with serious consequences for the economy. Railways is already in a state of collapse with PIA not far behind.

Meanwhile an increasing oil import bill will coincide with the country's repayment of a number of external debt obligations, starting with $1.2 billion to the IMF in February 2012. Also worrying is the accumulation of foreign debt service payments later in the year including another $1.1 billion to the Fund. Between 2012 and 2015 Pakistan has to repay all of the $7.9 billion borrowed from the IMF since 2008.

All these factors will feed into and exacerbate the other. It is their confluence that poses the danger of a financial crisis resembling that of 2008. This occurred when the twin deficits of the budget and external account soared to record levels, forcing Pakistan to turn to the IMF for emergency financing to avert a possible default.

Suspended since May 2010 the IMF programme will terminate in September 2011. Its absence has meant a decline in inflows, which combined with a reduction of net inflows from donors, including the US, has meant less than targeted 'external resources' presumed by budget-makers.

Once a drawdown of reserves begins the exchange rate will come under pressure and capital flight will accelerate. Speculative pressures will then speed up the erosion in reserves. Once this process starts it will acquire an uncontrollable momentum of its own and the country could head towards a situation of default.

In this scenario of looming crisis, the psychological factor could become a decisive game changer, leading to an evaporation of business and public confidence. This in turn could produce a further depreciation of the currency as people begin to convert rupees into dollars as a hedge and also take them out of the country. A run on the currency can have very debilitating consequences, and will be hard to reverse.

All of this is avoidable. But it requires a serious plan of policy reforms and strong political will. Neither is available today as election politics take precedence over other considerations including the country's economic stability.







India has a venerable pantheon of icons from the movements for the revival and re-interpretation of Hinduism to the great struggle for independence and the post-independence reconstruction. Many of them including Mahatma Gandhi get temporarily discarded as India surges through waves of modernity but they never die. Hagiographic texts and visuals keep them alive. It is different from Pakistan where successive iconoclastic governments have created their own idols.

For weeks on end, the Indian scene has been dominated by the campaign against corruption spearheaded by an unlikely re-incarnation of Gandhi, Anna Hazare, a lowly retired soldier-driver of the Indian army. He underwent a metamorphosis when in 1965 he survived a deadly attack by a Pakistani plane on his military convoy. He went back to his village Ralegan Siddhi and dedicated himself, with notable ingenuity, to its uplift. For ideas and spiritual support, he, turned to Vivekananda, Gandhi and Vinoba Bhav – icons that the urban India mesmerised by Manmohan Singh's globalising economics had almost marginalised. Gandhi's philosophy rested in his belief that the soul of India lived in its 630,000 villages. Anna Hazare embraced it and also the methods by which Gandhi galvanised rural India. Amongst them was the mobilising power of fast unto death. The British never found a complete answer to it; nor is New Delhi doing any better.

New Delhi might have maintained an attitude of benign neglect towards this seemingly anachronistic village maverick but for Anna Hazare's growing preoccupation with the dark side of Manmohan Singh's economics. What stood out was the rampant corruption that cuts deep into the earnings of honest Indians. Hazare fasted for four days in April and is now fasting for a fortnight. The most notable success of this neo-Gandhian activist is that support for him is no longer confined to rural masses but increasingly comes from the new middle class with a high component of youthful professionals.

Manmohan Singh has been mindful of his outstanding achievements getting overshadowed by corruption ranging from the ministerial $28 billion G2 scam to daily extortion by the police and petty officials. In February, he tried to head off the storm in the media by talking to a select group which reported that the prime minister only rationalised corruption by citing difficulties of running coalition governments. Meanwhile Anna Hazare has selected the Lokpal (Ombudsman) Bill as a focal point. That the government has been playing with this bill is seen from its re-introduction in parliament in August for the eighth time. Hazare instantly rejected the new text as inadequate as it did not bring into the accountability net the prime minister, ministers, higher judiciary and bureaucracy. Team Hazare pressed for its own draft. Whatever the fate of Lokpal Bill, the movement against corruption has gathered momentum and will have far reaching ramifications.

Ripples of it have reached Pakistan though the terrain here is rougher. There are no iconic figures and no Avatars. The Quaid set such lofty standards of integrity that no government today even wants to know them. The higher echelons are dominated by individuals who, rightly or wrongly, faced mega-corruption cases in the past and had a field day once assassins swept Benazir Bhutto off the scene. No political leader except Imran Khan wants to make corruption a core issue and his voice is still weak. If the thunder is not loud, says a Russian proverb, the peasant forgets to cross himself. In Pakistan, the middle class also does the same. If Imran Khan wants that his thunder would make people remember God, he would need mass mobilisation.

The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email: katanvir@








THOUGH there are several factors responsible for the mayhem that we are witnessing in Karachi but as per growing perception the problem has political contours. There are strong feelings that the trouble has much to do with the political infighting as different stakeholders are trying to establish their maximum political hold on the city.

There can be no denying the fact that extortionists, land grabbers, drug mafia and mafia of other sorts are also active besides criminals and foreign trained and foreign funded terrorists, killers and saboteurs in disturbing peace of the economic and commercial hub of the country but principally it is a war for political hegemony. This view is shared by political figures, strategists, analysts and other leaders of public opinion, who are of the view that the issue can only be resolved if political stakeholders sit together and show sincerity to address it squarely forgetting about their petty party interests. Former Army Chief General (Retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and former ISI Chief Lt General (Retd) Hameed Gul have expressed the view that political parties are behind the present situation in Karachi. Leader of the Opposition in Senate Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidri has directly accused PPP, MQM and ANP for deteriorating situation Karachi while President Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jehangir has alleged that PPP's People's Amn Committee was actually its extortion-collection wing. In addition to these personalities, people belonging to different segments of the society share their opinion about the worsening situation in the mega city. Previously it was believed that Altaf Hussain was the only person who used to call shots in Karachi but now there are ANP's Shahi Sayyid and PPP's firebrand Zulfiqar Mirza as well who give new twists to the situation as and when they deem it fit. Therefore, the solution of the problem is neither with police nor with army but with political forces that have a say in the affairs of the city. Though on the face of it, they are giving impression of talking to each other and arriving at so-called consensus to address the challenge but practically we are standing at the same place as we were on day one. As the visit of the Prime Minister has not yielded intended results, we would urge President Asif Ali Zardari to rush to the city and take charge of the situation personally before it becomes too late to mend.







WITH a few exceptions, Karachi was virtually at a standstill in response to a call given by MQM for observance of Day of Mourning and Condemnation in protest against killing of innocent people during endless violence. Traders, industrialists and transporters backed the call and there was almost total shut down and wheel-jam in Karachi, which presented a deserted look on Tuesday.

No doubt, it was one of the most successful strike as different stakeholders expressed their serious concern over growing violence and inability of the authorities concerned to arrest the nose-dive in law and order situation. But the question arises as to what MQM or those who endorsed the decision gained from the strike call. The fact remains that the strike has added to the woes and miseries of Karachiites who are already suffering badly due to alarming deterioration in security environment that has taken heavy toll of the business and economic activities in the city where millions of people earn their livelihood. People are already reluctant to go out of the four walls of their houses for fear of any stray or targeted bullet taking their life, children are unable to go to educational institutions and production and export losses are beyond imagination. The business community is so disgusted that their leaders came to meet the Prime Minister in Karachi wearing black bands and returned without meeting him after waiting for two hours. In such a scenario, it is duty of the political parties and other stakeholders to encourage business and economic activity for the sake of people of Karachi and overall economic interest of the country but regrettably we are still resorting to the old tactics of shutter downs and wheel-jams. At a time when Karachi is bleeding we must avoid steps that could inflict more harm on the city. We hope the political leadership would realize its responsibilities and understand that they are rendering no service to the people by bringing the city to a virtual halt.








THE Chief Justice of Pakistan has ultimately done well by taking suomotu notice of the worsening law and order situation in Karachi that would make the people feel that some state organ cares about them. He also directed all news channels to submit footages and newspapers their news details about the city's situation on urgent basis.

It is in our view rather a belated notice but now that the Apex Court has taken it up, we would urge the honourable Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry that this notice be prioritised. The Chief Justice has already taken a number of initiatives and his attention was rightly focussed on issues of serious concern, which were worthwhile. It is a fact that suo motu notices have played a key role in establishing rule of law in different parts of the country. But situation in Karachi is altogether different as it is burning and bleeding, things are getting out of control and apparently the administration has failed. Why it has happened, need to be debated and analysed, very carefully and systematically to get the right answer. We are sure that representatives of the concerned departments would be called during hearing, which we request be held on daily basis. We suggest that secret reports about the possible involvement of political parties or their off shoots, different mafias or other forces must be made available by the agencies during the hearing. Not only that, if necessary the Supreme Court could shift the hearing to Karachi to send a message to the people that the judiciary is feeling the pain of their sufferings. The hearing in the court, we are sure would be open to media so that the actors behind the Karachi carnage are fully exposed and a verdict is delivered in the next few days. We are confident that the judiciary would ultimately suggest some viable solution and then ensure full and immediate implementation of its directions to get out of the precarious situation in Karachi, which in fact is affecting all shades of life.










The Charter of the United Nations begins with the words "We, the peoples of the United Nations…". Six decades and more down the road we are today left with the contemplation of whether or not the United Nations has actually lived up to the high ideals it was set up for. What to talk of the United Nations, several piddling outfits have taken it upon themselves the task of the establishment of world peace that the founding fathers had envisaged as the exclusive preserve of the United Nations Organization. The era of the Cold War, when the Warsaw Pact and NATO each arrogated to itself the powers that should best have been vested in the United Nations, is a case in point. Then it came to pass that all of a sudden the Cold War came to an end. While the Warsaw Pact died a natural death, NATO was left in the wilderness of sorts. When some years ago, the European Union took the decision to set up the EU Rapid Reaction Force, it had raised several eyebrows among the International Affairs buffs. Having officiated at the birth of NATO and being its recognized godfathers, the Americans too looked askance at this decision of the EU. The US long held to the assumption that they (USA that is) should have a decisive say in matters concerned with the defense of Europe.

The end of the Cold War was bound to have repercussions of some sort. The European Union had been squirming for quite some time to acquire some freedom of maneuver for itself. After some notable successes in the economic field, defense was but the logical next step. The Americans were worried, and justifiably so, that the decision to set up the EU Rapid Reaction Force would pose a threat to NATO primacy in the field of collective defense.

On the other hand it was generally recognized at the time as to how long would the European Union be content to confine its foreign policy instruments to an America–dominated alliance. This is hardly the time to delve into the merits or demerits of the EU decision. What did interest one, though, was what role, if any, might have been envisaged for the Force in international peacekeeping operations. By hindsight, such operations have at best been a mixed blessing. In some instances they have failed miserably to prevent the worst. In others they came into operation so late that the world was left wondering as to their efficacy.

The NATO operations and, subsequently, the EU Rapid Reaction Force gave rise to other question marks too. For one thing, they put the United Nations' role in peacekeeping into a gray area. After all, peacekeeping was, and should be, one of the principal concerns of the United Nations. This is not to say that the United Nations has exactly covered itself with glory in this particular field. The events of nine/eleven turned every known paradigm on its head. All defense organizations, and NATO in particular, were roped in to do America's bidding. The United Nations provided the umbrella for the stationing of NATO forces in Afghanistan in an operation that, by no stretch of imagination, can be seen as a peacekeeping venture. And all under the notional command of the United States Armed Forces.

The NATO authorities must be wondering sometime as to what made then enter into this rather murky situation. The defiant act by NATO in refusing to join the US forces in Afghanistan in their cross-border adventures into Pakistan may or may not signify disillusionment. As mentioned earlier, the Charter of the United Nations begins with the words "We, the peoples of the United Nations…". This connotes a symbolism of sorts that should not be lost on world leaders: that it is all "peoples"- and not just some governments – that form the bedrock of the World Organization. Whether one looks at the peacekeeping role or the economic logjam, one cannot help the feeling that the United Nations, that, as the universal institution having the responsibility to devise worldwide solutions based on equity and rules that are fair to all, has let "the peoples" down.

While on the subject of peacekeeping, one is also tempted to venture the remark that this process should also encompass the 'establishment of durable peace'. In other words, mere papering over of the cracks can hardly do the trick. Cessation of hostilities should be viewed merely as a first step towards the ultimate goal of am equitable and durable settlement of the dispute. Too often, regrettably, the United Nations has arranged for a ceasefire and then rested on its laurels. Jammu and Kashmir issue is a case in point. In so doing, the International Organization has helped to nurture festering flashpoints the world over. In order to ensure a peaceful World Order, the United Nations should also have striven to ensure a fair and equitable World Economic Regime. Here too the world body has failed "the peoples of the United Nations". It needs to be counted among the failures of the United Nations that the international economic assistance regime, instead of assuming the role of healer of the economic ills of the poor, has been given free rein to degenerate into a re-incarnation of the money-lending system of medieval ages, with its built-in inequities. Rather than working towards the general uplift of the living standard of the deprived millions of this planet, the 'system' has become a millstone around their collective necks. Instead of freeing them from economic blackmail, it has laid them open to shameless manipulation.

One would risk the charge of over-simplification in suggesting that to make the United Nations effective what is sorely needed is some kind of an 'enforcement mechanism'. Mere 'informed debate', in which our multilateral diplomatists revel, or even high-sounding resolutions can hardly deliver, unless they are backed up by a self-executing mechanism to ensure the timely implementation of the decisions of the World Body. The United States, as the sole superpower, is in a unique position to guide the United Nations to fulfill its noble mission by upholding the human and humane values that all right-thinking peoples of the world hold dear. And let the leaders of the influential countries take a conscious decision to use their collective weight on the side of good and justice and not to allow their vision to be clouded by extraneous and biased considerations. For a change, let ethics rather than expediency be the controlling force behind the actions of the powers that be. "The peoples of the United Nations" deserve no less.







 Anders Behring Breivik is a Norwegian right-wing extremist who confessed executor of the 2011 Norway attacks on 22 July 2011, the bombing of government buildings in Oslo that resulted in eight deaths, and the mass shooting at a camp of the Workers' Youth League (AUF) of the Labour Party on the island of Utøya where he killed 69 people, mostly teenagers. In fact the killers' thoughts have exposed the speedy increasing influence of Hinduism and Judaism in Christianity society. Thus, it would not be wrong in saying that real danger to Christianity are extremists' Hindu and Jews instead what was propagated by Jewish planted western media.

Israeli and Indians lobbyists of American congress have always protected their sponsored states' interests but unfortunately, their masters gave unrecoverable damage to American Economy and her interests in the global community. Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, created havoc in Oslo and on Utoya island Norway, by killing dozens. His 1,500-page manifesto titled "2083: A European Declaration of Independence", discusses Hindutva elements as friends and allies and urges the Mahasabah to fight shoulder to shoulder with his knights. Breivik spends 100 pages of his manifesto to India. The theme running through Breivik's manifesto is that he attacks Islam and the "appeasement" of Muslims by everybody from western countries to countries like India. While depicting his thoughts about India and Hindu extremists, he says that the Indian subcontinent the history is tragic indeed, that's where the Hindu holocaust took place in medieval times, but the conflict is still present in the province of Kashmir.

The name "Hindu Kush" of the mountain range in eastern Afghanistan means "Hindu Slaughter" or "Hindu Killer". Anders Breivik tried to change the historical perspective of the history once he said that most likely; it was deliberately named by Muslim conquerors, as a lesson to the future generations of Indians. The question arises that if the name Hindu Kush relates such a horrible genocide of Hindus, why are Hindus ignorant about it? The Indian government, Instead of giving details of thus "dark chapter" in Indian history, is busy in the whitewash of Muslim atrocities and the Hindu holocaust.

The killer believes that saffronisation is a political neologism used to refer to the policy of right wing Hindu nationalism (or Hindutva) which seeks to make the Indian state into a "Hindu nation" and its Sikh, Buddhist and Jain minorities incorporated into Hinduism. These nationalist movements are also called Sanatana Dharma movements. Hindu nationalism is alleged to have a militant Hindu agenda. The Sanatana Dharma movements are suffering from the same persecution by Indian cultural Marxists as their European cousins. The UPA relies on appeasing Muslims and very sadly proselytizing Christian missionaries who illegally convert low-caste Hindus with lies and fear, alongside Communists who want total destruction of the Hindu faith and culture. Expatriate Hindus are more concerned about Hindu culture, because they have an eagle's view of what's happening in India while Indian Hindu residents don't see it being on the scene. He also said that the only positive thing about the Hindu right wing is that they dominate the streets. They do not tolerate the current injustice and often riot and attack Muslims when things get out of control, usually after the Muslims disrespect and degrade Hinduism too much.

This behaviour is nonetheless counterproductive. Because instead of attacking the Muslims they should target traitors in India and consolidate military cells and actively seek the overthrow of the cultural Marxist government. He also stated that India will continue to wither and die unless the Indian nationalists consolidate properly and strike to win. It is essential that the European and Indian resistance movements learn from each other and cooperate as much as possible. Our goals are more or less identical. Breivik lists the websites of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the NVO (National Volunteers' Organisation), the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) and the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) in his book which show his attraction for Hindutva thoughts. Breivik claimed that he wrote several emails and also used Face book to reach out to people in India. It is possible that he sent his manifesto to the addresses he farmed ahead of the massacre.

In this regard while responding, the SanghPrivar has said that Anders Breivik's endorsement of Hindutva and Hindu nationalists has left the saffron leaders embarrassed. Senior RSS leader Mr Ram Madhav called it "motivated propaganda", VHP's Vinod Bansal insisted that his manifesto, in which he has praised Hindu nationalists, "made no sense" except the bit about appeasing Muslims is right the UPA government under Sonia Gandhi has been indulging in it and also framing policies in such a way that the whole country is converted to Christianity. BJP MP B. P. Singhal was quoted as saying that the killer's ideas were not wrong but his methods were. The Indian counselor tried to tone down the Breiviks' thought after the release of his book. He said that Anders Breivik's expressed ideas are mainly the cherry picking of history and religion to come to distorted conclusions.

Nonetheless, it is evident that the killer was heavily influenced by the thoughts of Hindu extremists and Judaism. The horrific incident in Norway and violent ideas of Anders Breivik are thought provoking for the Christians and Muslims communities of India, Middle East and America. It is worth mentioning here that Indian troops have killed over 3.2 to 3.4 million Sikhs; more than 120,000 Muslims of the occupied "Internationally Disputed Areas of Jammu and Kashmir"; more than 500,000 Muslims; more than 312,500 Christians; over 15,000 Tamils; more than 15,000 civilians of the Seven Sisters of Assam; hundreds of thousands of Dalits [equivalent to the lowest cast in India]; and hundreds of thousands of Adivasis or Moolnivasis. These Sikhs, Muslims, non-Hindus and non-Brahmin minorities were killed because they were neither Brahmin nor Hindu. Since August 15, 1947, Brahmin-Hindu politician/lawmakers and the armed forces have needed one another to protect their own skins.

In the latest example of Norwegian collaboration with the enemies of the Jews, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere declared during a recent press conference, alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, that "Norway believes it is perfectly legitimate for the Palestinian president to turn to the United Nations" to seek recognition of an independent Palestinian state. Norway's foreign minister chaired a group of Palestinian donor nations, also used the occasion to hold the tin cup out for Abbas. Foreign Minister Stoere chided those who have decided to hold back on their contributions. "All donors should make an extra effort to support the Palestinians this summer and autumn," he said. It is also a well known fact that during the Nazi occupation of Norway, nearly all Jews were either deported to death camps or fled to Sweden and beyond. One of Norway's leading intellectuals, Jostein Gaarder, published an op-ed article in a major Norwegian daily newspaper in 2006 arguing against recognizing the state of Israel in its current form and claiming that Judaism is "an archaic national and warlike religion."

In short, the above discussion concludes that secular Christians' states like Norway has now realized that Hinduism and Judaism are real dangers to their faith and future generation. Norway attack was resulted due to stirring up of Anders Breivik ideology in some segments of the society. Mossad and RAW got benefit out of this situation have launched joint covert operations against moderate Christians and Muslims. For completion of their agenda usage of person like Breivik is not a much difficult task once people like John McCain present in American congress to look after the interests of their masters. In these days Pakistan economic capital Karachi is also passing through a foreign sponsored terrorism. The foreign intelligence agencies with the help of local traitors are playing with the lives of innocent people. Government should deal these terrorists with iron hands.









She was the most beloved wife of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) after Hazrat Khadija (AS). Three years after the tragic and painful death of Hazrat Khadija (AS), Hazrat Khawla, the wife of Hazrat Usman Mazoun, suggested that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) should remarry. In reply, Rasulallah pbuh asked, "Who should I marry?" upon which she presented two names; one was that of Hazrat Aisha, and the other was that of Hazrat Sawda, a mother and 30-year-old widow. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) then sent Hazrat Khawla with marriage proposals to both families, and they both gave their consent.

When news reached Hazrat Abu Bakr, in his immense joy, he wished to clarify a point so he said to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), "I am your brother." Rasulallah s.a.w then replied, "You are my brother as far as the religion and book of Allah is concerned, and she is legitimate for me." (Bukhari) Hearing this reply, the happiness of Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique was clearly visible and he gave his consent. This holy marriage holds a significant place in the history of Islam. For one, it reinforced the friendship between Rasulallah s.a.w and Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique, who had always stood by his friend in hours of distress. In addition to this, a lady of rare qualities was blessed with Rasulallah s.a.w's presence, and the opportunity to spend her youth in the auspicious household of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). In her youth, already known for her striking beauty and her formidable memory, she came under the loving care and attention of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). As his wife and close companion she acquired from him knowledge and insight such as no woman has acquired.

Hazrat Aisha RA was born as a Muslim. She says: "When I got to the age of understanding my parents were already Muslims." From this is it clear that not even a speck of Kufr was shadowed upon her. The bulk of her vast treasure of knowledge was obtained while she was quite young. There are 2210 traditions narrated from her. Mohammad Ali Qutb in his excellent book "Women around the Messenger", has this to say about Ayesha (RA), ""she grew up in a home where Islam and faith were practiced and she entered the home of the Prophet while still a youth. She was intelligent and full of knowledge. She performed her role in her marital home in a most wonderful way, that was full of love and tranquility".

Hazrat Aisha's RA students were approximately 200, out of which were: Hazrat Abu Hurairah, Hazrat Abu Musa Ashari, Hazrat Abdullah ibn Abbas and Hazrat Abdullah ibn Zubair (Radhiyallahu-Anhum). Men and women came from far and wide to benefit from her knowledge. The number of women is said to have been greater than that of men. Besides answering enquiries, she took boys and girls, some of them orphans, into her custody and trained them under her care and guidance. She conveyed the knowledge that she had comprehended and memorized. She directed people, taught them, guided them and gave them wisdom. She left a legacy that is rate to be found in others. The knowledge that she imparted formed a substantial part of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence and its principles. It is of the greatest relevance to note the pivotal role she played as a teacher, exponent and interpreter of the religion of Islam. Aisha RA was an exceptionally intelligent and astute woman, a young prodigy, and this was the main reason why she got married to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), as is clearly proved by events after the Holy Prophet's life. She entered his household, shortly after his emigration to Madina, just at the time when the teachings of Islam in all fields of life for the Muslim community were starting to be revealed by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and demonstrated by his examples and practices. After the Holy Prophet's death, she acted as a teacher and interpreter of Islam, providing guidance to even the greatest of the male Companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). They made a special point of going to her to gain knowledge and seek her opinion.Aisha was really a generous soul and a patient one. She bore with the rest of the Prophet's household poverty and hunger which often lasted for long periods. For days on end no fire would be lit in the sparsely furnished house of the Prophet for cooking or baking bread and they would live merely on dates and water. Poverty did not cause her distress or humiliation. Hazrat Ayesha, showered the glory and glitter of worldly things. Being in the company of the Prophet, her standards of worshipping Allah, were lofty in nature. Once she was asked why she applied mask on her money, and she responded, "this money falls into Allah's Hands before it falls into the beggar. Aisha not only possessed great knowledge but took an active part in education and social reform. As a teacher she had a clear and persuasive manner of speech and her power of oratory has been described in superlative terms by al-Ahnaf who said: "I have heard speeches of Abu Bakr and Umar, Uthman and Ali and the Khulafa up to this day, but I have not heard speech more persuasive and more beautiful from the mouth of any person than from the mouth of Aisha." Hazrat Ayesha's apartment is also of great significance in the history of Islam. It is the room that houses the Prophet's grave and his noble body. It is the only room of the Prophet's wives that still exists. It is the room where Hazrat Ayesha nursed the Prophet when he was sick. It is the room that shelters the remains of two of his closest companions and commanders of the faithful – Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar (May Allah be pleased with them).

During his final illness, it was at Hazrat Aisha's apartment that he went at the suggestion of his wives. When the Holy Prophet pbuh was on his death bed, he had his head on Hazrat Aisha's RA lap. At the time of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) death she was only eighteen years old. Hazrat Ayesha, in the month of Ramazan on its seventeenth (17th) day, in the year 58 AH, at the age of sixty six surrendered her soul and was buried the same night in Jannatul Baqee, after Salat Al-Witr. (May Allah be pleased with her).








Since its inception, Pakistan has continuously been facing perilous circumstances, some of which were coincidental while others were the result of the nefarious actions of forces, which intended to destabilize and eventually disintegrate the country. In order to sustain its existence, Pakistan has had to endure tormenting times with brief respites of peace and stability. The haunting news flashing on television screens and glaring in local tabloids that 'Pakistan is facing its most critical time in history' has become a recurring theme, which has been resounding in our ears for as long as we can remember now. While Pakistan has been plagued with the menace of terrorism, religious fanaticism, political instability, poverty, corruption and unemployment, not to mention long hours of power outages, the sheer fact that it continues to exhibit a sense of collectiveness, is the result of the resilience of its people.

However, it has become an annoying habit of some states to trash their garbage at Pakistan's front door. It is always convenient to point a finger at Pakistan and hold it responsible for the mess back at home. This is usually done on account of two reasons. Firstly, to shroud off responsibility for failures in their own respective domains. This is precisely why some analysts refer to Pakistan as the 'scapegoat', which the United States and its allies are using as a deliberate distraction for their miserable failure in Afghanistan. This becomes even more pertinent when understood in context of the upcoming US exit strategy from Afghanistan. Secondly, it is always convenient to express umbrage at a state whose machinery is more than willing to accept its own fault, even before the finger is raised. We, as a nation have become apologetic in our behavior for the actions and wrong doings of others.

There is a long list of accusations against Pakistan. Whether it be India accusing Pakistan of sponsoring cross-border terrorism in Kashmir or within the Indian union itself, or whether it is the United States levying accusations against Pakistan of harboring terrorists and not being sincere in its commitment of apprehending Al Qaeda and Taliban members. There is almost no end to it. Afghanistan, too feels that it can cast instigations at Pakistan and lay the devil to rest. More recently, the spokesperson of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security was heard accusing Pakistan's intelligence agencies of working in collaboration with insurgents to organize and execute attacks on Afghan soil. As such the United Kingdom feels that it has no reason to lag behind in 'passing the parcel' onto Pakistan.

The British Prime minister's proclivity from day one has clearly been in favor of India, realizing its importance as a potential market for UK's exports. After the Abbottabad showdown, almost all the world, except China was seen scowling at Pakistan for having been equivocal in its efforts to terminate Al Qaeda and Taliban masterminds from its territory. In addition, while the nation and the entire world waited in awe for Pakistan's response to these accusations, the outcome was motley of an utter state of confusion, a delayed reaction, a defensive posture, and complete incoherence of the state machinery.

Due to the infantile reactions of our leaders, the world was led to believe that Pakistan had chiseled the United States and the west for billions of dollars in the war on terror while protecting high profile targets in its garrison city. Our leaders and policymakers need to realize that while we are a troubled nation in many respects, our strengths clearly outnumber our weaknesses. We are a nation of a hundred and eighty million people who are better known around the world for their ability to raise themselves from abysmal depths and attain the heights of success in the most unpredictable manner. We are the first Muslim state to be a declared nuclear power and our weapon delivery systems are unmatched within the region. Our armed forces are renowned world over for their ability to deal with compounded issues with immense courage, skill and dexterity.

Above all, our geo-strategic positioning is of vital importance. Taking its geostrategic position to its advantage, Pakistan serves as an important link between energy rich Iran on the west and the energy ravenous India in the east and China in the northeast. It has Afghanistan on its northwest border and the Arabian Sea to its south. This in turn translates into its political importance also. It is indispensible to the United States and its western allies in succeeding in the war on terror in Afghanistan. It shares not only a 523 km border with China but a deep history of mutual trust and cooperation. China's economic boom is fast gaining momentum and it is ready to overtake the United States as the world's largest economy. While the US looks towards India for the containment of China, it has not forgotten the role-played by Pakistan in bridging the gap between the two states in the 1970's. Furthermore, Pakistan is a declared nuclear state and is situated in a region where it is directly bordered by two other nuclear states. However, due to political instability and owing to the lack of a coherent, consistent and well thought out foreign policy, Pakistan has never really been able to take full advantage of its geo-strategic location.

It is high time that Pakistan set its own house in order and responds to these allegations in an assertive and convincing manner. At a time, when Pakistan is not at the best of its relations with the major powers, Muslim countries and its immediate neighbors, we need to be represented by people of substance who possess the skill and charisma to present Pakistan's perspective to the world in its true sense, rather dancing on their tunes. We will be judged in history on account of our successes and failures, not on the basis of the loud rhetoric of our imprudent leaders. We need to realize the necessity for a positive change within ourselves in order to ensure a prosperous future for our coming generations.

—The writer is Islamabad-based International Relations scholar.








During the Second World War, a future prime minister, Harold Macmillan, said America is "the new Roman empire and we Britons, like the Greeks of old, must teach them how to make it go." How goes the tutoring of Rome by Athens? We are in the fifth month of the Libyan intervention that Barack Obama's administration said would involve "days, not weeks," an undertaking about which Prime Minister David Cameron was much more enthusiastic than Obama, who rarely mentions it. The intervention resulted from Cameron's and French President Nicolas Sarkozy's sudden zest for waging humanitarian war. Before its objective became regime change, the point was to prevent Moammar Gadhafi from inflicting a humanitarian disaster. Officials here speak of "a crime being committed within our reach." But what is that reach?

After Gadhafi is deposed, as he probably will be, and after undetermined other nations have been deputed to police Libya's post-war chaos, which surely there will be, moralists can answer this question: Did NATO's operations — actually, those of a minority of NATO nations — really serve the humanitarian objective of economizing violence in Libya? And people here can then decide whether this was a sensible undertaking by a British government whose post-recession austerity budget, announced before the Libyan exercise in power projection, involves a mismatch between political ends and contracting military means. "Britain," said Cameron, "has punched above its weight in the world, and we should have no less ambition for our country in the decades to come."

Cameron said this when announcing plans to slice military personnel by 10 percent and the army's tanks and artillery by 40 percent, and the decommissioning of Britain's only aircraft carrier capable of launching fixed-wing aircraft. Britain will have no carrier, an essential instrument of power projection, until 2020. Britain remains a sceptered isle, but not the seat of Mars. So, what weight will Britain punch above? In a recent lecture here, Max Hastings, a distinguished journalist and historian experienced with and affectionate toward America, called upon British leaders to understand "how little attention we command among most Americans," who are no longer Eurocentric and have declining regard for British armed forces, which have "shrunk very small." In 2002, during preparations for the invasion of Iraq, the then head of the British army, returning from a Washington visit, told Hastings, "Mass matters — and we don't have it." Hastings notes that the US Marine Corps' air wing is larger than the Royal Air Force.

Americans know that "if the British Army shrinks as scheduled after withdrawal from Afghanistan, we shall thereafter be able to deploy only a single brigade group of 7,000 to 8,000 men for sustained operations overseas." Which has implications for the "special relationship" — Hastings says this is now "a rather pathetic British conceit" — between Britain and America. "If," he says, "we wish to play our traditional role abroad in pursuit of any perceived important Western foreign policy objective, to enjoy America's confidence and share its secrets, we must own armed forces and intelligence assets capable of earning these things."

NATO's secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, recently warned that "at the current pace of cuts," it is hard to see how in the future "Europe could maintain enough military capabilities to sustain" military operations such as those under way in Libya. Actually, Europe could not sustain them today; only US munitions, intelligence, refuelling and other assets keep the Libyan operations going. Hastings says France is the only European nation with which Britain "can plan jointly for future war-fighting contingencies with a reasonable expectation of commitments being fulfilled": "No responsible British government could today make an agreement whereby its European partners would become responsible for, say, airborne surveillance or unmanned drone combat capability in a future deployment, because the risk is far too great that on the day, and for whatever reasons, the others simply would not be there."

Since the Cold War's end, the combined GDP of NATO's European members have grown 55 percent, yet their defence spending has declined almost 20 percent. Twenty years ago, those nations provided 33 percent of the alliance's defence spending; today, they provide 21 percent. This is why Robert Gates, before resigning as US defence secretary, warned that unless Europe's disarmament is reversed, future US leaders "may not consider the return on America's investment in NATO worth the cost." Born to counter the Soviet army on the plains of Northern Europe, NATO may be expiring in North Africa.—Courtesy: The Japan Times







AFTER 42 years under the jackboot of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya faces formidable challenges but enters its new phase of nationhood with a few advantages.

On the positive side, it has reasonable infrastructure, although much has been destroyed during six months of civil war. It has a functional education system. And it holds Africa's largest known oil reserves and significant gas deposits, which is why per capita income is about $12,000 per year. Production, however, has largely stopped due to the exodus of foreign workers whose expertise will be sorely needed as the country again finds its economic feet. On the negative side, Libya is highly vulnerable to fracturing along tribal lines. It lacks significant institutions, including a constitution or political parties, the army is in chaos and systems of administration will need to be established quickly.

Far from the "mission accomplished" declarations after the liberation of Iraq, NATO and the West should be quietly ready to help Libyans in their transition to democracy. To Kevin Rudd's credit, Australia took a lead calling for a no-fly zone during the civil war and was the third largest aid donor to Libya during the hostilities. The Foreign Minister struck the right note yesterday when he outlined areas where the rest of the world, including Australia, could offer assistance, such as responding to any call to the UN Security Council for help in maintaining basic law and order, public administration, education, health and rebuilding the energy sector. In the medium to long term, openness to overseas investment will be vital. The nation should also benefit as Western nations unfreeze an estimated $150 billion in sovereign assets that the Gaddafi kleptocracy had loitering in overseas banks.

Until now, Libya's new rulers, the 31-member National Transitional Council, have been united by their goal of removing the dictator. Now their aim has almost been achieved they must prioritise others, especially preparing the country for elections, defining and creating political parties, agreeing on an interim justice system and creating practical measures to help the nation function. They will also need to guard against the inevitable push from Islamist groups, including al-Qa'ida, to grab a stranglehold before democracy can be firmly established. For the sake of Libya's 6.5 million people, as well as their own, Western nations must do all they reasonably can to help while allowing Libya to forge its own path.





QUEENSLAND taxpayers are entitled to feel angry that convicted terrorism supporter David Hicks has been shortlisted for the $15,000 Queensland Premier's Literary Prize for Guantanamo: My Journey.

They will be unimpressed by Premier Anna Bligh's sanctimonious defence of "a profound reaffirmation of the values that distinguish us from those who want to terrorise others" reflecting "the freedom of speech enjoyed in this country that makes us different to terrorists". Presumably that includes al-Qa'ida, which ran four training courses attended by Hicks. Or the Taliban, with whom he fought.

Far from denying him freedom of speech, we wish he had been more frank in his book, which was far less informative than ABC journalist Leigh Sales's definitive study Detainee 002: The Case of David Hicks. For starters, he should have said why he left his partner and two small children in 1999 to become a foot soldier with Pakistani militants. And his al-Qa'ida training was worth more than a single page out of 456. Hicks revealed far less than the 2004 SBS documentary The President v David Hicks, which exposed his role with the Taliban. His letters revealed on the program, peppered with racist anti-Semitism, were much more candid than the book. In them, he wrote of martyrdom and attaining "the highest position in heaven . . . fighting in the way of God against the friends of Satan" and condemned the West for being "controlled by Jews". He also lauded the Taliban regime, which executed women for adultery and forbade girls from attending school as "the best in the world".

Thankfully, Attorney-General Robert McClelland has confirmed that any literary "benefit" will be covered by the Proceeds of Crime Act. But Ms Bligh should put her foot down. Pleas about giving the judges a free hand do not wash. The Premier's awards are her responsibility, and Hicks's listing lends his treachery serving Australia's implacable enemies false due.

A win for Hicks would turn the Queensland award into the literary equivalent of the Sydney Peace Prize, a politicised contest captured by the extremists on the Left. Osama bin Laden apologist, philosopher Noam Chomsky, won this year, following in the footsteps of Indian "eco-feminist" Vandana Shiva, writer John Pilger and Palestinian activist Hanan Ashwari.

Hicks's presence would make any literary awards a laughing stock, except among the basket-weaving groupies who trail from one festival to the next, fostering a self-loathing, fringe culture in which Hicks enjoyed a standing ovation at the Sydney Writers' Festival. John Howard was heckled as a "war criminal" at the same gathering. But Mr Howard, who is a best-selling author without the benefit of any wretchedly compromised gong for cultural conformity, had the last laugh. His incisive, eloquent memoir Lazarus Rising had sold 77,000 copies at last count, eclipsing all his political rivals, including Malcolm Fraser, whose tendentious tome, co-authored with Margaret Simons, was the NSW Premier's book of the year. Far from reflecting "an open mind" by the judges as Terry Hicks claimed, his son's shortlisting in Queensland reflects an anti-Western mindset that has left literary culture remote from most Australians.






THIS week marks the first anniversary of the "new paradigm", the era of the rainbow coalition that was supposed to soften the rough corners of federal politics.

Never again would federal parliament be hostage to "the dumbed-down decision of blue or red", independent Rob Oakeshott told the National Press Club a year ago tomorrow. "I'm hearing the new paradigm vibe," he said. Plainly, Mr Oakeshott was not kidding when he described himself as "glass half-full kind of a guy". Frankly, we had our doubts about this political arcadia in which the lion would lie down with the lamb. It has been clear since the Tampa election of 2001 that Labor and the Greens were moving in opposite directions and that a Julia Gillard-Bob Brown coalition, with or without Mr Oakeshott's soothing influence, would not go down well in the heartland.

Other commentators, however, were happy to down half a glass of the Oakeshott kool-aid. "You're watching Q&A. You're watching the new paradigm," announced Tony Jones on September 13 in what, we take, was a comment. Earlier that evening, The Australian had been sternly admonished on Media Watch for harbouring politically incorrect doubts about the Greens. "Is there a new paradigm in politics or will it be business as usual?" stand-in presenter Paul Barry asked. "Since it became clear the Greens might hold the balance of power, The Australian has been targeting them with a succession of negative articles." And so it went on, as Barry took us to task for headlines such as "PM Julia Gillard's high-risk Greens embrace" and "Greens to rush same-sex bill".

A year later, with Labor's primary vote at 27 per cent, we rest our case. Labor, as predicted, has suffered a backlash from chasing progressive, left-of-centre voters who have been defecting to the Greens since Labor leader Kim Beazley sided with John Howard in response to the Tampa incident in 2001. It is abundantly clear that Mr Beazley was right to listen to Labor's core constituency in the political centre rather than chase Senator Brown around the meadow. Mr Oakeshott, meanwhile, is making contingency plans in case Ms Gillard should be rolled by her party, according to an MP who spoke to our columnist Niki Savva. Mr Oakeshott was not available for comment. Funny that.







GUANGDONG province has long been the interface of China with the outside world, which has not always been a happy experience for its citizens. More recently it has been part of great experiments in capitalism and modern governance, through the creation of the Shenzhen special economic zone in 1979 and then by the continuation of Hong Kong as a distinct enclave under its own British-style laws after being handed back to China in 1997.

Guangdong should therefore be at the forefront of China's professed drive towards transparent rule of law, particularly in commercial matters. Unfortunately, it still presents itself as one of the darkest and most sinister corners of the Chinese legal system as far as doing business is concerned. Just ask James Peng, Matthew Ng, Yang Hengjun and now Charlotte Chou, though it may be some time before Chou is able to speak freely.

All of them - bar Yang, a political offender who has temporarily ''disappeared'' - have been subject to criminal charges of corporate dishonesty based on murky, hard-to-substantiate evidence, after falling out with local partners. Those partners have been connected to the government and Communist Party, evidently able to pull the required strings with police and courts, both subject to direction by party cadres. Another characteristic is that all the defendants are ethnic Chinese. This suggests two prevailing attitudes among Chinese officials.

One is an apparent assumption that foreign governments will not spring so assiduously to the defence of ethnic minorities, particularly those in trouble in the country of their birth.

The consular treaty requiring China to inform the Australian government of the arrest of its citizens and to allow prompt consular access to the prisoner can thus be ignored, as it has been routinely. The second attitude is that Chinese officials still regard overseas Chinese as Chinese subjects whatever their passport, and whatever assurances to the contrary given by Beijing over the decades to countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia that ethnic Chinese minorities do not comprise a fifth column. This can only add to the unease about China's strategic intentions in the region, and to disbelief in its insistence that the ''harmony'' it seeks is not hegemony.

The case of Charlotte Chou seems particularly heartless and dishonest. She was torn away from her young child, made to give a statement under duress, blocked from assembling evidence in her defence and then re-arrested on a new charge immediately after serving one sentence. Our ministers and officials should raise this case in every possible forum, and make clear that normal business is impossible until she gets decent treatment under proper law.



IN THEORY, the relationship between Infrastructure NSW and Transport for NSW should be clear. The latter is the souped-up ministry presided over by Gladys Berejiklian, intended to have overarching control of all transport projects in the state - road, rail, light rail and everything else. Its task, if everything goes to plan, is to evaluate projects without institutional bias, so that transport can be planned rationally and resources allocated efficiently between transport modes. The Roads and Traffic Authority was abolished and its functions transferred to Transport for NSW to remove the bias towards road transport and against other modes which the previous structure could not overcome.

One level above that sits Infrastructure NSW - a quasi-independent body whose chairman is the former premier, Nick Greiner - to co-ordinate funding for the state's capital works program. Its task, again if everything goes to plan, is to assess transport projects alongside all other forms of infrastructure planned for the state - power stations, dams, and so on - to put the process of implementation beyond day-to-day politics.

In real life though, it looks as if that theory's operation risks falling victim to the mechanics of implementation. Infrastructure NSW already exists, and is already at work setting priorities as it sees fit under its energetic, activist chairman.

Over at Transport for NSW, meanwhile, the troops are starting to get nervous. The organisation's first task is to draw up a transport plan for the state - an overarching document which includes road and rail projects together. But though Berejiklian continues to declare that the transport masterplan for the state is a central priority, it is still unclear five months into the new government how it will be drawn up, who will be consulted, and how and when it will be released to the public. In the contest within the bureaucracy to set the transport agenda, the agency with direct responsibility, Transport for NSW, is thus already at a distinct disadvantage because it has not yet worked out what it thinks it ought to do. The agency with the money, Infrastructure NSW, is well ahead of the game.

What NSW voters - in cars, trucks, trains, trams, ferries and on bicycles - need to know is that this diffuse structure is not just a warmed-over version of the same old state bureaucratic swamp, in which the largest, ugliest dinosaur wins all the prizes. In transport's case, that would be the roads lobby - the source of many of the portfolio's present ills.





National debate is required on manufacturing.

IN HIS first press conference after becoming Labor leader in 2006, Kevin Rudd declared that he didn't want to lead a country that didn't make things. It was a confronting sentiment that challenged the accepted policy wisdom that manufacturing in Australia did not have a future, and that the breaking down of the tariff wall that began in the 1980s was reaching its logical conclusion. Almost five years on, the issue is even more pressing for the politician who deposed Mr Rudd as prime minister, Julia Gillard. In one of the most important economic shifts in recent decades, Australian manufacturing finds itself under siege, battling a record high Australian dollar and officials in Treasury and the Reserve Bank who believe that the nation's future rests with the mining boom, not making things.

This week, the impact of that combination was the decision by steelmaker BlueScope to sack 1000 workers and up to 400 contractors. It would be far too easy to use the cold language of detached economists who view this as a structural adjustment, the shrinking of one part of the economy to make way for another. Yet in the real world, there are very human consequences. In Victoria, 200 jobs are going at the BlueScope Hastings plant. One of those workers, 30-year veteran Robbie Rudd, told The Age that, at 55, he doesn't think he'll work again. Iron worker Matt Wilton needs to support his wife and three sons: ''Now the shock has settled in and things are starting to sink in, I'm worried, I'm concerned.'' Politicians and bureaucrats need to be acutely aware of the pain that is being felt. Every job lost has a direct impact upon families and communities.

The response from the Gillard government has so far been restrained. In part, the loss of manufacturing jobs is caught up in the debate over the proposed carbon tax. In the case of BlueScope, the government is bringing forward $100 million of its $300 million carbon price package for the steel industry, even though it argues that the retrenchments are unrelated to the carbon tax. Another $10 million will be spent on services and support for displaced workers.

The government is also preparing a ''Buy Australian'' initiative to encourage mining and other companies to use local suppliers.

The government argues its policy settings are already configured for the ''patchwork economy''. Yet what is needed is some bigger thinking. First, there needs to be a national conversation about whether Australia believes a manufacturing industry is important. There would appear to be compelling strategic reasons for Australia to maintain a manufacturing base, rather than simply serving as a quarry to the world. The faith in the mining boom is predicated on it continuing for decades. What should happen if that boom should falter and the manufacturing jobs have gone?

There is also the critical question of who prospers from the boom. There are renewed calls for a sovereign wealth fund, which would save the windfalls from the boom, act as a buffer against the high dollar and help protect manufacturing. The concept has been embraced by other resource-rich countries. In Norway, a fund now worth almost $600 billion was established in 1990, with the objective of dealing with export price fluctuations, erasing debt and preparing for the inevitable time when the boom ends. The sovereign wealth fund idea is garnering significant support, with advocates including the Australian Industry Group, HSBC economist Paul Bloxham and the Greens. The party's leader, Senator Bob Brown, will take the proposal, to be funded by a higher mining tax, to the October tax summit.

Such a fund deserves serious consideration as part of an informed national debate about what kind of economy - and future - we want.



THE names Yang Hengjun, Stern Hu, James Sun, Matthew Ng and Charlotte Chou might not at first seem familiar. But these five individuals share one thing in common: they are all Australian citizens and successful business people who have been detained by police in China in less than transparent circumstances. Over the past two years, as each case has been revealed by The Age's China correspondent, John Garnaut, confidence in the Chinese judicial system has only become further undermined.

Yesterday, this newspaper reported on the hitherto unknown case of Charlotte Chou, a single mother who founded a private university in Guangzhou. In June 2008, she was taken from her home while her one-year-old son was sleeping, and interrogated for several days, without sleep or access to a lawyer. Ms Chou, later convicted of bribery, was released in December 2009, but immediately re-arrested at the prison gate. On August 30, she will be tried for embezzlement at the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court - the same place where businessman Matthew Ng was tried two weeks ago.

Despite assurances given by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to Prime Minister Julia Gillard that Mr Ng would receive an open trial, the reality was farcical: the proceedings were moved into one of the smallest courtrooms and officials went to extraordinary lengths to prevent members of Mr Ng's family and the media from attending the first day of proceedings. Is there any reason to imagine the same obsessive penchant for secrecy will not apply to Ms Chou's trial?

Already, as The Age reports today, there are parallels between the cases that carry a distinct sense of deja vu: Australian diplomats are again protesting against a lack of due process in the investigation of Ms Chou; and Ms Chou has hired Chen Youxi, the lawyer who defended Mr Ng.

But what will make it harder for the authorities to restrict access to Ms Chou's trial is Australia's relatively hardline attitude to such behaviour. Two weeks ago, at the height of the Matthew Ng trial, there were critical responses from Trade Minister Craig Emerson, who was leading a trade delegation to China, Australia's new ambassador to Beijing, Frances Adamson, and Australia's consul-general in Guangzhou, Grant Dooley. At the time, this newspaper said China should take heed of these firm but friendly warnings. Next week will prove, one way or the other, whether China wishes to begin to embrace proper political reform.







The dismissal of the case against Mr Strauss-Kahn does not justify the tone of vindication from many French Socialists

The sexual assault prosecution of Dominique Strauss-Kahn had not even been dropped before the French Socialist party celebrations began. Martine Aubry, who may be the party's candidate against Nicolas Sarkozy in nine months' time, described the New York court's decision as an "immense relief" and declared that "we were all waiting for this, for him to finally be able to get out of this nightmare". François Hollande, Mme Aubry's main rival, agreed that "a man with the abilities of Dominique Strauss-Kahn can be useful". And Harlem Désir, the party's interim general secretary, expressed satisfaction at a "happy outcome".

What kind of world do these leaders of the Socialist party live in? No one who reads the original prosecution complaint against Mr Strauss-Kahn and the New York prosecutors' 25-page request for the case to be dismissed could possibly make such reckless remarks. Yesterday's dismissal did not find that no sexual encounter occurred between the ex-head of the IMF and the hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo. There was reliable forensic evidence of a real and rapid encounter, and Ms Diallo quickly reported the incident. The case ended because it had become a "he-said-she-said" dispute and because Ms Diallo's reliability as a witness had collapsed. As the prosecutors put it: "The nature and number of the complainant's falsehoods leave us unable to credit her version of events beyond a reasonable doubt, whatever the truth may be about the encounter between the complainant and the defendant." The outcome, as so often in rape cases, should cause not "immense relief" but immense unease.

To drop the case against Mr Strauss-Kahn was nevertheless the right legal decision. But it does not justify the wholly inappropriate tone of vindication expressed by so many French Socialists and it does not justify the tendency of so much of the French governing class to debate the DSK affair as a purely political event devoid of moral content. Mr Strauss-Kahn is entitled to the presumption of innocence, but he has not been exonerated, as a commentator on French television falsely claimed last night. He has been freed on a technicality, albeit a vital one.

Mr Strauss-Kahn's modernising roles in the often difficult debates in the post-Mitterrand Socialist party and, more recently, his work as an innovative head of the IMF in crucial times deserve real credit. But his public career is over. It should not be resuscitated. He cannot again command the respect required by a senior minister, let alone a head of state. One Berlusconi is enough. A rehabilitation of Mr Strauss-Kahn would dishonour the French left. The Socialist party has enough problems without humiliating itself in such a disturbing manner.





It can be said that in narrow military terms the west's action over Libya has worked, and that politically there was justification

It is too early to claim that the Nato intervention in Libya has been a success in the full meaning of that word. It will be weeks before we have a sense of where Libya is heading, months before there is any certainty about its future, and years before we can properly assess the impact of the decision to use force to aid the rebels. But it can now reasonably be said that in narrow military terms it worked, and that politically there was some retrospective justification for its advocates as the crowds poured into the streets of Tripoli to welcome the rebel convoys earlier this week. The argument that we had foolishly gone in on one side in a civil war must be weakened by such scenes, which suggest that the picture of a majority wishing to see the back of Gaddafi is closer to the truth than the alternative picture of a people more or less evenly divided between supporters and opponents of the regime.

Intervening in Libya was contentious, and properly so. There were strong arguments for action, and there were strong arguments for staying out, or for getting out, once in, via a negotiated settlement. We know that the Americans were reluctant partners, that our own military chiefs, particularly the soldiers, were dubious, and that Arab countries were suspicious and nervous. We also know that Britain and France rushed into the action, and rushed others into it, without much thought and without much knowledge of the country we were proposing to save. Libya was the classic "far-off country of which we know little". Except that this time, of course in very different circumstances, we decided to do our bit. Because it was a close argument, there should be no point-scoring now. Critics and supporters of the intervention should be able to join in agreeing that it was a close-run thing, that we are lucky it has turned out, so far, reasonably well, and that the story is far from over.

History as it unfolds is not a lawsuit, serially delivering some into the dock and others into the jury. True, there are mistakes whose consequences are so serious they must be rigorously investigated. Libya itself would not fall into this category, however it had gone. But does it bear on the question of how far liberal interventionism is still a worthwhile concept?

As Tony Blair defined it in his well known Chicago speech in 1999, this was the idea that stronger states could and should use the means at their disposal, including, as a last resort, their military means, to protect the populations of failing, weak, or oppressive states. The idea was further refined by an international commission set up with Canadian help, and incorporated as a UN norm under the title of the Responsibility To Protect in 2009. The obvious difficulty has been that many of the military ventures which shaped the interventionist idea and the others which have followed since, Iraq and Afghanistan, above all, have been problematic. Some see liberal interventionism simply as a new cloak for a late form of western imperialism. Others note the overdependence on military force. Others still simply note, as Paddy Ashdown did in his excellent book on the subject, that "we are anything but good at this".

In spite of its incorporation into UN thinking, liberal intervention remains an idea of which the non-western world is suspicious, while at the same time the west finds the idea of liberal intervention by others, say Russia or China, extremely worrying. Finally, there is the argument of capacity. Western military strength, including American strength, is shrinking, while western public opinion is less tolerant of such ventures than it was. That does not mean that there will not be a case for intervention in the future, nor that we should stop trying to think these ideas through. Liberal intervention is neither discredited nor fully validated. Too many very different things were bundled together under its rubric. They need sorting out and Libya may help us to do so.







A-level students can take heart: history is littered with second choices that have turned out to be first-rate

In the toughest clearing round in living memory, thousands of young people are weighing their options. Many who just missed their grades will be preparing to head off to a second-choice college. Others, despairing of securing any place at all, will be asking what on earth to do next, seeing as university isn't happening. They should take heart. History is littered with second choices that have turned out to be first-rate. Charles Darwin was the third person approached to be the "gentleman naturalist" aboard the Beagle. Had the Reverend Leonard Jenyns or Professor JS Henslow been available, who knows whether The Origin of the Species would ever have seen the light of day. George Clooney flunked his baseball try-out for the Cincinnati Reds. An Academy Award says the switch to acting did him no harm. Rebecca Romero changed her sport from rowing to cycling because of a back problem and, in so doing, upgraded from silver at Athens to Olympic gold in Beijing. Sean Connery was behind David Niven, Patrick McGoohan and Cary Grant in the queue to play Ian Fleming's most famous creation: would Bond have become the world's favourite spy without those eyebrows and that burr? Shurely not. Even Britney Spears harboured dreams of becoming a lawyer before choosing pop superstardom, a decision for which the legal profession and the music industry doubtless give thanks to this day. Sometimes, the road less travelled can lead to the right place, and in spectacular fashion.






It is actually not that difficult for the House of Representatives to choose four out of eight candidates for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) leadership proposed by the President.

Members of the House's Commission III on legal affairs have been given the luxury of access to technology and data to examine track records of the last eight men standing before the interview session sometime after the Idul Fitri holiday. Furthermore, what the general public say about the remaining candidates has made it easier for the lawmakers to scrutinize them.

After a lengthy process marked with a debate over the integrity of certain candidates, the government-sanctioned selection committee proposed prominent lawyer Bambang Widjojanto, head of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (PPATK) Yunus Hussein, KPK adviser Abdullah Hehamahua, deputy KPK director for internal supervision and public complaints Handoyo Sudrajat, Abraham Samad, Zulkarnain, Adnan Pandupraja and retired police general Aryanto Sutadi.

The committee graded the eight candidates from the one with the highest ranking to the lowest when it submitted the names to the President.

For the politicians and their political parties the problem perhaps rests with their will to elect candidates whose commitment to eradicating corruption is beyond reasonable doubt. Since its inception in 2003, the KPK has haunted crooked politicians due to numerous arrests of active House lawmakers over the last few years. The move has prompted the politicians to initiate a revision of the KPK law, which many perceive will cut the antigraft body's authority and hence undermine the country's fight against corruption.

The KPK crackdown on corruption within the House took a new toll with the implication of several former and serving politicians, including from the ruling Democratic Party, in the alleged embezzlement of state funds allocated for government projects, such as the construction of an athletes' village for the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in the South Sumatra capital of Palembang.

Seasoned politicians from various parties were not immune from the KPK anticorruption drive, which the
affected parties considered discriminatory.

It is logical that politicians, representing their respective parties, will vote for KPK candidates who are less detrimental to their political interests. Many fear that as a political institution perceived as the most corrupt, the House will turn to candidates who have no heart to probe corruption cases involving politicians.

Some politicians have suggested allowing candidates who have served in the police force and Attorney General's Office lead the KPK, citing their competence, despite the public's low approval rate of the first two law enforcement agencies.

Nevertheless, the law grants politicians the right to vote to elect KPK members and no outside powers can force their will on House members to pick certain candidates. Selection of KPK members at the House is a political process where negotiations and perhaps backroom deals between politicians are unavoidable, if not common.

At stake now is the credibility of the House and political parties. Failure to vote for the candidates with proven track records in the fight against corruption will further confirm the House's resistance to rid itself of the stain of corruption and to pursue the war on graft.

The grading of candidates by the government-formed committee has given lawmakers much needed clues about whom to vote for. The committee has indeed saved the best for last.





In the days leading up to Aug. 17, I attended two big public events. Although very different, they shared the common aim of trying to explain the state of our perpetually perplexing nation 66 years after independence.

On Aug. 14, I saw The Mastodon and the Condor, a play by the late poet and playwright W.S. Rendra (1935-2009). It was first performed in 1973, seven years into the New Order (1966-1998). Soeharto's regime had not quite reached the height of its authoritarianism, but it was certainly getting there.

And 38 years later, Mastodon was restaged by Ken Zuraida, Rendra's widow. Intended as a tribute to her late husband two years after his death in 2009, it was also an attempt to address the issues the nation currently faces.

The play portrays an imaginary revolutionary struggle set in an anonymous Latin American country, but is obviously about Indonesia. The mastodon — an extinct prehistoric elephant with the longest tusks you've ever (not) seen — is the authoritarian (Soeharto) government. The "revolutionary" condor birds are the students, demanding an end to tyranny.

For me, seeing the play again was an historical obligation. After I saw it on Dec. 15, 1973, I wrote a review of it — "Mastodon: the Staging of an Ego" (Kompas, Aug. 24 1973) — a rather negative one, I confess. I saw "Mastodon" then as an act of exhibitionism. Its obvious criticism of the Soeharto regime was courageous, but the regime seemed to see it as a safety valve to channel people's dissatisfaction (which exploded anyway in the Malari riots a month later).

Thirty-eight years after I wrote my review at the tender age of 19, and 13 years after the Reform era
democracy began, would I see the play differently, I wondered? Essentially not: I still found it self-indulgent. On the other hand, it does remain relevant. Many of the issues raised in "Mastodon" in 1973 are still big problems today: bad governance, corruption, people not benefiting from economic development, and disregard for social and human rights. Sixty-six years on and we have not significantly advanced in the areas that matter the most. How depressing.

Luckily, I attended a second event the next morning that lifted me from my despondency: A "National Oration" by Anies Baswedan, Rector of Paramadina University. The title of the talk was "Fulfilling the Promise of Independence".

Anies admitted that after 66 years, many of the promises of independence had indeed not been fulfilled. Bad infrastructure, narrow group interests, lack of leadership, lack of transparency in policy making, too much red-tape, and a legal system that lacks impartiality continue to plague us. And, of course, there's that pesky and persistent problem of corruption.

But Anies also said that we should not get stuck on the bad stuff. We should also be grateful for all the good things we have, and focus on the areas where we have progressed.

In 1945, Indonesian literacy was 5 percent; now it is at more than 90 percent (mostly achieved in the Soeharto-era mind you, and we still rank only 87 out of 179). Indonesia's location, Anies also said, is very strategic, and, we are not Africa (thanks for pointing that out Anies!), a continent constantly plagued with hunger, disease, death and conflict. He could have added that it is pretty good not being the Middle East
either (whatever the fantasies of Islamist hardliners).

Anies continued his lists of goodies. The Citi Global Report, he said, identifies Indonesia as a 3G (Global Growth Generator) country, predicting it to be the fourth largest economy in 2040 (behind India, China and the US). We also have what demographer Sri Murtiningsih Setio Adiutomo calls our "demographic bonus". Indonesia's population (245 million in July 2011) is predicted to rise to 288 million in 2050. Between 2020-2030, Indonesia will have a 65 percent productive age population, that is, 180 million people of productive age supporting about 60 million others.

In short, Anies concluded, Indonesia is a land of the future, and by 2045, poverty will be much reduced and social justice and prosperity should be widespread. I felt uplifted, my mastodon-induced despondency evaporated by the inspiring words of this — some say — presidential hopeful.

But hang on there! Upon reflection, weren't these two events merely two sides of the coin, one focusing on the negative, the other the positive?

Despite Anies' optimistic and engaging presentation, we still have many present-day "mastodons". Not a tyrannical figure such as Soeharto, sure, but a tyrant of another sort: Corruption, especially political, is one of the major monsters holding us back. As Wijayanto, Anies' deputy at Paramadina University wrote recently, "Corruption is probably the reason why — despite the dynamic demography, the rich natural resources, the vibrant domestic market and the friendly neighborhood — Indonesia's GDP per capita stands at US$3,000 in 2011, not $33,000, $23,000 or $13,000."

And there are many other "mastodons" as well: Religious discrimination and regional violence, for example, are increasing rather than decreasing, and the position of women (half the population, remember?) is not getting any better either.

Yes, Indonesia may be destined for success in the distant future, as Anies says. But we may also be doomed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory if we don't slay our present-day "mastodons". So, where have all the condors gone?

The writer ( is the author of State Ibuism (Komunitas Bambu).





Only three months ago, an estimated two billion people across the planet watched Britain's royal wedding.

This month, the world's attention is again transfixed on the country, albeit for less than admirable reasons.

"I couldn't believe it would happen in Britain," read an incoming email right after images of the London riots were beamed around the world in early August. Soon after, emails from my Indonesian friends rushed in, echoing similar sentiments.

They are right. This is the kind of sight commonly associated with the third world. My friends had witnessed the May 1998 riots in Jakarta that saw the fall of the Soeharto regime. The television images stirred horrible memories of the Jakarta riots.

Perhaps we should cease to see such riots as distinctly developing countries' problems because they are increasingly common in developed countries as well, particularly since the impending global financial crisis. But most of them pale in comparison to the scale of the London riots where the level of self-destruction was so blatant.

Allegedly triggered by a peaceful protest over the death of a man at the hands of police, the riots quickly spread to Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester, claiming at least five lives with 1,600 rioters arrested.

A Manchester police chief described the riots as "senseless violence and senseless criminality".

Businesses and insurers lost hundreds of millions of dollars. At stake is Britain's reputation in the run-up to 2012 Olympic Games.

The footage of the riots reminded viewers of the Arab Spring revolution, hence the inevitable comparison.

Middle Eastern youth fought for freedom and human rights, the British youth for alcohol, mobile phones and electronic goods. One for ideals, the other for worldly goods, what a sharp contrast.

This perhaps answers the question why rioters didn't loot bookshops. In fact, a London bookshop owner had kept his shop open during the riots and said he wouldn't mind if looters took his books.

"At least they can learn something from the books," he was quoted as saying by local media.

In the ensuing blame game, rioters quickly emerged as public enemy number one. But the real reason for the riots was more than that. It will take time and hard thinking before Britons find the answer, if they will at all. Too many factors were at play beneath the surface.

Many questions need answers. Are the rioters the oppressors and the government the oppressed? Or is it the reverse? Is justice served when bankers and politicians ruined the economy with impunity while enriching themselves? Or when politicians brought the country to war and waged violence in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, without public support?

Was the rioters' greed a sole phenomenon or a more universal one in society? Is the moral decay exemplified in the riots not a reflection of those in power?

In Australia too, people reacted in disbelief followed by healthy retrospection.

What happened in Britain was a breach of social trust, wrote The Daily Telegraph in its editorial. "Once it has been breached on such a scale it will set community members against each other for generations.

"Australia must never go down the modern British path. We should always retain a faith in our people and to keep building on that faith. If we cannot trust Australians, this would no longer be Australia."

A writer to the Brisbane Times says: "We must observe the UK and be proactive in policing fair policies."

Others are concerned about the lack of social cohesion in a multicultural society where immigrants fail to assimilate into society.

The concerns are legitimate. Although at a lesser scale, Australia has similar ailments to those that have dogged Britain for decades.

Unhealthy income inequality began in the 1980s when some Australians, thanks partly to the mining industry, started to become very rich.

Today, while the rich get richer, the vast majority complain about the high cost of living. Houses cost a fortune for most young people. Many have to practically pawn their lives to own a house. Two breadwinners in a household has increasingly become a norm, putting pressure on good parenting.

The education law is such that teachers are scared to punish children and wailing police sirens on weekends chasing delinquent youths only glamorizes crime in the streets.

Youngsters are often seen in a bad light. Every time school holiday, warnings of possible social disorder abound, as if students were enemies of society. As a welfare state, Australia also suffers from welfare entitlement mentality and an unfair benefits system.

Seeds of Britain's social pathologies are evident from teenage pregnancy to drug abuse, from drunkenness to violent crime and from police prejudice to consumerism.

Time is in Australia's favor to learn what went wrong in Britain. Despite the disturbing similarities, it still has a chance of avoiding them, although most Britons still don't know why this is happening.

The writer is an Indonesian journalist living in Brisbane





For the first time in 70 years, the US Treasury bond (T-Bill) is no longer rated AAA by all rating agencies. On Aug. 5, it was downgraded one notch by Standard & Poor's (S&P) to AA+.

For decades, the interest rate on the T-Bill has been known as the "risk-free rate", because a US default was as close to impossible as anyone in financial markets could imagine, and all other bonds were priced relative to the US.

The US is likely to face higher interest rates on borrowing. The score given, from highest AAA to lowest D usually corresponds to the interest rate that the issuer needs to pay when borrowing money.

According to The New York Times, the average bond yield of a country debt with an AAA rating is about 3 percent.

The average yield of the bonds of the countries in the next three categories, which is where the US will be, is 4.15 percent. Thus, a debt-ridden America will have to pay more to borrow, which could lead to the country becoming trapped in a tangled web of deficit and recession.

However, it's not all doom and gloom for the US. The other two major rating agencies, Moody's and Fitch, maintain AAA ratings of the US Treasury's debt. There will also be periodic reassessments by S&P of its downgrade.

Furthermore, major financial institutions still express confidence in US debt. "The US Treasury remains the benchmark for global yields and is also a key source of funding and collateral in money markets.

"The treasury market also remains the deepest and most liquid fixed income market in the world," said Bob Lynch, global head of G10 currency strategy at HSBC in New York.

Global collaboration and show of support surely can't hurt. Financial officials from the Group of 20 major economies reportedly held an emergency conference call on Aug. 7 to discuss the debt crises in the US and Europe following several days of market panic and a downgrade of the US credit rating.

What are the impacts of the US credit downgrade for Indonesia?

First, there is a potential influx of short-term capital to Indonesia. There's likely to be fewer buyers of T-Bills due to risk perceptions.

Even worse, as most pension funds and money market funds, (current holdings are 338 billion), need to hold a certain proportion of AAA rated bonds, there will be massive selling in the near future.

Both events mean less capital entering the US economy, with investors looking for other sites for their money. Some will enter Indonesian stocks and bonds market, which, if left unattended and unguarded, could fuel an economic bubble and/or a shortage of capital if investments are suddenly moved to another country.

The Bank of Indonesia will need to tighten the rules for a foreign short-term capital influx to avoid the aforementioned problems.

Second, there will likely be an increase of Indonesia's exchange rate to the dollar. The same short-term capital influx will result in the sale of the dollar and purchase of rupiah. If there is no volume increase in the opposite direction, selling rupiah and buying dollars, then the rupiah's relative value to the dollar will appreciate.

Third, Indonesian exports will weaken. A weak US economy will consume less. US consumption has been the driving force of Asian economic exports including Indonesia. A higher exchange rate for rupiah will increase the prices of our exports and lower our competitiveness.

The Trade Ministry needs to actively look for further diversification of our exports to other countries and reduce our export reliance on the US market.

More importantly, Indonesia needs to diversify the means of exchange other than the dollar when conducting international trade.

Fourth, our reserves should be realigned. The dollar comprises a 60.7 percent share of global reserves. Being the currency of global transactions enables the US to print debt and sell it abroad while avoiding the risk of currency fluctuations.

The downgrade will lead central banks to reevaluate the safety of their reserve policies and reduce dollars while increasing their stocks of other currencies.

Over the last month, the dollar plummeted 6 percent against the Swiss franc and about 4 percent against the yen. China's renminbi is getting stronger and the Chinese government is actively promoting its currency.

Bank Indonesia needs to realign the combination of currencies it holds in its reserves to reflect current international conditions and reduce risk.

Fifth, there could be a shift in economic dominance to East Asia, especially China. This could be a tipping point for the shift of global dominance from the US to its great rival China, where its central bank holds an estimated $1.1 trillion in US debt.

The Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency recently declared: "China, the largest creditor of the world's sole superpower, has every right now to demand the United States to address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China's dollar assets.

"To cure its addiction to debts, the United States has to reestablish the common sense principle that one should live within its means.

"It should also stop its old practice of letting its domestic electoral politics hold the global economy hostage and rely on the deep pockets of major surplus countries to make up for its perennial deficits."

Indonesia enjoys good relations within East Asia in groupings such as the East Asian Economic Caucus, ASEAN+3 and CAFTA (China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement). We should make the most of this opportunity to increase exports and use non-dollar currencies in trading with other regional states.

One of the most astute observers of the US said, "American infrastructure used to be the best, but the lead has slipped.

"South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation's infrastructure, they gave us a 'D'."

His name is Barack Obama and the quote is from his 2011 State of the Union address to the American people.

If America does not move fast to improve its economic, financial and political infrastructure, the D grade might be coming soon.

Indonesia needs to carefully adjust our economic policies to avoid being dragged down.

The writer is a lecturer at the School of Economics, University of Indonesia, and senior economist at the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (INDEF).


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