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Thursday, August 25, 2011

EDITORIAL 25.08.11

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media watch with peoples input                    an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month august 25, edition 000819, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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









  7. FROM 2014 TO 2024 - C. RAJA MOHAN






















  3. 14 YEARS ON



































It is amazing how Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tries to pass the buck to others, especially the Opposition, every time he finds that he has painted himself into a corner or that the Government he heads, albeit notionally, is caught in a jam. Mr Singh had no qualms about keeping the Opposition out of the negotiations his emissaries had with Anna Hazare and his team of self-appointed representatives of 'civil society' that led to the creation of a 'Joint Drafting Committee', something which has never been attempted before and whose constitutional legitimacy remains unresolved, to prepare the draft of the Lokpal Bill for Parliament's consideration. Nor did he bother to suggest, leave alone insist, that representatives of the Opposition should be included in the Joint Drafting Committee. He believed, as he has often believed in the past, that he would succeed in pulling off a trick without being called out and that he would be cheered for 'thinking out of the box' and saving the nation from a political crisis. Alas, as in the past, this time too he has been called out, his Government has been exposed as a gathering of tricksters, and his reputation, or whatever remained of it following the unrestrained loot under his watch, lies in tatters. Now that he finds himself facing a huge problem and his Government is clueless as to how to handle it, he has turned towards the Opposition, making out as if it is the collective responsibility of Parliament to bail him out. It is not. Mr Singh should realise that after treating Parliament with utter contempt and denying the Opposition its legitimate space in the political process there is no reason why those who are not in Government should step forward to rescue him or prop up his decrepit, tottering regime.

Ever since the summer of 2004 when he came to occupy the Prime Minister's office, Mr Singh has been most disdainful of the Opposition, especially the BJP, and scornful towards those who can make a meaningful contribution towards policy formulation and legislation although they are not part of the ruling alliance. He tried to keep Parliament, the Opposition and the nation in the dark while negotiating the India-US nuclear deal with the Americans; he two-timed the Left which was fooled into believing that it enjoyed his confidence; he repeatedly misled both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha with statements that were far from the truth. And then when it came to crisis point and threatened the very existence of his Government, he slyly pointed a finger at the Opposition. Similarly, he spurned the Opposition's demand for setting up a Joint Parliamentary Committee to go into all aspects of the Great 2G Spectrum Robbery under his watch, which led to a stand-off and resulted in the Winter session of Parliament being washed out. When the Congress decided enough was enough and made him agree to the setting up of a JPC rather than risk the Budget session from being stalled, he did what he does best: He pointed a finger at the Opposition, accusing it of holding up Parliament. Similarly, he has charged the Opposition with needlessly highlighting corruption in his Government and tarnishing the image of India abroad! If there has been erosion in the people's faith in the system, it is largely on account of Mr Singh's attitude towards Parliament these past seven years. He must now be held accountable.







The Indian cricket team's dismal loss against England in the Test series has exposed its weakness in the longer format and clearly it is now time that both players and their selectors gave equal attention to all three forms of the game. On Monday at the Oval India suffered its worst series-defeat in England since 1959 after it lost the fourth and final Test by eight runs. Being the ODI world champion and the number one Test team as well, few had expected that India would surrender so easily to the English team without even putting up a semblance of a fight. There are of course many reasons the pundits have attributed to India's below par performance. Chief among them is the absence of pace spearhead Zaheer Khan who was injured during the first Test and had to return home. Zaheer Khan's presence was key to the Indian bowling offensive as he could have reverse swung the old ball with ease and picked up some crucial wickets on the way. Additionally, Virendra Sehwag's absence from the first and second Test matches also served as a body blow to India. Even when he returned to the field, he had not fully recovered from his crippling shoulder injury. As a result, his characteristic blitzkrieg-like attack was missing. His partner Gautam Gambhir also performed miserably. And then, of course, had to miss the second Test on grounds of injury. To make matters worse, India's middle order, comprising VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina, failed to put up good show. Not one of them hit a single hundred. Even Sachin Tendulkar got just two fifties, which is below his standard. Captain MS Dhoni failed to lead from the front during the crisis period. His own batting performance was dismal and he continued to blame his batsmen for the debacle. Amidst this ruin, Rahul Dravid was the only one who remained firm and scored 488 runs which included three centuries.

India's bowling was sub-standard with Praveen Kumar getting in some late swing but his pace was too slow to trouble the English batsmen. The pace duo of Ishant Sharma and Sreeshanth floundered in their line and length. This allowed England's batsmen to pile up runs at will. Star bowler Harbhajan Singh did not live up to his reputation and failed to leave his mark. Overall, India's bowlers performed just as poorly as their counterparts in the batting line-up. The team was horribly under-prepared and unfit for English conditions. It has been rightly pointed out that the seeds of destruction were sown by the BCCI which had drawn up a monetarily lucrative schedule that nonetheless left players with little time to recover from previous games or recoup from their injuries. Hopefully, BCCI will ponder over what went wrong on this tour, and so will the team.









Beijing is strengthening its grip over Kathmandu as in the long run it wants to control Nepal for political and strategic reasons.

The situation in Nepal is rapidly spinning out of control, though the recent resignation of Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal had some unexpected effects. Even if Maoist deputy chief Baburam Bhattarai does not become the 35th Prime Minister of Nepal, dark clouds are gathering over the erstwhile Himalayan kingdom.

Mr Zhou Yongkang, a member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, one of the nine bosses of the Middle Kingdom, arrived in Kathmandu on August 16. The 'unexpected' outcome of the Prime Minister's resignation was that the visit had to be postponed by a day: China's security chief was supposed to land on India's Independence Day.

With the increasingly all-pervasive Chinese presence in Nepal, resentment against India is growing deeper, mainly fuelled by pro-China elements. The popular news portal, Telegraph Nepal suggested that instead of "making fresh commitments for physical packages, India needs to change its behaviour towards its smaller neighbour. Nepal just needs the good will". Before his arrival, reports mentioned that Mr Zhou Yongkang had a "secret gift package" in his luggage; a Nepali daily reported: "The contents of the package have been kept a guarded secret."

The visit of the former Minister of Public Security and presently Chairman of the Central Political and Legislative Committee was anyway significant because Mr Zhou Yongkang is responsible for law and order and intelligence in the Politburo. The importance of the visit was visible by the size of the 60-member delegation accompanying Mr Zhou Yongkang, who is the senior-most Chinese official to visit Nepal after the end of the monarchy.

The visit, however, did not follow the script. The Himalayan News Service reported, "The resignation of Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal has poured cold water over Chinese leader Zhou Yongkang's much awaited visit to Nepal." Mr Zhou Yongkang had planned to raise Beijing's concerns about the activities of Tibetans in Nepal. A review of the Nepal-China Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1960 was also expected to be on the delegation's agenda).

But it did not happen. Apparently, he did not mention "a single word regarding the Tibetan issue during the hour-long meeting with Mr Khanal, though it was widely projected as the main agenda of the visit". According to a senior Nepali official, "The Prime Minister's resignation was the reason behind their mind change. They might have thought that it was not the right time to raise serious issues as the Government had become a caretaker."

In his meetings with Mr Khanal, Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala and former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, Mr Zhou Yongkang expressed "awkwardness" about the Prime Minister's resignation on the eve of his visit. He added that China would like to see stability in Nepal. In his meeting with Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, he said Nepal needs to improve its weak security arrangements along the Nepal-China border and Beijing would help Kathmandu on this.

Nothing has been since mentioned about the "special gift" for the Nepali people that Mr Zhou Yongkang was said to have brought with him, but he did signfour agreements. These included agreements on strengthening Nepal's police force, funding a hydropower project and increasing the annual Chinese assistance to Nepal. The first agreement will have the most serious consequences for India and Tibetan refugees. An amount of $1.4 million will be earmarked to "strengthen the capacity of Nepali security agencies".

On July 27, Mr Wang Chaun Qi, the head of International Cooperation in the Chinese Ministry of Public Security Affairs, had asserted that the amount would be spent on training, workshops, and language training (Chinese and Tibetan) for Nepali border police. In other words, it would be directed at stopping Tibetans from transitting through Nepal on their way to India.

This came soon after Thinley Lama, the Dalai Lama's representative in Nepal (he is a Nepali national) was arrested by Nepal Police from the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office in Kathmandu. His crime? He had organised a Press conference to urge Kathmandu to provide basic rights to 20,000 Tibetan refugees living in Nepal under the new Constitution which is being drafted. He also wanted to give factual information on some accusations against 'Tibetan nationals' reported in the local media.

Two youngsters had been arrested from Kathmandu Airport trying to clandestinely migrate to the US with Tibetan identity papers. He said the papers were fake. The background of the problem is the quasi take-over of Nepal by the Chinese authorities and the impossibility for genuine Tibetan refugees to get valid papers. Soon, China will train Nepalis to spot and arrest Tibetan refugees. China's new Ambassador to Nepal, Mr Yang Houlan, has already been meeting political leaders and Ministers, asking them for help to stop all activities by Tibetan refugees in Nepal.

China has not only strategic interests in Nepal, but also economic ones. At the end of the year, a new land port will open at Kyirong in Shigatse Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region. According to China's Tibet Online, when completed, it will be the biggest land trade channel between TAR and South Asia. Practically, it means more Chinese presence in Nepal. Beijing may one day be in a position to provide the Himalayan nation with its energy needs.

China is not 'helping' Nepal without larger reasons. Recently, the news agency IANS reported: "Nepal is gearing up to explore for uranium mines in its remote mountainous north, adjoining the border with Tibet." The discovery is located at Mustang which was the CIA-sponsored Tibetan base till the 1970s. Mr Krishna Dev Jha, a senior engineer at the mines, and the Geology Department have affirmed that "work will start this year". According to IANS, "Mustang remains high on the Chinese radar." If China were to control the uranium mines, it would be able to kill two birds with one shone: It would get an important supply of uranium and also manage an important entry point for Tibetan refugees.

A friend who often travels to Nepal was showing me pictures of PLA soldiers working in northern Nepal. When they saw him, the soldiers hid their faces. But for how long will they hide this reality?








A sizeable section of the English media has been suspiciously enthusiastic about touting allegations as proof as far as the 2002 Gujarat violence is concerned. Recent revelations about those agitating against Narendra Modi and his Government have exposed them for what they are: Liars and myth-mongers. IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt is one such 'crusader' who should be shamed and shunned by all

Intellectuals, academics, a sizeable section of the English media and other self-appointed guardians of communal harmony consider allegation as proof as far as the Gujarat 2002 violence — or more accurately, Mr Narendra Modi — is concerned. It's only recently that damaging revelations regarding the motivations and credibility of some of these worthies have come to light — one of the vociferous detractors of Mr Modi, Prof Angana Chatterji, happens to be on the ISI agent Ghulam Fai's guest list. Even a cursory examination of the timeline of the 2002 riots investigation will show us that it's not justice that they want for the riot victims but the scalp of the Gujarat Chief Minister.

The riot-investigation timeline is populated mostly by wild allegations and involves actors drawn from various backgrounds united by a common motive to ensure Mr Modi's fall from Chief Ministership. However, over time, their allegations have slowly been coming apart. Teesta Setalvad, who at one point attained celebrity status for her efforts to pursue the riots cases now finds herself facing the ire of courts. One of the revelations from her former aide and confidant Rais Khan include the following statement: "Sadik Hussain R Sheikh, (a) notary, who is on the pay roll of Teesta Setalvad… used to blindly notarise affidavits of witnesses sent by Teesta Setalvad. Sadik has also notarised the affidavits of Sanjiv Bhatt, IPS, on April 14, 2011."

This is the same Sanjiv Bhatt whom the media and self-proclaimed secularists catapulted to instant stardom sometime in April this year because he claimed in an affidavit to the Supreme Court that he was present at a meeting where Mr Modi had, in the presence of seven senior bureaucrats, said that Hindus should be allowed to vent their 'anger' against Muslims after 59 kar sevaks were roasted alive in the Sabarmati Express coach.

Sanjiv Bhatt, a Gujarat Cadre IPS officer of the 1988 batch was suspended by the Gujarat Government last week after an inquiry report found that he was guilty of "continuous disobedience," which constitutes a "serious misconduct and under AIS Conduct & Discipline Rules attracts a major penalty," and is "unbecoming of a senior member of the IPS". Instant outrage ensued from the usual quarters in the media and elsewhere over Sanjiv Bhatt's suspension terming it as an act of vendetta by the Gujarat Governm

 inquiry against him. Sanjiv Bhatt ignored all the notices that ordered him to be present at the inquiry.

What's most notable in Sanjiv Bhatt's unflattering career record is the fact that his long list of professional misconduct happened years before he filed his affidavit.

This begs another important question: Why did Sanjiv Bhatt wait for nine years to state that he was part of that meeting? Why didn't he depose before say, the Nanavati Commission or the Banerjee Commission?

The Supreme Court-appointed SIT rejected his testimony on the grounds that it was unreliable. Nobody among the seven bureaucrats present at said meeting with Mr Modi ever recalled Sanjiv Bhatt's presence.

Not content with this, Sanjiv Bhatt on July 26, 2011 filed another affidavit, which makes even wilder allegations against a host of people including his (former) friend, the Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta, RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy, and Mr N Ram of The Hindu. Both Mr Gurumurthy and Mr Ram have denied these allegations.

According to Sanjiv Bhatt, Mr Mehta had colluded with various bureaucrats to help the riots-accused escape punishment. Sanjiv Bhatt's claim that he "chanced upon" some "unusual emails" in Mr Mehta's personal email account — whose password Mr Mehta had given him — is incredible. Even assuming he had been given the password, how does one "chance upon" an email without opening and reading it at some length? On his part, Mr Mehta denies that he had ever shared his email password with Sanjiv Bhatt. Sanjiv Bhatt's other allegation is that his emails have been hacked by "agents" of the Gujarat administration.

Among others, Sanjiv Bhatt has had email exchanges with Teesta Setalvad, Shabnam Hashmi, Cedric Prakash and Leader of the Opposition in Gujarat, Shakti Singh Gohil. An email with Mr Gohil talks about how he (Sanjiv Bhatt) is "eagerly awaiting both the packages" and "the Blackberry".

This is pretty much the complete picture, so far, of a tainted cop who has leveled serious allegations against everybody who have ventured to present the other side of the Gujarat riots saga. It is unthinkable that Sanjiv Bhatt is acting without powerful political support. Union Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram's ill-advised remark about the Center willing to intervene in Gujarat's affairs can be interpreted as an expression of support for Sanjiv Bhatt. His statement is akin to a chilling foretaste of a horribly damaged federalism envisaged by the dangerous Communal Violence Bill sought to be pushed through.

Equally, sections of the media need to stop projecting Sanjiv Bhatt as a courageous cop who was victimised given that it has failed to inform the complete picture about Sanjiv Bhatt to the public. Fairness, restraint and balance aren't really very hard to achieve if the media puts its mind to it..







The cycle of violence in Karachi will continue as none of the contending parties is likely to force a strategic confrontation which could destabilise Pakistan. Hence, such periodic confrontations will continue till the criminal-politician-police nexus is broken

The civil war-like situation in Karachi continues without respite. Seventy-three persons belonging to different communities and religious sects were reported to have been killed — many of them in targeted shootings and some kidnapped and tortured to death — during four days of fresh violence between August 16 and 19. The level of violence considerably came down on August 20.

The victims in the four days of fresh violence were mainly Mohajirs supporting the Muttahida Qaumi Movement of Altaf Hussain mainly representing Mohajir migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (Haqiqi) mainly representing migrants from Bihar, Pashtun supporters of the Awami National Party, Balochs without political affiliation and Barelvi Sunnis of the Sunni Tehreek.

The number of victims in the Sindhi community, which supports the ruling Pakistan People's Party of President Asif Ali Zardari and the various Sindhi nationalist parties, and in the Punjabi community, which supports the Pakistan Muslim League of Mr Nawaz Sharif, has reportedly been low, but exact figures are not available.

The deterioration in the situation has been partly the outcome of the alleged action of the Government in releasing the leaders and cadres of the anti-Altaf Hussain MQM (H) who had been arrested and jailed by Gen Pervez Musharraf when he was the President as part of a secret deal with Altaf under which the MQM observed restraint in Karachi in return for the jailing of Altaf's opponents in the Mohajir community.

The MQM of Altaf sees the release of Altaf's Mohajir opponents by the PPP-led Government as a revival of Benazir Bhutto's policy (1988-90 and 1993-95) of pitting the MQM (H) against the MQM in the streets of Karachi .

The present spell of violence, which started as business and smuggling related clashes between the Barelvi Mohajirs of the MQM and the Deobandi Pashtuns of the ANP, has since assumed a wider dimension with Mohajirs killing Mohajirs. The ethnic and sectarian strife, which one saw at the beginning of the present spell of violence, has been aggravated by gang warfare between rival Mohajir mafia gangs.

It is pure and simple criminal violence not motivated by any political ideology or religious goal. The violence is about who controls the mafia economy of Karachi. There have been increasing demands for Army intervention since none of the groups involved in the violence has any confidence in the police, which is controlled by Mr Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister belonging to the PPP.

The demand for Army intervention has come from the Mohajirs of the MQM, who allege that there has been Taliban infiltration into Karachi under the cover of the ANP, the Pashtuns of the ANP, who look upon the violence as the result of the Mohajir mafia warfare, the Balochs, who find themselves caught in the violence between the Mohajirs and the Pashtuns, the Barelvi organisations and all major business organisations.

The only organisations not in favour of an Army intervention are the PPP, the Sindhi nationalist parties, the MQM(H) and the PML(N). The Army, while expressing its concern over the continuing violence, has said that it is for the civilian Government to deal with the situation.

The Army is unlikely to intervene unless there are targeted attacks on military, Air Force and naval personnel in uniform performing duty or on military, Air Force and naval establishments or the Karachi port.

The latest round of violence has targeted the Police. A bus carrying police officers in mufti was attacked killing four of them. The death of an Air Force employee has also been reported, but he was reportedly on a private visit to Karachi. The Army, the Air Force and the Navy have not so far been targeted. The attack on PNS Mehran, the headquarters of the naval air wing in Karachi in May, was not related to the ongoing ethnic and sectarian violence. It was a pure and simple terrorist attack in which the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan was suspected.

Sections of the Pakistani media have carried highly pessimistic accounts of the situation in Karachi — with the Dawn of Karachi even saying that Pakistan is unravelling.

Pakistan is not unravelling. The cycle of violence in Karachi — sometimes up, sometimes down — will continue, but none of the contending parties is likely to force a strategic confrontation, which could lead to the destabilisation of Pakistan. Periodic tactical confrontations will continue till the policing of Karachi improves and the criminal-politician and criminal-police nexus is broken. That is not for tomorrow.

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





European nations and the United States circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution on Tuesday seeking an arms embargo and other sanctions aimed at stopping the Syrian Government's ongoing crackdown on opposition protesters.

But the supporters faced immediate opposition from veto-wielding Russia. Asked whether it was the right time to slap sanctions on Mr Bashar Assad's regime, Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters, "No. We don't think so."

The draft resolution calls for an asset freeze against 23 key Syrian figures including Mr Assad, his younger brother, Mr Maher, who is believed to be in command of much of the current bloody crackdown, and his millionaire cousin, Mr Rami Makhlouf, who controls the mobile phone network and other lucrative enterprises in Syria and has been the target of many protesters' rage.

It also calls for an asset freeze against two companies controlled by Makhlouf — Bena Properties and Al Mashreq Investment — and the Military Housing Establishment and Syrian General Intelligence Directorate. The resolution would also impose a travel ban on 21 individuals including Makhlouf, but not Mr Assad or his younger brother.

Last week, a high-level UN human rights team said that Syria's crackdown "may amount to crimes against humanity" and should be referred to the International Criminal Court. UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said on Thursday she asked the Security Council to refer Syria to the permanent war crimes tribunal, based in The Hague, Netherlands.

The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, echoes the team's conclusion and notes Ms Pillay's recommendation "that the Security Council consider referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court." But it does not order Syria to be referred to the court, saying only that "those responsible for violence should be held accountable".

British Deputy Ambassador Philip Parham told reporters after Tuesday's closed council session that Syria "can stop the killing, release detainees, and allow access" for humanitarian aid. "The focus of the resolution is to apply pressure to achieve that," he said. "The solution lies in a Syrian-led political process."

While the resolution is backed by Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and the US, it is likely to face opposition not only from Russia but also from veto-wielding China — and possibly from council members Brazil, India and South Africa.

Mr Parham said council action could come in "the next few days". "We want to allow people time to look at it carefully and consult with capitals," he said. "But then we do want to move, if we can, as quickly as possible."

The draft resolution "strongly condemns the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing and persecution of protesters and human rights defenders, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment of detainees, also of children."

With Mr Assad's forces continuing to crack down on the protests, the UN said this week the overall death toll has reached 2,200. The draft would express "profound regret at the deaths of thousands of people including children."

It would demand that Syrian authorities immediately stop human rights violations and the use of force against civilians and "allow the full exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms for its entire population, including rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and lift restrictions on all forms of media."

The proposed resolution "calls for an inclusive Syrian-led political process conducted in an environment free from fear and intimidation and aimed at effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syria's population."

On the arms embargo, the draft would require all countries to ban the sale or transfer of arms and military-related assistance to Syria — and it would also ban the Syrian Government from exporting arms or providing military assistance to any state.

It calls on all countries, especially Syria's neighbours, to inspect suspect cargo heading to and from Syria, including on the high seas if they have consent of the vessel's flag state. ***************************************







As surmises and suggestions on the _ HYPERLINK "" _Lokpal Bill_ drizzle down, this much is clear - using his moral charisma, _ HYPERLINK "" _Anna Hazare_ has channelled a groundswell of frustration over corruption. The _ HYPERLINK "" _Jan Lokpal campaign_, a fast at its centre, music, chanting, flag-waving, even food stalls around it, epitomises the vibrancy of the Indian public, its politics poised dramatically between carnival and catastrophe. And finally - despite its great success, it's time for Anna to give the movement a break. Here's why.

Clearly, the resonance of the Jan Lokpal movement made the government finally take heed of public desire. The prime minister's recent communication to Anna was followed up by discussions between ministers and Jan Lokpal representatives. The government appears far less rigid now on issues like excluding the PM from the Lokpal's purview or aligning the CBI's anti-corruption wing to it. Considering its earlier no-budge stand, these are considerable steps forward. Alongside, it seems the Jan Lokpal group has agreed to let the judiciary be governed by a strong Judicial Accountabi-lity Bill, not insist on the Lokpal surveying it. Considering fears over all constitutional bodies being examined by one institution, this too is positive.

Yet, trouble spots remain. There is little agreement over the inclusion of the lower bureaucracy or state Lokayuktas under a national Lokpal. There is also remarkably insufficient protection to whistleblowers under the government's version. While such divergences are significant, they can be solved by deciding what the Lokpal is meant to do - tackle big-ticket corruption or chase all levels of graft. Activist Aruna Roy envisions a Lokpal that pursues top-end corruption, leaving other levels to a strengthened Central Vigilance Commission. Surely that's a rational position, as it'll prevent the Lokpal going under from the sheer weight of all that falls within its jurisdiction. It's vital all rational views are noted and the best Bill created from these. That needs time - and patience. It cannot - and should not - be achieved by forcing Parliament to move pronto.

Anna's movement taking a breather would help this. Every movement has its moments. For the first time in 64 years, a powerful, cohesive public movement has risen against corruption. Through it, Anna's made his point and it's been duly noted. Corruption will not be tackled in a day. We need crusaders like Anna to keep up a consistent fight against corruption. The government can demonstrate its sincerity to a doubting public by committing to convene a special session of Parliament where all versions of the Lokpal Bill would be discussed. And it's in the interest of all that Anna breaks his fast.







The RBI's caution on the proposal to issue banking licences to _ HYPERLINK "" _corporate houses_ is understandable. Its _ HYPERLINK "" _governor D Subbarao_ says he's chiefly worried about big firms using deposits as a private repository of funds for other interests. It's feared that opaque and complex company structures may serve to conceal the practice of these entities lending to themselves and their associates. Such "self-dealing" would mean conflict of interest and heightened risk, both wholly avoidable in a trade founded on customer trust as well as the stability and interdependence of financial institutions. Since these apprehensions can't be blinked at, the central bank rightly calls for better checks against misuse of public money before giving the go-ahead. That shouldn't, however, become an excuse for putting the issue in cold storage.

Let's not forget the positives of letting corporate houses promote banks. As Subbarao concedes, they have capital, business acumen and managerial competence. These attributes are invaluable in a sector we all know needs to grow, modernise and innovate in a woefully underbanked country. Well-established, reputed companies are likely to be mindful of the importance of customer confidence, on which they've built their existing enterprises. Moreover, issue of new banking licences is linked to the goal of financial inclusion. With corporate social responsibility already built into business blueprints, resource-rich, efficient firms can help further this aim. Neither the finance ministry nor RBI opposes granting banking licences to industrial houses in principle, on account of the benefits the move can bring. What we need, therefore, is for policymakers to strengthen statutory and regulatory safeguards to both check the credentials of would-be licencees and deter malpractice. What we don't need is to bar entry to corporate entities simply out of fear of reform.









The movement around Anna Hazare's fast highlights a worrying trend. No, it's not corruption. That we know. The worry is: Is _ HYPERLINK "" _Indian democracy_ in a state of decay?

Democracy in this largest of all democratic nations seems to be working fine at first glance. We vote regularly and throw out parties in power when a majority wants change. We have a free press. We have an independent judiciary. But there's a lot that happens in the way we conduct our political life in between elections that is deeply disturbing. Citizens of a truly liberal democracy - there's no other kind, don't let anyone fool you - must demonstrate their understanding, popular acceptance and daily practice of democratic behaviour in the interlude between elections. Do we?

Anna Hazare's fast-unto-death is a clear instance of misunderstood democracy. He and his supporters believe it is quite democratic of him to either get his way or commit suicide. No, it's not. Suicide is against the law in this demo-cracy; so is any threat to commit violence, even to oneself, if you don't get your way. That's blackmail. Citing Gandhi in support of fasts is misconceived. The great man fasted against imperial rule in an undemocratic society. A democracy, on the other hand, offers several channels to express grievance legitimately. For Gandhi, fasting fitted well into his framework of civil disobedience. He worked against the law as it then prevailed. Today, fasting, often in 'relay' style, has become political farce in India.

Hazare's supporters, however, have every right to march in their thousands, to raise people's consciousness about corruption, to carry candles or play guitars while singing protest songs mimicking a Bob Dylan or a Pete Seeger, and to rage against the government through the media. But are they right in demanding an acceptance of Hazare's call for a supremely autonomous ombudsman to fight corruption? No.

Imagining an end to _ HYPERLINK "" _corruption_ by making a Lokpal sit in judgment over everyone, including Parliament and the judiciary, is not just undemocratic under India's Constitution, it is a silly idea. India is one of the most corrupt nations on earth not because it doesn't have enough regulatory bodies to catch a thief; it in fact has too many points of bureaucratic and political power that are lucrative checkpoints for the corrupt. Creating an unaccountable ombudsman will add another such check post unless you believe, like Hazare, that Gandhian purity can keep the Lokpal's office forever clean. Fighting corruption should mean fewer checkpoints, not more.

To fight corruption, citizens have to target protests in order to force reform in specific areas instead of blasting broadsides against general corruption. We didn't wake up to find this cancer in our system because Dr Hazare suddenly said we were sick. We sat up when a huge telecom scandal was uncovered through investigation by regular arms of the democratic system, including Parliament and the press. That scandal underscores how urgently we need to reform our system of political funding, including campaign finance for electioneering, to stop politicians in power from doling out favours in return for cash they received from vested interests.

Every arm of democracy must become stronger if India has to confront corruption. Mobilisation for change should, for instance, aim to force Parliament actually to sit in session, debate and pass legislation. We have a Parliament that barely functions. Like fasts, another effete tool of protest is used by whichever party is in opposition, and that's the infamous walkout. It has been so overplayed that it's lost all potency. Storming the well of the House to stop proceedings for days is similarly idiotic. Our politicians and MPs must relearn effective democratic practice in the modern era and discard the tools of opposition they inherited from a past generation of leaders.

Another sign of democratic decay and a reason why corruption can spread so malignantly through our national system is a fast weakening accountability of public officials and politicians. That's happening largely because India's judiciary is so clogged up and grossly inefficient that citizens have little faith in its capacity to deliver justice to reinforce the foundations of public accountability.

Accountability is one of the twin pillars, along with transparency, that uphold good governance. With a free press and a Right to Information Act available for use by the ordinary citizen, transparency is not all that bad in our system even as bureaucratic opacity continues to hinder openness. But accountability degenerates by the day.

These are some areas that must get fierce attention from the expanding and increasingly assertive urban middle class if real reform is to happen. Instead, what we see is the sad spectacle of an aged Gandhian engaged in a futile fast against evil. His purpose is noble. His method and demand are not. There are other ways to fight.

The writer is a former executive editor of this newspaper.







Celebrities too are citizens of the country, with the right to take up _ HYPERLINK "" _political causes_ just like other citizens. The _ HYPERLINK "" _Anna Hazare_ movement has set off a stir in the celebrity world of glamour, films and fashion, just like it has among ordinary citizens. Stars and directors to musicians and fashion icons, everyone is swept up in the emotional ferment. Declaring his support, Tamil superstar Rajinikanth has described the anti-corruption upsurge as a "bloodless revolution". Over 200 members of the Tamil film industry have observed a fast, demanding a strong Lokpal Bill. Eighty-one-year old Lata Mangeshkar has tweeted her support to Hazare. Vidya Balan has walked the ramp donning the Anna topi.

It is good to see the rich and the famous campaign against corruption - an issue that has fired the imagination of the country. Cynics tend to look down their noses at celebrities supporting social and political causes. But then they also spear celebrities on the opposite charge - of being superficial, apolitical and apathetic towards issues that affect the common man. Clearly, one can't have the cake and eat it too. As citizens, celebrities from all walks of life have every right to join a movement that touches a chord. The cause may be distant from their universe of glamour and fame. So what if they are not inspired by unsullied altruism? The truth still is they can leverage their fame to raise the visibility of a cause, carry its message to a larger national and international forum.

The West has a strong tradition of celebrities making social causes their own. Rock star Bob Geldof founded a musical group to raise money to fight Africa's poverty and famine. Jackie Chan is known for using his celebrity status as a vehicle for humanitarian and public service work. If anything, Indian celebrities should do more to help social causes.








Too much is being made of celebrities cheering Anna Hazare's protest fast. Glamour personalities aren't exactly known to fret over political, economic or social ills. If anything, they mostly remain disengaged and apathetic towards issues affecting common people. When did _ HYPERLINK "" _corruption_ bother the film or fashion personalities now giving full-throated support to Anna? Equally misguided is the tendency to view celebrity statements on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook as having a mass effect. The number of people even aware of such new-fangled communication channels still forms a miniscule portion of India's population.

True, the list of movie actors or fashion models backing Anna's movement has been increasing. But this most likely has less to do with genuine commitment to the cause than their need of self-promotion. What can be a better PR exercise for a celebrity than to jump on to the bandwagon of a popular movement? Anna's protest has captured the imagination of middle-class India. It's in the middle class that we find consumers of the entertainment industry's offerings. They are the ones who throng multiplexes and decide the fate of films and fashion. Celebrities know professed involvement in a high-profile agitation like Anna's will boost their own public visibility and fan base.

There's another likely reason film personalities in particular are backing the biggest show in town. Much of Indian cinema revolves around bashing politicians and nurtures misplaced faith in the virtues of a single hero, seen as able to change the system overnight. Match this against the public's decrying of netas and the rather naive belief that lone man Anna can make politics and society corruption-free.







West Bengal becomes the latest bheekteem in the game of the name. Hey mago! 

So La Belle Dame Sans Mamata has again shown no mercy. Ms Banerjee has inflicted a new name on West Bengal to the angweeshed cry of its snooterati and Twitterati. 'Paschimbanga' has joined the long list of places renamed to prove our pride in our pre-colonial heritage. So what if it's only nominal?

We have reconciled ourselves to this easy political upmanship. However, the official logic behind West Bengal's name change was 'jumpmanship'. Since 'Paschimbanga' begins with a 'P' instead of a 'W', it will instantly move up seven places in the listing of states. Oodi baba, ki clevar! If only the development score card could as easily be nudged – or fudged. 

In fact, 'Paschimbanga' shows semantic illiteracy. It fuses adjective to noun, and worse, turns the proud proper noun, 'Banga', into a lower-case entity. This adds double insult to the injury of its eentallectually and socially superior citizens. Eesh!

It is worse for non-Bengalis who must now tie their tongue into more knots trying to get the correct inflexion of yet another set of 'o's'. As it is they struggle unsuccessfully with 'Kolkata'. Under their earnest palate, it becomes 'Call-kota', 'Coal-cotta' or other contortions thereof, instead of the correct 'Coal-kata'. The gazette notification helpfully informs us that 'Paschimbanga' is to be pronounced 'Poshcheembongo'. But it's an oral minefield. If you have heard the multiple ways in which Times Now panelists address 'Arnab', you will understand the danger inherent in Pb. 

It is not 'Posh-cheem', as in the desirable 'posh'; the 'po' here rhymes with 'toe'. There's double jeopardy in the new name's other half. The first 'o' of 'bongo' is a short 'aw', and the second is a fully rounded 'o'. Well at least the Bengali-speaking classes can show off their congenital superiority. 

Come to think of it, 'West Bengal' was harder on them because pronouncing 'w' is difficult for the dyed-in-the-ool Bengali. You lose some, you win some. 

But that's no consolation for non-Bongs who must struggle with all the googlies this language throws at them. The vowel-bhowel (another Bong obsession) may trip us more, but consonants have no constancy either. In Bangla, every 'sa' becomes a 'shaw', and, worse, so does every 'swa'. Thus, a dreamy 'Swapan' turns into the mall-manic 'Shop-on'. 
Ok, you can excuse this because there is no 'sa' sound in their alphabet, just as there is no 'va', which becomes 'bhaw' for Bengalis. However, will someone explain why the legitimate 'sh' and 'bh' of everyone else's lexicon flip into a somersault out there? My mitro, Dilip De, is blessed with one of the very few un-messable Bengali names, but guess what happens to his celebrated wife in her town-in-law? She becomes 'Sovaa'. 

And, God promise, on Kolkata streets, 'bhelpuri' is spelt 'velpuri'.

Alphabetical acrobatics are bad enough, but the colloquial habit of telescoping syllables can really embarrass the uninitiated. When i joined the journalism course at what was still Calcutta University, all my Loreto College chi-chi English was of no use among my assertively Bengali-speaking classmates. 

They kept asking me, 'B.A hoye gachhey?' I couldn't fathom why all of them wanted to know if I'd graduated – and why were they showing such wide-eyed surprise when I said a nonchalant 'Yes'? After all, this was supposed to be a post-graduate course. 

It was several weeks later that I learnt that they weren't referring to a 'BA' degree but a marital one. 'Bee-ay' is the colloquial form of 'beebaho', which is their version of 'vivaha'. 
As the Baard of Abhon didn't quite say, 'Let me not to the marriage of two languages admit impediment.'








The American buys stuff in dollars, and pays his debt in dollars. Ergo, if his debts mount, it makes sense to pay them off in a cheaper coin.

The US has been consistent in its approach to foreign creditors. When its trade balance gets outrageously lopsided, and it does every 20 years, Washington simply debases the currency the world trades in. So we have Richard Nixon taking the dollar off the gold standard in 1971, devaluing it by 12% against the pound.

Then in 1991, George Bush Sr tells the Germans and the Japanese, running the largest trade surpluses of the time, that each dollar must fetch fewer marks and the yens. The yen rose 51% against the dollar and Japan has not recovered since from the recession it imported. And now, in 2011, when China, which shares a lesser burden of history with its biggest trading partner, refuses to revalue the yuan, Washington pulls the plug. The Federal Reserve has "printed" 600 billion extra bucks with a promise that there are many billions more where these came from.

Not fair, but that's the price the world pays to do business with the elephant in the room. A full blown trade war would sock the rest of the world harder than it would the US. Central ban-kers can despair to see the American IOUs they hold shedding value furiously, but the hoped-for alternative reserve currency, the euro, is a half-hearted work in progress. China, India, Thai-land, South Korea, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Russia have all bumped up their gold holdings since Lehman Brothers went broke, yet that does not significantly alter the odds in any currency conflagration. Take India, for instance. The Reserve Bank of India's purchase of 200 tonnes of gold from the International Monetary Fund in 2009 has raised the share of a tested hedge against currency movements to a mere 6% of its foreign reserves. In contrast, the US Federal Reserve holds nearly 80% of its foreign reserves in gold. The European Central Bank holds around a fifth, but the French, Germans, Italians and the Dutch retain well over half their reserves as gold.

Efforts to keep the world economy afloat will, the IMF estimates, see public debt swelling by a third in the 20 biggest economies. This ought to exert unprecedented pressures on the price of gold. That, however, does not render it fit to serve as the reserve currency for any length of time. At today's value, all the gold in the world is worth $9 trillion. Last year, the world produced merchandise and provided services worth six times as much. There simply isn't enough gold to go around. The latest gold rush will last only till the world regains faith in a paper currency. On current indications, that still looks like the greenback.








Don't get us wrong, we are as democratic as they come. But, the world will be a less colourful place without all the Arab dictators and other leaders in the reg-ion who are falling like ten pins.

While most world leaders speak in measured tones, carefully weighing their words, our dictators are not reined in by any such propriety. So we find that even as he totters on his last legs, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi calls on his "people" to hunt down the rats and snakes who are fomenting the revolution. He asks the faithful, if there are any left, to spill their blood to protect him. He rambles in a TV interview of how people will lay down their lives for him because they love him so.

Threats that the streets will run with blood are an all-time favourite as are animal-related terminology for western leaders. To call other leaders who disagree with you international criminals is par for the course. Our leaders are tame in this regard. When Nitin Gadkari tried to introduce some colour into public discourse by using a canine analogy when talking of political rivals, people accused him of lowering standards. The late Ayato-llah Khomeini, though neither Arab nor a dictator, coined the evocative term the Great Satan to describe America. The mercurial Gaddafi has also been known to go to the other extreme and once described former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as his "darling black African woman," something that could not have amused the strait-laced Ms Rice. Of course, Gaddafi reveled in the West's description of him as a mad dog.

Apart from the leaders in the region, various militant outfits vie with each other in issuing hyperbolic threats to their enemies. From exhorting the infidels to dig their graves to threatening millennia-long wars, we have heard it all. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's expressions have often bordered on the bizarre. We considered incorporating some language with a bit of pizazz into our editorials so as to draw in more readers. But this is a family paper, so sorry, it is no go.










I'd rather not be Anna Hazare.

Er, but you do know that you aren't, right?

I mean I don't subscribe to his views and tactics. And all his supporters are dangerously nationalistic.

You mean the flag waving? But isn't that the case with cricket fans too?

Yes. That's why I'm worried about right-wing Indian nationalism in his movement.

I was talking about English supporters as they won the Test Series.

Anna's supporters are all middle-class and don't represent the vast majority of Indians!

You mean Outlook, Guardian, Hindu readers?

Hrrmph. Also Anna doesn't care about real issues like farmer suicides, Kashmir, nuclear bombs, me...

Basically everything that Anna hasn't talked about?

Yes. Pretty much. By the way, is it true that people are demanding that I address them at the Ramlila Maidan?

Do say: If Arundhati's never written about dowry deaths, child molestation, and spurious medicine does it make her a suspect 'good person'?


Don't say: In Which Anna Gives It Those Ones.







India, we are told over and over again, is a rising global power that has increasing influence in the world. And yet, with Libya on the boil — not to mention events in Syria proceeding towards the ouster of its dictatorial government — New Delhi is as quiet as it would have been if it was, say, Fiji.

A Decent Power, never mind a Great Power, comes out of its shell of navel-gazing and fence-sitting to take a call when it comes to big, momentous events happening in some other country. The people know what position one takes regarding the events. It doesn't have to send across fighter jets, but as the largest democracy in the world, one would have thought that India would make a statement less anodyne than the one our Ministry of External Affairs made about Libya on Tuesday: "We are closely monitoring the developments in Libya. There are indications that the situation in Libya is changing and the recent events in Tripoli indicate that the Transitional National Council is acquiring effective control. The situation in the country should be normalised by the people of Libya themselves in a peaceful manner adhering to democratic norms and with respect for aspirations of the people." Even a sleepwalker would have been more forthright.

The MEA statement continues: "This process should be guided by respect for the sovereignty, integrity and unity of Libya. India stands ready to extend all possible assistance for reconstruction and rehabilitation to the friendly people of Libya and wishes them peace, stability and prosperity." This could have been a 'Get well soon' card.

For a country that clamours to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council, not having the word 'Gaddafi' once in the statement is ludicrous. Does India want to hedge its bets in case the dictator makes a 'comeback'? So much for 2011 India moving out of the shell of 'non-alignment'.
Alok Mehra is a
Delhi-based writer
The views expressed by the author are personal






Anna Hazare is not Mohandas Gandhi or Jayaprakash Narayan. No one wants to seriously hear his diagnosis of the ills of the Indian political system or his vision of a future India and, so, it is pointless to find fault with either. He is not even a Gandhian satyagrahi looking for self-purification or waiting to listen to his inner voice. He has used his fasts to unashamedly pressure a corrupt, overloaded State and has defied arrogant power holders claiming to be the conscience-keepers of the country.

This part of the story is important. For law-making presumes that not only Parliament has its legitimacy and charisma, but that legislators too have some moral stature, at least collectively. That stature has suffered immense damage in the last few decades. Hazare, in his new incarnation, can be compared with the likes of Bobby Sands, the Irish nationalist, who used fasting as a way of confronting an oppressive, insensitive State and died for his ideals. For those who think that Gandhian fasts were radically different from Anna's, well, they were so for Gandhi, not for the British colonial regime, which always read his fasts as pressure tactics.

It's safer to read Anna Hazare as Anna Hazare. But even that is not easy, for he is primarily a product of our mind and our fantasies. We impute to him qualities according to our inner needs. Many of us have been waiting for a person like him, someone who will come riding a white horse, sword shining and a hard smile on his lips; others have been as fearful of the arrival of a charismatic figure who might mess up our institutions and bring back into politics categories and ideas which we thought we had interred when we tearfully cremated Gandhi at Rajghat 63 years ago.

Both sides will be disappointed. For Hazare has not modelled himself on his proclaimed gurus but has instinctively struck the posture of an elderly neighbour next door. When he talks, it becomes obvious within the first few minutes that he is neither an unrecognised, village philosopher nor a putative political star. He is rather the familiar, unassuming, perhaps slightly dumb, neighbourhood elder who takes our support for granted, for he believes he talks commonsense and emphasises the obvious.

The fear of Anna, in this respect, is partly a fear of everyday life and the ordinary citizen. It is ingenuous to explain away the support he has received as only a middle-class reaction. It has already breached the borders of class. Also, being a middle class movement is no longer a term of abuse. This class is not what it was 60 years ago. It is five times its earlier size and slightly more than 50% of it now comes from communities  earlier at the bottom and the peripheries of Indian society. In any case, the middle-class is now a fourth of the Indian people and can no longer be dismissed as even electorally irrelevant.

More important is the suspicion of the political class that has pushed the supporters of Anna towards the frenzy they have displayed and the uncompromising rigidity with which they have faced any criticism of their draft Lokpal Bill. That suspicion is not feigned and anyone who has not lived a protected life can guess wherefrom that bitterness comes. It is true that a democracy needs a political class but it is also true that while the legitimacy of the democratic system is high in India, the legitimacy of the politicians is almost zero. In virtually every serious opinion poll conducted during the last 15-odd years, the politicians, along with the police and the bureaucracy, are ranked near the bottom. Indians choose their representatives, I guess, the way President Harry S Truman chose his allies from among Latin America's despotic rulers: "I know he is a bastard," he once reportedly said, "but he is our bastard."

This is an enormous void at the heart of India's democratic system. If the people do not trust their politicians, it is unlikely that they will trust their version of the Lokpal Bill, their arguments about why the Bill cannot be passed quickly, and their diatribes against Anna and his tribe. They will also suspect that all the objections of the regime to the Jan Lokpal Bill are designed to protect the corrupt. Nor are they likely to trust the politicians when the latter hold forth on the beauties of parliamentary proceedings and constitutional proprieties. The parliamentarians themselves have not cared much for these proceedings and proprieties. During the last few years, a sizeable section of parliamentarians have tried very hard to turn Parliament into a circus. Above all, corruption has been a major issue for years and succeeding regimes have been in no hurry to bring in a Lokpal Bill; they had other, more interesting things to do in Parliament.

It is true that the civil society groups supporting Hazare are not elected and are, mostly, unelectable. But that is neither here nor there. Mass movements all over the world flout the rules of the game and constitutional provisions, however immaculate and revered they might be. I have never heard anyone claiming the movements to be illegitimate for that reason, except in despotic regimes. When our Constitution granted freedom of speech and organisation, it did not specify that all speeches and efforts to organise would have to conform to the tenets of the Constitution. A number of new states, including Andhra Pradesh and Punjab, have been carved out in response to mass movements that included fasting unto death. No one claims that India is worse off because of them.

Actually, in all functioning democracies there is always some space for the politics of desperation. In the matter of corruption, we have reached that stage. Many feel that everything and everyone is on sale. The ethical frame of our public life has come apart and there is a numbing sense of helplessness about it. We know we are one of the world's most corrupt societies and we are happy if someone changes the topic and wants to discuss our growth rate or performance in cricket. This desperation is now trying to find political expression in forms of protest that, despite being peaceful, have a touch of vigilantism. It could not have been otherwise.

The pathetic debates going on in our media on whether Hazare and his associates should be granted the political recognition that has been casually granted to so many movements that have gone against the basic tenets of our Constitution-from parties preaching revolution or Hindu Rashtra to parties trying to decide on streets the boundaries of constitutionally defined entities such as states-is certainly not edifying. Our Constitution, I have always believed, has place for extra-constitutional demands even when they are not backed by civility and sometimes verge on lunacy. Are we facing a narrowing of our political culture around a strictly defined idea of the permissible? Or is this regime, run mainly by technocrats, trying to abridge our idea of the political? Or are we all unhappy that Hazare has not allowed us to make an Irom Sharmila out of him?
Ashis Nandy, Fellow, Centre for the Study
of Developing Societies, New Delhi
The views expressed by the author are personal






As one who has long urged an end to public apathy about politics, I'm inspired by seeing the passion of Anna Hazare's followers. I share their passion against corruption, and I have no doubt that he has touched a chord among millions.

But we must remember that the supporters of the Jan Lokpal Bill are not the only Indians who are disgusted by corruption. So are many who are not part of the movement. It is important for both sides to accept that there are patriotic and principled Indians amongst their critics, and that we must reach out to each other in good faith.

One may have legitimate disagreement with some aspects of the authorities' handling of the issue, and in particular of the temporary arrest of Anna and his associates. Anna's brief detention was unwise, which is why he was swiftly released. Our government does realise that ideas can't be arrested.

A strong Lokpal is part of the answer. A suitable Lokpal Bill must be passed as a matter of urgent priority. It should create a strong anti-corruption ombudsman, with genuine autonomy and authority and substantial powers of action. That said, there is room for honest disagreement with the details of Anna's proposals. In particular, some of the provisions insisted upon by Anna risk creating a large, omnipotent and unaccountable supra-institution that could not be challenged, reformed or removed. If the current governmental bodies tasked with investigation, vigilance, and audit are deemed to be insufficiently impervious to corruption, it is worth asking what guarantee there is that the new institution of Jan Lokpal could not be infected by the same virus — and if so, what could be done about it, since it would literally be a law unto itself.

These are matters that merit serious debate in Parliament when the proposed legislation reaches the floor. I am sure the government's bill can be improved, and that elements favoured by Anna could be considered. Everyone claims to be against corruption; the debate is on the means to be used to tackle it. For it would be dangerous to reduce the entire issue to a simplistic solution which won't end corruption by itself. Inspectors and prosecutors can only catch some criminals; we need to change the system so that fewer crimes are committed.

The problem of corruption runs far broader and deeper than the headlines suggest. Every time a poor pregnant woman has to bribe to get a hospital bed to which she is entitled, or a widow the pension that should be hers by right and not by the favour of a clerk, or a son his own father's death certificate, we know our system has failed us. Corruption isn't only high-level governmental malfeasance as typified by the 2G and Commonwealth Games scandals. Overcoming it requires nothing short of a change in our society's mindset.

A number of related steps need to be taken to tackle corruption at its source. Campaign finance reform, simplification of laws and regulations, administrative transparency, and the reduction of discretionary powers enjoyed by officials and ministers, are all of the highest priority too. The Right to Information Act (RTI) enacted by the first UPA government was in fact the first step in this direction. A credible Lokpal will be another.

We must build in safeguards to ensure that a new institution of lokpal doesn't itself fall prey to corruption. One way might well be to create a lokpal quickly, in response to the current public demand, but to limit its existence to, say, seven years, so that any flaws in its functioning can be examined in the cold light of experience before it is renewed by a fresh Act of Parliament.

As an elected politician, I am conscious that Anna's campaign has ignited the imaginations and sparked the enthusiasm of many young people in our country, and in my constituency. That does not mean, however, that MPs should accept an all-or-nothing approach to the Lokpal Bill. There is room for discussion and some possibility of compromise, and I shall seek to work towards this on the floor of the House.

I look forward to Parliament debating all the options available. It is important that we must not betray public expectations, but nor must we act irresponsibly. We must do the right thing but we must do the thing right. With good faith and compromise, I am confident we can reach consensus.

Shashi Tharoor is a Lok Sabha MPThe views expressed by the author are personal











On Wednesday — even as representatives of all parties gathered to meet at 7 Race Course Road to address the Anna Hazare situation — Sharad Yadav, the president of the Janata Dal (United), rose to address the Lok Sabha. The speech he delivered was by turn passionate, inspiring, funny and, above all, a thoughtful defence of Parliament and democratic institutions. Looking around at the House, he made several well-argued points. No institution in India, he said, was as representative as Parliament. And no institution was as accountable either, he insisted: its members had to go back to the people every five years, sometimes less than that, and often wound up "greeting every tree, cow and buffalo" they passed. The changes that were needed to address corruption should not, he argued, be seen as undermining Parliament. Nor should they undermine the constitutional structure. When the opposition speaks together, he added, the government is forced to listen.

This argument, which met with much agreement in the Lok Sabha, must be taken to its logical conclusion: India's political parties must stand firm, together, to ensure that there is a political consensus to defend India's constitutional institutions. Indeed, further, they must use this Lokpal moment as an opportunity to make them more decisive, accountable and transparent. Yadav made a telling point when he said that Parliament itself was the premier corruption-seeking authority we have: that Bangaru Laxman, from his side of the aisle, and A. Raja, from the other, had both been drummed out through pressure in Parliament, through an opposition united against the government. It is through such institutional power that we need to ensure that corruption is tackled head-on; and it is through a political consensus to bolster India's institutional strength that this moment of anger must be met.

It is interesting, in particular, to remember where Sharad Yadav comes from, as a politician: Jayaprakash Narayan's Total Revolution in the 1970s. That movement was steeped in revolutionary rhetoric, but desirous too of preserving and renewing a constitutional structure which the government of the day seemed to be disrespectful of. Yadav is a living embodiment of the idea that successful political movements in India are those that establish their power and potency through democratic processes; JP himself would have disdained methods that tried to seize power and undermine democratic processes through mobilisation of city-dwellers; for him, "total revolution" was about transformation of societies and, yes, political parties, through which change could be effected. This is a vision that puts the Constitution at the heart. India's political parties must rally around this vision, and stand together to defend and renew India's democratic institutions







The Supreme Court has changed the norms for correspondents who cover it. In a move that is both restrictive and arbitrary, the country's highest court has decided that only those reporters who have a law degree and seven years of experience covering court proceedings can get a permanent or a temporary accreditation. This means the majority of legal correspondents will lose the stamp of recognition that gives them easy access to judgments and orders. That is, of course, an essential aspect of their job — and their job is an essential cog in the mechanism of justice, through which the Supreme Court has time and again corrected and steadied the ship of state.

An open court rests on the belief that justice should not just be delivered but also be seen to be delivered. Restricting that hallowed space to anyone, including legal correspondents who convey the import of observations and judgments, shorn of the heavy, forbidding legalese, does not sit right with the times when transparency is a legitimate demand and a rallying cry. The justices' anguish is completely understandable: the law can be a tangle, and misreporting might well happen. Yet, extending their lordship's logic would imply that health correspondents be required to have a medical degree, and business journalists an honours in economics. Ensuring fair and honest reporting in this, as in other fields, is and should be the responsibility of the media.

More worryingly, the Chief Justice of India can withdraw an accreditation without assigning any reason. Interestingly, the Supreme Court has, regularly and honourably, pointed out to lower courts that petitions should not be dismissed without specifying reasons — without, at least, speaking orders. We have come to think of India's highest court as its greatest repository of justice, and our eyes are forever turned towards it. Its doors should not be shut to anyone.







Muammar al-Gaddafi is gone, but he's around. The 41-year-old Gaddafi regime in Libya has effectively lost power, notwithstanding Gaddafi's defiant speech after the fall of his Bab al-Aziziya compound. But the fight isn't over. The thrust of the rebels must now be to find Gaddafi, so that the formation of loyalist pockets of resistance is stopped and order restored to Tripoli. However, the challenges of nation-building begin right after relative peace is back on the streets.

Libyans' expectations weigh against those in rebel militias, who may feel entitled to the spoils. The task of the National Transitional Council (NTC) will be to not only preclude reprisals against Gaddafi loyalists but also widen its ambit, bringing in loyalists and tribes in the west and south, much less represented in the largely east-based NTC. So far, only the goal of ousting Gaddafi has united the disparate rebel factions. If the NTC, itself divided, doesn't move quickly, post-Gaddafi Libya will be stillborn. Moreover, unlike Egypt, the NTC isn't inheriting any institution or bureaucracy to speak of.

Yet, unlike Egypt, the NTC has done remarkable homework. Its interim "constitutional declaration" provides legal cover to the transition, with elections to a constituent assembly in eight months, which will appoint an interim government and draft a constitution. This is against the backdrop of the end of pan-Arabism, as the NTC plans to drop "Arab" from the country's formal name, keeping in mind minorities like the Berbers, while the declaration makes only a moderate reference to Islam. Once a referendum ratifies the constitution, direct elections are envisaged within 20 months. To succeed, this political transition will need economic reforms and re-stabilisation of the oil industry. As the world welcomes the change, it must also help Libyans rebuild and redefine their nation.








The largely urban, middle-class agitation led by "Team Anna" Hazare for the acceptance of a particular version of the Lokpal bill in order to end corruption in India, has raised several questions regarding the scope, legitimacy, credibility and sustainability of such protests. It has also led to some rather hasty comparisons with powerful movements in the past — including, quite unbelievably, India's freedom struggle, arguably the biggest mass movement in world history.

Even more far-fetched is to bring in the name of the Mahatma. If wearing khadi and a Gandhi topi, speaking of satyagraha and non-violence without accepting its content and collecting a crowd was all that was required to be compared to the Mahatma, then the world would soon begin to bristle with Mahatmas. Comparisons have also been made with state responses in the past to agitation on the streets.

Meanwhile, a large number of leaders of the BJP, the Hindu-communal party of the right — including its seniormost leader L.K. Advani — have repeatedly drawn parallels between the current situation and the JP movement and the declaration of Emergency in India. (The political heirs of those who murdered the Mahatma, however opportunistic they may be, would find it difficult to claim legitimacy from Gandhiji, or a freedom struggle of which they were never a part. The comparison with Gandhiji to my knowledge is not generally made by leaders of the RSS/ BJP combine.)

There are several reasons why these comparisons are not valid. However, there is indeed some comparability in certain respects, which have been by and large ignored, which I would like to briefly highlight.

The Anna agitation, a one-point agitation, is nowhere like the JP movement, leave alone the freedom struggle, in the scope of its stated objectives or the nature of its nationwide popular support. The politically decisive steps of Indira Gandhi, with all their faults, are again not comparable with the waffling which we are witnessing today. If it is a repetition of history then certainly, as the adage goes, it is being repeated as a farce.

The similarity with the JP movement, particularly as it evolved in the later stages, is however in the repeated bypassing of democratic institutions and resort to "popular support" in the streets, not electoral victories, to issue ultimatums to the government asking them to abdicate power. The "popular support" which was initially mobilised by the JP movement on the basis of genuine discontent about corruption, misgovernance and inflation, was, over time, hijacked by the then Jan Sangh and the RSS with the one-point agenda of overthrowing Indira Gandhi. Scholarly research has shown decisively the hand of the RSS behind the "popular support" to the JP movement in the later phases.

It would be foolish not to see the element of spontaneous popular support for Anna across classes, including the well-heeled, who have been rendered utterly helpless against corruption. But reports of RSS mobilisation behind it are ominous. The student wing of the Sangh combine, the ABVP, has already called for a nationwide bandh of schools and colleges. Advani has called for "concerted action" — such as, presumably, the Bharat bandh suggested by the NDA convenor — to end Congress-led rule, whose mandate they (if not the electorate) assert "has long since evaporated." The demand and objectives have so quickly shifted from fighting corruption, a systemic disease involving all political parties, to getting rid of the Congress. Significantly, no opposition party, including the BJP, supports the Lokpal draft of Team Anna, but they all seek to use the disaffection he has given voice to for narrow political ends. Fortunately, the Left at least appears to be wary of joining the bandwagon.

Genuine popular discontent, if it is not contained within a well-organised movement with a clear ideological vision, faces the risk of being hijacked by well-organised political forces with clear-cut agendas. (Anna's stated vision in this agitation does not go beyond fighting corruption — which he says creates inflation, and hence causes concern to our women!) Historically, the right has used periods of disorder and discontent to rise to power, destroying existing institutions on the pretext that they did not function properly, and promising to cleanse the system of corruption and disorder. The rise of fascism in Italy in the 1920s and Nazism in Germany in the 1930s need to be closely studied in this context. The Indian right (Jawaharlal Nehru brilliantly anticipated that fascism in India would take the form of majority communalism) has learnt its lessons well, perhaps too well, from the European experience of fascism. Those who believe in the democratic system will, however, have to pay a very heavy cost if they do not learn lessons from history, and act unitedly in preventing any diminution of the very institutions which nurture our democracy.

Team Anna — the Bhushans, Bedi and Kejriwal — have themselves fallen short of respecting due process in a democratic system. They have decided that their version of the bill is the ultimate answer in the fight against corruption. They insist their version must be the one which the government brings to Parliament. If it does not, then it is "corrupt". Persuading any other political party, or even an individual, to put up a private bill is not on the agenda, presumably because all politicians are suspect, and "civil society", as defined by them, will determine what happens in Parliament. They are not willing to negotiate even with the original campaigners for the Lokpal, people like Aruna Roy, Shekhar Singh, Nikhil Dey, Justice Shah and other distinguished leaders and sympathisers of the NCPRI (National Campaign for People's Right to Information) with whom they worked together till yesterday.

Nothing could be more un-Gandhian. Gandhi fully understood that the essence of democracy is debate, discussion, persuasion and not claiming sole ownership of the Truth. His concept of non-violence partly emanated from this notion that one has to respect those one disagrees with however firmly one might oppose them. The Gandhian satyagrahi therefore had to be humble, willing to learn and negotiate. His satyagrahis had to first ensure that they themselves were pure and practised values they fought for. Gandhi would not even dream of allowing anybody to be a satyagrahi if he was not secular and believed in Hindu-Muslim unity. A lesson forgotten by many of his supposed successors in their desire to collect crowds.

The writer is professor of contemporary history at JNU, Delhi, and co-author of 'India Since Independence'












In an order of far-reaching significance, the Competition Commission of India has slapped a fine of Rs 630 crore on real estate major DLF, holding the company guilty of abuse of its dominant position.

The order followed a complaint filed by an association of apartment owners in the upmarket residential complex of "Belaire" in Gurgaon, which centred around allegedly arbitrary and unreasonable conditions, weighted in favour of DLF, and imposed by the company on apartment owners in Belaire; for example, delay in delivery of the apartments, unilateral addition to the number of floors, denial of exit option, and punitive penalty for default by buyers but insignificant penalty for DLF's default. The CCI, after detailed investigation and analysis, concluded that these one-sided conditions amounted to abuse of DLF's dominant position.

The CCI defined the relevant market as "the market for services of developer/ builder in respect of high-end residential accommodation in Gurgaon". As a "service", the matter was covered by the Competition Act. The CCI distinguished "high-end" residential flats from those of other categories (for example, low- or mid-income flats offered by HUDA, DDA, and GDA) keeping in mind the profile of buyers. The CCI also defined the relevant geographic market as the territory of Gurgaon, observing that it was a preferred destination for upwardly mobile classes, and was distinguishable from properties in places like Noida or Faridabad which were not substitutable options.

At the core of the CCI's conclusion lies its analysis that DLF is a dominant player in the relevant market for high-end residential accommodation with a market share of about 50 per cent; in addition, it has deep financial resources, a huge land-bank, a vast array of projects, etc. In all these respects, DLF is way ahead of its nearest rivals.

The CCI invoked its statutory powers to impose a deterrent fine on DLF equal to 7 per cent of its turnover and also directed the company to discontinue the impugned conditions in its agreements. Hitherto, the CCI's orders have been somewhat cautious and tentative, but through this decision it has sought to send out an unmistakable message to the markets.

On the other hand, a close look at the CCI's order could give rise to a debate on some finer points of competition law. For example, competition law experts are sceptical about the basis on which the dominant position has been determined or the relevant market has been defined. They question the ground on which Gurgaon has been definitively considered as the relevant geographic market; in their view, for a prospective high-end buyer, residential properties in areas such as south and south-west Delhi could be equally viable options, particularly since high-end buyers have the wherewithal to travel longer distances for work. They also question the CCI's decision not to include the secondary market for similar properties in the relevant market, arguing that for a buyer, purchase of a flat meeting his requirements in the resale market is a perfectly feasible alternative; in their view, if the resale market is included, the market share of developers like DLF would automatically fall, thereby diluting their market power. Likewise, the basis for determining market shares — sales volume or sales value or active stock or perhaps a combination/ permutation of these indices — could be debatable. These issues may give rise to more in-depth economic analysis.

Abuse of dominance is one of the principal categories of violation of competition law. Abuses can be of two types: exclusionary or exploitative. Exclusionary abuses are those where the dominant enterprise allegedly tries to exclude its competitors from the market by, for instance, predatory pricing, denying access, and fidelity rebates. On the other hand, exploitative abuses are those where the dominant enterprise exploits the customer or the consumer. Globally, most abuse cases relate to exclusionary conduct, not exploitative conduct (for example, Microsoft, Akzo, France Telecom). Competition authorities hesitate to pursue exploitative allegations since they are not best-placed to decide, for example, what should be the right price or the right terms and conditions of supply of goods and services — this is more in the realm of sector regulators. (In fact, the establishment of a regulator in real estate could resolve many such issues on an ex ante basis.) The case against DLF is one of exploitative conduct, and experts see it as lying uncertainly along the boundaries of competition law, though admittedly, maximising consumer interest by upholding competition in the markets is a primary goal of competition law. Given this context, the issue also arises about proportionality in the size of the fine in this case.

This very significant order of the CCI sets the stage for a complex legal journey; it may be a while before the curtains are drawn on this interesting development.

The writer heads Dhall Law Chambers and is former chairman, Competition Commission of India








Regardless of whether one agrees with the substance of Anna Hazare's Lokpal bill, we are undoubtedly witnessing a remarkable social movement. The crowds gathering in different parts of the country meet the classic yardsticks of a movement: numbers, symbols, funds, an organisational vanguard, a media strategy, and most of all, a determined defiance of established authority. More often than not, movements derive their power from a heroic defiance of the establishment. In part because of that, they can also transform the mainstream of electoral politics.

Two issues call for intellectual scrutiny. Why has India's urban middle class become the social base of Hazare's movement? And why has this class chosen the route of movement politics led by civil society, as opposed to electoral politics led by political parties?

Urban India and corruption

Corruption afflicts both cities and villages. But corruption consciousness is higher among the urban middle classes. In the nationally representative sample of the recent "State of the Nation" poll conducted by CSDS, 66 per cent of urban India believed that the Central government was corrupt, compared to 58 per cent of rural India. More revealingly, the more educated the person, the higher was the consciousness. Only 49 per cent of the illiterate, as opposed to 71 per cent of all those with college or higher education, were aware of corruption.

It is worth noting that the countryside, where 68 per cent of India currently lives, is not where most of national income is generated. Over two-thirds, perhaps as much as three-fourths, of the nation's GDP is generated in cities where less than a third of the country lives; whereas less than a third, perhaps as little as a fourth, of the country's GDP is produced in the countryside, where over two-thirds of the national population resides.

As a consequence, for politicians, the city has primarily become a site of extraction, and the countryside predominantly a site of legitimacy and power. The countryside is where the vote is; the city is where the money is. Also, much of the post-1991 middle class is reared in the private sector. It encounters the state only when it buys property, applies for a driving licence, birth or death certificate, pays income tax, wants a passport, drives a vehicle or has an accident. These arenas of public life are abjectly corrupt.

We also need to ask why the urban middle class, which has the capacity to pay, resents corruption so much. In a material sense, corruption undoubtedly hurts the poor much more. A ten thousand rupee bribe will not economically diminish a Prashant Bhushan or an Arvind Kejriwal, but it can wipe out a poor person for years. Bhushan and Kejriwal may find the bribe offensive or corrosive of governance, but it is not an unbearable personal damage. Offense, in short, is driving the middle class mobilisation, not material deprivation. The middle class is asserting its citizenship right to get government services without a bribe.

This is consistent with the comparative history of citizenship rights. Citizenship battles premised upon rights-based service delivery have normally been first fought in the cities. The middle class may not necessarily be moved by the plight of the poor, but when it begins to support movements for cleaner governance, the consequences can be positive for the poor as well.

The Urban middle class and civil society

Why have the urban middle classes over the last two decades not voted as much as the urban poor or the rural Indians, opting instead for the media or civil society to express their feelings and interests? If you ask the average middle-class citizen in the Ramlila Maidan, she may not understand the deeper reasons for why the move from electoral politics to civil society came about, and whether that is enough to make a better future.

Universal franchise came to the West only after an industrial revolution had created an urban society. With the partial exception of the United States in the 19th century, India is the first country in world history, which has maintained universal franchise in a predominantly rural setting and without an industrial revolution. Therefore, India's political parties have overwhelmingly focused on the rural electorate, and India's cities have functioned in a primarily rural political universe.

This has generated paradoxes. The rural bias of India's democracy has not made the countryside well-off. Contrariwise, urban politicians hold most cabinet positions in Delhi, but no political party has historically had a significant urban programme or manifesto. The Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission is very new. Indeed, governments that look after cities have come to political grief. After trying to make Bangalore into a Singapore, S.M. Krishna lost power in Karnataka in 2004; the same thing happened in Andhra to Chandrababu Naidu, who sought to turn Hyderabad into a world-class city. Because the electoral logic of Indian politics is so village-heavy, the urban middle class has been gradually withdrawing from the electoral sphere. It recognises the media and civil society as its own spaces, the voting arena as somewhat alien.

The middle class has not yet appreciated that the Lokpal can easily deal with spectacular corruption, but not routine corruption. Routine corruption is more likely to go down if the middle class re-engages politics, starting with urban self-governance. Given the rural emphasis of Indian democracy, village panchayats have received much more attention than municipal governance. Decisions about the city are made not by elected municipalities, but by state and central governments, who are more concerned with the rural vote. If the middle class wants cleaner and better governance, it needs to fight simultaneously for greater powers for municipal governments and greater citizen oversight over them.

India's newest big city, Bangalore, illustrates the problem rather well. Driven by an exceptional IT industry, Bangalore's private incomes have grown phenomenally, perhaps at twice the all-India rate since 1991. But the revenue generated by Bangalore's rising affluence has not come back to the city in any significant proportion. Public amenities have collapsed. A quite lovely town earlier, Bangalore today is an urban nightmare.

The Bangalore narrative also epitomises urban India as a whole. The big exception is Delhi, a city whose public spaces have undoubtedly improved. Delhi is India's only city which is not located in a predominantly rural political setting. Delhi's government responds primarily to an urban electorate.

Before the Hazare movement, the anti-Mandal agitation of 1990 was the last great urban challenge to India's power structure. Despite the self-immolation of several dozen young men, the government did not budge, nor did any political party. The protest simply petered out. The majoritarian logic of electoral politics remained unaltered.

The situation has now changed. India is more urban and more affluent than before. Sometime during 2025-2030, it will also have an urban majority. The urban middle class should use the new political moment to return to electoral politics, but the Hazare movement is so opposed to electoral politics and representative democracy. A reliance on civil society alone will not fix India's governance problems, urban or rural. An anti-corruption Lokpal can only be part of a larger political process.

The writer is a professor at Brown University, and a visiting professor at the Institute of Social and Economic Change in Bangalore. His books include 'Democracy, Development and the Countryside: Urban-Rural Struggles in India'





FROM 2014 TO 2024



From 2014 to 2024

As Washington and Kabul negotiate a strategic partnership agreement, the idea that the US troops will vacate Afghanistan by 2014 is now receding. Gaining ground is the prospect that US will maintain a significant military presence there, including access to a few military facilities, until 2024.

The date, 2014, set by President Barack Obama, concerned ending the "combat role" of US troops in Afghanistan. Implicit in that statement was the proposition that the US will retain a "training mission."

At the end of last June, Obama made it plain that the US will retain capability (read bases) in Afghanistan to target the sources of international terrorism in the region (read Pakistan).

If Kabul does want to be abandoned by Washington in 2014, the US has enough interests of its own to maintain an effective military profile in Afghanistan. The question is of defining mutually acceptable terms for security cooperation between Afghanistan and the United States.

That precisely is what Washington and Kabul have been negotiating in recent months — codifying the nature of bilateral military cooperation after 2014.

In a report from Kabul, The Daily Telegraph (London) quoted the Afghan national security adviser, Rangeen Daftar Spanta, as saying that a substantive US military presence is necessary to train Afghan forces after 2014.

Kabul also wants the US to maintain sufficient airpower and intelligence capabilities to boost ANA's ability to counter the many national security threats facing it. The continued presence of US Special Forces will be seen in Kabul as an insurance against terrorism from across the Durand Line. On the question of bases, Spanta insists that they will be Afghan-controlled and the US will have access to them on terms to be negotiated with Kabul.

The talk of US bases in Afghanistan will inevitably complicate the proposed reconciliation with the Taliban, which has made the withdrawal of all foreign forces as a precondition for any dialogue with Kabul.

Iran has never been too comfortable with the US military presence in Afghanistan and is bound to oppose its extension. A strong American military presence beyond 2014 will complicate the Pakistan army's calculus on extending its influence into Afghanistan. Russia and China are also wary of US bases in Afghanistan.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Washington and Kabul hope to resolve the remaining differences in the draft strategic partnership agreement in the coming weeks and have it ready for signature by December, when the international community meets in Bonn to discuss Afghanistan's future.

India-Russia dialogue

This month marked the 40th anniversary of the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace and Friendship that was signed by the then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Leonid Brezhnev on August 9, 1971.

The treaty was about India redressing an adverse turn in the regional balance of power amidst the Sino-Soviet conflict and the Sino-US rapproachement at the turn of the '70s. The treaty provided critical international support as India prepared to liberate Bangladesh from Pakistan at the end of 1971. India, in turn, did not join the rest of the world in condemning the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at the end of 1979.

The collapse of the USSR saw Delhi and Moscow replace the 1971 treaty, which had explicit mutual security commitments, with a more modest one in 1993. However, as Afghanistan enters a critical phase, ten years after 9/11, India and Russia will need to deepen their dialogue on regional security.

Russia's leverage in Afghanistan is likely to increase, as the northern distribution network running in part through Russian territory begins to reduce the US's logistical dependence on Pakistan. While Moscow demurs on US bases in Afghanistan, it is engaged in a broader "reset" of bilateral relations with Washington.

Gandhara art

An exhibition of Gandhara artifacts from Pakistan has opened to rave reviews at the Asia Society in New York. The exhibition showcases the rich cultural heritage of Pakistan and Afghanistan, at a time when the Taliban and its allies are bent on destroying the region's great inheritance. While the war between the US and the Taliban tends to reinforce the presumed divide between the West and the East, the Gandhara art points in a different direction.

The arrival of Alexander the Great at the Indus in the 4th century BC marked the flowering of an extraordinary cultural intercourse between the Greek and Indian traditions. This "east-west" fusion reached its perfection in the Gandhara art. One hopes the Asia Society, which has a chapter in Mumbai, and the government of Pakistan will find ways to bring the rare Gandhara exhibits to India.

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











Jailed ex-telecom minister A Raja's camp just got another boost. Telecom minister Kapil Sibal's there-was-no-loss statement is routinely trotted out in their defence by most of the scam accused; on Tuesday, DMK MP Kanimozhi showed the judges what she claimed were minutes of a meeting where the PM and then finance minister P Chidambaram said licences didn't need to be auctioned. And now, the telecom regulator (Trai) has done a

U-turn and decided to bat for Sibal's and Raja's zero-loss position. While submitting a report a few days ago to the CBI on valuations for 2G spectrum given out between 2001 and 2008, Trai's covering note says Trai had never ever recommended auctions in even 2007, or any other method to hike the entry fee for the new players.

While this knocks the arguments made by the CAG and CBI, it also flies in the face of the letters written by the then Trai chief Nripendra Misra to Raja—Misra said his August 2007 recommendations were being distorted, that they didn't pertain to bringing in new players anyway. More important, it even contradicts Trai's own affidavit to the Supreme Court in March this year. In that, it had said, "While Trai was not in favour of holding auctions for 2G bands it has nowhere suggested or recommended that the entry fee should be kept pegged at 2001 level". The affidavit then went on to quote from the 2007 recommendation, "It is also a fact that entry fee determination in 2001 does not bear any relationship to present spurt in telecom market ... In today's dynamism and unprecedented growth of telecom sector, the entry fee determined then is also not the realistic price for obtaining a licence. Perhaps, it needs to be reassessed through a market mechanism". After saying this, the March affidavit went on to say, "Based on Trai's recommendation of 2007, the first step should have been to assess the availability of spectrum, to lay down spectrum allocation criteria and pricing methodology as a matter of policy and to place the same in public domain. Thereafter the central government should have sought a specific recommendation from Trai for issuing new licence to a service provider as envisaged by the second and fourth proviso of section 11 (1) of the Trai Act. However, this was not done".

Perhaps Trai will explain the reason for this flip-flop? More important, if Trai has changed its mind on what happened in 2007, it's unfortunate that this should be done in such a hush-hush manner, in the covering note of a report prepared on something else. Had the letter not been reported in the media, even the Supreme Court would never know Trai had changed its stand.







You can't have a bribe-taker without a bribe-giver. So, with the anti-corruption agitation getting more vocal, it's hardly surprising that India Inc is beginning to add its might to it. More so since, many industrialists are losing out to those who have no compunctions giving out bribes. People want accountability, auto giant M&M's Anand Mahindra said on Tuesday, and not just from politicians. Unless India Inc took care, he warned, people will stop buying from brands that don't signify "fairness and shared values". A noble sentiment, no doubt, but as Ratan Tata later pointed out at the same event, it was one that had an immediate cost. It wasn't just the licensing that involved corruption, the same applied to contracts, indeed in renegotiating contracts once they were got—the Tatas are in court against one such contract. While Tata said he would rather forgo such business, the short point is

if India Inc doesn't participate in corruption, it faces an unlevel playing field.

The Lokpal Bill hopes to remove corruption by creating a body to judge cases of corruption that have already happened. Even if that works, it is a retrospective approach, fixing the problem after it has occurred. A more effective approach is to go to the source, and fix the reason for corruption itself. Consider the World Bank's Doing Business 2011 report. It places India at rank 134, behind all the rest of the BRIC nations, not to mention other contenders like Indonesia, Mexico and Singapore (ranked 1).

The government, to be fair, has come up with various solutions which include, for instance, the Ashok Chawla committee's recommendation that all natural resources be auctioned and the Vinod Dhall report on a transparent public procurement policy. But none of these have been implemented as yet. Some state governments have even come up with their versions of public service acts, but there has to be action on them at an all-India level. Removing the incentive for corruption is the only way to effectively control it. A weed is best removed from the roots up.








The Supreme Court's new rules which make it mandatory for journalists covering the court, on even a temporary basis, to have law degrees are probably the most inexplicable set of rules in recent times. Indeed, the Court reserves the right to withdraw the accreditation, whether permanent or temporary, "at any time, without assigning any reason", a blanket power that no other body in India, government or private, seems to have possessed or exercised in recent memory. Not surprising, therefore, that former Chief Justice of India VN Khare questioned the norms—when you report on a matter concerning engineering, he asked, do you as a reporter have an engineering degree, so how many degrees do you need?

The immediate cause appears to be a complaint filed by Vodafone's lawyer Harish Salve who complained to the Court that a PTI reporter had misquoted him on the issue of tax avoidance which is permissible under the law. What happened is unfortunate, but the new rules appear to be a completely wrong solution. For one, it is not Salve's or anyone else's contention that court proceedings are routinely reported incorrectly. This was clearly a one-off mistake, and PTI's lawyer has apologised for the mistake, to Salve, the Court and to Vodafone. And given that the case has hurt PTI's reputation as well, the agency will be more careful in the future. In general, any journalist will tell you, most organisations send their better reporters to places like the Supreme Court, or the finance ministry since there are more important stories to be got here.

Nor is it immediately clear that reporters with legal backgrounds will do a better job. Look at the intricacies of the telecom scandal, for instance, and all the debate over whether Trai had in fact recommended an auction or not (see FE's edit today "Trai bats for Raja"), and the 2003 Cabinet decision on the matter, or whether it was the NDA or the UPA that first got it wrong … the list of intricacies goes on. It is certain telecom reporters would do a far better job of reporting the Court proceedings than just reporters with a law degree. That, by the way, is also the reason why even the best of lawyers get detailed briefings by clients before they go to argue their cases—the lawyers know the law, but that doesn't help unless they bone up on the facts/arguments that matter.

Since only one side wins a case, this means half the lawyers who appear

in courts get it wrong. Are we saying some kind of screening needs to be done for lawyers?

Think of the consequences of the rule, as others get persuaded to implement it as well. In 2005, when Business Standard's TN Ninan asked the finance minister what he thought was a discrepancy in the Budget, P Chidambaram loftily told him that "most people who read the Finance Bill are not lawyers. I am not blaming them for this ..." When Ninan told him corporates who had read the Budget papers also shared his concern, Chidambaram added, "Precisely. They do not know how to the read the Bill..." Chidambaram never decreed that only lawyers should write about the Budget, but just think of what happens if others start dreaming up similar conditions to restrict media coverage. Only journalists who agree there was no telecom scam will be allowed to attend Kapil Sibal's press conferences … !

Or take some recent Court judgments. One of them, on the rights of sewerage workers, goes on to say that sugar barons and alcohol kings "fatten their purses by exploiting the consuming public"; later it talks of their highly-paid lawyers ("paid in four or five figures per day") fighting to uphold their clients' "right to exploit" under the guise of a "fundamental right". Is this judgment to be applauded for its basic argument, that sewerage workers have to be given protective gear and better working conditions? Or should it be rejected for the innocence the judges have displayed about free enterprises and socialism? Are we saying that judges need to have a degree in basic economics or an MBA before they examine matters that pertain to business or the economy?

That would be defeating the purpose. A judge is meant to be an expert on the law, not an economist or a chartered accountant, or a sociologist for that matter. What the journalist studies, by the same reckoning, is not as

important as his/her ability to report correctly, to understand and analyse the issues at stake. What's being given is a prison sentence when all that's required is a slap on the wrist.







India's banks have begun sending out warning signals that a credit crisis worse than the one in 2008 could be just around the corner, according to analysts, bankers and credit rating agencies.

Non-performing assets are on the rise and have started showing up on Indian banks' balance sheets. A lethal cocktail of record-high commodity prices, interest rates spiralling upward, weak markets and fear of a

double-dip recession in developed economies has forced many Indian companies to restructure or default on their debt.

Indian banks have historically been well capitalised and were resilient through the credit crunch that led to the collapse of banking behemoths Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. However, for the first time since 2009, Asia's third-largest economy is set to slow. The government recently cut its growth forecast to 8.2% for the fiscal year to March 2012, from 9%.

Analysts warn that unlike 2008, this time round the economic slowdown comes at a time when banks have already been piling up bad loans, putting extra stress on their balance sheets.

"We now think that the risk of asset quality issues arising in the banking sector has increased," says Chetan Ahya, an economist at Morgan Stanley. A "slowdown in sectors such as real estate has already added to the concerns of a potential further rise in asset

quality issues. There are (also) early-stage concerns on loan book quality

issues for sectors such as non-banking financial companies and infrastructure".

A recent report by

IDFC Securities suggests at least 17% of Indian banks' outstanding loan assets could be on the verge of default. "Stubborn inflation, a spurt in interest rates and a slower economy are straining India Inc's debt-servicing capacity," it says.

Crisil, the Indian rating agency owned by Standard & Poor's, expects overall bad loans held by Indian banks to rise from 2.3% of their portfolio in the fiscal year ending March 2011 to 2.6% in the year ending in March 2012. That would exceed the 2.4% hit during the crisis in 2008, and several independent analysts believe it could be significantly higher particularly in the small and midsize corporate lending sector.

The Reserve Bank of India, which has raised interest rates 11 times in the past 18 months as it seeks to tame rampant inflation and is expected to push them up again in September, has also expressed concern about worsening credit conditions.

Following a series of stress tests earlier this year assessing banks' ability to withstand a fresh financial crisis, the central bank has asked lenders to set aside more cash for bad loans and to double provisions for restructured debt, after warning that non-performing assets could rise by 25% this year to 2.92% of total portfolios. By comparison, bad loans at US banks last year stood at 3% of total loans, according to Moody's data.

MD Mallya, chairman of the Indian Banks' Association, says rising interest rates pose serious risks to the banking sector: "We will see further stress on asset quality due to (rising) interest rates," he told the Financial Times.

India Infoline, a Mumbai-based brokerage, expects restructured debt to rise to about 3.5% of

total outstanding loans, to R1,100bn-R2,300bn ($24bn-$50bn), in the year ending in March 2013. They are currently estimated to be 2.7% of total loan assets, according to Morgan Stanley data. "The asset quality of (Indian) banks is a growing concern," says Rajiv Mehta, a banking analyst at India Infoline, predicting a sharp increase in bad loans with public sector banks "the worst hit".

State Bank of India, the country's largest lender by market capitalisation, this month reported a steeper-than-expected 46% drop in first quarter net profit due to a 75% rise in loan provisions.

Worsening credit conditions have also increased the cost of insuring Indian banks' debt. Spreads for SBI's five-year credit-default swaps have widened more than 80 basis points this year to 245 basis points as of this week, the widest since July 2010, according to data provider CMA.

The current global macro economic troubles do not bode well for the sector, says Mr Mehta. "We expect more banks to follow SBI by increasing their loan provisions as we expect non-performing loans to shoot up for some time … it's not going to get better any time soon."

However, the picture is not all doom and gloom. "Indian banks have shown resilience in the past and although bad loans are growing we are not in a panic situation," says Mr Mallya, who also heads Bank of Baroda, one of India's largest banks by revenue. "Companies are defaulting but we can manage it for the time being."

© The Financial Times Limited 2011









A few photographs and a couple of sketchy statements are all that we have about a meeting between Myanmar's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein. State-run television said both parties put aside their differences and "discussed common interests and areas of potential cooperation for the benefit of the state and the people." Ms Suu Kyi reportedly said she was "happy and satisfied" with the meeting. A day after the meeting, the Nobel laureate travelled to Naypitaw — the new capital the junta raised a few years ago in the middle of a jungle — to attend a government workshop on economic development, where she met Ministers and other ruling party luminaries. There are indications that the government, run by the nominally civilian proxies of the erstwhile junta, wants to be seen as offering an olive branch to its chief adversary. In turn, perhaps influenced by the great example of Nelson Mandela, Ms Suu Kyi has been conciliatory without compromising her cause. In one of her first statements, after release from nearly two decades of house arrest in November 2010, she expressed a desire to open a dialogue with the generals of Myanmar. The military greeted this first with stony silence and later warned her against involvement in political activity.

In recent weeks, the regime has shown signs of loosening up. Ms Suu Kyi has been able to make an unobstructed trip out of Yangon to the countryside, receiving a warm welcome from people. She also released "open letters," asserting her views on two important political issues: the big dams being constructed on the Irrawaddy and the problems these are causing to the ethnic groups in those areas; and the need for the government to declare a ceasefire with armed ethnic rebels and reach out to them through dialogue. The government has responded by expressing its readiness to hold peace talks with the rebels. Most recently, the President told parliament that he was trying to "ease tensions" with opposition groups that had not accepted the 2008 Constitution — a clear reference to Ms Suu Kyi and her National League of Democracy. The regime may have calculated that reaching out to the democracy icon could help ease economic sanctions by western countries. For her part, Ms Suu Kyi may be considering the opportunities the situation presents to force concessions from the regime. Over 2,000 activists of the NLD remain under arrest, and the party itself was derecognised before this year's election. The people of India are with this brave woman in a cause for which she has sacrificed so much — a genuinely democratic Myanmar that can take its place in the comity of nations.






The Planning Commission, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has fixed an average growth target of 9 per cent for the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17), the same as the one set for the 11th (2007-12). The identical growth targets for the two successive plans ought not to hide the fact that there have been changes in the macroeconomic environment in the meantime. It is not that that India's growth trajectory that looked very promising — at one point in time the Prime Minister was visualising a double digit growth rate — has suddenly nose-dived. Rather, it is a change in the sentiment both within the country and outside that has made the achievement of a 9 per cent growth look daunting and contingent on the government taking some "difficult decisions." Economic growth in the United States and Europe has petered out and there is a real danger of major economies slipping into another recession. India's growth slowed to 6.7 per cent in 2008-09 after exceeding 9 per cent for three consecutive years. Since then, it has ranged between 8 per cent and 8.5 per cent, which is still respectable in relation to what obtains in most other countries.

Yet the outlook for the current year has changed for the worse in the eyes of most forecasters. It is not just the external environment, but also the policy drift and indecision in government in recent months that have dampened sentiment. Improving governance will be a critical and necessary condition for growth to accelerate. Unfortunately the Planning Commission has been silent on the many issues that are crying out for reform. The approach paper ought to have been the forum for initiating debates on the more politically difficult subjects of reform. Fiscal consolidation, achieving a sustainable balance of payments position, and boosting productivity in agriculture and industry have remained unexceptionable goals. Fiscal prudence is absolutely necessary for long-term stability without which higher growth rates are not possible. Although the size of the current account deficit is estimated to be well within the prudential range of 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent of the GDP, the financing requirements are large, and at the current juncture, policymakers cannot take capital inflows for granted. Finally, monetary measures to curb the persistent inflation will necessarily entail sacrificing some of the growth momentum, at least over the short-term. Will the targeted 9 per cent growth be as elusive as the double digit growth was during the 11th Plan?








When a new government finally takes hold in Libya, it will have every incentive to get oil production back up and running. But if history is any guide, that task will not be as simple as restarting oil wells and reopening pipelines.

Revolutionary changes in Iran and Iraq set back their oil industries for decades, and President Hugo Chávez has struggled to stabilise oil production over the last decade of radical change in Venezuela. Even relatively peaceful, democratic revolutions can cause great disruptions: the collapse of the Soviet Union sent Russian oil production crashing for years.

World supplies

Libya's oil production has been at a virtual standstill since the rebellion against the Qadhafi regime began in February, paralysing an industry that produced 95 per cent of the country's export earnings last year. The country is pumping an estimated 60,000 barrels a day, instead of its usual 1.6 million barrels. The rebels promise to restore full production within months, but most international experts say it will take at least a year and probably several more to return the country to production levels from before the civil war.

"History shows it's a big, complex job running an oil industry in a time of complete uncertainty about who is in charge," said Daniel Yergin, the oil historian and chairman of IHS Cera, an energy consultancy. "The very first thing they have to figure out is what damage has been done and who will run the industry. Then the new government will inevitably review all the existing contracts and relationships."

At stake is not only the financial health of the new government and its people, but also world oil supplies. Before the civil war, Libya each day exported 1.3 million barrels of the high-quality crude that many European refineries depend on. The collapse of its exports helped drive world oil prices to their highest levels since 2008. Libya's oil industry was in sad shape even before the revolt. When Col. Muammar el-Qadhafi seized power in a coup in 1969, Libya produced more than double the amount of oil that it did last year. Swings in oil policy, political cronyism at the State oil company, international sanctions and uneasy relations with foreign oil companies have kept Libyan oil fields and refineries from producing at their peak potential, and the damage could take years to fix.

Among the most urgent tasks of the new government will be how to remake the national oil company into a professional bureaucracy and negotiate new relations with companies like Eni, of Italy, and Repsol YPF, of Spain, while balancing the benefits that will be distributed to competing tribes and regions.

A recent research report by Wood Mackenzie, a consultancy, predicted it would take 36 months for Libya to recover its full pre-conflict production capacity once the fighting ends. "This depends on the scale of damage to oil infrastructure being limited, swift removal of international sanctions and the timely return of international oil companies and foreign workers," the report said.

Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Egypt

Even that estimate could be optimistic. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, American officials hoped that oil production could pay for reconstruction of the country. But it took eight years to return the country to production levels from before the invasion. Meanwhile, the 2.7 million barrels a day Iraq now produces is still nearly 20 per cent below the level before Saddam Hussein seized power in 1979, as years of war, inept oil field management and sanctions took their toll.

Iran's record through its 30 years of revolution and war with Iraq is even more discouraging. Within three years of the 1979 toppling of the Shah, the country's oil production collapsed from six million barrels a day to one million barrels. Iran has struggled to recover ever since and now produces roughly four million barrels a day.

In Venezuela, President Chávez dismissed 17,000 employees after a strike at the national oil company and nationalised petroleum fields managed by international oil companies. The result has been a decline in production to 2.2 million barrels a day, from 3.5 million barrels a day in 1998.

Each country offers different lessons, of course, and it is unlikely that the emerging Libyan government will become embroiled in a war with its neighbours or have to deal with an invading army. The new government, which will take power with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) support, will undoubtedly have a warmer relationship with the United States than the Venezuelan government has had in recent years.

"This could be different," said Michael A. Levi, an energy fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Most of the prior cases were regimes that moved from being open to the world to being more closed, and the rest of the world often shut them off. No one expects the new Libyan regime to be shunned by the rest of the world."

Nevertheless, there is little reason to think Libya is going to have an easy time rebuilding its oil production.

The repeated bombing of an Egyptian pipeline that provides natural gas to Israel has shown that energy infrastructure is an appealing and easy target for dissidents unhappy with the outcome of a revolution, and it is unlikely that the new Libyan government will please everybody.

And reductions in oil production following the downfalls of autocratic governments in Indonesia and Mexico in recent years show that political reform does not automatically go hand in hand with increased oil production. In fact, oil production collapsed in Russia after the democracy movement ended the Soviet regime, and it has only recovered in recent years under more authoritarian rule.

"Democracy does not necessarily bring higher oil production," said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert at Rice University. "The politics of competing political coalitions can slow the investment process, siphon off funds from industry and hinder decision-making on complex technical projects." — © New York Time





The downfall of a dictator is always welcome. Especially welcome is the downfall of Qadhafi of Libya. He was not the worst of his genre, but for 42 years was the beneficiary of the crassest western intervention, veering between ineffective sanctions and ostracism and Tony Blair's cringing, oil-drenched "friendship." More welcome still would have been his downfall clearly at the hands of his own people, not courtesy of western armies.

The odds on mayhem after revolution are always high, and the pressure on those who aided revolution to forestall mayhem is intense. Libya on August 23 was fit only for Churchill's cautious remark about the same place in 1942, that the defeat of Rommel's army was not the beginning of the end but "perhaps the end of the beginning." The British and French governments have been accused of excessive optimism over the summer, and are wisely avoiding Bush's "mission accomplished" boast in Iraq. Nothing is for sure until a peaceful, democratic government is in place, and that is far from being the case.

The intervention

The mission creep of intervention in Libya has been a classic. Britain and France said they were establishing a no-fly zone "to save Benghazi" from putative attack, and soon found themselves taking sides in a civil war. This escalated into a bombing campaign against Tripoli to "defend the lives of the Libyan people," and then into a claim that this was impossible without toppling, and even possibly assassinating, Qadhafi . Likewise did British and American troops go into Iraq merely to "find weapons of mass destruction," and into Afghanistan merely to "eliminate al-Qaeda bases." There would be no North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces on the ground in Libya, then only special forces, then a complete panoply of close air-support for Benghazi troops — and now, British defence sources admit that troops may be necessary to "help keep order."

David Cameron, who has clearly been prime mover of the NATO initiative in Libya, must understandably feel satisfied at the current turn of events. It is too early to assess fully his strategy. He is undoubtedly lucky, so far, that his illegal attempt to kill Qadhafi and his family from the air has not succeeded, for it would have yielded an anti-western backlash across the Muslim world. As in Baghdad and Belgrade, the psychological "terror" bombing of civilian targets in big cities probably did little beyond winning Qadhafi some sympathy and even admiration in the eyes of his followers. But on the battlefield the RAF has been the Benghazi air force in all but name. Close support for the rebel advance on Tripoli appears to have been crucial, opening up the coast road and making counter-attack by Qadhafi 's troops near impossible.

Cameron has been out on his own in this, with only the maverick Nicolas Sarkozy for company. But he can plead he's deftly walked the narrow line between too little intervention and too much. He stood out against both Washington and most of Europe in the rebel cause. He kept British assistance covert — so far. He backed a putative winner in Libya's national transitional council, and now has a massive vested interest in its triumph and security. After five months of bad news, he can sense the surge of relief that comes with the first part of the mission apparently on brink of achievement.

Lessons of Iraq

Now begins the hard part. It has become a cliche that Libya "needs to learn the lessons of Iraq." All such interventions, in Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, share the features of drawn-out mission creep followed by clarity in battle that is somehow lost in shambolic occupation. Winning the precondition for a coup is not the same as the securing a revolution, let alone a democratic one. Soldiers propose but politicians must dispose. Cameron is now at his Lawrence of Arabia moment, standing triumphant at the gates of Damascus. Like Lawrence, he is at the mercy of local forces he has unleashed but cannot command or contain.

Britain and France can hardly back off by not offering aid, advisers, logistical support and possibly troops to Tripoli to keep order and his faction out of power. Neither Tunisia nor Egypt played any part in this operation, proud that their revolutions were autonomous and untainted by western aid. Tripoli is as dependent on Britain as Britain on Tripoli. If Cameron wants to take credit for the removal of Qadhafi then he cannot avoid responsibility for the aftermath. Yet that responsibility strips a new regime of home-grown legitimacy and strength. This is the classic paradox of liberal interventionism.

So do this week's events justify Britain's Libya intervention? No, however churlish it may be to say so at this point. Nor would success in Libya justify attacking Syria, Yemen, Bahrain or Egypt, should the last turn sour. The Libyan adventure, its apologists point out, was tactically easy, and even that took five months and cost Britain hundreds of millions of pounds. Libya has a small population and is rich. If it now becomes a puppet oil state in the manner of the Gulf, it may be governable as an outpost of western interests, but it will become the same magnet for anti-western forces as was Iraq and Lebanon before it.

The U.N. basis for the intervention, supposedly to prevent "massacre in Benghazi," showed how tenuous was the case for British aggression to achieve regime change. Britons might fervently will freedom on Libyans, as on Egyptians and Syrians, but how these people achieve it is their business, not Britain's. The more we make it our business, the less robust their liberation will be.

Britain remains enmeshed in the Muslim world. It made a mess of Iraq and is trapped in Afghanistan. It hardly needs another costly and embarrassing client state to look after in this surge of neo-imperial do-goodery. We may applaud the chance of freedom about to be granted to a lucky group of oppressed people, but that doesn't justify the means by which it is achieved: in another fury of great-power aggression. The truth is that Qadhafi 's downfall, like his earlier propping up, will have been Britain's doing. A new Libyan regime will be less legitimate and less secure as a result. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

We may all applaud Qadhafi 's downfall, but it remains the case that Britain's intervention in Libya was wrong.





There has been an outpouring of support all over the country in favour of the fast conducted by Anna Hazare for the Jan Lokpal Bill. The agitation has found support predominantly from the urban middle classes and a substantial section of youth belonging to the strata. There is no doubt that since the first hunger strike launched by Anna Hazare in April, the anti-corruption movement has gained momentum.

The attitude of the United Progressive Alliance government and its failure to tackle corruption, have fuelled widespread anger. Firstly, the government is seen as being complicit in corruption. This has been the most corrupt government in the history of independent India. The paradox of a "clean" Prime Minister heading such a government has sunk into the consciousness of the urban middle classes.

The manner in which Ministers in the government defended the corrupt practices indulged in as a part of the 2G spectrum allocation, stating that there was zero loss of revenue for the government, confirmed the fears of many people that this government, steeped in corruption as it is, cannot take any meaningful action on this front. In all the cases – whether it be those related to the allocation of 2G spectrum or the conduct of the Commonwealth Games – agencies independent of the government, that is, the Supreme Court of India or, the Comptroller and Auditor General, were the ones that spurred the Central Bureau of Investigation into action to investigate and prosecute the guilty.

The problem has been compounded by the government's act of introducing a Lokpal Bill that is weak and ineffective. The Prime Minister is excluded from the purview of the Lokpal. The method of appointment of the Lokpal will not make it an independent authority. A Lokpal set up under the provisions of this Bill would be unable to act independently. There are no provisions for the Lokpal to act against corporates and business enterprises that indulge in corrupt practices in relation to the government.

Secondly, the UPA government and the Congress leadership were in the dock for the manner in which Anna Hazare and his colleagues were arrested on the morning of August 16, even before the hunger strike was launched. The irony of a corrupt government putting an anti-corruption crusader in Tihar jail was not lost on the people. The brazen attack on the democratic rights of citizens to protest peacefully, isolated the government among the people and inside Parliament.

The ruling party decried the Hazare-led movement as an attack on Parliament and democratic institutions. Its leaders claimed that since the government has introduced a Bill in Parliament, any agitation against it is an attack on Parliament. This is specious reasoning. Political parties and citizens' organisations have the right to oppose and agitate against any bill introduced in Parliament. The Left parties and the trade unions have opposed many bills which were anti-working class, and organised protest actions and struggles against them. Strikes have taken place against proposed legislation that seeks to liberalise the financial sector in the areas of insurance and banking.

Even the Congress opposed the Prevention of Terrorism Bill that was introduced in Parliament in 2002 by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government. The Congress continued to oppose the legislation even after its enactment, and demanded its withdrawal.

Corruption has become a major issue and people are increasingly becoming conscious and determined to fight it. But there is need for a proper understanding of the causes for the rampant corruption that has affected all spheres of public life. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has set out its understanding of the present malaise of corruption, the causes and the effects.

In the last two decades, with the advent of liberalisation and the neo-liberal policies, high-level corruption has become institutionalised. The neo-liberal regime has led to an exponential rise in corruption. Much of this corruption stems from the big business-ruling politician-bureaucratic nexus which has been established.

We have seen how, in the seven years of the UPA government and the earlier six years of the NDA government, policy-making has been suborned to serve the interests of big business; how privatisation and the loot of natural resources are facilitated by this nexus in operation; how the UPA government has pandered to big business – Indian and foreign – by putting in place policies and mechanisms to facilitate the transfer of resources such as land, minerals, natural gas and so on to business barons. The neo-liberal regime has affected the political system with big capital holding sway. Increasingly, politics is being converted into a business, and business is conducted through politics.

The fight against high-level corruption, therefore, requires a multi-pronged effort. There has to be an effective Lokpal authority; there has to be electoral reforms to curb money power for politics; there has to be a distinct mechanism to curb corruption in the higher judiciary through separate legislation; there has to be firm measures to unearth black money and crack down on those who have stashed away illegal money abroad in tax havens. Above all, the features of the neo-liberal regime, which encourage accumulation of capital through corrupt means and facilitate the loot of natural resources by big business, should be ended.

The main source of support for the Hazare-led movement is the urban middle class. Many of them were supporters of the liberalisation policies and the reforms ushered in by the Manmohan Singh government. Now plagued by corruption, they want a messiah to get rid of the corruption that constantly affects their daily life. They would like corruption to end, while maintaining the economic regime that has conferred certain benefits on them. Hence they are unable to see the organic link between the neo-liberal policies and the corruption that has been engendered.

The middle class propensity to be anti-political, to blame all politicians and to hold Parliament in contempt, are all on display in the Anna Hazare movement. The constant harping against all political parties and the setting of unilateral deadlines for Parliament to act have raised apprehensions about their intent and commitment to democratic values. This has only detracted from the rightness of the cause and the popular support it has evoked.

There is legitimate anger against the plutocracy that has come to dominate the political system. But this plutocracy and the corrupt nexus cannot be fought by targeting political parties and concentrating fire only on the petty corruption that citizens face in their daily lives. Given the amorphous nature of the movement that has gathered around Anna Hazare, the right-wing forces, including the corporate media, seek to support and direct the movement away from the focus on the fountainhead of corruption. There is a constant masking of the real causes of corruption in society. In a poll conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, published recently in The Hindu , to a question 'who is the most corrupt,' 32 per cent of those surveyed said government employees were the most corrupt; 43 per cent said elected representatives were the most corrupt; and only 3 per cent thought businessmen and industrialists were the most corrupt. This is the dominant opinion among the middle classes.

In every major corruption scandal in the recent period, there was big business or corporates involved in the act of corrupting public servants – whether they were Ministers or civil servants. In the irregularities involved in the 2G spectrum allocation, the Commonwealth Games and the Krishna-Godavari basin gas contract, the hidden hand of big business exists. The government's Lokpal Bill does not address this issue at all. The Jan Lokpal bill at least has clauses providing for the cancellation of contracts, and imposition of penalties on business found to have been illegally obtained by them. But the thrust of the anti-corruption movement, by and large, misses this main factor.

While a set of measures has to be taken to tackle the problem of corruption, right now the issue is the setting up of a strong Lokpal authority. The government's Lokpal Bill has been rejected by large sections of the people; and it is not acceptable to most of the Opposition parties. In such a situation, the government should retract from its stand.

After eight days of the fast by Anna Hazare, the government has bowed down to public pressure and initiated talks with the representatives of the Hazare group. This is a welcome development. Hopefully, this will lead to a fresh or modified bill that can pave the way for an effective Lokpal.

(Prakash Karat is the general secretary of the Communist Party of India - Marxist.)

The Anna Hazare fast has seen an outpouring of support across the country. The government Lokpal Bill is unacceptable. A fresh Bill is needed for an effective Lokpal.






One hundred and fifty years ago, in 1861, the Bombay High Court was established under the Indian High Courts Act, 1861, of the British Parliament. It abolished the old Supreme Court and the East India Company Courts and merged them in a new High Court. For these 150 years, the Bombay High Court has been India's premier High Court. It has yielded illustrious judges and lawyers who not only contributed to its own great standing but after Independence also contributed to the prestige of the Supreme Court of India.

The High Court's contribution to the law, jurisprudence and administration of justice has been immense. It was, therefore, with pride and satisfaction that on August 14, 2011, a number of distinguished judges and lawyers of the Supreme Court and the High Court, and Ministers of the State and Central governments, assembled in the famous Central Hall of the Bombay High Court to commemorate the 150th year of the High Court.


The Bombay High Court began functioning on August 14, 1862, with no pomp or ceremony, in the modest building of the old Supreme Court house. All that occurred on that historic occasion was an unpretentious declaration made by the English judges: "The judges appointed by the Charter of the High Court would seat as judges of the High Court from 11 a.m. till 2 p.m." Thus began the historic life of this High Court. It was presided over by its first Chief Justice, Sir Mathew Sausse. He believed in such total detachment from the government and the public, and isolated himself to do justice, that he was known as "Sausse the Silent."

A succession of 12 distinguished English Chief Justices followed him. The last British Chief Justice, Sir Leonard Stone, retired at midnight on August 14, 1947, after unfurling and saluting the Indian national flag in the High Court, with a gracious speech. He was succeeded by M.C. Chagla, the first Indian Chief Justice. He occupied that office with great distinction for 11 years. On the request of Jawaharlal Nehru he resigned, to become India's Ambassador to the United States.

The construction of the vast and magnificent Gothic-style building of the Bombay High Court, situated opposite the Oval playground, was started in 1873 and completed in 1879. The foundation tablet records that it was built at an incredibly low cost of Rs.16,44,528, which was below its estimated cost. The first sitting here was held on January 10, 1879. Its court rooms and corridors are spacious. It also has comical figures of monkey judges and fox advocates, wearing lawyer's bands with one eye blind-folded, peeping from the top of pillars. This was said to be the mischievous work of a disgruntled sub-contractor, a Parsi, who avenged himself on law and justice by libelling the lawyers and judges of the High Court. But the true symbol of justice is the stone statue of the Goddess of Justice on a tall tower of the building. She has both eyes blind-folded, to signify that justice is blind, with a sword in one hand and scales of justice meticulously balanced in the other.

Many famous trials and cases have been conducted in this historic court. Lokmanya Tilak was tried thrice for seditious writing in the Central Hall. On the second of his trials in 1909, when the jury returned a verdict of guilty and he was sentenced for six years in jail, he said the famous words that are today inscribed at the entrance to the Central Court: "All that I wish to say is that, in spite of the verdict of the jury, I still maintain that I am innocent. There are higher powers that rule the destinies of men and nations; and I think, it may be the will of Providence that the cause I represent may be benefited more by my suffering than by my pen and tongue."

There were some outstanding Indian judges of the Bombay High Court before Independence, such as Badruddin Tyabji, Mahadev Govind Ranade, Kashinath Trimbak Telang and Narayan Ganesh Chandavarkar. They were not only erudite lawyers but also academicians and political thinkers known for their broad and liberal outlook. One instance to show this was the moving tribute paid by Badruddin Tyabji to his brother-judge Ranade on his death. He quoted the lines of Urfi, the court-poet of Emperor Jehangir: "Live thy life in such a manner that, on thy death, the Mussalman may wash thy body with the sacred waters of Zamzamat at Mecca and the Hindu may burn it on the holy ghats at Kashi."

Making a mark

Amongst the lawyers who made their mark in the High Court were Sir Phirozshah Mehta, who was also a public figure, Bhulabhai Desai, K.M. Munshi, M.R. Jayakar, who later became a judge of the Federal Court and the Privy Council, and Sir Dinshaw Mulla, a writer of law books which are used even today. M.A. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was a fighting advocate in the Bombay High Court known for his blunt advocacy. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a lawyer with a good knowledge of Constitutional Law, was later the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution of India. Sir Jamshedji Kanga was the doyen of the Bar for many years. From his chambers were groomed distinguished lawyers such as H.M. Seervai, the leading constitutional expert, and Nani Palkhiwala, the country's most versatile and eloquent advocate.

The Supreme Court's first Chief Justice of India in 1950 was Sir Hiralal Kania from the Bombay High Court. Since then, a succession of distinguished Chief Justices of the Supreme Court have come from the Bombay High Court — including the present Chief Justice of India, S.H. Kapadia. The first law officers of the Government of India hailed from the Bombay High Court. Sir N.P. Engineer was the first Advocate-General of India; M.C. Setalvad was the first Attorney-General of India, and C.K. Daphtary, the first Solicitor-General of India. Even later, distinguished lawyers from the Bombay High Court have been the law officers of the Union government in the Supreme Court. No single High Court has had such an eminent array of persons from the Bar and the Bench as the Bombay High Court has had.

The Bombay High Court has passed through many vicissitudes in its 150 years. So long as those who work in and for it are conscious of its high traditions and connections, it will retain its stature — for in the words of the Bible, it was founded on Rock.

( The writer, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, is a former Solicitor-General of India and Advocate-General of Maharashtra .)

The Bombay High Court has yielded illustrious judges and lawyers who contributed not only to its own standing but also to the prestige of the Supreme Court of India.







In political circles, there is agreement so far only on the premise that the government, and some of the more daft elements in the Congress who occasionally betray signs of thinking that shooting your way out of trouble is the only way for a ruling party, have bungled in dealing with the issues posed by the mass mobilisation brought about by Anna Hazare on fighting corruption. This is true, but all too pat. It is also a touch self-serving as far as the non-Congress parties are concerned.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's letter to Mr Hazare on Tuesday, in which he urged a consensus on provisions to be adopted in respect of the proposed Lokpal legislation while reassuring the eminent campaigner that he was on the same side as the anti-corruption campaign, is regrettably glossed over in what appears to be a discourse of convenience. The letter did set in motion backroom negotiations, and conversations between the opponents, paving the way for Wednesday's all-party meeting held at the government's initiative to locate a modus vivendi to cope with the difficult political situation that has been thrown up. However, a consensus eluded the political class on the way forward, although Mr Hazare's health parameters are a cause for worry in the wake of his prolonged fast.
The situation is likely to turn markedly grim should the worst-case scenario materialise. Nevertheless, the parties in Parliament appeared to have played straightforward party politics, possibly with a view to leaving the ruling party isolated. Perhaps they reckon this would increase Congress' vulnerability in coping with the current impasse, and eventually benefit them when elections come. Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani's demand that the Manmohan Singh government throw in the towel and call for a mid-term poll is suggestive in this context. The only thing on which the all-party meeting could show unanimity was in expressing solicitude for Mr Hazare's health. They urged him to give up his fast.
On current form, the protest veteran and his messianic team are unlikely to be impressed. Perhaps the Prime Minister should make a statement in Parliament soon, after conferring with the Hazare group on the scope for expanding the area of agreement between the government's Lokpal Bill and that of the protest movement, while urging consideration of other alternatives. It is also important to persuade Mr Hazare that the August 30 deadline set by him to pass a new law will not pass muster in Parliament, given the mood at the all-party confabulation. In any case, deadline threats will not yield a good, reasonable law.







For the first time, the UPA government, after floundering for an apt response to the challenge thrown by Anna Hazare and his team members, has come up with a political counter-move. So far the government — in reality the Congress — has advanced either narrow technical arguments or spoken in generalities or taken a series of missteps, ranging from disallowing a hungerstrike to foolishly arresting Mr Hazare and taking him to Tihar Jail, thus further enhancing a frail old man's martyrdom appeal. The crowds have only increased, the pitch of the protest only getting louder.

Bringing in Pranab Mukherjee, the party's man for all seasons, shows there is recognition that this crisis requires a politician of the old school, not a technocrat who can make a PowerPoint presentation or speak well on television. There is no guarantee that this move will necessarily pay off, especially since the Anna camp is already coming up with newer objections ("want assurances in writing", etc), but at least the party recognises that sager political minds are required now.
For, when all is said and done, this entire agitation is about politics.
No matter what the driven and righteous Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi say, no matter the fine technical points offered by Prashant Bhushan and notwithstanding the fashion-conscious hordes who want nothing to do with politics or politicians; politics is at the heart of the Anna Hazare crusade.
The deep antipathy towards the Congress has of course played a part. The Bhushans are veteran socialists and it is now clear that the Sangh Parivar has sent out its cadre to boost the crowds. This combination has worked together in the past, first in the early and mid-1970s with Jayaprakash Narayan and then with V.P. Singh in the 1980s (both also sit together in the government in Bihar.)
But this is politics of a more fundamental kind. Here the protest leaders, who comprise the strategic team of the movement, have a clear-eyed vision of what they want. The Jan Lokpal Bill is of course the immediate objective, but it is not the only one.
They will not stop at merely getting their version of the bill passed, assuming it passes muster in Parliament, which may or may not happen. The ultimate goal is much, much bigger.
Some clues are visible in the statements that have been made. The contempt that Team Anna has for Parliament is fairly visible in all the talk of "people power" being bigger than the legislature.
But now we are also hearing about the need for a referendum and for direct, participatory democracy. The message coming through is this: the parliamentary system is slow and compromised; politicians are venal and corrupt; therefore, not only do they need to be supervised by a large, extra constitutional bureaucracy but should also bow to "people power" as expressed by street protests, petitions etc. As for the Constitution — well, it is no longer a relevant document and can be amended.
Such ideas are hardly new. In the 1970s, JP spoke of "Total Democracy" which rested on small administrative units all over the country which would be self-sufficient and autonomous and would run the country.
The Centre, he argued, was there only to intercede in the bigger matters. Many of his well-wishers warned him that nothing should be done to side-step the Constitution, but he even called out for soldiers to lay down their arms.
Strangely, a similar idea had been proposed by Gen. Ayub Khan in Pakistan in 1960. "Basic democracy", as it was called, envisaged the setting up of local self-governing bodies that would conduct local affairs. A national referendum was held that "chose" him as the President.
There are of course differences between those ideas and the current agitation, but the basic premise is similar; the Constitution is not supreme and its legislative expression, Parliament, cannot be seen as the will of the people. Instead, the country shall be administered by a group of wise men and women, of unimpeachable character (Magsaysay winners, for example).
Many intellectuals and analysts have been pointing this out for some time but their voices get lost in the din.
But now the dalits and Muslims have fully grasped what this agitation means. If carried through to its logical conclusion, it will take away even the few protections they have under our fine Constitution. They have spotted the upper caste, communal thrust to the anti-corruption crusade and have stayed away from it. This is the "war of the comfortable" who want to keep the marginal elements out of India's expanding economic pie. Creating a monster that will be judge, jury and executioner will be one step — a big one, but just one — towards that goal.
An astute politician like Mr Mukherjee, with his vast experience and sense of history is someone who is expected to fully understand the implications and goals of this crusade.
Gradually, the tide of public opinion is turning against the inflexible protest leaders. Political parties too are wary of the Jan Lokpal Bill. It will still be a long haul and the government will have to play it carefully, but the endgame has begun.







The civil war in Libya is inching towards its denouement. The tumultuous scenes in Tripoli have led many observers to conclude that the Arab Spring will stretch into winter. Such a conclusion may be hasty. Even as the Libyan crisis seems near an end, the impasse in Syria poses a festering danger. The two crises are linked — not just in their origins but also in their development. Moreover, unlike Libya the crisis in Syria could touch off a wider regional crisis.


India needs to pay attention to the evolving situation, because of its presence on the United Nations Security Council and because of its substantial interests in this part of the world.

According to the UN Commission for Human Rights, over 2,200 people have been killed in Syria since the protests broke out in March. The UNSC, however, is deeply divided on the question of responding to these egregious developments in Syria. The United States and the European members on the council — Britain, France, Germany and Portugal — have pushed for a legally-binding resolution, condemning the violence in Syria and compelling the government to stop it. Their attempts have been strongly contested by other members, including Russia, China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Lebanon. These countries have expressed concern that a resolution against Syria would be used to impose UN sanctions and perhaps approve the use of force against Syria in the near future.
The precedent of Libya clearly looms large. India's permanent representative to the UN, Hardeep Puri, observed that several council diplomats felt the Western military coalition in Libya had exceeded its Security Council mandate to protect civilians and had weighed in on one side of the civil war. The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, hotly dismissed such views as a "canard". She was protesting too much. Advocates of the "responsibility to protect" did themselves a grave disservice first by raising the spectre of an impending massacre in Libya and then by shifting the goalpost from protection of non-combatants to regime change. It is hardly surprising that some UNSC members are reluctant to give them the benefit of the doubt again.
The upshot of it all was a UNSC statement calling on "all sides" to end violence and exercise restraint. This was followed by a diplomatic effort by India, Brazil and South Africa to find a way out of the ongoing crisis. A delegation comprising senior officials from each of these countries visited Syria two weeks ago. Meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and foreign minister Walid Muallem, the delegation affirmed the commitment of their countries to the sovereignty and integrity of Syria. But it expressed grave concern over the current situation in Syria, and called for "an immediate end to all violence" and a credible judicial investigation into the violence. The delegation also urged Syria to implement "political reforms with the aim of effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the population". Mr Assad told them that he would complete constitutional changes and move towards a multi-party democracy by January/February next year.
The US and its allies are not pleased with these developments, which they believe are only a ruse by the Syrian government to buy time. Last week, US President Barack Obama called on Mr Assad to step down — a call that was echoed by other European leaders. Mr Assad seems in no mood to oblige.
More worryingly, the Syrian crisis is in the danger of becoming the focal point for two axes of regional rivalries. First, Iran has remained steadfast in its support for the Syrian government. Earlier this year, it had sent 1,000 Republican Guards to help put down the uprising in Dara'a. It has also pressured its other allies in the region, such as Hamas, to come out in support of the embattled Assad government. Responding to Iran's activism, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries have grown sharply critical of Mr Assad. Second, there is the danger of renewed fighting between Hamas and Israel. The attack in Israel last week, which left eight dead, could trigger an escalatory process of violence and retaliation. This could also draw in Syria's (and Iran's) Lebanese protégé, Hezbollah, and so set the stage for a wider conflagration.
India must stay ahead of the curve on these potential developments. Increased turmoil in West Asia will place our regional interests at risk.
After all, the region accounts for 63 per cent of our crude imports, $93 billion of trade, and comprises six million Indian expatriate workers who remit over $35 billion every year. The Indian government has done well in taking a proactive stance for defusing the Syrian crisis. But it has its work cut out for it in the months ahead.

Srinath Raghavan is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi







The Anna phenomenon has the government flummoxed, the world dubbing it India's Arab Spring and Anna Hazare's supporters heralding Gandhi's re-birth. The ruling party, handicapped by Sonia Gandhi's absence, erred in assuming that Mr Hazare could not revive his agitation after the government had dissipated his Jantar Mantar foray by engaging, pretending to negotiate and then discarding the Jan Lokpal Bill on the logic of a boss in the cartoon telling his disappointed employee that when he said his door was open, it did not extend to his mind.

The government's defence rests on two arguments. One, that Parliament is supreme and must control law-making; two, self-appointed representatives of civil society are hijacking democracy by protests and fasts.
The lawyer-advisers of the Prime Minister, to borrow Opposition leader Arun Jaitley's coinage, need to read Francis Fukuyama's latest book, The Origins of Political Order, which explains that the electoral exercise alone does not make a liberal democracy. Russia and Venezuela are electoral authoritarian systems. Globally the relevance of political structures to contemporary dilemmas is being questioned. While Europe is trapped in a welfare state model, which is unaffordable, the US is stymied in dealing with fiscal irresponsibility and issues like health, security and energy. Contrariwise, China prospers despite political opaqueness. At the heart of any democracy has to be a healthy relationship between the state and society. The state should be unified and able to enforce its laws; society must also be strong enough to enforce accountability on the state. This balance no longer exists in India, though it is playing out as mock combat over the Lokpal Bill.
This pantomime's provenance is old. In the US historians have talked of 36-year cycles in history that usher defining moments. Illustratively, significant US presidential elections were of Abraham Lincoln in 1860; McKinley in 1896 (whose assassination led to the accession of reforming Teddy Roosevelt); Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932; and Richard Nixon in 1968 (whose resignation underscored accountability).
In India such a defining moment, 36 years ago, was the imposition of Emergency. The Jayaprakash Narayan-led agitation was basically against corruption and nepotism. The people of India handed over power to the Janata Dal in 1977, hoping for fundamental reform of political governance. Bickering, selfishness and, finally, betrayal, led to the demise of that experiment. A re-elected Indira Gandhi, unrepentant and impervious to change, followed by son Rajiv, unable to reform the inherited system, had the Congress again cornered on corruption by the Bofors scandal in 1987. The people of India again crowned the new messiah of probity, V.P. Singh, in 1990. He, too, could not translate personal example into good governance and finally fell to the passions of opportunistic social engineering. Mr Hazare's gambit is the third awakening of Indian people in this churning of history.
Today's India is different from the India of 1975 or 1987. It is more urban, younger and better informed due to electronic connectivity. The intelligence ministries of the Arab dictators also erred in applying old formulas to handling dissidence, and failed. The following is germane to both sides better understanding the nature of the challenge:
w In the Westminster form of government, popular sentiments flow to policymakers through members of Parliament. Prime Ministers keep their ears tuned to the buzz in their own party, particularly on sensitive legislation. The anti-defection law passed by the Rajiv Gandhi government removes the fear of dissonance in the ruling party and also increases the tendency to ignore your own colleagues' thinking. Manish Tewari, much maligned since August 15, had moved an amendment that whips should be limited to money bills and no-confidence motions. For the rest, MPs should be free to vote. The government should announce that whenever their version of the Lokpal Bill or any other is tabled in the House they would not subject their members to a whip. That could be the first step to restore a link between Parliament and society.
w Parliament itself is not infallible. Legislation passed by it has been held in breach of the Constitution by the Supreme Court in the past. The much-reviled Postal Bill of 1987, sanctioning intrusive mail interception, was passed by the Rajiv Gandhi government but held up by President Zail Singh, till he retired, in response to popular sentiment.
w Eradication of corruption must encompass electoral and political party reform. Inner party democracy and state funding of elections are its conditions precedent. All parties, other than the Communist ones, have progressively become family ventures, the family of the BJP being the RSS. Mercifully three popular chief ministers are spinsters and one a bachelor. Fukuyama calls it "paternalisation" of democracy where kinship is preferred over talent. Even Rahul Gandhi's talent search for the Youth Congress largely rests on scions of party loyalists.
w The role of civil society cannot be denigrated either by procedural arguments or pleading the co-option of some into the National Advisory Council, where they have done good work on poverty alleviation or empowerment. Mr Hazare's corruption crusade is complimentary to that, though simplistically limits it to the Lokpal.
This is a unique moment when there is merit in what either side says. Belatedly the government, which the Anna camp distrusts due to past betrayal, is closing ranks with the Opposition and then seeking a mutual face-saver with Mr Hazare. The Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV, having contested Pope Gregory VII's right to nominate to clerical posts, relented by going to the Castle of Canossa, where the Pope was staying, waiting in humiliation for four days and then receiving absolution barefoot in the snow. Thus began the separation of the Church and the State. Defining moments need epic gestures. Let both sides step back and seek absolution for the nation.

K.C. Singh is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry









As anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare enters the ninth day of his fast unto death, panic seems to be gripping the Government of the people, by the people and for the people. Incidentally, the fast unto death is also for the people and by the people. It sounds like people against people; in other words the prelude to a non-violent civil war of sorts for which the Father of the Nation had laid down the precepts. From this entire bizarre scenario, many interesting inferences can be drawn. First, the besieged Prime Minister is locked in a grim battle between his conscience and the environment enfolding him. He feels the pressure of conscience and writes a 500-word letter to the 73-year old civil rights activist, a letter that is a blend of truths and half-truths, assertions and denials, appeals and threats. He wants to take shelter behind the constitution but surrenders his initiative and discretionary authority conferred on him by the same constitution to steer the ship of the nation. The worst is that he employs backdoor diplomacy or what is now recognized as Track II diplomacy with his own people and hi sown nation. He does not have the courage and initiative to walk down the small distance to the place where Anna is fasting and tell him, "Countryman! I have such and such a difficulty. Tell me how to overcome it." The elected Prime Minister is the first servant of his nation. Why can't he go and meet the man of the masses? What need has he to appoint interlocutors, or send emissaries or arrange unofficial private talks and at the same time issue official handouts justifying government's action.


Yes, babus at PMO can draft a well-worded letter using juicy phrases or sardonic terminology as the case may be, showcasing the Parliament, the constitution and established procedures to exude allegiance to the rule of law and then release it to the media for wide circulation. Admittedly nothing less than that is expected from the PMO. But then the nation will ask where the Parliament, the constitution and the propriety were when billions of rupees were stolen from the exchequer by chosen few and more billions stashed away in foreign banks? Why did not the Government bring in more stringent preventive measures like the Lokpal Bill during past one year and a half of unabated scams? Why were such an important social matter and a grave aberration left to be initiated by the civil society? And when the civil society took it up with all seriousness, why is Government now creating one obstruction after another to the draft bill. The civil society and Government representatives constituting the draft committee did not agree on the text of the draft, how did the Government representatives force their way to send it to the cabinet which almost overnight passed it for tabling in the Parliament? If the PM wants "reasonable time feasible to pass the bill now" where did that "reasonable time" theory evaporate in thin air when the flawed draft was put before the cabinet.

Finally, after making the Government and the nation a laughing stock in the eyes of international community for nearly two months, the PM thought it feasible to send his trouble-shooting emissary to talk to the civil society team. The aura created around these talks is something like two hostile countries trying to resolve their differences and hostilities through intermediaries of more sober temperament but realistic approach. Let us not forget that many commentators of international repute have been trying to characterize the Anna movement of India as an extension of the democratic movement raging in the Middle East countries beginning with Tunisia and Egypt and extending to other contiguous parts in the Middle East. If the protestors in Middle East are crying for democracy, we in India are crying for fine tuning of democracy, a democracy in which the Prime Minister can assert and in which the elected representatives can speak for the people and not for themselves only. The time has come when the elected parliamentarians will begin to feel the heat of the civil movement in the country. All said and done the UPA Government is standing on a weak turf. It is responsible for its predicament because the predicament is of its choosing.






Bids made by Pakistan based and trained terrorists to infiltrate into J&K by crossing LoC have increased during past few months. A major attempt is being made by these armed gangsters to pile up arms and ammunition in a number of hideouts, caves and covered places to be used during their subversive activities in winter. During winter months when snow bound passes and secret inlets are closed and rendered impossible for crossing, the terrorist would ensure they have the stockpile at their disposal. The security forces and the police have rightly concentrated on collecting intelligence about these secret dumping grounds and several of these have now come to light in Kupwara, Doda, Reasi, Poonch and Surankot sectors. A huge cache of arms and ammunition has been made in Riasi and Kupwara jungles on the tip off from reliable information sources. According to Army spokesperson and also the State Police, groups of terrorists fully armed with sophisticated weaponry have assembled at various spots along the LoC on PoK side waiting to infiltrate into Kashmir. The vigilant security forces have foiled many of their attempts and inflicted casualties on them the most recent being in Gurez sector. Security forces commanders have been holding regular meetings and assessing the ground situation. Additionally the meeting of the command headquarter was also held this week with the Chief Minister in the chair. The ongoing scenario of sudden spate in infiltration bids was thoroughly discussed. Ground situation along the LoC is that our security forces are maintaining constant vigil but the border is so long and so porous that despite extraordinary vigilance, mishaps do occur. Containing infiltration is becoming effective with improved counter strategy. We cannot lower the guard even if talks between the two countries continue at various levels. The main reason is a total situation of uncertainty prevailing in Pakistan.







Needed one trillion dollars to fund infrastructure during 12th five year plan 2012-2017 in India. But how to raise that huge amount which is sine quo-non to continue Indian economic growth story.

In that behalf GOI is making frantic efforts to use every possible source viz Government budget, corporate sector, banks, FDI et al. It will be interesting to delve into this Herculean story as all experts are agreed that infrastructure push is vital to achieve growth target. Already about 50% infrastructure projects have fallen behind time causing huge cost overruns.

Data collected by the Ministry of implementation underscores that 500 infrastructure projects are behind schedule.

In that regard, the recent South Korean tour by President Pratibha Patil and her fervent interaction with the Chamber of Commerce there has assumed special significance.

Explaining the situation, she said, "One trillion dollars will be spent in the coming days to improve roads, ports, railways and other core sectors. This provides great opportunities to the foreign companies including those from Korea."

About Korea she specially underlined, "We look forward to greater participation to this end by Korean companies.

"To us in Inida, the Korean economic miracle is inspiring. It was the hardwork of the people of Korea, coupled with the successful business model which created the increadible economic success that the Republic of Korea today represents.

She went on to point out, "In India too you spotted the economic opportunities long before others and this first mover advantage has enabled Korean companies to reap great profits in our country. Hyundai, Samsung and LG are household names today in India. Korean companies have adjusted extremely well to conditions in India. You are also making India the manufacturing hub for exports to South Asia and Middle East and even Eastern Europe."

Back home Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had talked of doubling the investment in infrastructure during the 12th Plan over the 11th Plan which had amounted to 500 billion dollars. He empasised, "Preliminary exercises had suggested that investment in infrastructure will have to expand to one trillion dollar in the 12th Plan. I have asked the Finance Ministry and Planning Commission to draw up a Plan of action for achieving this level of investment. 11th Plan had targeted Rs. 20 Lakh crore for infrastructure development doubling the amount achieved during the 10th Plan."

Exuding confidence in the Indian economy, PM had said that economy would grow by 8.5% during 2011-2012 and by 9% later. Government was working towards accelerating the programme of road building, especially in the N.E. sector and J&K. Government had also initiated on ambitious plan to expand postal sector, including through PPPs.

It may be underscored here that India is ranked 86th out of 139 countries in quality of overall infrastructure below other emerging countries like Brazil, at 62 and China at 50, in the World Economic Forum's global competitiveness Index.

In order to improve this State of affairs, Dr. Manmohan Singh had underlined various steps such as India needing a corporate debt market. More than 50% investment for funding infrastructure has to come from private sector, he pointed out. He added that Finance Ministry is already understood to have readied a draft framework for infrastructure debt funds to tap investment from foreign insurance and finance funds. It had initiated discussions with financial sector regulations, regulatory changes required for creation of such funds, said Dr Manmohan Singh.

A committee headed by HDFC chairperson had also endorsed the idea of infrastructure funds and said they be allowed to refinance upto 85% of outstanding debt of infrastructural projects. Additional avenues of funds were needed for infrastructure as the capacity of banks to fund infrastructure projects is limited. The industry is of the view that Govt should make investments in long term bonds issued by banks tax free, the Prime Minister went on to say.

He also added that similarly there was a demand for restoration of tax incentives in infrastructure financing. In 2007, the Government had removed section 10 (230) the Income Tax Act.The provision exempted from income tax the net income (in the form of interest long term capital, gains) from investment infrastructure projects.

The National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) had called for sharp increase in the planned investment levels for infrastructure and for expansion of the role of private sector. Its report on infrastructure development has suggested full exploitation of current potential of infrastructure sector; slack of capacity in one sector also implies less than full utilization of capacity elsewhere; infrastructural measures to make the various legal, financial and fiscal arrangements, effective, independence of regulators, efficient pricising of services, reducing the time needed for implementation of plan targets.

Housing and real estate had also been held by experts as vital segment of the economy and infrastructure is they had multiple connectivity with economy. It is, therefore, important to give thrust to the housing sector by raising the interest deduction limit of Rs. 1.5 lakh in the computation of income under section 24 of the Income Tax Act to Rs 3 lakh emphasized the experts.A global survey had recently underscored that inadequate basic infrastructure could hamper country's economic expansion programme.

These findings are part of a survey based on response from 1201 Chief Executives from 60 countries. A majority of those surveyed remarked that Govt leadership in building infrastructure is critical for competitiveness of nations.

Finance Minister had underscored, "I propose to maintain infrastructure thrust in both urban and rural sectors."






The Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul is being groomed as the future prime minister of the country by his mother Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. The question being asked is: does he possess the quality and wisdom to lead the country into the 21st century? Before her departure for the USA for medical treatment Mrs. Gandhi formed a core committee comprising Janardan Dwivedi, A. K. Antony and Rahul Gandhi to look after the affairs of the party and the government. It shows she has great faith in Rahul's ability as a politician. But Rahul Gandhi has not shown any wisdom in tackling the Anna Hazare imbroglio, and has gone into hiding.

Many political commentators are of the opinion that for merit or otherwise, the leadership of the largest serving party of independent India is being thrust upon this young man. The big question is - will he be able to deliver ever? For, given the way the Indian political scenario is taking shape - with regional parties replacing national parties at the state level - if Rahul fails to deliver, it might take the party a few decades more to regroup and regain its position.

In the framework of this context, it was indeed heartening to read Rahul's latest views on reviving the Congress party. For the first time, someone could openly say that the party lacks inner party democracy and that the high command system must give way - issues all Congress supporters and detractors have always been critical about. Probably thanks to his status of being the son of the dynasty, Rahul could say what everyone has always felt, but never dared to say. But that shouldn't take away anything from the credit he deserves.

Let me, however, first begin on a critical note about the problem with Congress' leadership over the years. One would remember how, during the past elections, while Pramod Mahajan used to go out scouting for "fresh blood" and "talent" (as per whatever his arguable definitions of these were), the Congress rested upon the Gandhi dynasty and newer dynasties being created within the party (the Scindias, Jindals, Deoras etc). While the Congress started off as a very democratic party, the fact is when Indira Gandhi - though extremely able - took over the mantle, the seeds of dynastic rule got sown. Though it's a well researched and proven argument that children who grow up in close families seeing dynamic and visionary leadership within the family, often have the edge when it comes to doing the same job, it's still hard to believe that in 60- years, and the party couldn't find any leader outside one family.

Then, of course, is the fact that the way Indira saw Nehru leading from close quarters - and got influenced and thus could deliver as a great leader - was never the case with Rajiv Gandhi, who never really got to see his mother Indira in action from an involved distance. And now, worse is the case with Rahul. That's why with time, the dynasty has only led to deteriorating leadership standards.

Indira was the last leader in the Congress who really delivered; and it never felt even once that allowing a daughter to take over the party's leadership was uncalled for. But with Rajiv the leadership quality dropped. Nonetheless, the cleanliness and honesty written all over his face, his personal charisma and very polished communication power, coupled with the circumstances which brought the unwilling pilot to power, made people yet again overlook the fact that the largest party of the largest democracy of the world was clearly becoming undemocratic and dynastic.

To that effect, Sonia's entry into politics has been more due to the party's inefficiency in delivering an able leader, making them fall back upon the dynasty. Rahul's political sojourn, however, is the most debated climb up the ladder. Those who have seen or heard him speak don't see a powerful communicator in him (one of the most essential qualities of a good leader). Neither has Rahul seen any great leadership within the family from close quarters to have had inherited any of that. So, it looked fair to argue that all he has inherited is the dynastic surname. Well, that's what it almost looked like till one started hearing his stray comments on corruption in the Indian system, reminding one of Rajiv's historically bold statements like the one about how only 15 per cent of money being spent by his Government was reaching the people it was intended for.

Be that as it may be, the single recent comment by Rahul about the lack of inner party democracy within the Congress has clearly proven that though he may not have inherited what he didn't see - viz, great leadership - or for that matter, what he didn't get enough years to imbibe within himself, namely, his father's charismatic communication style, Rahul surely has inherited something much more than the Gandhi name. He has inherited what he saw in his father and what he read most about him - he has inherited Rajiv's honest way of looking at things, the ability to speak on issues openly and the willingness to try and change things. For starters, that's a great sign for this Gandhi. If communication skills are most important for a leader, then being principled and honest are equally important. So while Rahul might have lost some points till now on various fronts, he looks to be scoring well on the most critical traits that define a good leader.

However, leadership is about much more than just making heartfelt honest comments to a few media persons. And I sincerely hope Rahul doesn't stop at this. He must look at this as the first run scored as the opener in a Test match. He has a long way to go before he scores a century, looks at bigger records and eventually wins the match for his team. He must be open to learning; and right now, I will give him only one tip. He must see videos of Rajiv Gandhi's speeches and interactions with world leaders at world forums. He will know the definition of what is a world-class and cultured style of communication. If he can imbibe that and say the same things effectively to millions, he would score his first half century.

Unfortunately, in India, a half century (and often much lesser) is good enough to get the prime minister's seat as well! If Rahul wants to score a century and more and secure a great future for himself and his party, there are some great books on leadership that he might well learn from. It will be a shame if a man with honest intentions, upon whom such a great opportunity is being thrust, fails to deliver. I am sure that he is really serious about making the Great Indian Dream a reality! The question is, does he really have a great Indian dream? Or is it that like most others, even his is only a myopic vision of fulfilling his own short run dreams? Time will tell... (INAV)






I have received requests for a 'daily article' on the Anna effect and I cannot compete with the electronic media as events move by the hour and the issue spreads across cities big and small and we are witnessing 'change' and the issue is not purely the Jan Lok Pal bill but the entire system of governance and while it may seem to be directed against the UPA2 but I think the resentment extends to the entire political fraternity and covers all the three wings of governance. The business community and civil society who comprise the elite in terms of financial income are among those who agitate silently but will be drawn into the ring as they are equally guilty on many fronts including the black money syndrome which spreads across society. I sincerely hope that we not triggering the forces of anarchy and chaos and widespread witch hunts and this will be much worse then the rotten system we have at the moment. I sincerely hope that better sense will prevail and this week will be crucial and this is not the time for the blame game to be played on both sides and in any situation of this nature violence in any form is a negative.

I have written for the past year that financial mafia has overtaken political authority and my views I have communicated with great repetition to all those involved in decision making at the top and look at the cost everyone is paying for the 2G scam and the family business of the DMK. The Congress were 'wiped out' in the State and the margin of the AIDMK was a warning for the future but few in the Congress were willing to even look beyond their immediate interests and the survival of the UPA2. The BJP in Karnataka were unable to deal with either the mining Mafia interests or the former CM BSY and his family connections and both these jobs were done by the former Supreme Court Justice Santosh Hegde assisted by the 24x7 media and the public and look around you and see the immediate past and see how Mulayam Singh Yadav and family has been humbled by the BSP Chief Mayawati and the ease with which Lalu Yadav and his dynasty along with the RJD was demolished by Nitesh Kumar and the JD[U].

We are talking of a war on corruption and we have a political system where there is no transparency in political collections. We have poor parties and rich leaders and those in power persecute the past in a selective manner and this syndrome cuts across party lines. Political authority as we have known it in the past does not exist with Coalition numbers and has been subordinated by Corporate and other interests which cover all aspects of real estate, telecom licenses, illegal mining, adulteration of oil and minerals, liquor and the list is endless and there is no magic wand to cure these ailments by political authority in a conventional manner.

This crisis on the Lok Pal bill may be averted and the UPA2 will survive but will not be able to govern as demand after demand will plague the government. We need leaders today with integrity both on a personal and official level and also those who can combine these along with the gift of thought and action are not many and in this category I would place Rahul Gandhi, Narender Modi, Nitesh Kumar and if she succeeds as CM Bengal Mamata Banerjee. Age is a issue and I think anyone with a future should have a 20-30 year horizon and all those I have mentioned above are young enough for two decades and more to put in a punishing routine required in this position. I have been fortunate in reaching positions at the top of the power pyramid when I was in the early thirties and forty and was dealing with many who were 10-15 years older than me and now at 67 I find many of my friends in the seventies and eighties talk brilliantly on political events but no discussion is very complete without discussing medical issues like blood pressure, diabetes, heart and lung and clearly it is time to move on and create space for someone else. As a student of political science, have studied many a great life but in almost all the cases I find that these great figures in history made a mess of their last few years as they could not determine when to call it a day? I have great respect for the past and I salute all those who have contributed to our current status but I live in the present and think of the future.

I see so much talent around me in the younger generation and this makes me think on positive lines. The Anna Hazare issue raised temperatures and I was tired of political bashing and the noisy debates on TV and switched to Headlines Today and Koel Purie and watched a TV show on Shammi Kapoor and this took me back half a century and I remember as a ten year old watching Prithvi Raj Kapoor and his sons in Lucknow and while I remember the name of some of the plays Kabuliwala, Ghaddar and I remember the family well and they were all very handsome and made their presence felt to the audience. Koel Purie and I may be biased as I have known her parents before she was born had produced the best show I had seen for some time and was a wonderful tribute to the talented actor and what is true of her ability is also true of many others of her age and I do hope that they get the opportunity and the space to show their talent in their field of activity. We give sermons on favorable demographics and it is time for those who lead tomorrow to step in today and we miss the point that everything is in 'fast mode' as technology has advanced and the future has arrived a little ahead of schedule and it took Anna Hazare at 74 to wake us up to the reality and while we talk in terms of rules and procedures, events overtake decisions.

We will endlessly debate the issue but then there is such thing as a 'perfect storm' and it comes once in a decade or two believe me things will change and those who resist the changes will simply be blown away.









THE defence arguments in the 2G or the 'Spectrum allocation scam' case seem to be moving on predictable lines. Both A. Raja, the former Telecom Minister, and Kanimozhi, the DMK Member of Parliament, have argued that the decision to allot, not auction, the 2G spectrum was a policy decision taken by the Union Cabinet; and following the principle of collective responsibility, the entire government, including the PM and the then Finance Minister, must be held accountable for any omission or commission. Both the accused have hinted that they might call the Prime Minister and the then Finance Minister to the court as defence witnesses and subject them to cross-examination, setting a precedent thereby. The bureaucrats sent to prison in the same case have similarly pleaded that while it was for the government to formulate policies, their job was limited to implementing them.


In the criminal justice system, the accused are entitled to the benefit of the doubt if the prosecution fails to present a cast-iron case. By that token, there was always a question mark on whether the case, at least against some of the accused, would stand up to judicial scrutiny. Kanimozhi, for example, is charged with hatching a criminal conspiracy and subjecting the government to a 'notional loss' of Rs 1.76 lakh crore, which the government could have earned if it had auctioned the spectrum and not allotted them on a first-come-first-serve basis. As proof, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has cited a payment of Rs 210 crore made by one of the telecom companies that received the licence to Kalaignar TV of which she happened to be a director. The MP has been at pains to point out that the money was received as a 'corporate loan' which had been returned with interest.


The trial is a serious test of the independence of the judiciary and the CBI. The stakes for both the institutions are high because any failure to secure conviction of the high-profile accused would strike a blow to their credibility. On the other hand, conviction on the basis of insufficient evidence would make them vulnerable to the charge of launching a witch-hunt.









THE National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) is quite optimistic about the future of India's prized IT (information technology) sector, which hopes to grow 16 per cent this year. The growth rate has not been lowered despite a gloomy global economic environment. The European debt problems and the US political face-off over raising the debt ceiling along with the troubling economic data have shaken investor confidence everywhere and financial markets all over have turned volatile. Adding to the financial turmoil, Standard and Poor's downgraded the US credit rating, reviving fears of double-dip recession.


Among the most worried in India should be the exporters since Europe and the US account for 85 per cent of the IT sector's $70 billion revenues. Apart from outsourcing and IT products, India also exports garments, handicrafts, leather and gems and jewellery to these two major markets. The exporters, who had barely managed to cope with the 2008 recession, may again take a multiple hit. First, the US and European markets have seen a demand slowdown due to higher unemployment and fresh taxes meant to cut the governments' debt burden and revenue deficits.


Secondly, the rupee is hardening against the dollar, which affects the exporters' earnings. The FDI (foreign direct investment) inflows into India may decelerate as surplus capital is getting parked in gold. Risk-averse foreign funds are already exiting the Indian stock market to meet financial obligations or redemption pressures back home. IT stocks have seen a heavy sell-off in recent days due to fears of the sector's lower growth prospects. If in the face of all this NASSCOM is still upbeat on IT growth, it is more than seeing the glass half full. The IT firms will have to explore non-US and non-European markets to lower risks though no one can resist the pull of the developed world. Since exports have a limited contribution to India's GDP, the effect on the domestic growth rate will remain minimal.








Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a free man after a New York judge dismissed a sexual assault case against him. Freedom, in this case, comes with a bitter aftertaste of a reputation harmed by his arrest by the New York police in May when the 62-year-old head of the International Monetary Fund was accused of raping a 32-year-old hotel maid. The dramatic arrest, which took place on board an Air France plane in New York, and Strauss-Kahn's high profile triggered off a flood of international media interest, which eventually led to his resigning as the IMF chief. Strauss-Kahn has reasons to be relieved by the dismissal of charges, though his acquittal has more to do with the prosecutor's doubts about the credibility of his accuser than with what happened in the room where the maid said he raped her. He still faces a civil suit filed by her.


Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a front-runner in the French presidential race, but this case, and some allegations that have led to an investigation in France against him, will have a negative impact on his political ambitions. He is already practically out of the presidential race. How the French, famously forgiving regarding the sexual peccadilloes of their politicians, treat this episode remains to be seen, since there is much anger on the street for what is regarded as American high-handedness in dealing with the case that ultimately fell through. Then, there are the impressive credentials as an international economist that Strauss-Kahn brings to the table at a time when economic turmoil is a great challenge facing France and other nations.


Strauss-Kahn's past, be it the New York episode or the earlier allegations which came out after his arrest, will haunt him. Anyone who seeks political office anywhere can ill-afford scandals, and no doubt Strauss-Kahn's story will serve as a cautionary tale for politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.









Considering that there is a strong possibility of recession striking the US and the European Union, India's economic problems may pale in importance. According to the latest data, India's industrial growth rose to 8.8 per cent and manufacturing to 10 per cent in June 2011. Foreign direct investment inflows have also picked up. Though there is high food and general inflation, it is not yet in double digits. India's public debt has also not reached the danger level.


The US, on the other hand, is combating its monumental debt problem with fiscal tightening measures so that the government does not go bankrupt. The problem of unemployment, though closely monitored, has been kept in the background. Many Americans are of the opinion that unemployment is the most serious problem facing the US, and not the budgetary cuts and the downsising of government spending. Unless there are more jobs, the consumer demand and revenue collection will deteriorate further.


According to the New York Times, the US has 9.1 per cent unemployment but it would be 16.1 per cent with 25.1 million people considered jobless if those who have only part-time jobs and those who have given up looking for work are also included.


Similarly, in India, slow employment growth is a serious problem facing the government. That jobs have been growing very slowly has come out clearly in the latest ( 66th round) National Sample Survey based on the data collected during 2009-2010 in its eighth quinquinnial round covering the five-year period between 2004-05 and 2009-10.


From the survey it is clear that 8 per cent GDP growth of the last five years has not translated into a higher level of job creation. There was a dramatic deceleration in total employment growth from an annual rate of 2.7 per cent during the previous five years period (1999-2000 to 2004-05) to only 0.8 per cent in the latest round. This means that India has been experiencing jobless growth during the last five years.


The latest NSS data also reveal that there has been an increase in employment of less than a million people in the country between 2004-05 and 2009-2010 despite the high level of economic growth. Another shocking revelation is that fewer women are taking up paid jobs in both rural and urban areas. Their participation in the labour force has been the lowest since 1993-94 in all age groups and not only in those age groups (15 to 24 years) undergoing education. There has been a 20 per cent decline in employment for self-employed women in the last five years. Why have so many women withdrawn from economic activities? Maybe, the number of women engaged in home-based crafts and handlooms have declined because of lack of capital or lucrative marketing outlets or due to competition from cheap Chinese imports. Maybe, women were working for exporters who faced losses (like in garments) during the last five years when the financial crisis hit Indian exports and they lost their jobs.


While it is true that a substantial number of young boys and girls (around 20 million) are engaged in studies and there has been around 50 per cent rise over the five-year period for both males and females going through education, it does not fully explain why employment growth has been so slow. More people have entered the job market in the last five years than in the previous five years, and clearly the supply of labour has not shrunk due to young people studying.


Also, it is hard to explain the fall in unemployment for both males and females because only "casual" jobs have increased and that too mostly in urban areas. In rural areas the increase in casual work and construction reflects that jobs have been created under MGNREGA. There is also some increase in employment in financial services and the real estate sector.


An increase in casual work indicates that rural migrants are joining the informal sector in the cities. The increase is marginal for rural women. For the rural migrants, only the lowest menial jobs like those of domestic help, maids, drivers, cooks and chowkidars are available. Most migrants arriving in cities from villages take up these types of jobs and live in awful conditions. Though these "casual" jobs have been increasing, they are without any safety net or benefits.


The data also point out that Indian agriculture is not growing fast enough to provide jobs to the 67 per cent of the rural population still dependent on it. Employment fell sharply for agricultural and non-agricultural workers taken together and there has been a slowdown in non-agricultural job creation. Agriculture is contributing only 14 per cent to the GDP and this means low productivity and surplus labour continue to plague the farm sector.


There has also been a decline in employment in manufacturing both in rural and urban areas which means that food processing and other allied activities which could have employed more people have not grown fast enough. If more jobs were available in villages, then there would not be so much pressure to migrate.


The problem today is that even if there are jobs, most young people are not "employable" as they lack proper education and have few marketable skills. The large numbers of school dropouts are barely literate and it is difficult for them to find jobs in cities except the lowest paying ones. Also, what will happen to 8 million children who are not attending school?


There has to be a plan to provide jobs for all in the future, keeping in mind that those who are currently studying are going to be in the employment market in the next five years. Even the US is contemplating a plan for providing jobs to the jobless by reconstructing old schools across the country, but it is not going to be easy. In India, more labour-intensive infrastructure projects could be encouraged but most highway and expressway projects are using prefab, machine-made units that require big machinery to assemble them. Most of the metro-projects are being built using capital-intensive techniques. Rural road building projects undertaken by state governments, on the other hand, can employ more people.


The Central Government can play the role of a facilitator in creating jobs in rural areas by setting up institutes

for vocational training. It is more important to give them a purpose in life rather than let them idle away their time after they finish school. While inflation fighting has to continue till it comes down owing to falling international oil and commodity prices and a possible decline in the demand, creating jobs is most important for the health of the economy and the wellbeing of the people.









Aar na" in Bengali stands for 'Aur Nahin'. Enough, no more. And every time I switched on the TV these last few days, an involuntary gasp, 'oh, no' would escape my lips.


Anti-corruption movements raise my hackles. Having once refused to pay a bribe and paying the price by going to the court for 14 years, I know what Anna and his team are talking about. But the agitation is too pat, too 'filmy', too 'TV-genic'.


Patriotism and politics both are in some ways the last refuge of the scoundrel and watching the sea of humanity waving the tricolour, beating breasts and chanting 'Vande Mataram', some of them gaping at TV cameras and mouthing 'Mata Ram' makes me wonder. The sight of Sri Sri Ravishankar, the godman of the rich and the trendy who claims to have restored peace everywhere from Kashmir to the North-East, makes me even more uncomfortable.


French students, who took over the Sorbonne for several days in the sixties, had explained that they were neither rebels nor revolutionaries. They were just the revolted. But Team Anna is behaving more and more like the principal opposition party, Parliament, the bureaucracy and the Supreme Court rolled into one. Reminds me of a reporter who would unfailingly remind public sector executives that they were 'servants' and he a member of the 'public'.


An enlightening newspaper report informed that teenaged college students had discovered Ramlila Ground to be the perfect place for dating. Their parents, one of them explained, were actually proud of them when they returned late now and relayed back to them the sights and sounds of the 'second freedom struggle'. One of the boys confided that he had made more girlfriends at the Ramlila Ground in two days than he could in college in the past two years.


Others would be flocking to the ground to partake of the free lunch. Apparently, it is not just daal-chawal but includes kachoris, samosas and poori-bhajis.


The 'free lunch' counters are a great idea and should perhaps continue even after we attain freedom for the second time. With the national capital attracting the unemployed from several states, the counters would work overtime. And the government could be asked to finance it at a later date. If it dared to refuse, we could have a third freedom struggle. Why, Ramlila Ground could be turned into a Hyde Park of sorts, where anyone with an agenda can expect to find a crowd willing to listen.


Pandit Nehru had threatened to hang 'blackmarketeers and hoarders' from the lamp posts. But they flourished like never before. Later, students hit the streets of Bihar shouting "Gali, gali mein shor hai/ K.B. Sahay ( the then CM) chor hai". But chief ministers who followed became even more brazen. Jayaprakash Narayan called for a 'Total Revolution' and a war on corruption and price rise. The movement managed to topple a government but made no dent on either corruption or price rise. And now Anna…aar na.


Light a candle, wave a flag, wear a cap, walk in a crowd, chant a slogan, hold a placard, go on a fast …but for how long?







According to the latest figures given by WHO, in developed nations, one out of 10 patients admitted in hospitals are at the risk of suffering from an adverse event. This figure is much higher in developing countries – may be even 10 times higher
Dr Jagjit Singh

Patient safety can be defined as the measures taken by individuals and organisations to protect healthcare recipients from being harmed by the effects of health care services. This may seem a bit intriguing at first — how can the patient be harmed by healthcare provider/hospital? But the fact is — it is true. Many of us may have experienced it ourselves or have a near or dear one affected by it. Patient safety is a serious global public health issue.

In recent years, countries have increasingly recognised the importance of improving patient safety. In 2002, World Health Assembly passed a resolution on patient safety. In 2004, an organisation, World Alliance on Patient Safety, was established by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

India has awakened to the issue of ensuring patient safety by starting a National Initiative for Patient Safety in 2008 at AIIMS. According to the latest figures given by WHO, in developed nations, one out of 10 patients admitted in hospitals are at the risk of suffering from an adverse event. This figure is much higher in developing countries – may be even 10 times.

What is an Adverse Event (AE)?

An event that results in unintended harm to the patient by an act of commission or omission (administration of the wrong medication, failure to make a timely diagnosis or institute the appropriate therapeutic intervention, adverse reactions or negative outcomes of treatment, etc.) rather than by the underlying disease or condition of the patient. It may or may not be preventable e.g. patient falls, medication errors. For example, a patient who is prescribed some sedatives (sleep- inducing) medicine has a fall due to which he develops a fracture. In this case it was the patient's sleepiness that may have caused him to trip and fall resulting in a fracture. Thus, though fracture is not a side-effect of sedatives, this unfortunate patient has experienced what can be labeled as an adverse event attributable to his undergoing treatment.

Adverse events may or may not be preventable

While some adverse events like adverse drug reactions – hypersensitivity/allergy to medications may not be preventable in the first instance many adverse events are preventable. These include errors during surgery e.g. operating on the wrong side of the body/limb, leaving behind an instrument/ gauze piece after surgery, medication errors, diagnostic errors etc. As far as unpreventable adverse events are concerned, little may be left in our hands to get control on these. However, the preventable errors should be tackled head-on to ensure patient safety.

Medication error is one of the commonest and easily preventable adverse events. Medication error has been defined by WHO as an error in the process of ordering, transcribing, dispensing, administering, or monitoring medications, irrespective of the outcome (i.e., injury to the patient). Thus an error occurring at any step of medication use –right from being prescribed (ordering) by the doctor to its administration and monitoring — is included in this term. As far as errors in prescribing are concerned it depends on the prescriber's competence and experience.


Medication error can occur during prescribing


There are a number of incidents where a wrong medication has been prescribed owing to a misdiagnosis or inadequate knowledge about the disease or medication in question. Prescribers (mostly doctors in our setup) should ensure they know everything about some drugs, which they use routinely; rather than trying to know something about every drug available in the market. Knowing exactly the medication's effects, mechanism of action, pharmacokinetics and side-effect profile along with recommended dose can enhance proper use and minimise errors in the prescribing process.


Since every prescription is a medico-legal document it must be written legibly in ink or online on computer. Nobody can deny the terribly illegible prescription which may not be deciphered even by experienced pharmacists, at times, leading to potentially serious medical mishaps. The problem is compounded when two drug names sound alike but have totally different medications. For example, Zyntec is the trade name of Ranitidine, a drug for peptic ulcer while Zyrtec is a name for Cetirizine, an antihistaminic agent. Inderal is a Beta blocker while Inferal is used in asthmatics. Giving the former in place of the latter can induce an attack of acute asthma in the patient which can be life threatening.


Medication error can occur during drug administration


Administration involves obtaining the medication in a ready-to-use form. It is usually done by staff nurses in hospitals. It may involve counting, calculating, mixing, labeling or preparing medication in some way. It also involves checking for allergies in the patient and observing the 5 Rs rule — right drug, right patient, right dose, right route, and right time. Drug administration can go wrong if a wrong drug is given to a patient, if the right (intended) drug is given to the wrong patient or in the wrong dose or through wrong route or at a wrong time. It may be also be due to omission, failure to administer the drug and due to inadequate documentation.


Patients who are most at risk of medication error include those on multiple medications, patients with co-morbid conditions e.g. renal impairment, pregnancy, patients who cannot communicate well, patients who have more than one doctor, patients who do not take an active role in their own medication use, children and babies (dose calculations required).


Inexperience, rushing through the job, trying to do two things at once, interruptions, fatigue, overwork, failure to check and double-check, poor teamwork and communication gap between colleagues are some of the situations when the staff is most likely to contribute to a medication error.


Absence of a safety culture in the workplace e.g. poor reporting systems and failure to learn from past near misses and adverse events, absence of memory aids for staff, inadequate staff numbers etc all can contribute to endangering patient safety.


What actions can be taken to enhance patient safety?


To reduce medication errors it is important that they are reported, that data is collected and analysed on a large scale and that results are shared amongst the relevant institutions. This requires a change in the culture in the healthcare system to one where safety is paramount and reporting is encouraged and maximised.


There is also a need to set up national reporting systems and databases to store information and a cohesive strategy for communicating findings effectively across the countries. To encourage reporting of adverse events, even seemingly trivial, it is important to eliminate fear culture among healthcare staff. The strategy recommended nowadays is not to blame an individual for an error but to look into the whole event as a systems failure. This means moving from 'who did it' to 'why and how did it happen'. In this way the point of care where the event occurred can be analysed to ascertain the cause and prevent any error at that point of care in the future.


This is called root cause analysis and can enhance patient safety if done properly. Just as the aviation industry utilises the black box recording to get to the cause of every air accident, the healthcare industry must analyse each error to enhance patient safety.


How can patients contribute to their own safety?


It is indeed true that patient safety lies in the hands of the healthcare providers. Nonetheless, the patient's role in his/her own safety can't be underestimated. An alert and well-informed patient can at times prevent errors from occurring. Indeed, all patients should be encouraged to be actively involved in their own treatment process.


When prescribing a new medication doctors must provide patients with the following information: name, purpose and action of the medication; dose, route and administration schedule; special instructions, directions and precautions; common side-effects and interactions; how the medication will be monitored.


They should also encourage the patients to keep a written record of their medications and allergies and encourage them to present this information whenever they consult a doctor. This type of patient education is unfortunately not much practised in our setups for the reason that it is time consuming and that most patients are not literate enough to grasp it. However, the changing socioeconomic scenerio and rising literacy levels will create more and more patient awareness and relevance of such education. No doubt, imparting knowledge to patients, their relatives and even the medical staff is a duty of the doctor, which literally means to teach (from 'Docere' in Latin).


When a visit to the doctor goes horribly wrong


An adverse event is a happening that results in unintended harm to the patient by an act of commission or omission (e.g., administration of the wrong medication, failure to make a timely diagnosis or institute the appropriate therapeutic intervention, adverse reactions or negative outcomes of treatment, etc.) rather than by the underlying disease or condition of the patient. It may or may not be preventable e.g. patient falls, medication errors.


While some adverse events like adverse drug reactions – hypersensitivity/allergy to medications may not be preventable in the first instance many adverse events are preventable. These include errors during surgery e.g. operating on the wrong side of the body/limb, leaving behind an instrument/ gauze piece after surgery, medication errors, diagnostic errors etc.


Medication error has been defined by WHO as an error in the process of ordering, transcribing, dispensing, administering, or monitoring medications, irrespective of the outcome (i.e., injury to the patient). Thus an error occurring at any step of medication use –right from being prescribed (ordering) by the doctor to its administration and monitoring — is included in this term.


There are a number of incidents where a wrong medication has been prescribed owing to a misdiagnosis or inadequate knowledge about the disease or medication in question. Prescribers (mostly doctors in our setup) should ensure they know everything about some drugs, which they use routinely; rather than trying to know something about every drug available in the market.


Drug administration can go wrong if a wrong drug is given to a patient, if the right (intended) drug is given to the wrong patient or in the wrong dose or through wrong route or at a wrong time. It may be also be due to omission, failure to administer the drug and due to inadequate documentation.


Inexperience, rushing through the job, trying to do two things at once, interruptions, fatigue, overwork, failure to check and double-check, poor teamwork and communication gap between colleagues are some of the situations when the staff is most likely to contribute to a medication error.


The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Govt Medical College and Hospital, Chandigarh










Any Kabir translation is good news. Arvind Krishna Mehrotra (Songs of Kabir Hachette India-Black Kite Everyman Edition 2011) has been translating Kabir since the '70s, and this book is an event to which we have all been looking forward. "A Kabir poem," he says in his Introduction, "has no time to waste. It hits the ground running." And that's what the translations do. Lines such as, "I'm handcuffed to death./ Throw me the key," are poignant, unsentimental, and go straight to the heart of our experience. So are the brusque lines, "Friend,/You had one life/And you blew it."


Kabir has been translated by a number of illustrious names, Ezra Pound, Tagore, Robert Bly, Linda Hess, Charlotte Vaudeville. They followed varying translation practices, but are all fascinated by the voice. What's interesting about this is that, of the five thousand or so poems attributed to Kabir, it is impossible to say which ones are definitely by Kabir. Nor is much known about his life, apart from the fact that he lived in the 15th century.


How could this happen? According to Arvind, when a singer felt close to Kabir in spirit, he tended to use the more illustrious name instead of his own. In the oral tradition to which bhakti poets belonged, the words were not "unalterably fixed." So what we have, in the tradition of blues and jazz, is a "collective creation." He adds, "Since no manuscript of Kabir's poems that goes back to his lifetime has been found, the Kabir corpus, necessarily, is not about a single text, but families of texts, of which there are three: the Bijak or "eastern" tradition, the Rajasthani or "western" tradition, and the Punjabi tradition centred on the Adi Granth, the sacred book of the Sikhs."


Arvind tells an amusing story in his Introduction. He writes, "A Kabir song recorded by Bahadur Singh in the mid-1990s, compares the body to an anjan (engine), the soul to a passenger, who, his taim (time) on earth being short, is advised not to lose his tikat (ticket)…


When asked how Kabir could have been familiar with the railways, to say nothing of English words like 'engine', 'time', 'ticket'… the singer, Bhikaramji Sharma, looked 'most hurt' and replied that Kabir, being a seer, knew everything." It is in a version of that spirit that Arvind uses phrases such as "Faber poets", the modern equivalent of "poets reading their poems," and "Sing Sing," a reference to an American prison, when "Kabir" uses the word "criminals."


I asked Arvind what drew him to the poets he had translated over the years.


"All the poets I've translated speak, with great transparency, of the human condition. This is true of the Prakrit poets of the 1st century CE and of Kabir, of Nirala and of Vinod Kumar Shukla. Their poems make us uncomfortable by pointing us in the very direction we choose to look away from.


"Indians are among the most hypocritical people anywhere, but it wasn't always like this. Two thousand years ago, in a Prakrit poem, a mother tells her daughter not about the joys of marriage but its griefs. One of them is that in a village where the daughter cannot find another man, she might have to sleep with her husband. Kabir constantly reminds us that though death's bludgeon is about to crush our skulls, we still don't wake up from the slumber that is our lives. And Vinod Kumar Shukla uses the average person's height, 5'6" as a measure of man's greatness. By reducing us to our physical dimensions, he forces us to see ourselves as we never do."








Another day of nerves in the Indian equity market, with a combination of bearishness and volatility, is keeping investors worried about medium-term prospects. While optimists see emerging markets benefiting from the problems of the ageing ones, pessimists argue that India cannot be decoupled from disturbing global trends. Mark Twain once said: "Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please." Marketmen seem to be following this counsel down to the last word. Developed economies are headed for a multi-year slowdown. Japan's downgrade is yet another indication of this. Will emerging economies also go down or will a "flight to safety" keep the markets in countries like India buoyant? If there were to be another "Lehman moment" with crisis enveloping the Eurozone, there could be a domino effect on the rest of the world, especially the United States. A lethal combination of record high debt-to-gross domestic product ratios and record low policy rates has pushed the United States into deep debt. In contrast, Asian economies are merely cooling, as growth rates moderate from a robust to a moderately strong pace. Despite these concerns, the outlook for the world economy remains modestly positive. With problems continuing to hit the West, it is important not to lose sight of this driver. Though there is no doubt that quantitative easing has exported inflation to emerging economies in Asia, the region has its own growth drivers too, which are not strictly linked to the developed world. Inter-regional trade, infrastructure boom and robust domestic consumption story are driving growth in emerging economies.

For its part, India has not fully benefited from this "opportunity" compared to its emerging market peers. Its performance has been weak mainly owing to a lackadaisical political response. Foreign investors have remained largely negative on India throughout this year since reforms have nearly stalled, the investment cycle is grinding to a halt and fiscal worries have re-emerged. All attempts by the government to restore confidence have so far failed. Following a lacklustre budgetary initiative earlier in the year, recent political uncertainty has made investors bearish. Till there are signs of economic revival and improvement in growth, the benchmark indices are expected to remain range-bound. If a new round of spending injected by quantitative easing in 2012 pushes more liquidity into the global economy, the benchmark indices will rise marginally, but the up-turn in economic fortunes is unlikely to be robust, unless structural changes take place in the economy. Markets will trade within 10 per cent (upside and downside) from current levels over the next year. That said, the Indian economy still has much going for it, not least the strength of consumption and investment last year and the solid foundation it provides on which to rebuild. Opening up sectors like insurance, banking and retail could go a long way towards reviving investor sentiment — so could kick-starting the investment cycle. In short, India can benefit from a global flight to safety, provided the government is able to get its act together.






Standard & Poor's (S&P) may have been right to downgrade the United States sovereign credit rating from triple A to double A plus, on the grounds that the political risk of fiscal correction in the US had gone up. But S&P seems to have underestimated the political risk of taking such a bold professional view. It is one thing to downgrade an India or a Russia, or even an Iceland and an Ireland, but how could S&P hold a mirror to the US of A? Unheard of! So, off with his head! Everyone who knows anything about sovereign credit ratings and power politics will recognise that S&P President Deven Sharma's decision to leave the organisation was occasioned by US anger at his forthrightness in downgrading that country's government debt.

To be sure, there has always been an element of politics in sovereign ratings. When S&P, Moody's and Fitch rate different countries, their analysts often do so with an eye to Washington, DC. America's friends are generally treated more gently than America's foes. S&P had no qualms about downgrading India rapidly in 1989-90, partly contributing to the balance of payments crisis that the country faced in 1990-91, because India was not a friend of the US at that time. As India's friendship with the US waxed, S&P and other rating agencies began to take a more benign view of Indian macroeconomic management and "political risk". Political risk assessment is a very political exercise! When S&P downgraded the US, it gave as much weight to hard economic numbers as to the less tangible problem of political management. The former is a technical issue, and even on that there are different credible views, but the latter is a matter of judgement. To be sure, such judgement calls are inherently risky, but S&P was never chastised in the past when it took such calls on the political risk associated with fiscal adjustment in other countries. This one, that too taken by a person of Indian origin, has angered many in the US. Even a distinguished radical economist like Paul Krugman hit out at S&P.

The so-called "$2 trillion error" for which S&P has been pilloried is based on a judgement call that S&P analysts took. If anything, it reflects differing views or assumptions by analysts in government as well as in rating agencies about public spending and other macroeconomic trends that would shape future US debt burden and the country's ability to bear that burden. As S&P has pointed out, if spending growth is assumed to be low the net general government debt for the US is estimated to reach 79 per cent of the US gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015. However, assuming much higher rates of growth of public spending, S&P has estimated this to reach 81 per cent of GDP. By 2021, the relevant numbers would be 85 per cent and 93 per cent, depending on spending trends. The gap between the two projected debt levels by 2021 was estimated to be $2 trillion. What it means is that this is not an error but the painting of alternative scenarios. Who cares about facts when the message is so bleak in the run-up to an election? Little wonder then that the messenger had to go!






Global developments in the past few weeks have been reminiscent of the events that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. Asian and emerging capital markets have fallen in tandem with their global peers. Besides the ongoing European debt crisis, worries about raising the US debt ceiling by August 2 heightened the volatility in capital markets in July. Even though the debt ceiling was eventually raised, Standard & Poor's (S&P) downgraded the US long-term sovereign debt on August 5 from AAA to AA+ for the first time ever. This led to a five to seven per cent decline in the US stock exchanges in one day on August 8, triggering a sharp reaction in global markets. Since then markets all over the world have been sinking downwards in a concerted manner. The Indian stock market has also been under tremendous pressure and its market valuations have dropped by $200 billion, with a 13 per cent decline in the Sensex. The Korean index, KOSPI, like other Asian indices, hit the 2008 levels with a 6.2 per cent loss on August 19. So a big question is: are we back to a September 2008 kind of situation or a double dip? How would the economic prospects of the Asia-Pacific region including India be impacted?

It is important to consider whether the downgrade by S&P was an isolated affair or was shared by others. Even though Moody's has retained its ratings of the US debt, it has changed the outlook to negative. Furthermore, the insurance premium on the US debt against default has risen from an average of 25 basis points in 2007 to a range of 55 to 75 basis points now, implying an increased risk of default. However, with the European debt crisis deepening and spreading to cover Italy and Spain, the US dollar has actually strengthened against the euro and the pound.

The US economy's growth outlook is severely affected and is put at 1.7 per cent in 2011 compared to three per cent in 2010. Even though the US economy is technically not in recession yet, the risk of a double-dip recession has increased. However, there is a critical difference between the situation in 2008 and the present one. The 2008 crisis was a result of bursting of the real estate bubble and concerns about the subprime mortgage market. The governments had the policy space to roll out massive fiscal and monetary stimulus packages to contain the damage. The current crisis, on the other hand, has been precipitated by concerns about a sovereign debt build-up and sustainability of fiscal position. This time the government's ability in terms of policy arsenal is much more limited. With nearly zero interest rates, the US and European economies find themselves in a liquidity trap, hence the move to quantitative easing. But when the sentiment is down, even quantitative easing does not help. Excess liquidity finds its way to emerging markets such as Brazil, India and China, seeking good returns and bringing volatility to their shores too. Fiscal policy is severely constrained by the build-up of a sovereign debt crisis.

The governments in the US and the Eurozone have to manoeuvre a delicate balance between short-term support for growth and jobs and fiscal consolidation in the medium term. Neglect of support for growth and jobs in favour of fiscal consolidation will be self-defeating. A credible medium-term plan of fiscal consolidation and debt reduction would be equally important to restore confidence.

The impact of the ongoing global turmoil on the Asia-Pacific economies will be felt through different transmission mechanisms. The most immediate one is through capital flows and financial markets that have grown increasingly interdependent over time with increasing short-term capital flows from the US and the European Union to the region's emerging markets. As the growth rate falters in advanced economies, the export-oriented economies of the region will be significantly impacted. Some of these economies have already started showing signs of slowing down. Leading indicators like the Purchasing Managers Index for the manufacturing sector in emerging markets are suggesting incipient signs of a slowdown.

For India, however, the aggressive monetary tightening by the Reserve Bank of India to address inflationary pressures has been a greater source of the slowdown than a slump in the western economies. The slowing global economy may mean that booming commodity prices may come down, like oil prices which have moderated lately. This may bring some relief from inflationary pressures for India and other net importers of commodities.

The other implication beyond the short-term challenge of the slowdown for the Asia-Pacific economies is to develop new engines of growth to sustain their dynamism over the medium term. Given the growing inability of the advanced economies to sustain growth in the region given the challenge of restoring debt sustainability, the Asia-Pacific economies have to rebalance in favour of greater domestic and regional demand over the coming decade. The other adjustment the Asia-Pacific economies can do to bring down volatility is to reduce their exposure to short-term capital flows. It is timely to assess the costs and benefits of these flows which will reveal that these flows have high servicing burden besides bringing a high degree of volatility in the financial sector while contributing little to the capital formation in the host economy. In a dramatic reversal of its long-held position, the International Monetary Fund now agrees that capital controls are an important constituent of the policy tool kit for emerging economies.

The author is chief economist of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific, Bangkok

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations

_ HYPERLINK "" _nkumar@un.org_







Troubling reports about the failing higher education system in India are pouring in from every direction. The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are finding it difficult to get an adequate number of quality students to fill the 3,000-odd seats for their flagship two-year full-time programme, even though nearly 200,000 aspirants take the Common Admission Test. Engineering colleges across the country report that only 10 per cent of the total number of students they admit every year have achieved a passing grade in the mathematics section of the entrance exams held to select candidates. Spokespersons for the IT industry say consistently that less than one in 20 Indian college graduates who apply for jobs in that sector are employable. I have sat in on interviews to select graduates from the country's premier computer science institutions and found that less than one in 100 have even the barest notion of what computer science is about.

Concerned people have listed many possible causes. High on their list is the booming coaching class industry in India which now offers to coach at every stage of life: from infants aspiring to seek admission in nursery school all the way up to IIM aspirants. But I am sceptical of the view that coaching classes are the cause of the problem about quality of education. I suspect they are the Band-Aid that desperate parents apply to tackle the problem of quality of education. I know of one family in which the mother works as a domestic help and the father as a salesperson in a shop selling saris. They spend Rs 600 every month on private tuition fees for their son who has just entered college; the college fee itself is only a fraction of that amount.

Students seem to trip up when it comes to applying what they have learnt in one context to solve a similar problem in another context. Robert Haskell, professor of psychology at the University of New England, terms such a problem-solving skill "transfer of learning". His book Transfer of Learning: Cognition, Instruction and Reasoning defines "transfer of learning" as the skill to detect that a problem "is like" or "is equivalent to" or "is the same as" or "resembles" or "is comparable to" some other problem that the student has encountered before. This kind of reasoning is evidence of the skills of mental abstraction, generalisation, induction and logical inference. These skills make up true education.

Most innovation activity takes place using such skills. Take, for example, eminent computer scientist Peter Chen's account of how he came to think of the entity-relationship model, a seminal concept in computer science. He says that in his native Chinese culture, the pictographs for the sun and for the moon are placed next to each other to create the Chinese character for "brightness". Both the sun and the moon have the ability to reflect light, so combining both to mean "brightness" seems perfectly natural. Similarly, the entity-relationship model in computer science combines properties of individual entities to create new ones. Professor Chen had transferred his learning of how Chinese pictographs are combined to the completely new realm of computer science.

Unfortunately, attempts to teach such transfer-of-learning skills by using the classic structured drills in the basics don't seem to do the job, nor do the efforts to do it by giving students unstructured free rein for self-discovery.

While searching for a solution to this pedagogic problem, Clayton Christensen of Harvard in his book Disrupting Class says that the answer may lie in delivering student-centric learning. In this scheme, students learn each subject in a manner consistent with their type of intelligence and learning style. Unfortunately, the current education system in every country is organised into value chains, much like manufacturing and mass retail. In such industries material (in this case students) is inputted, some of the material is transformed by subjecting it to standardised processes (standard textbooks and teaching methods) and outputted to the next stage ( a higher class) if students perform adequately in standardised tests. In the current business design of education, each part of this process – standard curricula, standard textbooks and standardised tests – has scale economics and is, therefore, difficult to customise.

What is needed, says Professor Christensen, is a business design for education that acknowledges that students learn in different ways and, since they have different mixes of linguistic, mathematical and visual "intelligences", their pace of learning varies.

How this can be done on a large scale in India is mind boggling; there are four million schools and 20,000 colleges in the country and in the next 15 years 345 million Indians will attain the age of 18 and be ready for the job market.

_ HYPERLINK "" _ajitb@rediffmail.com_








After years of drifting in the doldrums, in the afterglow of the mega initiatives of the past, like Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Petronas Twin Towers and KL Sentral, Malaysia is trying to force itself free and start sailing again. And to ensure the success of this effort, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has decided to do exactly what former prime minister Mahathir Mohamed had done before him — hit the grandstand.

Early last month, Najib formally announced plans for a $16 billion, 156-km mass transit railway network for metropolitan Kuala Lumpur. Dubbed "My Rapid Transit" (MRT) and scheduled to be finished by 2020, the project is the biggest single infrastructural initiative ever undertaken in the country and is viewed as the cornerstone of the government's ambitious new programme to transform the economy.

A mass transit system to serve the capital region has become a pressing need. Traffic jams in Greater Kuala Lumpur are frequent and severe, while the larger Klang Valley, in which Kuala Lumpur is situated, isn't too well served by the existing transport systems. Investors see this as a big block in the way of new economic expansion. Najib sees billions of dollars in spin-off benefits arising from the MRT, mainly in the property sector and hopes it will help make Kuala Lumpur one of the top 20 most liveable cities in the world.

The first phase of the project will involve a 51-km line, with 31 stations, running northwest-southwest from Sungei Buloh to Kajang, passing through Kota Damansara, Kuala Lumpur and Cheras. The government wants to have this line going by 2015. Najib sees it as a trigger to release a massive new phase of private-sector-led economic development that's expected to inject some $444 billion worth of new investments into the economy by 2020. By that time, he hopes, Malaysia will become a fully-developed nation and 3.3 million new jobs will have been created.

Even as most of the investments are to be raised from the domestic private sector, Najib is banking on at least a quarter of them to come from abroad. The government itself, determined to reduce its role in business, wouldn't come in for more than eight per cent of the stake. To prove that it does what it preaches, 33 government-owned companies have been marked for divestment and 21 of these are to be sold outright.

Several strategic reform initiatives were announced early last month to support the economic transformation programme and enhance the country's global competitiveness. The initiatives cover a wide spectrum and include public finance, human capital development, public service delivery, international standards and liberalisation, and the narrowing of disparities among small and medium bumiputra (sons of the soil) industries. "We must try harder" is the government's new development slogan.

Services, which currently account for about 57 per cent of the economy, are to be liberalised in phases. Restrictions on foreign equity in such areas as healthcare, education and business services are to go. For example, there would be no bar on foreign equity in specialised private hospitals offering a prescribed minimum number of beds. Entry restrictions on foreign specialists, like doctors and dentists, would be relaxed. Higher education would be considered an export commodity and no cap would be imposed on foreign students.

Twelve key national economic areas have been identified for special attention, of which Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley is one. Complementing these areas would be five economic corridors led by regional cities, including George Town in the north and Johor Baru and Iskander Malaysia in the south. Iskander Malaysia is a new metropolis north of Singapore being developed as a healthcare, education and financial centre, and is said to have attracted $23 billion in promised investment already, nearly half of it from overseas.

But Najib's task won't be easy. Mahathir's success lay in a clever mingling of politics and business, based on large-scale government projects, which kept a coterie of Malay and Chinese businessmen happy. When Mahathir quit in 2008, the flow of mega projects stopped, economic growth weakened, and with Islamic conservatives gaining ground in Malaysian politics, many Chinese felt they weren't getting as much benefits as before and left. It's estimated there are some 700,000 Malaysians, mostly Chinese businessmen and professionals, presently working abroad. Najib has to earn their trust, reverse the drain and bring them back.

This task has been given to a new agency called Talent Corporation and attractive tax breaks are being offered. However, with Malaysia going to the polls in one and a half year's time, one would be watching how far Najib can go in wooing the Chinese back. The recent violent protests in Kuala Lumpur over electoral reforms show political opposition remains a factor to reckon with. In the last general elections in 2007, such opposition had cost the ruling coalition, United Malays National Organisation, some valuable seats.

_ HYPERLINK "" _rbarun@gmail.com_







The rural health sector in India poses several challenges despite numerous policies and programmes adopted by the government. One of the problems is accessibility of healthcare services. The first landmark in the official health policy of independent India was the acceptance of the Bhore Committee recommendations of 1946. This laid the foundation of comprehensive rural health services through the concept of primary healthcare.

The recent release of Rural Health Statistics shows that there has been a significant increase in the number of sub-centres, primary health centres (PHCs) and community health centres (CHCs). Since the end of the 10th Five-Year-Plan in 2007, there has been an addition of 1,797 sub-centres, 1,303 PHCs and 490 CHCs. Even as there has been a significant increase in the number of PHCs, many of these lack the basic amenities required for functioning.

To begin with, there is the issue of accessibility to health services, assessed by the average radial distance covered by PHCs. In India, on average a PHC covers 6.47 km. In three Union Territories – Lakshadweep, Puducherry and Daman & Diu – there is at least one PHC in the range of 1 to 3 km. Among the big states, Kerala and Bihar have a PHC within an area of 3-4 km.

At the other end of the table, in Jammu & Kashmir, Andaman & Nicobar islands and Mizoram, a PHC covers an average distance of 10 to 13 km. States like Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan – which are grappling with problems of high infant mortality and low life expectancy at birth – have inadequate coverage of PHCs, with one centre for an area of 8-9 km. This is much above the all-India average. (_ HYPERLINK "" \t "_blank" _click here for graph_)

However, the mere presence of PHCs is not reflective of better health services. For instance, Bihar is among the top two states in the country with respect to the distance covered by a PHC, but 71 per cent of PHCs in the state function without electric supply.

The figures of Bihar are not only startling because of the sheer size but also because the next state with large proportion of PHCs functioning without electric supply is Arunachal Pradesh, at least 39 percentage points behind Bihar. There are 16 states in which all PHCs reportedly have electric supply, but in Chattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh, around a quarter of PHCs function without electric supply.

There are, of course, other parameters of basic infrastructure that need to be analysed — regular water supply, all-weather motor road, adequate doctors, presence of a lady doctor, health workers, lab facilities, beds, operation theatres, medicine supply and so on.

For instance, as of March 2010, there were more than 6,000 vacancies for medical officers in PHCs to be filled. Apart from the numbers, there are issues regarding the quality of healthcare being provided at these centres. All in all, primary health infrastructure is one of the very basic necessities in rural areas and the disparity across states points to the existing unequal access for citizens.

VIGOROUS GROWTH  India 1981-85 1985-90 1992-97 1997-02 2002-07 2007-12  No. of sub-centres 84,376 130,165 136,258 137,311 145,272 147,069  No. of primary health centres 9,115 18,671 22,149 22,875 22,370 23,673  No. of community health centres 761 1,910 2,633 3,054 4,045 4,535  Indian States Development Scorecard is a weekly feature by Indicus Analytics that focuses on the progress in India and the states across various socio-economic parameters










Inner conviction is a good thing, but not when it becomes a tool of outer coercion. Anna Hazare's fast has helped crystallise widespread popular resentment against corruption and misgovernance and made it unsustainable for the political class to continue with the status quo. This is a great step forward for Indian democracy and kudos to Team Anna for that. That said, neither the specific demand of the Anna campaign nor the manner in which it is being pursued can be considered valid. Anna and his lieutenants might be convinced that a monolithic body of wise men effectively accountable to no one can cleanse the body politic of its inner toxins. But that does not mean that they are right. The sort of ombudsman the Jan Lokpal envisages would be a giant parallel government which, were it to go bad under a flawed chief, would run amok, knocking down the pillars of democracy one by one. It would create an evil bigger than the one it is designed to kill. Neither the judiciary nor Parliament can be accountable to any Lokpal. Their form of accountability has to be different. The judiciary should be accountable to the legislature, through committees that function according to Constitutional norms; and the elected representatives, to the people who elect them. The judiciary, the only viable institutional check on the Lokpal, cannot be under the Lokpal. To insist that such a flawed body as conceived in the Jan Lokpal is the only way to check corruption is not acceptable. Nor is Team Anna's disdain for Parliament and its procedures acceptable. The consensus at the all-party meeting is for a strong Lokpal but without compromising Parliament's responsibilities or due process. This is welcome. Let the standing committee of Parliament also consider the Jan Lokpal Bill, as also the far more reasonable Bill supported by Ms Aruna Roy. Let there be more rational debate inside and outside Parliament before creating a new pathbreaking institution to combat corruption. The threat to Anna's health and the passions it arouses imperil such debate. Anna and team must celebrate the advance they have made for democracy, not vitiate it. Anna must stop, to fight another day if needed.







Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor D Subbarao has done well to place his cards on the table on the issue of new bank licences. Speaking at a bankers' conference in Mumbai on Tuesday, the governor clarified that the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, would have to be amended before new bank licences are issued. As the banking sector regulator, the Bank wants certain statutory provisions strengthened/incorporated, to strengthen its hands in dealing with banks, presumably, those on lending to related entities, powers to supercede the Bank's Board and transfer of shares, among others. While this will delay new licences, given what is at stake — financial and macro-economic stability — there is no virtue in haste. The reality is, when banks get into trouble, fears of systemic consequences invariably lead to taxpayer money being expended in their rescue. Moreover, the two main objectives finance minister Pranab Mukherjee put forth to justify issue of new bank licences — competition and financial inclusion — are unlikely to be served exclusively by licensing more banks. New banks, as past experience has shown, tend to open branches in prosperous metropolitan and urban areas rather than in rural, un-banked ones. As for competition, with almost 2,300 banks (including cooperative banks), we can hardly complain of lack of competition.

But yes, there is no reason why any sector should be closed to entry altogether. So the RBI must clearly spell out the prerequisites for entry. The Bank is reportedly not in favour of allowing corporates into the sector. It is not alone. Even in lightly regulated markets like the US, neither GE nor Wal-Mart has been given a branch banking licence. Also, past experience the world over has shown that when corporate houses control banks, the outcome has never been happy from the public perspective. So, how can the RBI ensure it strikes the right balance and be seen as the best judge rather than as opaque and arbitrary? The way out would be to make matters as transparent as possible and retain the right to decide who satisfies the all-important 'fit-and-proper' criterion.







With entire regimes teetering across the globe, no wonder women in Moscow suspect an ulterior motive in the city authorities' directive to re-surface 4 million square metres of pavements in the heart of the capital for a tidy $136 million. Critics, presumably those jaundiced by Delhi's Commonwealth Games revelations, see the hand of the mayor's wife in the decision to replace asphalt sidewalks with brick tiles as she allegedly had interests in a company that has won a tender for the mammoth job. But the suspicion of Moscow's fashionistas with a penchant for towering stilettos that the move is pointed at them may have merit too. The bricks may be more eco-friendly (if also more expensive) but there is no denying that the gaps between them spell doom for high heels, as indeed they do for lower-profile roller-skaters and wheelchair-users . If Muscovites abjure an uprising to protect the right to high heels (governments have been toppled for the most unexpected reasons, after all) those who want to retain their elevated status can switch to block heels. But that could be the thin end of the wedge in a government game to leave them cooling their heels in relative obscurity. On the other hand, this phenomenon could portend a spike in two businesses that had seen a low in the era of high heels— those engaged in shoe repair, and those retailing flats. Chiropractors, however, could be impacted either way depending on whether Moscow's women opt to live (and walk) dangerously and risk sprains, or resign themselves to lower profiles and save on footing both Blahnik and bone-doctor bills. Delhi's newly-bricked and subsequently uprooted pavements, unsurprisingly, have seen no murmur from the stilettoed classes as they rarely need to use this civic amenity anyway.






At the time of writing, efforts are on to find an amicable solution to the Jan Lokpal Bill agitation and let us hope that a satisfactory solution will be found to deal with the very serious malady of corruption. I appeal to Anna Hazare to break his fast as the nation can't take any risk with the condition of his health.
Corruption in high places is undoubtedly a matter of great concern for all. Recently, there have been allegations of corruption against some ministers and senior officials. I am not speaking for these people. But everybody seems to have assumed that they are guilty, even though legal proceedings have not been completed yet. Every responsible citizen knows that mere allegation of corruption is not the proof of guilt. What is extremely disturbing is that a very important issue like corruption is being sought to be dealt with in a totally undemocratic and unconstitutional fashion. The Constitution does not provide for any extra-parliamentary method for the enactment of any law.

But now, Anna Hazare and his colleagues want to decide what the law should be and how the issue of corruption should be dealt with and that all political parties and all MPs should be bound by their decisions. In short, the elected representatives of around 120 crore people of this country are being asked by a group of representatives of civil society to follow what they want to be the law of the land. Parliament is being asked by this group to enact what it has put forth as a draft Bill! I don't find anything more undemocratic than this attitude in a country governed by a Constitution and the rule of law. Even a date has been fixed by the self-elected 'activists' of civil society to pass a law, giving a go-by to the established parliamentary procedure and rules under which the matter is being considered by the standing committee as is the usual practice. Not just that — crowds are being asked to gherao the houses of MPs. Here is a clear case of coercion and open subversion of the very constitutional system of our country.

I am reminded of the kind of agitation followed by violence which we witnessed some years ago over the issue of the Mandal Commission report. Young people, mostly students, were instigated to hit the streets. Some even tried to kill themselves. Similar methods are being deployed now to challenge our parliamentary system and force enactment of laws de hors the Constitution.

It's naive to think that passing a new law to set up an authority will eradicate corruption from the country. It's agonising, however, to find that the good cause of fighting corruption is sought to be achieved by taking recourse to methods not sanctioned by our established constitutional procedure. This will only create more serious tensions in society.

We have a Prevention of Corruption Act. Has it prevented corruption? We also have the Indian Penal Code that prohibits all sorts of crimes like murder, robbery, rape, arson, etc. Have those offences been eliminated by this law? How can it be reasonably expected that any particular law or setting up some sort of national authority will totally eliminate all types of corruption in the country? So, a mere enactment of law is not sufficient unless the people as a whole shun corrupt methods in all respects, not just in official dealings.

The real aim is to target ministers and senior officials. I have no quarrel with the office of Prime Minister being included within the scope of the Lokpal Act. But has anybody really considered its implications? If the Lokpal wishes to go into any complaint against the PM, there will be clamour, rightly so, for his resignation on moral grounds even before the allegation is proved. And if the PM has to resign under pressure, then the government falls. To me, this is a recipe for political instability or frequent elections, for which thousands of crores of rupees will have to be spent. It's also the very antithesis of a procedure that can have the sanctity of law.
    Again, how can you get a person who will decide all the cases in a manner acceptable to all without seeking a right to appeal against the ruling? What is that magic wand? Will the law provide it?

Ihave respect for many of the people who call themselves the representatives of civil society. Without being misunderstood, may I ask how do they declare themselves the representatives of civil society? Eminence alone cannot be the yardstick to represent the people. In fact, these people are trying to impose their wish as the will of the people on Parliament. I have serious doubts not only about their methods but also intentions, because we have Anna Hazare now saying the Prime Minister should quit if his draft Bill is not made the law.
I appeal to them to please remember that we are not living in a dictatorship so that people have to be mobilised on the streets to usher in democracy, as being done in the Arab world. I am reminded of the manner in which some people collected crowds on the streets in the run-up to the demolition of the Babri masjid and the damage it caused to our country's unity and secular fabric. I appeal to Anna Hazare, Shanti Bhushan, who is an old friend, Prashant, who is like a son to me, and other colleagues of theirs, not to rouse public sentiments to a level that can have serious repercussions and may go beyond control. As the Prime Minister has taken the initiative, it's time to find an amicable solution in a spirit of cooperation from all the concerted parties. Let nothing be done that will destroy our Constitutional edifice.









Outsourcing of services has been a persistent cause of panic and protectionism in recent years, especially in the United States since the 2004 presidential election. Back then, the Democratic candidate, Senator John Kerry, upon hearing that digital x-rays had been outsourced from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for examination by radiologists in India, denounced firms that outsourced as Benedict Arnolds, the most infamous traitor in US history.

Kerry's misstep was followed by alarm over outsourcing across the West. If free trade is to regain the support of statesmen who now hesitate over liberalising trade with developing countries, the myths that turn outsourcing into an epithet must be countered.

Myth 1: Outsourcing will be like a tsunami. While even a shrewd economist like the former US Federal Reserve Board member Alan Blinder thought this, it is not likely for several reasons, both "natural" and manmade. Consider just two.

First, it is simply not possible to outsource everything. For example, the fact that I can call someone in Bangalore to tell me how to fix a computer problem presupposes that I can understand her instructions. I tried this with a Dell computer and gave up after repeated attempts. I was so desperate that I asked Michael Dell, whom I met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, for a replacement.

That is a remedy unavailable to others, of course. So Dell has now given up relying on call centers. Besides, many "electronic plumbers" have emerged who will come to your computer and fix the problem while you while away the hours working where your competence lies. Second, there are manmade restrictions to outsourcing particular types of expertise: professional organisations often intervene to kill outsourcing simply by requiring credentials that only they can provide. Thus, foreign radiologists need US certification before they are allowed to read the x-rays sent from the US. Until recently, only two foreign firms qualified.
Myth 2: Outsourcing will be only from rich to poor. There is a lot of two-way trade in manufactures, even within a single industry. Economists call it "intra-industry" trade. But when it comes to services, the popular fear is that outsourcing will go in only one direction. This fear is baseless.

Indeed, there has been substantial growth in "reverse outsourcing," i.e., "insourcing." Indian firms like Infosys and Wipro, giants in the information-technology sector, are now looking for cutting-edge services and highgrade talent as they compete for local markets such as the US. At IQor, the hugely successful outsourcing entrepreneur Vikas Kapoor now has 12 US locations, which account for half of its 11,000 employees.
Myth 3: Outsourcing costs jobs. A standard argument used by US Democrats against Republican business CEOs who were running for Congress last year was that they had exported US jobs. Senator Barbara Boxer railed continually against Carly Fiorina, a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, that she had exported 35,000 jobs. The obvious reply should have been: "Yes, I outsourced 30,000 jobs. But, if I had not, HP would have become uncompetitive in fiercely competitive markets, and I would have lost 100,000 jobs."

Another "jobs fallacy" is that when a job disappears in a Western country and turns up in India, it must have been "exported" by nefarious businessmen. But, in many cases, the job has simply become uneconomic to maintain in the West, regardless of whether or not India exists.

If it costs a US nursing home $2 per call to get someone to remind a patient to take her medicine, the job of providing such reminders will disappear. But if Indians can make the call for $0.25, the nursing home might well sign on. This would make its patients healthier, drug makers more profitable, and India better off, because employment increases.

In short, everyone wins from outsourcing of services. Alas, few understand this.

(The author is Professor of Economics and Law at Columbia University and Senior Fellow in International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations)

© Project Syndicate, 2011


Jagdish Bhagwati








Barring the very corrupt, everyone would support the ongoing campaign against corruption. But not either Team Anna's specific solution or the means it employs. In fact, there is every reason to oppose and condemn the move to blackmail the government into conceding a very flawed demand.

A monolithic, all-powerful body that would hold every functionary of the state including the judiciary to account, and investigate and prosecute them if necessary, while itself being accountable to no one except to the noble conscience of its exalted members — this, in effect, is Jan Lokpal. If the good god delivers on his promise sambhavami yuge yuge and takes birth as the Lokpal, this might work. But, otherwise, it is completely hostile to democracy, in spirit, principle and practice.

In a democracy, a system of checks and balances is supposed to guards against concentration of power. In India, at present, the judiciary is accountable to no one, and the executive, which controls the administrative machinery that runs the country, is accountable to the legislature. The legislature is accountable to the people who elect its members. Administrative personnel are supposed to be accountable, as to both performance and ethics, though their chain of command, to the political executive. In practice, the administrative machinery is accountable to no one. This absence of accountability has spawned poor governance and corruption.
But how come the administrative machinery is not accountable to anyone? If the elected offices, manned by people's representatives, are effective, governance would stream into and light up our lives as naturally as sunlight does. But our elected offices are compromised. They make use of the administrative machinery to filch official funds, sell government patronage and extort money from the public. When administration is thus suborned, only a minority of babus stay ethical or work.

What makes our elected offices so compromised? This is the central question to be addressed in the battle against corruption. Without clarity on this, the battle cannot succeed.

The politics of the world's largest democracy runs on the proceeds of corruption. All political parties finance their activity through funds that are amassed by loot of the exchequer, sale of patronage and plain extortion. Since political funding is an objective necessity, and the accepted form of funding is corruption, elected offices are compromised.

Even if individual functionaries are not corrupt, the parties they represent run on corruption and are compromised in this fashion. This is true of all parties today. Corruption is not just endemic, but also systemic. Reform of political funding is the key to ending corruption. All political expenditure should be declared and made contestable by political rivals and watchdog bodies. All validated expenditure must be accounted for, and all sources of financing, fully transparent.

Once parties and politicians have transparent funding, they will not need to be corrupt. Corruption will cease to be systemic. Only then can the political executive hold the administrative machinery to account for delivery of governance and ethical conduct.

A Lokpal only offers a layer of deterrence. This is like relying on tough inspection alone to check automobile pollution, without making cleaner fuel available, minus lead and sulphur, and without an engine technology upgrade. Similarly, without institutional reform of political funding, corruption cannot be tackled.
Yes, we need deterrence as well. A strong Lokpal is essential. The entire political executive, including the PM, and senior civil servants should come within its purview. But neither the judiciary nor Parliament can be accountable to this ombudsman. The judiciary must be independent of the Lokpal to keep a check on it. And Parliament's accountability should be directly to the people. If MPs misbehave, voters must have the right to recall them.

It is entirely justified for a popular agitation to press for reform of laws and institutions. So, the Anna mobilisation is most welcome. But not its disdain for the institutions and procedures of democracy or its demand to overturn the system of checks and balances that makes democracy work.
If it is sufficient to mobilise a million people in Delhi, leave alone the lakh Anna has brought out, to demand that Mayawati or Narendra Modi should be made prime minister, they can do it, easily. But that would not be right. What is right matters when it comes to making laws and institutions. Its size, however large, or zeal, however self-righteous, cannot make a mob the people of India. The people of India take decisions through Parliament and cannot be railroaded by a mob.








This is going to be a testing year for Indian agriculture. Not because of any bad monsoon: On the contrary, most States — barring Orissa, Assam and parts of Maharashtra — have so far received good and timely rains. The pressure point could, instead, be fertilisers. A 50-kg bag of di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) that used to cost Rs 467.50 before April 2010 — when prices of all non-urea fertilisers were decontrolled — is now worth Rs 600, with some firms even charging Rs 700. Farmgate prices of muriate of potash (MOP) have similarly gone up from Rs 222.75 to Rs 315 a bag and are slated to rise further to Rs 425 from next month (all these rates are net of local taxes). Urea prices, which are still controlled by the Government, have not increased as much, moving up from Rs 241.50 to Rs 268.23 a bag. But with a Group of Ministers giving the go-ahead for bringing urea too under the nutrient-based subsidy regime, farmers may soon have to pay more for this input as well.

The current kharif season and the rabi to follow will mark the first full year where the impact of price deregulation will really be felt on the ground. How farmers will respond to the price increases, whether they will cut back on fertiliser consumption and what that could imply for the production of various crops, are all still uncertain. The situation is compounded by spiralling global prices and supply shortfalls reported in many States. Imported DAP today costs over $650 a tonne, against $525 a year ago, with the landed prices of MOP similarly climbing from $370 to $490. The cumulative effect of all these would be known only in the months to come, as and when the crops in the field are actually harvested.

The blame for the above state of affairs lies largely with the Government, which, for a long period from March 2002 to March 2010, left fertiliser prices absolutely unchanged. What that essentially did was to encourage inefficient and excessive fertiliser use by farmers. Companies, on their part, had no incentive to work closely with farmers and offer customised fertilisers tailored to their specific soil and cropping backgrounds (as these products did not enjoy any subsidy). Today, the danger could be the reverse; farmers might react to the sudden price hikes by drastically reducing consumption. Sales data for April-July, in fact, show a 25-35 per cent drop in offtake of DAP and MOP over the previous year. If this is just a one-off correction that eventually leads to more judicious use of a scarce resource, it may not be a bad thing. Even better would be if it induces farmers to look at the value proposition in any fertiliser and makes companies think beyond urea and DAP.






To fully understand the recent riots that have wracked England, we have to place them in a wider context. We should look, for example, at the youth protests that have erupted this year in France, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Israel and Chile. The London riots are but the most recent example of this dynamic.

But the wider context must also include the undeniable success of the pro-market reforms introduced in the 1980s, during the administrations of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Britain and President Ronald Reagan in the US — policies "underwritten" by economists like Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek.

This market revolution lasted nearly 30 years (from 1980 to 2008), and was a massive ideological success, dominating policymaking and public discourse, and winning over large parts of the public, first in the US and Europe, and then increasingly in China, Russia, India and the rest of the world.

It was a two-pronged revolution involving the privatisation of formerly state-controlled industries and services, and the promotion of a worldview in which economic success was seen as an indicator of intrinsic moral worth.

Failure, meanwhile, became associated with low personal worth.

Only the most recent global financial crisis has managed to shake the perfect confidence of the neoliberal elites. The protests in England, France, Spain and elsewhere certainly differ in their particulars, but whether violent or non-violent, spearheaded by an "excluded minority" or not, they are all the result of similar economic problems affecting today's youth: increasing tuition, high rent and high unemployment. The neoliberal revolution has failed to win over many of the world's young people — yet it is their support that is so crucial for its continuation.

Vast inequalities

How did this happen? It all has to do with the vast inequalities of income and wealth that neoliberal reforms have produced, combined with an incessant emphasis on material success and consumption. While this ideological bludgeoning is perhaps necessary to stimulate growth, few have considered its effects on those who cannot afford to consume the world's luxuries.

Young people "bought" into the ideology that wealth equals ethical superiority, only to find themselves on the wrong side of the equation, unable to purchase the goods they were made to desire. The avenues that could have led them to wealth have gradually closed — through rising unemployment, cuts in social services, the soaring costs of education and housing, and, not least of all, the blatant corruption of the elites. And what they knew they could no longer get by ordinary means, they decided to grab by extraordinary ones.

Two major factors have contributed to the frustrations of today's young people — whether they're taking over Madrid's Puerta del Sol square to protest government cuts or looting stores in London's Tottenham neighbourhood.

First, they no longer believe that simple hard work and ambition are sufficient to provide them with all the goodies enjoyed by earlier generations and by today's wealthy classes. They see welfare-state economies disappearing, while politicians, businessmen and pop stars seize society's riches. Second, they aren't able to offer a serious alternative vision. If they truly believed that a different world were possible, they would have organised into political groups, not mobs.

No hope of better world

The victory of the neoliberal revolution is complete: Nearly everyone has accepted its value system (no less those who rioted in London this month). In that sense, neoliberalism has produced, as prophesied, the "end of history" — the realisation that modern capitalism is the best political and economic system mankind has devised, and that nothing better lies beyond the horizon.

The problem is that the revolution has failed to explain what to do with those who don't prosper under the new system and yet adopt its values. The young men and women robbing stores are not, as some believe, examples of the failure of liberal market reforms. On the contrary, they exemplify the reforms' overwhelming success. But unfortunately, the protesters also reveal the reforms' ultimate Achilles' heel: the creation of a class of people who have no future, no hope for a better world and no fear.

(Branko Milanovic is lead economist for The World Bank research group and a visiting professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. His most recent book is "The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality.")

— © Harvard Business Review/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate






Under a programme of gold sales limited to 403.3 tonnes during October 19-30, 2009, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) sold 200 tonnes to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for $6,699 million or Rs 31,462.88 crore at an average price around $1040 per Troy ounce.

If one takes the value of gold now at $1,740 per ounce and the exchange rate at Rs 45 to a dollar, by selling the 200 tonnes the RBI could make a profit of about Rs 20,000 crore. Besides the financial gain, there are other advantages. At the end of the RBI's accounting year (June 30, 2012) it will be transferred to the government along with the other surplus, contributing substantially to the reduction in fiscal deficit in 2012-13.


The forex reserves will not be affected, the decline in the gold value being made up by the rise in foreign currency assets. The pressure on the market due to government borrowing will be lessened and there will be a saving in the interest cost implied in an equivalent amount of floatation of government securities. The transfer of the amount does mean the creation of money but it could be adjusted against the desired estimate for the growth in money supply. The sale would also take care, in whole or part, of any planned disinvestment programme of government.

It is likely to result in fewer objections from the Opposition and trade unions than in the latter case. Further, it will forestall the possible adverse impact on the market due to money flowing from the bank accounts of the buyers of the enterprises to government account in RBI, creating a liquidity shortage. It is not likely to be criticised as selling family jewels in distress.

Many Western countries have sold the metal. There have been three Central Bank Gold Agreements (1999, 2004 and 2009) for the sale of official gold by the ECB member banks. The RBI Act requires only that its aggregate value of gold coin, gold bullion and foreign securities should not at any time be less than Rs 200 crore, of which the value of gold should be at least Rs 115 crore. The current position is comfortable.


The other option is to lend at least a part of the holdings to bullion banks. Often, the mining companies borrow to fulfil their commitments when there is a shortfall in production. The lease transactions are totally opaque and no institution has an idea of the total world turnover in a year. It is only the central banks of Switzerland and Portugal which mention the leases in their Annual Reports. Others keep them off their balance sheets.

However, gold lent continues to be reckoned as reserve. Estimates of gold lending by central banks in 2008 ranged from 4,000 tonnes to 16,000 tonnes, the latter accounting for about a half of the total official holdings, including those of the IMF and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

The gold lease market is the equivalent of the carry trade in currencies. It provides an arbitrage opportunity to borrowers to sell the gold and make an investment. The carry return is the return on the bonds (LIBOR) minus the gold lease rate. The lease rates (in percentages) on August 12, 2011 were 0.08, 0.21, 0.47 and 1.05 for one, three, six and 12 months, respectively.

The difference between LIBOR and the lease rate determines the contango, which is influenced by credit market conditions. Because of the inherent strength of the gold market contango has prevailed more often than backwardation.

The Bank of England (BoE) holds gold on behalf of many central banks, Bank of Korea being the latest, and often acts on their behalf in market transactions besides being a lender itself.


The sale or leasing out of gold is not likely to encounter any opposition of the type one saw during the Gulf Crisis in 1991 when RBI raised a forex loan from BoE and Bank of Japan on the security of the metal kept with the former.

The Opposition then accused the government of mortgaging the family jewels; but if the RBI had not done so, India would have defaulted on the instalment repayment of a foreign loan that would have done immense damage to its reputation in the international markets.

I accompanied the then RBI Governor, Mr S. Venkitaramanan, as his Adviser and as a member of the Indian delegation to the 1991 Annual Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank in Bangkok. He met the Deputy Governors of IMF and World Bank with a request that the pledged gold might continue to be with the BoE even after the loans were repaid as one did not know whether another occasion would arise for a similar borrowing from the central banks. The two banks agreed to consider the matter.

According to a recent RBI report, it held 557.75 tonnes of gold, forming about 7.5 per cent of the total foreign exchange reserves in value terms, as on March 31, 2011.

Of this, 265.49 tonnes were held abroad (65.49 tonnes since 1991 and 200 tonnes since November 2009) in deposits/safe custody with the BoE and the BIS. It is not clear whether the BoE has been entrusted with the management of the stock in terms of leasing.

However, the report refers to the rate of earnings on foreign currency assets and gold being 2.09 per cent during July 2009-June 2010.






We are surrounded by dark clouds of global economic gloom. The US has been stripped of its AAA credit rating by Standard and Poor's, a signal that the largest economy and the global reserve currency, the US dollar, are no longer free of risk. The Eurozone has fared no better. It has recorded a growth of 0.2 per cent during the most recent quarter (April-June 2011).

Not only are outliers such as Greece and Portugal tottering, but mighty Germany, which has been a big driver in Europe, grew only by a marginal 0.1 per cent. Japan is yet to get back on its feet. A double-dip recession in all these zones is now the talk of the town. But these very dark clouds hold several silver linings for the Indian economy.


Weak US and European economies, with no short-term resolutions in sight, will inevitably lead to fewer jobs and lower consumer demand in those countries.

A direct outcome of this will be slowing demand for oil, since these developed economies are shameless energy guzzlers. Oil prices will therefore fall, a pattern which is already visible: in the past weeks, the price of Brent crude oil has slid sharply from $116 to $102 per barrel.

Some pundits have forecast an even lower price of $80 soon. Since oil constitutes nearly 35 per cent of the Indian import basket, this will mean a lower import bill for India, an excellent development.

In addition, lower oil prices will also lead to lower inflation in India, both due to the direct impact on prices of petroleum products, as well as indirect impact on cost of food and other items on account of lower freight and related costs.

Significantly, lower oil prices will also enable our rulers to decontrol domestic petro-product prices completely, and with little political risk. This will be hailed as a firm economic gesture by a Government, which has lately been accused of economic drift.

Weak global demand will also lead to lower commodity prices. The latest Economist commodity price dollar index (August 16) shows a decline of 3 per cent during the last month. The index of industrial commodities displays an even sharper decline of 7 per cent. Except for gold, all other metals are heading downwards. This will once again ease inflationary pressure in the Indian economy. Early signs have already appeared: inflation is down to 9.2 per cent in July, compared with 9.5 per cent in June.

If these early signs of lower inflation translate into a sustained pattern during the next three months, it will show quite a few good results. Indian consumers will view this as relief from high prices, so consumer sentiment and discretionary spending will perk up. In addition, RBI will not need to continue its monetary tightening process, which is targeted solely at reducing inflation, so it may well halt any more interest rate increases.

This will ensure that consumers' disposable incomes are not squeezed further through higher EMIs on loans; it will also put a smile on the faces of corporates, who are labouring under increasing interest costs. Generally speaking, some measure of focus will shift from controlling inflation to driving growth.


When the dust settles on the US rating downgrade and Eurozone's multiple shocks, and global funds objectively deliberate on the investment destinations they should pursue, India will surely be one of the few large economies with prospects of 8 per cent economic growth.

Therefore, it stands to reason that funds which seek growth will flow into India, particularly since India's credit rating has remained stable; hence, in relative terms, our country is now better placed than earlier. This will happen notwithstanding the fact that some risk-averse funds, which are focused largely on safety, will retreat to their home markets in these difficult economic times.

Our capital markets and industry will benefit from such inflow of "growth-seeking" funds. This will, in turn, improve Indian economic sentiment significantly.


The US downgrade, weakening US dollar and prospects of global recession have led to significant spikes in gold prices, as investors seek to place a higher proportion of their funds in this safest of assets. The price of gold has climbed sharply, to over $1,850 per troy ounce. Pundits are now predicting record price levels of $2,500.

This rise in gold prices creates a unique impact for Indian consumers and the economy. Indian households hold nearly 17,500 tonnes of gold. This is the largest stock of gold on earth, rumoured to be even higher than all the gold in Fort Knox! It is valued at $1 trillion, which exceeds 70 per cent of India's market capitalisation of all listed companies, and is four times higher than the total exposure that Indian households (excluding promoter families) have to the stock market.

Hence, as the price of gold appreciates sharply, Indian households will suddenly feel richer, particularly if this fact is explicitly highlighted and internalised well. A mere 1 per cent increase in gold prices increases the wealth of Indian households by Rs 45,000 crore. This "wealth effect" can lead to strong consumer sentiment, which is yet another redeeming silver (or should we say gold?) lining on the Indian horizon.








In political circles, there is agreement so far only on the premise that the government, and some of the more daft elements in the Congress who occasionally betray signs of thinking that shooting your way out of trouble is the only way for a ruling party, have bungled in dealing with the issues posed by the mass mobilisation brought about by Anna Hazare on fighting corruption. This is true, but all too pat. It is also a touch self-serving as far as the non-Congress parties are concerned. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's letter to Mr Hazare on Tuesday, in which he urged a consensus on provisions to be adopted in respect of the proposed Lokpal legislation while reassuring the eminent campaigner that he was on the same side as the anti-corruption campaign, is regrettably glossed over in what appears to be a discourse of convenience. The letter did set in motion backroom negotiations, and conversations between the opponents, paving the way for Wednesday's all-party meeting held at the government's initiative to locate a modus vivendi to cope with the difficult political situation that has been thrown up. However, a consensus eluded the political class on the way forward, although Mr Hazare's health parameters are a cause for worry in the wake of his prolonged fast. The situation is likely to turn markedly grim should the worst-case scenario materialise. Nevertheless, the parties in Parliament appeared to have played straightforward party politics, possibly with a view to leaving the ruling party isolated. Perhaps they reckon this would increase Congress' vulnerability in coping with the current impasse, and eventually benefit them when elections come. L.K. Advani's demand that the government throw in the towel and call for a mid-term poll is suggestive in this context. The only thing on which the all-party meeting could show unanimity was in expressing solicitude for Mr Hazare's health. They urged him to give up his fast. On current form, the protest veteran and his messianic team are unlikely to be impressed. Perhaps the Prime Minister should make a statement in Parliament soon, after conferring with the Hazare group on the scope for expanding the area of agreement between the government's Lokpal Bill and that of the protest movement, while urging consideration of other alternatives. It is also important to persuade Mr Hazare that the August 30 deadline set by him to pass a new law will not pass muster in Parliament, given the mood at the all-party confabulation. In any case, deadline threats will not yield a good, reasonable law.







That there is a bearish trend in the stockmarkets, with values falling and new buyers staying away, is apparent. But now it turns out that even in the cricketers' market things are going badly for investors. Our cricket stars, whose valuations went zooming north after their World Cup victory, are in the doldrums with no takers. No brand wants to be associated with losers, and our boys definitely fit that description. After the handsome win in the World Cup, with that flamboyant sixer by M.S. Dhoni and the subsequent triumph of his team in the IPL, the captain's brand value went soaring. The shocking performance in England has sent clients scurrying for cover. A 4-0 loss for the world's number one team is a big fall. But in this crisis there could be an opportunity. This may be a good time to endorse products that go with their current frame of mind. Say a Vitamin tonic, to pick up their spirits. Or other kind of spirits in which they could immerse their sorrow. Or travel companies advertising holidays to remote places where wrathful fans cannot reach. There's another way out too — the cricketers could just play well and win the ODI series.







The civil war in Libya is inching towards its denouement. The tumultuous scenes in Tripoli have led many observers to conclude that the Arab Spring will stretch into winter. Such a conclusion may be hasty. Even as the Libyan crisis seems near an end, the impasse in Syria poses a festering danger. The two crises are linked — not just in their origins but also in their development. Moreover, unlike Libya the crisis in Syria could touch off a wider regional crisis. India needs to pay attention to the evolving situation, because of its presence on the United Nations Security Council and because of its substantial interests in this part of the world. According to the UN Commission for Human Rights, over 2,200 people have been killed in Syria since the protests broke out in March. The UNSC, however, is deeply divided on the question of responding to these egregious developments in Syria. The United States and the European members on the council — Britain, France, Germany and Portugal — have pushed for a legally-binding resolution, condemning the violence in Syria and compelling the government to stop it. Their attempts have been strongly contested by other members, including Russia, China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Lebanon. These countries have expressed concern that a resolution against Syria would be used to impose UN sanctions and perhaps approve the use of force against Syria in the near future. The precedent of Libya clearly looms large. India's permanent representative to the UN, Hardeep Puri, observed that several council diplomats felt the Western military coalition in Libya had exceeded its Security Council mandate to protect civilians and had weighed in on one side of the civil war. The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, hotly dismissed such views as a "canard". She was protesting too much. Advocates of the "responsibility to protect" did themselves a grave disservice first by raising the spectre of an impending massacre in Libya and then by shifting the goalpost from protection of non-combatants to regime change. It is hardly surprising that some UNSC members are reluctant to give them the benefit of the doubt again. The upshot of it all was a UNSC statement calling on "all sides" to end violence and exercise restraint. This was followed by a diplomatic effort by India, Brazil and South Africa to find a way out of the ongoing crisis. A delegation comprising senior officials from each of these countries visited Syria two weeks ago. Meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and foreign minister Walid Muallem, the delegation affirmed the commitment of their countries to the sovereignty and integrity of Syria. But it expressed grave concern over the current situation in Syria, and called for "an immediate end to all violence" and a credible judicial investigation into the violence. The delegation also urged Syria to implement "political reforms with the aim of effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the population". Mr Assad told them that he would complete constitutional changes and move towards a multi-party democracy by January/February next year. The US and its allies are not pleased with these developments, which they believe are only a ruse by the Syrian government to buy time. Last week, US President Barack Obama called on Mr Assad to step down — a call that was echoed by other European leaders. Mr Assad seems in no mood to oblige. More worryingly, the Syrian crisis is in the danger of becoming the focal point for two axes of regional rivalries. First, Iran has remained steadfast in its support for the Syrian government. Earlier this year, it had sent 1,000 Republican Guards to help put down the uprising in Dara'a. It has also pressured its other allies in the region, such as Hamas, to come out in support of the embattled Assad government. Responding to Iran's activism, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries have grown sharply critical of Mr Assad. Second, there is the danger of renewed fighting between Hamas and Israel. The attack in Israel last week, which left eight dead, could trigger an escalatory process of violence and retaliation. This could also draw in Syria's (and Iran's) Lebanese protégé, Hezbollah, and so set the stage for a wider conflagration. India must stay ahead of the curve on these potential developments. Increased turmoil in West Asia will place our regional interests at risk. After all, the region accounts for 63 per cent of our crude imports, $93 billion of trade, and comprises six million Indian expatriate workers who remit over $35 billion every year. The Indian government has done well in taking a proactive stance for defusing the Syrian crisis. But it has its work cut out for it in the months ahead. Srinath Raghavan is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi








The nature of the mind is such that it always wants to accumulate. When it is gross, it wants to accumulate things, and when it becomes a little more evolved, it wants to accumulate knowledge. When emotion becomes dominant, it wants to accumulate people. But the basic nature remains the same. When a person starts thinking or believing that s/he is on a spiritual path, the mind starts accumulating spiritual wisdom. It starts gathering guru's words, but until one goes beyond the need to accumulate — whether it is food, things, people, knowledge or wisdom — there remains a feeling of insufficiency because somewhere you got identified with things that you are not. One reason behind the need to gather as much as you can is your education. It taught you how to gather more. With what you gather in your mind — whether it is gossip or knowledge or so-called spiritual wisdom — you can make a living and maybe enhance your life. But it can't liberate you. A web of bondage is being woven by the way we think and feel. What we call "awareness" is actually a process of creating a distance between ourselves and whatever we think and feel. Sadhana is an opportunity to raise your energies so that you can rise over these limitations. To bring the necessary awareness and to constantly cleanse your vessel, there is really no substitute for sadhana. With awareness and constant sadhana, slowly the vessel becomes empty. Awareness empties and sadhana cleanses. When the two are sustained and emptiness arises, grace descends upon you. If you are living with a guru just to gather his words, you are wasting your time. If you do not make yourself receptive to grace, the spiritual path needs to be pursued for many lifetimes. When you are willing to drop all your capabilities and incapabilities, all likes and dislikes, and all that makes you think "this is me", grace comes to you. If you become empty enough for grace to descend, the ultimate nature is within reach — this goes beyond all dimensions of existence into the exalted state. And this does not happen tomorrow or in another lifetime. It becomes a living reality. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is a visionary, a humanitarian, author, poet and speaker







Both aim to paralyse state By Shekhar Singh Arundhati Roy has compared Anna Hazare's movement to the Maoists. Admittedly, both are trying to paralyse the state. The Maoists threaten with a violent uprising and pit their armed might against a government which typically has much more of it. Mr Hazare, on the other hand, threatens the government with a non-violent uprising and pits his public credibility against theirs, which almost by definition the government has a deficit of. The Maoists do not believe that the current system can provide justice to people. They see the laws and processes of the system as means of oppressing the masses, especially the poor and the marginalised. Mr Hazare demands the passing of a strong anti-corruption law and the setting up of an immensely powerful Lokpal institution, which would ensure that the laws of the state are strictly followed. On the face of it Mr Hazare reiterates his support for the system and only wants to strengthen it. However, by demanding that a democratically-elected government and Parliament suspend their own judgment and processes and do what he wants them to do, he is in essence saying that the system can be bypassed if a sufficient number of people demand so. He is also saying that no other views need to be considered. But why should there be no hearing for those who think a single Lokpal for 40 lakh officials, judiciary, politicians, covering corruption and grievance redress, would be too unwieldy to be effective and too powerful to be trusted? How do we put across our suggestions about multiple, decentralised Lokpals? The Maoists have an alternate system, whatever its merits, to replace this system. But does Mr Hazare have a plan of what to do when he bypasses this system? What happens if Mr Hazare's demands are not met and the elected government quits, or if his demands are met and the system is bypassed? The government will then have set a precedence — the elected government and Parliament will be bypassed again and again by protest groups. The next time it might be the corrupt demanding the repeal of the Lokpal Bill, or bigots demanding the expulsion of all minorities, the contractor lobby demanding accelerated construction of more and more large dams, or even the upper caste demanding reservations in jobs. The fact that some of these demands are unconstitutional would be no barrier, for if a group can take over the legislative powers of Parliament, then why not its powers to amend the Constitution? Shekhar Singh, National Campaign for People's Right to Information * * * Anna is not a democrat By Anirudh Deshpande All viable democratic systems tread a delicate path between the extreme Left and Right. Democracy means respect for differences and their reconciliation within a constitutional framework. A democracy, by normative definition, is inclusive, based on the rule of law and provides its citizens the equality of opportunity and a welfare state. In India the normative definition of democracy has never translated into a substantive gain for the masses. Democracy has been reduced to suffrage. Corruption is symptomatic of the Indian state's failure. All mainstream parties, including those who support Team Anna and hope to gain the most from the current turmoil, have contributed to this state of affairs. The covenant between international capital, the Indian ruling class and state has driven India into an impasse of "high corruption". Corruption is not only caused by greed overtaking need but is in direct proportion to the importance of money in an unequal and insecure society. Nowhere in the world has an oligopoly arisen without corrupting and destroying the very state which facilitates its rise. Team Anna wants the Indian state to be accountable but is curiously silent on the accountability of the private corporations and NGOs. This "team" does not focus on the multiple causes of corruption in India. It seeks a punitive solution to a systemic problem by resorting to an intolerant cult of the individual. It is widely known that Anna Hazare is not a democrat. By undermining Parliament and focusing crowd hysteria almost exclusively on the state, Team Anna has set a dangerous precedent. Mr Hazare's victory will legitimise authoritarianism, strengthen the politics of blackmail and might bring a fascist to power. The last 20 years in India have seen an unprecedented victory and celebration of capital and the denigration of labour. The share of wages in our GDP has fallen; the share of corporate profits has increased. In these conditions extreme Left movements accumulate the tinder to destroy parliamentary democracy. The Maoist threat to pluralist democracy is radically different from the one posed by the pro-business, self-righteous middle class. The ultimate aim of the Maoists is the destruction of corporate capitalism. If they seize power and nationalise the assets of the 10 top business houses, capitalism will collapse and the era of the resident non-Indians will end. The huge concentration of capital in a small number of business houses will make their task easier. Dr Anirudh Deshpande, history professor, Delhi University







The Anna phenomenon has the government flummoxed, the world dubbing it India's Arab Spring and Anna Hazare's supporters heralding Gandhi's re-birth. The ruling party, handicapped by Sonia Gandhi's absence, erred in assuming that Mr Hazare could not revive his agitation after the government had dissipated his Jantar Mantar foray by engaging, pretending to negotiate and then discarding the Jan Lokpal Bill on the logic of a boss in the cartoon telling his disappointed employee that when he said his door was open, it did not extend to his mind. The government's defence rests on two arguments. One, that Parliament is supreme and must control law-making; two, self-appointed representatives of civil society are hijacking democracy by protests and fasts. The lawyer-advisers of the Prime Minister, to borrow Opposition leader Arun Jaitley's coinage, need to read Francis Fukuyama's latest book, The Origins of Political Order, which explains that the electoral exercise alone does not make a liberal democracy. Russia and Venezuela are electoral authoritarian systems. Globally the relevance of political structures to contemporary dilemmas is being questioned. While Europe is trapped in a welfare state model, which is unaffordable, the US is stymied in dealing with fiscal irresponsibility and issues like health, security and energy. Contrariwise, China prospers despite political opaqueness. At the heart of any democracy has to be a healthy relationship between the state and society. The state should be unified and able to enforce its laws; society must also be strong enough to enforce accountability on the state. This balance no longer exists in India, though it is playing out as mock combat over the Lokpal Bill. This pantomime's provenance is old. In the US historians have talked of 36-year cycles in history that usher defining moments. Illustratively, significant US presidential elections were of Abraham Lincoln in 1860; McKinley in 1896 (whose assassination led to the accession of reforming Teddy Roosevelt); Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932; and Richard Nixon in 1968 (whose resignation underscored accountability). In India such a defining moment, 36 years ago, was the imposition of Emergency. The Jayaprakash Narayan-led agitation was basically against corruption and nepotism. The people of India handed over power to the Janata Dal in 1977, hoping for fundamental reform of political governance. Bickering, selfishness and, finally, betrayal, led to the demise of that experiment. A re-elected Indira Gandhi, unrepentant and impervious to change, followed by son Rajiv, unable to reform the inherited system, had the Congress again cornered on corruption by the Bofors scandal in 1987. The people of India again crowned the new messiah of probity, V.P. Singh, in 1990. He, too, could not translate personal example into good governance and finally fell to the passions of opportunistic social engineering. Mr Hazare's gambit is the third awakening of Indian people in this churning of history. Today's India is different from the India of 1975 or 1987. It is more urban, younger and better informed due to electronic connectivity. The intelligence ministries of the Arab dictators also erred in applying old formulas to handling dissidence, and failed. The following is germane to both sides better understanding the nature of the challenge: * In the Westminster form of government, popular sentiments flow to policymakers through members of Parliament. Prime Ministers keep their ears tuned to the buzz in their own party, particularly on sensitive legislation. The anti-defection law passed by the Rajiv Gandhi government removes the fear of dissonance in the ruling party and also increases the tendency to ignore your own colleagues' thinking. Manish Tewari, much maligned since August 15, had moved an amendment that whips should be limited to money bills and no-confidence motions. For the rest, MPs should be free to vote. The government should announce that whenever their version of the Lokpal Bill or any other is tabled in the House they would not subject their members to a whip. That could be the first step to restore a link between Parliament and society. * Parliament itself is not infallible. Legislation passed by it has been held in breach of the Constitution by the Supreme Court in the past. The much-reviled Postal Bill of 1987, sanctioning intrusive mail interception, was passed by the Rajiv Gandhi government but held up by President Zail Singh, till he retired, in response to popular sentiment. * Eradication of corruption must encompass electoral and political party reform. Inner party democracy and state funding of elections are its conditions precedent. All parties, other than the Communist ones, have progressively become family ventures, the family of the BJP being the RSS. Mercifully three popular chief ministers are spinsters and one a bachelor. Fukuyama calls it "paternalisation" of democracy where kinship is preferred over talent. Even Rahul Gandhi's talent search for the Youth Congress largely rests on scions of party loyalists. * The role of civil society cannot be denigrated either by procedural arguments or pleading the co-option of some into the National Advisory Council, where they have done good work on poverty alleviation or empowerment. Mr Hazare's corruption crusade is complimentary to that, though simplistically limits it to the Lokpal. This is a unique moment when there is merit in what either side says. Belatedly the government, which the Anna camp distrusts due to past betrayal, is closing ranks with the Opposition and then seeking a mutual face-saver with Mr Hazare. The Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV, having contested Pope Gregory VII's right to nominate to clerical posts, relented by going to the Castle of Canossa, where the Pope was staying, waiting in humiliation for four days and then receiving absolution barefoot in the snow. Thus began the separation of the Church and the State. Defining moments need epic gestures. Let both sides step back and seek absolution for the nation. K.C. Singh is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry










DEMOCRACY is a process of give and take. When you don't give gracefully, you could end up having much taken from you. As hopes were generated of an understanding on the Lokpal legislation being reached by Wednesday evening, earlier in the day it was apparent that the UPA government had much taken away from it ~ in terms of authority, image, credibility. It had done most of the backing off. Though details of a possible solution could crystallise at an all-party meeting, the government was clearly under severe pressure to come up with something that would persuade Anna Hazare to end his fast. Yet that pressure would earn it small sympathy because the vast majority of the concessions it was now desperate to sell to Team Anna could have been offered weeks, if not months, earlier. That it waited until Anna's health so deteriorated that it aroused serious concern confirms it had learnt no lessons from its arresting and sending him to Tihar Jail. Had a reconciliation attempt been initiated soon after his release was ordered the scope for such massive public protest might have been appreciably reduced. Instead, the impression gained ground that the government was confident that it could "wear down" the veteran social activist. Hence the sincerity of the Prime Minister's conciliatory letter to Anna was questioned, the possibility of there being a "catch" was not discounted ~ even though the suspected double-dealers Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal had been sidelined to appease Hazare's aides. Kiran Bedi's insistence on a written commitment from the UPA was not just a case of her professional police experience kicking-in ~ binding rowdies down to good behaviour ~ it reflected the distrust that set in during previous stages of negotiations. This was self-inflicted shame for Manmohan Singh & Co. Regardless of the eventual outcome it cannot be a case of "all's well that ends well".

The loss of credibility and authority is not confined to UPA-II ~ it will extend to all future governments. Any short-circuiting of parliamentary processes is ominous. Governance and legislation are not issues to be taken up by hordes on the streets ~ dangerous precedents appear to have been set. It must also be stressed that Anna's aides have not covered themselves with glory. The language used by some of them was decidedly uncivil, they had no control of the crowds they gathered, much dishonour was done to the National flag, the Gandhi cap became a dubious fashion statement. The fallout could prove detrimental. There is need for serious introspection on that side of the divide too. However, one charge that will not "stick" is that Anna held a gun to the government's head ~ through its arrogance and political insensitivity UPA-II held a gun to its own head!



OVER the past 72 hours, Libya has been too densely fogbound for the world to hazard a guess on the evolving contours. While Muammar Gaddafi's whereabouts are yet unknown, the capability of the rebels to take over the rusted throne and tattered tents in Tripoli is now open to question. Suffice it to register that they have stumbled over claims to have captured the dictator's second son, Saif al-Islam, who has appeared before the international press barely 24 hours after the rebels had trumpeted their "achievement". For the insurgents, the setback comes at a critical juncture; the development has severely undermined the credibility of the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC), which had claimed to be the country's alternative government and is said to have begun negotiations with the International Criminal Court for Saif's transfer to The Hague. Such claims and legal moves must seem premature and tenuous as must be reports that the rebels are in control of Tripoli. Small wonder the West hasn't reacted to the developments since Sunday. Libya has been in a flux since April, precisely the start of NATO's humanitarian offensive, a contradiction in terms if ever there was one. The time for a momentous announcement is not yet. Did the insurgents make a mis-statement about Saif? Does the fiasco point to differences in rebel ranks? Answers to these questions may not be available any time soon. There is speculation in Tripoli that Saif was captured for a while and then let off. Unwittingly, the insurgents have exposed their lack of coordination, if not sloppiness.

Gaddafi may have been defeated; but as Egypt's experience testifies, the eclipse of a dictator doesn't ipso facto resolve the nation's problems. Libya is a fractious land and the rebels are riven by tribal differences. Last month's assassination ~ by his own side ~ of the rebel military commander, General Fatah Younes, remains a mystery in a country going through the mortal motions of transition. It is doubtful if the jurisdiction of the Transitional National Council will be acceptable in western Libya. Post-Gaddafi, Libya will need a coherent government to reconstruct the country and place it on the rails again. Fears that the country will witness a bout of looting, as did post-Saddam Iraq, are not wholly unfounded. In the saddle of governance, the opponents of the Gaddafi regime face a formidable task. The ouster of a Mubarak or a Gaddafi is but one facet of the Arab Spring; nation-building is a different proposition altogether.



BOTH the Centre and the NSCN (IM) claim that the ongoing peace talks are on the right track. But neither side is specific about how much ground they have covered over the past 14 years. The lack of unity among militant outfits is often cited as the main hindrance to progress and it was  assumed that the Forum for Naga Reconciliation, whose efforts have helped check fratricidal killings, is on the job. Formed in 2008, it enjoys the confidence of all Naga political leaders, the Hoho (Naga parliament), churches and civic societies. At their third "summit" in 2008 at Chiangmai (Thailand) Naga leaders agreed on a "Covenant of Common hope to work out details of turning swords into ploughshares". Earlier, they had also pledged "to forge an inclusive and united vision for Naga people to live together also with other communities," the main objective being to "achieve reconciliation, unity and peace".

At the FNR's instance, leaders of warring groups met at Dimapur on 20 August. While the NSCN (IM)'s Isak Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah attended, NSCN(K) chief SS Khaplang excused himself on the ground of "indifferent health." Nor did he send a representative because the meeting was exclusively for leaders only. A little surprising though was FNR convener Rev Dr Wati's remark that the "Forum is only concerned about reconciliation, we are not talking about unity" and that this had to be decided by the leaders themselves. The impression so far has been that being the facilitator the FNR would take care of  both aspects.








DECENTRALISATION and popular participation can help induct a wider section of the populace into the decision-making process. This can also help improve the level of efficiency, equity, and is especially important in the context of local quangos involved in disaster management, development and resource management. Decentralisation enhances public sector accountability and  effectiveness. It strengthens the concept of people's democracy.

Unwittingly, the local population often exposes itself to risks through unsafe settlements along steep slopes and deforestation that leads to soil degradation. The people cannot cope with the inherent risks because they are not familiar with agro-ecological and farming systems. This makes it imperative to involve the local people in the task of  preventing disasters. Everybody has the potential to contribute towards minimising the risk of a disaster, and ought to be provided with the opportunity to do so. This will enhance self-reliance and strengthen the preventive measures.

The task can be more easily achieved at the decentralised, local government level, and even below. The government comes closer to the people. Decentralisation tightens coordination, vertical linkages and flexibility among administrative agencies. Development, conservation planning and implementation are more effective. In a decentralised scheme of things, both bureaucrats and technocrats are in a position to readily invest in disaster management. They are suitably empowered and provided with sufficient funds to do so.

Decentralisation can enhance managerial and economic efficiency through a variety of ways. Rarely, if ever, does a natural disaster strike the entire country at the same time. It is the risk-hazard that varies from one region to another. Which makes it essential to use local knowledge for effective preventive measures depending on the vulnerability of the area.

National disaster plans usually emphasise the need for mitigation and preparedness; they lack details about resources. Social, political and macro-economic pressures can undermine the capability of the state authorities to minimise the risks. And if the government is cash-strapped, it might simply  abdicate its responsibilities. Disaster management may be left to the devices of local governments and NGOs, which may not possess the requisite skills and resources. In many countries, fiscal and financial decentralisation have not kept pace with political and administrative decentralisation.

Nonetheless, the initiative has been taken in several regions, and largely through externally-financed projects and programmes. In the event of what is referred to as the "handout syndrome", the government's post-disaster relief operations  and international assistance can act as incentives for the people in disaster-prone areas. Concerted programmes by municipalities in the northern and southern parts of the country can lead to greater mobilisation of resources and experience.

In certain parts of Europe and the USA, migrant associations are engaged in comparable activity. The impact tends to be more localised, specifically at the intra-community level. With diasporas acting as financiers and fund-raisers for the rehabilitation of the households with whom they are connected through familial ties, the bulk of such assistance tends to be provided at the individual level. This is facilitated by the increasing international outreach of commercial money transfer services and the concomitant diversification of transfer options.
The extent to which disaster management programmes are institutionalised within local government systems depends largely on the regularity and intensity with which their constituencies are affected by natural disasters. Clogged drains can prevent water from flowing freely, resulting in overflows and eventually to flooding.
In coastal Asia where the risk of floods is strong, for example in Bangladesh and Cambodia, several projects have come up to cope with the calamity. This involves organising the community and mobilisation of resources.
The Food-For-Work (FFW) programme is a critical aspect of disaster management. Governmental efforts are usually supplemented by international agencies and NGOs. The scheme provides interim food security and envisages the construction of community assets such as water resources, irrigation facilities such as canals and earthen check-dams, roads, and other civic infrastructure,  schools, and health centres.

Community-based self-help initiatives are seldom undertaken. Investments in disaster mitigation and preparedness tend to be less than optimal. Drought relief ought not to be targeted only at food distribution. It should also envisage the breeding of cattle that can be made available as part of customary solidarity schemes on a community-wide basis. Whereas incisive information is available in relation to the Nineties  on the household strategies that were adopted to face chronic or seasonal poverty, much less research has been done on hazard-risk exposure and the response.

In North-west China, informal "herder groups" counteract risk and manage disasters by jointly preparing emergency plans and organising pasture movements. In the event of a disaster,  the first action of herders is to contact the nearest households. The next step is to procure assistance from the community, village and team leaders, in contact with external agencies. In case of severe emergency and destruction, governmental relief  has to be obtained through town governors, village leaders and  team leaders.

In Bangladesh, the traditional cropping patterns have been adapted to cope with flash floods. Farmers have selected  several varieties of rice to suit the environment as well as the brackish water conditions. Managing floods are integral to the rural livelihood strategies in Bangladesh.

A report of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies notes: "The main weakness of community-based initiatives is their limited outreach. Scaling up to achieve greater impact needs the participation of the government. Yet the state and its apparatus are often seen as part of the problem".

The writer is with the Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management (EIILM), Kolkata







In a democracy, consensus is important and there has to be a give and take so that the majority and the minority can be persuaded to accept the compromise formula

I too had tried for conciliation between Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Gandhian Mr Anna Hazare on the Jan Lokpal Bill (anti-corruption

ombudsman). This was on the fifth day of Mr Hazare's fast and his movement against corruption had brought thousands of people on the streets throughout the country. Soon after I heard Dr Singh saying on television that the government was open to a "discussion or dialogue" on the Lokpal Bill placed before Parliament, I saw an aperture of opportunity. That very afternoon, I went to meet Mr Hazare whom I know a bit. I found him prepared for a compromise provided three basic conditions were substantially met.

The first condition was independence of the judiciary. I suggested a Lokpal exclusively for the judiciary. Mr Hazare readily agreed to it. The second was about the Prime Minister. Mr Hazare was for dividing the office into two ~ one relating to governance and the other to acts of corruption. He only wanted to pursue the instance of corruption if prima facie a case was established as enunciated in Mr Hazare's version of the Lokpal Bill. The third condition was the independence of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Mr Hazare wants to place the organisation under the Supreme Court's supervision till Parliament passes the modified Lokpal Bill.

I did not speak to the Prime Minister directly, but someone who knowshim personally conveyed what Mr Hazare had conceded. The Prime Minister's reply was not helpful. He said that Mr Hazare should go before the Parliament Standing Committee which was discussing the matter. The plea that he should invite Mr Hazare to a special sitting of all political parties was also rejected by the Prime Minister.

I find what the government has agreed to after three days of my initiative is more or less the same: that the Prime Minister and the CBI would come under the Lokpal's ambit; and that the judiciary would be independent of the Lokpal with a judicial commission to be set up in consultation with Mr Hazare. One thing that came out clearly from the brief exercise that I undertook was Mr Hazare's humility and government's arrogance. And I do not know why it believes that by running him down it would be in a better position to deal with him.
First, the Congress party's Young Turk, Mr Manish Tewari, abuses him. He
is followed by home minister Mr P Chidambaram and human resources
development minister Mr Kapil Sibal who do not use foul language but make fun of Mr Hazare. Dr Manmohan Singh was more cynical and characterised Mr Hazare's methods as "misconceived." The Prime Minister should know that Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, had gone on indefinite fasts many times and staged Satyagraha against British rulers during the freedom struggle.
As if abuses were not enough, the government and the Congress party
have told the nation, no more gullible, that Mr Hazare is being helped by
a foreign hand. Will it give us any proof of that considering the government talks about transparency day in and day out? Indira Gandhi, who imposed Emergency and detained a lakh people without trial, called Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan, the spirit of the movement at that time, a CIA agent. The Congress was defeated at the following polls. A rerun is very much possible during the 2014 general election.
All this is probably history but the nation should also learn a lesson. In democracy, there is not only a black or a white but also a grey area. One cannot fix the date or insist publicly on treading a particular path. The consensus is important and there has to be a give
and take so that the majority and the minority are brought around to
accept the compromise formula.
The Congress has never liked dissent or defiance. It treats every popular movement as a law and order problem. That is the reason why it has not yet understood the rationale of any popular outburst. Mr Hazare is only the face of people's resentment against the government. The government is still oblivious to the countrywide resentment against it. Either its Intelligence agencies are deluding it or it is merely reflecting the mentality of dictators.
For the youth, the movement has been a catharsis of their failings, not having ideals any more or not following any value-based system. It has seen in Mr Hazare's movement a chance to restore the line that Indira Gandhi had erased between right and wrong, moral and immoral. They have rediscovered the Gandhi cap which has represented
self-sufficiency and our assertion against the rulers' suppression. The Congress should have commended the awakening of the youth instead of using wrong tactics to defame the movement.
The youth is confused by Ms Aruna Roy's open criticism of Mr Hazare's version of the Lokpal Bill. He himself realises some of its limitations. But the activists cannot afford to show division in their ranks when the government is out to crush a movement that has caught the people's imagination. I respect Ms Roy's integrity and the tremendous work she has done to get the Right to Information Act structured. But I felt disappointed that she chose to voice her opposition at a time when the movement is facing the government's hostility. I am glad she has put before the nation a third draft of the Lokpal Bill. But it too suffers from many
Foreign media again got it all wrong. It has been conveying that India
was going the way of the Arab countries and might throw out the government. This is not true. Arab nations have never enjoyed democracy. People there want freedom to govern themselves. In India, people have that freedom already; they express themselves the way they want. They carry no guns like the Arab countries. The behaviour of the USA or the UK after 9/11 has been undemocratic and anti-people.
Because of their fear of terrorists, the two nations have accepted the
restriction on individual freedom and adopted laws which make a
mockery of the people's traditional right to freedom of speech and expression.
Dr Manmohan Singh could have probably retrieved the situation if he had been his own master. Since the return of Congress secretary-general
Mr Rahul Gandhi from America, where his mother, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, recently had an operation to treat cancer, the entire strategy of the government has changed. Power has shifted to 24 Akbar Road, the Congress headquarters.
Today, everything around the Prime Minister has fallen and he is a
lonely person. But he has to blame himself for that because he refused to make up with Mr Hazare when the latter was willing to meet him more than half way. The Prime Minister can take the stand that he had to take along the Congress president and his Cabinet members. But posterity will blame him.

The writer is a veteran journalist and commentator







Oddities in human beings have always fascinated me. And I must confess that my career in the Air Force gave me the privilege of meeting some extraordinarily interesting guys you cannot possibly find in any other walk of life. When I am drawn into a spell of nostalgia, my mental filing cabinet opens up with a stream of incidents, most of them replete with humour and laughter.

Take for instance a certain Squadron Commander, a guy with a florid complexion sporting a longish handlebar moustach. He had a sort of Etonion stammer, a hallmark of excellence which was a fall-out of the officers from the erstwhile Royal Air Force. On a Saturday afternoon, the Squadron Commander was enjoying the luxury of a cold glass of beer in the mess bar in the company of other officers. A young Flight Lieutenant from his squadron came up to him and said: "Sir, I have been posted to UK on the Fighter Leaders course. The signal has just come."

The Squadron Commander transferred his beer mug to his left hand and said: "Con ... cong ,,, congratulations old boy. Go ... go ... good show." He then paused for a minute to wipe off the beer foam from his moustaches. He then turned to the young officer and asked: "Ta ... ta ... taking the wife a ... a ... along?"

The officer responded: "Yes sir."

The Squadron Commander was aghast. "Dope," he responded: "Ca ... ca ... carrying co ... co ... coals to Newcastle."

We had yet another officer who owned an old Buick car. On the rare occasion when the car was in running condition, the young blade used to drive the car with a flourish, streaming out of the mess gate to meet his girlfriend. One could plot his trajectory with the vapour trail of perfume and Aqua Velva aftershave lotion that he left behind. While the outward journey was on horsepower, the return journey was invariably on bullock-cart power.

On one occasion, I was returning to the base after completing a gruelling Court of Inquiry. At the railway station, the train chugged in around midnight. After sustained banging on the compartment door, it slowly creaked on its hinges and a well-built guy was framed in the doorway. I apologised and getting on to my lower berth, I was soon fast asleep. Some minutes later, I heard a loud rumbling sound. I opened one eye gingerly and to my utter horror, I found my co-traveller jumping vigorously performing a mixed version of kathakali and the tandva-nittya. Every few minutes he would let out a shriek holding his left hand to the ear. Was the character suffering from delirium-tremens or could he have had one too many, I asked myself.

"Is anything wrong?" I ventured.

My friend put on a wry smile and said: "It's a beetle. The fellow has got into my ear and he does not know how to get out." He paused and added: "I inserted my finger into my ear to get him out. This has only made the beetle burrow deeper."

While I was pondering what to do to help him out, he let out another yell and explained: "Every two minutes, the beetle makes a buzzing sound and flutters its wings. It is terrible, much like Flight IC-184 of the Indian Airlines on the verge of take-off with engines at full blast." And then a coin tinkled into my thinking apparatus. At some of our parties, I had seen a few inebriated officers shaking up a bottle of soda and squirting the contents several feet away.

As luck would have it, we were nearing a big railway station. "That's it," I told myself. I quickly got two bottles of soda. The rest was easy. I uncorked the bottle of soda, shook it vigorously and squirted it into my new friend's ear. The beetle, heavily drenched, finally popped out and tried to scramble way. Its erstwhile host simply crushed it under a heavy foot.

Totally relieved, he smiled at me, shook hands and patted me on the back mumbling a big thank you. As an afterthought, he pulled out a hip-flask of whisky and added: "Let's use the other bottle of soda to celebrate my deliverance."






There are a few conditions that must be fulfilled in order that sanctions possibly, maybe, but probably still won't work: they must be multilateral, the aims must be modest, and the target country must be politically and economically unstable. Syria definitely has the last of these: the Syrian uprising has been going on since mid-March, with protesters facing a brutal ongoing crackdown by president Bashar al-Assad's regime. The other two, however, seem to be missing. In Syria, change will have to come from within.

Let's take the first. A high percentage of the time, it is possible for regimes to get around sanctions that are not multilateral. This is particularly true for trade sanctions, which limit the target country's exports and import. When they are not multilateral, there can be some absurd market jiggery-pokery. In the 1980s, the USA put a grain embargo on the Soviet Union. But this only led Canada, Australia, Argentina and the EU to step in and increase their wheat sales to the communist state. In turn, the USA shifted wheat sales to these countries, making them middlemen and undermining the whole process. More recently, Indian firms have bypassed UN sanctions on Iran by paying for oil via a Turkish bank. So these sanctions might have given a few world leaders a gentle headache, but it wasn't painful enough for the Soviets to retreat from Afghanistan, or for the Iranians to come to heel with their nuclear programme, as were the stated aims of the restrictions. In other cases, the effect has not merely been negligible, it has been detrimental. Sanctions on Iran, targeted at splintering the revolutionary guard by attacking their business interests, have just killed entrepreneurship and fed the black market.  In the case of Syria, the unilateral sanctions already imposed by the USA, which prohibit ties between US and Syrian banks, and business relations between American citizens and the Syrian government, are unlikely to do much. Syria and the USA don't have that much trade, anyway. The EU does, and is pondering expanding measures to include an oil embargo, trade sanctions, and travel bans and asset freezes on certain members of the elite. The EU is Syria's top trading partner, and buys more than 90 per cent of the state's oil exports. Sanctions by the EU would no doubt affect Syria's economy, but it may hit the general population more than the regime, just like the sanctions on Iraq in 1990.

Even if these sanctions go ahead, China and Russia are highly unlikely to follow suit. They have repeatedly called for more time for President al-Assad to implement reforms. And they might, along with Iran, be able to help the Syrian regime weather the storm

Now for the goal being modest. Asking for the release of political prisoners is modest. Asking for a presidential strong-man to commit political suicide, is not. Even if we look at the lesser aim of convincing the business elite in Damascus and Aleppo to jump down off the fence, and throw in their lot with the Opposition, it is far from certain that this will take place. As Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, writes in Foreign Policy magazine: "Some are so tied to the regime, they will not switch sides. Others don't know who they are supposed to be following." It takes time for an opposition movement to clarify their politics and unite around a leader, he says, and this can not be rushed. On top of this, demands for regime change can even serve as a galvanising tool, if the government is able to portray the sanctions as a Western imperialism.

So what do sanctions achieve? Well, sanctions prove President Obama is just as tough as any Republican presidential wannabe. Sanctions prove that the EU still copies the USA. And sanctions definitely say: "You are a bad man Mr Assad, and I don't like you very much." But, if you think about it, so does saying: "You are a bad man, Mr Assad, and I don't like you very much." And that doesn't risk nationalistic backlash, or inadvertently squeeze the general population.

The problem is that there isn't much in the foreign policy tool kit that is useful in this situation. If you want to do more than shout, the options seem to be sanctions or military intervention. Military intervention is pretty much out. Not only because of a lack of appetite among war-weary domestic constituencies facing austerity measures, but also because that could lead to an undesirable protracted proxy war with Iran. Which leaves sanctions. But action for the sake of action, is never a good idea, and trying to prove that you are potent, through an impotent policy, is just illogical.

The writer is Editorial Consultant, The Statesman










In the beginning is the word. And the word is that of the chief minister. She has uttered that there should be no more bandhs. Cynics might sneer but the utterance is historic. It is the first time that a chief minister of West Bengal — a state that made a cult of bandhs and strikes — has made a direct appeal to all concerned not to resort to strikes and bandhs. It is entirely possible that the future will be cruel to this appeal. Yet it is historic because the statement could mark a new beginning for the state of West Bengal and its society. As long as memory serves, bandhs have been remarkably successful in this state. Even when the rest of India has refused the call not to work, West Bengal has steadfastly raised the banner of strikes. Like Sandesh and the songs of Tagore, strikes and bandhs had become integral components of the culture of Bengal. Mamata Banerjee, the present chief minister, is firmly rooted in the culture of West Bengal, but this has not stopped her from making a radical break from the past so that the future can be different.

For the appeal to become reality, a greater clarity will have to emerge on the issue of strikes. This is important since any call to prevent strikes evokes strong and irrational emotions. It cannot be anyone's argument that workers do not have a right to strike. What must be simultaneously acknowledged is the right of others to work. No one can be coerced into staying away from work. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens during bandhs. Strikes are undemocratic in another sense also. The opinion of all the concerned people — all the employees in an organization or all the members of a community or society — is never sought before a strike is called or declared. The views of a militant few are taken as the view of the majority. No one sees the fallacy in the principle of 'present and voting'; it should be replaced by 'all concerned, present or absent'. That alone will make a strike genuinely democratic.

Ms Banerjee's simple appeal to all her political peers does not broach these wider implications. Hers is an appeal to good sense and goodwill. There are many contradictions between her present approach and past politics. It could also be pointed out that her propensity to declare a public or school holiday for the most trivial of reasons does not quite uphold the spirit of work. Ms Banerjee has miles to go but with her plea to say no to bandhs she has taken a major step in the right direction. It would be unfair not to laud her for this and not to extend support to her for her good intentions. West Bengal has often slipped through the gap between the lip through which good intentions emerge and the cup of history. Ms Banerjee has given people another reason to hope.







Karachi has been on the boil for months now as a result of what seems like a particularly bad bout of ethnic and sectarian violence. Yet, and this might seem peculiar to Indians who are used to seeing the army deployed at the first hint of a riot, the prime minister of Pakistan has vehemently ruled out military intervention. At a recent core committee meeting of the Pakistan People's Party, which heads the federal government and the Sindh provincial government, it was decided that the job to rein in the marauders in the city would be left to the Sindh police and the Pakistan Rangers. The decision has been contested both within the party and outside since the forces have proved ineffective. But Yousaf Raza Gilani is adamant that a political solution alone can permanently end Karachi's cycle of violence.

Mr Gilani's prescription is inspiring, but it is not clear why army deployment and the search for a political solution should be mutually exclusive affairs. It is possible that the PPP wishes to avoid a re-run of the army-led witch-hunt of the early 1990s against the Muttahida Qaumi Movement supporters that brought ill repute to the party and ended in greater violence. However, the intention to keep the military out could be traced to the fears of the civilian establishment, which knows that a call to the army would automatically signal a victory for the army. If this tension between the two establishments is delaying peace in Karachi, so is the bullfight between political parties. The turf war between the PPP and the MQM is believed to have started the trouble. The latter, finding its Mohajir votebank threatened by the influx of Pashtuns from Pakistan's troubled Northwest, is fighting for political relevance. The senseless killings and street fights by goons claiming allegiance to the political parties are a reflection of this larger political game. There is much wisdom in Mr Gilani's call for a political solution. That would mean the parties ending their self- absorbed game for one-upmanship. At present, they seem to be far from it.






One was neither surprised nor shocked to find the names of several prominent Indians in the list of guest speakers participating in seminars sponsored by the Inter-Services Intelligence in the United States of America. Indians often cannot resist the temptation to visit the US to propound ancient principles. The issue of attending such events is not important. What is important though is the manner in which sensitive topics are discussed in these seminars.

Kashmir has been an integral part of India. Yet, intellectuals speaking in the international seminar circuit often air contrary views to prove their allegiance to notions of justice. Such events signify the ISI's consistent attempts to spread its wings by taking on board unsuspecting, gullible but erudite, scholars.

On January 18, 1971, the Kashmir police revealed that a Pakistani spy ring had planned to assassinate the chief minister, G.M. Sadiq, and his cabinet colleagues. It transpired that Al-Fatah, an organization in Pakistan, had links with student organizations and top leaders of the Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front. Al-Fatah, allegedly, comprised some Indian members who had gone to Pakistan to receive arms training. Sardar Iqbal Rathor, first secretary of the Pakistani mission, was found to be the kingpin and was declared persona non grata.

Cross-border espionage is nothing new in international diplomacy. But what makes India vulnerable is the long tradition of foreign aggression from its northwestern frontier. One can plan grandiose schemes on the diplomatic high table, but one cannot change the ground reality. The ISI's pursuit to attain excellence in espionage needs to be understood in this context. Gone are the days of the cat-and-mouse games that were played at inconsequential levels between the 1950s and 1990s. Shadi Lal Kapur, a clerk in the Indian army, a group captain in New Delhi and a defence ministry employee had been caught doing the ISI's job during this period.

Evil plan

The strategy today is to try and induct members of India's civil society into the ISI's devious plan. The induction process must appear transparent and credible. What could be better than an intellectual rendezvous in a nation that prides itself as a melting pot of global culture? However, it must also be remembered that it is not possible to keep track of every seminar or discussion that takes place in the West. Nevertheless, it would have been better if the Indians invitees had remained vigilant. They should have reported the matter to the Indian establishment. They should have also armed themselves with accurate information about their hosts.

Pakistan is acknowledged to be a hub of terrorism. The ISI is universally recognized as the brain behind this hub. Even China has reportedly levelled charges of terrorism against its close ally. Hence the State and the intelligence department in Pakistan appear desperate to exploit Indian targets. The ISI's agenda is to hold seminars on issues such as 'Kashmir', 'human rights violations', 'Khalistan' and so on to push India on the back foot. Such a strategy would also help Pakistan shed its terrorist tag.

Indians would do better to curb their propensity to blindly accept invitations to speak on topics that relate to Kashmir or to participate in debates concerning other contentious issues. Cross-checking the credentials of the host is a must as such a step will help unravel the possible hidden agenda of the meet. The success of the ISI and its frontman, Ghulam Nabi Fai, lies in the gullible and garrulous nature of many Indians who are, nonetheless, knowledgeable. This portends a victory of brawn over brain. Such an outcome is unfortunate.


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The Anna Hazare agitation is showing signs of becoming a political and social monster. There are several disturbing elements already in evidence, perhaps more disturbing than the awfulness of corruption. Whatever one thinks of the anti-corruption bill drafted by the government, the agitation, by the day, is growing scarier. There is a combustible mix here of hero worship, cult propagation, populist absolutism and irrational exuberance, mass hysteria, de-politicization, militarization, and, increasingly, signs that religion and agitation politics are being intermeshed.

First of all, and most palpable, is the cult of Anna Hazare. The media and those appearing on television, in particular on 24-hour news channels, are breathlessly elevating a rather obscure Gandhian into a Saviour who can do no wrong. Children, old women, teachers, students, doctors, lawyers, even officials, who know little or nothing about Anna, are dedicating themselves to the Leader. There are people fasting who say they will seek "direction" from Anna and only call off their fasts when told to do so by him. The Anna cult has just begun. Rumour, gossip, popular stories and anecdotes about his life and work, and the relentless campaign by adulatory media are deepening the cult around him. I doubt that it is possible to say anything sceptical or critical about Anna Hazare in the vicinity of the protests. This is the surest sign of cult propagation. The fourth estate, which is supposed to be the voice of scepticism in a society, has forgotten its true purpose and is embarrassing itself by fostering the hero-worship developing around him.

Secondly, we are seeing the rise of populist absolutism and irrational exuberance on a large scale. Team Anna has rejected the government's anti-corruption bill, has insisted that its jan lok pal bill must be presented in Parliament, and has largely ignored all other efforts at writing an anti-corruption bill. If corruption is the issue, there are various ways of thinking about controlling it. There are existing institutions and laws, and there are the proposals made by other civil society groups. Team Anna has more or less ignored all these alternatives. Apparently, there is only one Way. Person after person interviewed on TV declares that they have seen the light, the Anna light, and there is only one Way for them. A former civil servant, from the Indian Administrative Service no less, declared on a major channel that Parliament was corrupt and irrelevant, and so the agitation would now demand a referendum on this and other issues. Elections, representative institutions, all government ministries and departments were beside the point: only the People and the Crowd had the right to decide matters. With the passage of the jan lok pal bill, corruption would be eradicated, and a new India would be born. Watching the exuberance of those who think that a magic wand will make India and Indians good and pure, one almost longs for the dogged, monotonous, legalistic, mumblings of the prime minister.

This irrational exuberance about a utopian future which is seemingly just around the corner is increasingly being manifested in, or being matched by, social hysteria. For over a week now, we have been witness to scenes of thousands of people, mostly young, predominantly from the urban, educated middle classes, shouting, chanting, celebrating, haranguing, eyes wide and wild, dedicating their time and their bodies to the Cause, talking the language of Sacrifice for the Nation, disclosing that they have woken from their inertia and sleep to a new reality. Many look physically and emotionally charged. The experience of being in a crowd, for several days without a break, is both energizing them and seemingly exhausting them. They are in a highly suggestible state psychologically, therefore, and could behave as crowds often can, with great intolerance and with a longing to submerge themselves in the gathering and submit themselves to the wishes of the Leader.

In this crowd, the air is thick with de-politicization. There are those who sincerely think that they are engaged in a highly political struggle. At a certain level, they are. Anyone making collective demands on the political system is engaged in a political struggle. However, politics is more than this. It is a complex, messy, and continuous activity. The Anna agitation, on the other hand, emphasizes the opposite: "real", "honest" politics is about simplicity, clarity, and great bursts of involvement. There is corruption, it is an evil, and it must be wiped out. It is possible to wipe it out, if everyone just had the determination to do so. How is it to be done? Draft a strong anti-corruption bill, with no loopholes, and create an institution that cannot be corrupted and that cannot be stopped by anyone. This will ensure that everyone is disciplined and honest, from the prime minister to the peon. Once the bill is passed and the anti-corruption institution created and manned, India can get on with everyday political life which is mundane and tedious and which only politicians, poor things, get excited about.

The last few days have seen, in addition, a militarization of the agitation. It is not militarization in the sense of violence, or at least not yet. It is militarized, though, in its vocabulary, with calls to give one's life to the cause, to fight until the end, to wipe out and destroy corruption, to win a great victory, to bring the government to its knees in surrender, to get unconditional acceptance of its demands. This is the language associated with war and the military. A prominent English-language news channel has for several days presented short, evocative portraits of retired Indian soldiers. These soldiers, to a man, endorse Anna Hazare and the agitation, and do so in emotional and colourful language. With each passing day, we are being assailed by messages of Patriotism, as if only Team Anna, the crowds supporting Anna, and these soldiers qualify as patriots.

Finally, there is the increasing intermixing of religion and the agitation. The first phase of the agitation, before the lok pal bill, saw Anna sitting in front of the image of a Hindu goddess superimposed on the map of India. Anna was joined on the dais by Baba Ramdev. He is now apparently supported by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Swami Agnivesh. Even as Anna fasts at Ramlila Maidan, the spiritual leader, Bhayyuji Maharaj, has offered to mediate with the government. Supporters shout Hindu religious slogans. From the dais, members of Team Anna have led the crowd in the Hindu devotional song, "Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram". Suggestions that Anna Hazare has been associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have not gone away. His praise of Narendra Modi, one of the most rightwing leaders in India, is also troubling and is not easily forgotten.

When we encounter people who invoke stirring images of the Saviour, the Leader, the Way, the Cause, the Nation, Sacrifice and Patriotism in highly charged times, we should worry. When we hear impatient calls for an end to Politics, when we witness religious or spiritual leaders come to the fore of the political stage, and when we hear the militarized language of victory and surrender in teeming crowds, we should fear for the future.

The author teaches international politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi






The Anna Hazare agitation is showing signs of becoming a political and social monster. There are several disturbing elements already in evidence, perhaps more disturbing than the awfulness of corruption. Whatever one thinks of the anti-corruption bill drafted by the government, the agitation, by the day, is growing scarier. There is a combustible mix here of hero worship, cult propagation, populist absolutism and irrational exuberance, mass hysteria, de-politicization, militarization, and, increasingly, signs that religion and agitation politics are being intermeshed.

First of all, and most palpable, is the cult of Anna Hazare. The media and those appearing on television, in particular on 24-hour news channels, are breathlessly elevating a rather obscure Gandhian into a Saviour who can do no wrong. Children, old women, teachers, students, doctors, lawyers, even officials, who know little or nothing about Anna, are dedicating themselves to the Leader. There are people fasting who say they will seek "direction" from Anna and only call off their fasts when told to do so by him. The Anna cult has just begun. Rumour, gossip, popular stories and anecdotes about his life and work, and the relentless campaign by adulatory media are deepening the cult around him. I doubt that it is possible to say anything sceptical or critical about Anna Hazare in the vicinity of the protests. This is the surest sign of cult propagation. The fourth estate, which is supposed to be the voice of scepticism in a society, has forgotten its true purpose and is embarrassing itself by fostering the hero-worship developing around him.

Secondly, we are seeing the rise of populist absolutism and irrational exuberance on a large scale. Team Anna has rejected the government's anti-corruption bill, has insisted that its jan lok pal bill must be presented in Parliament, and has largely ignored all other efforts at writing an anti-corruption bill. If corruption is the issue, there are various ways of thinking about controlling it. There are existing institutions and laws, and there are the proposals made by other civil society groups. Team Anna has more or less ignored all these alternatives. Apparently, there is only one Way. Person after person interviewed on TV declares that they have seen the light, the Anna light, and there is only one Way for them. A former civil servant, from the Indian Administrative Service no less, declared on a major channel that Parliament was corrupt and irrelevant, and so the agitation would now demand a referendum on this and other issues. Elections, representative institutions, all government ministries and departments were beside the point: only the People and the Crowd had the right to decide matters. With the passage of the jan lok pal bill, corruption would be eradicated, and a new India would be born. Watching the exuberance of those who think that a magic wand will make India and Indians good and pure, one almost longs for the dogged, monotonous, legalistic, mumblings of the prime minister.

This irrational exuberance about a utopian future which is seemingly just around the corner is increasingly being manifested in, or being matched by, social hysteria. For over a week now, we have been witness to scenes of thousands of people, mostly young, predominantly from the urban, educated middle classes, shouting, chanting, celebrating, haranguing, eyes wide and wild, dedicating their time and their bodies to the Cause, talking the language of Sacrifice for the Nation, disclosing that they have woken from their inertia and sleep to a new reality. Many look physically and emotionally charged. The experience of being in a crowd, for several days without a break, is both energizing them and seemingly exhausting them. They are in a highly suggestible state psychologically, therefore, and could behave as crowds often can, with great intolerance and with a longing to submerge themselves in the gathering and submit themselves to the wishes of the Leader.

In this crowd, the air is thick with de-politicization. There are those who sincerely think that they are engaged in a highly political struggle. At a certain level, they are. Anyone making collective demands on the political system is engaged in a political struggle. However, politics is more than this. It is a complex, messy, and continuous activity. The Anna agitation, on the other hand, emphasizes the opposite: "real", "honest" politics is about simplicity, clarity, and great bursts of involvement. There is corruption, it is an evil, and it must be wiped out. It is possible to wipe it out, if everyone just had the determination to do so. How is it to be done? Draft a strong anti-corruption bill, with no loopholes, and create an institution that cannot be corrupted and that cannot be stopped by anyone. This will ensure that everyone is disciplined and honest, from the prime minister to the peon. Once the bill is passed and the anti-corruption institution created and manned, India can get on with everyday political life which is mundane and tedious and which only politicians, poor things, get excited about.

The last few days have seen, in addition, a militarization of the agitation. It is not militarization in the sense of violence, or at least not yet. It is militarized, though, in its vocabulary, with calls to give one's life to the cause, to fight until the end, to wipe out and destroy corruption, to win a great victory, to bring the government to its knees in surrender, to get unconditional acceptance of its demands. This is the language associated with war and the military. A prominent English-language news channel has for several days presented short, evocative portraits of retired Indian soldiers. These soldiers, to a man, endorse Anna Hazare and the agitation, and do so in emotional and colourful language. With each passing day, we are being assailed by messages of Patriotism, as if only Team Anna, the crowds supporting Anna, and these soldiers qualify as patriots.

Finally, there is the increasing intermixing of religion and the agitation. The first phase of the agitation, before the lok pal bill, saw Anna sitting in front of the image of a Hindu goddess superimposed on the map of India. Anna was joined on the dais by Baba Ramdev. He is now apparently supported by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Swami Agnivesh. Even as Anna fasts at Ramlila Maidan, the spiritual leader, Bhayyuji Maharaj, has offered to mediate with the government. Supporters shout Hindu religious slogans. From the dais, members of Team Anna have led the crowd in the Hindu devotional song, "Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram". Suggestions that Anna Hazare has been associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have not gone away. His praise of Narendra Modi, one of the most rightwing leaders in India, is also troubling and is not easily forgotten.

When we encounter people who invoke stirring images of the Saviour, the Leader, the Way, the Cause, the Nation, Sacrifice and Patriotism in highly charged times, we should worry. When we hear impatient calls for an end to Politics, when we witness religious or spiritual leaders come to the fore of the political stage, and when we hear the militarized language of victory and surrender in teeming crowds, we should fear for the future.

The author teaches international politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi






In a laissez faire capitalist economy, the level of employment and output depends upon the 'state of confidence' of the capitalists. If the 'state of confidence' is high, then more investment is undertaken, which generates more jobs, both directly in producing investment goods and indirectly in producing the consumption goods demanded by the newly-employed. Likewise when the 'state of confidence' is low, less investment is undertaken, which lowers employment and output. A barometer, indeed a determinant of this 'state of confidence', is the stock market, which experiences speculation-engendered 'bubbles'. 'Bubbles' in the prices of claims on reproducible assets stimulate investment in such assets and engender a boom in employment and output, while collapses of such bubbles cause slumps and mass unemployment.

John Maynard Keynes, conscious of the irrationality of a system that made livelihoods of millions dependent upon the caprices of a few speculators, and worried that such a system would collapse under the challenge of socialism, wanted to "reform" it, so that near-full employment could be permanently ensured through appropriate State expenditure. State expenditure could be increased in periods of recession and restrained in periods of 'over-heating' to ensure a high enough level of aggregate demand for the economy in all seasons. Such expenditure, he argued, did not even need to be tax-financed; it could be financed through borrowing, that is, through a fiscal deficit. Since the State had the sovereign right to tax all its citizens, including even its creditors, who, he assumed, would be largely located within its boundaries, the size of its debt was of no great consequence. Moreover, this size, relative to the nation's gross domestic product, could be kept within bounds as long as the interest on this debt remained lower than the growth rate of GDP.

Keynes was so optimistic about the prospects of intelligent management of the economy through State intervention that he even believed that the economic problem of mankind would disappear within a short span of time, and that mankind would thenceforth devote itself to aesthetic pursuits. His fallacy lay in believing that class interests did not matter, that class opposition would never stall the pursuit of policies appropriate for stabilizing the system. It is wrong, or scientifically incorrect, ideas, according to him, which prevent the pursuit of right policies; once the right ideas were known, they would be put into practice. The world, he thought, was ruled by little else but ideas.

He believed that the relatively harmless weapon of fiscal deficit, which entailed no taxation of the rich and hence no treading on their toes, would be acceptable to them. He ignored the fact that if the State generated employment in this manner, then 'the state of confidence' of the capitalists would lose its key role, so that the State would no longer need to appease them for boosting this 'state of confidence', and that this realization itself would prevent capitalists from accepting fiscal deficits. Among the capitalists, the most determined opponents of fiscal deficits are the financiers: being, in Keynes's words, "functionless investors", they feel particularly vulnerable if anything happens to reduce the mystique behind the 'state of confidence', if State actions boost employment directly without looking up to them, if their social legitimacy is undermined. As a result, financial interests have always been the champions of the doctrine of 'sound finance' which states that government budgets should always be balanced (or have at best a modest deficit).

In the aftermath of the Second World War, when the working class had emerged stronger in the advanced capitalist countries (exemplified in Winston Churchill's losing the post-war elections in Britain), the State could adopt Keynesian 'demand management' policies, notwithstanding the opposition of financial interests. But as finance became increasingly globalized while the State remained a nation state, the opposition of finance to 'demand management' acquired a spontaneous effectiveness: any State that did not bow to the doctrine of 'sound finance', for instance, ran the risk of a financial outflow from its shores. This led to a pervasive reining in of fiscal deficits and a progressive abandonment of Keynesian demand management. (Keynes had seen this danger and had insisted that finance must remain "national" and not be allowed to become "globalized".)

The United States of America, however, was an exception, the one country that appeared immune to such pressures. It did not have any 'fiscal responsibility' legislation (limiting the size of the fiscal deficit relative to GDP). Given its might, its position of dominance in the capitalist world and, above all, the fact of its currency being considered "as good as gold", a financial outflow from the US was never seriously feared, which gave its government a degree of freedom in the matter of running fiscal deficits and carrying out 'demand management'. It is no accident that it was the US alone, among the advanced capitalist countries, that introduced a bail-out package, no matter how modest, after the 2008 recession.

This degree of freedom, however, has now been lost, even in the US. It has an archaic piece of legislation from 1917 that puts a ceiling on the absolute amount of federal government debt. Now, any such ceiling specified in absolute terms in an economy where the nominal income is growing is a silly idea; not surprisingly, every so often the US legislatures have kept revising the ceiling upwards. The latest such revision on February 12, 2010, had fixed the ceiling at $14.3 trillion. But given the massive bail-out packages for banks offered by the US administration after the financial crisis, and the big tax cuts for the rich effected by the Bush administration which Barack Obama has continued, the current year's budgeted federal expenditure required a further upward revision of the debt-ceiling. When Obama approached the Republicans, without whose support such a revision could not be carried out, they insisted upon a reduction in the fiscal deficit. An agreement was reached, under which the federal government was to cut expenditure on its own by $1 trillion immediately, and by a further $1.2 trillion by Thanksgiving Day on the basis of recommendations of a bipartisan committee. These cuts are almost certainly going to prune welfare expenditures for the poor.

This agreement accepts demands made by Wall Street and financial interests for cutting the fiscal deficit, and reflects the power that they have acquired over US politics. Since no presidential candidate in the US can do without Wall Street funding, both Obama and his potential rivals have been vying with one another in appeasing Wall Street. And now there is a new system within both the American parties of auctioning Congressional leadership positions, so that whichever member gets more funds for the party gets the post. Finance and corporate backed members, therefore, naturally get the plum Congressional posts. The stranglehold of corporate and financial interests over US politics has never been greater than now and the agreement to cut the deficit is a reflection of this fact.

This cut will certainly worsen the US, and hence the world, recession. It is not just the magnitude but also the mode of curtailment of the fiscal deficit that will work in this direction, since the cuts, expected largely on transfers to the poor who tend to have a higher propensity to consume, will have larger multiplier effects. The poor, as a result, will be doubly hit: they will be hit by cuts in government transfer payments to them, and they will also be hit by the increase in unemployment that the accentuated recession will generate.

If the reduction in federal expenditure had coincided with a revival of the 'state of confidence' among the capitalists, then its effects might have been restrained. But immediately after the debt-ceiling crisis, Standard & Poor's, a credit rating agency of no great competence (it gave good ratings to "toxic assets" that inflated the housing bubble), downgraded US government debt on the grounds that the agreed fiscal adjustment between Obama and the Republicans was inadequate, and more cuts had to be effected. This has caused a fall in stock markets in the US, and, indeed, all over the world, which portend cuts in private expenditures precisely when government expenditures are also being drastically curtailed in the US and the Eurozone. Keynes had wanted "rational" political intervention to triumph over the spontaneous irrationality of the system. What we witness today is the irrationality of the system negating any possibility of "rational" political intervention in its functioning as the world sinks deeper into recession.

The author is a former professor, Centre for Economic Studies,
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi






There is time, even now, for the Congress to stop itself from committing harakiri. Having been in power the longest, the Congress is the largest repository of corruption. But it is not as if corruption resides in it alone. Corruption is systemic, and politicians of all hues are in it together. This is why the legislation — that vows to fight corruption by reducing the role of black money in elections and by creating the proposed 'lok pal' — has met with little success. No political party is genuinely interested in reform in these areas, which is why it has not yet come to pass.

Yet, it is the Congress that has managed to paint itself into a corner. This has happened because it is politically headless at the moment, and thus cannot respond with sagacity to developments. The prime minister is not a politician, and has inadequate political authority; the party president is ill and in hospital in another country; and the heir apparent is unprepared or unwilling to take over the political mantle right now. Senior leaders are doing what they can, but without any coherent strategy.

The strategy that the Congress can adopt is to call the bluff of all other political parties, especially that of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which hopes to come to power by riding the crest of the Congress's ineptitude. But it would not want a lok pal casting a watchful eye over its rule. The Congress can introduce in Parliament the process of framing a lok pal bill. The parliamentary committee examining the official bill can chop and change it, or add what it likes to it. Once the committee's draft is ready, the House can debate it clause by clause, examine the amendments that are put forward, and a bill can be passed without any party whips coming into play.

If Anna Hazare and civil society do not like the outcome, they will have to blame the entire political class and not just the Congress. Otherwise, the agitation will end and allow the government to get back to its job of running India.

There is a possibility that a government bill will be passed, with Hazare and his friends opposing it and the Opposition voting against it and condemning the Congress for not doing the right thing. The Congress will then stand in danger of being thrown out of office over an issue — the lok pal — on which there is no agreement among different sections of civil society. On the other hand, once discussions as well as the framing process start, Hazare will have to opt for what is practical. Political parties too would have to spell out what they want. In the process, they will either fall out with Hazare or agree to genuine political reform. If this happens, the Congress will go into the next elections on a par with its opponents.

At worst, the working of a freely-drafted lok pal will lead to an increase in investigations, numerous resignations and, eventually, elections that will see the Congress being voted out of office. If a working lok pal arrangement throws it out of office, it will also bring about a sea change in Indian politics and governance. There is no reason for the Congress to think that under such a system it will not be able to return to power. Inefficiency is not the Congress's monopoly, and anti-incumbency works wonders over time. Alternatively, the lok pal, constituted after free discussion, will be seen to be unworkable and legislative consequences will follow. In that event, the Congress will face the next election on a much firmer footing.

Now let us look at the set-up of the proposed lok pal. The following outline seems apparent from public discussions. Anybody will be able to complain to the lok pal about any public servant. The lok pal will be able to investigate in response to a complaint or suo motu. There will be a system in place under which it will pass on most of the complaints to institutions such as the central vigilance commission and state lok ayuktas. Complainants will be able to revert to the lok pal if they are unhappy with verdicts or with administrative inaction. The Central Bureau of Investigation will take orders from the lok pal. Eventually, the lok pal will be able to prosecute before special courts. The lok pal can be selected by a college comprising leaders of both Houses of Parliament, leaders of the Opposition in both Houses, presiding officers of both and three judges of the Supreme Court — the chief justice and two other senior-most judges.

The lok pal will be empowered to prosecute the chief justice, and even the prime minister, on the basis of evidence which, in its opinion, appears tenable. Parliament, in turn, will receive complaints against the lok pal, ask the CBI to investigate and, if needed, order prosecution. The lok pal would have to step aside during the prosecution.

Under a system like this, the lok pal will not burden itself with an unmanageable volume of work, will be able to prosecute the highest authorities — including legislators and senior judges — but will remain under a system of supervision. If all this were to happen soon, along with electoral reform, there will be a future for the country and for the Congress.













The resignation of Congress MLAs and MPs who support YSR Congress Party president Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy may not pose an immediate threat to Kiran Kumar Reddy's Congress government in Andhra Pradesh. But their willingness to sacrifice their elected offices in protest against the CBI investigation into the allegedly disproportionate assets of Jagan Reddy poses a deeper threat to democracy and clean governance than the many acts of corruption that weaken the system.

The trend of supporting leaders who are facing serious charges of corruption and blackmailing the top leadership of political parties into avoiding taking action against them is spreading in the country. Jagan Reddy has to answer many questions about the assets he acquired in the years when his father was the state's chief minister. By some estimates they went up from a few crores to thousands of crores in a short span.

He can not be held guilty until it is proved that he has acquired them through corrupt means.  But there is a prima facie case against him and in good politics that should be a reason for anyone keep a distance from him.

The same trend was seen in Karnataka when B S Yeddyurappa was able to keep much of his flock together even when he faced serious charges of corruption. It can not be dismissed as the ability of a leader to keep his support base intact in adverse circumstances.

It shows the subversion of the system of elective democracy through extension of patronage and distribution of the spoils of power to elected representatives and their blatant and unapologetic co-option into a system ruled by money power. The support extended to a leader in distress in such circumstances is not out of concern for public interest but to promote and protect personal interests, out of gratitude for past favours, in the hope of gains in future or for help to get elected  again. The fact that money power is important in elections aggravates the problem, but electoral reforms are not on the agenda of the government or political parties now.

The CBI investigation was ordered by the Andhra Pradesh high court and now upheld by the Supreme Court but the CBI's reputation is such that the investigation is seen as an attempt by the Centre to harass and browbeat Jagan Reddy. But it cannot be denied that there is a strong case for investigation.








The reported discovery of 'mass graves' in north Kashmir must be investigated immediately.

A probe by the Special Investigation Team of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has found 2,730 bodies buried in unmarked graves in 38 sites in Baramulla, Bandipore and Kupwara districts.

Of these 574 were identified by locals as their kin; 17 were shifted to their native graveyards. Most of the bodies have bullet injuries. In 18 graves there is more than one body. Twenty bodies are charred. Five skulls have been found. The report says that police had handed over the bodies to local villagers claiming them to be those of unidentified militants.

The SHRC report confirms what ordinary Kashmiris and human rights organisations have been alleging for almost two decades. Kashmiris who 'disappeared' in the course of the militancy were killed, perhaps executed and then quietly buried. In fact, organisations representing the families of 'disappeared' persons often provided evidence to prove that their missing kin were killed by security forces. But such allegations were routinely dismissed by the state as separatist propaganda.

The SHRC report may be a pointer to gross rights violations that take place in the name of counter-insurgency operations. Even if those who were killed were in fact militants, they should have been put to trial. It was for a court, not police or soldiers, to determine their punishment.

With the SHRC, a state-appointed body now providing damning evidence of mass killings in north Kashmir, the government is in a spot. Of course, the government can go into denial mode. It could claim that the bodies in the graves are of those killed by militants.

However, if it is at all interested in securing the trust and respect of the Kashmiri people it needs to set up an independent body of eminent people with unimpeachable credentials to probe the mass graves issue. The SHRC findings have the potential of igniting sentiments in the Valley.

India is now in the company of countries like Bosnia, Cambodia and Rwanda that gained notoriety for mass graves on their soil. It is a stain on India's democracy. A probe followed by justice to the victims is important not only for India's image but also to build peace in Jammu and Kashmir. In the absence of justice, lasting peace in Kashmir will remain a distant dream.








The idea that there is a law and it will act against corruption and abuse of power has greater validity now than ever.

After the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992, then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao famously made a statement that the law will take its course. At the time, the assurance did not evoke much confidence. The society at large was unclear whether the law had such a thing as a 'course' and whether it will take that course automatically, as it were.

To put it differently, the question was about the law enforcement machinery, its integrity and efficiency. Recent developments have generated a degree of optimism about the law as an independent and objective instrument in the society.

It is not perceived as a tool in the hands of the ruling classes to be applied as they deem fit – at least not entirely. Key institutions such the Supreme Court, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Lokayukta in Karnataka have been unsparing in dealing with the questionable acts of the powers-that-be.

The current trend can be traced to the vigor displayed by the Supreme Court in dealing with the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner and 2G Spectrum scam. The present Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice S H Kapadia, has been a pathbreaker. It has made effective use of 'Public Interest Litigation,' a tool developed in the early 1980s to overcome a technical rule that requires a person bringing an action in a court to have a subsisting personal interest in it.

The lead shown by the Supreme Court in dealing with cases of corruption has been seized by other courts which have displayed similar grit in dealing with scandals involving politicians and bureaucrats involved in scandals. The trend is evident from the remand of former Karnataka minister, Katta Subramanya Naidu and his son to judicial custody and the rejection of the bail applications of the persons involved in the Satyam Computers scandal.

The 2G Spectrum scandal, in which Supreme Court has played a signal role, was brough to public light by the office of the CAG. More recently, CAG has reported about the expenditures claimed by Reliance Industries for its extractive operations in different parts of the country and the consequent avoidance of payments it had to make to the government of India. The thoroughness with which CAG has investigated the issues is proof of the capability and competence we have in many public offices in the country. This is certainly gratifying.

At the state level in Karnataka, a report on illegal mining issued by the former state Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde has forced the resignation of chief minister B S Yeddyurappa who has now applied for anticipatory bail.

Political tussle

Another current topic is the ongoing investigation into the affairs of Jagan, the son of late Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajashekara Reddy. The political tussle between Jagan and the Congress leadership cast a shadow and revived the longstanding question about the motivations of CBI in launching inquiries into issues involving politicians and powerful personalities.

This may not be entirely fair, if we consider the firmness CBI has recently shown in the 2G scam which is targeted at the DMK, a key partner in the ruling coalition in New Delhi. In any case, the CBI now appears certainly to be more effective than it was in the past.

Recent events and the performance of law enforcement agencies in dealing with the longstanding malady of corruption have significant implications. For one, it emphasises the importance of having people of integrity, competence and courage in public offices.

The ongoing events can also be valuable trendsetters for the future. Not long ago, T N Seshan succeeded to a great extent in cleaning up the electoral process, and his lead has been followed by his successors. Likewise, the present leadership in the law enforcement agencies can be torch-bearers for the future and provide a moral compass for a nation that seems bewildered and lost.

In the prevailing environment, perhaps, statements about the law taking its course will be received with greater credibility and less cynicism. The idea that there is a law and it will act against corruption and abuse of power has greater validity, thanks to the present leadership in the law enforcement agencies. Given the feudal history of India with its castes and hierarchies, it is natural that the titles of institutions and personalities evoke respect and fear.

This discourages serious thinking about the individuals manning the institutions, the offices, and their character, temperament and integrity. We cannot forget that most of the agencies now in the limelight have existed for a long time, but only recently they have performed with some efficiency and attempted to restore public confidence in democratic institutions and the rule of law.

It is fortuitous that Anna Hazare has stepped in at the forefront at this moment with his crusade against corruption. His movement is significant for a number of reasons. Anna Hazare has reestablished the relevance of Mahatma Gandhi and his ideals to present-day India, and has also drawn the younger generation into public issues. The youth support that Anna Hazare's team has generated is heartening.

It underscores the moral vacuum in the present polity and a yearning in the society for a more value-based system. The need is to move towards a more balanced development model that can combine the pursuit of wealth (artha) with right conduct (dharma).

(The writer teaches at the University of Ottawa, Canada)








The tragedy of this country is that it takes deaths to make us seriously look at issues that confront us daily. In Vasco, the gang of culprits including Zuari Indian Oil Tanking, the Mormugao Municipal Council and the National Highways Authority of India have blood on their hands for the death of two people who unfortunately lived in Vasco, a city which has itself been turned into a time bomb which is more likely to explode and take the city with it, than not.

The Bhopal gas disaster of 1984 can easily see a tragic repeat in Vasco any day.

The phrase criminal negligence often used in tragedies like this is too mild for culprits such as these. This is nothing short of abetting terror. And here's how. The naphtha which leaked from the pipeline is only one of the hazards in Vasco. The tinderbox is full. The ammonia storage facility is right in the heart of the town when permissions of these facilities are never given in a densely populated area as Vasco. Even an accidental leak of ammonia can choke thousands. The MMC first permitted a 5000 metric tonne ammonia tank in 2000 and renewed in 2001.


The coal stack right next to it is a major inflammable hazard. This is right next to a tank farm of Indian Oil which stores petroleum class A B and C, totaling over 75,000 metric tonnes. The combination of this is deadly and could cause extensive damage to the town.


The criminal culpability of MMC needs to be highlighted since it is the MMC which has been in the forefront of giving no objection certificates for all these installations.


ZIOTL needs to answer some serious questions. The standing safety instructions established by the Oil Industry Safety Directorate supported by all petroleum companies have been openly flouted. The safety officer supposed to inspect the naphtha line five times a day, when naphtha is pumped, did nothing of that sort. Before pumping naphtha, air is flushed into the pipeline to rule out any leakage. This process takes 8 to 10 hours. Often this process is completely bypassed.


Thirdly and importantly, when ZIOTL was alerted by the National Highways Authority of India which is carrying out road digging, of the punctured pipeline, why did it pump in naphtha in that fractured pipeline. Though ZIOTL claims that it had recoated the pipeline, the disaster proves that the situation did not get the serious attention it deserved. And it has cost lives.

Disasters like these also happen because the authority to clear these projects vets with an inefficient but powerful body like the local council. Why should the municipal council decide whether permissions for such highly sensitive projects involving the safety of thousands should be granted? There should be an efficient Disaster Management Authority, which should study all projects which have safety issues and decide on permissions after consultations with all other relevant bodies. The council should stick to its basic task of allotting land.

The safety of an entire town cannot be left to the whims and pliability of councillors. This should be left to people who know. A strong and efficient Disaster Management Authority should also be a Disaster Prevention Authority and the first step towards disaster prevention is to ensure that sensitive and explosive installations do not exist within and in close proximity to human habitation.






So, the bubble has finally burst and we are now of "terra firma". After all the hu-ha of being No 1 Test nation (rankings like the bikini hide more than they reveal) we are floundering. And what a way to go. What a fall my countrymen!
Before the English tour started we never thought this English side was by any means great. They were good and getting better. It's only our palpable show that bestowed greatness on Strauss and his men. We have never crossed 300 in the first three Tests. Whether we lose 0-4 or 0-3 is purely academic we have been thoroughly outclassed.
Half the team is unfit and the other half just cannot perform. Sehwag, Gambhir, and Praveen are in and out of the side.
Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman may or may not score but are surely liabilities in the field. You can't have "all the old legs" in the slips with a bowling attack like ours. You can hide one pair of old legs, but not three. Harbhajan should have been out long, long ago.
On what grounds did the selectors bring in R.P. Singh for the fourth Test? Munaf was available, RP was quite unfit and now will be discarded again.
Dropping players is understandable but on what basis does one drop stand-bys? On what logic does Krishnamachari Sreekant and his men operate? If he has any shame he should own responsibility and quit.
The whole cricket system stinks. Imagine playing West Indies, England and Australia all in one year.
There was a time when international cricket tours were few and far between which meant one had time to prepare. That we earned the No 1 Test ranking after playing only with the minnows is swept under the carpet. All we want is a build up, the greatest Test series.
Now Sharad Pawar is the head of the International Cricket Conference, one more feather in his cap. As Board of Cricket Control in India president he beat ex-Test cricketer Dilip Vengsarkar who was far better qualified for the job. But it is money bags that talk and Pawar has bags and bags of it. Social commentator Santosh Desai called the BCCI "a banana republic…it answers to no regulatory body". It has its own coterie that has the likes of Gavaskar and Shastri, as "embedded commentators" who do the bidding of the BCCI.
Gavaskar trying to justify his embedded role claims he has "two eyes, two ears and one stomach (to feed)" like any other professional. How many mouths do we have? Earlier he considered himself as one "held in esteem".
No longer, Mr Gavaskar you are just another of the lot. Like Shastri you may have been a good cricketer (36 runs in 60 overs) but that's now history.
It is the Indian Premier League that has done the greatest harm to cricket. Today, it is TV rights and promos that bring in the moolah, not gate receipts. Most of the spectators are given freebies.
Money begets more money and the protests of too much cricket are feeble. Dhoni may bring it up once in a while but most of the players are happy making money, even retired ones like Warne, Gilchrist and Co. To win one needs hunger in the belly, not money bags. There's a lot more one can say but never mind.
The problem is where do we go from here. That's the Rs 10 crore question that's eating the minds of those who love the sport. But your guess is as good as mine.











Firas Qasqas was a gardener. Thirty-two years old and the father of three daughters, he came from his village with his family to visit his brother-in-law, who had moved to a new home in Ramallah. After an especially rainy, stormy night they woke up to a glorious sunny day and decided to go for a hike in the gorgeous valley of olives opposite the house. Yes, there are also Palestinians who love nature.

They were three hikers - Firas and his two brothers-in-law - when they saw a herd of deer fleeing down the slope. They knew that behind the herd there would also be people coming but it did not occur to them that on the heels of the deer would come hunters - in this case, people hunters. Very soon they saw a group of soldiers coming down to the valley. A few minutes later the soldiers started firing two or three rounds at them, from a very long range. Firas fell, bleeding to death. He managed to reassure his brothers in law and tell them everything was fine, they shouldn't worry. But not long after that he started to gurgle and foam covered his mouth. At the hospital in Ramallah the young gardener expired.

That was in the winter of 2007, a relatively quiet winter. A few days after the killing I came to the valley of olive trees with his brother-in-law Jamil Mator, who was with Firas when he died. Hundreds of meters had separated the shooters and their victim. Far from there, at the dead man's home in the village of Battir, I met the black-garbed young widow Majida and the three little orphaned girls. As her daughters blew soap bubbles inside the small room, Majida asked simply: "I want to know why he was killed because I don't know." And the bubbles (and the tears ) filled the room.

I too wanted to know why Firas was killed. The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman, as usual, said everything was in order. The soldiers discerned "suspicious behavior," the three Palestinians were seen "doing something with the ground," before the shooting they were "properly warned," the incident was investigated "at all levels," the conclusions have been "implemented" and the material has been sent "for review by the military prosecution."

Four years have elapsed since then and Firas' death has been forgotten. Since then I have reported on dozens more cases of killing in the West Bank, nearly all of which of course were sent for review by the military prosecution, which is usually the decisive phase on the way to burying the material of investigation of the truth in the IDF.

And now my colleague Haim Levinson published an astonishing piece of news in yesterday's Haaretz. The military prosecution has decided to try the commander of a company in the reserves, Shahar Mor, "a well-known educator in the religious Zionist community," who shot Firas in the back from a great distance and killed him.

It took the prosecution nearly four years to investigate such a clear case, the details of which cried out from the soil of the valley where the shooting of an unarmed person from an illegal distance occurred, without any danger to the soldiers, without any justification. Even this indictment would not have happened had not B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories intervened again and again, demanding the shooter be brought to trial. And this is such a rare occurrence. Data from Yesh Din - Volunteers for Human Rights show that only 8 percent of the investigations that were opened in the dark years of 2002-2009 culminated in an indictment. Only 14 people have been tried and there have been only 173 investigations in the wake of the killing of 5,518 individuals.

This is how the law enforcement mechanism of the IDF looks, with its army of investigators, prosecutors and judges, which is nothing but a ridiculous simulacrum of a justice system. In the four years that have elapsed dozens more Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, not counting the Gaza Strip, some of them not guilty of anything. In Haaretz I documented the death of a paralyzed bean seller in Nablus, a 71-year-old accountant in Balata, a 19-year-old student in Tekoa, a woman demonstrator in Bil'in, a Palestinian policeman from Bethlehem, a laborer from the Far'a refugee camp, a laborer from the village of Sa'ir and a driver from Jerusalem who was going to pick up his family for a vacation in Eilat and was killed by scandalous shooting at his car. All of them were guilty of nothing and were killed for no reason. All of these cases are under investigation by the military prosecution, strenuous investigation that will be completed four years from now, or maybe in 40. During this time the educator, Company Commander Mor, went about teaching his students. No doubt he taught them "values," love of the land and Jewish morality, as only religious Zionism can do. At the same time, one can guess, his conscience did not bother him much about the criminal killing of Qasqas the gardener.






Against the backdrop of what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his spokesmen call the "delegitimization" of Israel, a "support event" was held in Jerusalem yesterday evening led by American preacher-broadcaster Glenn Beck. Beck was accompanied by personages identified with the Republican Party's extreme right and a group of Christian Zionist evangelical leaders.

Beck never misses an opportunity to speak ill of U.S. President Barack Obama and to challenge his leadership. His television program fell out of favor even with rightist Fox Broadcasting, which took Beck off the air. A few weeks ago, Beck received publicity for comparing the young Norwegians who were killed by an extreme right-winger to the Hitler Youth. Hundreds of rabbis in the United States, from all streams of Judaism, have expressed disgust with Beck's incitement on the air against Jewish financier George Soros and Jewish intellectuals "accused" of harboring liberal, leftist views.

In recent years the extreme Israeli right has developed an alliance with the heads of the evangelical movement, who define themselves as Christian Zionists. National religious rabbis and politicians connect with these preachers, including those who spread the belief in the need for another Holocaust of the Jews in order to ensure the resurrection of Jesus. These rabbis and politicians accept donations from these preachers. It is mystifying that people from Israel's ruling party, Likud, foremost among them Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon and World Likud Chairman Danny Danon, have joined the circle of Beck's fans. So has Atzmaut MK Einat Wilf.

One might have expected the government and police to prohibit the East Jerusalem Development Corporation (a government-municipal company ) from making available the archaeological park near the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Silwan neighborhood for the fulminations of extreme rightists. These are unnecessary and harmful fulminations that testify to Netanyahu's distorted priorities.

It was just a few weeks ago that the government denied dozens of peace activists entry into Israel; they wanted to demonstrate nonviolently their support for the Palestinians' struggle for independence. At the time, it was claimed that this was a "provocation." The "support event" in Jerusalem was no less provocative.








Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak are the most hated men in Israel. For many people, Netanyahu from Caesarea and Barak from Akirov are the epitome of everything that's rotten here.

They are condescending, arrogant, wealthy cigar-smokers who are indifferent to the people and have no commitment to social justice. They are obtuse leaders, devoid of emotional intelligence or human sensitivity.


But this week, Netanyahu and Barak prevented a war, and they deserve a good word for that. Netanyahu and Barak may yet screw up, but during the first half of this week they behaved like responsible adults. Quietly, professionally and with great self-control, they tried to dismantle the ticking bomb that was liable to send the south up in flames and take the lives of hundreds of people.

The prime minister and defense minister's businesslike, surgical precision stood in sharp contrast to the reckless criticism of the opposition. Tzipi Livni criticized the government's flaccidity and called for throwing everything we've got at Hamas, even though that would have generated a massive missile attack on Ashkelon, Ashdod, Be'er Sheva, Rehovot and Rishon Letzion. Shaul Mofaz called for a decisive operation that would collapse the Hamas infrastructure, even though that would have led to mass killings in Gaza and the deaths of many Israeli soldiers.

If Livni had been prime minister this week, and Mofaz defense minister, Israel would at this moment be in the midst of a bloody war. You would be reading this newspaper as Israeli cities were burning, Israel Defense Forces soldiers were being buried and the peace with Egypt was collapsing. In their genius and their arrogance, the Livni-Mofaz government would have brought a disaster upon us.

The Kadima leadership proved this week that it has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. It never internalized the Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War, and has forgotten the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead. It hasn't yet grasped the limits of force. Therefore, when Israel was attacked, Kadima reacted as it had in the past - from the gut; from the hip; from its deep, visceral machismo.

Hit 'em, demanded the party of moderation. Slam them, demanded the party of sanity. The party that brought us the Second Lebanon War and the first Hamas war was vehemently demanding a third conflict. Kadima ignored the fact that Hamas exhibited maturity and responsibility. It ignored the fact that Egypt is hanging by a thread. It ignored the complex and volatile strategic situation Israel is in right now.

Kadima didn't speak harshly out of malice, but out of superficiality. It wasn't boiling out of bloodlust, but out of shallowness. The party that had promised to be the party of peace has redefined itself as the party of war.

Israel investigates its wars a lot; it might be worth investigating the wars that didn't happen, as well. Who tried to escalate things, and why? Who blocked it, and how? Who exercised good judgment at crucial moments?

Yitzhak Shamir and Aryeh Deri prevented an unnecessary war in 1991. Ariel Sharon acted with restraint in response to the terror of 2001. Netanyahu wasn't quick on the trigger during his last term, nor has he been during this one.

On the other hand, Kadima rushed to war in 2006, didn't want to end the 2009 war at its proper time and suggested moves that would have entangled Israel in a bloody war in 2011.

This list of accomplishments is disturbing, worrisome and not coincidental. Apparently there is something unstable in Kadima's personality structure. With no clear principles or identity, it tends to populism on security matters. It talks about withdrawing from the territories but hastens to kill Arabs.

Because Kadima is really a Likudnik at heart, it compensates itself for its territorial doveness with brutal militarism. The result is not a balanced formula for pursuing peace while assuring security. The result is a diplomatic platform that is not applicable, alongside the repeated adoption of military adventurism.

Too bad. Israel needs a strong, enlightened and worthy Kadima. But to offer Israel a different future, Kadima is going to have to fundamentally change. It must prove that it isn't a three-war party.







A miracle occurred in the south this week: At the height of searing August, terrorist organizations caused rain to fall - a rain of missiles. And this rain, again at their initiative, turned into a drizzle - until the next round, whose timing and scope, as has become the norm over the last 20 years, will also be determined by these organizations.

For now, the country's leaders can go back to devoting the bulk of their attention to the really important issue: finding a solution to the intolerable pain of the middle class, which has been expressed with such great authenticity by the (emptying) tents on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard and the radical alternative panel of experts the protest leaders appointed.

Residents of the south are expected to calm down. After all, they're used to suffering constant rocket strikes. In the next round, too, our leaders will once again explain to them that terror cannot be defeated once and for all; that's been the regrain for decades now. So they must continue to keep a stiff upper lip.

And indeed, what else can they do - set up protest tents? They shouldn't even think about it. Protests are legitimate only when they focus on economic distress, whether real (that, too, exists) or imagined.

True, the rockets will continue to threaten their lives, their property, their livelihoods, their emotional well-being and their self-respect. But for that kind of pain, once doesn't set up protest tents in this country. Such tents might, heaven forbid, actually influence the government and spur it to take action. And the Talmudic dictum "if someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first" no longer has any legitimacy in Israel. Even pinpoint responses are barely legitimate.

Granted, diplomatic considerations of supreme strategic importance sometimes justify refraining from responses that would have a deterrent effect. But that is not the case when this excuse has been abused for decades. And if, under the cover of "strategic considerations" (the military junta in Egypt won't abrogate the peace treaty; it needs the treaty no less than Israel does, if only for the accompanying American aid ), physical, emotional and economic harm is caused to residents of the south, then the government, as the decision maker, must be held accountable.

Why, many Israelis wonder, after all these years of suffering, does the government not prevent the ongoing deaths, injuries, destruction and terror, which cause frustration, loss of faith in the Israel Defense Forces (which make do with advising us that "in the event of a rocket attack, you should lie down and protect your head with your hands" ), loss of faith in the country and loss of faith in our personal futures? What is the meaning of the sigh of relief that arose from the government and the defense establishment after the terrorists declared the latest "cease-fire," even as they continued firing rockets at Israel's citizens?

There were tactical failures in the army's response to last week's terror attacks near Eilat. Yet it is not these failures, but the weakness that has held the IDF in thrall ever since the first Lebanon War - and which has caused other, similar failures in recent years - that should be the focus of public criticism. The IDF, with its defensive mind-set, cannot avoid failing, even when it has superb and precise intelligence, as it did this time. Fact: The IDF is now allowing a million citizens - as it did with a similar number five years ago, during the Second Lebanon War - to be held hostage by terrorist organizations.

The IDF failed to deal with these organizations in the north (see the Winograd report for details ), just as it has failed for decades in the south, because of an immanent weakness. That is what the defense minister ought to be dealing with, instead of exaggerating the mistake made by Maj. Gen. Tal Russo in opening the road to Eilat.

Throwing the enemy off balance before he can carry out his plots - not "containment" or closing roads - is what will prevent future attacks. Restoring our deterrent capabilities would also make operations like the Second Lebanon War or Operation Cast Lead in Gaza unnecessary. And it might even prevent the diplomatic and security damage caused by mass demonstrations of the sort expected next month.








A political tsunami is expected in September, the politicians keep warning us. Obviously the recognition of Palestinian statehood, if adopted, is expected to yank the rug from under the feet of the refugees who were raised on the dream of returning to the fig tree, the spring and the village that no longer exist.

Don't forget, the Palestinians who broke through the fence in the Golan and those who demonstrated near the Lebanese border on Nakba Day were not demonstrating only against Israel. They were demonstrating first and foremost against the Palestinian Authority. That's because all the PA's recent efforts have been focused on a United Nations debate on the request to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

The change in the Palestinian leadership's approach to the "right of return" is reflected in Mahmoud Abbas' statement at an education and culture forum that gathered in Ramallah in May. Abbas announced "the Palestinian leadership will never give up the right of return. The return to the homeland is our final destination to end the life of dispersal as refugees."

To avoid any vagueness he said "the return is in practice, not a slogan."

"Palestine is ours, and whoever comes from the north, the center or the south and lives anywhere in it is in fact living in the homeland."

Abbas gave an example from his own life. "When I return to Ramallah or Nablus I have my foot in the homeland," he said.

His words were not mentioned for some reason in the Hebrew-language media. Apart from a brief report, the Arab media didn't mention them either.

Only Dr. Faiz Abu Shamala of Gaza commented that Abbas' statement was "a political Palestinian eclipse." Shamala said he was astonished "such dangerous declarations are evoking no reaction from the Palestinian factions" and wondered "is the right of return, on Nakba Day, diminished to the return to Gaza and the West Bank?"

He mocked Abbas, saying "if the return to Palestine meant return to Gaza and the West Bank, UNRWA's work should have been stopped, as millions of refugees in camps in Gaza and the West Bank are thus implementing their dream of return."

Shamala took the trouble to explain to Abbas the real meaning of return. "The right of return, as every Palestinian Arab understands it, is Abbas' return to Safed and Yasser Abed Rabbo's return to Jaffa. That is the right that must continue nestling in the soul, even if the current political circumstances require an agreement on a Palestinian state in the 1948 cease-fire borders."

In this case, the debate on the term return to "an ancient homeland," whether on the Zionist definition of the land or on the Palestinian definition, exposes an abyss between the two national movements fighting over the bleeding country. The collision is between two completely different national approaches and two completely different worlds.

So even if a Palestinian state is established in the West Bank and Gaza, there is no chance the refugees will implement the "right of return" in it. Because unlike the Zionist "homeland" perception, the Palestinian refugees will not see the Palestinian state as a "homeland" but as another stop on the voyage of the refugees.

It is fortunate for the Palestinians that the Israeli government is rightist and recalcitrant. Because if Israel had an "analytical" government it would certainly have prepared a surprise for the world and voted in favor of Palestinian statehood in the UN in September. This would have turned the entire dispute on its head.








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. _ HYPERLINK "" _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 _ HYPERLINK "" _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 _ HYPERLINK "" \o "NYT report" _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 _ HYPERLINK "" _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 _ HYPERLINK "" _death of Jerry Leiber_, the lyricist who brought us "_ HYPERLINK "" _Stand by Me_," "_ HYPERLINK "" _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 "_ HYPERLINK "" _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 _ HYPERLINK "" _Elvis_ and _ HYPERLINK "" _"Big Mama" Thornton_ and _ HYPERLINK "" _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 _ HYPERLINK "" _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 "_ HYPERLINK "" _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.






BY _ HYPERLINK "" \o "More Articles by Thomas L. Friedman" _THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN_


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."






_ HYPERLINK "" _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, "_ HYPERLINK "" _King Corn_," is running the show with Debra Eschmeyer, formerly of the National Farm to School Network, and Cecily Upton, formerly of _ HYPERLINK "" _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 _ HYPERLINK "" _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. (_ HYPERLINK "" _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 _ HYPERLINK "" _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 "_ HYPERLINK "" _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!







Tennessee's able and enthusiastic Gov. Bill Haslam honored our wonderful people and the city of Chattanooga on Wednesday, as he presented an upbeat keynote address during the annual meeting of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Fortunately, there is much to praise, and to give thanks for, in our fabulous and ever-improving community. That's due in large part to the fact that we have so many unselfish and determined residents, as well as dedicated leaders, pressing Chattanooga forward.

The meeting of the Chamber of Commerce attracted many hundreds of those residents to a huge hall at the Chattanooga Convention Center. There was a spirit of enthusiasm and good will as Chamber members reviewed a year of great economic, industrial and civic progress — progress that has continued despite the economic difficulties in much of our country.

And why shouldn't we feel encouraged?

Look around. Chattanooga is blessed not only with big new development from companies such as Volkswagen, but with smaller though still important investments by a range of other companies. Meanwhile, personal income in Chattanooga is growing almost twice as fast as it is growing nationally. And, of course, we are blessed with intangible benefits such as superlative natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor recreation.

It's perfectly understandable that we would be excited about our community's prospects, and that excitement was on ample display Wednesday.

Our country and members of our military services were honored by the presentation of the flag by members of the Tennessee Army National Guard. Our national anthem was sung by Lon Eldridge, Gavin Cross and Stacy Carmosino. The optimistic spirit was enhanced by Chamber President Tom Edd Wilson and 2010-11 board Chairman Ron Harr. Mike St. Charles is the Chamber chairman for 2011-12.

From the beginning to the end of the meeting, there was the kind of zeal that is characteristic of our great community. Surely more economic and community advances are ahead, owing to good leadership and citizen support.

Chattanooga is a happy, progress-minded city that is on the move toward even bigger and better accomplishments.

We have fine people who are making admirable contributions for the future benefit of all of us and our entire region. That is something of which we can all be proud.






The fact that UT women's basketball head coach Pat Summitt's disclosure Tuesday that she has early onset Alzheimer's disease was the major topic of discussion on a day that an earthquake struck the nation's capital and that a longtime dictator's regime apparently ended is a stunning tribute to the respect and affection that she engenders across the state and country.

Summitt has earned that respect and admiration.

She's the winningest basketball coach -- male or female -- in collegiate history. Her Lady Vols have won eight NCAA championships and 15 league championships. She's been NCAA coach of the year seven times and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. The basketball court in Thompson-Boling Arena, home of the Vol basketball teams, is named "The Summitt" in her honor. She's accomplished all that without a hint of scandal over 37 seasons.

Her name and her program are synonymous with honesty and integrity sportsmanship since 1975, when she became the Lady Vols coach. It's an enviable personal and professional record.

Her public announcement is a blow to the body and to the heart. The prognosis for those with early-onset Alzheimer's disease is grim. Only about 5 percent of people with Alzheimer's are under 65. Summitt is 59. There is no cure. The condition is progressive and eventually becomes too severe to allow individuals to meet the demands of work and everyday life.

Summitt's courageous announcement is in keeping with her commitment to honesty. She said Tuesday that she's always had an open relationship with the public and that she intends to maintain that. She said she is undergoing treatment, that she would continue to coach and that her staff of able assistants will help her do so. It was typical Summitt. She identified a problem and revealed her plans to combat it.

Her revelation Tuesday is shocking; it also is heroic. She's not the first public figure to announce an Alzheimer's diagnosis. Ronald Reagan did, too. Such revelations create an openness about a disease that once was kept in the shadows. Public attention won't bring an immediate cure for Alzheimer's, but it can inspire hope in others and promote research to gain an understanding of the disease. In a nation where the number of Alzheimer's cases is rising rapidly (about 200,000 Tennessee residents are currently affected), that's an incomparable gift.

No one knows what course and speed Summitt's disease will take, but two thing are certain. She won't travel this new road alone, and the prayers of Tennesseans and people everywhere are with her as she confronts this new challenge.







Our Hamilton County schools have happily begun a new academic year with 42,009 students enrolled — up from the 41,584 young people who were enrolled at the same time last year.

There are now 271 more youngsters enrolled in elementary schools and 251 more in middle schools, but 97 fewer in high schools.

What this means is that there will be 42,009 fresh opportunities for excellence and triumph as students pursue intellectual and personal growth under the guidance of dedicated teachers and principals.

Excitement, enthusiasm, enjoyment, major effort and hard work are ahead, for both students and teachers — with much accomplishment assured.

We encourage all of our local students and their devoted adult leaders as they work together for success in the lives of tens of thousands of young people.








The world's diminished attention span and Turkey's expanding diplomacy increasingly challenge one another over so many crises: Turkey steps into the breach of Iran's nuclear standoff with the West. The prime minister becomes the first leader to visit brutalized Somalia in a quarter century, forcing the world to look a famine in the eye. The foreign minister rushes to Benghazi as Libya's tyrant mounts a bloody last stand in Tripoli.

So much could be said about Turkey's unique contributions in these and other emergencies. But perhaps the most_W_h_i_c_h_ _i_s_ _w_h_y it is now time for Turkey to move this unique gaze to another little seen and little understood cancer, what journalists in Africa have called the "double piracy" of Somalia.

Before starvation riveted the world's attention for a moment on Somalia, the Horn of Africa's sole capital in the media marketplace was piracy; the capture and ransom of supertankers and the odd yacht as the only service sector. But discussed only rarely in the Western media was the "other piracy," that of the plundering by the European Union fishing fleet of Somalia's fish stocks. This travesty has played a key role in driving Somali fishermen to the crime of piracy in service of the warlords who have ruled their country since 1991.

Somali writer Mohammed 'Waldo' Abshir has linked the destruction of Somalia's fishing industry by foreign fleets with the rapid growth of piracy along the coastline. For Somalia's collapse coincided with a moratorium on EU fisheries. Unable to fish in EU waters, fleets from Europe and Asia headed for Somalia's unprotected 3,300 miles of coastline, where they plundered fish stocks, reckoned to be of some 200,000 tons and worth about $300 million a year.

Aid groups and Somalia's nominal government have made occasional appeals for help in developing a coast guard and fisheries protection. At a European Commission sponsored donors conference in 2009 the issue arose briefly, but quickly disappeared. Nathalie Charboneau, the European Commission's fisheries spokesperson, told the newspaper EU Observer that fishing aken the international lead, both in terms of government support and private NGO aid, to go beyond famine and help Somalians rebuild their country.

Turkey also has deep ties within the European Union hierarchy and deep understanding of the way the machiner_of Somalia, which has been much abused by the EU.

This is Turkey's new urgent task for Somalia.





The series of developments in Libya that are entering its last act with Col. Moammar Gadhafi leaving the scene contains many eye-opening messages on what kind of a world we will be living in in the 21st century and what dimensions and what kind of sanctions will be features of international relations.

No doubt, the most significant consequences of the Libya file are the reflex that the international community has demonstrated as well as the adaptability of NATO to the new era.

A military alliance that was formed, as a starting point, to circumscribe the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact is demonstrating that it has gained the flexibility to respond very well to the threats and crises that have emerged in different regions in the post-Cold War era.

From Bosnia to Libya

NATO went through bitter experiences at the beginning of the 1990s during its first test in Bosnia; it suffered a serious loss of prestige as it, to a great extent, just watched as an observer while huge massacres took place in the middle of Europe, right next to it. It was much more proactive in the Kosovo crisis and did not repeat its mistakes in Bosnia. Afghanistan, though, is a very special situation that cannot be included in these comparisons.

After all these experiences, the alliance was able to – despite the blunder at the beginning – intervene on time with an organized effort and effectively obtain results in the Libyan crisis, which erupted in an "outside" region.

In a civil war that erupted between an unbalanced dictator who does not hesitate to use violence against his own people and masses that rebelled against him, NATO openly took the side of the rebels that demanded change and put all its military power and operational facilities behind them, paving the way to their success.

There is no other example in NATO history in which it has taken sides in a conflict that has erupted in a third country and has caused a changeover in power.

No doubt, the legal basis provided by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 adopted in March that allowed the use of force within limits facilitated NATO's intervention to a great extent.

NATO passes prestige test

In the final analysis, the Libyan campaign was a step that possessed serious risks for NATO, as well as for the European allies behind it, including the United States and Turkey. The organization has passed this prestige test with renewed strength.

In this aspect, it is understood that NATO has not lost its functionality and that it is very capable of responding to new types of crises in the diverse international arena.

The test that has been successfully passed here is, in fact, in line with the targets present in the new strategic concept document adopted in 2010 at the Lisbon Summit, which set out a road map defining NATO's future.

New obligation of international system

At the end of the day, the Libya intervention sets an example. In the final analysis, when a dictator has attempted to massacre his own citizens, he has been met with sanctions from the international community.

After this example, it is inevitable now that eyes will turn toward Syria. Because the reasons that prompted the Libyan intervention are also present in Syria's conduct. In this framework, it should not be surprising that NATO, in order to maintain a consistent stance, will face increasing demands to apply pressure on Syria.

However, it is not realistic to expect that NATO will immediately launch a Libya-like campaign against Syria that stands at a very critical spot in Middle East geopolitics. Even so, the sanctions that first the U.N., then NATO adopted against Libya carry a message of deterrence also for Syria. The Bashar al-Assad regime should seriously take into account what has happened in Libya. The regime, by not softening its stance, may in a way invite an international reaction whose form we cannot predict today.

It is not Syria alone that needs to make this calculation. Today, every country lives under a global magnifying glass. Being tolerant and acting tolerantly toward the opposition and those opponents who use their right to assembly and not transgressing the boundaries of law and consciousness have now turned into obligations that need to be followed by all countries and all regimes.

Sedat Ergin is a columnist for Daily Hürriyet, in which this piece was published on Wednesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff





They're saying that Obama is done for – that the American president's chances for a second term are nil. The analysts point to his approval rating, which has fallen to below 40 percent. Editorials in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times spell out the consensus: "A Diminished President"; "The President Surrenders." Will Obama become one of those oddities of modern American history, a president voted out after only four years in office?

For that to happen, of course, the Republicans will have to beat him.

The odds certainly don't favor Obama. Counting against him are two stalled wars and a sputtering economy, with more people out of work than at any time since the 1930s. Americans vote from their pocketbooks. Bill Clinton's verdict was right: "It's the economy, stupid!" Every day a larger number of Americans owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. The president gets the blame for bad fiscal times.

Obama's re-election campaign will be sailing into the fiercest ideological storm the U.S. has seen since the Barry Goldwater candidacy of 1964. A kamikaze tendency has shown itself on the political right. The energy motor of the Republicans, the Tea Party, is the same faction that drove the government to the brink of default earlier this month. To the Tea Party and many energized Republicans, Obama is the Prince of Darkness, a cerebral elitist who is selling America down the drain.

But who are the Republicans who might take him on in November, 2012? Would any of them look better to the voters than he will? What does the list of present Republican hopefuls show us?

We can begin by eliminating Michelle Bachman, the darling of the Tea Party, who came in first in a vote among 17,000 Republican Party activists at the August 13 Iowa straw poll – the traditional presidential campaign kickoff. She will not last, and sober Republicans will be glad to see her fade away. Representative Bachman is a colorful novelty, but her positions border on the weird and will frighten away the centrist bloc that carries American elections. The same is true of Sarah Palin, who has fallen into Bachman's shadow.

What about Mitt Romney, who, despite the flash of Rick Perry's emergence, is still regarded as the Republican front- runner? Romney is picture-perfect handsome, and had an excellent record as Massachusetts governor. But he has two problems. He is dull; there's no evidence of fire in his belly. And he is a flip-flop man to a cartoonish degree, changing his positions to ride prevailing winds. He is shopworn merchandise. John McCain and others beat him to the nomination in 2008.

Rick Perry announced himself the day of the Iowa straw vote, and stole much of the attention. Perry is a God-fearing Texan – governor of the state for ten years – with rugged TV cowboy looks and a tendency to put his foot in his mouth, which he did recently, sending shudders through Republican ranks by calling the head of the Federal Reserve a traitor.

Newt Gingrich? Herman Cain? Ron Paul? Excuse me. The first is a pathetic spent force, the second has too little public face, the third is a single-issue hobbyhorse rider. Iowa pushed Jon Huntsman, Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Santorum out of the running. Why would Paul Ryan give up his powerful House committee chairmanship to run? The most engaging of the Republicans may be Chris Christie, but he would be reluctant to leave the New Jersey governorship at this date, and would need to let his avoirdupois become more nationally familiar – America has not elected a fat president since Grover Cleveland.

So there we are. Obama may be limping, but his campaigning skills could outmatch any of the current Republican hopefuls. As the campaign progresses, Republican bigwigs may gnash their teeth at where they let the Tea Party put them.





Aug. 22 has passed and the trials for government censorship have begun. Many users felt it by the reduction in their connection speed. Some, like me, were even more unfortunate and couldn't even get online. Turkey's biggest ISP seems unable to handle the transition. Because of that I will abandon ADSL for a fiber optic connection and change my ISP. Many other complications will arise because of the government's determination to implement full-scale censorship. However I will write about those in the following weeks. Today I want to talk about the Trojan Horse.

It was first used in Turkey by the Greeks against the Trojans to breach the impenetrable walls of Troy. Today the same idea is being used to breach firewalls on your computers. The most famous is called Zeus.

Zeus is a Trojan horse computer virus that steals banking information by keystroke logging and form grabbing. Zeus is spread mainly through drive-by downloads and phishing schemes. First identified in July 2007 when it was used to steal information from the United States Department of Transportation, it became more widespread in March 2009. In June 2009, security company Prevx discovered that Zeus had compromised over 74,000 FTP accounts on websites of companies such as the Bank of America, NASA, Monster, ABC, Oracle, Cisco, Amazon, and BusinessWeek.

The various Zeus botnets are estimated to include millions of compromised computers (around 3.6 million in the United States). As of October 2009, more than 1.5 million phishing messages were sent on Facebook with the purpose of spreading the Zeus' Trojan. On Nov. 3, 2009, a British couple was arrested for allegedly using Zeus to steal personal data. From Nov. 14-15, 2009 Zeus spread via e-mails purporting to be from Verizon Wireless. A total of 9 million phishing e-mails were sent.

It was still active in 2010.On July 14, 2010 security firm Trusteer filed a report saying the credit cards of more than 15 unnamed U.S. banks were compromised.

On Oct. 1, 2010, FBI announced it had discovered a major international cyber crime network that had used Zeus to hack into U.S. computers and steal around $70 million. More than 90 suspected members of the ring were arrested in the U.S., and arrests were also made in the U.K. and Ukraine. It is estimated that in China alone Zeus and its replicas conducted 480,000 attacks in 2010.

In May, 2011, the source code for Zeus was published in the public domain. However Turkey is still greatly affected by Trojan attacks. It is proven that most of the attacks are done by terrorist organizations, mainly the PKK. There are 17 million Internet banking users in Turkey and the number is growing rapidly. Turkey is currently the 16th hardest hit country in terms of cyber financial crimes. As the country is getting richer these attacks will increase in number and effect. According to the experts, millions of dollars are stolen each year from Turkish accounts. Trusteer, a global brand that specializes in cyber security is making efforts to reach Turkish users and get them to take precautions against Trojans, but it is a very hard task to create awareness in new Internet users. I think there should be a lesson about cyber life and cyber security in primary schools. It is a pity that while our soldiers are trying their best to give government an edge in the Kurdish opening by eliminating the PKK, our hard earned money is so easily stolen by them. The government should include cyber security on its agenda while fighting terrorism.






During my mandate as Commissioner for Human Rights, I have repeatedly received information about violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, persons in Council of Europe member states. Many have suffered physical attacks and some have even been killed. Unfortunately, this is also a reality in Turkey.

No less than 36 hate killings were recorded in Council of Europe member states in the period of January 2008 to November 2010. Of these cases 13 were reported from Turkey. This according to reports from a reliable non-governmental source (Transgender Europe). Harassment and violence by police toward LGBT persons has also been flagged as a major concern by several human rights organizations and activists in the country, including in a report published by the Istanbul Provincial Human Rights Board.

In the past five years I have monitored the implementation of human rights for LGBT persons in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. The result was recently published in a report: "Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Europe."

The report (parts of it will be soon available in the Turkish language) lists a number of obstacles to the full enjoyment of their universal human rights. It shows, for example, that the official registration of LGBT organizations was obstructed or refused in five countries in Europe, including in Turkey. Attempts to criminalize "propaganda or promotion of homosexuality" were identified in three member states. Peaceful Pride demonstrations in a worrying number of European cities have been brutally attacked by hooligans and other counter-demonstrators. Homophobic and transphobic harassment in the workplace and bullying of LGBT persons in schools is common in practically all member states

There has been little response to national studies and reports that flag that a disproportionate number of young LGBT persons see no other way out than committing suicide due to the non acceptance of their sexual orientation or gender identity by their peers and families. Very few countries recognize homophobic or transphobic violence in their hate crime legislation.

Transgender persons face particularly severe human rights problems in almost all areas of life. If they want their preferred gender to be legally recognized, in 29 member states they face a legal requirement to undergo gender reassignment surgery, leading to infertility. Some 15 member states even require the transgender person to be unmarried in order to obtain recognition, which entails mandatory divorce if the person is already married.

Too often politicians and policy makers ignore the human rights of LGBT persons when designing policies or drafting legislation. There are disturbing examples of debates in national parliaments which are characterized by a high level of prejudice, bias and outdated information, including claims that homosexuality is an illness.

Governments need to pursue legislative reforms and social change to enable LGBT persons to fully enjoy universally recognized human rights. National and international monitoring, including by Equality Bodies and Ombudsman Offices, is needed to measure progress.

Change is only possible if European countries show more genuine political will to address this problem with much more determination than has so far been demonstrated.

Thomas Hammarberg is Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

The report "Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Europe" can be ordered at or downloaded at





From the first days of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, rule onward, Prime Minister Recep _g_r_o_u_p_ _o_f_ _T_u_r_kish Special Forces officers were arrested by U.S. soldiers in northern Iraq, which fostered critical debates in the media. Secondly, Gen. Hilmi Özkök, who saw the retirement of some opposition generals as an opportunity, closed down certain units inside the Office of the General Staff, downplayed the role of Psychological Operations Troops, and transferred some personnel to positions outside Ankara. Finally, the negotiations with the EU and economic progress gave more power to the government in both internal and foreign affairs.

The government diminished the role of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, in the political realm by utilizing the EU reform agenda. Seeing Gen. Özkök's move as an opportunity, it also reduced the responsibilities of the Gendarmerie inhe commander of the Land Forces of being a "gang member" during a court hearing in Van. It was becoming clear that tension was on the rise and reaching a consensus was no longer possible.

Another source of tension was TSK's objection to the presidency of Abdullah Gül in 2007, which was followed by the closure case against AKP. After this strategic move supported by the TSK, the government and its allies decided to use all means available to isolate the TSK and control it by reducing its autonomy.

The TSK's institutional culture based on absolute obedience to the commander made it much easier for the government to implement its strategy. This strong hierarchical structure of absolute obedience constructed by the generals and politicians between 1960 and 1980 - although it had deeper historical roots - suddenly became TSK's main weakness. Generals and officers shaped by a tradition that made it impossible to question any military order were imprisoned because of many disputable documents written in the past. "Civil prosecutors" authorized by new laws began to define the hierarchical chain of command as an "armed terrorist organization".

It is now obvious that the government's strategy had four main aspects: 1- Generals and officers were to be controlled by their fear of punishment, which was reinforced by new laws, courts and specially appointed judges and prosecutors. 2- The private lives and personal documents of generals and officers and their families were violated by illegal surveillance techniques. 3- The TSK was cut off from sources of intelligence. 4- A strategy of suppression was pursued. The army was isolated as the public support for TSK was suppressed. Police forces were given more authority, becoming more aggressive against the army. As 50 active generals and nearly 200 officers were arrested, a long and controversial judicial process was set in motion. The final outcome of this process was the resignation of the chief of the General Staff and other commanders. Now an unanswered question remains: Is this a Pyrrhic victory?






Israelis and Palestinians are preparing for a showdown at the United Nations in September, when the Palestinian leadership will ask for recognition of a Palestinian state within the borders that existed before the Six Day War in 1967 (when Israel seized control of Jordanian-occupied territory).

The details of the bid remain unclear, and the effort entails serious risks. But a sober assessment of what might follow a U.N. endorsement of Palestine's borders allows for some cautious optimism.

Given the lasting stalemate in bilateral negotiations with Israel, a Palestinian focus on a non-member state bid at the U.N. General Assembly might very well increase the likelihood of jump-starting the process. The Palestinian plan already has resulted in an unprecedented diplomatic frenzy. While Palestinians travel the world soliciting votes, Israeli officials are engaged in last-minute efforts to dissuade countries from supporting what they perceive as Palestinian unilateralism.

The diplomatic push has so far yielded somewhat predictable results. While the United States has declared its intention to veto a declaration in the Security Council, several European countries, including the United Kingdom and France, intend to back the Palestinian move should negotiations with Israel remain elusive. In a show of broad Third World solidarity, the majority of states represented in the U.N. General Assembly have signaled clear support for the Palestinians.

These global disagreements reflect competing assessments of the U.N. move in Israel and the Palestinian territories. In Jerusalem, Minister of Defense Ehud Barak has repeatedly warned of a "diplomatic tsunami" and a new wave of violence if the Palestinians do not change course. In the meantime, voices on the Israeli right have threatened to respond to a U.N. vote by immediately cancelling the 1993 Oslo Accords.

So far, these warnings have had only a limited effect in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestine National Authority. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas remains determined to move forward. On Wednesday, Abbas reaffirmed that the U.N. bid would proceed "even if negotiations resume."

From Abbas's perspective, the ground is well prepared. State-building efforts have reformed previously defunct Palestinian institutions, and have enabled significant economic growth. Of course, there are serious budgetary problems. Paying bills is difficult, not only because Israel is slow in transferring customs revenues, but also because promised aid from Arab countries often never arrives.

Still, the World Bank declared this spring that Palestinian institutions are "well positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future." In addition, strong public support and high expectations in the Palestinian territories would make a last-minute change of course politically risky.

Currently, Palestinians oscillate between two options that imply either addressing the Security Council in a bid for full U.N. membership, or appealing to the General Assembly, should a U.S. veto render success there impossible. While the Security Council would be able to grant legally binding membership status, a vote in the General Assembly would simply upgrade a Palestinian entity to the status of a "non-member state" – like the Vatican.

Confronted with the prospect of a U.S. veto, an increasing number of international observers flatly oppose the Palestinian plan, on the grounds that it is unlikely to generate concrete political gains and would merely deflect attention from the main requirement of Middle East peace-making: a return to the negotiating table.

Here, the lack of detail about the U.N. resolution allows room for maneuver. Such an approach would begin with refraining from forcing an immediate vote – and a dramatic U.S. veto – in the Security Council. Instead, a carefully drafted motion in the form of a non-member state bid in the General Assembly could mark the way forward.

While such an approach would certainly fall short of maximalist Palestinian demands, it would embrace the parameters outlined in May by U.S. President Barack Obama. It would also indirectly address the Israeli government's demand that the Palestinians recognize a "Jewish state."

Such a vote would also address international calls for bilateral diplomacy. Instead of closing doors, such a redefinition of the statehood bid at the U.N. would provide the Palestinian leadership with a much-needed symbolic success, including a framework from which to restart negotiations – a longstanding Palestinian demand.

As such, the U.N. bid might well transform a confrontation into a potentially constructive tool of diplomacy. Focusing on the looming September showdown should not prevent decision makers from looking ahead. Any vote at the U.N. will be followed by the day after. Palestinians and Israelis need to prepare for that day now.

Michael Bröning is director of the East Jerusalem office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a political foundation affiliated with Germany's Social Democratic Party. This abridged article was originally published on Khaleej Times online.








Since violence re-erupted in Karachi last Wednesday, countless citizens have died, law-enforcement officials have been ambushed and overpowered, and the citizens' trust in the government has taken a massive hit. There have been resounding calls for the army to step in. Almost all main business and trade associations and eminent religious scholars from Karachi have demanded army deployment. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party have also made similar demands. The PPP and the PML-N have been least enthusiastic about involving the military, which may reflect their fear that once the army is engaged, it could extend its mandate and area of operation. For the PPP-led government, inviting the army in would amount to hammering the last nail into the coffin of its claim that it is able to govern. At a time when the government's credibility is miserably dented, this could be seen as the beginning of the end for the elected government itself.

However, as politically controversial as the army option is, it would not be an unconstitutional move, as has been pointed out by senior lawyer and PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan. Indeed, under Article 245, on the directions of the federal government, the armed forces are bound to "act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so." However, Supreme Court Bar Association President Asma Jahangir has said the law and order situation in the city can be controlled if police and Rangers are wholeheartedly backed and has warned that if the army were called in, the jurisdiction of courts would be compromised and the fundamental rights of citizens would be lost. The demand for army deployment in Karachi is unquestionably a contentious one. But the unfortunate truth is that the ruling political parties are not treating the problem – which could be best solved politically – with the requisite amount of attention and sincerity. In the face of the dire apathy of political forces, is it any wonder that many people think the military is the only institution that can save the day? If the army option ultimately becomes inevitable, its limits and contours must be very tightly defined and it should only be used in the form of a swift operation to seize weapons and a surgical pursuit of the myriad mafias and gangs that are holding the city hostage.





Two matters – with no connection to one-another – illustrate the manner in which due process, wherever it might be in play, is at the mercy of shameless politicking. The first is familiar territory – the Haj scam. It will be recalled that key investigators of the case found themselves transferred to remote stations by the government in order to hamper the enquiry. The Supreme Court took a dim view of this and ordered their return. One of those currently enjoying the scenery in Gilgit-Baltistan is Hussain Asghar of the Federal Investigation Agency, and the government has told the Supreme Court that it is unable to return him to his previous duties which involved lifting the lid on the activities of a number of well-connected figures – because of the security situation in G-B. This is palpable nonsense, a fact quickly picked up by the chief justice of Pakistan who commented that the situation in G-B was no different to that of Karachi or Balochistan and the G-B security situation, real or imagined, was no reason to refuse to comply with an order of the Supreme Court.

The second concerns the Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU) in Multan; which is currently without a vice-chancellor. The only reason it is without a VC is because the appointment of a new one has become mired in a political battle of wills between Punjab Governor Latif Khan Khosa who is also the chancellor of the university and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The post has been vacant since January, and 159 candidates applied for the job. Three were selected as appropriate including the immediate previous VC Dr Muhammad Zafarullah. The CM chose not to interview Zaffarullah and recommended Prof Dr Syed Khwaja Alqama to the obvious irritation of the governor who preferred Zafarullah. The matter is said to be unlikely to be resolved in the near future and one of our largest universities remains leaderless and drifting for want of political wisdom and cussedness. As differing as the two cases are, they are illustrative of how politicians can screw up just about anything. On the one hand a case that may expose high-level corruption is stalled by a political hand; and on the other thousands of students and hundreds of faculty are the losers in political turf wars.






The terrible story from Lahore of a woman who beat her 12-year-old servant to death for forgetting to feed her dog once again throws light on the lack of value for human life in our society – particularly when it comes to the underclass, the poor. The brutality on the night of Aug 14 was the latest of incidents in which child servants were killed by wealthy employers, some for the most minor offences. Some had been deprived of food or tortured in other ways before being killed. In the latest case, Sadia Asif clubbed the child, Taqi Usman, so brutally that he died. The woman then drove with the body to Taqi's hometown of Chiniot, and tried to strike a deal with his distraught parents. They refused to agree.

Sadia Asif has been in custody, and a judicial magistrate has now extended her remand. The police have been asked to speed up their investigations. It is vital for justice to be done, and that can happen only when the law comes down on the side of the weak, as it should on the side of the child's family now. It must offer vulnerable people like Taqi the protection they need. Another particularly vulnerable group needing protection is maidservants. It is precisely because of lack of protection to them that we continue to read and hear about cases of servants being subjected to abuse and brutality. Unless effective laws are put in place, and implemented, there will be other tragedies as terrible as the one which took place in Lahore on Independence Day.








Karachi is aflame once again. This beautiful city of lights lies under a pall of death. The Sindh chief minister has declared that the ongoing bloodshed in Karachi is not an administrative issue but a political problem. This is preposterous. If an architect commits murder, do we say that it is an architectural problem? If an engineer kills someone, do we surmise that it is an engineering problem?

Murder is a crime and being politically motivated or carried out by political forces does not make it a political issue. It is still a crime punishable by law and must be dealt with as such. Political forces are not exempt from or above the law. If they are involved in the killing spree then it stands to reason that any operation carried out must be directed against them. But this government has failed miserably to control the situation.

While Karachi burns, all the government can do is huddle in fruitless meetings under heavy security in Islamabad and Karachi instead of taking action against the killers. One is reminded of the opening scene of Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, in which one of the witches asks, "When shall we three meet again, in thunder lightning or in rain?" Another witch replies: "When the hurly-burly's done, and the battle's lost and won." Karachiites have paid for the hurly-burly in blood as the government has only fiddled while the battle is being lost by default. Where is the much-vaunted political genius when it comes to saving innocent lives?

The Karachi mess is a direct consequence of this government's policy of mufahimat aimed at bringing all opposition into the fold, which has not only thrown open the state coffers to its allies to loot at will, but has also divided the country into personal fiefdoms for them.

The problem in Karachi is that the city is in the grip of a power triangle of three political parties. Innocent citizens die and rivers of blood flow in the turf war between them as the actors on Karachi's political stage jostle for position and the government seeks to needlessly woo back its erstwhile allies to beef up its positions in the numbers game in parliament.

Such is the ugly face of mufahimat. According to some estimates, politically motivated target killers have butchered over 4,500 people in Karachi since this government came to power in early 2008. To put this into some perspective, this is a higher figure of casualties than 9/11 or the war fatalities in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But even the sacrifice of peace and innocent lives in Pakistan's megalopolis of over 18 million people is not working, as triangles seldom do. Left to their devices, this lot will only make matters worse. As it is, during the peak of the recent carnage, some of the morgues in the city reportedly overflowed their storage capacity. This situation is unendurable for those who call Karachi home.

Since the elected political leaders lack the will and nerve to cope, the option now being widely discussed in many circles is an army operation to root out the malady from Karachi. This option creates its own set of headaches for the government. Once the army marches into town, it will play by its own rules and, more importantly, will follow its own timeline and frame of reference that could entail an expansion of its role to a wider scope.

Also, it will be far more difficult for the government to manipulate and influence the armed forces into doing its political bidding, as it does with the police. For these reasons, this government is unlikely to ask for military assistance in aid of civilian power under Article 245(1) of the Constitution. But certain situations and realities evolve an intrinsic inertia of their own. The Karachi situation has deteriorated well beyond the intent and resolve of this hapless government, and events are now likely to unfold along the only possible course.

Political leaders will ultimately be answerable before the people, but Karachi cannot afford to continue bleeding till the next polls. These rivers of blood have to be stopped forthwith. People have lost their patience with this government. Traders and businessmen have announced that they will arm themselves to face the pestilence of extortion and murder since the government clearly cannot protect them.

One cannot blame them. They feel that if the government lacks the will and competence to restore order, then the armed forces must fulfill their obligations, despite the associated issues and complications, simply because there is no other way and without their intercession people will continue to die. Some of us get so tangled up in an obsession with the means that we forget the end; nothing is more imperative than saving innocent lives.

People are being slaughtered in the streets of Karachi by the dozens every day and we are treated to sanctimonious lectures on the virtues of democracy. It is one thing to pontificate in plush drawing rooms, but quite another to face bullets in the streets, where all concerns for this useless blood-soaked 'democracy' take a back seat to visceral pleas for security and peace.

It should not escape our notice that these sermons on democracy are coming from those who have yet to receive a dead body in their homes. One hopes and prays that they never do, because the mood in homes where the target killers' handiwork is delivered is somewhat different. Such grieving families, along with traders, businessmen and a wide cross-section of civil society directly affected, are clamouring for a decisive military operation; political correctness be damned!

If it is alright to send our troops into Balochistan and even the northern tribal areas, where they are fighting someone else's war in which 5,000 of our soldiers have died to make someone else's homeland safe from extremists, then why is it so awfully wrong to deploy our jawans in Karachi to stop the killing of our own people and restore some semblance of peace and normalcy to a city living on a razor's edge?

We also have to address another equally important issue: If the Karachi problem is a political problem, as the Sindh chief minister says it is, that can only mean that political interests and parties are involved in the killing spree. Since the government has remained unmoved while knowing this, the only inescapable logical conclusion is that it has chosen to allow this slaughter to happen.

This goes beyond dereliction of duty on the part of the government or even a breach of multiple constitutional provisions. This is a crime against the nation, which, for an elected government, constitutes the worst form of betrayal of the people. This being the case, not only must this government be made answerable under the law, but it must resign immediately since it has lost all political, legal and moral legitimacy and authority to remain in power. But words like 'resign' and 'honour' seems to be missing from their dictionary.

By the time this piece goes to print, yet another relic of the past may well have bitten the dust in the face of public discontent in the Middle East. Jubilant scenes of celebration in the streets of Tripoli are uplifting and emotionally charged, as were the scenes in Cairo and Tunis earlier this year and they give us hope. While wishing them well, we cannot help but envy them and wonder when, if at all, will the world watch us celebrating the beginning of a new era of real democracy, peace and progress in Pakistan.

The writer is vice-chairman of the Sindh National Front and a former MPA. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University.







Today Pakistan has nothing to smile about. Are people anxious? Dejected? Fearful? Feeling insecure? Why won't they be, considering the barrage of rotten news assaulting them from every direction? Last week's killing spree in Karachi shocked and shamed Pakistan. Karachi has descended into anarchy and darkness.

Everybody knows who the killers are. It is time to tell the whole truth. They are not young people with little hope and no future and not much to lose. They are not interested in looting. They are state terrorists, members of armed party gangs, raised, financed and protected by leaders of political parties in power in Karachi and Islamabad. They are like the SA and SS of Nazi Germany who hauled their victims to places of torture and killed them with impunity. Nobody can touch them. They are above and beyond the reach of law. A government that does not protect its citizens loses its legitimacy. Can such a government have a valid claim on the loyalty of its citizens?

Karachi's situation is beyond the control of the civil armed forces. Why is the army not being called to aid the civil forces when it is neither unconstitutional nor illegal nor unprecedented?

In the old days the district magistrate of Karachi would have just picked up the phone and called the local commander for army support. In the 70s, under orders of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, troops came out in support of civil forces to suppress language riots in Karachi. And it didn't take the Pak army more than 24 hours to control the situation. Why can't the troops be called out now? How many more innocent citizens have to be killed in cold blood before they are summoned? A government that does not protect its citizens has no right to rule. It is a criminal syndicate, an organised crime ring, corrupt from the bark to the core. The citizens of this country tremble at the thought that these are the people ruling them.

Today the country is as near to anarchy as society can approach without dissolution. This is the time of la grande peur, ("the great fear"): foreign aggression, soaring prices, laws without force and magistrates without courts. Across the country, people inveigh against the senseless proxy war in Fata, the lack of accountability, the widespread corruption, the breakdown of law and order, and the all pervading sense of insecurity.

In his presidential address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, Mr Jinnah said: "you will no doubt agree with me that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the state". The people who rule us today do not seem to agree. Maintenance of law and order and protection of the person, property and honour of citizens is not their top priority. They have a different agenda: loot and plunder which they are pursuing relentlessly.

These are critical days in Pakistan. Today say Pakistan and what comes to mind: anarchy from within, irresistible pressure from without, a country cracking up under outside pressure, a proxy war, pervasive fear and sabotage. The survival of the country, its hard won democracy, its independent judiciary, its liberties all are on the line. No one is safe, and perhaps no place on earth more closely resembles Hobbes's description of a state of nature in which life is "nasty, brutish and short".

Today we have got President Zardari and no protection of person, property or honour. No cash and little hope. Isn't it a great tragedy that at a time when statesmanship of a very high order is the need of the hour, the fate of 180 million Pakistanis is in the hands of Mr Zardari and hordes of weak-kneed triflers, mountebanks and charlatans begrimed with corruption? Were politics in our country burdened with such notions as shame, integrity, accountability, Rule of Law, and last but not least, inviolability and supremacy of the constitution, all of them including Musharraf, would be in jail today.

All the pillars of state, with the exception of the Supreme Court and the media, are dysfunctional. The president, the symbol of the unity of the federation, is mired in corruption, totally indifferent to public welfare and is interested only in protecting himself and his ill-gotten wealth. Parliament, the so-called embodiment of the will of the people, is fake like a Potemkin village. It is deaf and blind to the anguished cries rising from the slums of Karachi.

The country is in a mess. Pakistan presents an image of a country plagued by political, ethnic and sectarian conflicts and appears to be adrift, lacking confidence about its future. Never before has public confidence in the country's future sunk so low. Today people are besieged in their own country. Their take-off is held back; their development is blocked.

Pakistan is rudderless and sliding into darkness. It is like a nightmare in which you foresee all the horrible things which are going to happen and can't stretch out your hand to prevent them. Such is the feeling conjured up by the corrupt, inept rulers of Pakistan as it enters a period of great uncertainty and sinks deeper and deeper into the quagmire.

The collapse of state machinery in Pakistan reminds one of the twilight of the Mughals. "The symptoms of social collapse", Percival Spear wrote, "are progressive declines in standards of conduct, public and private, and the superiority of centrifugal over centripetal forces. When the administrative machinery breaks down, law and order is the first casualty. And when respect for law and authority declines, the devil of force leaps into its place as the only possible substitute and in the struggle that ensues every standard of conduct and decency is progressively discarded. Men begin by being realists and end by being satanists. Sometimes synthesis takes place from within; sometimes it is imposed from without. If the original breakdown of authority is caused by a ferment of ideas, a genuine revolution like the French may result. If it is simply due to the decrepitude of authority, the solution is the substitution of a fresh authority, but whether that substitute is external or internal depends upon local circumstances".

This is happening in Pakistan today and it is scary. It appears as if we are on a phantom train that is fast gathering momentum and we cannot get off.

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email:,







National security in the traditional sense is connected with the idea of sovereignty; territorial security means freedom from risk of danger of destruction and annihilation by war, physical violence and/or aggression from outside. Traditional threats emanate from inter-state conflict and cross-border aggression. Since the nation state is supposed to have a monopoly of power for protecting the life and property of the members of the nation, they are deprived of power to defend themselves against aggression. The focus therefore previously being on external threats, state security has dominated the national security agenda.

With progressing globalisation, borders have become increasingly irrelevant, thus reducing the probability of external aggression. Conversely threats to a country's security emanate internally because of lack of economic development, unemployment, failing internal security because of religious, sectarian and/or ethnic strife, shifting of identities in the wake of globalisation, radicalisation of society and growing terrorism thereof being recent additions. It has not been possible in our relatively new nation state to properly work out the national identity and borders, both traditional (external) and internal security threats have started to overlap. Societal security is the prime responsibility of the state; our rulers have generally cold-shouldered this to our lasting detriment, as we can now see on graphic display.

Societal threats undermine national cohesion and identification with the state, the resultant radicalisation and extremism results in law and order situations, rioting, rise of criminal gangs and gang wars, due to money-laundering and easy availability of weapons because of the nexus between corruption, organised crime and terrorism. A credible accountability system is missing, without proper investigation, effective prosecution and delivery of swift, untainted justice is not possible. Perjury is not only rampant but is the order of the day, credible witnesses are in short supply and even they are susceptible to influence, by use of money and/or the force of public office. Our Supreme Court (SC) has become captive to endless bureaucratic manoeuvring, fighting a losing battle against a virtual bag of administrative tricks to defy and/or frustrate their judgments and instructions. Both the NICL and Haj cases are likely to enter the "Guinness Book of Records', sophisticated filibustering making them into an endless exercise without a likely outcome. Failure to fulfil the main function of maintaining law and order to protect lives and properties of its citizens and ensure impartial, even-handed justice hastens the deterioration of the state and its institutions.

The failing identification with the state impacts negatively on the connection between citizen, the government and the army. This dissolution of the Pakistani identity results in growing influence of foreign interests, this spawns intervention and support for secessionist movements like in Balochistan. Duly fanned by a well-meaning but immature media, paying little attention to core national interests, the vacuum provides a robust platform for promoting radical ideas, readymade for religious exploitation by extreme elements, making an alternative form of a purely Islamic state with all its ramifications resonating with the public.

The spread of terrorism is detrimental to economic growth, the bad investment climate and the lack of development is extremely detrimental to the economy. The diminishing value of individual lives makes killing condonable and justifiable (Karachi killing, collateral damage). Despite the so-called truce between the warring political parties within the coalition government, hundreds of people have died during the past month alone.

The consequent ugly cycle of unemployment and high inflation leads to stagflation. There is flight of both capital and manpower from the country, weakening the economy further. The failing economy destroys jobs and incomes, creates more poverty and destabilises society leading to fuel riots, electricity riots, water riots, food riots, etc, desperation in the mass psyche of citizens, suicides, destruction of families, etc. This creates favourable conditions for criminals and terrorists, further impacting negatively on the overall security. This diverts the right amount of attention and the material support necessary for external security.

A whole process of cataclysmic changes is taking place in the political, economic and social transformation in South Asia. The structures of governance being diversified and differentiated, only lip-service is given to poverty reduction and improving governance. In such conditions corruption is rampant. The Anna Hazare backlash we are seeing in India was waiting to happen, the more violent form being manifest in the four decades-old Maoist Naxalite movement. With an economic transition in the region, the majority of countries have inculcated globalisation to address their economic crisis. This has accelerated the process of growth but the impact of globalisation has not been accompanied by the reduction in poverty or improvement in human development through the formation of social capital. Increases in population growth is by itself a time-bomb.

Pakistan's security interests can be best served if elements having disruptive potential to our socio-political profile are contained, thereby giving no excuse or opportunity to our detractors and enemies to take undue and adverse advantage. Factors responsible for the declining social and human security and strengthening of extremism have to be identified. The human element remains the biggest resource for Pakistan, the government must utilise this to promote safety of the population and counter the threat of extremism engulfing this nation.

The political leadership and all other stakeholders (who have a vital role to play) must agree to cooperate and formulate a national strategy to eradicate this menace. To cope with external threats, Pakistan has to keep up both conventional and nuclear deterrence necessary but should at the same time aim at socio-political solutions for long-term sustainable alleviation of our problems.

The army has had increasingly to deal with internal strife instead of securing the borders. Other than drawing crucial reserves away from countering the aggressive defence postures of the Indians, they are forced to devote time and effort to burgeoning internal problems of different dimensions. Fighting against ones own population can put stress on any army in the world, raising adverse perceptions among the populace, extremely dangerous for a country that thrives on glorifying its armed forces.

The international media is fully mobilised against Pakistan's critical national security assets, but of more serious concern is not only the erosion of local media support, but rather an antagonistic view from some motivated sections. The compromise of the media's integrity is extremely detrimental to the national aims and objectives. The concerted campaign against the ISI, and by extension the army, is deliberately motivated despite our sacrifices not being matched in the war against terror by all the coalition partners in Afghanistan put together.

The unfortunate irony is that an instrument of war – the armed forces – is also the ultimate guarantor of internal peace. One can understand it not being part of the decision-making process where democracy is institutionalised, in less developed countries this is a paradox. This leaves absolute power, at least in democratic theory, in the hands of a pre-modern feudal and agrarian mindset elected through a tainted process on fraudulent votes, as the ultimate arbiters of nation security and societal society, and by default, the destiny of the nation. Who will make the change?

(Extracts from Part-II of the Talk on 'Linkages between Socio-Political Factors and National Security" given recently at the National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad).

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email:








Commentators were taken by surprise when China blamed recent unrest in its territory of Xinjiang on militants reportedly trained in Pakistan. The Chinese accusation has deepened the perception abroad of Pakistan being a haven for terrorists.

Most commentators have kept their analyses confined to the need for containment of the problem to the alleged infiltration into Xinjiang, but none tried to look at the issue beyond the element of friendship between the two countries. There is no denying that Pakistani soil should not be used against neighbouring countries. Pakistan ought to deal with the issue seriously if its land has indeed been used by militants from Xinjiang. For that purpose greater inter-state collaboration is necessary.

However, the violence and terrorism in Xinjiang cannot be eliminated only by focusing on external links. Within Pakistani society we need to start rethinking our approach against the menace of terrorism and violence and do some soul searching, rather than blaming this or that external element. Likewise, more attention should be given to Xinjiang as an internal problems.

In his book The Roots of Terror, Terry Eagleton says that "some form of terror lies at the origin of most political states, but this fact is cast into the political unconscious." He suggests: "Only by confronting it, rather than repressing it, can we hope to get beyond it."

In addition to dealing with element of foreign links in the troubles in Xinjiang, it is indispensable for the problem to be seen it in its local and historical context. This would be conducive to understanding the issue more holistically.

Xinjiang's secessionist movement is far older than the contemporary wave of terrorism since the early 1980s. Historically, the region of Xinjiang has been an area contested by Mongols, Chinese, Tibetans, Turks and Russians. The major ethnic group in the territory are the Uyghurs, who are a Turkic people. Xinjiang came under China's suzerainty soon after the communist revolution in 1949.

With the arrival of the communist regime, a process of the taming of Xinjiang started. Secessionist sentiments have always simmered in local ethnic groups, being particularly strong in the Uyghur population, which was a majority only decades ago. These sentiments occasionally burst forth into violence and terrorist acts.

To control the indigenous population, the Chinese state employed its biggest weapon – mass migration of Han Chinese to Xinjiang. As a result, the Uyghur people are rapidly becoming a minority in their own area. They now form 45 percent of the total population of Xinjiang, while the population of ethnic Chinese is rapidly approaching 40 percent.

While the grievances of the Uyghurs and other indigenous ethnic groups remained unaddressed, the defeat of the Soviet Union emboldened the separatists to increasing their efforts for an independent state of their own. Some separatist elements even joined the global jihad. Drawing inspiration from the jihad, these elements established the East Turkestan Islamic Movement in the 1990s. In the period since the Sept 11 attacks, some Uyghur jihadi elements were either killed in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan or incarcerated in the Guantanamo Bay. Overall, the global jihadis have failed to find a foothold in Xinjiang itself.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government invested in education, health and infrastructure to try to appease the ethnic population. But the ruffled feelings of Uyghurs and the other indigenous nationalities, including Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrghis and Tatars, has remained a major irritant.

A salient feature of Chinese communism is that, unlike the former Soviet Union, it is basically nationalistic in character. The Soviet Union followed communism in the ideological sense. With the disintegration of the USSR, we witnessed old ethnic identities emerging unscathed from 70 years of communist rule. On the other hand, the strong underpinnings of Chinese ethnicity in the identity of the Chinese state, other ethnic minorities feel their own identities in jeopardy. Hence, we see sporadic eruptions of ethnic discontent among the Uyghurs and some indigenous groups, such as Tibetans and Mongols.

In order to eliminate the scourge of violence and terrorism in Xinjiang, China needs to complement its efforts to develop the region economically with the political and social empowerment of Uyghurs and other indigenous ethnic groups in the territory. Xinjiang is primarily an internal problem. Therefore, it can be resolved only if local grievances are addressed.

Pakistan can help by discouraging Xinjiang militants' maintenance of ties with global jihadists, but it cannot offer a panacea for the internal problems of the Chinese state and society.

The writer is a social scientist associated with a rights based organisation in Islamabad. Email:







The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

Not even a year has passed since the murder of former Punjab governor, Salmaan Taseer, in Islamabad but recollections of the events which unfolded at the upscale Kohsar Market in Islamabad seem to have faded from the collective memory.

Only small events bring alive the horror of what happened on that January day just as the year began, and what it means for the future of our country.

In Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, where the trial of the unrepentant assailant Mumtaz Qadri moves forward millimetre by millimetre before a terrified anti-terrorism court judge, activists of extremist parties gather outside for each hearing.

Taseer's son has faced a barrage of questions from the defence about his father's personal life. It is unclear what all this has to do with the events of January 4. Taseer's character and conduct in his private life should, after all, not be on trial.

In the latest hearing, the defence has argued that Qadri acted at the spur of the moment and was provoked by some remarks made by the late governor moments before his death, after Qadri asked him to stop expressing his views.

It is strange to think that a security guard acting on his own should have the audacity to take up the matter with a top dignitary, given the nature of our society and its hierarchy.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Afzal Chishti, who led the funeral prayers for Taseer after many other leading clerics had refused, has reportedly been forced to leave the country in the face of threats from extremists. Chishti, also the secretary-general of the PPP ulema wing, had resisted considerable pressure in deciding to lead the prayers.

His son, Moin Chishti, has sought protection from the Punjab police for himself and other family members. It is understood that complaints of intimidation by the family had been ignored before. It is not known if any protection has been offered now. Several clerics too have been forced to flee under similar pressure.

The role of the government in all this is also rather unclear. A Nishan-e-Imtiaz – the country's highest civil award – was awarded to Taseer on August 14 by President Asif Ali Zardari, a close friend of the deceased. But the posthumous award on its own achieves nothing.

There has been silence from the government on the blasphemy laws for months – following the remarks from key members that they would remain as they are on the statute books and in fact protected at all costs.

Taseer's stand against the blatant misuse of the blasphemy laws was obviously not shared by other leaders of the PPP. The party has in fact retreated from its former, bolder position on the matter following Taseer's murder.

This attitude has been a factor in the deaths that have followed Taseer's, including that in March of then federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti. That murder too remains unsolved.

Since then, three other people have been killed as an outcome of the blasphemy charges against them. Two of the victims were in prison at the time, one in Karachi, and the other in Lahore.

Their families have refuted the stance of jail authorities that they died natural deaths. Blasphemy charges have been brought against 18 other people across the country, most of them in Punjab.

Over the last decade or so, studies by impartial organisations have shown that many such charges are based on the most frivolous grounds and are often intended to settle petty scores of various kinds.

Aside from the actual cases others have faced harassment after being accused of blasphemy. The situation, it seems, has not improved in the least over the past months.

More frightening still is the fact that so much has been forgotten already. It appears that Salmaan Taseer may have died in vain. There has been no attempt by the government to act on his remarks regarding the widespread misuse of the blasphemy laws in the country or the concern he had shown for Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who continues to languish in jail for alleged blasphemy, despite the increasing evidence that the charges against her were concocted.

Taseer had made the effort to visit Aasia, a 40-year-old mother of five in Sheikhupura Jail; this act in itself deserves praise – particularly in a land where hardly anyone had agitated for Aasia, in contrast to the hysterical campaign for the release from a US jail of Aafia Siddiqui, the young woman convicted of involvement in militancy.

Part of the drive for Aafia's release has revolved around the fact that she is a woman and a mother. But the fact that this is also true of Aasia is ignored – perhaps because she is an impoverished Christian from a rural background rather than a middle-class, urban Muslim from a family with a degree of influence.

That evidence is largely absent in the case of Aasia is conveniently ignored. For now, Aasia remains in prison, a bounty on her head has been announced by some extremist forces and talks of a presidential pardon which came after the death sentence handed out to her by the trial court in November last year has faded. Taseer's death means the silence runs deeper.

His murder and its aftermath also illustrate the degree of confusion that exists in the public mind over the blasphemy issue. Even well educated 'liberals' appear to believe that Taseer did wrong. Some suggest he should, nevertheless, not have been killed. It is unclear what kind of alternate punishment – perhaps flogging, maiming or dismissal? – they have in mind.

Taseer's lifestyle, in an increasingly 'moralistic' society where judgements are passed easily and tolerance has virtually vanished, has also played a role in shaping opinion.

What is unfortunate is that rather than highlighting the issue of the blasphemy laws and their misuse, Taseer's murder has instead acted to impose still greater quiet.

This is dangerous. Those using threats, intimidation and violence must not be allowed to win the war being waged in our society. Allowing this to happen would be akin to courting disaster of the worst kind.








 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 Qaddafi 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-Qaddafi 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.

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. There were 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-Qaddafi, 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 Qaddafi largely abolished and replaced with supposedly democratic committees that, in effect, policed his quirky one-man rule. This will not be easily done.

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.

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.










NATIONAL Assembly Standing Committee on Railways was told on Tuesday that Pakistan Railways has estimated a deficit of around Rs 53 billion for the fiscal year 2011-12 against an expected earning of just Rs 12 billion and expenditure of Rs 65 billion. As the deficit and expenditure, the organization needed more than Rs 15 billion under the head of salaries, around Rs 14 billion for pension payment, Rs 18 billion for fuel and Rs 19 billion for stores.

Pakistan Railways is considered life line of the country because it carries out large-scale movement of passengers and goods but unfortunately the organization, which has tremendous potential to grow, has been incurring losses for decades without any concrete and sustained move by any of the successive governments to run it on professional lines. What a shame that a department that has always remained a preferred choice of transportation is unable to earn enough to pay salaries and pensions to its present and former employees, not to speak of generating enough revenue to expand and modernize its operations as is the case with railways in other countries where bullet trains have been introduced. There are numerous factors responsible for the rapid fall of PR but most important of them were years of neglect, poor policies, increasing expenditures, misappropriation of funds, pilferage, nepotism and most recently, the floods have left the Railways with huge deficits running in billions of rupees. With a rapid increase in the losses incurred and suspension of many trains over the last few years, the graph of Pakistan Railways is only going down and its future looks uncertain. Massive corruption in purchase and disposal of stores, oil and other items has also come to light during hearing of the Committee in Lahore last month. The Government has been providing frequent bailout packages to the organization and only recently it approved another one of Rs 11.5 billion, apparently to help it upgrade and modernize its operations but we have seen in the past that funds merely disappeared without showing any improvement in the health of Pakistan Railways. Therefore, we believe that frequent financial injections without identification of the real causes and their removal would not work and the hard earned money of the country would go in drains. A committee of experts should be formed to study problems of PR in detail and come out with out-of-the-box solutions to bring the railways back on track. To achieve the objective of saving the institution from complete closure and making railways once again the choicest mean of transportation, truly professional people be posted and dead wood kicked out.







ACCORDING to reports, Pakistan People's Party Co-Chairman President Asif Ali Zardari has voiced disapproval of statement given by Sindh's Senior Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza regarding Interior Minister Rehman Malik, during a recent meeting in Karachi. Mirza has reportedly assured the President that he respected the Interior Minister and that his statement has been twisted.

It is good of the President that he took notice of yet another emotional outburst of furious Zulfiqar Mirza who churns out venomous remarks every now and then polluting political environment. But we are sorry to point out that this is not for the first time that Mirza has behaved like that, as in the past as well, he made outrageous remarks against MQM on different occasions and the latest ones caused him his portfolio of Provincial Home Ministry. It was on more than one occasions that MQM threatened to leave the coalition in protest against uncalled for remarks of Mirza. But this time he went a step further and castigated his own party-man — Interior Minister Rehman Malik asking him not to come to Karachi, forgetting that the Minister is assigned the task of trouble-shooting by the top leadership of the party/government. It is because of Mirza's highly controversial statements that some people go to the extent of saying that he is gradually losing balance of mind. His behaviour is one of the causes of growing disenchantment of people with the Government and in fact, he is also harming the image of the President, as he is considered to be his close buddy. Therefore, it would be in the personal interest of the President, the PPP and the Government if Dr Mirza is effectively reined it.








AT this point of time when there is a desire nation-wide for improved neighbourly relations with India, New Delhi is bent upon taking measures that are provocative in order to maintain the tension ridden relationship of the past decades with Pakistan. The latest move by India in this connection is the building of another hydro station over Chenab River at Rattle on the Doda-Kishtwar Highway in Occupied Kashmir.

According to a report in this newspaper, mechanical and civil works are to be allotted in November this year and the construction work on Rattle project is to be completed by 2017. Under the Indus Water treaty Pakistan has the exclusive rights over waters of Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. However India is busy building dams on all rivers flowing into Pakistan to regain control of water of western rivers in violation of the treaty. India has already built 14 hydroelectric plants on Chenab River and is building more plants, which will enable it to block entire water of Chenab for 20-25 days. These dams have also enabled India to release huge quantity of water downstream not only to cause damage to standing crops but also to our canal systems. Chenab River provides water to 21 canals and irrigates about 7 million acres of agriculture land in Punjab province. According to studies Pakistan is on the brink of water disaster and its availability would plunge to 800 cubic meters per capita annually by 2020 from the current 1200 cubic meters. The Indian move could prove disastrous for Pakistan as it has already constructed more than 60 medium sized projects and it plans to build another hundred. The new dam project will widen the distrust between the two countries because India has so far not resolved the differences with Pakistan on several water projects it is already executing in occupied Kashmir. We would therefore impress upon the government to raise the issue at the available international forums because India has intensified water war against Pakistan under a well thought out strategy to render its link canal system redundant, destroy agriculture, which is its mainstay and turn Pakistan into a desert.









Karachi has turned fast from economic capital into murder capital of Pakistan and from mother of the poor to murderer of the poor. To put the argument in perspective, let us first see the case of Ciudad Juárez, a city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Juárez is known as murder capital of the world due to the magnitude of violence and killings. It has remained gripped in drug cartel war over the years with some 1,600 murders in 2008, 2,600 in 2009 and 3,100 in 2010. The city has a population of over 1.5 million people. By 2009, annual murder rate had reached 133 per 100,000 inhabitants. More than 50,000 troops and federal police are actively involved in the fight against the cartels. Yet, there is not let up in transgression by drug mafia in Mexico at large, and Juárez in particular.

Karachi has tremendous economic potential. There are over 15,000 industries in five industrial zones of the city. The city generates the lion's share of 67% for the national exchequer and 35% of the GDP. While ESP issues in Karachi breeds numerous ills. Processional religiosity and agitational politics too stops the wheel of life in the cosmopolitan. Deteriorating the law and order situation stops the wheels of industry and disturbs the trading circles, incurring loss of Rupees 3 to 5 billion per day and it takes 4 to 7 days for normalizing the situation in the aftermath of routine violence. During the current violence, Karachi has suffered an estimated economic loss of Rupees 60 billion affecting economic activities across the country.

Karachi is weathering a fresh wave of urban terrorism, hosts of civil offences and street crimes. About 1,500 street crime incidents take place daily. Cold-blooded murders are not speciality of Karachi alone. However, disregard to the holy month of Ramadan, as are being witnessed now, have never been the history of the cosmopolitan. Like Karachi (and even Juárez) crimes and murders do take place in other major metropolitans and cosmopolitans of the world too e.g. Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, New York and Mumbai. A report recently issued by Karachi Chapter of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) noted that a total of 1,138 people were killed in the city during the first six months of the current year and 490 of them fell prey to targeted killings on political, sectarian and ethnic grounds. It is of note that these are the reported-cum-recorded figures. Like other databases in Pakistan, the crime data is also flawed an incomplete. Actually, innumerable innocent Karachiites have breathed their last while fasting during the month of Ramadan. It is a different kind of urban warfare, with no parallel in the world and has surpassed even Juárez in complexities.

Unlike Juárez, which is a hub of drug crimes in the world, Karachi has numerous causes of crime and conflict. Some consider it to be purely political terrorism, wherein the political parties have nurtured their own militant wings, active in pursing supreme political causes. The others hint at gangs formed by drug, land and crime mafia to be perpetrating the heinous crimes. Yet others point finger towards foreign hand. Actually, it is a complex mix of all these – a product of intertwining and criss-crossing politico-economic and criminal interests of various stakeholders to include numerous gangs, groups, parties, organization, tycoon and entrepreneurs. Key perpetrators are political militias, terrorist organizations, religious extremists, criminal gangs, land mafia, drug cartels and corporate tycoons involved in illegal business. The fifth hand is always there in form of fifth columnists financed, funded and fomented by the foreign espionage agencies. At any rate, the victims are, more often than not, the poor people of Pakistan, who are either permanent residents of Karachi or dwelling therein to earn living for their beloved ones living elsewhere in the country.







These days a lot of Pakistanis are fervently discussing the possibility of country's further division into more administrative units. Those supporting argue it would improve governance, equality, justice and all the things needed for a state like Pakistan. Others believe there is less than an honest motive at work for a long time behind this needless pandemonium that the country finds itself in at present. Ever since renaming the erstwhile North West Frontier Province to Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa, Pakistanis have been busy discussing the merits and demerits of the decision. Some believe that finding itself either unable or incapable of controlling the multiple-headed monster of jihadi terrorism in its jurisdiction, the ruling Awami National Party hoisted its long-standing demand of a name change – a pure distraction. Others say it was necessary before any other meaningful achievement that the province be given its due recognition and not be known by the geographical denomination of a bygone era.

The renaming of NWFP, we knew would rekindle the debate of breaking Pakistan into smaller provinces. Reasons for the argument are multiple – local demand, regional development, swifter progress, proximity to power, lingual and local affinities, so on and so forth. Like my friend Adil Najam, who has been discussing the subject since 1980s and supported the idea of creating at least a few more provinces with the likes of late Dr Mehboobul Haq who in turn said the number of provinces could be around 16 or more, I happened to speak to those in power on the same topic for at least a couple of decades. Military dictators have constantly expressed a desire to break Pakistani state into smaller administrative units for "better management. Zia ul Haq once expressed his desire to the same effect in his interview with Shahid Javed Burki. Musharraf wanted his generals to re-write the governance manuals to reach the proverbial grassroots of Pakistan – a country largely devoid of foliage. He should have referred to his desire as "biting the dust".

Is it strange that the three military dictators who ruled Pakistan like a Roman king could not divide the country into smaller, workable, efficient administrative units when they could? No, I would say. They knew any decision to carve out smaller provinces from the existing structure would not be popular among people. Also, the so-called economic sagacity and better growth rates would not have been achieved if the western aid was squandered on a useless army of governors, chief ministers, ministers, advisors, bureaucrats etc. The saddening factor of the debate is that it is either led by half-baked politicians or agenda-driven journalists-cum-anchors-cum-analysts. A serious argument is yet to come from political scientists, policy-makers, stakeholders and most importantly the people of Pakistan. Those who claim to represent the people live by and large devoid of a real link with the people.

Examples that are being thrown in the fray – India, Afghanistan or in one particular case, Switzerland – are the biggest jokes. I remember a federal minister in the Nawaz Sharif's first government telling me why Pakistan should be divided into over a dozen provinces. His off-the-record examples included Iran too for having over thirty provinces. Have you discussed the idea with your party or better still why don't you table a resolution to that effect in the Parliament, I asked. "You think I'm mad," I remember him saying. Pakistani rulers – political or marshal — are known for their pea-sized brains and self-centred politics. Since most of them come from families that are eternally hungry for power, pelf and prestige, Pakistan and its people flicker last on their priority lists. How would they better manage more provinces created largely on linguistic or ethnic grounds when have miserably failed to run the four or five provinces in sixty-odd years.The country has limped from crisis to crisis while its people have persistently been told by their rulers that the blame for their pathetic existence lay in the never-ending intrigues and conspiracies hatched by Pakistan's enemies. I was in Pakistan only a few weeks ago and spoke at two private universities that have cropped up since the public-funded educational institutions have either almost collapsed or are no-fun-to-go-to.

The level of claustrophobia frightened me. Government policies or geopolitical circumstances have made Pakistanis so introverted and detached from their geographical surroundings. They sincerely believe that they are sandwiched between enemies. Forget traveling within the region and meeting international neighbours, Pakistanis hardly venture into their own country. People of one province can hardly speak the predominant language of the other and the state has failed at fostering inter-lingual harmony by introducing regional languages into school curricula. Imagine a country whose 50 per cent population from multiple ethnic and lingual backgrounds could speak and understand the language of the predominant 50 per cent but the latter could not decipher what the others are saying when not employing lingua franca. May be that's is one reason why Anatol Leiven called Pakistan a "hard country". Pakistan needs focus not distraction. But the problem is it has too many politicians and no leader while all politicians believe they are, in fact, leaders. The feudal mind set of politicians, generals, bureaucrats, mullah and merchants does not want to include people in their brainstorming adventurism. During my travel from Korangi in Karachi to Pir Sabaq on the banks of River Kabul near Nowshera after the 2010 floods, people I spoke to wanted very little for Pakistan – do waqt ki roti; koi rozgaar aur zara si izzat." We know that politicians who could not run their own kitchen or household if they had to have been given chances to run a very complex country. They should move away from the examples set in 1947 or 1971. Governance is not an easy task but those who are doing it better are not super humans. They just follow the rules they set out for themselves. Politicians and political pundits should not make Pakistan more troublesome for the plain reason that they could not run it properly so far.

Forces that are behind the more-provinces argument would like a politically fragmented country with minions marauding as messiah. Actions follow intentions, said the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and intentions of Pakistani politicians are less than trustworthy at the moment. As Buddha once said: "All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him."








The Holy Qur'an says, "And your lord says: call on me; I will answer your (prayers) but those who are too arrogant to serve me will surely find themselves in Hell- in humiliation." (40:60) and the Prophet (PBUH) says," Dua is the essence of worship. It therefore follows that Dua is the noblest and greatest form of worship. It emerges from the inner depths of the heart, an impelling yearning and a silent yell, seeking Allah Swt good pleasure. Dua is complete and full submission to the creator – it is an acceptance by the supplicator that he is in need of Allah Swt and that man alone cannot achieve anything, without seeing Dua as the essence of worship. In defining Dua, Ibn al Qayyum says, it is, " asking what is of benefit to the person, and asking the removal of what is harming him , or (asking) the repelling of it (before it afflicts him) ". It would tantamount to arrogance, if any form of worship, is not concluded with a Dua.

It must be remembered that Dua can only be made to Allah Swt; Dua to any else is pure shirk, which is neither forgivable nor pardonable. Therefore Dua, must exemplify in itself, utmost humility and the subservience of the one making the Dua. "Say (o Muhammad): I make Dua only to my Lord (Allah Alone), and I associate none as partners along with him (20:25)". Of the seven most oft repeated verses is the following verse, which every Muslim says, at least 20 times every day, " you alone do we worship, and you alone do we seek help from" (Surah Al-Fatihah:5). This verse is a complete dua, itself. A supplicator affirms that he worships Allah alone, and seeks his pleasure, for here and the Hereafter. Unfortunately, even having expressed at least verbally 20 times during the day, we all look at others for the fulfillment of our mundane or even spiritual desires, from the creation. We all need to go back to ponder, so that we begin to practice and submit, to what we say while reciting the verses of the Holy Quran.

In following with the Prophetic traditions a good Muslim seeks the bounties and blessings of this world and the world beyond! Asking for one and ignoring the other would not be within the confines of 'bashariat' or the middle and moderate path, which recognizes that as children of Adam, we are prone to committing sins and faults. Abu Ammar Yasir Qadhi, a Saudi Arabian writer, says that the entire dua of all of the creation centers around four pillars: firstly that good exists, secondly; good that is desired, thirdly; evil that exists and fourthly; evil that does not exist. The last verses of Surah Al-Imran contain the most comprehensive dua that embodies all the four pillars: "Our Lord! Forgive our sins, and remit us from our evil deeds, and cause us to die in a state of righteousness. Our Lord! Grant us what you promised us through your messengers, and do not disgrace us on the Day of Judgment, for you never break your promise" (Al-Imran; 193-194). So the phrase, "forgive us …" is a dua that an existing evil be removed. And the phrase, "cause us to die …." Is a dua asking that an existing good, that of the presence of Iman, continue and not be taken away until death. And the phrase, "Grant us….", is a dua for a good that does not yet exist to be given. Lastly the phrase, "do not disgrace…." is a dua to avert an evil that does not exist.

Narrated Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (PBUH) said: "There is nothing that is more noble in the sight of Allah, than dua." In the armory of a true believer, dua is powerful weapon, a cure of diseases, an assurance of receiving only that which is good, a source of optimism, a dialogue with the creator and the most easy form of worship. One of the pre-requisite, amongst the etiquette of dua, that is common to all Muslims, is the raising of hands during dua. The Prophet (PBUH) always raised his hand for dua and this is stated in numerous ahadidth. It is narrated through Salman Al Farsi, (R.A) that the Prophet (PBUH) said, "Indeed Allah is shy and beneficent. He is shy when his servant raises his hands to Him (in Dua) to return them empty, disappointed". All praise be to Allah Swt, that he feels shy when his servant raises his hands in supplication! While making the Dua, it is important that One's palms face upwards and not the back of one's hands, Malik Ibn Yassar narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said, "If you ask Allah, then ask Him with the palms of yours hands outwards, and not with the outward portion of the hands ( i.i. with palms facing down). Putting the palms down is an act of arrogance.

In making Dua, be in a state of abulition, facing the Qiblah, with absolute humility, expecting the best from Allah, acknowledging one's sins and imploring Him earnestly by mentioning His attributes and repeating the dua with faith and what would emerge is only the pleasure of Allah Swt. It must also be remembered that it is desirable that when making Dua, it is best to ask for own self, first. Dua is the heart of worship and its foundation. Dua, is the most powerful weapon of a true behavior. In this Holy month of Ramazan, let us make a collective dua, for the good of each of us and for the well being of this beautiful country, that came into existence in this Holy month.









In the backdrop of ruthless killing spree in Karachi in which hundreds of people have been butchered, some not only killed, but brutally disposed of by their killers in the most inhuman manner by stuffing the tortured and mutilated bodies in gunny bags thrown all over the city on roads and allies. The worst part of this savagery is that government heads and political leaders have conveniently ignored this carnage including even the most important opposition leader Mian Nawaz Sharif has called for snap elections in desperation. He blissfully thinks that Zardari government will step down and leave the field open for him. He advised the prime minister rather naively to dissolve the federal and provincial governments and call for general elections in the country.

Otherwise, he said, his party will stage a long march to force the government to go for elections. He urged the people to support his cause to rid the country of corruption and mis-governance and serious security situation. Does Mian Nawaz Sharif think that the prime minister will revolt against President Zardari who is also the head of the ruling party? As expected the Punjab Governor Mr. Khosa, who belongs to PPP has rejected the demand for elections which, he said, has been made just for'' public consumption'. Seriously, does Mian Nawaz Sharif think that Prime Minister Gilani has the power to give him the elections on a platter?

He does not even have the power to stop bloodshed in Karachi. No prime minister worth his salt will sit in Islamabad peacefully when the biggest city of his country is on fire. Mian Nawaz Sharif himself has not reacted strongly against the Karachi killings, which he must have if he wanted snap elections. President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani are so scared of their own people that they could not hold Yaum-e-Azadi celebrations on August 14 in an open space. The President who should have addressed the nation on this day kept quiet while the prime minister made an insipid and uninspiring speech on TV, which sounded like a report card of his government, from a heavily guarded hall in Islamabad. President Zardari who owns a palatial house at Clifton in Karachi has converted it into a fortress blocking three busy roads and making life hell for the people who live there. One road leading to a Hospital has also been blocked. Leaders of democratic nations do not live like this. Only leaders who are scared of their own people are insecure and build fortresses for themselves. Reverting back to snap elections, it is obviously not a bright idea. No government, least of all a power hungry one, can hand over power easily to the leader of opposition, unless it is forced to do so. Mian Nawaz Sharif cannot do so just by long marches. If at all he wants a long march he should go for it for the cause of helpless people of Karachi who are being killed most brutally in their own city. MQM is again thinking of joining the government at a great loss of its credibility. The game of leaving the government repeatedly and then joining looks like a child's play. In fact this time Karachi has been mauled so badly and so many lives have been lost and their families destroyed that the MQM leader should stand firm against the government and pay it back in the same coin.

Luckily the random killing of about one hundred Mohajirs sponsored by some powerful elements in Sind Government, who are also close to President Zardari forced MQM to come out in the open and declare that in view of the fact that the Sind government was involved in the killing of innocent people on such a large scale, MQM cannot join the government. A wise decision but the question may be asked if MQM was aware of the government's involvement in the carnage, why it delayed the matter so much talking to the people who had Mohajir blood on their hands. This question needs to be answered by the MQM leaders in any case. Leaders of some small political parties and civil society gathered outside the National Press Club in Karachi to show their solidarity with the aggrieved people of Karachi shouting slogans against the government which failed to defend its people against the killing of innocent citizens in the cruelest manner. Neither the federal and provincial governments nor the police and rangers moved a muscle against the killers who got away with all their atrocities day and night. The government forgot that Karachi is the place of Quaid-e-Azam's birth and death where he is also buried. It is also the first capital of Pakistan and its hub of business and industry. There is no doubt that the government's negligence to leave the city at the mercy of a gang of butchers is unpardonable.

The two leaders Mian Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan who lead major national political parties should organize a long march in Karachi to show solidarity with the aggrieved people of Karachi which would hopefully be the biggest and most effective march in Pakistan's history. Such are the occasions when political leaders should come out bravely to overthrow the inept and corrupt governments. These two leaders can awaken the people of Pakistan against the atrocities perpetrated by the butchers who, not only killed the people but first tortured them when they were still alive and then killed them and stuffed their bodies in gunny bags and threw them on garbage dumps and street corner of the city. God will never forgive them, nor should the political leaders and people of the country forgive them and those elements in the government for allowing this carnage to happen in Pakistan.







As the US Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Centre put it in a report last year, the People's Liberation Army Air Force, or PLAAF, has been "transforming itself from a poorly equipped and trained organization into an increasingly capable fighting force. Dramatic changes have occurred, and continue to occur, in the areas of mission, organizational structure, personnel, education, training, and equipment." Today, the PLAAF remains years behind the US Air Force in terms of experience, training and operational planning. But it is focusing precisely on those areas in an attempt to catch up. Analysts of China's Air Force warn against focusing solely on the planes it has, or "tail counting." An appreciation of its capabilities instead begins with what it can fly.

The leading edge of its airpower is the advanced Russian Su-27/30 fighter, of which it has 150 planes, followed by more than 100 indigenously produced J-11s, based on the Su-27 model, and nearly 200 multirole J-10s, which have both air-combat and ground-attack capabilities. The Su-27/30 compares with any US fighter, save the stealthy F-22, and China plans on adding nearly 100 more related J-11s. Overall, the PLAAF has more than 1,600 combat aircraft, which does not count the nearly 300 combat aircraft of the separate PLA Navy air forces. China's Navy, with its own combat air arm, is also flying advanced fighters and has been training its pilots to get ready for carrier operations. The PLAAF also is looking to the next generation of weapons. Earlier this year, it flew the first prototype of a fifth generation stealth fighter, the J-20, ostentatiously doing so while then Secretary of Defence Robert Gates was on a visit to China to repair military relations.

While the J-20 is at least a decade away from being operational, even Mr. Gates was forced to shorten his predictions of when American pilots would face Chinese stealth fighters. As Chinese pilots begin to focus on joint operations, night exercises and longer-range missions from its dozens of bases in coastal regions, the spectre of a Chinese air umbrella over eastern Asia begins to look less far-fetched. China has moved beyond simply buying more planes and improving its training. In 2004, it came up with its first specific PLAAF strategy, focusing on "integrated air and space operations, both defensive and offensive." Using cyber warfare, space assets and quick offensive strikes, the PLAAF is trying to become a high-tech, high-tempo aerospace force.

Not surprisingly, this doctrine is designed to negate the strengths of US air and naval forces in the region, which would be fighting along extended lines, without immediately accessible bases for repair and re-supply. China's military leadership, moreover, is building the missile capacity to try to destroy those vulnerable bases in Japan, Guam and elsewhere. In the face of this Chinese build-up, Washington needs to do more to maintain its airpower superiority. In any conflict with China, the US would rely on US airpower from the outbreak of hostilities. However, its aging F-15s and F-16s increasingly will be unable to match more modern Chinese counterparts, and even the far superior skills of US pilots can't make up for outdated aircraft.

China's development of a carrier-killer missile means that US naval air may be pushed farther out into the Pacific. The rash decision to cancel the F-22 means the US is dramatically limited in the numbers of the one aircraft that could assure command of the skies, while the F-35 is becoming increasingly expensive and still behind development schedule. The Pentagon must resist any temptation to cut the number of F-35s, lest it become permanently outnumbered by Chinese fighters whose pilots will get more experienced and better over time. Large numbers of Air Force tankers, with escort, will be needed to keep American birds in the fight. Moreover, hardening key bases at Kadena in Okinawa and Anderson on Guam is needed to assure the survivability of the US forces that may be able to limit hostilities early on.

Given the dispersal of Chinese bases and its bomber fleet, the US must develop a credible long-range strike bomber, in part as a way to ensure escalation control in any conflict with China. Relying solely on land- or sea-launched missiles for mainland strikes may prove to be destabilizing in a crisis, whereas stealthy manned bombers that can be recalled can serve to hold major targets at risk while preserving operational flexibility. Finally, the US needs to ensure that its allies have up-to-date air capabilities. The Obama administration is wrong to deny Taiwan the more advanced F-16s that they have requested, and it should do everything possible to help Japan and South Korea choose the F-35 for their next generation combat aircraft. Without all these measures, the skies of East Asia may one day become as turbulent as the seas are today below. The writer is the director of Japan studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

—Courtesy: The Wall Street Journal









Israelis and Palestinians are preparing for a showdown at the United Nations in September, when the Palestinian leadership will ask for recognition of a Palestinian state within the borders that existed before the Six Day War in 1967 (when Israel seized control of Jordanian-occupied territory).

The details of the bid remain unclear, and the effort entails serious risks. But a sober assessment of what might follow a U.N. endorsement of Palestine's borders allows for some cautious optimism.

Given the lasting stalemate in bilateral negotiations with Israel, a Palestinian focus on a non-member state bid at the U.N. General Assembly might very well increase the likelihood of jump-starting the process. The Palestinian plan already has resulted in an unprecedented diplomatic frenzy. While Palestinians travel the world soliciting votes, Israeli officials are engaged in last-minute efforts to dissuade countries from supporting what they perceive as Palestinian unilateralism.

The diplomatic push has so far yielded somewhat predictable results. While the United States has declared its intention to veto a declaration in the Security Council, several European countries, including the United Kingdom and France, intend to back the Palestinian move should negotiations with Israel remain elusive. In a show of broad Third World solidarity, the majority of states represented in the U.N. General Assembly have signaled clear support for the Palestinians.

These global disagreements reflect competing assessments of the U.N. move in Israel and the Palestinian territories. In Jerusalem, Minister of Defense Ehud Barak has repeatedly warned of a "diplomatic tsunami" and a new wave of violence if the Palestinians do not change course. In the meantime, voices on the Israeli right have threatened to respond to a U.N. vote by immediately cancelling the 1993 Oslo Accords.

So far, these warnings have had only a limited effect in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestine National Authority. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas remains determined to move forward. On Wednesday, Abbas reaffirmed that the U.N. bid would proceed "even if negotiations resume."

From Abbas's perspective, the ground is well prepared. State-building efforts have reformed previously defunct Palestinian institutions, and have enabled significant economic growth. Of course, there are serious budgetary problems. Paying bills is difficult, not only because Israel is slow in transferring customs revenues, but also because promised aid from Arab countries often never arrives.

Still, the World Bank declared this spring that Palestinian institutions are "well positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future." In addition, strong public support and high expectations in the Palestinian territories would make a last-minute change of course politically risky.

Currently, Palestinians oscillate between two options that imply either addressing the Security Council in a bid for full U.N. membership, or appealing to the General Assembly, should a U.S. veto render success there impossible. While the Security Council would be able to grant legally binding membership status, a vote in the General Assembly would simply upgrade a Palestinian entity to the status of a "non-member state" – like the Vatican.

Confronted with the prospect of a U.S. veto, an increasing number of international observers flatly oppose the Palestinian plan, on the grounds that it is unlikely to generate concrete political gains and would merely deflect attention from the main requirement of Middle East peace-making: a return to the negotiating table.

Here, the lack of detail about the U.N. resolution allows room for maneuver. Such an approach would begin with refraining from forcing an immediate vote – and a dramatic U.S. veto – in the Security Council. Instead, a carefully drafted motion in the form of a non-member state bid in the General Assembly could mark the way forward.

While such an approach would certainly fall short of maximalist Palestinian demands, it would embrace the parameters outlined in May by U.S. President Barack Obama. It would also indirectly address the Israeli government's demand that the Palestinians recognize a "Jewish state."

Such a vote would also address international calls for bilateral diplomacy. Instead of closing doors, such a redefinition of the statehood bid at the U.N. would provide the Palestinian leadership with a much-needed symbolic success, including a framework from which to restart negotiations – a longstanding Palestinian demand.

As such, the U.N. bid might well transform a confrontation into a potentially constructive tool of diplomacy. Focusing on the looming September showdown should not prevent decision makers from looking ahead. Any vote at the U.N. will be followed by the day after. Palestinians and Israelis need to prepare for that day now.

Michael Bröning is director of the East Jerusalem office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a political foundation affiliated with Germany's Social Democratic Party. This abridged article was originally published on Khaleej Times online.





QUEENSLAND Child Safety Services claims to be "dedicated to protecting children and young people who have been harmed, or are at risk of harm". Not only did the service fail in its duty to traumatised Maryborough teenagers Felicia Goodson and Zoe Gough, a mother of two herself, but it has hidden its appalling negligence behind a curtain of shame.

In 2009, at the age of 16, the girls, who were friends, hanged themselves within weeks of each other after officers reportedly failed to act on allegations of sexual abuse and denied one of the girls foster care, forcing her to return to a situation where she allegedly was being abused.

The girls' mothers, who admit they should have done more themselves, had warned that the girls needed special supervision. It is not clear why they were prescribed antidepressants not recommended for teenagers or who should have been monitoring them.

The cases have been subject to three secretive inquiries by police, Child Safety and the Child Death Case Review Committee. The findings must be opened to the light and those at fault held to account. Child Safety Minister Phil Reeves and his officials are hiding behind privacy provisions, but the girls' mothers want the reports released to help avoid a repeat of such tragedies. After failing Zoe and Felicia, this is the least the system owes their memories.






IT is a measure of the problems facing Labor that the pressure on the Gillard government over the Craig Thomson affair has been relieved, for the moment, by the likelihood of a police investigation. The government will try to hide behind any investigation to avoid probes in question time. But the danger for the Prime Minister has escalated with the decision by the Health Services Union to refer the issue to NSW Police.

Julia Gillard has strongly supported a backbencher who is almost certain to be the subject of a police investigation. She has expressed confidence in a man who cannot claim the confidence of his former union.

The union acted correctly to refer the matter to police. Mr Thomson has denied allegations that when he was its national secretary he used the union credit card to hire prostitutes, buy airline tickets for his then wife, dine at expensive restaurants and withdraw hundreds of dollars in cash at a time. A police inquiry, however, is appropriate.

It is a pity Tony Abbott's bid yesterday to force a parliamentary explanation from the member for Dobell was defeated -- with the help of Greens MP Adam Bandt and independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie understood the nuances of this issue rather better and backed the opposition, arguing that while Mr Thomson has a right to keep his seat for now it is appropriate he give an account of his actions to voters through the parliament.

The prime ministerial statement also sought by the opposition yesterday is a different matter, and Mr Wilkie voted with the government in this case. Ms Gillard is at the despatch box every day the house sits and question time is the appropriate forum for providing answers. Indeed, she has been asked a series of questions about the Thomson matter over recent days. However, her decision yesterday to end question time early was disappointing.

But yesterday's events also showed the need for the opposition to exercise caution in its pursuit of Mr Thomson. Mr Abbott's language -- the member for Dobell was in "protection" and the government was in "paralysis" -- came close to overkill. And when the opposition tactics prevented anyone from the house attending the memorial service for artist Margaret Olley in Sydney it gave the government a chance to turn the attack back on the them.

Labor was out of order, however, in trying to equate the allegations of credit-card abuse with the charge of shoplifting faced by a Liberal senator. They are completely different and Labor's efforts to link them were unseemly and unfair. The government looked desperate, too, when it tried to deflect attention by dragging up old matters concerning Mr Abbott and One Nation; and old allegations over misuse of electoral allowances by three Liberal MPs, who were exonerated.

Ms Gillard's decision to support Mr Thomson was politically realistic given her lack of a majority. But now the union has made it a police matter the stakes are considerably higher.

The problem for Ms Gillard is not that she has defended someone who allegedly may have paid for sex, but that Mr Thomson may now have to convince police he is telling the truth. In the meantime, Labor's brand is being eaten away.








FOOTBALL is a family affair. Gambling is not, or at least should not be. The rapid and regrettable rise of gambling within the culture of football since betting on the game became legal two decades ago has blurred the distinction, to the detriment of the sport and the society. Betting on AFL matches is now a $300-million-a-year industry and growing. Particularly insidious is the promotion of ''live odds'' on scoreboards during play. As Charles Livingstone, the gambling researcher from Monash University, has argued, displaying odds on scoreboards creates an association in spectators' minds between having a bet and enjoying the game. That association is all the more damaging in young minds.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground, therefore, deserves a rousing round of applause for its decision, revealed in The Age yesterday, to ban the promotion of live odds on its scoreboards. To take effect from the end of the season, the ban will bring AFL football at the MCG into line with cricket. Footy at ''the people's ground'' will be more family friendly as a result. The chairman of the MCG Trust, John Wylie, puts the argument well: ''We just think it's inconsistent with what football at the MCG should be all about, which is the football, as opposed to the promotion of gambling on matches during matches.''

By why only the MCG? The leadership shown by the trust presents a challenge to the AFL, which for too long has sent mixed signals about its attitude to gambling on the game. The league is right to enforce a zero-tolerance approach to betting on its matches by players and officials as a protection against corruption. But it is culpable for the social damage caused by problem gambling by AFL supporters. League chief executive Andrew Demetriou has said he is concerned about the extent of advertising of gambling and the frequent displays of betting odds at venues and on television and radio broadcasts of games, and yet under his watch odds continue to be shown on scoreboards and the AFL continues to reap the financial rewards of deals with betting agencies Betfair and Tabcorp for 5 per cent of their football-related takings.

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The AFL is justifiably proud of its record of community leadership on social issues such as respect for women and intolerance of racism. But its policies on gambling are a weak link. The league should follow the MCG Trust's lead and ban the display of live odds on all AFL scoreboards as a first step to reversing the trend towards normalisation of gambling at the football.






Restructure ... the mining boom has pushed up the value of our currency. Photo: AP

AUSTRALIANS are only just beginning to realise the extent to which the rise of resource-hungry nations such as China and India are reshaping our economy, the way we work and the way we live. The mining boom has pushed up the value of our currency, putting the squeeze on manufacturing, tourism and education. Steel manufacturer BlueScope's decision this week to sack 1000 workers is testament to the strain this has put on profit margins.

The natural instinct of politicians is to resist such painful change. They will be under pressure from affected companies who will, of course, apply any pressure they can to get assistance to remain profitable. One call is for the enforcement of a ''Buy Australian'' policy, especially for steel used in mining projects. Where possible, local manufacturers should, of course, be given the right to tender for government and mining sector work. But quality and price should remain the main criteria.

The true job of government is not to pick winners, or rather to protect losers, but to assist the economy through times of transition, such as we find ourselves in. Reforms in the 1980s to dismantle tariff and other trade barriers exposed Australian businesses to international competition, resulting in lower prices for consumers. It also produced greater specialisation in what we are good at, encouraging trade and lowering the price of goods for our consumers. This boosts consumer spending power and living standards. The structural adjustment in the 1980s and 1990s was difficult and painful. Yet the Australian economy emerged from this period more competitive and better able to deal with external shocks than ever before. We will need to draw on, and advance, that flexibility now.

However, while it is not for government to decide which businesses live or die, it has a responsibility to help individual workers affected to re-train and find new employment as soon as possible. In the longer term, government must also invest in equipping the workforce with the right skills and training to meet future needs. Moving existing workers from employment in struggling industries to high-growth sectors will also require the creation of a flexible and mobile workforce. Reforms to harmonise school curriculums, unify disparate state licensing schemes and reduce or abolish stamp duties - a tax on moving - will help.

Establishing a sovereign wealth fund in which to store the benefits of this historic mining boom will also ensure this painful change returns real dividends. Change is never easy, but the status quo is not an option.

A big gap in our smile

THE FACE of Australia is changing. Not only are its features being resculpted and resurfaced by cosmetic surgery, Botox injections and zapping with lasers, one of its active working parts, the mouth, is getting a makeover with new technologies. You might have noticed how we are steadily shifting from what you might call the British-European teeth model - the snaggly row of old ivory - to the American one of gleaming white tombstones. Our local throwaways are full of ads suggesting a quick visit to get your teeth whitened, straightened and in the last resort replaced by implants to get ahead in love and work.

Much of this new technology is entirely welcome. It is less painful, and leaves more sightly, safer work than the old metal amalgams. But it comes with higher risks if it is not carried out with the right expertise, and big fees encourage some to exaggerate their skills and experience. Over recent days, the Herald's Erik Jensen has reported cases where dental work went badly wrong, causing immense physical and financial distress. In one case, the patient went to Thailand for remedial work he could not afford in Australia - the opposite situation from the typical warnings about the dangers of ''surgical tourism'' in the Third World. The dentist involved was obliged only to refund the fees paid to him, and was protected from further action by a deed of waiver the patient was pressured to sign. There was another similar complaint against the same dentist, who continues to practise.

We also highlighted the case of dentist Mark Phung, who was found ''incompetent'' by the NSW Supreme Court, admitted to be so by his own lawyers, and ordered to pay damages totalling $1.6 million, but still allowed to practise. The Dental Council of NSW claims it cannot act on such a situation. Its Dental Care Assessment Committee has shown itself more concerned with protecting dentists by legal waivers than getting full compensation for wronged patients. The Health Minister throws up her hands.

These examples highlight the abject policy failure of Australia in this important area of health. As the University of Sydney's head of oral pathology, associate professor Hans Zoellner, told us, Australia has no clear standards for dental care nor effective means to enforce them. And of course, those on low incomes cannot afford a visit to the dentist or cannot get prompt treatment at public clinics. Fearful of the fiscal burden, Canberra has long baulked at including dentistry in Medicare. For a wealthy, advanced economy, it's an ever-more glaring gap in our welfare.







It must be hoped that ministers keep cooler heads than magistrates, and stop short of translating reflexive rhetoric into unworkable policy

Eleven years ago fuel protesters held Britain to ransom, and it became a commonplace to account for their success in terms of the new-fangled mobile phones which lorry drivers were using to text message one another. A generation before, the crackling cassette recordings of Ayatollah Khomeini's harangues which circulated in Tehran were said to have played no small part in fomenting the Iranian revolution. In an earlier epoch, the development of Dutch _ HYPERLINK "" \o "" _presses and distribution networks_ which churned out "libelles" targeting French royalty was, according to some historians, the catalyst for the storming of the Bastille.

Today Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry are commanded to attend a Home Office summit for earnest discussion about the role their networks played in the spasm of criminal disorder that gripped English streets so recently. The hysterically harsh sentences already handed down in _ HYPERLINK "" \o "" _one or two cases_ of pro-riot social messaging is a reminder that moral panic can often follow hot on the heels of new technology. The ability of such punishments to set a precedent, and set off sentence inflation, is only one reason why the prisons minister, Crispin Blunt, is naive to imagine that the sudden spike in the jail population is a _ HYPERLINK "" \o "" _"one-off"_ that will soon be reversed. It must be hoped that ministers keep cooler heads than magistrates, and stop short of translating reflexive rhetoric, such as David Cameron's talk of _ HYPERLINK "" \o "" _banning rioters from particular networks_, into unworkable policy. For if there is one clear lesson from history it is that such technological genies will not be put back in their bottles.

Beyond this, there are few general rules linking disorder and new inventions. Certainly, technologies can affect both the form and the timing of revolt, just as developments in communication and reconnaissance have their place in military history. But it ought not be assumed that scientific progress always works against established authority: were it not for the then new railway to Birmingham, London police could not have been dispatched to the Midlands to break up a Chartist rally in 1839. Nor can it be assumed that the particular role of technology in any disturbance is an easy thing to disentangle. It is at this stage an open question as to whether or not instant messaging was truly important in fomenting the recent troubles, or if instead the flow of hi-tech gossip tended to track developments on the ground.

The Guardian is embarking on analysis of over 2.5 million tweets that may help settle this. The government would do well to undertake similar studies in cause and effect itself before rushing into a response. Perhaps such work will indeed suggest that gangs were using instant publishing to organise on guerilla lines, and keep one step ahead of the authorities. If, and only if, that is proven, the question of bespoke regulation will rear its head. But even then, it should not be imagined that removing one means of spreading the word will secure order. There would still be nothing to stop the rallying cry to rampage spreading through the taverns and streets of London, just as it did during the Gordon riots of 1780.

A more decisive blow for the forces of law and order could be struck by tackling the social roots of the rioting. Yesterday brought two instructive indicators of these. Official figures on young people who are _ HYPERLINK "" \o "" _neither in employment, education or training_ – the tally of youngsters who, in sum, have nothing to do – jumped up at the fastest rate since records began. At the same time, the _ HYPERLINK "" \o "" _Office for National Statistics_ revealed that the return to be earned by a degree had declined, suggesting that the reward for studying is diminishing at the same time as a culture of inertia takes hold. The role of new technologies in the rioting deserves scrutiny, but it should not be allowed to obscure the wisdom of an ancient adage: the devil finds work for idle hands to do.





Italy's minister for simplification may sound as though he has a strange job, but has some serious competition

It's surprising to see that Roberto Calderoli, the Italian politician _ HYPERLINK "" \o "" _reported last week_ to have "lashed out" at overpaid footballers complaining about their tax bills, holds office as "minister for simplification". Two questions suggest themselves. Simplification of what, exactly? Of tax liabilities? Of the moral choices of footballers? Or possibly of his prime minister's private life, which could certainly do with it? And then, should the UK too have such a department? Our answer to that is a firm "perhaps". No nation should be too proud to learn from others in these matters. Italy also has a minister of platform accomplishment, and Mali one for handicrafts. France may have long ago closed its ministre des cultes (minister for worship) and disposed of its Protestant affairs secretary, but Denmark retains a minister for ecclesiastical affairs, while Bolivia has a minister for foreign affairs and worship. Might we gain from emulating New Zealand by installing a minister for correction? Or Chad, with one minister for ethics and another for sanitation and good governance? Yet the oddest contender in the catalogue of officialdom is one containing a captain of the yeomen of the guard and _ HYPERLINK "" \o "" _a captain of gentlemen at arms_. Though the offices of master of the buckhounds and mistress of the robes were disposed of around the time Victoria died, the UK persists in calling the two chief whips in the Lords by these inexplicable names. We should celebrate them or, failing that, set a UK department of simplification to work.







The anger against the credit ratings agencies is not just a matter of shooting the messenger

Early in _ HYPERLINK "" \o "" _Sophocles's play Antigone_, the anxious palace guard who must tell Creon that his orders have been disobeyed muses that no one likes the messenger who brings bad news. It is a defence on which the world's credit ratings agencies have relied with increasing frequency as the global economy teeters on the edge of a fresh recession and governments struggle to bring their deficits under control.

Yesterday it was the turn of Moody's, which, by _ HYPERLINK "" \o "" _downgrading Japan_ a notch, incurred the righteous anger of Tokyo, which pronounced unwavering market trust in its bonds. But the downgrade – which the generally more adventurous Standard & Poor's made some months ago – is merely the latest push downwards in an increasingly frequent process. It has brought havoc and fired indignation in Greece, Ireland and Spain, as well as in the most important and contentious of all cases, the United States.

Like Sophocles's guard, the agencies have a point when they protest that they are merely doing what they are required to do. Even so, S&P's president this week _ HYPERLINK "" \o "" _stepped down unexpectedly_, while denying that this had anything to do with the great outrage against his agency's unprecedented and provocative downgrade of the US. It is true that if countries did not run up debts they could not afford, their ratings would be stronger. But the agencies are not merely market umpires but also market players, with an interest in outcomes. They consistently overrated sub-prime mortgage-backed securities when times were good. Now that times are hard, they are consistently underrating the security of nation states which refuse to bow to agency orthodoxy by cutting expenditure.

Anger against the agencies is not simply a case of wanting to shoot the messenger. It is also a matter of revolting against a ratings system that allows a very small number of not-always-brilliant analysts to spread fears that threaten the cohesion of sovereign nations, states and governments. Anger with a system that treats, whatever its denials, the lives of nations as a chip on the bond market gambling tables is well directed. The agencies like to claim that they are acting on behalf of investors. But investors can too often also be speculators, seeking profits on bond trades affecting millions of families and jobs.

The US downgrade, in particular, was _ HYPERLINK "" \l "axzz1Vx0m3ews" \o "" _a reckless act_ directed against the whole global economy. Its foolishness was promptly underlined as markets flooded into the safe haven of US Treasury bills. These are genuinely serious times. But peoples and governments as well as markets need to hear the _ HYPERLINK "" \l "axzz1Vx0m3ews" \o "" _Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke_ put the agencies in their place when he addresses central bankers tomorrow.







President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has humiliated himself to an unimaginable degree in relation to corruption suspect and junior politician Muhammad Nazaruddin. It is not just the President who has to bear the brunt of Nazaruddin's reckless acts but also the whole nation.

Seemingly, this country has to face the ugly fact that corruptors rule the nation. Who is Nazaruddin that he could make the President respond so quickly to his letter asking the head of state to protect his family in exchange for his imprisonment?

The damage has been done, and there is little choice but to try to recover from the injury resulting from the President's approach. Although there was no substantial issue raised in his written response to Nazaruddin's appeal, the fact that the country's leader offered such preferential treatment to a corruption suspect is incredible and unacceptable.

The President may defend his policy, but the way he has acted toward the 33-year-old businessman-cum-politician will only confirm public doubts about his ability to get tough with corrupt officials.

Since Nazaruddin's corruption scandal surfaced three months ago, and he managed to flee the country just before a travel ban was slapped on him, Yudhoyono has looked powerless every time Nazaruddin divulged secrets and threatened to disclose other culprits and masterminds behind graft cases that are plaguing the Democratic Party.

The hunt for Nazaruddin, his capture in Colombia and retrieval by Indonesian law enforcers are more causes for concern, as no fugitive has ever received such treatment.

Most Indonesians are at loss when witnessing the President's super-speedy response — just three days — to the letter by the dismissed former treasurer of the Democratic Party, who offered to barter the secrets he says he has about Yudhoyono's party and its elites, plus his readiness to be made the sole actor in the mega corruption scandal, for the protection of his wife and children.

"Who do you think you are?" his inner circle aides jeered at Nazaruddin when he sent a personal letter to Yudhoyono, asking for clemency in exchange for his readiness to cover up the corruption scandal that has rocked Yudhoyono's Democratic Party. Much to their mortification, Nazaruddin only needed to wait three days to receive a reply from the President himself; a super-express mail response.

It is very clear that the President treated Nazaruddin like a super VVIP. Why was Yudhoyono very concerned to address the party's sacked treasurer? Does a suspect in a major corruption scandal have the ability to destabilize the country? Nazaruddin was only a newcomer on the political stage, who skyrocketed from being a nobody to becoming a high-profile politician because of his obvious skill in acting as a generous financier for the party and its politicians. In return for which, he was given complete freedom to rob the state's coffers by using primitive, criminal methods.

There are hundreds of letters to the President, which have remained unanswered for months, even years, including appeals from the victims of human rights violations and complaints about rampant corrupt practices in the bureaucracy.

Yudhoyono's second term will continue until September 2014 but it is not too much of an exaggeration to predict that he will be a lame duck president for the next three years. We cannot expect much from his leadership, leaving the country to be run by a government on autopilot.





A major piece of the reformasi puzzle is still missing. So far it seems difficult to find. The fall of Soeharto presented the possibility to shift away from New Order tactics and policies.

Generally speaking, Indonesia has managed to transform itself. Several of the major pillars of democracy are now protected.

However, the conflict in Papua has not been solved and human rights abuses continue to occur at the hands of security forces. It remains a considerable stain on the government's track record in the post-Soeharto era.

Peace was reached in Aceh after the most disastrous tsunami in modern history created a revived impetus for both parties to end an almost 30-year-old conflict. Rebuilding the province was imperative and long-standing grievances had to be solved.

Aceh and Papua are often compared to one another as they have both represented major secessionist challenges to the Indonesian Republic. However, their respective differences must not be forgotten and the recipe for peace in Aceh cannot be applied to Papua.

Papuans symbolically "handed" special autonomy (Otsus) back to the government in July 2010. It marked the ultimate failure of the 2001 Special Autonomy Law. It is essentially a comprehensive piece of legislation which would guarantee special autonomy for Papua, including the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Human Rights Court.

However, the lack of Papuan ownership and illusions of implementation intertwined with continuous allegations of corruption of Otsus funds has left it dead in the water.

What is next? The Papuan legislative council, DPRP, spearheaded by Weynand Watori, has announced an evaluation of Otsus to be completed within the year, although its legal and political impact remain unclear as the DPRP remains politically isolated from the Papuan executive.

The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and key figures such as Father Neles Tebay have emphasized the need for dialogue. Moreover, LIPI's Papuan Road Map (2010) outlines comprehensive strategies for a "new" Papua with emphasis on the pillars of recognition, dialogue, reconciliation and justice and a new paradigm for development. As we let the 10-year anniversary of Otsus float past in silence, it is time for change.

Furthermore, dialogue is the only route to peace, but its actual parameters remain vague as LIPI recommendations remain a piece of theory not utilized by the government.

So how will the government find the momentum to communicate with Papua? And can the very fragmented Papuan factions consolidate? If so, will they find the trust to approach Jakarta without shouting merdeka (independence)?

Nevertheless, this year has (almost) seen the birth of a new initiative, with the elegant name of UP4B (Special Unit for the Acceleration of Development in the Land of Papua). Headed by Lt. Gen. Bambang Darmono, former commanding officer in Aceh from 2002 to 2005, it is seen by many as the new hope for a change of heart in Jakarta.

Although skepticism has been expressed over Darmono's human rights record, his ties to the military may prove pivotal.

Armed with comprehensive powers, a special budget and a large staff, it is seen as the most ambitious presidential initiative since the passing of Otsus, enjoying support from human rights NGOs, the National Commission on Human Rights and LIPI.

Yet the only thing we know for certain is that UP4B is a multi-headed creature with a strategy that emphasizes economic development above anything else as a gateway to dialogue and peace. How will this fare with Papuans? In essence, Papuans have emphasized the need for a historical rectification process and accountability of human rights violations since the 1960s.

To say the least, it is highly unclear if the new UP4B strategy can accommodate such demands. In effect, the unit's strategy focuses on development and promises of improving welfare as ways to flirt with the Papuan people. Keep in mind, one of the great fallacies of Otsus was the lack of public participation from Papuan civil society in its creation. Beginning in the 1960s, decisions on Papua's future have many of times been decided outside Papua.

As LIPI has argued, there are many preliminary actions needed for dialogue to take place. Jakarta must find the political willingness to compromise, but, maintaining the status quo is not as problematic for Jakarta as it is for Papua. In order for Papua to take Jakarta seriously, political prisoners must be released, the intelligence apparatus curtailed and all nonorganic troops must be withdrawn.

On the other hand, for Jakarta to believe Papua is willing to strengthen its relationship within the Indonesian state, Papua must consolidate its fragmented factions and avoid a repetition of the 1999 Team 100 "moment", as it would undermine any attempt to forge a relationship built on mutual trust. For a future sustainable peace to be attainable, one can no longer avoid the difficult and sensitive issues of the past, as they remain pillars of Papuan identity today.

The acknowledgement of the truth about what happened to their relatives and friends who were victims of the violence of the New Order and recognition of the history of the Indonesian annexation of Papua remain cornerstones of Papuan grievances.

Moreover, Jakarta must understand that those factors do not necessarily mean revived cries of independence. They remain parameters for dialogue and reconciliation.

Despite political sensitivity, they are crucial ingredients to a sustainable dialogue and, ultimately, peace in Papua. Thus, UP4B must be impeccably certain about their strategy and its resonance with the people of Papua.

Finally, there is no time to waste as the 2014 presidential elections are approaching. A tall order stands before the President, but SBY has the opportunity to leave his mark upon Indonesian history with a new courageous and ambitious approach to Jakarta-Papua relations.

The writer, a graduate student at the Norwegian Center for Human Rights, is an intern at the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) in Jakarta. The opinions expressed are his own.





The right to nationality is a human right. Statelessness is not merely a legal problem – it is a human problem.

Around the world today there are millions of people who are not recognized as the citizens of any country. On paper they don't exist anywhere. They are people without a nationality. They are stateless.

Within the realm of public international law, rules have evolved in response to the problem of statelessness. A definition of statelessness has also emerged. As defined by the 1954 Statelessness Convention, "a stateless person is a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law." While it is possible that persons who possess a nationality may sometimes still endure discrimination or lack adequate protection from their own State, this is not a case of statelessness. Rather, statelessness refers to persons whom no country in the world regards as its citizens, in name or in practice.

While statelessness has numerous causes, many of them entrenched in legalities, the consequence of living without a nationality is the stark reality of poverty, vulnerability and a life confined to the margins of society. As they are not citizens of any country, they are often denied basic rights including access to employment, housing, education and health care.

They may not be able to own property, open a bank account, get married legally, or register the birth of a child. Some face long periods of detention, because they cannot prove who they are or where they come from. Women and children remain at especially high risks of statelessness, and may consequently face increased vulnerability to violence and exploitation.

Statelessness can also place persons at risks of human trafficking, as stateless persons often cannot migrate through regular channels or work in the formal economy.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated to prevent and reduce statelessness. Today, on Aug. 25, UNHCR launches a campaign to shed light on this often elusive issue – aimed at decreasing the number of stateless persons worldwide and upholding the principle that all persons have the right to acquire a nationality. The campaign is launched as part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness on Aug. 30, 2011.

UNHCR estimates that there are up to 12 million stateless people in the world, but defining exact numbers poses significant challenges. A key step to assessing the actual magnitude of the problem is the consistent use by States of the definition of statelessness in international law, as set out under the 1954 Statelessness Convention.

Is Statelessness a relevant issue for Indonesia? Indonesia is a State party to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Both instruments establish that all children should be registered immediately after birth.

Registration of birth is a critical factor in establishing the right to a nationality in all legal systems, for the birth certificate will indicate where the child is born, making acquisition of nationality by jus soli possible, and to whom the child is born, and making acquisition of nationality by jus sanguinis possible.

Furthermore, birth registration provides children with a legally recognized identity and offers proof of their status as persons below the age of majority. This helps to ensure that children can benefit from specific protections reserved for minors under domestic and international law.

Based on the National Socio-Economic Survey 2007 (Susenas 2007) more than 45 million child births have not been registered in Indonesia. In addition, many Indonesian children born abroad to Indonesian migrant workers in neighboring countries are at risk of statelessness due to their illegal stay as the parents are reluctant to register their child due to fears of deportation.

In light of the vital role that birth registration plays in protecting children, UNHCR greatly appreciates the Government of Indonesia's commitment to expediting the issuance of birth certificates through the Joint Ministerial Agreement of eight Ministries.

At present, statelessness may not appear as crucial as other issues faced by the country. It is an issue of increasing importance, however, as population growth in general means that the size of stateless populations is also expanding, and as increased economic development and globalization leads to the dispersal of many more of Indonesian migrant workers around the world.

The Government of Indonesia has adopted several proactive measures to reduce and prevent statelessness, especially with the 2006 Nationality Law that abolished the discriminatory provisions of the past and introduced important reforms to the country's citizenship policy.

In the new law, references to "indigenous" or "nonindigenous" groups have been removed, thereby facilitating the confirmation of nationality for Indonesia's ethnic minorities. Previously, many individuals of Chinese and Indian descent had faced difficulties in asserting their claim to Indonesian nationality, despite having been settled in the country for several generations.

Second, the new law established gender equality in the enjoyment of nationality rights, where women can now transmit their Indonesian nationality to their children on the same terms as men; this has lowered the risk of childhood statelessness by allowing children to acquire nationality from either parent.

Finally, the 2006 law provides critical protection against statelessness for Indonesians abroad. Under the old law, Indonesians who resided abroad for more than five years would lose their nationality if they did not declare their intention to remain a citizen. However, the new law specifies that nationality will not be lost in this manner if a person would thereby become stateless.

The UNHCR office in Indonesia has begun collective efforts with the Government and other stakeholders to jointly address the issue by holding a roundtable discussion to identify any remaining gaps in the law and in practice; reinforcing commitment among participants to address current and future obstacles to acquiring a nationality; and examining the advantages of acceding to the international statelessness instruments.

One of the most crucial initial steps is a statelessness mapping exercise which will shed light on the size and whereabouts of stateless populations, while also revealing the factors which contributed to their lack of a nationality and the everyday consequences of living without citizenship.

Moving forward, in the context of Indonesia, there is compatibility of the Constitution (Articles 26, 28) and Law No. 12/2006 on Indonesian Citizenship with key international standards, notably the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The 1961 Convention gives States an effective legal framework for preventing and reducing statelessness.

This Convention does not require a contracting State to unconditionally grant nationality to any and all stateless persons, but seeks to balance the factors of birth and descent in an effort to avoid the creation of statelessness by encouraging the provision of nationality where persons have a genuine and existing connection with the State.

Accession to this instrument would help address an important cause of forced displacement; promote the rule of law; and considerably enhance the circumstances and life prospects for members of this particularly vulnerable population.

After 50 years, only 38 states are parties to the Convention. Indonesia has made significant progress in reforming its nationality law and policy. The country is now poised to act as a regional leader, and indeed a leader on the world stage, by building on these measures and taking steps to consider acceding to the international Statelessness Conventions.

The writer is the Senior Protection Officer, Officer in Charge of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representation Office in Indonesia.





The government has once again promised to allocate a budget subsidy of a quite fantastic amount. But such a huge budget will mean nothing if it cannot be fully enjoyed by low-income people. In reality, what tends to happen is the subsidy that's intended for the poor is mostly enjoyed by the middle to upper classes of society. It's an irony!

In his annual state address on the 2012 State Budget Plan (RAPBN), and its Financial Notes on Aug. 16, 2011, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono implied that the budget subsidy might reach Rp 208.9 trillion (US$24.4 billion). Such a huge allocation, isn't it? And yet the President said that amount is lower than the subsidy offered in the 2011 Revised State Budget, which amounts to Rp 237.2 trillion.

Despite the fact that the amount of the 2012 budget subsidy is less than that in the 2011 revised budget by Rp 28.3 trillion, it is still too large a burden on the budget, especially if it is absorbed for a misdirected and mismanaged subsidy.

It can also be compared to allocations from the budget for expenditure on infrastructure development, which is lower than the expenditure for civil servants.

In the RAPBN 2012, allocation for infrastructure will be only Rp 168.1 trillion, while expenditure for civil servants will amount to Rp 215.72 trillion. According to a government statement, the huge subsidy will be distributed between three sectors: a subsidy on fuel oil that will total Rp 123.6 trillion; another for electricity amounting to Rp 45 trillion; and a non-energy subsidy of Rp 40.3 trillion.

The non-energy component consists of subsidies on food, fertilizers, seeds, public service obligations, program loan interest and taxation.

Considered as a strategic budget, can we be optimistic that these budget allocations will improve people's welfare? Indeed, there could be a sarcastic response that the government's budget plan in 2012 is not down-to-earth and such a big budget will be wasted.

We should remember, however, that these figures, specifically the energy subsidies listed in the RAPBN 2012, are merely indicators. In reality, there is the possibility that the figures will change in the course of further deliberations by the legislature. People should not be defrauded.

With a relatively high amount of subsidy for energy, we have to find alternate ways to cut the subsidy gradually and in a well-planned fashion — especially the subsidy for oil, which absorbs a high proportion of the budget. The oil subsidy must be relocated to encourage the development of sustainable energy sources while, at the same time, reducing our dependence on oil for fuel, as natural supplies will necessarily decrease over time.

We agree that the problem we are facing now is mismanagement of subsidized oil. Therefore, the House of Representatives has urged the government to be more courageous and take strategic measures to change its scheme of price subsidies into direct subsidies.

People, especially those on low incomes, who do not consume subsidized fuel have the right to better public facilities, such as safe and convenient modes of mass transportation. This is something that has not been fulfilled by the government.

If the subsidy is looked at merely in terms of price, then we can see a big price disparity between subsidized and non-subsidized fuels. As a result, illegal practices are rife, such as stockpiling and manipulation regarding the use of subsidized oil fuel, which ultimately causes fuel shortages. These have to be anticipated by the government in order to avoid a domino effect.

However, under current circumstances, where the burden of subsidies on the budget is quite high and global economic fluctuations are, among other things, being caused by sudden increases in the world oil prices, the government must have the courage to implement unpopular policies.

One option is to gradually increase the subsidized oil price or to control the volume of




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