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Friday, August 26, 2011

EDITORIAL 26.08.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month august 26, edition 000820, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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

































































It could be argued that India-China relations are really no concern of the US, not the least because Washington, DC should be more worried about Beijing's increasing strategic investments in America that make the former enormously dependent on the latter and, to a great extent, ineffective in reining in the dragon, leave alone clipping its claws. The parlous state of the American economy robs the US much of its power though it remains, notionally so, the world's sole superpower, albeit steeped in debt and unsure where it will be by the first quarter of the 21st century. Even the mighty American military with multi-million-dollar weapons now appears no more than a tired and defeated Army, unable to flex its muscles or score a victory. There is nothing edifying about the exit of American forces from Afghanistan, no matter what spin is put on it; when the last US soldier leaves that country, the intervention and the subsequent War on Terror will be remembered more about how the Americans turned tail and ran rather than how they bravely fought back the forces of darkness and evil. A country which decides to opt for sleight of hand — for instance, designating terrorists like the Taliban as 'good' and 'bad' — to cut its losses and run, leaving many others in the lurch, is not worthy of either respect or regard. The view from Washington could be entirely different, but that in no manner diminishes the fact that to the world at large, the US is now just another country, desperately struggling to stay afloat in these hard and trying times. It is against this backdrop that we should view the US Defence Department's report, "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2011," which highlights the pace and scope of China's defence investments and capabilities and describes them as "potentially destabilising" to military balances in the region.

This is not to deny that the rapid build-up of China's military capabilities should be of no concern to its neighbours, barring Pakistan, its 'all-weather friend' which is now looking towards Beijing as Islamabad's steamy affair with Washington approaches a rather sour end. Countries in South-East Asia have reason to worry about China's expansionist policies, as does India. After all, if there is one country which China would like to contain, if not hobble, it is India — the Middle Kingdom's history bears testimony to this long-cherished desire. But this is a concern that India has to deal with on its own, instead of becoming a pawn in a fresh round of the 'Great Game' that so enthuses the Anglo-Saxon world and distracts it from pressing concerns at home. Enlightened strategic self-interest demands that India should hasten the process of modernising its military and acquiring far greater capabilities — both in terms of human resource and state-of-the-art hardware. Decades of neglect and the absence of strategic foresight have contributed to the creation of a situation where China has an upper hand over India, especially in terms of mobilising forces and launching warheads from the areas adjacent to the border — in Tibet, to be precise. But pragmatism demands that India must take recourse to creative diplomacy and use bilateral relations to its advantage. Little or no purpose will be served by falling prey to American alarmism.






Almost 30 years after wartime Emergency laws were first imposed in Sri Lanka in response to the rising threat from the LTTE, President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced on Thursday that they would be lifted at the end of this month, more than two years after the Tamil terrorists were militarily defeated in May 2009. A welcome decision by all means, it marks an important step in the island nation's efforts to initiate the process of post-war recovery and surge ahead on the path to development. Emergency laws were first introduced in 1971 after Marxists attempted to overthrow the then Government. They were abolished in 1977 but re-introduced in 1983, when the late LTTE commander Velupillai Prabhakaran launched a violent campaign demanding a separate homeland for the country's minority Tamil population. Since then Sri Lanka has been under a state of constant Emergency, except for brief periods of peace and ceasefire, usually during which the Government would engage in negotiations with the LTTE. Initially the laws were limited to the country's restive North and Eastern districts which were under the LTTE's parallel administration but by 1995, the entire country was brought under Emergency laws. This last round of Emergency laws were imposed in 2005, three years after they were allowed to lapse in 2002, in the aftermath of the assassination of then Foreign Minster Lakshman Kadirgamar by LTTE terrorists. In the six years since then Sri Lankan forces have fought and won a bloody war against the LTTE and clearly Sri Lanka is now trying to shift gears from being a war-torn nation to a peace-time democracy. Towards that end, the lifting of Emergency laws that had earlier imposed draconian restrictions on the country's civil and political liberties is of huge political significance, to say the least.

Critics of Mr Rajapaksa have pointed out that his decision to finally abolish Emergency laws, which he had allegedly abused to further his own interests by cracking down on the Opposition and muzzling a partisan Press, has come at a crucial time — only a month ahead of the UN Human Rights Council's meeting in Geneva next month where it is expected to discuss charges of war crimes that were allegedly committed by both the Army and the LTTE during the long-drawn war. While Colombo has consistently denied these charges, and has assured the global community that a thorough investigation is being carried out by authorities, the fact remains that by removing war-time restrictions it has proven that the Government is committed to cleaning up the mess from a violent past and strengthening the country's future. This is positive sign that must be acknowledged as such and not trashed as an opportunistic tactical move.








It's absurd to rename West Bengal as Paschimbanga because it means the same and does not denote change. A far better option would be to opt for Bangladesh.

We would have been spared all those jokes about 'Waste' or 'Rest' Bengal, 'Bongo' and Paschim 'Bungle' if Ms Mamata Banerjee's yearning for Paribartan, Change, had not blurred the distinction between frivolity and seriousness. Many countries, provinces and cities change their names but usually for more substantial reasons than climbing up the alphabetical ladder. West Bengal's Trinamool Congress Government complains of not receiving the Centre's prompt attention because W is so low in the list.

Tamil Nadu and Uttarkhand, which are not much better off alphabetically, haven't complained. But that doesn't mean dissatisfaction with the present name is either new or entirely illogical. The 'West' became redundant when East Bengal disappeared. Retaining it keeps alive the illusion of indivisibility just as the Nehru-Liaquat Ali Pact of 1950 kept alive the myth that Hindus who had been driven off their land in East Pakistan still retained their property rights.

The obvious answer is to drop the West and call the state Bengal. As a member of the committee Jyoti Basu set up to consider a new name, I ventured to suggest just that. To those who thought Bengal was English and not Bengali, I replied it was as Bengali as the then Chief Minister's own name. We all use Anglicised versions of our names — the present Chief Minister's Banerjee is the obvious example — without it denationalising the bearer in any way. But the committee dithered, leaving West Bengal sounding like a half waiting for its other.

East Punjab's conversion to Punjab (like its Pakistani half) removed the sense of incompleteness. Two vigorously confident Punjabs on two sides of the border set a precedent for two Bangladeshs — which is what Bengalis have always called their State in Bengali — as well. It might confuse some to start with but would not be legally or politically inadmissible to have two Bangladeshs, one an Indian State and the other an independent country, if just Bengal smacks too much of the British Raj.

In fact, there's a precedent from the Balkans where there is an independent Macedonia as well as three regions of Greece called Western Macedonia, Central Macedonia and Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. Independent Macedonia was part of the former Yugoslavia but declared its sovereignty when the Yugoslav civil war broke out in 1991. Greece refused to recognise it for some years, insisting on a name change. To add insult to injury, grumbled the Greeks, independent Macedonia's Constitution contained a reference to "all Macedonians" while its flag flaunted the Vergina Star of the Macedonian dynasty of the Greek hero, Alexander the Great. The eventual compromise was that the sovereign state should be called The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (note the capitals!) and be listed under T (for The) by the United Nations General Assembly. Its UN representative sits next to Thailand's.

The parallel continues in Bangladesh's adoption of a Rabindrasangeet as its national anthem, and the Bangladeshi belief that they are the true upholders of Bengali culture. They accuse West Bengal of surrendering its identity to the cosmopolitan lure of English and Hindi.

Perhaps the charge is subconsciously acknowledged in West Bengal too, accounting for the rejection of English nomenclature like Bengal. The more perspicacious Left Front leaders knew that people voted for them not to usher in a dictatorship of the proletariat but to safeguard Bengali interests. The CPI(M) was seen as the local party while Congress was the instrument of Hindi imperialism, with West Bengal Congress leaders merely repeating the high command's orders.

The Left Front eventually decided in July 1999 that the State should be called Bangla. It was not a very appropriate term for Bangla without desh is both an adjective and the word for the language. But it was the unanimous choice and the State Government wrote to the Centre on December 28, 1999, asking that the necessary steps be taken under Article 3(e) of the Constitution to effect the change. Apparently, nothing happened though it took only about three years each for the old Madras State to become Tamil Nadu and Orissa to be reborn as Odisha. For that matter, even local changes like Medinipur for Midnapore are announced but not officially effected, possibly because of bureaucratic lethargy.

No one seems very fond of the new name, which is only West Bengal in Bengali, not even those who adopted it at an all-party meeting on August 19. "Paschimbanga was the unanimous decision at the all-party meeting," says Ms Banerjee, adding "This will take us a step forward." Forward to what? No one knows. Those who were unanimous in their endorsement have not cared to defend their choice in public. Reports suggest that Ms Banerjee herself would have preferred Bangabhoomi, land of Bengalis, which the Forward Bloc rejected.

Scholars argue that Banga, whose origins go back 2,500 years, would have been better. Others complain that the P of Paschimbanga doesn't come too far ahead of West Bengal's W. Most seem to feel there was no need for a change at all. Non-Bengalis will find it difficult to pronounce the new name. Moreover, Paschimbanga retains the old ambivalence about East Bengal, Purba Banga in Bengali, suggesting that West Bengal still sees itself as half a Siamese twin. Any change will mean avoidable expense and other complications but the only point of this one seems to be to retreat from English to the mother tongue.

The worst danger is that we are threatened with another change — or other changes — in future. "Paschimbanga does not fulfil our aspirations," admits Mr Partha Chatterjee, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, "but at this moment it was more important to arrive at a consensus." Read that in conjunction with his boss's "This will take us a step forward" and you get the sense of it. Paschimbanga is probably a stop-gap arrangement and West Bengal is destined for a name-hopping spree, perhaps until Ms Banerjee's favoured Bangabhoomi can be adopted.

Name-changing can be a perilous exercise. It's said that after taking over Uganda, Idi Amin wanted to rename the country after himself. He persisted in the demand until a wily old Ugandan pointedly wondered that since the citizens of Cyprus were called Cypriots, what would the citizens of Idi be called.

Paribartan sounds good on the campaign trail but it's often best not to tamper with the tried and tested old.







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 Government. Sanjiv Bhatt has since claimed to contest the suspension.

So does this saga boil down to one where an upright policeman is punished by the might of the State because he spoke the truth? Here's a brief career graph of Sanjiv Bhatt.

·  Some years ago, Sanjiv Bhatt was indicted by the National Human Rights Commission for planting drugs in a hotel room to implicate, arrest, and wrongfully detain an advocate of Rajasthan. He was then indicted by a lower court and the indictment was subsequently upheld by the Gujarat High Court.

·  In 1996, he was named as an accused in the Gujarat Police recruitment scam for which he was chargesheeted on December 12, 2010. Sanjiv Bhatt was chairman of the recruitment committee. The chargesheet details the nature of specific commissions and omissions done by Sanjiv Bhatt in his capacity as chairman. A notable omission is the fact that he flouted the orders of the DGP regarding certain specific recruitment procedures.

·  Sanjiv Bhatt repeated the same defiance — of flouting his superior's order — when he was posted as Principal, SRP Training Centre, Chawki, Sorath, Junagadh since September 1, 2010. Despite his leave application being rejected by the Gujarat DGP, he went on unauthorised absence starting February 12, 2011 till date. He ignored several reminders to report to duty.

·  When he was posted to the Gram Rakshak Dal (from where he was transferred on October 30, 2010), he appropriated official gadgetry like laptops, projector, video cameras, and a mobile phone and returned them only after the Government ordered a preliminary 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.

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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.







The US and EU want sanctions imposed on Syria but Russia is not willing to go along. Moscow continues to stand by Damascus, says Anita Snow

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.








The reported move by Tamil Nadu's AIADMK government, to exclude from school primers a picture of the sun and a solar eclipse, is on the absurd ground that the "rising sun" represents the DMK's electoral symbol. This is just one of the many deletions being spearheaded by the J Jayalalithaa government. The new administration is determined to remove what it sees as the DMK's partisan and politically motivated textbook insertions. It may have a point, even if airbrushing out images of the sun goes too far. Undoubtedly, the DMK had no qualms about using textbooks as a vehicle of its party propaganda. But so don't most other political parties, which tend to use their administrative and institutional authority to tinker with facts and exclude a multiplicity of ideas that could challenge their politics.

This leads to the absurd situation of history having to be undone and textbooks rewritten every time a new government is elected to power. Political interference does not end with school primers. It continues to eat into the vitals of higher educational institutions. West Bengal is a telling example of this practice. Institutions of academic excellence like the Presidency College are in ruins, thanks to the political patronage of the former Marxist government. In this context, Tamil Nadu's textbook row underlines a deeper malaise of our education system - its lack of autonomy, leaving it vulnerable to manipulations by central and state governments. Given this track record, the AIADMK's claim of freeing textbooks from DMK propaganda will ring true only if it honours the autonomy of educational institutions and boards. In which case Tamil Nadu's example will deserve to be emulated across the country.







The Lokpal movement has highlighted politicians' petty brinkmanship. The public recently saw statements and denials criss-crossing government quarters regarding discussions with Jan Lokpal representatives and where these might lead in creating a strong Lokpal Bill. There may be problems with the Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by Anna Hazare. But the groundswell of public concern about corruption that Anna has tapped cannot be denied. While he stresses 'big picture' ideas which have captured public imagination across the country - like accountability obtained through non-violence - the obfuscations, delays and paucity of discourse from political quarters grow all too obvious by contrast.

Against this, the prime minister's statement in the Lok Sabha - and his appeal to Anna to end his fast and engage in dialogue - is a positive step forward. But it's still way too little. This is the time for our political leadership to come up with creative, vibrant, large-hearted solutions not just to the logjam over the Lokpal, but in addressing enormous public anger over corruption. The PM pointed out the public distribution system, goods and sales tax and public procurement as elements of the fight against corruption. That's fine. But that's not what the Lokpal movement is about.

This is linked directly to the record-breaking scams preceding it. This is about graft in high places by those wielding power. This is the problem the Lokpal must be empowered to tackle. Instead of our politicos sweating the small stuff, it's time to move onto the big picture. The entire political class seems to have conveniently united around a warm defence of 'parliamentary procedure' - very ironic considering how stalling tactics like walkouts or wasting sessions in shouting matches have become routine practice across our political rainbow.

It's not incumbent on the government to agree with every provision of the Jan Lokpal Bill - nor even advisable. But it now has the opportunity to make the breakthrough that it seeks, by accepting Anna Hazare's condition that a debate on various issues around the Jan Lokpal Bill should begin immediately in Parliament. It's notable that Anna is now insisting on process rather than end-product, and that he too is upholding the supremacy of Parliament that the government is so keen on. This is an opportunity the government must seize. Let it draft a fresh Bill that's powerful, pragmatic and visionary - by taking on board elements from the Jan Lokpal Bill, activist Aruna Roy's version and other drafts. It's high time our political leadership heeded public opinion - by letting leaders claiming the will to fight corruption show this is true.





                                                                                                                                                            TOP STORY



There is an atmosphere of confrontation between civil society and the government over the passage of the Lokpal Bill. It is most unfortunate and uncalled for. The tragedy of the situation is that while civil society activists have produced a Bill which concentrates too much power in a single individual and is overambitious insofar as it seeks to cleanse the Augean stables, the government has come up with a Bill which appears a devious attempt to shield the corrupt in high places.

The Lokpal Bill 2011 suffers from serious flaws. It gives opportunities to an accused which he could easily exploit to subvert witnesses, intimidate the complainant and even tamper with the evidence.

It says that before the Lokpal comes to a conclusion in the course of a preliminary inquiry that a prima facie case is made out against the public servant, he shall afford him an opportunity of being heard. And at a later stage, before the filing of the charge sheet, the public servant shall be given another opportunity to be heard and shall be entitled to inspect the records in connection with the commission of the alleged offence.

The Bill also states that the Lokpal shall provide legal assistance to the accused to defend himself while there is no such provision in favour of the complainant. This is ridiculous, to say the least. Besides, the Bill lays down that whoever makes any false or frivolous complaint shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than two years, apart from having to pay compensation to the public servant and also the legal expenses incurred by the latter. Considering that the accused would be at least a Group A officer and therefore a powerful adversary, it is doubtful that many people would risk landing in Tihar while making a complaint.

The jurisdiction of the Lokpal has needlessly been extended to societies and trusts. Did the framers of the Bill want to ensure that the energies of the Lokpal get diverted so that he has less time to concentrate on the big fish of the services? Section 17 (2) says that the Lokpal shall not inquire into any matter involved in or arising from allegations of corruption against members of either House of Parliament with respect to anything said or any vote made in Parliament. This is also very unfortunate. People want this segment of society to be held accountable for all its actions.

The government has ratified the UN Convention against Corruption. It should, under the circumstances, have been possible under Article 253 of the Constitution for the Lokpal Bill to provide for Lokayuktas in the states. Such an arrangement would have ensured uniformity of the anti-corruption machinery across the country. But the Bill is silent on this point.

This is, however, not to say that the Bill does not have any positive features. The provisions which say that the Lokpal shall not require any sanction or approval for carrying out any investigation, and that he shall have the power to confiscate the ill-gotten "proceeds relatable to the offence", are redeeming and could be considered progressive.

Taking an overall view, the intention behind the Lokpal Bill appears to have been to limit its scope, give opportunities to the accused public servant to dodge or subvert the law and extend immunity to members of Parliament for their questionable activities within the House - and yet allow them to claim that they have passed an anti-corruption Bill.

The Jan Lokpal Bill, on the other hand, aims to set up an overarching structure with a comprehensive mandate which the Lokpal may not be able to fulfil - apart from the fact that it seeks to dismantle some existing institutions and perhaps alter the basic character of the Constitution. It is a little too ambitious and idealistic.

The need of the hour is to find a middle ground. The flaws in the Lokpal Bill need to be rectified and the salutary and workable suggestions in the Jan Lokpal Bill incorporated in it. Regarding giving the Lokpal jurisdiction over the higher judiciary, Santosh Hegde has given an impression that the civil society group may not be rigid on these points.

It is a strange situation today where, to start with, the government was on the offensive and showed arrogance. In due course, as people started coming out on to the streets, the government became defensive and gave the police latitude in dealing with the situation. However, now we find so-called representatives of civil society not very reasonable. One of its leaders has been repeatedly making intemperate observations.

It was also difficult to appreciate Anna changing his stance and giving a deadline to Parliament. Anna and his team need to accept the simple truth that the mass support which they are getting is for their campaign against corruption and not for the Jan Lokpal Bill.

There is a need for sanity, mutual respect and a spirit of accommodation. Perhaps a third group comprising people of impeccable integrity should emerge. They should have consultations with both the government and civil society representatives to evolve a mutually acceptable draft of the Lokpal Bill.

The writer is a retired police chief.








Pramada Menon is a feminist activist working on issues of sexuality and women`s rights. A stand-up performance artist, her show examines issues of body image, sex and gender through humorous stories drawn from her own life. She spoke to Monobina Gupta about how sex concerns everyone but few people manage to talk about it, a problem that humour - personal and public - can solve:

Your show called 'Fat, Free and Feminist' features stories from your own life. Was it difficult to make your humour, performed publicly, so personal?

The stories that form part of the show are personal experiences that i have lived through and processed in my head. When i started sharing these with friends some years ago, i realised these were universal stories that everyone seemed to have experienced but had never discussed because of a sense of embarrassment and shame. I felt that if one placed these stories within the framework of humour, it would enable people to re-examine their own stories as well as their interactions with the world around. In the process, they may become conscious of the ways in which ostensibly 'casual dialogue' has the power to discriminate and hurt.

I would rather have my show about my stories than create new ones that have the power to hurt and victimise others.

Stand-up, subversive comedy is a relatively new art form in India. What has been your experience as a performer?

The response has been brilliant. The format of the performance enables me to put into the public space issues that would have been unutterable a couple of years ago.

People have responded very positively. The humour makes them keel over in laughter - yet they are forced to engage with the poignancy of the tales recounted and therefore think of issues - body image, sexuality, violence - in ways that they may not have earlier.

Your recent show was 'dedicated' to Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who's been quoted saying homosexuality is a disease. How disengaged are our politicians from issues of freedom of sexuality?

It is not just politicians. Everyone is disengaged with issues of sexuality since it is seen as something extraneous to the 'everyday' issues of poverty and life. This artificial divide makes sexuality a luxury item when in reality it is an integral part of our daily existence. Politicians, even those termed 'progressive', do not want to take a stand, apprehending that it might alienate a large segment of people they probably perceived as their vote bank.

It's often said the discourse of sexual identities is confined to the urbane middle classes. Would you agree?

This is a commonly held perception. Everybody, irres-pective of economic power, ability, ethnicity, caste or gender, is engaged in sexual thought, activity, dreams, desires, etc. It is another matter that some of us who occupy the urban spaces are more vocal about it simply because we do have the power to do soa¦there are people all over the country who are engaging with these issues and trying to find ways to end discrimination and violence. We are trying to celebrate myriad forms of sexual identity.

How has the rhetoric of sexuality and freedom changed?

Has it really changed? True, there are more spaces for discussion on issues of sexuality primarily because many movements, organisations and individuals have been publicly engaging with it. But the fear of sexuality, especially women's sexuality and their ability to make choices about their lives, is something that will still take many years to alter.







By virtue of the fact that i grew up in what used to be called Calcutta, i've long considered myself an hon-Bong, or honorary Bengali. But will i, and many others like me, now have to start thinking of myself as an hon-Banga (pronounced Bongo)? The official reason being given for the name-change is that, because of its initial letter, W, the state came last of all Indian states in alphabetic order. Was this alphabetic 'backwardness' the reason for the 'step-motherly' treatment that the state has long claimed it has always received from the central government?

A moot point. Another argument for a name-change was that the West in
West Bengal didn't make sense seeing as how there wasn't any East Bengal for West Bengal to be west of, the erstwhile East Bengal having first become East Pakistan and later Bangladesh. But in the event, the West in West Bengal is not going to be dropped after all. It is to be retained in its Bengali translation, Paschim.

The question however remains as to whether a Banga by any other Paschim will be any the less Westerly. The answer to which must be 'No'. So why change the name at all, when the alteration - which is going to cost the exchequer, which means the taxpayer, a lot in terms of reprinting all government stationery, repainting official signage, etc - is what might be called a distinction without a difference, in other words a same-to-same thing?

Part of the reason could be phonetic. As all lovers of Bongdom know, Bengali is one of the sweetest-sounding of all languages, Indian or foreign. Much more than mere rhetoric, Bengali - or Bangla, as its speakers would call it - is a rhapsody, a paean of praise to its own innate musicality. But speakers of this sublime tongue have one inbuilt limitation: the inability (or is it unwillingness?) to pronounce the letter 'w', which Bengali speakers turn into an 'oo' sound. Thus West Bengal was inevitably and invariably referred to as Ooest Bengal in local parlance.

This could give rise to confusion. Those unfamiliar with Bongdom and its substitution of 'oo' for 'w' would often be left wondering where on earth exactly was this strange and exotic land of Ooestbengal that the person speaking to them was referring to. Was it one of those newly independent states created after the break-up of the Soviet empire? A breakaway African republic? A remote reach of the Great Australian Outback? Must remember to look up Wikipedia and check it out.

Nope. Ooest had to go, and the sooner the better. But why not just drop the darn thing and make out as if it had never been there in the first place instead of going and replacing it with Paschim, thereby retaining in vernacular avatar a reincarnation of Ooesterly ooes (woes)? And the reason for that, which goes beyond phonetics, is political.

The Ooest - and now soon to be Paschim - in Bengal is a constant reminder to everyone - Bongs, hon-Bongs and non-Bongs - of the partition of Bengal by the British in 1905, long before the partition of the country took place. Effected by Lord Curzon, the then viceroy of India, the partition of Bengal was part and parcel of the imperial policy of divide and rule: the British saw Bengal as a breeding ground of politically progressive ideas and wanted to cut it down to size. As everyone who can read between the lines knows that was the real significance of Kipling's famous line: East is East, and Ooest as Ooest/ And never the tooain shall meet.

If history has recorded a reunification of East and West Germany, why can't it also witness a reunification of Bengal, first divided by the Brits and then by Partition? Maybe that's the real reason for the Paschim in Paschimbanga: a reminder that there is another Bengal which, though it calls itself by another name today, is a once and future part of a unified entity of Bongdom. Neither East nor Ooest, but simply Best Bengal.







Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sought to control the very damage that his government and fellow Congressmen had earlier wrought in their dealings with Anna Hazare and his associates.

It is understandable for Mr Hazare and his supporters to treat Mr Singh's offer of discussing all the various drafts of the Lokpal Bill in Parliament as a Trojan horse.

After all, if the government had not tabled a draft Bill that people even within the government now find to be toothless, things may not have come to such a pass. But it's better late than never and Mr Hazare should treat the PM's offer as bona fide if not for any other reason but because at this stage it would be politically suicidal for the government to go back on its word.

As a gesture of firming up this promise and making amends for past chicaneries, the government should make a written commitment as Mr Hazare has demanded as well as to pull its earlier draft out of the parliamentary select committee. There is no loss of ego or political brownie points here.

As there should be no loss of face for Mr Hazare and his associates for accepting Mr Singh's offer. For at stake here is coming up with the most effective law against statutory corruption with in-built safeguards against its abuse, not whose version of the Lokpal Bill makes it as law. This is neither a competition nor a battle of filing patents.

It is about bringing about a law that deters statutory corruption The Jan Lokpal Bill's chief architect Arvind Kejriwal may genuinely believe that his version of the Bill is the best one. In the light of the government draft still pending with the Parliament's Standing Committee, it certainly seems so.

But there are questions regarding the Jan Lokpal Bill that need to be resolved by reason and not by sheer faith. And there are other important voices, most notably that of Aruna Roy, one of the architects of the Right To Information Act, which need to be heard for the sole purpose of bringing about the best Lokpal Bill.

Mr Hazare has reacted to the prime minister's offer by demanding that Parliament start discussions on the citizen's charter, introducing lokayukta in every state, and including all levels of bureaucracy under the lokpal's purview, all key elements of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Essentially, these points will be included in the discussions that the PM has sought for in Parliament across party lines.

So both sides of the tussle are finally on the same page. Mr Hazare's campaign has undoubtedly brought the fate of a genuinely strong Lokpal Bill this far.

This is the time when he should drop a gear and give the government and the political class the elbow room required to do the very job that Mr Hazare and Co wanted them to do from the very beginning.






It takes quite a bit to get us battle-hardened editorial writers worried, but we are afraid that moment has come. With the Supreme Court decreeing that only those reporters with a law degree and seven years of covering court proceedings can get accreditation, we fear the floodgates will be opened.

Those covering the health beat may well be required to have at least a first degree in medicine which may then be fine-tuned to different specialisations. Or perhaps business journalists will have to come into the profession armed with an MBA.

Now you will wonder why we are so rattled.

If truth be told, we editorial writers are given to covering a host of issues.

On a good day, it may be Anna's antics, on another the fate of the BJP under Nitin Gadkari, the fortunes of the Congress after Sonia Gandhi's illness, whether Manmohan Singh has ever broken into a guffaw in his life and when, if ever we will understand fully the import of Pranab Mukherjee's rosogolla-accented words.

Will we be asked to acquire several degrees all at once? We wonder what degree we could get to write the more humorous editorials. Is there a Birbal school of humour?

To take things further, perhaps one fine day, our elected representatives will also be required to specialise. So, we cannot have a lawyer like Kapil Sibal presiding over HRD or tele-communication.

We are also worried about how we will print our calling cards once we have gained suitable expertise in all the issues we write about. We might need a scroll to attach all our degrees ranging from LLB to MBBS to MBA just to mention a few that are on our radar.

So, if you notice a drop in quality of our editorials, don't blame us, we are burning the midnight oil trying to notch up all the degrees we need. Yes, these are testing times for us.









Among a lot of things Anna Hazare's movement has brought to the fore is our shrinking space for liberal thought. On the Comment pages, in TV debates, on Twitter and Facebook, an invisible writ has been clear - you are either with us or against us.

You cannot find merit in a rare, spontaneous and peaceful mass movement and still have some problems with the Jan Lokpal draft. You have to either show up Anna as an autocratic bumpkin or a democratic messiah.

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

Civil war? Really?

The debate around the Lokpal Bill is an example of how language and stances are progressively hardening. You can't be at the centre of a battlefield mulling like Arjun, finding good and ill on both sides. You have to be Krishna, take sides, or risk ending up on the losing side of history.

A couple of weeks ago, two well-known Urdu poets in Bhopal actually had a fight at a poetry session, one accusing the other of wearing shoes while reciting, the other chastising him for coming drunk to the mushaira. And one thought it was difficult to de-hyphenate Urdu poetry and intoxication.

In the late 1970s, students of Jadavpur University in Calcutta composed an underground', pornographic cross between the Ramayana and the Mahabharata called Mahayan. There were similar epics re-made on the heartland's campuses by gifted pornographers using Kabir's style of doha. Will this sort of thing be allowed to pass elsewhere with just a laugh today?

Technology, especially the internet, has created dark corners where one can spend cosy hours with one's low self-esteem and frustrations, not undertake the hard work of forming informed opinion, and shoot blindly from the dark. In cyberspace, one can live with one's shadow, the intolerant, angry fanatic.

You must have attitude, not angularity. You are expected to manage your boss, goal or target; not engage the larger world. You can laugh at others, but not at yourself (what will the consumer of your goods or opinions think?!).

Most of our leading intellectuals - many of them fiery critics of the corporate world - fit snugly into all these corporate attributes. It is as if without realising, they have internalised the dynamics of the same Corporation they rage against.

Our activists-intellectuals would breeze through CEO interviews. They are narrow-focused, goal-oriented, intolerant towards competition or difference, humourless, and relentless. And all this makes them the new, self-proclaimed 'liberals'.

That is why you have to either declare, 'I am Anna', or 'I am not Anna'. You cannot lampoon a bit of Anna and be a bit of him.




Like monsoon flurries, recent events in the subcontinent have sent conflicting signals. Has Indian diplomacy finally awakened after its long summer siesta? Or is this just an illusion?

In late July, after lower-level ministerial officials from India and Pakistan had prepared the ground for their respective foreign ministers to meet, the two finally did so, in New Delhi, on July 26 and 27.

This was remarkable in itself, given the bomb blasts just a fortnight earlier in Mumbai - a terrorist attack that claimed 26 lives and left 130 people injured. Even more remarkably, given many Indians' suspicions that the attack was, in some way, authored in Pakistan, there were no mutually accusatory diplomatic blasts.

Instead, the two foreign ministers met on schedule and agreed to meet again, after issuing an encouragingly meaningful joint statement, which spoke of enhancing trade and implementing more confidence-building measures. For other neighbouring countries, that may sound humdrum. For India and Pakistan, merely maintaining a structure for dialogue counts as notable progress.

But farther to India's west, in Afghanistan, things are far more grim. Afghanistan is witnessing a surge of violence accompanying the beginning of the withdrawal of US and Nato forces.

Besides the recent deaths of 30 American soldiers when their helicopter was downed, seven top Afghan officials - including President Hamid Karzai's step-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a key power broker among the Pashtun, and Ghulam Haider Hamidi, the influential mayor of Kandahar - have been assassinated in the last three months.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the atmosphere in Afghanistan would worsen. The recently concluded trilateral meeting among Afghanistan, the US and Pakistan, which called for engaging the Afghan Taliban to find a political solution to the country's troubles, turned out to be largely a pro forma exercise. Moreover, Karzai now faces a parliamentary crisis, with his cabinet still not complete. There are also mounting financial problems.

The International Monetary Fund has not sent any payments to the Afghan central bank in recent months, supposedly because of corruption scandals.

Serious allegations of corruption have also crippled decision-making within Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government. But, to give the government its due, Bangladesh last month conferred its highest official award, the 'Bangladesh Swadhinata Sanmanona', on Indira Gandhi for her outstanding contribution to Bangladesh's 1971 'Liberation War'.

President Zillur Rahman told Congress president Sonia Gandhi that her mother-in-law "influenced the course of history and the fate of generations". Given the ambivalence that has marked the two countries' relations, there is real hope of a new dawn in bilateral ties.

India's potential for promoting growth and stability in South Asia was also emphasised by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who spent three days in India last month.

In a speech in Chennai, she declared that "Asia's decisions will be shaped by India," whose "markets will play a major role in South East Asia, Central Asia, and beyond," and called on India "to play a role in the democratic transition in the Middle East".

Clinton also touched upon an issue that unites all Indians: the desire for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

The US would support India's aspirations, Clinton declared, but with three caveats: "A major and defining role in Myanmar," meaning that India must push the ruling generals towards democratic transition; India's use of its 'good offices' to "convince Iran about nuclear proliferation"; and an Indian offer of "all help needed to Nepal, Bangladesh, and Maldives" in joining India as thriving emerging markets.

In the South Asian subcontinent, India's role in promoting stability and prosperity is essential. But can India fulfil that agenda? Its ambitions for a global role commensurate with its size and growth prospects will depend on its ability to influence its own neighbourhood for the better.

Jaswant Singh is a BJP MP and a former foreign minister. The views expressed by the author are personal. © Project Syndicate, 2011




Dear Anna,                                             


I write this to you neither as a fawning cheerleader nor a cynical journalist, but a proud Indian like you. Let me applaud you at the very outset for having brought corruption to the national centrestage. You have worked tirelessly for more than two decades in exposing corruption in Maharashtra, but Ralegan Siddhi is a long way from Delhi which is perhaps why television channels hadn't featured your contribution prominently till now. An opinion poll we did just a month ago suggested that more people had heard of yoga guru Baba Ramdev than a tireless fakir-like crusader from a western Maharashtra village.


All that has now changed. Your latest fast has made you a household name. You've brought a mighty Indian State to its knees. You've encouraged millions of anonymous Indians to come out on the streets and get a voice. You've exposed a political class, suffering from a grave moral crisis, to the wider world. You've empowered those who've felt lost in a new India where wealth is the sole presiding deity. You've become a symbol of change and hope at a time when a scam culture has assaulted the conscience of the nation. You've even shown that the Marathas, a community that has failed to conquer Delhi since losing the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, can indeed take the national capital by storm. But in every battle there must come a time when you must call a halt. That time may well be approaching.


Gandhi, the greatest Indian of them all, from whom you claim to derive inspiration, never went on a fast-unto-death by refusing medication. For Gandhi, the idea of fasting was a form of self-purification, a fast could not be undertaken as he said, "out of anger. Anger is a short-term madness." Yes, there is anger in the streets today, an almost volcanic eruption of a lava that has been simmering for decades. Your genius lies in being able to channelise that popular anger against corruption into a well-defined goal of a strong anti-corruption law and, importantly, doing so in a peaceful manner. The real danger though now is that a peaceful, non-violent movement runs the risk of being overwhelmed by what BR Ambedkar, the great constitutionalist, described a fast-unto-death as, by the "grammar of anarchy."


There have been some signs of this in the last 48 hours that are worrying. The gherao of the homes of Members of Parliament may be visually appealing, but it encourages an anti-politician 'sab neta chor hai' rhetoric that could further destroy faith in parliamentary democracy. The increasingly strident language being used by certain members of Team Anna - a term which creates the regrettable impression of you being surrounded by a coterie - is to be best avoided at a time when a rational dialogue is called for.


Only two days ago, a colleague of mine was assaulted in the heart of the capital by a drunk biker gang waving the tricolor and chanting 'I am Anna' slogans. The frenzy being built up in the media by hyper-ventilating news channels and demagogic acolytes could easily transform a genuine people's movement into a lumpen expression of mob fury. It's a transformation that could end up destroying the hard-earned credibility of your struggle.


Ram Lila is not Mumbai's Azad Maidan nor is it the village square in Ralegan Siddhi. This is not some battle to get the local thug to shut his liquor shop. Here, there are multiple agendas that require dexterous negotiation and not mere sloganeering. The sight of gangster Abu Salem's girlfriend Monica Bedi parading on Mumbai's streets with an Anna cap should convince you of the dangers of reducing the fight against corruption to a well-choreographed primetime TV spectacle.


It is true no fast can be called off till the primary goal has been achieved. If that goal is to have the Jan Lokpal Bill passed exactly as you desire then that is a maximalist position hich is never easy to accommodate overnight. Gandhi himself often spoke of the 'beauty' of compromise. Without doubt the fact that you have forced an obdurate government to fast-forward the Lokpal Bill and accept most of your proposals is itself a major achievement. But to ram through a Bill that has been hanging fire for decades within the space of a few days without a sustained and truly inclusive dialogue with all stakeholders would be self-defeating.


Yes, one recognises you have little trust in a discredited government that only 10 days ago, arrogantly and foolishly, first defamed and then arrested you. A flip-flop government sorely missing a strong political authority has taken refuge in parliamentary procedure when the simpler way out to atone for their sins would have been an unqualified apology for your arrest followed by a withdrawal of the government bill and a fresh start to the pre-legislation consultation. Yes, you are hurt, and rightly so, by the government's attitude, but this is the moment to show your heart is much bigger than the petty minds who reside in official bungalows. It's time for practicality, not prestige. Why not, for example, get the government to commit to a special session of Parliament in six to eight weeks on an amended Lokpal Bill so that a new, well-considered law becomes a Diwali gift to the nation?


Post-script: I have framed a picture of our meeting earlier this week. The caption reads: 'When zero met hero!' India is not Anna, nor is Anna India, but you are now an icon for millions. Please don't allow a personality cult to shadow your ultimate gift of common sense.


Rajdeep Sardesai is editor-in-chief, IBN 18. The views expressed by the author are personal





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

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

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

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






The prime minister, speaking in the Lok Sabha after the House had debated corruption and the Lokpal, stressed Parliament's right and responsibility to make law. Yet he stressed the need to find a "via media" between that constitutional principle and the maximalist demands of those around Anna Hazare. In his appeal to let Parliament consider the government's draft, as well as suggestions from elsewhere — from Hazare, from the RTI campaign, even from Dr Jayaprakash Narayan of Hyderabad — the PM struck the note his government should have sounded firmly at the start. It is clearer than ever now how ill-advised was the farcical "joint drafting committee" with Hazare's nominees, which shut out other voices, reducing the process of policy compromise to a spectacle: a shouting match between an apparently compromised government and stern, unyielding pillars of "civil society".

Yet, as the NAC's Aruna Roy pointed out, the legislative process is not a rubber stamp. The RTI Act was amended 150 times during the committee stage, and the prime minister's assurance that the committee should take the best bits of each bill should have been loudly trumpeted at the start. Parliamentary committees exist to strengthen legislation; it is no coincidence that this paralysed government, which seems to think of legislation as an afterthought, has been so far unable to make the case to doubters that the appropriate standing committee will turn out the best bill possible. The examination of the Lokpal bill by the appropriate committee will be much scrutinised, and it should be thought of as an opportunity to demonstrate openness and efficiency — an opportunity, indeed, to renew and strengthen constitutional institutions, the way parliamentarians across parties seemed to wish to, yesterday. Anna Hazare and team have played no inconsiderable part in causing other voices to speak up with suggestions; they should play an important role in the committee-led process of deliberation.

The prime minister's suggestion, too, that Parliament should debate aspects of the various drafts that diverge from each other, as crucial input for the committee, is well taken. Sharad Yadav had pointed out that no institution is as representative as Parliament; if it is not trusted by those shouting for the Jan Lokpal Bill in the streets, that is partly because it is not, often enough, the location for the sort of deliberative discussion of policy which the PM is now urging. This, too, if carried forward with sobriety and seriousness, will add to India's institutional strength — the only possible response, at this moment of questioning.






Steve Jobs has announced his long-rumoured resignation. After 14 years of making corporate history and setting the rules of the technology-media world, he will now hand Apple over to Tim Cook. The man who urged his first team to "put a dent in the universe", can claim credit for several, starting with the Macintosh in 1984.

A year later, he was forced to leave Apple, and spent more than a decade out, until coming back to helm the company in 1997 (though during that out-time, his company created OS X and iOS, the operating systems that Apple now uses, and Jobs also started the animation phenomenon, Pixar). And in the years since, Steve Jobs remade Apple. He was a tech auteur, someone who left his own singular imprint on his creations rather than leaving it to teams of designers or the wisdom of crowds. Famously disdainful of market research, he created what he wanted, and others discovered they couldn't live without. All Apple's products reflect his pared-down, elegant design sensibility.

And so, Steve Jobs pretty much inaugurated the post-PC world, and clinched Apple's place in that future. Despite initial scepticism, the iPod rendered comparable music devices pointless, the iPhone changed smartphones just as the iPad transformed personal computing. That insistence on "think different" has also been Apple's liability, its inability to play well with existing systems, its closed and, some would say, sterile appliances. But with Steve Jobs' marketing wizardry, Apple is now arguably the world's more valuable brand, and his departure is unlikely to dim its immediate profits. But his impact on the tech industry and the larger culture is still not easy to comprehend, in small and big ways. Many of the things we take for granted — touchscreen phones, or even apps, iTunes, which began the end of physical music. Apple introduced the floppy disc drive in 1978, and just as brutally eliminated it a few years back — Steve Jobs was never afraid to throw away and start again. Throughout his magnificent and restless career, innovation has been the only constant.






A change of government is never simple in Tamil Nadu. It always comes with a long list of amendments and alterations as accoutrements. Almost 100 days after the AIADMK came to power, J. Jayalalithaa's unravelling of the previous regime's proposals and policies is still a meticulous work in progress. A look at the three big changes that she insists on reveals much about the nature of the rivalry between the two Dravida parties, the kind of cultural impress in Tamil society that one wants to create and the other seeks to deny, and the cult of personality politics that aggravates and complicates the issues at hand. The new government's immediate and public disapproval was of the uniform system of education that the DMK government introduced, a vast and expensive architectural complex that it created to house the assembly and the secretariat, and its harmless but unnecessary tinkering with the Tamil calendar.

While the education scheme has much merit, bringing a necessary standard to the chaotic school system in Tamil Nadu, Karunandhi used textbooks as tools for ideological initiation, as platforms to play up pet projects like the classical Tamil conference, and to reference himself as a cultural icon. Here, one can sense the old tendency of Dravida parties to use culture and its many pronounced symbols, from movies to poems, to further its politics and to embed itself in public memory. If Karunanidhi set the wrong precedent here, Jayalalithaa missed the big picture in the beginning by disavowing the entire education scheme. Now there is a machinery involved in blacking out and removing references to the DMK's first family from school texts. Her decision to work from the old assembly building and to turn the new one into a hospital is also a display of peeve rather than good politics.

And that is what is often getting lost in this messy battle for cultural suzerainty in Chennai — good sensible politics.







Amongst believers, there is cheerful optimism about the brave new world that is being sought, the world which this Jan Lokpal would shepherd us all into. The politics of those behind Anna is suitably eclectic to be able to pass off as a rainbow: from spartan Anna Hazare to Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal and the Bhushans. Fighting "terror", "thwarted opportunities" and, of course, "corruption", this motley crowd, which calls everyone corrupt, has actually been very useful for the Centre battling specific corruption charges. UPA 2 has been saved by the attack on the "system", launched as an Enough-is-Enoughism, a lot of it from ammunition still dry and left over from the ire of November 26, 2008.

So, in terms of ideas, where does one locate this Corruption and the narrow way that it has been articulated, as well as the dithering and guilty governmental response to it?

Corruption has been a powerful focus for movements in the past, and battling it is a global idea. In our neighbourhood, "corruption" has been used by army generals in Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Myanmar to do away with elected governments. Latin America was assaulted by corporates from the US, for centuries, arguing that the "corruption" of the local elites in mismanaging the boundless possibilities of resources justified annexations and invasions, generating the fascinating term "banana republic."

Fixing the generically "corrupt" is a win-win at the moment. It is heretical to question it. Yet, there is a deep tussle over the central idea that is at the heart of what "corruption" is.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, there were ideas of freedom from corruption and the tyranny of the state, as economists like Friedrich von Hayek and even David Ricardo understood the phrase. Adam Smithian ideas rested on the freedom of entrepreneurship, under a benign law-and-order minimalism. The Depression of the 1930s and the economics and politics of the World Wars brutally reconfigured these ideas. Keynesian notions were on the necessity of broadening the ambit of the state; and, over the years, freedom from the tyranny and "corruption" of private profit, as opposed to social good, was in currency. The anti-milawat and anti-mehangaai agitations in India, for example, in the late sixties, found a focus at the doors of traders, as seen in several of the popular movies of the time that villainised the shopkeeper.

However, as the world changed once again, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire, caused by "corrupt" and bureaucratic insensitivities and the negation of personal freedoms there, free enterprise was once again a winner. But now, the mood in Europe and elsewhere, particularly its annoyance at corruption and malfeasance, is also demanding freedom from unregulated, self-serving business interests. After Lehman and Madoff, the West is introspecting not only on the role of corporations but also that of NGOs, and the need for accountability and transparency in the causes they front and the shows they put up. Scrutiny is not simply limited to the state.

In India, after two decades of economic reforms, there is a flourishing private sector. But this agitation is not quite clear about what and whose corruption it is so doggedly opposed to? CII, FICCI, big industries and several corporations, in a fabulous PR move, were the first to get off the block and ride the Anna annoyance wave. It has been a smart move to pre-empt the identification of other sources of corruption.

As far as the government's response goes, the confusion has, of course, been one of individuals and of competing ambitions. But there, too, is embedded a fundamental clash of ideas: the lack of an ability to articulate where they stand on what, and whose corruption.

The prime minister has been carefully articulating his world-view (at the Planning Commission and then at an IIM), seriously hoping that this "agitation" is by a generation spawned by his economic reforms, an urban population that feels blighted and thwarted by the state and, ergo, anxious for a bigger retreat of the state from most areas and thus freeing up private capital. The second view, held loosely by the "party," is pretty much at variance with any view that it is the state which is "corrupt" and must retreat.

The Congress has, since 2004, argued for a redefinition of the role of the state in India, and seen it as a crucial vehicle for the uplift of those below the breadline. Their understanding of rural poverty programmes; their social vision; even their understanding of the Maoist problem stem from a concept that there is too little of a "good and effective" state. The Two Indias idea — one India desperately needing redress and programmes, food security, employment guarantees, a right to information and freedom even from private contractors, with a dutiful state being refashioned to allow aspirations to take flight — is the bedrock of this idea and its politics. The fact that these two ideas were interwoven (either cleverly or by chance) before the 2009 elections, and that they clicked, should have provided the regime an impetus to push ahead and aggressively question whether the narrow focus on a particular sort of corruption of this movement was at all fair.

How to articulate a broader concept of corruption, breaking it down for the 21st century? Even if corruption is the clear and present danger we confront, don't we have to worry about the corruption of all — the state, private entities, NGOs, journalists, bureaucrats, doctors and lawyers? That would have at least allowed a richer and more textured debate — and, importantly, revealed the exclusive self-righteousness of those shouting "sab chor hain".

But guilt, and an inability to reconcile itself to what it sees as worthy of defending at the risk of unpopularity, has got the better of the ruling party and the government; and the absence of a contest of ideas has plunged the public discourse to a new low — bereft of a clear understanding of freedoms, of contexts and of processes that moments like these should hopefully give us.

Damned as we are, we have to make do with pious sermons from the platform and a cry for war on one side, and, on the other, an executive that does not have the moral courage to force a debate on the ideas floated by the quick anti-corruption coalition, which is using the idea of "corruption" as a cloak, as once George W. Bush used "democracy".










When the Congress, under Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, returned to power in Andhra Pradesh in 2009, it was believed that the party would be a force to reckon with for a long time. But YSR's death in a helicopter crash in September 2009 dramatically changed the state's political environment. In less than two years, the Congress seems to have lost its hold on the politics of the region and that, in turn, is leading to new developments that are redefining electoral equations.

The YSR Congress, a splinter group from the Congress, was formed by YSR's disgruntled son Jaganmohan Reddy. Then the newly formed Praja Rajyam Party by actor Chiranjeevi merged with the Congress. There has also been the revival of the struggle for a separate state of Telangana that YSR had managed to contain when he was at the helm. The demand for Telangana created a new political phenomenon: of politicians expressing allegiance to their region as against their party. In Andhra Pradesh now, the region you belong to is more important than the party or ideology you represent.

In order to survive politically and get the mandate of the electorate, legislators across parties are compelled to indicate that they would preserve the interests of the region they come from, even in defiance of party diktats. This conflict — between loyalty to the region and to the party — is further complicated by the loosening of the grip of national leadership over regional leaders and local dynamics. This was evident in the recent crisis in Karnataka as well where the central leadership of the BJP had little or no say in the way B.S. Yeddyurappa made his exit as CM or in the way his successor was chosen. This weakening hold of national leadership is a reversal of the political process introduced by Indira Gandhi, who had a direct connect with the electorate and who undermined local leadership with her interference in state politics.

State-level leaders often emerge from a reworking of caste equations and by imagining policies that are popular with the electorate. In Andhra Pradesh, YSR had rolled out a large number of welfare policies for the poor, including free housing, subsidised rice and special transport facilities in rural areas for farmers to take their produce to the market. These appealed to various sections of the electorate. It is this legacy of YSR that Jagan is attempting to appropriate. He has emerged as a force, and this should be seen in the context of a debilitated Congress. The resignation letters submitted by its legislators from the Telangana region had weakened the party. Now, 27 more MLAs have submitted their resignations to the speaker and they are set to join Jagan's YSR Congress.

The Congress, in order to stop Jagan's surge, found a way forward by discrediting the legacy and image of YSR after the CBI filed an FIR against the former chief minister in an ongoing investigation into the allegation that his family has amassed assets disproportionate to known sources of income. This, the Congress believes, will also strengthen its claim of fighting corruption. But the legislators' bid to join Jagan has complicated the survival of political parties.

Jagan's hold over the electorate is restricted to Rayalaseema and the Andhra region. In fact, when he attempted to take out his "Odarpu Yatra" into Telangana, his entourage was attacked by students. In order to counter Jagan's popularity in the Andhra region, the Congress carried out negotiations with Chiranjeevi, which fructified in the Praja Rajyam Party, which managed to get 27 per cent of votes in the last assembly elections, merging with the Congress on the eve of Rajiv Gandhi's birth anniversary. The alliance might give some comfort to the Congress.

But Telangana is a more complicated case. In spite of its silence on the issue of Telangana, the Telugu Desam Party still retains formidable support from backward castes. The electoral conflict in the Telangana region is now primarily between the TDP and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), with little prospects for the Congress, given the way it handled the demand for a separate state.

The TDP is already making noises about introducing a no-trust motion in the assembly and N. Chandrababu Naidu, in the backdrop of the investigations against Jagan, is on anti-corruption mode and planning even to go on a hunger strike in support of Anna Hazare's campaign.

What is certain in this changing scenario is that local dynamics will have a greater influence in state politics, especially in the absence of tall national leaders.

The writer teaches at the Centre for Political Studies, JNU







That we should collectively work to find credible approaches, credible solutions to deal with the scourge of corruption is a matter which unites all sections of thinking public opinion in our country. Madam, I share that perception; and on behalf of our government, I would like to assure this august House that, in the two-and-a-half years left to us, we will do everything in our power to clean the system of this country.

Madam, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi is not here. Yesterday, he made a powerful speech and he turned it into a personal attack on me, as if I am the fountainhead of corruption and that I have knowingly connived at corruptions of some of my colleagues... I consider it beneath my dignity to enter into an argument on issues which are before the PAC, issues which are in our courts. In my seven years as prime minister, even when the opposition members have accused me of many crimes, I have never used harsh language in describing the conduct of any member of this House.

Madam, I would like to assert before this House that I have been in the service of this country for nearly 41 years. In these 41 years of my public life, 20 years in Parliament, I have tried to serve this country to the best of my ability.

...All I can say is that if any wrongdoing has been done by me, I invite the leader of the opposition to look at my property which I may have accumulated in the last 41 years, the members of my family... (Interruptions)

I would accept the verdict of the leader of the opposition if they find that I have used public office to amass wealth for myself or for any member of my family.

Madam, in the course of seven years as prime minister, I may have made mistakes. Who is above making mistakes? To err is human but to accuse me of evil intentions, of conniving at corruption is a charge I firmly repudiate...

Shri Anna Hazare has gone on fast. His plea is that we should adopt the Jan Lokpal bill that has been drafted by them. The background of this whole exercise is well known to this august House. We have sittings together with the five representatives of Shri Anna Hazare, including himself, who met with our five representatives and a large measure of agreement was reached with regard to the shape of the Lokpal bill that we should have. On certain matters there was disagreement, and that disagreement could not be resolved — and therefore we have referred that matter for consideration of the all-parties committee, and the consensus was that the government should come with its own version of the bill, and various parties would then reflect on what to do with that bill. We discharged that obligation. We submitted that bill to Parliament. It has now been referred to the standing committee.

This standing committee can consider all options, and we can find ways and means of ensuring that the bill that has been prepared by Shri Anna Hazare is given due consideration by this committee. Also, along with this, there are other ideas. There is Dr Jayaprakash Narayan's group which produced a bill; there are ideas which have been mentioned in a paper by Shrimati Aruna Roy. All these matters can be discussed, debated and a consensus can be built up in the standing committee. We are open to all suggestions. We will work with all sections of this House to have a Lokpal who is strong, who is effective, and about which there is a national consensus.

We have produced a bill which reflects the thinking of our government. But we are open to persuasion, and we have an open mind — and when we discuss this bill, whether in Parliament or in the standing committee, we will work with a single-minded devotion to ensure that we leave behind for posterity a Lokpal bill which does credit to our concerns for meeting the challenge of corruption.

Madam, yesterday there was a very good meeting of all political parties. All political parties agreed that we should request Shri Anna Hazare to give up his fast and that we should find ways and means to ensure that ideas reflected in the Jan Lokpal bill are given adequate consideration in parliamentary processes, and that we should come forward with a strong, effective bill which has the broad support of the country as a whole. I commit our government to working with all sections of the House to realise this dream.

Therefore, I urge all members of the House to join me in making an appeal to Shri Anna Hazare that he has made his point. It has been registered with us. I respect his idealism. I respect him as an individual. He has become the embodiment of our people's disgust and concern about tackling corruption. I applaud him, I salute him. His life is much too precious — and, therefore, I would urge Shri Anna Hazare to end his fast.

We will find effective ways and means of discussing the Jan Lokpal bill, along with the government version of the bill, along with Shrimati Aruna Roy's bill, along with the ideas in the paper that Dr Jayaprakash Narayan has submitted. All ideas should be discussed, debated so that we have a bill which is the best possible bill, which will help us to deal with the problem of corruption.

Madam, it has been mentioned to me that Shri Anna Hazare and his colleagues are very keen that their bill should be discussed in the Parliament. I have not thought over this matter in great depth, but a thought comes to me that perhaps we could have a debate in this House on all the bills that are in the public domain, and have a discussion on what are the weak points of various bills, and what are the strong points of various bills — and at the end of that debate, send the whole record for consideration of the standing committee.

I have a feeling that this will meet the point that Shri Anna Hazare and his colleagues have been making that Parliament must have a chance to give its views on their bill before sending it to the standing committee, and therefore, I submit to this august House that this is one via media which will respect parliamentary supremacy — and, at the same time, enable Parliament to take on board ideas contained in the Lokpal bill drafted by Shri Anna Hazare and his colleagues.

Madam, I conclude by appealing to all sections of the House to join in the appeal that I have made to Shri Anna Hazare that his life is much too precious.

We would like him to live a long life and a happy life in the service of our people. He has registered his point. Therefore, we respectfully request him to end his fast. I think that if we do it, then this would be a befitting finale to this very constructive debate on corruption and in tackling it that has taken place in this House since yesterday.

From a speech to the Lok Sabha on August 25







The country owes a debt of gratitude to Team Anna for succeeding in channelling popular anger against corruption into a determined movement to seek institutional measures to cleanse our politics of the cancer of corruption. However, we would do well to recognise that no one institution, no one law can put an end to India's deeply entrenched culture of extortion, bribery and tyranny. That task requires looking at and reforming each department of the government — each sarkari institution that is engaged in public dealings, or assigned the responsibility of providing public services, or constructing civic infrastructure; and the identification of rules, regulations and laws that bestow arbitrary power to government functionaries or politicians which enable them to deny citizens their rightful due without facing any consequences.

For example, municipal officials all over India systematically fleece citizens by sending highly inflated house tax bills. I recall that several years ago, one of my neighbours, let us call him Mr X, received a house tax bill of Rs 1.65 lakh for a small, two-bedroom flat in South Delhi. In sheer panic, he approached a local political worker who claimed "good connections" with municipal officials. This man then went and brokered a deal with the concerned babus. Mr X was asked to pay Rs 25,000 in order to get the 1.65-lakh demand reduced to Rs 7,000 per year. He accepted the deal gladly because it appeared to him as if he was receiving a big favour, even though the falsely inflated bill was actually just a device to frighten him into paying a bribe. This was in fact standard practice; virtually every house-owner was subjected to this form of blackmail because the rules governing house tax rates were totally opaque, with officials routinely getting away with demanding arbitrary amounts as payoffs because they have the power to send out bogus bills and seal the property, with the victim left fighting never-ending court battles.

This citadel of corruption collapsed in one stroke when, following the example of Ahmedabad, Patna and Bangalore, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi also reformed its mode of property tax calculation and collection in 2004, by introducing a self-assessment scheme with clearly defined parameters for calculating rates for different categories of property, both commercial and residential, depending on the covered area. A detailed description of how to calculate the tax due on each property in different areas of Delhi — with a higher tax rate for high-priced properties and lower rates for poorer colonies — has been put on the publicly viewable website. Today one can pay this objectively calculated property tax in Delhi through the MCD's online payment portal, or through any number of banks. It leaves little scope for extortion. In fact, Mr. X today pays no more than Rs 3,800 in tax on the same property for which he was sent the Rs 1.65 lakh bill.

Another example: Manushi has succeeded in bringing about a dramatic fall in bribes and harassment for cycle-rickshaw owners because, in response to Manushi's petition challenging arbitrary, bribe-friendly rules and regulations for plying rickshaws, the Delhi high court struck them down as unconstitutional in March 2010. Here is a small sample of those absurd regulations:

1) Plying a rickshaw without an owner's and a puller's licence is illegal — but, unlike for motor vehicles, one cannot get a licence on demand. People are kept waiting for years after applying for a puller's or owner's licence, while municipal officials are not required to give any explanation for denying rickshaw licences. However, officials have the power to confiscate and destroy a rickshaw operating without these two licences.

2) While a person is entitled to own as many cars, trucks or aeroplanes as they want and can afford, it was illegal to own more than one rickshaw. A person owning multiple vehicles was liable to having his/her vehicles confiscated and destroyed.

3) A person owning a taxi or bus may hire whoever she likes to ply that vehicle or give it out on rent. But renting out a rickshaw invites confiscation and destruction of the vehicle. This despite the fact that the vast majority of pullers are seasonal migrants who prefer to rent their cycle-rickshaws, so that they are free to visit their villages as and when necessary, without having to worry about their vehicles being stolen or destroyed while they are away.

Thanks to such vicious laws, Delhi's rickshaw-owners and pullers ended up in a web of illegality, paying over Rs 350 crore a year in bribes to police and municipal officials. As soon as these absurd regulations were declared unconstitutional and confiscation was forbidden by law, no owner was willing to pay hafta — even though the new law drafted to liberalise the process for owning and pulling a rickshaw has yet to be enacted.

However, we  have failed to bring similar relief to street vendors, who are similarly targeted by rent-seeking mafias even though new fanciful policies have been announced for them, because officialdom retains the arbitrary power to deny them licences.  

Unlike the high courts and the Supreme Court, the Lokpal, even in its most "undiluted" form, will not have the power to strike down patently unjust laws. Therefore, it will have to go by the existing laws and regulations which leave citizens totally at the mercy of officialdom.

The Lokpal can at best play the role that antibiotics do when our bodies catch an infection. But antibiotics work only if delivered in emergencies, and in judicious doses; an overdose can act as a toxin, or even kill the patient. Anti-corruption institutions work only if carefully crafted systems are put in place that shift the balance of power in favour of citizens, providing them powers to demand transparency and accountability.  

The author is a professor at CSDS, Delhi, and the founder-editor of 'Manushi'








It was an English August in London and "Anna ka August" in Delhi (Aaj Tak). The (mis)fortunes of the Indian cricket team and the Indian government were so disastrously alike as they played out before our horrified eyes, that perhaps their fates are linked?

Or blame it on Anna ki topi, visible at both the Ramlila Maidan and at the Oval on Monday evening, as India lost the fourth test. Certainly, each time they were on TV, India's cricket captain looked as lost as India's PM. And what former cricketer Madan Lal said of Dhoni was surprisingly apt for Dr Manmohan Singh: "He is waiting for things to happen... his captaincy was missing." Or, in Kapil Dev's words, "when things are going wrong, troubles come from every direction... Dhoni's inability to cope with them has been exposed." In both cases, we saw one Indian take centrestage and refuse to bow down: even as Anna Hazare fasted to fight corruption, Rahul Dravid had a lean and hungry look about him as he fought unsuccessfully to save India from another defeat.

But while there was nothing to celebrate at the Oval, the atmosphere at the Ramlila Maidan, where TV spent the last six days, has been almost jubilant. It was like any other festive occasion — Janmashtami was celebrated on Monday — a festival of India with the flag held high. And with each wave of the flag, TV anchors and reporters got increasingly carried away with the mood and joined the tide of people. The lines between the public and the media blurred, putting you in mind of the latest TV ad anthem: "har ek friend zaroori hota hai."

Certainly, the media had befriended Anna H, his cause, and those who gathered there to support him. All their descriptions were hyperbolic: hundreds of people became thousands, and thousands multiplied into tens of thousands on every channel. TV news was done with objectivity, so finding fault with their arithmetic might be declared "unpatriotic."

Like Hazare's fast, the coverage has been relentless, 24x7. For nine days we have had no other news, not from the rebel advance in Tripoli, nor of the Naxal attack on policemen in Bijapur. It has been Hazare all the way, with everything else relegated to the bottom of the screen, like a footnote to history. We can debate whether or not "Anna is India and India is Anna," but Anna is news and news is Anna — at least on TV.

This has bothered some channels enough for them to introspect: NDTV 24x7 and CNN-IBN both asked, in a self-referential navel-gazing exercise, whether the Anna movement was media-propelled. In the last few days CNN-IBN has been counselling against "confrontation," and asking for a compromise: "Let us put the nation above individuals," advised Rajdeep Sardesai, after a CNN-IBN journalist was attacked, reportedly by men in Anna caps.

In the TV studios, English news channels have been drafting different versions of the Lokpal bill, and the future of India along with it, while Hindi news channels have been preoccupied with Hazare's health: "Anna ke khoon mein bimari hai — Anna ki jaan ja sakti hai," warned India TV on Monday. "152 ghante bina khana — kisi ko Anna ki parvah hai?' demanded Star News. The most pithy line came from the Zee News anchor on Monday night, when the UPA government first reached out to Hazare: as Anna's pulse rate falls, he remarked, the government's pulse rate goes up. (But the media had its finger on the pulse of the people, right?)

DD News has behaved as though the protests were taking place in Antarctica and it couldn't reach there in time to bring us the latest news. On Monday night, it gave extensive coverage to the PM's speech on corruption at IIM-Calcutta, followed by Congress MP Abhishek Singhvi's views on the standing committee and the Lokpal bill, before getting to the reason both were in the news — Anna's fast — and that too in the form of a medical bulletin: doctors say Anna is fine, Team Hazare says he is not.

Why does DD News even bother to pretend? Why not simply call itself DD Government?








Igniting India

Despite all the barbs about Anna Hazare's movement being propped up by the RSS, the Sangh was all praise for the social activist. The latest Organiser declares that Hazare has united the nation against corruption and cornered the Congress, and ignited a new sense of patriotism. "Sixty-five years after Independence, the people of India have again seized the initiative. Again, 'Vande Mataram' and 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' have become fashionable, the battle cry of a resurgent India," it says. The editorial claims that "what we are witnessing in the streets of India is a rebellion against the tyranny of the elected representatives." The BJP has maintained all along that the anger on the streets stemmed from the recent scams, and was directed at the Congress-led government, but the editorial says that the Lokpal bill is only "symbolic of an aspiration for a truly democratic and benign social order."

The Karnataka story

An Organiser article on Karnataka by senior RSS ideologue M.G. Vaidya states some facts that the BJP would never openly admit. He says that though squarely indicted by the Lokayukta, B.S. Yeddyurappa "dithered" over his resignation, possibly believing that his threats would work with the BJP high command. This did not happen, as the "party high-ups must have had full knowledge about the corrupt practices of BSY." He applauds the BJP for choosing BSY's successor by secret ballot, comparing this action to the Congress's practice of choosing leaders. He also calls it deplorable that the defeated faction of the BJP in Karnataka did not show magnanimity when the verdict came in.

Emergency situation

Panchjanya has also devoted several pieces to the Anna Hazare agitation and attacked the government for its "autocratic" ways. One article says the agitation has exposed the government's misdeeds, and that "if our prime minister had an iota of self-respect, he would have tried to change his government's attitude towards Anna and his supporters." It says that the government's action brought back memories of the dark days of Emergency. Another article claims Anna Hazare is no longer a name, but a revolution.

Compiled by Manoj C.G.







Steve Jobs gave the above advice to Stanford University students at an oft-quoted commencement address in 2005. He had undergone surgery to remove a cancerous tumour from his pancreas the previous year and named his executive VP of worldwide sales and operations Tim Cook as Apple's COO. When Jobs took another leave for health reasons in 2009, COO Cook led the company once again. In January this year, we saw this process repeated, although Jobs returned for the introduction of the iPad 2 in March, with a sustained standing ovation at that. The question is whether Apple will be able to live up to the "stay hungry, stay foolish" impulse that drove the creation of the iMac, the iPhone, the iPod and the iPad as Jobs finally passes the CEO baton to Cook. Dominant analyst opinion seems to be upbeat. As prolonged as his health battles have been, no one should be truly surprised by his resignation. Cook can reasonably be expected to cope well in Jobs's absence in the future because he has done so in the past—the stock went up 14% one month following Jobs's leave announcement in 2004, 13% in the month following the 2009 announcement, and 10.4% since January 17, 2011 (against the backdrop of a declining US market). Plus, the product roadmap for the next few years is already laid out. An able talent base is in place as is an excellence-friendly environment. Sure, the product launches will miss the pizazz of Jobs but perhaps Cook will get better with time—Jobs certainly did.

On the other hand, no one knows if tomorrow's challengers will be tougher than today's. Even today, there is Samsung nipping at Apple's heels, with the former's smartphone sales soaring more than 500% in the second quarter, outclassing the latter's 142% growth. Google and Facebook are leveraging their strengths in creative ways. Patent battles are heating up. In such circumstances, can Cook really substitute for someone Eric Schmidt has called the most successful American CEO of the last 25 years? There are not that many CEOs who evolve into popular culture icons—what with the famous instincts that transcend market research because "it's not the consumers' job to know what they want", the Bollywood-worthy battle with cancer, the catechisms that we love SMSing each other, the way in which he has changed how we engage with music and the movies.





While India waits for its revised Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) to come into effect—the Swiss will inform India, by October 7, as to whether the DTAA will have to be subjected to a national referendum—a new agreement signed on Wednesday by the Swiss and UK governments opens up another avenue for action. The Indo-Swiss DTAA, when it does come into action, however, does not mean the Swiss authorities will give Indian tax authorities an excel sheet with the name of Indian holders in Swiss banks with the amounts they hold in each account. The way it works, however, is that the Indian taxman will have to make a request and then the information will be made available—this means there will be no fishing expedition, the Indian taxman must have some basic details to begin with, and a credible reason for asking for the account details.

The UK-Swiss treaty is a bit different. While the UK government is allowed to make a maximum of 500 requests per year for information on UK residents who have Swiss bank accounts, Swiss banks will levy a withholding tax on the money held by UK nationals and hand this over to the UK government—the details of the bank account holder, however, will remain anonymous. To show their resolve, Swiss banks have guaranteed the UK government a payment of 500 million Swiss francs (R2,900 crore). A similar agreement was signed with Germany some weeks ago, and the guaranteed amount there is 2 billion Swiss francs (R11,600 crore).

The Global Financial Integrity has put the amount stashed abroad by Indians at $462 billion in 2009, and by 2011, yoga-guru Ramdev had fantastically raised this to $8.8 trillion—much of this is believed to be stashed in Swiss banks. Neither figure has looked particularly realistic, given the high returns Indian stock markets provide, the large amounts coming back to India through Mauritius, and the dramatically lowered taxation levels in India. Indeed, the Swiss banks have gone on record to say they have $2.5 billion of monies held by Indians. Till such time that the government is able to get details of Indian monies held in Swiss banks, it may be a good idea to work on a UK-type deal and start collecting taxes on these funds at least.





The news that Steve Jobs has stepped down as chief executive of Apple, 14 years after returning to the company he co-founded to lead one of the most dramatic turnrounds in corporate history, marks the end of an era.

From long-time underdog to the new king of Silicon Valley, Mr Jobs had assumed an improbably outsized influence over the technology industry. "It will be a different Apple from tomorrow morning," said Richard Doherty, a technology analyst and long-time follower of the company.

That echoed a widely voiced view late on Wednesday as news of Mr Jobs' resignation letter, in which he said he was no longer able to carry out his duties as chief executive, spread quickly.

With his latest period of medical leave having already stretched out since the start of this year, eclipsing an earlier absence in 2009, confirmation that the tech industry's most closely watched leader was to quit carried with it a sickening air of inevitability.

"There is an emotional impact here," said Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research. "The company is recognising it is stepping into the next phase."

Exactly what the departure means for the future of both Apple and the consumer technology industry it has led, however, was a question on which there was far less agreement.

For the time being, at least, most observers expect a continuation of the steady drumbeat of big new product announcements from Apple that in recent years have set the agenda for the entire consumer technology world.

Rivals have come to hang on every detail of Mr Jobs' set-piece product launch events, looking to them for cues about the probable next big consumer technology markets—though the barrage of lawsuits that have hit the smartphone and tablet computer industry suggest that sometimes the emulation may have become too slavish.

"He's redefined consumer electronics this century," said Mr Doherty.

Mr Jobs' departure will have "no impact from a product strategy point of view for probably a couple of years", said Mr Golvin. "The next wave of (Apple) products has already been designed."

That existing pipeline of products could enable Apple to sustain what has already become, with the iPhone and iPad, an impressive momentum. If it includes a better way of bringing the internet to TV screens—something Apple has worked on with limited success so far—it could also create a big new business that would produce a gusher of cash for Apple over the next five years, said

Mark Anderson, a US technology analyst and chief executive of Strategic News Service.

Beyond products already in development, however, the post-Jobs era at Apple raises bigger questions.

Rather than relying on customer research, the Apple co-founder pushes his senior managers hard to develop new products that are ahead of what the company's own customers have asked for, says Mr Doherty. He also keeps an iron grip on the approval process for new products, refusing to let new Apple gadgets see the light of day until he is personally satisfied that both the technology, and its application, are ready.

"There is no way to replace the world's greatest product genius – that's what Jobs is," said Mr Anderson. "I really think it's critical." Apple may not face the sort of immediate decline it suffered when Mr Jobs was forced out of the company in the mid-1980s, but the rudderless period that followed his departure then should serve as a warning, he added.

Much will depend on the leadership group that Mr Jobs has built over the past decade, and whether he has been able to instill the disciplines needed to prolong the string of hits that have defined Apple's success.

Below Tim Cook, who has been named chief executive and been given a seat on Apple's board, the well-regarded leadership group includes Phil Schiller, head of marketing; Jonathan Ive, chief designer; and Scott Forstall, the executive in charge of iOS software. In a rare loss, Ron Johnson, head of Apple's retail stores, recently quit to run US retailer JC Penney.

With his relentless drive to lead, cajole and sometimes harass his followers to achieve the sort of breakthroughs for which Apple has become famous, Mr Jobs has created an impressive machine that should outlast his day-to-day leadership, said Mr Doherty. "There aren't many organisations that have that level of striving for perfection," he added.

But, without its presiding genius, Apple's pursuit of perfection is about to face its severest test.





As the Anna-Government battle wages on, and provides maximum grist for the political theatre in a long time, it is easy to lose sight of the central issue of how to best battle corruption behind the clash of personalities and the demands and counter-allegations. Few believe that either version of the Lokpal Bill will really rid the country of corruption, but would possibly create yet another barrier to negotiate or a spotlight to hide from. The debate is about how high that barrier should be or how glaring and universal that light, the concern about how to make sure the Lokpal rises above the ill it is supposed to guard against.

I had recently had the chance of researching the subject of corruption with my former colleague Ajay Subramanian*. The questions to ask included whether all corruption is the same—the everyday kind that we face from traffic policemen, road inspectors, tax refund clerks, railway officials or the grand larceny of the kind that the likes of Raja and Kalmadi and former senior judges are now accused of? Which one is worse for the nation, and therefore a bigger danger? And finally, what circumstances bring about the best outcome? Is there a point where the costs of reducing corruption further are more than its benefits? Given that it is unlikely that we can ever build a nation with zero corruption, how much of our resources spent in detection would lead us to the optimum level that maximises the nation's welfare?

In our view of the world, the entire national income-corruption tradeoff is driven by the alignment between three distributions—of productivity, power and compensation. Let me explain. Not all jobs are equally productive—the farmer directly produces output, while the policeman does not. But that does not mean the farmer should get all that he produces, for then there will be nothing for the policeman, and crime will go through the roof. So, clearly, the farmer must support the policeman in his own interest. So, productivity and compensation structures will be different, taxes are necessary. The nature of the job matters too. The schoolteacher has little power to extract rent (particularly if the examiner is external and cannot control admission) that the policeman enjoys. So, professions and hierarchies create a distribution of power in society as well. So it is possible to think of the entire society in a three-dimensional space—of productivity, power and compensation—where each individual chooses his level of individual corruption (between 0 and 1) depending upon the risk-return tradeoff he faces. The higher the chosen level, the lower his output and greater his actual compensation if he goes undetected. Of course, society suffers more from a corrupt PM than a corrupt constable, so societal corruption level has to be power-weighted. Societal output is the sum of all individual outputs. We simulate various such 3-D societies to investigate the income-corruption relationship in them.

Our findings are a mix of intuitive and surprising results. For instance, the more aligned compensation is to power, the better it is from a corruption-reducing viewpoint. For instance, when our top bureaucrats making less than R9 lakh a year (OK throw in the Central Delhi flat and a car to be more precise) hold the key to cash-flows amounting to thousands of crores of rupees, bureaucratic corruption should not surprise anyone. Ditto for judges (just talking

about incentives here, not alleging any judicial wrongdoing). So the "Singapore model" of paying CEO salaries to ministers has its merits. Not surprising—after all, despite its high-corruption neighbourhood, Singapore is among the five least corrupt nations (and the only one outside Scandinavia).

Somewhat surprising is the trade-off between "petty" corruption (of the everyday variety) and "high level" corruption that institutions like the CVC, CBI, CAG and Lokpal are supposed to catch. Our lowest corruption societies are marked by less "high level" corruption than "petty" corruption. So it appears that going after the big fish does produce better bang for buck for reducing corruption than disinfecting the microbes. So the Lokpal debate is actually key—the Anna brigade is certainly not barking up the wrong tree.

It is important to realise that corruption is not the monopoly of the government. Countries like Canada and Finland have large public sectors and low corruption whereas unfettered government monopoly over resources has created kleptocracies in sub-Saharan Africa with active private sector involvement. Our model suggests that scaling back government power reduces "petty corruption" while reducing private sector power leads to a reduction in "high level" corruption. Little surprise, then, that liberalisation has perhaps taken us from one kind of corruption to the other, potentially more harmful, kind.

The author teaches finance at the

Indian School of Business, Hyderabad

* Chakrabarti, Rajesh and Ajay Subramanian, "Power, Compensation and Corruption: Theory and Evidence" Working Paper, SSRN







Executives from Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. are meeting the British government and police to discuss how to prevent social networks being used to plot violence.

The government has expressed concern about the way social media and BlackBerry's instant messaging were used during this month's riots across England. Civil libertarians reacted with alarm to suggestions the services could be shut down in times of crisis.

Police and politicians claim young criminals used Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry's simple and largely cost-free messaging service to coordinate looting sprees during riots in England this month, and Prime Minister David Cameron has said police and intelligence services are looking at whether there should be limits on the use of social media sites or services like BlackBerry Messenger in times of disorder. A senior police officer revealed last week that the force had considered seeking approval to switch off such services like Twitter during the mayhem, but decided against it.

The acting chief of London's police force told lawmakers that the legality of such action was "very questionable," and networks were an intelligence asset. A Home Office spokeswoman said there was "no suggestion" the sites would be closed down. But she said the meeting would discuss "whether and how we should be able to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality." — AP





The downgrading of Japan's government debt by Moody's Investor Services on Wednesday was in the making for quite some time. The revised rating, down by one notch to 'Aa3', carries a stable outlook and brings it on a par with the ratings by its two main rivals, Standard & Poor's and Fitch. Now, Japan is on the same level as China, which surpassed it last year to become the world's second largest economy. The action of Moody's has not caused, nor is it likely to cause, a turmoil in the markets because the rating agency is only seen as catching up with its peers. Moreover, Moody's themselves have said that taking into account Japan's credit strengths they do not see a funding crisis arising in the next 12 to 18 months. A key dampening factor is that the bulk of Japan's public debt is owned internally; there would have been much commotion if overseas creditors had been dominant. Inevitably, comparisons will be made with S&P's historic downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt earlier this month, for both are a verdict on the deterioration in the public finances of two of the top industrialised countries.

Of course, political factors also weighed in the downgrades in both cases. In the U.S., the absence of a smooth working arrangement between the two political parties almost forced the federal government to default and left the administration with very few options to tackle the debt crisis. In the case of Japan, "revolving door politics" — the country is preparing to elect its sixth leader in five years — have stood in the way of effective long-term fiscal and growth strategies. But the economics are more stark: Japan's financial position is in a miserable shape, with nearly half of the central government budget funded by bond issuance. Its gross debt now exceeds 200 per cent of the GDP, a dubious record unmatched by any industrialised country. In addition to its structural debt problems, Japan faces a bill amounting to ¥15-20 trillion for recovery work following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Given the weak growth prospects, it is obvious that Japan will find the servicing of its burgeoning public debt very difficult. To crank up its usually efficient manufacturing sector, Japan has decided to tackle head-on the problems arising from the sharp appreciation in the yen, which is now at its highest levels since World War II. The yen's rise has blunted Japan's much-vaunted export competitiveness and threatens to derail its main growth engine. The $100 billion war chest announced on Wednesday to help small and medium enterprises cope with the surging yen might be too little in relation to Japan's problems and, perhaps, even too late.





Cataloguing the diversity of life on earth remains one of the incomplete goals of science. Taxonomists have tried to come up with a credible number for the species that have been identified as unique — and succeeded in entering some 1.2 million in a centralised database. The problem with this number is that it is a fraction of the whole; the majority of species both on land and in the oceans has not been catalogued. It is in this context that a new species count put out by a group of scientists becomes noteworthy. Camilo Mora and colleagues propose in an open access paper titled "How Many Species Are There on Earth and in the Ocean?" (published in the journal PLoS Biology ) that the number of those with complex cell structures could be 8.7 million, plus-or-minus 1.3 million. Of them, the marine species could be about 2.2 million. This estimate is a projection based on consistent and predictable patterns in the system of classifying animals and plants. The real significance lies not in the absolute number — there could be many more species, other scientists think — but in the scale of effort needed to identify and save them in a human-dominated future. Given the magnitude of the task, taxonomy as a discipline should be drawing many more researchers. It also needs massive infusions of funding.

Underpinning the estimate arrived at by Dr. Mora and his group is the thesis that there has been a definite pattern to the discovery of new classes of animals from the year 1750. Reasonable predictions were possible in the past based on the classification pyramid that scientists could build. Now, based on that model, it is suggested there may be 7.7 million species of animals, 298,000 plants, and 611,000 fungi, among others. It will take an accelerated global campaign to validate these figures. It is worth pointing out that only about 15,000 new discoveries are added to the tally annually. At the same time, the mounting resource demands of 6.9 billion humans are altering habitats at such a rapid pace that the resulting extinction rates greatly exceed the natural rates of loss. In many parts of the world, there is a fading echo of biodiversity. This demands a stronger response from governments to document life. Funding to establish more taxonomy centres in universities, for DNA analysis and for scientific expeditions, is crucial. Where funding and expertise are available, the results are impressive. Many amphibians given up as lost in India have been rediscovered and catalogued in recent years, particularly in the Western Ghats. Saving what remains of species diversity is vital, and greater understanding of what exists will help make that possible.





A Russian cargo rocket ferrying three tons of food and fuel to the International Space Station broke down about five minutes after it blasted off on August 24, completing its flight by arcing into a Siberian forest rather than achieving orbit.

The crash of the unmanned craft, a Progress cargo ship on top of a Soyuz rocket, does not pose an immediate problem for the six crew members living at the space station, who are well stocked with supplies taken there in July by National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) last shuttle flight. But it raises questions about the reliability of this model of Russian rocket, a similar model of which is used for manned launchings.

Since the retirement of the shuttle programme last month, Russian-made Soyuz rockets are the only means of transport to space for American astronauts. NASA has contracted with the Russian Space Agency to fly Americans on these rockets for several years.

Under scrutiny

The crash on Wednesday will surely be closely scrutinised because of its implications for American manned space flight on the Russian rockets. If a quick diagnosis and fix elude Russian engineers, NASA and the other agencies collaborating on the space station could face difficult choices.

"We've always known this was a risk," the manager of the space station for NASA, Michael T. Suffredini, said.

The next set of three crew members is scheduled to launch to the space station in September, and another three are to go up in December.

Further, the Soyuz capsules in which the crew members ride also serve as lifeboats in case of an emergency, and the capsules are allowed to stay at the station for up to 210 days.

It means that three crew members may have to return to Earth in one of the Soyuz capsules docked at the station by October at the latest. Without replacements, that would leave only three people to operate the station, greatly reducing the time they could devote to running experiments.

If the problem dragged on to the end of the year, the other three would also have to return to Earth, leaving the space station unoccupied.

Mr. Suffredini said the station could be operated from the ground and stay in orbit indefinitely as long as there were no major failures and other cargo ships continued to fly; a Japanese one and a European one are scheduled to be launched next spring.

The Progress and Soyuz have proven reliable until now. Forty-three of the supply ships have successfully flown to the space station. But the failure on Wednesday was the second in August from the Baikonur launching pad in Kazakhstan. The upper stage of a Proton rocket sent a telecommunications satellite into the wrong orbit on Aug. 18.

Russia has planned another Soyuz expedition on Thursday, from the Plesetsk launching pad in the far north of European Russia. That rocket is scheduled to carry a navigation satellite for the Glonass system, the Russian version of the American GPS.

But the Russian space agency said it might delay manned launchings on the Soyuz — the only means of reaching the station for astronauts and cosmonauts — if the reasons for Wednesday's crash were not quickly determined.

The Progress is a cargo spaceship that the Russians call a space truck, routinely launched to the space station carrying spare parts, fuel, food, oxygen, water and other items.

The Soyuz design is a 1960s holdover that jettisons four bulky booster rockets soon after liftoff, then flies in three stages to space. It carries both manned and unmanned spaceships to the space station. At the launching on Wednesday, the Progress lifted off as planned on top of a Soyuz rocket. A little more than five minutes later, however, the rocket's third-stage engine shut down sooner than it should have, before the spacecraft had enough velocity to reach orbit.

The rocket and Progress ship crashed in the dense Siberian forest. The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations said rocket debris landed in three separate areas of the Altai region in southern Siberia, which borders Mongolia. The regional governor, Yuri Antaradonov, said the police had cautioned people to stay clear of the wreckage, as it could be contaminated with toxic fuel. His only concern, he said, was that some people may have been camped in the forest at the time of the crash because "it is the season of collecting pine nuts" in that part of Siberia. — © New York Times News Service





A few weeks ago I visited one of Mother Teresa's Sisters who was admitted for surgery in the PGI hospital in Chandigarh. Haryana Chief Secretary Urvashi Gulati and the Principal Secretary to the Governor accompanied me that morning to Sister Ann Vinita's bedside. Attending to her in the hospital were two companion Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity. In the course of conversation, one of them said that she was really happy to meet me. She went on to explain that as a young woman in Kerala, she had admired Mother Teresa's work, but it was when she chanced to read my biography of Mother Teresa that she decided to join the Order. That a young Catholic woman should have read a book written by one, who while he was unmistakably close to Mother Teresa yet did not share her faith, stunned me into silence. It made me reflect on a number of issues related and unrelated: of the strength of secular values; and of true compassion knowing no religious, ethnic, caste or geographical boundaries, and indeed being able to transcend altogether the formal contours of religious practice.

Mother Teresa understood her environment acutely. She was no evangelist in the 19th century mould. She remained true to her religion till her last breath, but chose not to impose it on others. Never once during my 23-year-long association with her did she ever suggest that her religion was the only path, or that it was in any way superior. Yet she often reminded those around her of the power of prayer. If I occasionally remarked on some initiative she had taken as a "good idea," she would reply with a teasing smile that if I learned to pray I would get a few good ideas too! She often urged those who came to her that they must be good Hindus or Muslims or Christians or Sikhs, and in that process must learn to "find God."

It was indicative of her success that she understood that in an overwhelmingly non-Christian India, her path had to be a unique one. So while she never deviated from her faith, she reached out to millions of her special constituency: the poorest of the poor, the leprosy sufferers, abandoned children or the hungry and dying, recognising their faces to be the face of her God. Their religious persuasion, or even its absence, hardly concerned her. In her ability to have found the middle path in an environment that could have easily become hostile, lay her genius. I once asked the legendary Chief Minster of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu, what he an atheist and a Communist could possibly have in common with a Catholic nun for whom God was everything. With a smile, he replied: "We share a love for the poor." India revered her and gave her abundantly of its honours, including the Bharat Ratna. On August 26, 2010, a five- rupee coin was released to commemorate her birth centenary.

Over the years I witnessed many incidents that I called "co-incidences" and which others might well call "miracles." One day in the 1980s at Mother House in Kolkata, a rare medicine was needed to save the life of a child. In those days it was not manufactured in India. When hope was almost lost, and as the Sisters prayed, a carton of assorted leftover medicines was donated by an unknown benefactor. Right on top was the very drug that was needed. The child's life was saved.

On another occasion, Mother Teresa arrived in Delhi from abroad. I was at the airport to receive her. Her flight was late. As she got off, anxiety was writ over her face. "You must get me on the flight to Calcutta. There is a dying child here; I am carrying a new medicine." I told Mother that was impossible. Her flight had been late, and the last Calcutta-bound Indian Airlines flight was boarding. Mother Teresa's own luggage was also yet to come. But as word spread at the airport, the seemingly impossible happened. The first few items of luggage on the conveyer belt happened to be her cardboard cartons (she never owned a suitcase!). Someone informed air traffic control of Mother Teresa's efforts. The pilot happened to be a Calcutta man. Suddenly I was asked if I could drive Mother Teresa in my car to the tarmac — and she caught her flight. I rang her the next morning. The child had been administered the medicine on her arrival, and was now out of danger. "It is a first-class miracle," said Mother Teresa.

Far from once not believing in miracles, I am now in little doubt that Mother Teresa's life itself was a miracle. Witness the facts: as a child of 14 in her native Albania, her imagination was stirred by the stories she heard from the Jesuit Fathers of their work in distant Bengal; at 18, still a teenager, her mind was made up. She took leave of her own beloved mother and joined the Loreto Order of teaching nuns, her only means in the year 1928 of reaching India. It was an age when missionaries seldom returned home, and she was embarking on a life in a world of which she knew nothing. She was sent to Darjeeling for training. She learned to speak Bengali fluently. After almost 20 happy years as a teaching nun, she audaciously sought (and finally received) permission from the Vatican to become the first nun in the history of the Church to step outside convent walls, not as a lay person, but as a nun with her vows intact, to start a mission of her own. She had no helper, no companion, and no money to speak of. Imagine the Calcutta of 1948, overflowing with refugees after Partition, homelessness, poverty and disease everywhere. She wore no recognisable nun's habit; instead a sari, akin to that worn by municipal sweepresses, that cost one rupee. This is where she started her life's arduous mission.

We know where she left off. By the time she passed away in 1997, she had created her presence in 123 countries. She ran a multinational run by 5,000 nuns of her Order, without the help of government grants or Church assistance. She had been awarded every conceivable prize of distinction. She was as warmly received in palaces and chancelleries as she was in the slums and streets of the world's cities. People sometimes accuse her of converting others to her faith: surely then there was no need for her to set up a branch in the heart of the Vatican. She cajoled Pope John Paul II to carve out a soup kitchen next to his grand audience chamber. Anyone today can witness the queues of Rome's poor, who are fed their only hot meal every evening. A former British Prime Minister told me not long ago that when Mother Teresa visited him at Downing Street she always managed to get his aides overruled, and got everything she wanted — because it was always for 'her poor.' In any event, by now it was difficult for Prime Ministers to say 'no' to her, for she was recognised as the conscience-keeper of her age.

As a Hindu, armed only with a certain eclecticism, I found it took me longer than most others to understand that Mother Teresa was with Christ in each conscious hour, whether at Mass, or with each of those whom she tended. The Christ on her crucifix was not different from the one who lay dying at her hospice in Kalighat. There could be no contradiction in her oft-repeated words that one must reach out to one's neighbour.

For Mother Teresa, to love one's neighbour was to love God. This was what was essential to her, not the size of her mission or the power others perceived in her. "We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful," she explained. Mother Teresa exemplified that faith — in prayer, in love, in service, and in peace.

(Navin Chawla, a former Chief Election Commissioner of India, is the author of Mother Teresa: The Authorised Biography . )

Mother Teresa's path was a unique one. While she never deviated from her faith, she reached out to millions of her special constituency, the deprived and the dying, recognising their faces to be the face of her God.





Thick black lines had been scored over the graffiti under the cherubic image of President Bashar al-Assad that guards the road into Hama{minute}a. The military's clean-up squad had been less than diligent though: the word kalib , dog, survived the paint-brush censorship, and the soldiers had forgotten to have the President's gouged-out eyes repainted.

Inside the city, the rebels had left behind evidence no amount of paint could obscure: the burned-down military officers' mess on the Ard al-Khadra street, which mobs stormed in the hope of seizing weapons; the gutted office block which housed the justice department; the charred walls of the al-Hadr police station, pockmarked with machine-gun fire, where 17 police officers were lynched, before their mutilated bodies were thrown into a nearby canal.

Behind the justice ministry's office, a small group of young men described what happened when the military moved in on July 31, three months after rebel groups, armed with guns, knives and petrol bombs, seized control of much of the town. "They used snipers to shoot at us," one says, and "more than a dozen people were killed." The army, he claims, then tied the hands of local residents and forced them to roll on the street, all the while beating them with rifle butts.

Ever since the spring uprising in Syria, the most serious challenge to the regime since it took power in 1970, commentators had been predicting that President al-Assad's regime was on the edge of collapse. In spite of an energetic western media campaign, largely based on overblown accounts provided by exiled opposition groups, it is in fact becoming clear that the rebellion has all but collapsed: Damascus, for example, is more alive with everyday civic life than New Delhi.

But there is no disputing that Syria's government is far from slaying the three-headed dragon which threatens its future: a threat from the West; an economic crisis engendered by neoliberal economic reform; and a mounting Islamist threat.

The failed rebellion

Late in February, authorities in Dera {minute}a arrested a group of teenagers for painting anti-government slogans on the town's walls: like the Libyan, Egyptian and Yemeni rebels they'd watched on television, the protestors proclaimed that the people wanted the regime overthrown. Parents of the children, a widely-believed but possibly apocryphal account holds, met with Dera {minute}a intelligence chief Atef Naguib al-Assad to secure their release. In a traditional tribal gesture of supplication, one parent placed his headscarf on Mr. Naguib al-Assad's table, who in turn flung it into the dustbin — an unforgivable insult that sparked off rioting.

This much is clear: the protests soon spread out of Dera {minute}a, to the towns of Jisr al-Shughour, Homs and Aleppo. For weeks, President al-Assad's government allowed the rebels to hold control of the towns, ceding space in the hope of securing a political rapprochement.

In the end, the response was ferocious: the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said her office had received "over 1,900 names and details of persons killed in Syria since mid-March 2011; all are said to be civilians." It received testimony that over 350 were executed. The Syrian government denies this charge, but has released no figure of its own.

Even though the opposition council-in-exile that claims to represent Syria's rebellion includes a wide spectrum of ideological opinion — pro-western liberals, secular-nationalists and Islamists — there's just one party that seems to matter on the ground: the Ikhwan ul-Muslimeen, or Muslim Brotherhood

Born in 1937, the Brotherhood had drawn its core from the pious traditional middle class of urban merchants, artisans and clerics — independent of the ruling Ba {minute}ath party's patronage structures. Its first published manifesto, of 1954, sought the "establishment of a virtuous policy which would carry out the rules and teachings of Islam." From 1963 to 1968, the Brotherhood led a dogged campaign of resistance against the secularising, Arab-nationalist Ba {minute}ath. Following the catastrophic defeat of Arab forces in the 1967 war against Israel, a radical faction led by the Aleppo-based weaver-turned-cleric Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah pushed for a confrontation with the regime.

Hafez al-Assad, an air force officer from the Latakia province — the first of his poor peasant family to graduate from high school — seized power. Even though Hafez al-Assad hailed from the heterodox {minute}Alawi sect, who make up just 10 per cent of the Sunni-majority of Syria's population and constituted a peasant underclass, he won Brotherhood chief Issam al-Attar's support. Knowing the al-Assad regime lacked a mass base, al-Attar bargained for policies that would help the Damascus merchant class.

In 1975 though, a combination of crippling inflation, high housing prices, and growing tensions between the Ba {minute}ath and Palestianian radicals led younger figures in the Brotherhood to take a more radical course. From 1976, there was a series of attacks on Ba {minute}ath functionaries, strikes and shutdowns — culminating in the massacre of 83 {minute}Alawi cadets at the Aleppo military academy in 1980.

The new Islamist radicals were the children of the traders who had formed the backbone of the Brotherhood — now largely students, teachers and professionals. Adlan Uqlab, who led the ill-fated 1980 uprising in Hama {minute}a, was a civil engineer whose father had been a baker; his predecessor, Abdus Sattar al-Zaim, was a dentist born to a tradesman. Husni Abbu, head of the military section of the Brotherhood in Aleppo, was a French language-teacher, born to a well-to-do merchant and the son-in-law of Shaikh Zayn-ud-Din Khairullah, the Imam of Aleppo's grand mosque.

Figures who escaped the State's ferocious assault on Hama {minute}a went on to occupy a key role in the global jihadist movement. Born and educated in Aleppo, 1958-born Mustafa Nasar joined the Combat Vanguard Organisation, a radical breakaway group from the Muslim Brotherhood, while he was studying mechanical engineering. He participated in the uprisings of 1980, and fought against Syrian forces in the 1982 bloodbath in Hama {minute}a. Forced into exile, Nasar moved to Spain and then London, where he had an influential jihadist magazine. In the years before 9/11, Nasar joined Osama bin-Laden's inner circle — though he later fell out with the al-Qaeda chief, and set up a separate organisation under the command of the Taliban's emir, Mullah Muhammad Omar.

Nasar has now emerged as among the jihadist movement's most influential ideologues, arguing in his 1,600-page manifesto, Da {minute}wat al-muqawamah al-Islamiyyah al- {minute}alamiyyah, the case for a "leaderless resistance" of individual terrorism.

Following the violence in Hama {minute}a, Aleppo and Palmyra, the Brotherhood sought to head off these nascent jihadist tendencies by adopting a more adversarial relationship with the State, repositioning itself as the spokesperson of Syria's Sunni majority against its {minute}Alawi rulers. "Nine or ten per cent of the population," its 1980 manifesto argued (referring to the al-Assad family's sectarian origins), "cannot dominate the majority in Syria." The {minute}Alawi "minority has forgotten itself and is ignoring the facts of history." This, the Brotherhood said, "could ignite a murderous civil war."

The idea resonated among Islamists: the medieval cleric Ibn Taymiyya, who fires up the imagination of the modern neo-fundamentalist movement, argued that the primary challenge for the faith was stamping out heresies like those of the {minute}Alawi.

But, as commentator Hanu Batatu pointed out in a 1982 essay, the Brotherhood also reached out to a wider constituency, adopting ideas drawn from classical liberal thought. Its 1980 programme condemned martial law and torture, and advocated judicial independence and the rule of law. It spoke to capitalist concerns, castigating industrial workers who "think they are entitled to everything" and converted "factories into hospices for the lazy and indolent."

'Syria is stable'

Early this year, as rebellions erupted across the Middle East, Bashar al-Assad held out sage words for other regional rulers. "Syria is stable," he asserted. "Why? Because you have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people." "If you didn't see the need for reform before what happened in Egypt and Tunisia," he concluded, "it's too late." His assessment was correct — but applied as much to the State he runs as to other besieged Middle Eastern regimes.

First, the United States and the European Union have seized on the rebellion to build bridges with the Muslim Brotherhood, and isolate the geopolitical adversary, Iran's principal regional ally. Harsh sanctions have been imposed, and direct support is being provided to opponents of the regime. The U.S. Ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, has been engaged in an extraordinary political campaign, first encouraging dissidents in Hama {minute}a to break off talks with the regime and more recently defying official travel restrictions to meet with opposition leaders in Jassem.

Ever since the rebellion that deposed Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt, the U.S. has moved to develop deeper links with the Brotherhood — seeing its pietist leadership as allies who will help replace its failing authoritarian collaborators with Saudi Arabia-style conservative regimes. The Brotherhood, U.S. diplomats argue, will also be able to contain anti-western jihadists. Ever since 2006, the Brotherhood has had a lobbying presence in Washington, D.C.; it also has the support of Turkey's Islamist-led government and Saudi Arabia.

Though western sanctions alone are unlikely to undermine the regime, it faces a second challenge: from a growing youth cohort alienated from the Ba {minute}ath party's patronage structure and hardhit by economic change.

President al-Assad's neoliberal reforms generated respectable economic statistics: the real growth stood at 3.2 per cent in 2010, 5 per cent in 2009, 5.1 per cent in 2008, and 4.3 per cent in 2007. Poverty, long stuck at about 15 per cent of the population, declined to 11.9 per cent in 2006.

But Nader Kabbani, director of research at the Syrian Trust for Development, noted early this year that the country's positive macroeconomic numbers masked disturbing trends. Though growth had been steady, few jobs had been created; those with only primary and intermediate qualifications found it hard to find work. In addition, severe drought, coupled with years of diminished investment in agriculture, alienated the Ba {minute}ath's core constituency, the rural poor.

The protests now unfolding in Syria thus represent the rebellion of a new generation of disenfranchised youth — the vanguard of the third challenge to the regime, from political Islam.

Protest against the regime has expressed itself through religion: Damascus residents note a steady growth in the use of headscarves, for example, which authorities even felt compelled to ban from universities in 2009. Lectures by the neo-fundamentalist cleric Yousuf al-Qaradawi are said to have become increasingly popular. There is little doubt jihadists played a vanguard role in the rebellion. Homs' Bab {minute}Amr area was one of several which came under de-facto jihadist control. A brigadier-general, along with his two sons and a nephew, was assassinated.

Policy backfires

For years now, the Syrian government sought to buy peace with the jihadists, allowing Iraq-based Islamist groups to ship weapons and cadre through their territory in return for leaving President al-Assad's regime alone. That policy has backfired: at a recent meeting with visiting journalists, Hama {minute}a Governor Anas Abdul-Razzaq Na {minute}em admitted that "Salafi-Takfiri groups who want an Islamic emirate spearheaded the uprising."

President al-Assad understands that democratic reforms are needed to contain the threat — but the several half-steps towards political openness he has taken since 2005 have led nowhere. Now, the uprising has compelled him to promise an end to draconian emergency laws, and commit himself to holding elections. At meetings with Indian, Brazilian and South African diplomats, Syrian authorities even said they would lift the ban on the Brotherhood, if it abandoned religion-based politics.

Will this prove enough? The gains of four decades of rule by the al-Assad dynasty ought not be dismissed: the country has, without dispute, the most secular State institutions and culture of any Arab State today; women occupy positions of influence; minority rights are scrupulously protected. The fact though is, that the accompanying absence of democracy has pushed more people to the religious right — threatening to sweep away these gains.

Even though the uprising of 2011 has been crushed, thus, Syria remains on the edge of the abyss: an abyss that black paint cannot obscure.

President Bashar al-Assad's government has imposed order — but is yet to slay the three-headed dragon which threatens its survival.






Former Samajwadi leader and sitting Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh has been chargesheeted in the cash-for-vote scandal, along with Sudheendra Kulkarni, a former adviser to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and one-time aide to BJP stalwart L.K. Advani, as well as two BJP MPs of the last Lok Sabha. The police has also sought the Lok Sabha Speaker's sanction to prosecute sitting BJP MP Ashok Argal. The trial is about to get under way. As such, it is too early to take a definitive view, much less pronounce guilt. It is remarkable, nevertheless, that the dramatis personae, in the main, have a close association with the country's main Opposition party.
The case is a straightforward one of corruption in the system. Either the Congress went on a bribing spree, or the BJP simply contrived a cock-and-bull story to make its main adversary look soiled. In both events, the system would be suborned. In July 2008, when the Left withdrew support from the UPA-1 government, it is alleged the Congress took steps to ensure that its government did not fall on the floor of Parliament. The effort was to get non-UPA MPs to vote for it, or at least abstain. Why then is no one from the Congress among those arraigned? Or is there no proof of this yet?
The implied suggestion is that Mr Singh was playing the Congress' game, that he arranged the money with which to bribe BJP MPs. The veracity of this is yet to be established. The police claims it hasn't yet figured out where the former Samajwadi leader got the money from to pay BJP legislators. Until this is done, the case against the UPA won't stand.
Mr Kulkarni claims that his role was to stage-manage a sting operation and get a television channel to shoot the proceedings. Did he do it at his own behest? The BJP MPs in question were roped in to "accept" a bribe on camera, and promptly take the loot to the floor of the Lok Sabha to make a dramatic show of exposing the wrongdoer — in this case the government — by displaying wads of currency notes. We must, of course, wait for the trial to progress to know if they pocketed any of the so-called bribe money, or took the entire sum to the House, which was then deposited with the authorities. But no matter what, this is a despicable tale. It is terrible that any MP, least of all from a party that claims for itself a higher standard of public morality, should be involved in such a tawdry show.






An unintended consequence of the Ayodhya movement was that it improved middle-class India's knowledge of German history. For a decade, intellectuals horrified by the phenomenal Hindu mobilisation for a Ram temple in Ayodhya drew analogies with the rise of fascism in Germany in the 1930s. The demolition of December 1992 was equated with the Reichstag fire of 1933, the communal riots which erupted were compared to the infamous Kristallnacht of 1938 and the kar sevaks were viewed with the same degree of horror that the world reserved for Hitler's storm troopers.
The second round of Anna Hazare's movement that grew out of his fast in Delhi's Ramlila Maidan has witnessed an intellectual celebration of parliamentary democracy. An institution that had been tarnished in the public imagination for the quality of its members, the scenes of raucous disruption and the indifference to serious debate, has suddenly emerged as the cornerstone of Indian democracy. Abstruse parliamentary procedures, unfamiliar to most Indians, have also been painted as sacrosanct by MPs cutting across party lines. The sobriety of a select committee of Parliament has been juxtaposed against the emotional anarchy of an unthinking rabble. Like 18th century England, responsible politics has been posited against a mob that is potentially riotous.
Like most intellectual exercises, both analogies are flawed and based on hideous caricatures. The spectacular groundswell of support for a 74-year-old Gandhian with a genial disposition
wasn't born out of a perverse determination to put an end to democracy and replace it with an oligarchy of the great and good. The mobilisation of people around a dhoti-clad icon in a Gandhi topi wasn't effected by the army of "subcontractors" who helped popularise the message of the Mahatma in the 1920s. "Team Anna" was a catchy media construction and accorded a disproportionate importance to a clutch of individuals whose motivations were not always altruistic. But people didn't flock to Ramlila Maidan, Azad Maidan and the umpteen demonstrations and vigils all over the country because they were followers of Prashant Bhushan, Santosh Hegde and Kiran Bedi. They responded to Anna out of a profound sense of exasperation with a system which, while democratic, was also venal.
The Anna movement was never a revolutionary movement; its orientation was always reformist. It was a movement that was not born out of careful pre-meditation by US-funded think tanks; it was astonishingly spontaneous and a product of the post-1991 process of liberalisation.
For many intellectuals, usually of a radical disposition, the term middle class has both pejorative and sinister connotations. It is automatically assumed that middle-class India carries a baggage of selfishness, prejudice and detachment. Just as Rudyard Kipling and Lord Curzon often contrasted the chattering babus speaking comic English to the rugged earthiness of the "real India", there is an inclination to view the tricolour-waving Indians shouting Vande Mataram as the pampered children of an India that doesn't really know the meaning of deprivation. If the 18th century London mob, immortalised in the sketches of William Hogarth, were gin-drinking ruffians, the lot that turned up on their motorbikes to cheer Anna were people with a lot to lose. They had a stake in India but very little stake in political India.
This alienation from politics is understandable. For the past seven years, a facile media has been enthusiastically tracking the emergence of the Gandhi "youth icon". But regardless of the good work Rahul Gandhi may have done in building the long-term foundations of a new Congress Party, the public manifestation of change has been remarkably feudal. The proverbial brat pack of the ruling party is made up of sons and daughters of politicians and maharajas. A big, all-India dynasty has helped to prop up a new political aristocracy in the provinces and localities. Congress politics has given the impression of being a closed shop run by people with a fierce sense of entitlement. For them, the plethora of inefficiently managed anti-poverty programmes is noblesse oblige.
Ideally, the feudal distortions of the Congress should have provided an opening to the BJP to emerge as an authentic representative of a mushrooming middle class that is hungry for opportunities. The BJP, unfortunately for it, has been unable to gauge that its vision of nationalism is regarded as being too restrictive and fuddy-duddy. Narendra Modi may be the exception but he has to overcome the demonology built around him.
The chants of "Vande Mataram" and "Bharat Mata ki jai" in Anna's rallies may provide evidence of the middle class' incipient fascist proclivities to the paranoid, liberal intellectual. But these people are as detached from the BJP as they are from the Congress. An overdose of regimented ideology
doesn't appeal to a generation that attaches priority to personal opportunities.
To this generation, intensely proud of an Indian-ness that transcends caste and religion (but not region), corruption is a drag on India and a restrictive practice that they would rather not accept as karma. The Anna movement, quite unwittingly and, perhaps, to its own consternation, has tapped a reservoir of entrepreneurial energy which is not finding a suitable political outlet.
In the eyes of the blinkered, the attack is on parliamentary democracy — a term that remains an abstraction to many of those inspired by Anna. Viewed from another angle, the Anna movement could also be an assault on the residual sludge of the licence-permit-quota raj.

Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist






It's prudent to be politically correct. No wonder Mumbai's film community tweeted, darted TV bytes and occupied reams of newspaper print, extending their support to Anna Hazare. Rajinikanth, too, currently the superstar No 1 of Indian cinema, came out of recuperation to give Mr Hazare's anti-corruption crusade the thumbs up.
Now, news reports even claim that the politically-active producer-director Prakash Jha intends to launch a film titled Satyagraha, with perhaps Amitabh Bachchan portraying the messiah of a scam-oppressed nation. A twist of irony there, since Bachchan in real life has sought to distance himself from the hurly burly ever since he found himself inadequate as an elected MP who couldn't quite swim in the cesspool of realpolitik. Also, Inquilab (1984) and Main Azaad Hoon (1989) in which his roles had overt shades of dissent against the Establishment, didn't find favour either with the mandarins or the masses.
In post-Independence India, film personalities have attained mythic followings both as stars and politicians, essentially in the southern states: N.T. Rama Rao, M.G. Ramachandran and J. Jayalalithaa, have straddled the screen as well as the highest corridors of power. In Bollywood, though, it has been an uneasy liaison.
Occasionally, Aamir Khan admirably pitches in his support for the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Even before her tenure as Rajya Sabha MP, Shabana Azmi combated the authorities for the alleviation of the lot of underprivileged. Mahesh Bhatt is vociferous in articulating his views on myriad issues. Anupam Kher has come out strong on his views about social and political inequities. Javed Akhtar represents the secular and liberal voice of the intelligentsia. And Rahul Bose, in perhaps a low-key manner, has been politically conscientious.
The recent quotes by showbiz stars on Mr Hazare's protest movement, however, appear to be kneejerk reactions. Starlets as well as stalwarts have expressed an opinion. Okay, so why not? Answer: it was perfectly okay if the quotes were substantiated with reasons, besides a mature understanding of a protest movement.
Token statements, whether they come from an A-lister heroine or from a publicity-craving wannabe, amount to little more than unquotable quotes.
In fact, those who have kept their views to themselves have done so, simply because they don't have one. Like it or not, a majority of film celebrities have little on their minds besides the peaking or dwindling graphs of their personal and professional lives. Again, why shouldn't they? After all, it's the survival of the gym-fittest.
Meanwhile, over the decades Mumbai's film celebrities,who actually plunged into politics formally, have recorded a fluctuating graph. As elected MPs, sure Shatrughan Sinha and Raj Babbar have been high-profile. Whether you agree with their ideologies and attitudes, they have made their presence felt. But that's it. Other star Lok Sabha MPs couldn't quite tackle the intricacies involved in retaining their following in their constituencies. Examples: Dharmendra (Bikaner), Govinda (North Mumbai) and Vinod Khanna (Gurdaspur).
About his tenure in the Rajya Sabha, the late artist-filmmaker M.F. Husain would admit that he just bided his time at Parliament sessions. On the upside, he sketched the proceedings and politicians, printed as a book which is a rare collector's item today. Of the other Rajya Sabha members, Lata Mangeshkar came in for an iota of criticism for her lean attendance, a controversy which quickly died a natural death, thanks to her iconic status. Jaya Bachchan, couldn't be a long-distance runner in the upper house. She was caught in the crossfire between the Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and the erstwhile Bachchan family friend Amar Singh.
Jaya Prada and Hema Malini have held lengthier tenures in the Rajya Sabha. Sporadically, they are viewed as political entities in the media, but there's no gainsaying that their lingering screen charisma remains their calling card. In the past, faux pas have been made by top filmstars — including Madhuri Dixit who seemed to be clueless about the states and territories of India. Instant clarifications and apologies were issued, peace prevailed. Moral of the story: quickie, of-the-cuff statements can be dicey business. Those celebrities who have a smidgen of political knowledge, a grasp of the pros and cons involved, should certainly tweet on. The others could perhaps realise that there are no airconditioners on Mr Hazare's bandwagon.

Khalid Mohamed is a journalist, film critic and film director






In a week of high drama, from the theatre of the Anna Hazare movement to the temporary demise of Indian cricket in England, littler dramas got sidelined. One such now-forgotten episode centred around Prakash Jha's Aarakshan, a much-touted film about reservation.
Today's film has trailers of two types. There is first the trailer which provides an over-dramatised fragment of the film as an introduction; the second comprises the debates, the anticipated controversy around the film. This battle often creates an intellectual or operatic prelude to the film. Aarakshan expectedly created more than a storm in civil society's tea cup.
Dalits objected to it saying they were misrepresented. Filmmakers struck back by talking about the freedom of expression. Dalits argued that freedom of expression did not include the freedom to misrepresent a social group. Critics hit back by emphasising the integrity of cinema and the creativity of the artist. As stereotype battled stereotype, artistic licence on both sides was heightened by the fact that few had seen the film.
Key actors of the film were present in most of the TV debates. Jha said that he would not waste `70 crore merely to misrepresent a group. Meanwhile, bureaucracies entered the fray. What the Censor Board passed, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes had to question, summoning the Censor Board chairperson to appear before it as if it were a vassal. The soap opera quality was exaggerated further by protests in a few cities and the banning of the film in three states. People in other states felt privileged that they were going to see another Jha classic. What they witnessed was an insult to good cinema, the debate on reservation and the quality of democratic discussion.
The publicity of the film was misleading. Reservation is only one of the issues discussed; Jha's film is more a battle of tutorial colleagues. The plot thickens in an interesting but a predictable way.
The story centres around the relationship between an idealistic old teacher and his student. The old man, or should one say the angry old man, is played by Amitabh Bachchan. If Bachchan's films in the Seventies epitomising the angry young man created cinematic history, Bachchan as the angry old man here in Aarakshan is boring and utterly predictable. It is almost as if he's lost his cinematic touch. Aarakshan, in fact, looks like a continuation of Mohabbatein with Bachchan as headmaster. Only, instead of Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan plays both the idealist dalit and angry teacher. Deepika Padukone as Bachchan's daughter and Khan's friend waters down the plot even more successfully. Bachchan, caught in the reservation battle, is dismissed and his old school becomes part of a tutorial college chain. Bachchan, never one to give up, sets up a tabela school opposite the tutorial college and a battle of tutorial colleges ensues. The tutorial college, which is the real villain of the show, charges exorbitant fees for those who do not get admission in regular colleges because of reservation.
Bachchan, seeing the hypocrisy of reservation and its unintended consequences, single-handedly teaches a school for poor students. The battle warms up as the original tutorial college, jealous of his success, tries to evict him. The conspiratorial link between politicians who see in school an ideal business and educational entrepreneurs is played up. Their collaboration represents investment without responsibility. Khan, who had left for Cornell University, returns to help Bachchan. The battle between good and evil develops Bollywood-style. By that time, even if you do not have reservations about reservation, you develop some about Jha and Bollywood. Aarakshan is atrocious cinema where the whole issue of good and bad education, reservation versus merit is trivialised. Bad cinema is no answer to social injustice and devious publicity is no answer to the question of freedom. Jha trivialises the movie twice, first by directing it, and then by discussing it in public space. When bad acting combines with bad sociology, even Bollywood should look embarrassed.
I remember somewhere during one TV discussion, a commentator added that "sunlight is the answer to censorship". One can go a step further. I think exposure is the answer to a bad film. The audience realises that they have been conned. I am surprised there were no protests after the film. It was terrible.
The film's ending is the last straw. The chairperson of the old college, who had taken sanyas, returns to remedy the situation. She requests Bachchan to return to his old college and head the centre for remedial education. The choice before the Indian student is stark. It is the tutorial college versus remedial education. The battle is between a pedagogy that sees shortcuts to education as the solution and a project that sees the poor and the backward as needing remedial treatment rather than justice, empathy and fairness. Two pathologies confront each other in the name of pedagogy, while the issue of justice is quietly ignored. When Bollywood creates these forgettable reconciliations, the audience feels cheated. A movie which was to prove an act of courage turns out to be a con game. The social debate becomes a cover to encourage fan attention.
There is another critical issue. It is the question of stereotypes. If one looks at the TV debates one has to ask why are dalits always presented in a restricted manner. They are always seen as being obsessed with their social status. Why cannot one expect a dalit to make an aesthetic point or raise an issue about the politics of the imagination? I think liberal stereotypes combined with electoral politics do greater injustice to the creativity of the dalit mind. Dalit intellectuals are cosmopolitan creatures who can survive the provincialism of caste elites.
The question is what makes the debate on justice so wretched in this movie. I think it is the notion of sentimentality. To assume that goodness is attuned to the demands of social justice is false. Philanthropy and fairness live in different worlds. Goodness can be socially blind and politically witless. Jha's movie does not allow for real struggle or genuine ambiguity. It creates surrogate villains in the tutorial college, it disempowers history and creates an impotent politics. There is a dishonesty here, which he must account for.

Shiv Visvanathan is a social science nomad








For five long years, the proposal of instituting State Accountability Commission remained in limbo allowing public functionaries in lucrative posts to perpetrate general loot and raise properties disproportionate to their normal income. It was only when a slew of unearthed scams in the country hit the headlines and forced the Union Government to take some action, albeit half heartedly, that the State Government began to feel the heat. It scrambled for vitalizing State Accountability Commission, an institution that had been authorized by a decision of law making body. After sleeping over the matter for five long years, there was some stir and the government took another one year to decide who would head this Commission. A panel was drawn and obviously the Government would have wanted that top slot be managed by its confidante. The Governor of the State, sensing the public mood in the country, and in the State, made a very right and judicious decision of nominating two distinguished and widely trusted retired judges, namely Justice Y P Nargotra as Chairman and Justice Hakeem Imtiaz Hussain as member of the SAC. The selection was widely appreciated in both Kashmir and Jammu region and it raised the hope of ordinary citizen that an impartial body manned by the distinguished law-knowing persons would deliver the good in letter and spirit.
But as reports trickle down, it is found that for obvious reasons Commission's proper functioning remains paralyzed. According to a press release of the Secretary to the Commission, the pre-requisite of adequate infrastructure of the Commission remains unfulfilled so far. Even the budgetary provision remains undecided. Secondly, as stated by the Secretary, some junior appointments made by the government contravene the criterion and qualifications set forth in the rules, and as such cannot be allowed to continue. The press release says, "Most of the staff available in the Commission lacked eligibility prescribed under the SAC rules. Secretary, Deputy Registrar and Assistant Registrar don't possess requisite qualifications as provided by the regulations. It asked the Government to provide budget for the salary of the employees and other necessary expenditure to the Commission. The Commission met for the first time on August 23 and 24, 2011 but had to defer the hearing of cases indefinitely for want of adequate infrastructure. The rules and regulations contain provision for a full-fledged investigating agency with an Additional Director General/Inspector General as its head. At present there is no officer available in the Commission for investigation of the cases. Therefore investigation into cases without the proper investigating mechanism cannot be carried on. Government's non-serious attitude towards making the accountability institution really functional and effective will be understood by the almost dilapidating accommodation provided to the Commission office in Sonwar Bagh in Srinagar. The owner of the unsafe building has already served a legal notice to the Commission to vacate the premises. The rules stipulate that request for deputation of Judicial Officers and Deputy Registrars wherever required be made in this behalf to the High Court in consultation with the Commission. The Government has to consult the Commission in recommending the deputations. Keeping the entire gamut of the situation in mind, the Commission summoned Commissioner/Secretary Law and apprised him of the facts.
The entire episode of instituting the SAC is a story of doing something half-heartedly. The action on the g round belies the fanfare with which the Chief Minister of the State announced the appointment of the head of the Commission and hoped that it would deal with the urgent matter of investigating into the cases of corruption in various departments. It seems that the state bureaucracy has an axe to grind and would not let the Commission run the errand. Day in and day out, print media in the State is unraveling cases of alleged corruption, bribery and scams that are eating into the vitals of the polity. Rampant bribery has affected social structure badly and it needs to be arrested without loss of time. The Commission has publicly spoken of how it wants to function with transparency after opening the section branches in Srinagar and Jammu with headquarters moving with the Durbar. It envisages dealing with all the three regions with equality and on even keel. But there seems little hope that vested interests would allow the Commission to function with full force. The onus of making the Commission toothless or a paper tiger will come to the doorsteps of the Chief Minister because he has been vociferously advocating for clean administration. Government should not take people's silence over the shabby treatment of the Commission for granted.







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.









How can I begin to tell you how depressing it has been to be a political columnist in Delhi in recent days? The cause of my depression is that it has sometimes felt as if there was no Government of India and that the country was instead being ruled by a bunch of shadowy officials who were presiding over the last days of some evil empire. After his timid and very dull Independence Day address the Prime Minister vanished again into some backroom and left it to a team of his glib ministers to handle the Anna revolution. They have been assisted by the Congress Party's arrogant spokesmen who having failed in their smear campaign against Anna have continued to pop up on our television screens to spout words like 'constitution' and 'democracy' as if they were buzzwords picked up in a junior level political science class.

By the time Anna's supporters were making their way towards Ramlila Maidan in their thousands after he released himself from Tihar Jail the consensus in political circles in Delhi was that this government was the most inept that India has ever seen. Inevitably, it was the Prime Minister who was blamed. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I have now heard people say, 'Why doesn't he resign? It would be much better than leaving in disgrace later on.' Wherever I have gone I have met people who recount stories of his timidity. Here is one I heard from a high official in one of our biggest corporations. 'I went to him some time ago to complain about a policy that was going badly wrong but had the backing of one of his senior ministers. And, he agreed with what I was saying but then said 'how can I go against a senior colleague' and I, exasperated by then, said because you are the Prime Minister sir.'

This story set me off on a train of mental political analysis at the end of which I concluded, as other commentators have, that in the diminishment of the Prime Minister's office lies the crux of the political problems we have faced in recent months. Anna's mass movement could have been prevented by not arresting him. Had he fasted quietly in some Delhi park he would have attracted some television attention and some followers but there would probably not have been the upsurge of urban rage his arrest provoked. So why did the Prime Minister make the stupid mistake of ordering his arrest only to be forced to release him after protesters took to the streets shouting Vande Matram in cities across India?

My own view is that it was because the Prime Minister has not been allowed to make any political decisions in the past two years. They have all been made by the lady who rules from 10 Janpath since the general election of 2009 gave the Congress Party the biggest mandate they have won since 1991. As someone who covered that election I can report that one of the reasons why the Congress Party and its allies won a second term was because compared to L.K. Advani, as the prime ministerial choice of the opposing alliance, Dr. Manmohan Singh looked so good. The Congress Party missed this just as they missed the fact that it was urban Indians who gave them the majority of the seats they won last time. So they made two crucial mistakes when the second United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government took office.

They began the open promotion of Rahul Gandhi as India's future prime minister at the cost of denigrating the man who was in fact prime minister. He was encouraged to take charge of political matters, give interviews and wander about rural India wooing villagers. There was even a rumour in Delhi's political circles that in 2012 Rahul would become prime minister and Dr. Manmohan Singh would be put out to grass in Rashtrapati Bhawan.

This diminished the office of the prime minister further after it had already been dangerously diminished when Sonia Gandhi decided in 2004 to give India its first prime minister by appointment. Parliamentary democracy has as one of its fundamental rules that the prime minister be elected by Parliament and this rule was recklessly broken. Dr. Manmohan Singh did as well as possible in the circumstances and came to be regarded internationally as one of the world's elder statesmen. This image has been so badly crushed during the past two years that ordinary Indians are asking for his resignation often without realizing that he has not been allowed to lead. After the humiliating defeat in the Bihar elections last November Rahul Gandhi's plans to take over in 2012 were put on hold but nothing was done to rectify the diminished image of the Prime Minister.
So when the scandals began to tumble out of government closets towards the end of last year Dr. Manmohan Singh was unable to handle the public rage they provoked. It refused to subside even after senior ministers and officials were locked up in Tihar Jail. It is this widespread rage that has brought middle class Indians into the streets in support of Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement and last week this rage reached a crescendo as he continued his fast in Ramlila Maidan.

Meanwhile, the Government continued to bumble its way from mistake to mistake. If they were going to allow Anna's jan lokpal bill to be discussed in Parliament why did they not do it on day one? Why did they wait until Anna was able through his fast to become India's most important national hero? His movement has now so captured the imagination of urban Indians that the Government of India will be forced to concede all his demands no matter how unreasonable they may be.

It is not good for a country the size of a sub-continent to be as rudderless as we clearly are and so I find it hard not to add my voice to those that currently ask the Prime Minister to resign and let someone younger and more dynamic take charge. If Rahul Gandhi wants the job this is his moment. If not let the Congress Party find someone else for the job. It is no longer possible or wise to force India to wait for a real leader till 2014.








The situation- US debt crisis- is grave but there is no need to press the panic button, says Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

It is assuring to read. But the last budget projections have relied heavily on the US situation with a hope in recovery in its economy. India's growth projection assumes that the US will stay strong pulling the world economy along with it.

Though somehow US President Barack Obama managed to clobber up a deal to enhance the debt limit from # 14.2 trillion, he could not manage maintaining the confidence of the rating agencies.

The Standard and Poor (S&P) downgraded it. The US Government questioned the credibility of the rating agency. The S&P decision has shaken global confidence. The rating has been lowered from the highest- AAA, meaning extremely strong capacity to meet financial commitments- to the next-AA, very strong capacity.
The move would increase the borrowing costs of the US Government. The worse is that S&P has indicated a further downgrading in a year's time.

Does it affect India ? Indirectly it does, though much less than countries/blocs with big trade and debt dealings with US, like EU and China. Still, a worldwide downturn could hit Indian exports and FDI flows, which already is plummeting.

Globally, it might create a panic as governments, investors and businesses across the world will stop investing in US bonds. There will be panic in financial markets globally, with investors exiting equities for safe havens like liquid cash and gold. It has also started happening and that is why gold and silver prices are creating records.

Critics have argued that the debt ceiling crisis is ''self-inflicted'' as treasury bond interest rates were at historical lows and the US had no market restrictions on its ability to obtain additional credit.

Many want us to believe that it is the creation of wrangling between Republicans and Democrats. Had that been so, US ratings would have been lowered long back. The debt ceiling has been raised 68 times since 1960, and its increase was considered routine until this debate. Now no American considers it to be a routine affair and wants the Government to tighten its belt.

On all earlier occasions, the US economy was on growth path. But since 2008, hit by corrupt banking and financial practises, high individual debt, stunted growth, rising unemployment and increasing expenditure on US military operations in Europe-Chechnya, Georgia, Herzegovina; Asia Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Kuwait, Arab countries and now Africa- Libya, Tunisia, Somalia have drained its coffers.
The US Government is sustaining itself on borrowings raised through treasury bonds from foreign countries- floating new bonds to repay its debts. It owes foreign governments # 4 trillion and to China alone $ 1.2 trillion. It has raised # 3.6 trillion from US public and companies and $ 6.2 trillion from the US federal system- different state governments and public institutions.

The Afghan and Iraq war has cost the Obama administration $ 2.4 trillion while the George Bush administration had spent $ 6.1trillion.

It is also an irony that as government finances shrunk profits of many US Corporates touched new highs and they have reserves higher than the US Government.
This is a phenomenon that started afflicting it in the 1960s, when corporate influences on the government increased. The US GDP growth was considered synonymous with corporate growth.
The US was driven to many wars, now it is almost confirmed, by various corporate- petroleum, arms, services and even food grain and processed food suppliers. The wars have been virtually subsidising their operations. Higher the US government debt, higher has been the growth of US and some European multinational corporations.
In short, the US debt was not for its common taxpayers, who are the worst sufferers today. Now over 20 per cent of its population, as per United Nations human development parameters, has slid into poverty from the earlier 10 per cent.

India needs to learn and reduce dependence on corporate and their lobbies like Ficci, Assocham and CII. Higher corporate growth only has resulted in higher miseries for the people of the country. The US crisis should act as the warning bell.

The expenditure cut imposed on the US Government, as per agreement with the Republicans, would have wider ramifications. It has also greater message. The US would find it difficult to maintain global policing role-particularly in the Indian Ocean and South Asian region.

This is a concern for India, it may be a growing economy. India, however, depends on many crutches, including heavy dependence on the US, Europe and NATO operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle Eastern oil-rich region. The US also puts a check on China as well.

The foreign direct investment (FDI) is also linked to US Government expenditre. As it comes down, it is bound to happen; western companies would invest less in India.

These all would impact the Indian growth story. India would have to increase its defence- national and international- expenditure to fill up the vacuum created by withdrawal of the US. Its security scenario would cost far more than it is doing now.

Indian economy has already started slowing down. It faces stagnation and severe inflation-stagflation. Its credit rating is many notches below that of the US-AA+ and China AA minus. India is rated at BBB minus by most rating agencies- lowest investment grade.

Pranab Mukherjee may say that it is not the panic button that needs to be pressed. It is true today we can manage. But as the scenario develops, it would not be easy for India to maintain its financial strength. The worse politically it might be driven into a difficult regional situation. Even its energy security might get threatened.

The US is to shrink, if not sink, but India needs strong independent strategies to keep it afloat and maintain its regional supremacy. (PTI)







India became independent from British and now we want freedom from Indians. The freedom was got with peaceful bandhs, hunger strikes and yatras against the foreign rulers. It is very clear from the wave - political, social and religious; our- people -ruled India is polluted with corruption. The highly placed officers such as Chief Vigilance Commissioner ousted by the President and Prime Minister had to apologize for his appointment; a close aide of the former telecom minister being a partner of scam had to suicide and accepted self punishment, and so on, are eye opening. 2-G Scam, A Raja ex- union minister, Kalmadi and Ms Kanimozy daughter of Ex chief minister of Tamil had to beg for pillow and mattress to rest after relishing luxurious and lavish life under influence of power, corruption and illegal means. Mr. Yedurappa another CM and an MP Amar Singh are also under questions of Police in corruption cases. A Raja has confessed that the all decisions were taken as per the advice and suggestions of prime minister and the then finance minister. The Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dixit is also under vigilance of CAG. The corruption in our country has become a huge tree of destruction. I recall that in the last quarter of fifties decade, some one brought to the notice of high authorities that the working officials and the agencies are making extra money for the construction of Bhakhra Dam in Punjab. If I am right, our worthy Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru took it lightly by saying "It makes no loss as the money is not going out of the nation. That seedling has brought that greed into a big tree producing sweet and lavish fruit at the top for those who cultivated, watered and protected the plant. This BIG tree has taken the shape of Borh (BANAYAN) tree that rises from a seed, converts into a very large shape covering large ground and then pierce its aerial roots into the ground. This is a tree that gives shade to rest the workers and exhausts carbon dioxide which is harmful for human beings in place of oxygen contrary to the other plants. Similarly the tree of corruption has taken a shape of Maha Vikral tree that has covered and rotten whole of India.

The report rating J&K state 2nd most corrupt among 28 states is a cause of corruption. It indicates that the elected government, its departments, their officers and employees are also supporting and a part of the game to its core. Hardly a single participant in administration, execution and at control panels is free from favoring their relations, familiars.

On 12th July, 2008, Governor (J&K) N.N. Vohra advised that Honesty and hard work shall be rewarded and no laxity would be tolerated. He stressed to avoid delays and be transparent, accountable and clean administration. What is the return? Visible nowhere. Our Chief Minister has rightly admitted that he has no reason to question the legitimacy of Baba Ramdev's assets whereas he has authority to check, evaluate and question the assets of his employees, Govt. servants, minister's, legislators, in service or retired along with their families and familiars, and ask wings for verification of their declared assets and is suggested to check the Investigating and controlling agencies also. The properties, movable immovable and style of their living in posh luminous and palacious mahals should also be analyzed along with their family grounds, evaluation of their blood relations assets with source of income and a lot of difference in levels of their status. Each & every wing of our state government: - Agriculture, CAPD, Engineers, Mechanical, Electricity, R&B, hydraulics, Judiciary, Medical, Police, PHE, Vigilance a few of the endless list are dipped in corruption up to their noses. No work that is, getting any mandatory right, annual increment, Promotion, transfer, posting and public dealing in the offices is done without transaction of money or material. The Government should very sternly evaluate and compare the declared assets and on ground. If some cases are registered and after a few years the accused are set free for destruction or loss of evidences..
Words alone can't solve the problem. When requests fall on deaf ears. It is felt that arm twisting can do nothing as we have become weather, atmosphere torn and hard matter, that only intensive over hauling can improve the functioning of the departments. One proverb is charity begins at home. Let us pledge to; - If we can not do well, at least we should desist from doing evil.



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





Farmers in Andhra Pradesh's rice belt have declared a "crop holiday" this season after they suffered losses despite a bumper crop last year. The growers' loss varied from Rs Rs 2,200 to Rs 3,600 per acre. They have been forced to take the extreme step as paddy cultivation is no longer financially viable. The cost of farm inputs, including seeds and chemicals, has soared by up to 300 per cent in the last two years in the state. Secondly, migration to cities has led to a shortage of labour, which, in turn, has pushed up farm wages. The minimum support price at Rs 1,030 a quintal has proved inadequate to cover the rising costs and even this price is not available to a large number.


In Andhra Pradesh there is no assured procurement of paddy as in Punjab and Haryana. Private mills buy paddy in a big way. Since private rice millers could not offload their existing stocks to generate money for fresh paddy buying and the government added to their woes by delaying a decision on exports, rice growers did not get the MSP and had to resort to distress sale. Many dumped paddy for just Rs 700 a quintal. There were not even enough bags for self-help groups, which procure rice under a poverty reduction programme to help the rural poor.


While the poor lack access to affordable food, vast quantities of food rot due to poor storage. The government does not seem to know how to handle a glut. A large majority of people dependent on agriculture face a threat to their livelihood as returns from farming decline and costs escalate. Farm labourers move to cities in search of better work. Daily wages back home rise, eating up a larger slice of farmers' revenue. A team of experts led by M.S. Swaminathan has studied various aspects of the deepening agricultural crisis, but their reports gather dust as the governments in states and at the Centre have other priorities.









THE explosion in a firecracker factory near Karnal, that claimed at least five lives, besides causing injuries to 15, was a tragedy that was waiting to happen. The factory, running without a "no-objection certificate", made firecrackers, a hazardous substance, in temporary sheds which did not have the prescribed height. Fire-fighting arrangements were inadequate and equipment non-functional. Not only that, it also employed children in violation of laws. Still, it was allowed to run for full eight years. Ironically, it was inspected in August last year but the inspectors did not find anything amiss. How the inadequate height of the shed and other details escaped their attention defies comprehension. It was challaned several times earlier, but never sealed. Those who allowed it to run without valid documents and safety arrangements are as guilty as those who operated it.


Nor is this a rare case. There are several such factories functioning in or close to densely populated areas. There was a similar blast in a firecracker manufacturing unit in Fajjupur near Gurdaspur in January which had claimed six lives. As is usual in such cases, an investigation was immediately ordered but after that nothing much was heard about it.


There are inspectors galore to curb illegal activities. But they add to illegalities by looking the other way after being sufficiently "compensated". Not only does such corruption cause horrendous accidents, but it also shakes the faith of the public in the administration. The anger that the ministers and others show after a tragedy should be on display when violations are taking place. Locking the stables after the horses have bolted has never worked. Then there is also the issue of compensation to innocent victims. The administration generally tends to be miserly. The amount that it pays to the poor people for their monetary loss is not enough to cover even a fraction of the damage suffered.
















Karachi, Pakistan's commercial capital, remains in the news mostly for the wrong reasons as it is today. Over 600 lives have been lost in July and August in political-ethnic violence in the metropolis with the people having little faith in the government's ability to maintain law and order. Paramilitary forces have launched a major operation to restore order, but it is doubtful if they can succeed in a politically charged atmosphere. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has demanded the deployment of the regular army to prevent more killings. The PPP, which leads the ruling coalition in Islamabad, and the PML(N) of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are opposed to the idea of seeking the army's assistance for political reasons. Interestingly, however, what the MQM wants has been backed by the Pakistan Army Chief, Gen Ashfaque Parvez Kayani.


Under similar circumstances in the late eighties the army had to be called in to restore order in Karachi. How far the government is able to resist the demand for deploying the army now remains to be seen. But ethnic polarisation in this biggest city of Pakistan is getting sharper with each day passing. The tribal Pathans, whose roots lie in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, are at daggers drawn with the Urdu-speaking migrants from India, the Mohajirs. Their enmity is not new, but it has again come into the open today with the MQM leading one camp and the Awami National Party (ANP) of the Pathans backing the other camp.


Though the trouble began with the kidnapping and murder of five Baloch residents of Karachi a few weeks ago, tension had started building up after the revival of the Musharraf-era local government system in Karachi and Hyderabad, dominated by Mohajirs, understandably under pressure from the MQM. It is believed the PPP-led government in Islamabad brought about this change recently to mend fences with the MQM, which had withdrawn from the ruling coalition some time ago. The prevailing commissioner system had the support of the tribal population and the ethnic Sindhis. Thus, the violence in Karachi may influence the course of politics in Pakistan.









Immediately after Independence, Lord Ismay, Chief of Staff to Governor-General Mountbatten, was approached by the Government of India to draw up a system for defence management in the country. Ismay, while recommending integrated functioning among the three Services for smooth coordination, also cautioned Pt Nehru not to go in for the position of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to have strong, stable and federal civilian control in the country. It was, however, taken by the successive governments as a quote from the Bible.


Ironically, after over five decades the Kargil Review Committee and later a Group of Ministers suggested that the capability of the armed forces could be enhanced significantly if they operated with a high degree of jointness. Modern warfare demands a much higher degree of coordination in operations by the various Services. The creation of the CDS may promote greater jointness in the armed forces.


The key recommendation of the GoM on jointness included the restructuring of the Services headquarters with the Ministry of Defence promoting a single point military advice, management and control of nuclear weapons and strategic forces, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of the planning process, technical and commercial evaluation of capital schemes and optimising the use of training and other resources in the Services to ensure economy in expenditure. While the GoM asked for the enhancement of jointness in the armed forces, it also suggested even the cross-posting of officers in operations, intelligence and planning directorates.


At the same time, the GoM recommended the creation of an Andaman & Nicobar Command, a strategic forces command, a defence intelligence agency and a defence procurement Board. Later, however, all recommendations except those pertaining to the CDS were approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security on May 11, 2001. In the case of the CDS, the Cabinet Committee on Security opted for wider discussions with various political parties before taking the final view. Instead, the HQ Integrated Defence Staff was raised on October 1, 2001, providing staff support to the Chief of Staff Committee.


Military jointness is not a new concept. It has only come under focus again. The reasons for this include shrinking wars, an extended period of mobilisation, rising defence budgets and the lack of interoperability and the dominating Service ethos. As regards promoting military jointness, the most significant thing is training and preparing the mindset to overcome some of the inherent fears like the Services redundancy, presumably linked to the appointment of the CDS.


It may be pointed out that nearly 66 countries are having joint command structures. In most of the western democracies like the US, the UK, France, Germany and Italy as well other nations of consequence in the Asia-Pacific region like China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Sri Lanka, there is a duly appointed Chief of Defence/General Staff enjoying full confidence of their respective Head of State or Goernment to whom they directly report. There can be no better way of ensuring supremacy and control or the civilian authority over the military.


On the other hand, countries not having opted for the CDS system are of little consequence. Some of them do not ever possess the armed forces sufficient to undertake the regular defence requirements. At the same time, countries like Saudi Arabia are considering military jointness as a necessity. India, on the contrary — possessing the third largest army, the fourth largest Air Force and the sixth largest Navy — has remained averse to military jointness and to the institution of the CDS.


It may be interesting to know that after 1971 war, Indira Gandhi offered the then Army Chief, the late General Manekshaw, the position of Chief of Defence Staff. Later, when consensus was sought by the then Defence Minister from the other two Chiefs the matter got aborted. During NDA rule the long-awaited integration of the three Services got shelved due to the indifference shown by the Services. This attitude, however, goes contrary to the belief otherwise expressed by the defence services for the Chief of Defence Staff.


All nations practising jointness of the armed forces provide single window advice or, more correctly, a synergised institutional opinion.


The CDS system is considered essential for the armed forces the world over and India is no exception. The future operating environment will need the application of military power in a small incremental manner which, in turn, will require the achievement of joint synergy at all levels. There is, therefore, much scope in having a joint service, said the US Defence Attache in India. The joint command is multi-service in nature, much better and cost-effective. For instance, a joint assignment is mandatory for getting a one-star appointment in the US defence forces.


The creation of a joint defence structure does not mean abolition of the authority of the Service Chiefs. Their significance lies in maintaining the Service character, ethos and training, and being force providers for facilitating joint operational engagement, which itself is a full-time job. However, keeping in view the inter-Services conflict in India that may arise from the appointment of the CDS, the most desirable course would be to adopt a power-sharing mechanism.


The writer is Professor and Chairman, Department of Defence and National Security Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh. He was also a member of the National Security Advisory Board.








I have met Punjabis all over the world. Their upward mobility, ability to make friends and influence people, and practical approach to life are amazing.


I was in Peshawar. The man talking to me appeared to be a Pathan. Suddenly, he switched from Pashto to Punjabi and told me that his maternal grandmother was a Kapoor.


He narrated his visit to Bombay and meeting Raj Kapoor, who belonged to Peshawar. He recounted how Raj Kapoor met him warmly and introduced him to all the leading heroines. He excitedly told me that all the women appeared to be in "Ishq" with Raj Kapoor. When I told him that I had only one 'Aurat' (wife), there was a perceptible dip in respect for me in his eyes.


Punjabis are fond of good things of life. I had once asked famous music director O.P. Nayyar as to what he loved the most, after music. Pat came the reply: "Sharab, Shabab aur Kabab" (liquor, women and non-veg food).


I met a leading Punjabi film star in London. In spite of his years, he looked charming. I asked him the reason of his 'Husno-Shabab'. Three things, he said: "I eat very little. I do not drink. I do not take things to heart, both literally and figuratively. Some films did well, the other did not. Several affairs and heartbreaks" (kai var dil lagaya, kai var dil tutya).


He said Punjabis had three traits. "They are very good looking as you can see in the film industry. They can adjust anywhere; that is why you find them in all parts of the world. Punjabis are neither moral nor immoral, but 'amoral'. They believe in 'jugad'. A Punjabi can do well anywhere from the underworld to the art world".


Punjabi music has taken over Bollywood. Punjabis have made a name even in Hollywood with people like Mira Nair and Shekhar Kapoor registering their presence.


Punjabis all over the world have done very well. America has two Punjabi Governors. The UK has two Punjabis in the House of Lords. Southall is an extension of Punjab. Canada has a number of Punjabi MPs.


Punjabis have a strong sentimental side. Whether in London, Switzerland, Kenya or Las Vegas the longing for their 'pind' (village) always surfaces. Some of us were sitting in 'Moulin Rouge,' the most expensive joint in Paris. The best food, glamorous dancers, and suddenly the conversation turned to 'makki di roti and saag' and 'bebe de hath di tandoori roti'. I attended a concert in Toronto, where a singer from Punjab sang 'Tusi Vasde Raho Pardesio, Tuhade Naal Vase Punjab'. I could see a large number of moist eyes.









A few weeks ago I visited one of Mother Teresa's Sisters who was admitted for surgery in the PGI hospital in Chandigarh. The Chief Secretary of Haryana Smt. Urvashi Gulati and the Secretary to the Governor Mohinder Kumar accompanied me that morning to Sister Ann Vinita's bedside. Attending to her in the hospital were two companion Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity. In the course of conversation, one of them said that she was really happy to meet me. She went on to explain that as a young woman in Kerala, she had admired Mother Teresa's work , but it was when she chanced to read my biography of Mother Teresa that she decided to join the Order. That a young Catholic woman should have read a book written by one, who while he was unmistakably close to Mother Teresa, yet did not share her faith stunned me into silence. It made me reflect on a number of issues related and unrelated: of the strength of secular values; and of true compassion knowing no religious, ethnic, caste or geographical boundaries, and indeed being able to transcend altogether the formal contours of religious practice.




Mother Teresa was a tiny figure who strode her century like a colossus, and in the process made her name a synonym for goodness and compassion the world over. She was invariably received in the halls of power, but her mission lay in the meanest streets and slums over all the continents. She built brick by brick, a global infrastructure with the help of five thousand Sisters and Brothers of her Order, and also had the capacity to enjoin millions of ordinary people, who came forward to help her in her mission to alleviate loneliness, hunger and suffering. By the time she passed away in 1997, she had established a multinational organisation that operated in over 123 countries and served her special constituency of the destitute, the abandoned, homeless, hungry and dying. In the process she became one of the principal conscience-keepers of her time.


Although she herself remained true to her religion, her brand of faith was not exclusive. Convinced that each person she ministered to was Christ in suffering, she reached out to people of all religions. The very faith that sustained her infuriated her detractors, who saw her as a symbol of a right-wing conspiracy and, worse, the principal mouthpiece of the Vatican's well-known views against abortion. Interestingly, such criticism went largely unnoticed in India, where she was widely revered. I once called her the most powerful woman in the world. Mother Teresa replied: "Where? If I was, I would bring peace to the world." I asked her why she did not use her undeniable influence to lessen war. She replied: "War is the fruit of politics. If I get stuck in politics, I will stop loving because I will have to stand by one, not by all."


Loving & sharing


I first met Mother Teresa, 36 years ago in 1975. That meeting remains indelibly printed on my mind. That morning I had accompanied Delhi's Lieutenant Governor, with whom I was then attached, to her home for the destitute. I was taken aback when I came face to face with her. She was smaller than I had imagined, dressed in her trademark, hand-woven sari with three blue stripes that was neatly darned in several places. I noticed her back was bent even then. Her feet were twisted and her hands were gnarled, testimony to her arduous life in the slums.


That morning, as on many other occasions where I heard her, she spoke of simple things: of loving, caring and sharing. She seemed at many levels a very ordinary woman. Yet she was a powerful communicator who reached the hearts of those who listened to her. My overwhelming thought that morning was that there was very little difference between the poor whom she and her Sisters served, and their own vow of poverty.


As I reflect on her life, I find there were several mysteries that lend themselves to no easy answers. Mother Teresa was hardly qualified in academic terms. She never went to a university and her studies were largely confined to the scriptures. And yet she set up hundreds of schools that lifted poor children from a desolate life on the streets. She provided a safety net for the homeless by opening centres and soup kitchens. She started Shishu Bhavans for abandoned infants. There were homes for the terminally ill, so that they were not alone when they died. Not all these centres were in the poorer parts of the world; many were in the affluent west where loneliness and despair were a sickness she likened to leprosy.


Serving London's poor


The early faltering steps, too, were a mystery. What a strange sight she would have presented on the streets of Kolkata in 1948. A European nun not clad in a familiar religious habit, but in a cheap sari similar to those worn by the municipal sweepresses, her feet encased in a pair of rough leather sandals: a nun in her belief and vows, but not in appearance. She was alone. She had no helper, no companion and carried no money to speak of. She stepped into a city in which she had taught long years but of which she knew nothing. She taught herself to beg, the ultimate humiliation for one whose life had been secure, though not even remotely luxurious. In her only diary, which I was privy to, she wrote of her struggle between her faith and the temptation to return to the security within the convent walls.


She proved to be an excellent administrator and soon discovered she could multi-task. She had the unerring instinct of realising who could help her in her task, in the shortest possible time. She started her first little school in a Kolkata slum in 1948, determined to teach the little children who ran out to greet this stranger in their midst. With no blackboard, nor table and chairs, she simply picked up a stick and inscribed the Bengali alphabet on the mud. Gradually more children gathered around her. People recognised her goodness; someone contributed a chair, another a desk. Teachers volunteered to teach; soon the little school became a reality. But this little school was good only for one slum. Soon she started another in a different locality. This was followed by a dispensary, another school in another slum of the city. She had discovered that she could multi-task.


She encouraged lay persons and community workers to join hands with her. Teachers volunteered, doctors came forward offering free service, chemists donated medicines. In this way, she formed a human chain of millions the world over.


Many years later, but in much the same spirit, I was to see the start of a soup kitchen in North London. The bishop had offered her a derelict church. Her Sisters went from shop to shop in the neighbourhood to beg for vegetables and food. Within a week shopkeepers themselves came forward to deliver their surplus. Cooks and helpers volunteered their services. Soon, on an average day, the Sisters fed 500 of London's poor their only hot meal of the day.



the Congregation


She founded her religious order with a special vow—to serve only the poorest of the poor. Having witnessed the growth of her congregation, I was anxious how the Missionaries of Charity, which had created a presence in 123 countries by the time she died, would survive after Mother Teresa passed on. She was charismatic and the funds flowed in plentifully, helping her to expand her work to over 600 branches for the destitute, orphans and children, old age homes, crèches, leprosy stations, AIDS hospices, feeding centres and schools all over the world. She once told me that as long as her Mission served only the poorest forms of destitution, the work would continue. Today, I notice no signs of its abating. In fact the Missionaries of Charity today have a presence in 135 countries, where poverty, destitution and loneliness are constant companions in rich and poor societies alike.


As a Hindu, armed only with a certain eclecticism, I found it took me longer than most to understand that Mother Teresa was with Christ in each conscious hour, whether at Mass or with each of those whom she tended. The Christ on his crucifix was no different from the one who lay dying at her hospice in Kalighat. There could be no contradiction in her oft-repeated words that one must reach out to one's neighbour. For Mother Teresa, to love one's neighbour was to love God. This was what was essential to her, not the size of her mission or the power others perceived in her. "We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful," she explained. Mother Teresa exemplified that faith—in prayer, in love, in service and in peace.


The last time I met Mother Teresa was in July 1997, two months before she died. She was briefly in Delhi on her way back from overseas to her beloved Kolkata. We spoke then of simple things, of loving, caring and sharing. She held my hand in hers and said, "You must always work for the poor and the good of all people. You must continue to touch the poor."


(Navin B Chawla is a former Chief Election Commissioner of India and is Mother Teresa's biographer.)


a life extraordinary


Born in Macedonia ( in former Yogoslavia) on August 26, 1910


Of Albania descent, she was christened Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu


At the age of 17-18, she joined Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns.


She was sent to India, where she took the initial vows as a nun in 1931


She taught Geography at St Mary's High School, Calcutta till 1948.



She was allowed to leave the Convent to work in slums.


An open-air school for slum children was the first project she took up


The Vatican allowed her to start her own order, The Missionaries of Charity, in 1950


The order was set up to love and care for those people whom nobody was prepared to look after


The first 'Home' for the dying was set up in 1952


The order today is to be found across the world


She set up the first hospice for AIDS patients in New York in 1985


When she was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she insisted that the formal banquet be dispensed with and the cost handed over to her so that she could feed the poor.


The order today takes care, among others, of drug addicts, prostitutes, battered women and orphans besides the beggars, lepers, destitutes and the old and the dying


Known simply as 'The Mother', she died on September 5, 1997











Our existing systems for tackling corruption are catastrophic failures. Prosecuting public servants needs prior sanction. It seldom comes. Prosecutions drag on for years. Relative to the (intangible) result, the effort is monumental. If the comparisons to cancer are accurate, is the solution to administer a mild sedative and only address the symptoms, which is what many say is all that the Government Lokpal Bill does, or is it to use a treatment many feel is so severe that it risks killing the body? In a time to heal, we must have something effective but not fatal.


How do the two bills differ and where do they accord? The second is easier. Both agree on the establishment of a separate authority, the Lokpal, to investigate instances of corruption. In both, the Lokpal has investigative and prosecutorial powers, and there are Special Courts to fast-track corruption cases. Most importantly, both do away with the prior-sanction requirement. In itself, that is a huge step forward.


The divergence in other areas is very wide. First, what is to be investigated and what is the definition of "corruption"? Narrowly tailored, the government bill limits itself to offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PCA) by including these in the definition of a 'complaint'.


The broader Jan Lokpal Bill also includes offences relating to public servants under the Penal Code; kickbacks, victimising whistleblowers and something called "repeated violation of a citizen's charter by any public servant". That is perhaps too fuzzy. The definition is crucial and needs work on both sides. There are important areas of public and civic governance that are beyond simple bribery. How are these to be included?



On the selection of Lokpal members, the government's draft is far too restrictive. From the selection panel of nine, only one is drawn from public life, and all nine are government nominees. Four are "judicial members" – Supreme Court judges or High Court Chief Justices, or persons of such high qualifications that perhaps only three in India might qualify. The Jan Lokpal Bill has a broader base: 11 members including the Chairman, four of whom must have a legal background.


The Selection Panel includes the PM, the Lok Sabha's Leader of the Opposition, two SC judges, two Chief Justices, the CEC, the CAG and all previous Lokpal Chairmen. Some of the eligibility criteria are vapid but their deletion will not affect the integrity of the bill.


The government Lokpal Bill limits itself to ex-Prime Ministers, Union Ministers and MPs and Group "A" officers, the principal officers of government boards and companies and governmentaided societies and trusts. The complete exclusion of Group B officers is inexplicable for these include mid- and lower-level officers in the postal services, excise, customs, health and Union Territory administrative and police services. These are the ones who most often interface with citizens and it is here that corruption is most rampant. The Jan Lokpal Bill goes to the other extreme: it also includes the higher judiciary and that, to my mind, is a potential disaster, for no judge can ever function independently with the Lokpal's crows sitting on his shoulders. Worse: the Jan Lokpal can only be removed by the Supreme Court, whose judges the Jan Lokpal will investigate and prosecute.



The trickiest area is the Lokpal's functioning. Under the government's Bill, the Lokpal can prosecute public servants in special courts, and recommend disciplinary action against MPs and Group A officers. For Union Ministers, the Lokpal's report must be tabled in Parliament; but the Lokpal is then merely to be informed of the action taken or proposed.


If one bill does not go far enough, the other goes too far. Under the Jan Lokpal Bill, not only can the Lokpal investigate and prosecute but it can directly impose penalties including fines and jail sentences (up to life). For this, it has a parallel judiciary with benches of judicial officers. There is no justification for this or for its particularly nasty provision for sanctioning wiretaps; and it is no answer to say that at present this is being done by some Home Department. Wiretaps without judicial supervision are unacceptable intrusions into citizens' civil liberty regardless of who authorises them.


As a panacea, the Jan Lokpal Bill generously offers citizens protection under Article 226 of the Constitution, under which High Courts can enforce fundamental rights. That power exists whether or not the Jan Lokpal Bill says so; and it cannot be granted or taken away. Consider the consequences: if at some later date, that clause is amended or deleted, can a High Court no longer issue a writ even if the Lokpal's orders violate fundamental rights?


The power of judicial review, some 300 plus years old, needs no re-affirmation by the spokespersons of civil society.


The Jan Lokpal Bill forbids government officers from working in any capacity with anyone with whom they had official dealings. That is absurd, and is also based on the assumption that every bureaucrat is, of necessity, corrupt. Bureaucrats deal with a large number and variety of persons and entities in their careers. The retirement age is relatively early. What are they to do after? On this definition, they cannot even work for the Lokpal itself.

The Jan Lokpal Bill proposes a takeover of the CBI's anti-corruption wing. Given the enormity of its powers and given that they lie almost entirely outside a constitutional mandate, this is dubious. The CBI needs autonomy, and the Lokpal should certainly be able to draw on its resources. But to make it subservient to the Lokpal is to replace an elected representative by a person merely nominated, unanswerable to any electorate.



Neither bill seems to reach the common man; neither focuses on the removal of bureaucratic discretion. We encounter corruption in small things: the refusal to provide adequate drains or garbage collection services or to issue permits and licences, harassments by excise and customs officers – any number of things. To bring any of these to the Lokpal, you must show that there is some corruption, material that is almost impossible to get. You must then grind through some form of legal system, following impenetrable procedures and meeting tough evidentiary standards. Corruption is fraud, and fraud is concealment; and therefore almost impossible to "prove". Without rational changes to procedural and evidentiary law little can be achieved in practice.

 This is tied to the question of false complaints, on which the government Bill is punitive, the Jan Lokpal bill markedly less so: it is not to be held against a complainant "merely because a case could not be proved". This bill therefore assumes that all complainants are, by definition, honest and so lends itself to immediate abuse. Without fear of reprisal, complaints will flood the Lokpal, often for reasons that are themselves corrupt (eliminating competitors in a tender bidding process, for example).

A cleverly worded yet false complaint is enough to trigger the Lokpal's investigative wing, a vast army of the incorruptible with enormous powers of raid, seizure and search. It is one thing to make proof and procedure simpler; it is another to dispense with it without consequences. Idealistic (and therefore foolish) presumptions make for bad laws; a corrupt democracy should not be replaced by a potentially corrupt autocracy. The answer is in neither draft but somewhere in between.

As there are several versions of the bills on different websites, this article refers to the latest ones available on the Ministry of Personnel website at 




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There are victors and vanquished only in a war. In a genuinely political engagement everyone must emerge a winner. That is made possible only through compromise, through "give and take". Through his reasonable statement in Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has opened the door to an honourable compromise between the government and civil society on the issue of the Lok Pal Bill. Dr Singh only stated the obvious when he said that Mr Hazare's fast had helped place the issue of corruption in public life at the centre of national political discourse. The government has also made several important concessions on substantial matters without conceding the primacy of Parliament in making laws. Mr Hazare and Team Anna should also take a step or two back from their hard-line position and accept that in a parliamentary democracy, Parliament must have the final word. "My way or the highway" cannot be the basis for negotiations in a democracy. Prime Minister Singh's gracious "salute" to Mr Hazare is a gesture that has been widely appreciated. Indeed, it has secured for the government a softening of stance by the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, with Sushma Swaraj, leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, accepting the prime minister's gesture and supporting a unanimous message from Parliament to Mr Hazare to withdraw his fast. The point of principle that the government has conceded to Team Anna, of Parliament discussing a Bill drafted by private citizens, comes with the gesture that all other existing drafts – one by Aruna Roy and another by Jayaprakash Narayan – would also be considered by Parliament. Constitutional purists will find it difficult to accept this political compromise because it could complicate the process of lawmaking in future, especially if vested interests start drafting Bills that get promoted by civil society groups acting on their behalf. However, given the prevailing mood in the country, this was the best of a bad bargain. Mr Hazare must take it.

Mr Hazare and his supporters must also realise that while theirs has been an important and influential voice in the debate on Lok Pal, there is still no reason for anyone to believe that a "majority" of the people are with them. The only way anyone can claim majority support for a view in a parliamentary democracy is to test their strength either on the floor of the Lok Sabha or at the polls. Parliament as a whole, treasury and opposition benches taken together, spoke in one voice when Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar urged Mr Hazare to end his hunger strike and allow Parliament to discuss the Lok Pal Bill drafts. This is an unprecedented gesture on behalf of Parliament which speaks for the nation's silent majority. Every group of social activists speaks on behalf of one vocal section or another of society, some large and some small, but Parliament speaks for India's silent majority. While Mr Hazare has captured the imagination of a large number of Indians, his views must contend with those of other civil society groups. Together, the voices of all such groups must contend with those of the silent majority that Parliament represents.






Partly in response to India's concerns about a huge trade imbalance in favour of China and partly in pursuit of the Indian middle-class market, Chinese companies have decided to invest in India. Sinovel, China's largest wind turbine manufacturer, and four Chinese automobile majors have announced plans to set up manufacturing units. This follows an earlier announcement by prominent Chinese power equipment manufacturers to do likewise. The motivations for the investments are diverse. In the case of power equipment, the Indian government's stipulation that only companies that manufacture their products domestically are eligible to compete for government-owned power projects effectively poses a barrier to entry for Chinese firms, which to date have been exporting capital equipment. On the other hand, "tariff hopping" and reducing transaction costs seem to be the guiding motivations for the automobile firms, while Chinese firms in the consumer space such as Haier (white goods) have merely wanted to be close to the consumer in order to quickly respond to market signals. With the Indian auto and auto components industry gaining in strength with every passing day, relocating manufacturing units to India makes eminent sense given the vast agglomeration economies available domestically. On the other hand, the picture for large-scale manufacturing, as with power equipment, is a lot less encouraging, owing to considerable gaps in the manufacturing ecosystem, most visibly in the quality of physical infrastructure. Overall, the increase in foreign direct investment (FDI), though admittedly far below potential, signals that India as a host country is perceived as a lot more hassle-free than, say, a decade ago.

Given that capital goods ("electric and non-electric machinery") comprise a significant proportion of China's export basket to India, the existing trade surplus of $20 billion that China enjoys should significantly decrease, depending on how much of capital goods manufacturing relocates to India. Even though the procurement restrictions do not apply to private power producers, it would make little sense for Chinese producers to use separate channels to supply public and private sector power plants in India. Chinese firms have already secured orders for up to 30,000 Mw of new capacity in plants that are expected to be commissioned during the 12th Five-Year Plan. It would be interesting to see how Chinese power companies fare in the new scenario, without the benefit of tariff waivers and other surcharges that domestic firms have to contend with. From India's standpoint, the "markets for technology" argument will have limited utility, since China's technological capability in both consumer and capital goods is way behind the competition. With prices already headed south owing to intense competition, especially in the white electronics and automobile industries, any difference made by Chinese products in this space will only be at the margin. On balance, more Chinese FDI in India is a positive development that deserves to be encouraged. Hopefully, this growing business-to-business relationship will foster better people-to-people relations and make it easier for both countries to resolve their territorial disputes. This, apart from more transparent China-Pakistan military relations, will help build trust between the two Asian giants.






I have been part of many discussions over the last week with prospective investors trying to figure out whether this is a good time to put money to work in India. Everyone is naturally cautious and worried about the drawdowns and mark-to-market pressures. Also, most markets in the world are in bear market territory (down 20 per cent from their recent peak). Thus, someone with capital to invest is spoilt for choice. On paper, India does not look particularly cheap. European and American markets are trading at 12 or 13 times their prospective earnings with bond yields nearly two per cent, while India is trading at 13 or 14 times with bond yields above eight per cent. India is also trading at a 25 to 30 per cent premium to the emerging market averages. So why come to India when the majority of global markets are far cheaper?

If one takes a 12-month view, then the following becomes clear:

(i) Interest rates in India are going to be lower than they are today. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been the most aggressive central bank in the world in normalising rates. Our interest rates are within 50 basis points of where they were before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. Given the leads and lags of monetary policy in curbing inflation, the clear economic slowdown we are entering both in India and globally, and the likelihood that commodity prices will stabilise if not go down, it would be very surprising if rates do not come down in the next 12 months. India has the ability to cut rates, and has already gone through an inflation spike. Most countries do not have this flexibility.

(ii) The global economic environment seems to be one in which the West will stumble around at near recession levels of between 1 and 1.5 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Liquidity will remain very easy and interest rates are going to remain near zero for at least 24 months. With global interest rates at zero, capital will flow into the emerging market asset class in search of growth, returns and to move away from the exposure to the US dollar. I believe enough regulatory action will be taken to prevent this capital driving commodities parabolic.

(iii) India will probably grow at seven per cent, with the RBI itself mentioning 6.8 per cent (growth rate in the financial crisis) as being a disaster scenario and the absolute worst case. Our domestic-oriented, non-correlated growth will be far more attractive and get a lot more attention in a growth-starved world. Indian companies will be able to deliver 15 per cent earnings growth, which will stand out globally. As the capital spending cycle restarts (it will eventually have to unless the country comes to a halt), this will also jump-start earnings growth for the market. With a robust monsoon so far, consumption demand for the coming year is going to be strong, which will also underpin earnings.

(iv) Indian valuations, which are currently about 13 to 14 times March 2012 earnings, will be nearly 11 times March 2013 earnings. These valuation multiples are arrived at after cutting earnings estimates by five to eight per cent for FY 2012 and 10 per cent for FY 2013. While there may be some more earnings downgrades, investors have already built that into their calculations. Rarely does India stay at these levels of multiples for long. In a weak global growth environment, the growth visibility that India has will attract premium valuations. Mid-cap valuations in particular are starting to get very attractive. As these stocks have underperformed the broad market, investors are bailing out and want to have only large cap investments to reduce portfolio risk. There has also been significant sectoral dispersion. If one can take some short-term pain, valuations of companies with economic sensitivity are at very reasonable levels. Indian multiples are at a premium to the region, but arguably, so are the return ratios and growth visibility.

(v) The current policy paralysis and standstill in government decision making cannot go on. Either the government should take the initiative and start governing, or we will have some change. This fire-fighting approach to governance is not sustainable. India is one of the few countries that have the opportunity to undertake fundamental game-changing policy reforms. The goods and services tax Bill is one example. Government policy action can make a huge difference to structural growth and investor sentiment.

One was negative on markets at the beginning of the year, as valuations were high, earnings estimates were too optimistic, and interest rates were rising much higher and faster than the consensus. Over the next 12 months, interest rates will decline, with valuations getting far more interesting, and the global economic difficulties will highlight the value of India's growth story. There are very few large markets that can deliver double-digit growth and earnings, independent of all but the most extreme global economic conditions. Combine this with the fact that retail participation in the markets is next to zero, all investor surveys show most professional investors underweigh India, and record outflows from emerging market equities. This market is not over-owned, especially not from a longer-term real money perspective.

We are going through a classic bout of risk aversion and investor fright, when risk is taken off the table indiscriminately. This will settle down and the fundamentals will then become relevant again.

So should one buy now? It really depends on the time frame and positioning. If one has a genuine longer-term view and underweight equities (as most Indians are), then we are close to a very interesting entry point. I am convinced that investments made slowly and systematically over the coming three to six months will deliver good capital gains over an 18 to 24 month time frame. If one has the ability to time markets or is very concerned about short-term mark-to-market pressures, then one can wait and be more opportunistic. There is the possibility of one more leg down in markets, as markets need to riot to force western policy makers to act decisively. We could have another five to ten per cent downside. However, to remain bearish from here, you have to believe that either this policy paralysis is the new normal for India or the Indian growth surge of the past decade is unsustainable. You would have to believe that India grew at 7.2 per cent over the last decade owing to global capital flows and a very benign global economic backdrop, both of which will now reverse and thus Indian growth will slip to five per cent.

I do not belong to this bearish camp and genuinely believe that the economy has enough momentum and the polity has the understanding of the consequences that such a downshift in growth will not happen. I also believe all the noise today will eventually lead to structurally better governance. This is a transition that we have to go through.

The author is fund manager and CEO of Amansa Capital







With the rupee having slipped below 46 against the dollar this week (for the first time since September last year) after having peered above 44 just a few weeks ago, my January forecast – that the rupee will range between 43.50 and 46.50 this year – looks to be getting well filled out.

Interestingly, when the rupee fell below 46 on Monday, I received calls from companies with long US dollar positions, asking whether they should get more aggressive in selling. Correspondingly, when (on July 27) the rupee hit its recent peak, despite semi-hysterical media talking about three-year highs, the reaction from the export sector was remarkably muted. Indeed, the only nervous calls I got were from companies that had significant unhedged import payments and foreign currency loans.

With the rupee having been relatively quiet over the past two years and forward premiums running at a tasty six per cent a year or so, most exporters had been steadily increasing their hedge ratios, whereas people with short dollar positions were edgily waiting and watching and enjoying the carry.

Of course, staying unhedged when the world is brimming over with major risk events – the rolling European sovereign debt crisis, faltering US growth and quantitative easing?, the evolving revolution in West Asia (does anyone even remember that) – creates increasing interest in prudence.

So, what to do? How to be reasonably prudent and yet not pay out a huge amount to hedge dollar payments, when there is every possibility that the rupee will not weaken, and even if it does, not to levels reflected by the forward costs?

Unfortunately, there is no cost-free answer.

The first step, of course, is to set a stop loss — the level at which you will cut and run if the market moves against you. This is a fundamental requirement of risk management, but one that most companies almost studiously avoid. Even when they do set a stop loss, few treasuries have the discipline to hedge fully when the stop loss is threatened.

I have a lovely story about this. Back in 2006, we were working with a large, integrated steel company and had built a risk-monitoring and decision-support system for them. About a month after we went live, there was a huge surprise in the market — the Chinese government allowed the yuan to appreciate (modestly) for the first time. Global markets were startled and the rupee shot higher. The company had significant exports at the time and the system signalled a large hedge. The head of treasury was a very experienced trader and he believed that this was a knee-jerk reaction and would not sustain. The CFO took his view and overrode the signal.

Sure enough, the treasurer was correct, the rupee slipped back the following day and the company saved some money.

Almost exactly a year later – April 2007 – the rupee, which had been strengthening, suddenly shot above 40 to the dollar, once more triggering a large hedge signal. Once more, the head of treasury viewed this as a temporary blip. Once more the CFO agreed with him and overrode the signal. This time, he was wrong, the rupee continued to strengthen and the company lost nearly Rs 40 crore in that quarter.

The lesson: respect your stop loss, and even if you do override it, set another stop loss just behind it.

The next step is to determine the initial hedge. Depending on your view of the market environment – whether it is likely to be range-bound, trending, or choppy, whether volatility is likely to rise or not and so on – and the forward cost, you would need to choose between different instruments, like plain-vanilla options, forwards, call spreads or other simple structures.

So you would also need to set up a process for locking in positive movements. We have found that a high-water mark based lock-in works best. And, of course, you would need to review your market view at regular intervals — at least once a month.

Following such a hybrid hedging approach delivers superior results. When markets were trending (2007 and 2008), appropriate selection of parameters resulted in an improvement of nearly 1.25 per cent as compared to a 50 per cent hedge. Incidentally, 50 per cent hedge is an excellent benchmark against which to measure treasury performance since it acknowledges market uncertainty, is relatively inexpensive to implement, and generally provides a reasonable performance.

Since 2010, when the rupee has been largely range-bound with low volatility, using appropriate settings has delivered more than 0.75 per cent better than the 50 per cent hedge. This translated to effective protection at a cost of a bit over two per cent a year, in a market where the fully hedged cost was six per cent a year.

With volatility rising, the need for some type of structured solution could not be more important.








If you can bear to tear yourself away from the high drama around Anna Hazare for a moment, here's a great alternative to stun your senses: Nepal.

When the world's youngest republic finally chose Jhalanath Khanal of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) to become prime minister in February, after 17 rounds of voting, there was great hope. Since Khanal was supported by the Maoists, Nepal believed the Constituent Assembly would finally be able to write a new Constitution, reflecting its amazing diversity and ethnicity, and the Maoists could honourably integrate at least 7,000-8,000 of its nearly 20,000 strong cadres into the Nepal army.

This would signal the end of the civil war that lasted a full decade until the "jan andolan" or "people's revolution" of 2006, in which thousands of lives on both sides were lost.

But Khanal lost the confidence of his masters and quit on August 7. President Ram Baran Yadav gave the political parties an August 24 deadline to come up with a consensual name for prime minister, failing which the new man – or woman – would be elected by a majority vote in the Constituent Assembly.

Well, the deadline expired on Wednesday evening. India's newest ambassador to Nepal, Jayant Prasad, flew to Kathmandu to take up his new job on Thursday. The ballot to elect a new prime minister doesn't have a date yet, but we know that Baburam Bhattarai, a key Maoist ideologue and an alumnus of Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (he was in Periyar hostel) and Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel are in the fray.

Meanwhile, a powerful member of the Central Committee of China's Communist Party, Zhou Yongkang, arrived in Kathmandu last week to reaffirm its undying friendship with Nepal, and immediately declared that "China hopes to share its prosperity and progress with the people of Nepal."

Clearly, the northern country is in the throes of a particular frisson of excitement. Nepalese commentators are talking about China's "excessive liquidity" of $2 trillion and how Beijing could outsource some of its lower-end, labour-intensive industries to Nepal.

Clearly, it would be a win-win situation: in exchange for promoting its economy, Nepal would ensure a certain security cooperation. Meaning, the flood of Tibetans who pour into the Himalayan country annually from neighbouring Tibet – many of them on their way to India, the current home of the Dalai Lama – would be dammed up. As relations warmed up, Kathmandu would get a new route to access the wider world, via Beijing.

Now, this is not the time or place to wring one's hands about China's growing, dragon-like presence across South Asia or mournfully reiterate its "string of pearls" strategy – a phrase, if truth be told, was drummed up by an imaginative US researcher – or fulminate over Nepal's native Maoist cunning that seeks to replace India's primary position in the hearts and minds of the Nepalese with China.

My argument is that Delhi must share some of the blame for the deteriorating relationship with Kathmandu in recent years. Of course, the Maoists broke several promises, including on retaining a non-partisan character to the Nepal army. Of course, the Maoists weren't able to transform themselves from a fighting, guerrilla force to a parliamentary party, where battles are fought not by bullets but by rapier wit, and power won not from a barrel of a gun but by the sheer force of the ballot box.

Clearly, India's political class – which is totally at sea over how to deal with one hunger-striker in Ramlila Maidan – was unable to get a grip on how to deal with Nepal, or even worse, was hardly interested. So it left it to the bureaucracy in the ministry of external affairs to muddle through.

The moral of the story this month is that if India wants to assert its place in the neighbourhood, it has to use more than arrogance to convince the opposition. Whether the Maoists are bad or the Nepali Congress is good is a decision that the people of Nepal will make — not Delhi.

That is why it is important to reiterate the special relationship with Nepal this week. Not only do we have history and culture and religion in common, but also that sacred, indefinable thing called democracy. Both Baburam Bhattarai and Poudel know they have a duty to fulfil by leaning across ideological divides and fulfilling the mandate of the people.

So where does India come in? Well, Delhi remains the largest donor as well as the top investor into Nepal, notwithstanding the temptations offered by the Chinese. By offering to kick-start the Himalayan country's faltering economy – in the massive opportunities offered by infrastructure, power, water resources and retail sectors – India would only be doing itself a favour.

If a new chapter has to open on Nepal-India relations, Delhi must ask what it can do for Kathmandu, not the other way round. Que sera sera.







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  








Thirty-five years after starting Apple, cancer has forced Steve Jobs to step down as the CEO of America's most iconic company. There's no other large listed company in the US, or possibly anywhere else in the world, whose successes have been associated with one man. Jobs and friend Steve Wozniak who founded Apple, brought out the first personal computers and the first portable one, but more than that, they pioneered a design and development culture that seemed to click instantly with consumers' wants. There have been mp3 players before the iPod and tablets before the iPad, but Jobs insisted that people didn't know what they wanted and he could surprise them with better and smarter stuff. He made sure this mantra worked, again and again. Apple realised his value between 1987 and 1996 when Jobs was exiled from his company by a CEO recruited from PepsiCo. In his absence, Apple floundered, lost most of its value and Jobs was brought back to rescue the company. The iMac, iBook and iPod followed each other in the next five years. By 2010, when a visibly ill Jobs launched the iPad, Apple had overtaken Microsoft as the most valuable tech company on the planet.
Will Apple, which briefly overtook ExxonMobil to become America's most valuable company this month, continue to grow under new CEO Tim Cook? Many believe that it can: Jobs could be rude and abrupt, but he had a bunch of fanatically loyal people working with him. Many are likely to stay on with Cook. The culture of design innovation, secrecy about new products and proprietary technology will continue. But there are chinks in Apple's armour. It's not a particularly great innovator, relying, instead, on design, functionality and branding to charge huge markups for its products. Increasingly, to fend off rivals like Google, it has had to resort to costly patents lawsuits. Japanese and Korean rivals are snapping at its heels; Indian and Chinese companies will follow. Gadget makers know that market leadership can change faster than you can say Nokia. Apple under Jobs played its hand well, but the going is bound to get tougher without its charismatic leader.







The government's decision to ask the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) to review the rules governing schemes like the Employees Provident Fund, the Public Provident Fund and National Savings Certificates is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. Doubtless, many of the rules relating to these schemes have become outdated and need overhaul. But the basic problem is not with the rules per se as with the schemes themselves. These schemes were framed in an altogether different milieu, well before reform and financial liberalisation, and are an anachronism today. For instance, the rate of interest paid under the EPF and small savings schemes is unrelated to market rates. The Central Board of Trustees decides the rate of interest on PF balances while that on small savings is fixed by the government. The net result is when interest rates in the economy are falling, there is an implicit subsidy involved since the administered rate exceeds the market rate. And when rates are rising, as at present, those with money in small savings instruments end up getting less than the market rate. Administered interest rates interfere with the transmission of monetary signals, weakening the efficacy of monetary signals. It is more important to revamp the schemes and then frame new rules for the revamped schemes rather than expend time and energy framing new rules for schemes that need overhaul in the first place.

Several expert committees, starting with the R V Gupta committee back in the 1990s, the Y V Reddy committee, the Rakesh Mohan committee and most recently, one headed by Shyamala Gopinath, former deputy governor of the RBI, have looked at the small savings schemes and made their recommendations. They want to link the interest rate to market-determined rates. So, there's a blueprint in place. We need to translate it into action. However, since the beneficiaries of these schemes belong to the vocal middle class, governments have baulked at action, preferring to buy time instead. The decision to rope in the FSLRC seems to be yet another instance of that.







The government's decision to ask the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) to review the rules governing schemes like the Employees Provident Fund, the Public Provident Fund and National Savings Certificates is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. Doubtless, many of the rules relating to these schemes have become outdated and need overhaul. But the basic problem is not with the rules per se as with the schemes themselves. These schemes were framed in an altogether different milieu, well before reform and financial liberalisation, and are an anachronism today. For instance, the rate of interest paid under the EPF and small savings schemes is unrelated to market rates. The Central Board of Trustees decides the rate of interest on PF balances while that on small savings is fixed by the government. The net result is when interest rates in the economy are falling, there is an implicit subsidy involved since the administered rate exceeds the market rate. And when rates are rising, as at present, those with money in small savings instruments end up getting less than the market rate. Administered interest rates interfere with the transmission of monetary signals, weakening the efficacy of monetary signals. It is more important to revamp the schemes and then frame new rules for the revamped schemes rather than expend time and energy framing new rules for schemes that need overhaul in the first place.

Several expert committees, starting with the R V Gupta committee back in the 1990s, the Y V Reddy committee, the Rakesh Mohan committee and most recently, one headed by Shyamala Gopinath, former deputy governor of the RBI, have looked at the small savings schemes and made their recommendations. They want to link the interest rate to market-determined rates. So, there's a blueprint in place. We need to translate it into action. However, since the beneficiaries of these schemes belong to the vocal middle class, governments have baulked at action, preferring to buy time instead. The decision to rope in the FSLRC seems to be yet another instance of that.






As per hallowed newsroom traditions, the bad news first. 1. We have a government and a ruling party that have displayed tactical, strategic, policy and moral incapacities. 2. We have a main Opposition party that, despite witnessing such government and ruling party incapacity, has displayed its own incapacity to do anything intelligent or meaningful. 3. We have a core group of agitationists led by Anna Hazare which has displayed, at best, its alarming naivety in the matter of institutional reform process; a naivety that allowed the political class to finally get the upper hand in the last 36 hours. 4. We have a corporate sector that has displayed its unwillingness and/or inability to contribute an implementable big idea in the corruption debate.
Now, the good news.

1. India's public life is enriched. However sceptical one is of Anna & Co's methods and some of the proposals — this correspondent is one of the sceptics — it was impossible not to recognise the plus side of tens of thousands of citizens peacefully gathering in many cities and asking the government and the political class to get their act together. Yes, there were protestors who probably didn't know their Lokpal from their Fiat Palio. But the demand that those who were protesting with Anna must display acute knowledge of the complexities of the issue at hand was unfair. By that criterion every political party rally or gathering should be dismissed. And what should our verdict be on the parliamentary process, in which the finance Bill involving tens of thousands of crores is passed sometime with little or no discussion? This variety of critics of Anna protestors seem appalled and amused that there were so many oddballs, not to mention some "hooligan types", with varying degree of ignorance. That demonstrates a witting or unwitting ignorance on the part of those critics about the processes of popular participation. The same critics are also rather cattily asking whether this popular participation will have any lasting effect. Nothing is guaranteed to last; Manmohan Singh was once popular with the middle classes. There are, however, real reasons to seriously inquire into the possibility of a few changes in popular responses to institutional politics. That's good news, too.

2. India's politicians are a little bit concerned. This becomes clear once you recognise the possibility that something may have shifted in the people-politician equation. Politicians, mostly very clever (they have to be; politics is a brutally tough business), will not probably admit it but they most likely have sniffed out that some behaviourial changes are in order. Is it is a coincidence that as the Anna protest peaked, Parliament saw reasoned debates and very little of raucous behaviour? BJP's M M Joshi targeted the PM, and the treasury benches didn't erupt. The PM took on Joshi the next day and BJP MPs behaved. Even the so called caste-based parties, those who are supposed to have no fear from an angry urban middle class, behaved. Why? Probably because no politician wanted TV images of a raucous Parliament, not when the entire political class's argument to Team Anna was that parliamentary sanctity must be honoured. How long this will last, whether the opportunity for making Parliament a more effective institution will be taken, depends upon how long politicians think the popular mood change will last. But so far, so good. 3. India's "radical" intellectuals have shown up to be even less relevant. The interventions by Arundhati Roy in the Anna debate were pointless. If Team Anna is a creature of a corporate conspiracy, prove it. And even if it is, address and analyse its popular appeal. That's what serious intellectuals do.

    Or, actually, that's what they don't do. They say we must love violent Naxalites and we must dismiss peaceful protests. The so-called radical left has always laid claim to insights that are important precisely because they are supposed to be deeply troubling for the mainstream. The message from Ramlila: the radical left is in deep trouble, which can't but be good news for a country that requires many reasoned debates over how to maximise both private entrepreneurial opportunities and public gains.
4. India's upper administrative classes are quite afraid. This has a short-term negative outcome in that government decision-making gets slower for fear of getting embroiled in a graft investigation. But the upper administrative classes needed this dose of fear. They started getting afraid from before Anna, when the Supreme Court took charge of the 2G investigation and the CBI actually did some good investigating. The Anna agitation, the possibility of a halfway effective Lokpal and the popular mood against graft have all contributed to that fear. The class that takes calls on or advises its political masters on decisions involving millions of rupees of public money but had little fear of consequences needed to be a bit afraid.

What will all this good news add up to? If all of it holds, we may have a more engaged middle class, a less cavalier political class, a more careful administrative class and we may soon ask, radical left, who? That's a good deal.


There's a final argument that those dismissive of Ramlila use: look at Anna, isn't he himself odd in all kinds of ways? Sure he is. But he, despite himself, connected. Call Anna nothing but a symbol, if you want. But spot the good news from Ramlila.










When Saul Bellow visited the dying Trotsky in a Mexico hospital in 1940, he had strong Trotskyist leanings. But towards the end of his long, remarkable and Noble-winning career, Bellow took an insidious right turn and published a novel called The Dean's December in which he excoriated many failings in Americans. He had issues with everyone, especially blacks and Chicagoan slum dwellers. Bellow's attack was indirect yet vituperative. His invective against things and attitudes he didn't agree with was far removed from what he held as beliefs in his younger The Victim-writing days. The American-Jewish novelist also had developed a late friendship with philosopher Alan Bloom and celebrated it in his fictional paean Ravelstein. Bloom was unabashedly right and constantly bemoaned the fall in American standards and his call to change was, some say, deeply conservative.

Across the Atlantic, Camus was pelted with abuse from leftists for his stand on Algeria. Sartre, who was thick with the writer of The Fall, had a falling out with Camus and castigated him for his silences to which Camus was anyway prone. Many years later, the same acrimony played out in the lives of Truffaut and Godard, the French filmmakers. Godard swerved left with a vengeance and tore into Truffaut for making middle-class melodramatic and bourgeois films. Both remained distant until Truffaut's death of a brain tumour in 1984, when Godard wrote an eulogy. Sartre too, when Camus died tragically young in a car accident, wrote in praise, burying even the whiff of their celebrated fight.

In recent times, the British novelist Martin Amis wrote a long lamenting letter to his friend Christopher Hitchens deriding his Trostkyist past. Hitchens, of course, had crossed the pond by then and buried all his leftist leanings and, in his views, sounded more like a newly minted neocon.

The history of artistic discords also has its fair share of inter-war chapters. The American critic Edmund Wilson, in between wars, had gone deep into Soviet land and failed to see Stalinist excesses, and fell into an almost friendship-ending debate with Russian emigre novelist Vladimir Nabokov, who with his family had escaped the Reds and did not think much of Lenin's revolution.

Papa Hemingway and John Dos Passos, a solid communist, had a rupture in Spain during the civil war. Hemingway was a compulsive friendship breaker and wife changer and needed to do both every few years. He had gone there to cover the war, his talent diminished. Hemingway reported the war and got his humdinger novel out of it: For Whom the Bells Toll, which went on to become a huge success and restored him in the pantheon of great writers. We can be pretty sure Kafka, who wanted to burn down every sentence he wrote and expressly told his friend Max Brod about it, also would have been aghast to see how his friend, when he reached Israel, got deeply interested in things conservatively Jewish. Kafka was a dabbler in Jewry and Yiddish arcana too in his Prague days, but would have blanched at the height his close friend went to in nascent and hardly nimble Israel. Do some artists, bound by their ideologies and swamped by dull ideas generated by their weltanschauung, have the right to not see the stark truth even when their vision clearly registers something really infantile and puerile and wily and lifethreatening? And do they with their warped outlook and truculence and recalcitrance have the right to ditch their lifelong friends whose version of a particular event is truer and sharper than theirs? Art is produced out of harmony, but it also comes out of deep discord, personal and impersonal. Some kinetic energy that art requires gets wasted in these kerfuffles, but being true to their inner selves artists produce something that overrides their inner complexities and outside dynamics and sometimes even their ideologies. Artists, because of their sheer force of will, create for themselves and the world, and it's the same driving force that makes them spawn masterpieces and compels them to hold fast to ideas whose weight has become feeble for many. These ideology-ridden ideas still remain attractive to them because they are, willy-nilly, attached to the selfsame will, which gets its power from their humongous egos, which, in turn, makes their imaginations more fertile. In this world, if art stays egos stay, and so will the animosities and rancours.







Dilbert is one of Zenobia Aunt's favourite comic strips. In fact, she reads this comic strip first, before turning over to the front page and of this newspaper. Not so long ago, Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, in his blog has mentioned that tax policy has two purposes. One is to collect money to enable the government machinery to function. The other is to promote public policy. For instance, he cites: mortgage deductions are meant to encourage home ownership. Or as Zenobia Aunty adds, back home, stiff taxes on tobacco are expected to deter tobacco chewing or smoking.

Scott Adams wonders whether we could have a tax on stupidity and thereby reduce its prevalence over time. One big obstacle to taxing stupidity is identifying it. But he has quite a few suggestions which include a general knowledge test running thousands of questions long. And it would be entirely optional. If you choose to not take the test, you can simply pay a stupidity tax instead. If you take the test, and score 100%, you pay no stupidity taxes at all; else the tax paid would be dependent on your score. Unlimited chances would be available to improve your score.

He is curious on whether tax policy could make a huge difference in the effectiveness of society by directly taxing stupidity. Unfortunately, Scott Adams admits it is an impractical idea and no government would buy it. But perhaps he may, some day, on some island create his own kingdom, design this tax mechanism from scratch and introduce it. Zenobia Aunty would love to be a resident of this island, maybe she could help in preparing the questionnaire and thereby get an exemption from the tax. Some tax laws can be stupid, to put it mildly. Other legislations are equally insane. Several months ago, there was a hue and cry, in Corporate India, when the government in India had proposed to make corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandatory — in other words, companies would have to contribute a certain percentage of their profits towards CSR. The reasons were many. Those opposing it felt that the main duty of the corporate sector was to earn returns and dividends were a way of paying back to the shareholders. Since corporate entities paid tax, there was no need to contribute separately towards CSR, it was the government job to work for society's welfare from the taxes collected. Fortunately for those opposing the move, such CSR contribution is not mandatory. But, it seems that the French government has also adopted asimilar stand, that corporate entities need to pay back!!!. To improve purchasing power of the hoi polloi and put some punch back in the economy, it has not eased the tax burden on individual taxpayers but wants the corporate entities to pay a bonus to its employees, if they declare a higher bonus. Oracle, as this columnist's boss is often referred to, because of his in-depth insight into ever-changing and complex global tax laws, persuaded Zenobia Aunty to cover this topic. Venting her ire, only against the draftsmen in India, was discriminatory, Oracle firmly stated. Zenobia Aunty meekly obeyed his orders, as does this columnist.
Last month, the French Parliament adopted a sweeping bill that requires companies to pay a bonus to all the employees when the dividend per share distributed to the shareholders is higher than the average of the dividends per share distributed in the two previous fiscal years. These provisions apply to all companies having more than 50 employees. Companies having a lesser number of employees can voluntarily opt for the proposed provisions. These rules apply to dividend distributions authorised as from the beginning of this calendar year and will be valid for a period of three years. As far as the amount of the bonus to be paid is concerned, an agreement will have to be signed by the company with employee representatives within three months starting from decision to distribute the dividends made by the ordinary general meeting of the shareholders. The agreement is subject to modalities applicable to the signing of a profit-sharing agreement. Failure to start the negotiations results in penalties and prosecution for the company. The French ministry has provided for some minor sops such as exemption a bonus up to €1,200 per employee and per year, from certain social security contributions. The moot issue is: can the government really expect the corporate sector to step into its shoes. In the Indian scenario, the government wanted the society to benefit by ensuring that a certain sum was spent on social welfare (it is a different matter altogether that CSR activities were not defined). Now the French government, to boost the sagging economy, has decided to burden companies that are earning profits and want to share it with the rightful segment — the shareholders! Market forces would automatically ensure that any company's pay to its employees is at parity with that of its competitors. But, as economies continue to stagnate and governments can ill-afford to reduce taxes further, perhaps additional burdens, in myriad forms, will fall on the corporate sector. Stay tuned.









At an opportune time, Indian companies are learning to cope with high input prices in more innovative ways than simply passing on the burden to the consumer. In a major strategic move, Indian steel-makers that rely on imports may just be acquiring some bargaining power in global markets. Emulating their Japanese counterparts, they will be scouting jointly for global supplies and, for a start, Tata Steel, SAIL, JSW, Jindal Power and RINL will bid collectively for iron ore in Afghanistan; this could eventually even lead to a stake in coking coal property in that country. Forming an alliance of national producers to bid collectively for a financial stake in a prospective mineral asset or negotiate prices for long-term supply is a time-tested approach to keeping costs down. Indeed, wherever physical inputs are not the key differentiator for success in the market place, producers do tend to collaborate; and steel, perhaps more than any other industry, exemplifies this philosophy.

India produces 70 million tonnes of steel and imports virtually half of the raw material in value terms; with such high import intensity, steel producers are always vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the global supply situation in raw materials. With steel production slated to go up sharply in the medium term, relying on overseas supplies alone may not be enough. Global prices of coal and iron ore have softened in recent months. Coking coal prices, which peaked at $350 per tonne, have since softened to $275. But the steel industry cannot afford to be complacent. It needs to augment domestic reserves of these commodities, and signs of such intent are emerging. SAIL, for instance, is planning to invest more than Rs 10,000 crore in mine development besides contract extraction from existing captive sources. The Government must support similar initiatives by others.

The steel sector suffers from legacy issues as, for decades, its operations have suffered from a regime of price and output controls which left very little surplus for investment in the future. While efforts at modernisation have begun, the process needs to gather steam. Growth in the larger economy may be slowing and demand for steel may also dip temporarily. Yet, this is a good time for the government to push its new mining policy with earnestness right through to the States. The mining industry is in shambles and it reflects poorly on a government pitching for nine per cent growth in the Twelfth Plan to ignore a perennial shortage of the vital inputs for steel — the backbone of manufacturing.






The fight against corruption has thrown up some interesting facets of India, the land of diversity. While Anna Hazare has forced the political class to run for shelter in the national capital, the scene is a bit different in the State of Andhra Pradesh. Here, 26 MLAs have openly quit to support a political leader, who is under the CBI lens, facing myriad charges of financial corruption.

Is corruption relative? Is it different in different places? Is there more acceptance of political corruption in some regions? Several interesting questions arise to extend the fight against this malaise that is threatening to destroy our democratic institutions.

Movement gathering momentum

Anna Hazare, the ex-serviceman, donning the Gandhi topi and adopting the Mahatma's potent weapon against the British — fasting — has captured the imagination of Indian youth, especially in the national capital, by steadfastly highlighting corruption.

In the national capital, while the pre-dominantly urban, middle-class, youth and people of all ages and from neighbouring states too demonstrate their solidarity with Anna, MPs, Minister's and the UPA Government, after initial bungling by his arrest, followed by a 'comatose' phase, are finally showing some signs of flexibility on reaching a consensus.

Interestingly, while most fights against corruption — be it the Bofors case or the earlier mass movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan — found echo largely in the poor and disadvantaged sections of rural India, who used their vote to throw out regime's, Anna Hazare's campaign has attracted urban people and is definitely showing ominous signs of heading into the rural hinterlands.

People's representatives (MPs and MLAs), both in Parliament and State Assemblies, who are in a way the central target of this mass campaign, exhibit reactions ranging from knee-jerk criticism to the methodology of Anna, to arrogance that laws are made only in Parliament and not in public places by a handful of people.

INDIA's two faces

The Andhra case is quite curious. Even as the ruling Cong(I) dispensation, led by Mr Kiran Reddy, confronts the growing agitation for a separate Telangana State, resignation of nearly 100 MLAs, and efforts by Mr Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy (son of former Chief Minister , Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy) to whip up support to topple the Government, the CBI, on the directive of the High Court, has unearthed a slew of charges against the Kadapa MP and more than two dozen corporates associated with him. The graft charges have led to a bizarre situation. Twenty six MLAs of the ruling party quit in support of Mr Jagan and, in a way, endorsed corruption (if Mr Jagan is proved guilty), to threaten the Government.

Another interesting feature is that Mr Jagan continues to attract large crowds in both Rayalseema and coastal Andhra Pradesh and few places in Telangana, where he is touring on a Odarpu yatra (consoling families which lost a member, immediately after the death of Y. S.R in an helicopter crash in September, 2009), even while facing charges of corruption. The question on everyone's mind is, will Mr Jagan pull off a coup in the ruling party or will the graft charges be proved and lead to his political marginalisation. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly clear that India lives in two entities — India and Bharat — and it is indeed a land of diversity. Will it show unity in the fight against corruption?






It's good to fight for effective laws that guarantee basic rights to people. But, after that? The Right to Information Act (RTI) is one of the most enabling legislations passed in recent years. It has helped unearth many a scam across the country and is the most potent tool in the hands of citizens today to stop any wrongdoing by government officials and authorities.

This Act has, nevertheless, led to the snuffing out of precious lives of courageous and promising young activists, whose only crime was to take on the local power nexus. According to official figures, in the past few months, as many as 10 RTI activists have been killed in various parts of the country. The number is much higher, according to activists.

Activist shot

The latest in the series of such killings is the murder of Shehla Masood in Bhopal. Unfortunately, the news of her murder was buried in the din of the Lokpal Bill protests. The day after Independence Day, Shehla, an RTI activist in her late thirties, was about to leave her home in an upscale locality in Madhya Pradesh's capital to take part in a support rally for Anna Hazare's fast. But before she could start her car, she was shot dead by an unknown assailant. Her aunt, who did not hear the car leave, came down to check and found Shehla slumped on the driver's seat of her Santro.

Shehla, say her friends, was a gutsy woman who was involved in taking up many environmental causes in her State, such as protection of forests, rivers and wildlife, including tigers. Of late, she was active in the movement to save the watershed of the Panna Tiger Reserve and the Shyamri River in Madhya Pradesh, one of the cleanest in the country, from NYSE-listed transnational diamond company, Rio Tinto's mining activity.

Even the Rural Development Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, acknowledged her zeal and expressed shock at her death. He recalled the numerous interactions he had with her on issues concerning tiger conservation and environment when he was Environment Minister. He has written to the Madhya Pradesh Government demanding a probe.

Living under threat

Predictably, the Madhya Pradesh cops started floating theories of a possible suicide, even as the CBI is now looking into the case. Besides killings, attacks on RTI activists have been on the rise. This is apart from the daily threats that they and their families live under.

Doesn't the entire purpose of such an enabling legislation get defeated if there is no protection for all those who stand up to take on the powerful and moneyed? These are just RTI activists, but there are hundreds of others, including journalists, who have lost their lives in the process of exposing the powerful, such as Satyendra Dubey, Manjunath and J. Dey.

The Government says it is framing a law to protect whistle-blowers. However, the process needs to be speeded up. Moreover, unless the law is strong and its implementation is enforced, it may go the same way as many others.

There have been instances when activists have asked for protection, but the local authorities, under pressure from politicians or money power, have denied it. Probably, the Gujarat RTI activists have shown the way — they have formed a union. If that's the way to get your voice heard, so be it!






Both the first and second fasts of Anna for pressuring the Government to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill into law have given rise to a veritable tsunami of bitterness and anger in the Northern states, with Delhi, naturally, being the epicentre. The demonstrations of solidarity with the fasting septuagenarian have been both spontaneous and spectacular, with no political party, established organisation or central guiding hand behind them.

There has been nothing in living memory, except, perhaps, at the time of the Quit India movement, that comes anywhere near the mammoth procession of a lakh or more taken out in Mumbai. Even cities such as Guwahati, Jammu, Chandigarh, Bhopal, Gwalior and Chandigarh witnessed large gatherings demanding the passing of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Everywhere, the milling throngs went to great lengths to add spice to their participation by means of innovatively designed posters, graffiti and slogans, evocative skits and tableaux, mimics of Mahatma Gandhi and other past national leaders and similar novel methods that captured the people's imagination. The effect of "I am Anna", inscribed on the Gandhi caps worn by everyone, and coming out of the mouths of even children, has been electric.

These, combined with the waving of large national flags by the gargantuan gatherings, have contributed to the spell cast by the fast with its powerful message against corruption resonating in every Indian citizen. The most striking feature of the Anna phenomenon is the way it has appealed to the students, youths and professionals, drawing them out in huge numbers as never seen before.


This is understandable in view of the idealism, dynamism and sensitivity that are invariably associated with youth. (It is quite another matter that the younger group of politicians is lying low, not daring to let the party elders know where exactly it stands.)

Despite the efforts of the Indian media to convey the contrary, there has been no noteworthy groundswell in the Southern states to Anna Hazare's fast.

The truth is that voluntary organisations and citizens' groups have been finding it rather difficult to rouse the sentiment of the people and mobilise them in appreciable numbers to join in the public protest.

There have, no doubt, been sporadic and small gatherings at scattered venues and some instances of fasting in the spirit of the cause Anna is espousing, but these have all been notional, if not listless. To all appearances, the situation in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala as well, is no different.

One does not need to go too far back to notice this singular inability of the South either to feel turned on about the happenings in the North or to take part in them with the expected zeal and zest.

The South was not in the same league as the North at the time of the first War of Independence.


The share of the South in the freedom struggle too does not compare well with the epic scale it attained in the North.

Actually, not only the British, but also the leaders of the nationalist movement in the North, dubbed the Madras Presidency "benighted", and its denizens mild, meek and moderate, with an infinite capacity to put up with atrocities and indignities.

The South looked askance at Jayaprakash Narayan's total revolution, leave alone throwing itself into it with its might and main as many Northern states did.

Its reaction to the Internal Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi, was also a muted one, and in the election of 1977, when the entire North resoundingly booted the Congress out, the South did exactly the opposite by providing it solace and asylum.

Is there something in the character and culture of the South that holds it back from any outpouring of exuberance and frenzy into which Northern states can work themselves in a trice?

Is it also that the South, having throughout history been insulated from the upheavals and conflicts that have characterised the North, has unconsciously developed a tendency to stand aloof from the national mainstream?






There has, of late, been a public relations overdrive for foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. The bureaucrats want to move ahead with it. And politicians from the ruling party have expressed the need to build a political consensus. There appears to be a divide between the two. Those facing the electorate know the ground reality. In this matter, I hope the survival instinct of the politician prevails.

This business cannot be about ramming policy changes through, using PR. It is about the lives of people. How will they be affected? Who will pay the price? What are the likely social consequences? What can we learn from other countries, to protect India's interests? First, some explanation about the nomenclature "FDI in multi-brand retail". A leader of a national trade group told me that many of his constituents do not even understand what it means. The phrase is classic bureaucratic obfuscation.

The bureaucrats are justifying such FDI by saying it will improve supply-chain infrastructure for perishables, which is but a fraction of the retail industry. Using this excuse, what is proposed is that the entire retail world will be thrown open to foreign retailers. They should really call it "Inviting foreign companies to compete with all retailers and traders" so that everyone understands what it means.

The foreign retailers are likely to start with dry goods, as they tend to do around the world. These dry goods can be sourced from any part of the world. Every class of retailer, across product lines — garments, footwear, home furnishings, personal products, laundry, cleaning products, pharmaceuticals, furniture, kitchen and home appliances, white and brown goods, auto parts … you name it — will come under attack.

All sorts of retailers, and traders and intermediaries, run the risk of elimination. Manufacturers of merchandise will come under pricing pressure, and face the threat of a shut-down. All of this in the guise of improving "supply chain infrastructure", which has no relevance to these categories.

Concentration is the game

In markets around the world, Big Retail has steadily edged out smaller players, leading to unfair concentration. In the grocery business, market shares range from 20 per cent to as high as 80 per cent-plus for just a few retailers. Entire countries depend on them, as they control the supply of food.

Their shares, by country, are: Sweden 86 per cent, Belgium 79 per cent, Australia 78 per cent, Germany 75 per cent, Mexico 70 per cent, Canada 69 per cent, the UK 63 per cent, France 55 per cent, Brazil 38 per cent, Thailand 32 per cent, the US 30 per cent and Indonesia 20 per cent. In Brazil, Thailand and Indonesia, these shares have been achieved in just over a decade (see Table).

The social upheaval comes about because Big Foreign Retailers will aim for concentration, and this results in elimination of local retailers, fewer number of stores, and less employment.

In Thailand, over 30 per cent of independent small retailers were taken out in 10 years! We have 25 million chief wage earners in retail (Source: IRS). One percentage loss equals 250,000 jobs, comprising people who are not easily redeployed. If 30 per cent is lost, as in Thailand, this would impact 75 lakh jobs and 3.75 crore people (at five people per household). Readers can make their own estimates. The most poignant example of reduction in number of stores, and employment, is in the US. Between 1951 and 2011, the population of the US doubled from 155 million to 312 million. Yet the number of stores has actually declined from 1.77 million in 1951 to 1.5 million in 2011. The number of independent stores (with less than ten employees) has declined from 1.6 million to 1.1 million in the same period (see Table). It is misleading to suggest that Big Foreign Retail will enter India and improve employment. While these players will employ people, at the same time, they will be knocking off employment in large numbers in the overall economy. It is the net numbers that we should be looking at.

Protecting India's interests

Two nations that have not permitted their retail market to fall into foreign hands are Germany and Japan. While they have a concentrated retail sector, their major players are home-grown. They both have had strong laws regulating the retail sector, protecting the self-interests of the respective countries.

The centrepiece of German anti-trust legislation is the Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen, or GWB. Section 20(4) of this 'Act Against Restraints of Competition' "bans all undertakings with superior market power from selling a range of goods, not merely occasionally, below its cost price, unless there is an objective justification for this".

In essence, this means it is illegal for German retailers to sell below cost to knock out competition. German zoning laws are strict and they ensure that big stores cannot be put up, except in designated city areas. Store hours are restricted, and big retailers have to use union labour. After a decade, and unable to turn in a profit in Germany, Walmart exited that country in 2007, taking a €1-billion loss.

In Japan, the daikibokouritenpohou — the Large-Scale Retail Store Law — came into effect in 1973 to protect small retailers. This law, unchanged till 2000, regulated the amount of selling space, store opening hours, and number of business holidays in a year.

Most importantly, any proposal for a big store had to be notified and the views of the affected parties had to be sought before approval. In effect, this reduced the build-up of big stores for decades.

Predictably, the US protested, and called the Japanese distribution system antiquated. The US missed the point completely. The law was designed to serve Japan's interests, and it did that well. There is an uncharacteristic haste in India to rush through FDI in multi-brand retail. There are ways to protect national interests. The policy guidelines that have come out do not reflect them.

The politicians would do well to understand how the 10-plus crore voters in this sector will be affected. If the policy is notified, there will be a groundswell that could well sow the seed for a government change in the next elections.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Former Samajwadi leader and sitting Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh has been chargesheeted in the cash-for-vote scandal, along with Sudheendra Kulkarni, a former adviser to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and one-time aide to BJP stalwart L.K. Advani, as well as two BJP MPs of the last Lok Sabha. The police has also sought the Lok Sabha Speaker's sanction to prosecute sitting BJP MP Ashok Argal. The trial is about to get under way. As such, it is too early to take a definitive view, much less pronounce guilt. It is remarkable, nevertheless, that the dramatis personae, in the main, have a close association with the country's main Opposition party. The case is a straightforward one of corruption in the system. Either the Congress went on a bribing spree, or the BJP simply contrived a cock-and-bull story to make its main adversary look soiled. In both events, the system would be suborned. In July 2008, when the Left withdrew support from the UPA-1 government, it is alleged the Congress took steps to ensure that its government did not fall on the floor of Parliament. The effort was to get non-UPA MPs to vote for it, or at least abstain. Why then is no one from the Congress among those arraigned? Or is there no proof of this yet? The implied suggestion is that Mr Singh was playing the Congress' game, that he arranged the money with which to bribe BJP MPs. The veracity of this is yet to be established. The police claims it hasn't yet figured out where the former Samajwadi leader got the money from to pay BJP legislators. Until this is done, the case against the UPA won't stand. Mr Kulkarni claims that his role was to stage-manage a sting operation and get a television channel to shoot the proceedings. Did he do it at his own behest? The BJP MPs in question were roped in to "accept" a bribe on camera, and promptly take the loot to the floor of the Lok Sabha to make a dramatic show of exposing the wrongdoer — in this case the government — by displaying wads of currency notes. We must, of course, wait for the trial to progress to know if they pocketed any of the so-called bribe money, or took the entire sum to the House, which was then deposited with the authorities. But no matter what, this is a despicable tale. It is terrible that any MP, least of all from a party that claims for itself a higher standard of public morality, should be involved in such a tawdry show.






The resignation of CEOs is always news, especially to shareholders of the company, but rarely are such departures given such media coverage all over the world as has been the case with Steve Jobs, the top boss of technology company Apple. Steve Jobs has always enjoyed rock star status among techies, nerds and the large number of Apple cultists alike; his decision to step down naturally has set that universe agog. Since 1997, when he returned to the company from where he was eased out 13 years earlier, he has been synonymous with Apple, leading it with particular passion and vision into becoming the world's most successful and innovative technology company. That Apple today is seen as an outfit that routinely produces not only cutting-edge gadgets but also leads the way for the industry is in no small measure due to his own manic drive to excel. It's one thing to come up with cool, well-designed computers; quite another to develop pathbreaking products that didn't exist before and become ubiquitous immediately after launch. Both the iPod and iPad are things we almost cannot do without today; and both have fundamentally altered the worlds of telephony, entertainment and publishing. The big question, and not only for Apple followers, is this: will the company retain its leadership and, more important, its stylishness once Jobs is gone.







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 irony of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's situation cannot be lost on any observer. Here is a man who, for all his other attributes and accomplishments, has been universally hailed for his honesty. Yet today he finds himself at the receiving end of a nationwide upsurge against corruption. His government appears to be fighting with its back to the wall. His purportedly apolitical opponents have the upper hand. And his political adversaries are happy to make the most of his extreme discomfiture. The perception today is that the government is stonewalling, seeking to stall a mammoth effort to cleanse the country of the cancer of corruption. A series of acts of omission and commission have brought the government to such a pass. If arresting and jailing Anna Hazare, the messiah of the middle class, was ill-advised, taking him to Tihar Jail was a PR disaster. Tihar is where the authorities have lodged those accused of some of the worst excesses in corruption in recent times. Mr Hazare lost no time in turning his incarceration in Tihar to his advantage and declaring that he would not leave the premises until all his fast-related demands were met. In fact, smart communication lies at the heart of Mr Hazare's success. The Anna campaign has made an impressive use of all manner of PR tools and techniques ranging from symbolism (fasts and meditation at Rajghat) to social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, apps, you name it), FM radio, news media, television and mobile telephony. In contradistinction, failure to communicate has been the UPA's Achilles' heel. The top leaders have consistently and stubbornly refused to engage with the media, secure in the belief that they did not need any mediation to reach out to the electorate. The 2009 electoral victory of the UPA must have been seen as a vindication of this policy. The pitfalls inherent in the policy of media silence must be more than apparent to them now. Not for nothing have a succession of US Presidents routinely used the radio, often on a weekly basis, to reach out to the citizenry. Another communications blunder of this government has been to let the anti-corruption crusaders drive the agenda of public discourse. Speaking at a Ficci event last month, home minister P. Chidambaram lamented that security and corruption had come to occupy the centrestage of national discourse when that place rightly belonged to economic growth, change and reforms. He had hit the nail on the head. But what he said begged the question as to who allowed the anti-corruption crusaders to grab the ball and run with it. For months now, few observers have spoken of reforms and growth except while bemoaning that these have suffered as a consequence of a policy paralysis in the government. The government would have been much better placed today if it had seized the initiative by moving aggressively ahead on the unfinished reforms agenda. It did not even officially celebrate 20 years of reforms, in July, as though it disowned them. Smartly handled, a publicity blitzkrieg would have done wonders for its reputation, especially with those young middle class Indians who have benefited the most from the fruits of the economic reforms that transformed India. It is these young people who have come out today heeding Mr Hazare's call. Instead of regarding Dr Singh as their friend and benefactor, they see him as an obstacle to change. How ironical for Dr Singh. Dr Singh hurt himself by declaring that there is no magic wand to remove corruption. Of course, there isn't. But that is for others to say. Not for the government. In fact, he would have done well to declare that the battle against corruption in general and the move for a strong Lokpal Bill were an integral part of the reforms process, which indeed they are. If the RTI brings glasnost (openness) in governance, then Lokpal is part of perestroika (restructuring). A brilliant beginning was made during the first phase of Mr Hazare's agitation when the government moved swiftly and imaginatively to strike a deal with the civil society representatives. Unfortunately, that move came a cropper, perhaps due to intransigence on both sides, and once again the government found itself painted into a corner by an aggressive Mr Hazare. Here again, a PR coup could have been scored if Dr Singh had forcefully asserted that he was on the same side as Mr Hazare. To drive home the point, he could have said that he would join Mr Hazare on a day's token fast at the same venue. That would have gone a long way in bridging the communication gulf between large sections of the population and the government, which they see as remote, unfeeling and loath to abandon old habits. Vivek Sengupta, founder and chief executive of the consulting firm Moving Finger Communications







The last month of the Malayalam Era is Karkkidakam (July 16 to August 17). The new moon day in this month is considered best-suited and auspicious for conducting the observances to please the ancestors. Both the Sun and the Moon stay in the same rashi (the sign in the zodiac), and hence this day is chosen for the annual observances. New moon days are particularly important for ancestors. The observance of Bali (a ritual where offerings are made to please one's ancestors), it is believed, gives them salvation. In North India, the month of shradh — a ritual done to express one's respectful feelings for the ancestors with devotion — are from September 13 to September 27, 2011. The one who conducts shradham should eat only once the previous day. One has to do the rites after taking bath and wearing wet clothes. The observer of the rites should first put on his finger "pavithra", a ring made of durba grass. Holding the durba grass in both hands, he should chant mantras pleading with the ancestors to accept the Bali. He should then move the durba grasses around the head thrice, place it on a plantain leaf, sprinkle water on it, while uttering "Jalaabhishekam Karishyami". Different articles like sandalwood paste, paddy mixed with pounded brown rice, flowers, a wet thread etc are also submitted before the pindam. Now the plantain leaf on which the rice was rolled into a ball should be placed on the pindam face down. Then there's worship with lighted camphor. Circumambulate the pindam, worship it with flowers and kneel before it, while chanting mantras. Apologising for the flaws possibly committed in the process and offering a little rice for the crow, sprinkle water around it. The remaining rice can be dropped into water for the fish to eat. After reciting Brahmarppanam, a vessel with a spout containing water is placed upside down and the observer kneels down with his face upon it. The rites come to an end. The observer of Bali should chant the following mantra while taking bath: "Gange cha Yamune chaiva Godavari Saraswathi Narmade Sindhu Kaveree jalesmin sannidhim kuru." The area where Bali is observed should be smeared with cow dung. Water mixed with cow dung should be sprinkled in the entire premises. Garuda Purana says that Lord Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and other devas visit places where cow dung is smeared and puja held. At the end of the rites, koorcham, the durba grass tied together, should be untied to send back the ancestors to Pitrauloka. Our tradition insists that all the karmas related to the ancestors be done with utmost care. Then only will they be pleased and bless us. Dr Venganoor Balakrishnan is the author of Thaliyola, a book on Hindu beliefs and rituals. He has also written books on the Vedas and Upanishads







Both aim to paralyse state By Shekhar Singh, National Campaign for People's Right to Information 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. 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. 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? Anna is not a democrat By Anirudh Deshpande, History professor, Delhi University 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.








THE Gorkhaland agreement is an interim arrangement prior to the creation of a separate state of the same name. In a de facto manner, it legitimises the process of colonisation in the 21st century. There is no such parallel yet anywhere in the world. The sensitive aspect of the pact signed last month is that it has changed the name of Darjeeling to Gorkhaland. Implicit in the name, "Darjeeling", is the fact that it was once a predominantly Lepcha territory.

Mamata Banerjee has tried to under-play the name-change in the Hills by quoting Shakespeare ~ "What's in a name?". This is bound to boomerang, and add fuel to the fire. To say the least, the pact is a hasty, short-sighted exercise on the part of the Chief Minister, reminiscent of Rajiv Gandhi's brand of politics. It reeks of opportunism.

We need to ascertain whether the term, "Gorkha" denotes a tribe, a race, a caste or a linguistic group. Why did the leaders of the Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJMM) insist that the territory should be named Gorkhaland if there was nothing substantive?  Why do they find the original name, "Darjeeling", unacceptable? The name-change has been incorporated in the agreement. And the GJMM has stuck to its demand for a separate state by that name.

The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) is only a stepping stone towards a separate state of Gorkhaland within the Union of India. The permanent title of the territory has been reserved for the Gorkhas, to the exclusion of other ethnic groups, including the Lepchas. The hegemony of the Gorkha is inherent in the agreement. The grant of Scheduled Tribe status to the Gorkhas, as promised, will enable them to exclude all other ethnic groups from buying property in the proposed state.

An entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (15th edition) vol V page 575, states: "Gurkha, also spelled Gorkha, is a town in central Nepal. It is located on a hill overlooking the Himalayas. The town is famous for its shrine, "Gorakhnath", the patron saint of the region. The ancestral home of the ruling house of Nepal, Gurkha was seized by Drabya Shah, the younger son of the king of Lamjung, who  established his own kingdom. His descendant, Prithvi Narayan Shah, created an ethnically diverse military force that came to be known as the Gurkhas with which he conquered the valley in 1769 and consolidated the numerous petty principalities into the state of Nepal. Shortly thereafter he moved his capital from Gorkha to Kathmandu."

This makes it clear that there was a town north of Kathmandu by the name, Gorkha. A town by this name still exists and can be verified in the map of Nepal. On the Indian side of the same region there is another town named Gorakhpur, probably dedicated to the same saint. The town, Gorkha, in Nepal was the original kingdom of the martial race of the Gorkhas. After shifting the capital from Gorkha to Kathmandu, the whole country of Nepal became a Gorkha territory and is, in fact, a Gorkhaland.

There should be no difference between the two words, Nepali and Gorkha. Nor for that matter is there any difference between the languages known as Gorkhali and Nepali; they are the names of the one and the same language. The poet, Bhanu Bhakta, is venerated in Nepal as well as in Darjeeling. However, the Nepalis living in India believe  that the term indicates their foreign status as nationals of Nepal. Hence the anxiety of the GJMM to maintain a separate Gorkha identity, one that is distinct from the Nepali identity within the Indian Union. LSS O'Malley's Bengal District Gazetteers, published in 1907, states that the Raja of Sikkim transferred the district of Darjeeling to the East India Company on 1 February 1835.

According to O'Malley, the Lepchas are the aboriginal inhabitants of the country, who call themselves Rong i.e., the squatters, and their country the "land of caves". The word, "Lepcha", was a contemptuous appellation given to them by the Nepalis. Formerly, they possessed all the hill country of Darjeeling and Sikkim. Dr Campbell, a member of the Indian Civil Service, who was the British Resident in Nepal, was transferred to Darjeeling as Superintendent in 1839. He reported that "the population rose from no more than 100 souls in 1839 to about 10,000 in 1849, chiefly by immigration from Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan". Dr Campbell established a sanatorium there for troops and others. Thus began the colonisation by the East India Company.
The name, "Darjeeling", is a variant of the word, "Dorge", the precious stone which is emblematic of the thunderbolt of Sakhra (Indra) and "ling", a place. The word derives its origin from the native language of the Lepchas, which is called Rong-ring, a language believed by some scholars to be the oldest in the world. These facts lead us to the inevitable conclusion that historically Darjeeling has been a Lepcha territory and a part of Sikkim. It has never been a Gorkha territory.

A demographic profile of the district, according to the census of 1901, shows that the Nepalis comprise 134,000 of the populace, which is more than half of the total. The various castes among the Nepalis were well represented in the district but the most numerous were the Khambus and Murmis. The latter were believed to have descended from Tibetan stock. The next "most numerous" caste was the Limbu who numbered 14,300. The Khas and Newar are the other castes. It is pertinent to mention that the Gorkhas, after the conquest of Nepal from the ruling Newar caste, did not change the name of the state to Gorkhaland.

The Lepchas, the original inhabitants, numbered only 10,000 in 1901 had already become a minority compared to the Nepalis. The Bhutias of Darjeeling numbered 9,300. They consisted of four classes ~ the Sikkimese Bhutias; the Sherpa Bhutias who came from east Nepal; the Drukpa or Dharma Bhutia whose home was Bhutan; and the Tibetan Bhutias from Tibet. Besides, there were Rajbangshis, Koches and the people from the plains such as Bengalis, Marwaris, Punjabis, and Biharis who had also settled in the Hills by that time. According to the Census of 1901, about one-fifth of the people spoke Nepali-Hindi which is also known as Gurkhali or Nepali, or Paharia by the people of the plains. Nearly 50 per cent of the people spoke in 19 different dialects of Tibetan-Burmese origin.

The data, based on the census, points to the diversity of the population of Darjeeling district. The word, "Gorkha", is the name of the caste that originated from the Gurkha town of Nepal.  The strength of the Gorkha agitators stems from the fact that the Nepalis far outnumber the Lepchas. Being a martial group, the Gorkhas have become a dominant segment. They are, therefore, in a position to buttress the demand for a separate state, to be called "Gorkhaland". The name-change of Darjeeling will identify the Hills with the most dominant caste. All Gorkhas are Nepali in origin, but all Nepalis are not Gorkhas which is a caste among those we know as Nepalis.
The Gorkhaland pact concedes more than it gains. It does not protect the territorial integrity of the state of West Bengal. The proposed Gorkhaland Territorial Administration is an essay towards the creation of a separate state.
When Miss Banerjee promised a Switzerland in North Bengal, she meant a Gorkhaland.

The writer is an advocate, practising in Jalpaiguri District Court







JUST how close the country is ~ hopefully soon that would read "was" ~ to dangerous confrontation is a burning query. An incompetent, inconsistent and unseeing government pitched against an unreasonable, equally arrogant, near-sighted group of media-savvy activists riding high on the back of a simple though rigid social reformer is a veritable recipe for disaster. Passion has clouded reason, the possibility of that spinning out of control has threatened the very fabric of parliamentary democracy. Some may argue against that assessment: few can deny that regardless of how the current crisis pans out, the credibility of the UPA government stands diminished. But that's not all: challenging the authority of a government is legitimate, what is not legitimate is the attempt of some of Anna Hazare's aides to use street power as evidence of public support. The Gandhian had accused the government of being intoxicated with power, the belligerence and provocative comments from his supporters prove they are equally "drunk"; note the marginalisation of saner elements like Swami Agnivesh and Santosh Hegde. Since numbers are now being bandied about, is there not a case of playing the ultimate numbers game in parliamentary democracy ~ elections? And not merely to settle silly disputes about whether those backing Hazare actually reflect public opinion more than elected MPs.

Even before the current controversy over Lokpal legislation erupted, the moral right of the UPA to retain office had been questioned. Rampant corruption as manifest in the CWG and 2G scams, a skewed bid to appoint a CVC and denigration of the CAG were one set of shortcomings; inflation and a stagnating economy were another; so too the lack of action to resolve the Telangana issue, the unchecked Maoist activity in central India, compromising tribal land for selective development, the list is endless. The impression in a large section of society is that Dr Manmohan Singh lacks the political clout to govern. First he lamented lack of a magic wand, on Wednesday he stated he was not an astrologer: a fresh mandate might provide him reinforcement ~ it might even liberate him from "coalition compulsions" at a time when DMK leaders (supposedly an ally) are calling for him to be summoned as witness in the corruption cases they are facing. For him personally, and the UPA at large, to cling to office would trigger a recall of Rajiv Gandhi's quip about limpets. Fresh polls would also serve to pin the Opposition down. Thus far it has merely fished in troubled waters, ignored the not always impressive showing in the states where it is in power.  And if Team Anna is so committed to probity in public life it could campaign to ensure that "good" candidates get elected. The nation has come close to the brink; brinkmanship is not the remedy. The ballot box could be the best arbiter.



THE head of a municipality, as the elected representative of tax-payers, has his/her duties explicitly defined. And regional profiling of social behaviour is not one of them. The chairperson of Bidhannagar Municipality, Krishna Chakraborty's suo motu and generalised remark against students from the North-east has caused a flutter. Not, as one might have imagined, among Salt Lake's residents from the North-east; but at the level of the political class and civil society. Ms Chakraborty's cavil over drinking in public, smoking by women, and "public display of affection and promiscuity" is not the issue. Where the chairperson has erred is in the regional profiling of what she deems to be a social aberration, if that is the term. Unwittingly or otherwise, she has cast an aspersion on students from the North-east who come to Kolkata to pursue their studies. As the chairperson of an upmarket satellite town, she needs to be a mite more liberal and a great deal more sensitive. Youth from other parts of the country ~ including Bengal ~ are no less guilty of social offences in Salt Lake or elsewhere, particularly eve-teasing, fake abductions, unruly behaviour and bending of the elbow in public. Her statement was thus uncalled for, provoking Ila Nandi, the leader of the Opposition in the municipality, to remind her that "we cannot call people from a certain region rowdy". The chairperson ought not to have generalised her swipe against students from the North-east. And her supplementary ~ not a clarification ~ is an attempt at backtracking, one that is unlikely to mollify sentiment ~ "The brothers and sisters can certainly drink in their room." And there is no bar on public smoking by "sisters", unless the area is a prohibited zone.
The chairperson has generated an unwarranted controversy. Handpicked by the Chief Minister ~ after a bout of intra-Trinamul wrangling ~ she needs to focus on civic services, not least the wheeling and dealing in real estate and illegal transfer of land that the government had leased out for 99 years for residential purposes. Salt Lake's Bangali bhadralok image ~ to quote the chairperson ~ was denuded long ago. Over the past three decades, it has deviated from the original site-plan, to summon real estate terminology. The area has passed the stage of delusory sophistication.



THE quality of legal and prescribed drugs ~ as distinct from heroin and cocaine ~ is open to question if West Bengal's drug control department has to update its website to arouse public consciousness. This is the dark side of prescription medication; the effect on public health can be no less damaging than their illegal counterparts. An investigation by this newspaper reveals that no fewer than 42 varieties of drugs that can be bought at drug stores do not conform to quality specifications. And these include common prescriptions, such as paracetamol for fever and phensedyl cough syrup. Prescription drugs can be no less addictive for some. Though less ostensible on the face of it, it is a problem that cannot continue to be ignored. It would be less than fair to blame it wholly on the drug/medicine stores; these are at worst the second line of operation and perhaps unwittingly so. It is the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture inferior drugs ~ mercifully not spurious ~ that must be held accountable. While chemist  shops have been asked to stop the sale of such drugs, the directive ought to have been addressed to the source of production. Retail outlets or hospitals for that matter are not equipped with the wherewithal to test the efficacy of a prescribed drug. Not that the 42 drugs listed on the website had passed their "date of expiry"; the response of the drug control department would suggest that the standard was suspect from the "date of manufacture".

Effective action by the department will have to be two-pronged. First, the pharmaceutical companies should be brought under the scanner. Second, the "alert notice" must be advanced to private medical practitioners, medicine stores, hospitals and nursing homes. As often as not, it is the medical representative who plays the role of the sales agent in doctors' chambers, shops, and nursing homes. It will not be enough to alert the layman through billboards... so very unlike London. The message and the list of "inferior" drugs and medicines must be addressed to a professional target. The scale of the problem is unknown, but it doubtless reflects the demand of patients. A piecemeal approach will be insufficient. Nor for that matter can it  be addressed through "surprise visits".  






Unfortunately, the biggest attack is being launched on this Movement against Corruption by fellow travellers, mainly other NGOs and individuals

The usual games are afoot, and the speech by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Parliament about taking "all sections of opinion" on board in the formulation of the Lokpal Bill reminded one of his many assurances to Parliament on the US-India civilian nuclear energy agreement. Always personalising his interventions, he used to assure Parliament that India's concerns would not be played with, although that is exactly what happened as even his supporters ~ in particular the corporates and the media ~ realised along the way. Now he appeared before Parliament complaining that he had been attacked personally by BJP leader Mr Murli Manohar Joshi and assuring Mr Anna Hazare and his team that their concerns would be looked into.
Clearly, this is hardly an assurance of consequence. And comes from the usual all-party meetings that the Congress government has become fairly adept at holding, where lines get blurred in long speeches, and except for a few, no one is able to get his or her view across effectively. The media has been told the meeting agreed that Mr Anna Hazare should call off his fast, and that Parliament is supreme. But what was not underlined in the briefings, nor in the Prime Minister's statement in Parliament, was that all the major Opposition parties wanted the government to withdraw the existing Lokpal Bill and replace it with a fortified, effective and strong piece of legislation.
The solution is staring everyone in the face really. The government should withdraw the Lokpal Bill and inform the standing committee and Parliament that it will be replacing it with another within a specific time schedule. This will open the closed doors in a jiffy and allow Mr Hazare to call off his fast. Oneupmanship only creates problems, which can be gigantic if anything happens to Mr Anna Hazare in these hours and days. He is an old man and his body has gone into starvation mode, which is basically into danger zone.
Unfortunately, the biggest attack is being launched on this Movement against Corruption by fellow travellers, mainly other NGOs and individuals. Many owing affiliation to the Congress are leading the attack, by first questioning the credentials of Mr Hazare, then of his team, and then of the movement itself.
1)  Hazare is no Gandhi or Jai Prakash Narayan, they say. He is not and he has not even tried to be one. But isn't it amazing that despite being a much smaller figure than the giants who dotted the Indian landscape at crucial moments, he has got this huge following that has crossed the middle class barrier, and is now attracting workers, farmers and the poorer sections of society?
2)   The Anna team is fascist and they control him. Hardly. They are all people who have worked well with others for years now, and are well known. Mr Arvind Kejriwal for instance, was part of Ms Aruna Roy's team until he left and is certainly not bigger, or for that matter smaller, than those heading other NGOs. These are people with a passionate belief in their fight against corruption and have been taking up the issue for years in some form or the other. Besides, anyone who knows Mr Anna Hazare knows also that he is stubborn, and certainly not pliable.
3)  The movement is based on a cult. Not at all, as Mr Anna Hazare has been with the movement for a long while and it is only now ~ given the people's anger and frustration with governments ~ that something clicked and he was embraced as the mascot of the movement. The cult cannot last unless the movement is fulfilling aspirations. And Mr Hazare's fast would have been little more than a damp squib had it not been for the kind of support that he has been getting across the country.
4)  They are bypassing Parliament. Not at all. They are asking Parliament to do its duty, and pass an effective and not a useless piece of legislation. Mr Hazare and his men are not passing the Bill, they want a strong and effective Bill and want definitive assurances from the government that this is what will be done. This assurance has still not been forthcoming as the government is looking for a way to salvage the situation without conceding an inch.
5)  His is just a middle class movement. This would have been relevant years ago when the middle class was not particularly large in this country. Now it is huge, and certainly not irrelevant and has to be recognised as such. Besides, the poor too are attaching themselves to the movement in a big way.
6)  Anna Hazare and his team cannot get themselves elected. That is not their purpose. They do not want to become politicians, they want to pressure politicans and the system into cleansing itself. The movement is focusing on corruption, the face of the movement is Mr Anna Hazare but the other issues that have been raised as a consequence are also on centre stage and extremely important ~ people's empowerment, rights, justice, democratic space and accountability. The right to protest is guaranteed to the people and the words emerging from Congress lips really seek to make a mockery of people's participation in determining their present and future.
It is sad that instead of seeing through the government game, and coming together to support the movement, NGOs and intellectuals have assumed the role of armchair theorists and are trying to damp down the protest at various levels. There are some dangers inherent in the Hazare movement, there are some weaknesses but these could have been tackled better if the progressive movements and individuals had joined hands with him and the team to do so. The arguments being offered, as listed above, do not stand scrutiny, and it is time for political parties and civil society to join hands and give a political direction to a movement that has clearly attracted the people's imagination and support.
Instead of nitpicking and quibbling, one would expect a coming together of progressive forces to ensure that the government withdraws its Bill, becomes responsive to the will of the people, and introduces a good, effective legislation within a prescribed time period as a first step. Of course, it is necessary for Mr Anna Hazare and his team to put together a wider and more comprehensive agenda as one Lokpal Bill is no more than a step in the fight against corruption.
Prime Minister Singh, if he is actually worried about corruption as he claims to be, will initiate the withdrawal of the government's Lokpal Bill instead of merely mouthing words that do not inspire confidence and trust. At least, not until these are followed by concrete action.

The writer is Consulting Editor,
The Statesman 






Negotiations between the government and members of Team Hazare seemed to be proceeding towards a settlement. But late last evening, Ms Kiran Bedi, Mr Arvind Kejriwal and Mr Prashant Bhushan conferred with Mr Pranab Mukherjee. According to Press reports, the trio emerged from the meeting ashen-faced. They told reporters that the government had taken a complete U-turn to renege from earlier commitments and adopted an extra hard line. Political observers were flummoxed by the government's volte face. They could not explain why the government took such a drastic turnaround.

I have a simple explanation. I cannot say whether Mr Mukherjee brought up the subject with the Team Hazare trio or not. But I am reasonably certain that the government's change of heart occurred because of what Mr Hazare said at the Ramlila Maidan a few hours before the trio met the finance minister. Mr Hazare, in a brief speech, pointed to his forehead and said that he had survived a Pakistani bullet to it during the 1965 war. He went on to say that, nevertheless, he continued his fight against enemies across the border. He then added that today there are "enemies and traitors" hidden in India against whom he was currently fighting. He concluded by saying that he would continue his fight against these traitors with the same zeal with which he fought Pakistanis.

The reference was too clear to be missed. If the government with which he is negotiating is described as an enemy and traitor, the insult is simply too severe to be stomached by even this thick-skinned government. That nothing succeeds like excess may be true while galvanising public support. It does not necessarily work during negotiations. Therefore, there was a breakdown in the talks. Therefore, it was back to square one.

The writer is a veteran journalist
and cartoonist







An analysis of the statements made by bright science students who recently left school makes it clear that they attend classes only for theoretical lectures and peruse study material at home with the help of private tutors. All their attention seems to be focused on cracking some entrance examination or the other and not taking lessons in the classroom with fellow students. Admittedly, competition has become more intense since our school days in the early 60s. But I couldn't help wondering if the culture of cramming had also increased proportionally in the interim.

Cramming is often identified as the worst evil besetting our educational system. Experts have written extensively over generations on it. Ironically, many among such experts were themselves victims of the culture of cramming, with possibly the sole exception of Rabindranath Tagore whose essay Tota Kahini (The story of a parrot) was compulsory reading for us at high school. It was a tragic story of a parrot that a pundit (learned man) wanted to turn into a great scholar by pushing pages torn from books down its throat. Predictably, the parrot died an untimely death. Soon after the teacher discussed the Tagore piece in class, I remember us making a beeline for the nearest bookstore to buy B Choudhury's exam primer containing all possible questions (and their answers) that a high school student having Tota Kahini on the curriculum could be asked during tests. Even as teenagers,  we were clear that our performance at tests depended mostly on our cramming acumen.
When I was a student in India more than four decades ago, cramming was considered a critical factor in learning. As I recall, all test questions for Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics consisted of two parts. The first part required students to reproduce a known result ~ an experiment or a theorem. All one needed to do was memorise the problem from the textbook and reproduce it verbatim on the answer paper.  Correctly answering this section guaranteed at least 50 per cent of the total score. The next section in question papers contained problems to be solved. To attempt this section successfully, all us students needed to do was buy books available in the market ~ we called them "notebooks" ~ that contained solutions to all possible problems that could be set by a board of education. A clever student would memorise as many solutions as possible and could even score full marks if he/she were lucky. It helped that we were always given the choice of answering only some of the questions set. One could guess almost correctly the questions to be set in a given year because all one needed to do was eliminate the sections of the curriculum from which questions had been set the year before. This method of elimination considerably shrank the material to be memorised ahead of exams in a given year. At Presidency College, we had professors with an uncanny ability to predict questions correctly,  largely owing to them having perfected the art of elimination as described above. They were in huge demand and charged exorbitant fees as private tutors. For Arts subjects, school students frequently encountered questions which required them to "write whatever you know". Armed with solutions from "notebooks", we pounced on the answersheet lustily even before having completed reading the question in full. I have plenty of reason to assume that the practice still continues in Indian college and universities. As young children, we were told that the great educationist, Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, wanted graduates in every household of Bengal. And, cramming was the only realistic way to achieve this goal.

One thing keeps disturbs me even now. I spent practically my entire school life in a Ramkrishna Mission institution. Every day, before the start of classes, we had to chant Vedic slokas. It is still amazing that in all those years, despite chanting the same sloka every school day, we never bothered to find out what they meant! The monks who taught us never explained the meaning to us either. As children, we were told that reciting slokas in Sanskrit was enough to obtain divine blessings. There was no encouragement to understand their meaning or doubt their possible inconsistencies. Cramming seems to be a logical consequence of this wisdom. This phenomenon is quite common in most traditional cultures. Religious texts are often written in languages different from those spoken by the devotees. Priests kept their own and the scriptures' exclusivity alive by refusing to have them translated into the vernacular. As such, cramming became an essential part of religious education everywhere in the world. In Europe, change came with Reformation and Enlightenment. Martin Luther challenged the Catholic church by translating the Bible into German. Enlightenment followed when the common man was encouraged to think rationally. Modern European education is a direct product of Enlightenment. No wonder, internalising, rather than cramming, became the focal point of modern European education. The European educational system came to be imposed on Colonial India without the European preface. As such, learning by rote was never replaced by learning by original thinking. What is surprising is that we haven't bothered to make any change in all these years.

As a student in India, I took  non-collegiate tests only thrice. The first was a written examination for selecting Jagadish Bose National Science Talent Search scholars. The second was a test in mathematics to select candidates for a summer school sponsored by the University Grants Commission and organised by the mathematics department of Punjab University. The third was the Graduate Record Examination advanced test in engineering ahead of my departure to the USA for higher studies. All three tests had been prepared by organisations in the USA. It is possible that tests have changed perceptibly in India over the past four decades. But my frequent interaction with young Indian graduates gives me the feeling that not much has changed fundamentally over the years.

It is not easy to change the educational system in India. Some reasons are obvious ~ such as funds and infrastructure constraints. But doing away with routine questions, so that students are compelled to think originally in order to pass tests, will immeasurably harm the primer industry and successful private tutors and they would naturally, resist any attempt at reforms. Also, if questions did not contain parts that required direct answers from the textbook, the pass rate would dip considerably.

A major factor that has perpetuated the culture of cramming is the medium of instruction. Before Independence, English was already a medium of instruction for many subjects at high schools. To understand the material,  students had to translate it into their mother tongue first in order to grasp the meaning. This was a burdensome task for most students. It was far easier simply to memorise the entire matter and reproduce it as required during tests. Many students later became teachers themselves and simply kept on perpetuating the practice they had been subjected to at school. Thus, a vicious cycle of ignorance was kept alive for generations.

At college and university levels, the situation became hopeless as the subjects taught became progressively complex. A close friend of mine who chose to pursue higher education in Los Angeles and later became a professor at Calcutta University, was honest enough to express the sentiment shared by students across the board. He said that at the I.Sc level (equivalent to today's class XI and XII), his interest in science was great and he had the feeling that his teachers and fellow students understood the subjects being taught. At the B.Sc. (Honours) level, he thought that although he understood less and less about what was being taught, his teachers appeared to be more knowledgeable. While doing his M.Sc, the realisation sank in that neither himself nor his teachers had any idea about what was going on ~ everything was accomplished through expert cramming!
Acharya Satyendra Nath Bose had tirelessly campaigned for using mother tongue as the medium of instruction. That is not to say that students should not be taught English in schools ~ something the communists of Bengal had mandated in the 80s with disastrous consequences. To discourage students from cramming, we have to radically alter our tests so that the students are forced to think in their own language. This would dramatically alter the advantages of well-to-do students with the benefit of an English-medium education and vastly improve the chances of bright students across all socio-economic strata. Necessary investment in training teachers is a must if India aspires to be an economic superpower.

It is risky at present for a student in India to want to pursue a line of education that serves his spirit of enquiry and not his future livelihood. The common saying "everybody deserves a second chance" does not apply to Indian students. Once the normal career development path is disturbed, there is virtually no way of rectifying it in future. Even if a bright student with an original mind were prepared to take the risk, his cautious parents would not allow that to happen. But we must have a mechanism to spot such students and their uneven grades must not be allowed to damage their future prospects. In The discovery of India, Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru was overwhelmed with emotion while narrating the life of India's greatest mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and hoped that Independent India would be able to spot and promote many such geniuses. What Cambridge did to accommodate Ramanujan's genius is still unthinkable in India today, almost a century after the British university embraced the mathematician.

For ordinary students, education is the path to employment. Until recently, there was a total disconnect between education and jobs in India. With the advent of the outsourcing industry, there is a better correlation between pedagogy and employment. Even more significant are the developments in the information technology industry wherein Indian companies have gone way beyond merely providing routine services. With broad-based economic development in the future, it is hoped that education would separate itself from the culture of cramming.

Coming back to Rabindranath Tagore, he followed up on his incredible story ~ Tota Kahini ~ by setting up Visva-Bharati to honour his idea of true learning. Visva-Bharati could well have become the role model for all Indian universities. Instead, it is just another institution of higher learning in India now. Nobel laureate Gunter Grass had rightly commented after visiting Visva-Bharati: "Paradise lost!" In the year of the poet's 150th birth anniversary, let us hope that powers-that-be in India will take a fresh look at his surprisingly modern ideas on education.

The writer is ex-dean and professor of applied mathematics at Universityof Twente, The Netherlands







The very fact that all political parties had to meet and reassert the supremacy of Parliament and the Constitution is a sad comment on the shallow roots that the idea of democracy has in India. In a mature democracy, the point would need no reiteration, since such a premise would be held axiomatic and an integral part of the way the polity and, indeed, society functions. In India, the way some people, including some who should know better, have deified Anna Hazare and have thronged to the carnival in the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi is proof that there are people in India who do not value democracy, its procedures and conventions. Mr Hazare has scant regard for democracy and Parliament. He believes that only what he proposes should be law. He is not willing to accept that any bill to become law has to go through an established process of debate and discussion. He is an old man in a hurry who, to be seen as a hero, is willing to fast unless the rest of society accepts his views. Such blackmailing tactics have no place in a democracy. A democratic society should see Mr Hazare for what he is, without any illusion and without the halo of martyrdom hovering over him.

The government should feel bolstered by the rare show of unity displayed by the political parties on the subject of the primacy of parliamentary procedures. What this government fails to comprehend is that parliamentary procedures and conventions do not stand on their own. They are a part of the overall structure and spirit of democracy. The government violated this spirit when it needlessly arrested Mr Hazare and thus set in motion a process over which it has no control. There are other instances too when this government has trampled on the basic civil liberties of individuals. It is noteworthy that the government and the entire political class should recognize the supremacy of Parliament in the making of laws. But this recognition, to appear sincere, should be followed by proper behaviour on the floor of the House. The Opposition has broken parliamentary procedures — in fact, has stopped Parliament from functioning — many more times than Mr Hazare and his ilk have. The prime minister could lead the way by speaking more often before Parliament. This will demonstrate, more than words, that Parliament is considered crucial for Indian democracy.







Libya may have been liberated from the iron grip of Muammar Gaddafi, but the prospect of peace in this North African nation remains distant and fragile. Rebel forces and loyalists of the Gaddafi regime are at war with each other on the streets of Tripoli, where lawlessness reigns supreme. The National Transitional Council, which is expected to facilitate the messy, and already fractious, process of regime-change, is looking far from united. There are too many factions within the NTC lobbying for their own share of the pie and, as a result, coming in conflict with one another. The common aim of removing the dictator from power is as good as successful, but the ideological fabric of this rag-tag alliance of interest groups and small parties is in tatters. Compared to the large cities, little attention has been spared for the rural south of the country. This region has been neglected for years, which has encouraged the mushrooming of feudal autocracies. The tribes that are settled here have consistently resisted Tripoli's attempts at centralization. So there is no reason to assume that they will suddenly be amenable to taking orders from the new dispensation once it comes to power. The control of oil resources and increasing illegal emigration to the Mediterranean countries are the two other thorns that will dig deeper into the flesh of the next government as it tries to introduce reforms and improve Libya's international image.

Ironically, the greatest source of worry in newly liberated Libya is likely to be the legacy of those who helped liberate the nation in the first place. Thanks to the European Union, Britain and the Nato forces — which deemed it to be their collective responsibility to interfere with and influence the internal politics of another country — Libya is now awash with arms and ammunition. So far, the Libyan revolt has been the most violent among the Arab Spring uprisings, and has involved active military intervention from the Western powers. However, the West, in its zeal to bring democracy to this beleaguered post-colonial nation, appears to have forgotten that the rebels, who have brought freedom to Libya through the power of the gun, will be expected to behave like ordinary, law-abiding citizens once the revolution is over. Libya's aspiration to reinvent itself as a new nation may remain unattainable unless its civilian population is successfully disarmed.






After years overseas with an international organization, an economist returned home to join an important position in the ministry of finance in New Delhi. It was the mid-1950s; Chintaman Deshmukh was the finance minister. The economist, who was from Gujarat, was taken aback by a postcard from a distinguished senior citizen of his native place, Nadiad. The old patriarch was happy beyond measure that a Gujarati had joined the ministry of finance, he would now be able to channel lots and lots of funds to Gujarat, which had till then, received a raw deal from that wretched Maharashtrian, Deshmukh.

The oldster was known as an upright person. He was involved in many welfare activities, had sponsored a successful milk cooperative, was chairperson of the governing body of the local college and was widely respected for his generosity and helpfulness. His ethos was utterly sincere even if doggedly traditional. Was not someone from a village, who had succeeded in life, set up a flourishing legal or medical practice in the state capital or risen high in government service and built an imposing mansion in the city, always expected to keep open house for his relatives, friends and neighbours from the village? They would be in the city perhaps to pursue further studies or for medical treatment or to file a legal suit or in search of work. It was accepted social code that one making good in life should help, by whatever means possible, his kinfolk. If it were in his power to wangle a job for a needy young man from his village, was he not morally obliged to do so? For the patriarch from Nadiad, a son of Gujarat, installed in a key slot in the ministry of finance, was bound to arrange extra resources for Gujarat. The concept of conflict of interest would have sounded altogether foreign to him.

The colonial times saw the full flowering of this ethos, which defined an entrenched agrarian culture. Somebody from a middle-class background lucky enough to get promoted as burra baboo in a managing agency firm lost no time in filling the posts of petty clerks within his beat with his near and dear ones. Such gestures would be accorded tacit social approval; it was as if the individual was redeeming his debt to his extended family which had helped him get established in life. The expression 'nepotism' was yet to gain currency. Fellow-feeling — identity of interest with those around — was what mattered. It was extremely low-level economic equilibrium; a stagnant agriculture — at that point the prime source of national income — fostered a stagnancy of the mind. What is elliptically referred to as modernization was a lugubrious process, there was not that degree of competition for people to avail themselves of urban opportunities, the formidable head clerk had little trouble in crowding the office with members of his clan. Similar things happened within government precincts; a deputy collector and magistrate or a subordinate judge — the highest rung of the ladder an Indian could ordinarily aspire to reach — would consider it his bounden duty to get poor relatives or acquaintances selected as kanungos, muharirs or sheristadars. This mirrored the social conscience of the day. Many private banks, for instance, crashed because they thought nothing of making generous advances to either members of the family floating the enterprise or to close friends that in the end went unrequited.

Such a state of affairs continued more or less till the advent of independence. During the acute depression of the 1930s, a swelling of urban unemployment led to stray protests against reported instances of nepotism in public appointments. But it did not assume a serious form; a provincial chief minister (then designated as premier) could even brazen it out by claiming 'helplessness' since all his nephews, who had landed cushy government jobs, happened to be brilliant. The private sector, though, was yet unaffected by ramblings of nepotism-induced discontent.

Individuals attaining positions of influence or in business did not have to suffer in those times from the agony of the private interest-public interest divide. They considered themselves to be men of purpose, intent on using their position to further what they regarded as public interest. The public to them was made up of those who constituted their immediate world — their kith and kin and men and women in their village or taluka; the rest of the universe was beyond their horizon of awareness. With their public world indistinguishable from their private world, there was no question in their mind on any possible conflict of interest.

Time past continues to haunt time present. The ambience has changed, a century or more has elapsed, the mindset of quite a few, nonetheless, is stuck in the feudal-colonial mould. A young politician of relatively humble circumstances catches the eye of the scouts of a corporate group. They submit a favourable report, and the corporate entity decides to invest in him. It finances his election campaigns, allows him some benami shares, arranges to transfer the ownership of an apartment in a highrise in Mumbai or Calcutta in the name of his daughter, subsidizes his travels overseas so that he can broaden his mind. The up and coming politician is naturally beholden to the corporate house and thinks no end of it. In course of time, he becomes a junior minister at the Centre and uses his position to do little and not-so-little favours for the business group to which he owes so much: once installed in a ministerial slot, there are ways and ways to advance, on the sly, the interests of one's favourite corporate body, such as pass on some inside information that enables it to submit the lowest tender for a government contract, or adjust the rate of excise duty on a range of commodities the group has a stake in. The minister travels fast along the learning curve and soon gets to know how to cut awkward corners; he grows bolder too. His closeness to the particular corporate entity is soon a staple of market gossip; that hardly bothers him. He has worked out the moral issue in his mind. Is it not in the line of one's duty to help those who had helped you? The minister- politician is firm in his belief that the corporate house he has such intimate links with is doing great work in its sphere of activity and making outstanding contributions to the country's cause. No need, he reasons, to worry over the supposed distinction between public interest and private interest: the two converge.

Arrives the season for putting together a new government. The particular industry or business group has by now acquired enough clout to lobby with the highest political circles and ensure that its man not only gets a place in the new cabinet, but is also allotted a portfolio most strategic to its interests. The sequel is the torrent of so-called scams that are currently keeping the comptroller and auditor general, the Supreme Court and the media engaged. The corporate group, armed with a franchise obtained amazingly easily, extracts, with nonchalance, natural resources from regions into which it is not supposed to intrude. It fudges its capital expenditure to bloat the estimates of cost and thereby further fleece consumers. It gets away with these acts because the presiding minister is its nominee in the cabinet.

Crude people may call this corruption; private interest has, in their view, made mincemeat of public interest. Advocates on behalf of the minister and the corporate body will differ. The problem, they will explain, is on account of a clash of cultures, the new-fangled doctrine of conflict of interest is having a confrontation with the age-old concept of the indivisibility of private and public welfares. Is it not hoary Indian convention to take care of one's kith and kin once one has arrived where he has — is not such conduct obligatory for a true Indian worth his salt? Is it a crime to be loyal, to an entity which is doing such wonderful things to transform the face of India? Why then is the hullabaloo?

Proponents of the identity-of-interest theory will proceed further. What is taking place in India is no different, from what is happening in the great United States of America itself. According to a recent revelation, ever since 2008, when the frightening economic meltdown began, the Federal Reserve Board, the central bank of that country, has secretly advanced funds to the extent of a whopping 16 trillion dollars to a select number of banks and corporations; several officials of the Fed happen to be on the executive boards of these banks and corporate bodies. Not one question was raised over conflict of interests: munificence, so to say, was internalized.

There is a meeting ground, it will be thunderously claimed, between the old Indian value system and contemporary American practice. Conflict of interest is bunkum, corruption is illusion. Allegations of corruption of other kinds being talked of must also be based on similar misunderstanding. But some people are beyond reason; they still threaten to exercise — what rubbish — their 'democratic' rights and protest against corruption. The poor government has no option but to detain them. These detentions draw inexplicably huge crowds out in the streets. The country has indeed gone to the dogs.






The prime minister, stating the obvious at IIT Kharagpur, said that a restructuring of government mechanisms is imperative for any corrective to kick in. One wonders why his successive governments did nothing to restructure a desperately corroded system. Pushed against the wall, assaulted by surging public opinion — much of it still silent and waiting to surface in some form — the government is reeling under its own contradictions and explanations, all amounting to a blatant denial of the truth. The government is out of its depth politically. There is no visible attempt to engage on fundamental issues with the people of India who vote governments into power and out.

Those who have been 'crafting' the responses to what is unfolding have ceased to confront and tackle the escalating crisis. Weak voices promising reform are of no comfort whatsoever. India is crying out for leadership that is engaged and leading from the front, addressing and taking on all the risks along the way. The prime minister was once the 'darling' of the middle-class. He has lost that support as men, women and children spill out on the streets in protest, venting their frustration and anger about gross mismanagement, maladministration and corrupt practices indulged in by the servants of the State over decades. They see him as having let them down. On the other side of the coin, the prime minister was never the 'darling' of rural India that felt neglected and abused by exploitative governance at the base. India has moved away and onward, albeit rudderless.

As a 'bureaucrat'-turned-politician, Manmohan Singh needed to have reorganized the cumbersome operating 'system' over the last seven years, thereby reviving and revitalizing the corroded delivery mechanisms of basic goods and services. Bribery and corruption have consumed India as those who administer life and living openly demand illegitimate dues. From rich to poor, across class, caste and faith, every Indian has been a victim of illegal demands. That is the great leveller and the privileged classes — the political and administrative professions — have only themselves to blame for this meltdown.

Arrest the trend

The government has not been able to use an effective counterpoint to reclaim the public imagination. Glib chatter on television has managed to alienate viewers. To counter this growing trend, India needs a young Gandhi to reach out to his generation and join the crusade by co-opting the crowds in a concerted attempt to rewrite the laws and reboot the machinery of governance. It is imperative to think out of the box.

The Congress is at the moment bereft of political sense. It is floundering. Partymen have got used to manipulation and have forgotten real politics. Running for cover, no one seems to want to get their hands dirty, and would rather resort to strong-arm tactics using the State machinery.

This is the classic response and reaction of cornered politicians playing the 'end game'. For those watching from outside of the establishment of government and party, faith and trust in the incumbent leadership has waned beyond all expectations. Intelligent individuals and sound professionals have faltered badly when confronted with a political crisis, unable to reach out and take charge with the support of the people. The arrogance continues unabated as credibility falls lower. Now the jugadh process that will lead to an untenable, temporary solution will create greater havoc in the future. This is the moment to turn the clock and commit to change and societal reform through a calibrated but radical transformation that has been denied to all Indians. India yearns for selfless, proactive leadership.


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




The importance of Five Year Plans has been discounted lately but the Planning Commission's outlook and perspectives are still important for the light they throw on economic growth and the official thinking on it. The approach paper to the 12th Plan is therefore a good guide and the growth target it has set for the Plan, which is to start in April next year, will be a reference point for discussion in the coming months and action later. The 9 per cent target would have been too conservative some months ago but in the current international and domestic context it seems challenging. The 11th Plan also had the same target but by the end of the Plan period only a growth of over 8 per cent may have been realised. This is because of the convulsions since 2008 at the global level and the downbeat economic and political scenarios at home in the last few months.

The commission has well realised  this and that is probably why it has laid much stress on governance issues including corruption that can spoil economic strategies in future. The take-off period of the 12th Plan will coincide with the last two years of the UPA-II government and unless it regains its bearings the Plan may make an indifferent start.

The prime minister, who presided over the commission's full meeting, has himself acknowledged this with his statement that  "even a 9 per cent target is feasible only if we can take some difficult decisions." It is not difficult to guess what these hard decisions are. They pertain to energy, infrastructure, fiscal management, resources utilisation and land acquisition policies and the best investment promotion and productivity enhancement strategies. That is a great deal of work to be done in a short span of time.

But the economy had proved till recently that it is very receptive to positive policy stimulus.  After sustaining high growth for a long period it has acquired the ability to move faster, and only remarkable policy inadequacies and failures can take it downward.

The  4 per cent growth target for agriculture in the next Plan, against  3.3 per cent achieved in the current Plan, is important to keep inflation which has emerged as a major threat down and there is need to make overall growth more inclusive. Implementation of polices, where political and governance problems are very important, will have a major role in the achievement of Plan targets in the current scenario.







There is growing evidence to prove that relocation of big cats, especially when it is done without planning, consultation and transparency is not the best way of conserving their species or preventing man-animal or even animal-animal conflict.Tigers and other big cats that were shifted into forests and sanctuaries that are not their traditional habitat have not all done too well in their new homes. This was the case with the three-year-old tiger that was released just three months ago into the Bhadra Reserve after he strayed several hundreds of kilometres away from Bandipur.

Last week, he got into a fight over territory with another tiger, was severely injured and died. Relocation of the big cats is one of the core components of India's conservation strategy. Thus several tigers have been relocated from Ranthambore sanctuary to Sariska and from Kanha National Park to Panna Tiger Reserve and so on. The logic proffered is that Ranthambore is 'overpopulated' and relocating some of its tigers to Sariska, whose entire tiger population was wiped out by poachers, would serve to repopulate it. India's translocation of tigers has had its successes. Last year, a tiger translocated from Ranthambore to Sariska gave birth to three cubs in her new home in the wild.

But it is not without its problems. Tigers are aggressively territorial animals. The arrival of a 'foreign' tiger is often fiercely resisted by local predators. Wildlife experts have repeatedly warned that translocating tigers, especially adults, could prove disastrous. This is particularly so when done without planning or preparation. It was reported recently, that over the past six months, several leopards from the Bellary region have been translocated to Dandeli in violation of rules. Their new home is reportedly not conducive to leopards. Much opacity and arbitrariness shrouds translocation of the wild cats.

They are often being moved not so much to protect them but to safeguard vested interests. Wanting to repopulate Sariska is understandable. But why bring tigers to this park when the threat posed by poachers here is still unaddressed. Are tigers being brought here to feed the tiger trade? Are Bellary's mining mafias behind the eviction of leopards from the area? Translocation must be transparent. Else, vested interests will drive the cats in directions that could destroy them.








Simple in appearance, no foreign education in the hallowed corridors of Oxford or Cambridge, Harvard or Stanford, little to boast of by way of material possessions, Anna Hazare has emerged as a powerful symbol of a rejuvenated India attempting to reinvent itself from a decadent and corrupt political class that is exclusively devoted to self-preservation. His manner is childlike and his honesty and integrity is palpable and transparent.

The real significance of the spontaneous movement that has sprung up in Anna's name lies in the fact that it is a wake-up call for India Incorporated to adopt nation building as its primary agenda. Corporate social responsibility in India must come to be associated with nation building. Indian industry played a prominent role in the area of philanthropy in the years before Independence. It is time that corporate India joins the second freedom struggle by supporting Anna's cause to pave the way for genuine social, political and economic transformation.  

Inspired by the Mahatma, Anna is an example worthy of emulation in every respect. To his critics, he appears to have denigrated the sanctity of parliament, displaying scant respect for processes and procedures, while to his supporters, (let us leave aside the fact that those who make these accusations have themselves been responsible for large scale violations of processes and procedures), he has emerged as a powerful beacon of hope and self-confidence by restoring faith in our ability to transform ourselves from both within and without.

Who is Anna? He was employed in the Indian Army and fought in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965. He was responsible for building a village called Ralegaon Siddhi in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. There is something special about this village. It is a worthy example of sustainability because it serves as a self-sustained model village. Energy is produced in the village using solar power, biofuels and windmills. In 1975 it was steeped in poverty. Today it is one of the most prosperous villages in modern India. It is eco-friendly and attempts to be in harmony with Nature.

He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in recognition for his selfless service and contribution to society. Moved by the plight of the common man who is a victim of state corruption in virtually all important aspects in the daily life of a citizen, Anna is spearheading a mass movement for social change and economic renewal. If the Mahatma fought for freedom from the yoke of external rule, Anna is fighting for liberation from internal rule.

Art of extortion

Internal rule is a polite euphemism for the gigantic monster of discretionary industrial controls that was built by the political class in the years following Independence. Over six decades of independence, it has perfected the art of extortion by artfully using slogans as socialism, secularism and social justice to enrich itself. The scale and extent of corruption can be gauged by the fact that it accounts for over 40 per cent of GDP in absolute terms and for anything from 12 to 20 per cent annually.

There is no doubt in the minds of the general public that the present government headed by a prime minister who has not won a direct election is one of the most spectacularly corrupt governments that modern India has seen. It is a path breaker in this respect. Anna is seeking the amendment of a law that seeks to end corruption in India. He is espousing the passing of the Jan Lokpal Bill or Citizen Ombudsman Bill that will facilitate the formation of an independent, autonomous body that will make politicians, bureaucrats and judges accountable for their actions.

Proposed in 1972, the Lokpal Bill has been successfully ignored and pushed under the carpet by successive political regimes. If passed, it will appoint a Lokpal at the Centre and a Lokayukta will be appointed in each state. It will bring those charged with corruption for trial within a year and will punish the guilty within a period of two years.
No government in modern India has shamed itself so effectively as the present one in dealing with peaceful dissent on an issue that is close to the hearts and minds of the electorate.

No prime minister has proved to be quite so inept and impotent in grasping the pulse of the people. Caught in confusion, it has been shifting back and forth not knowing why it is doing what it is doing. There is a combined deficit of competence, political will and trust.
For the public at large, faith in the government and public institutions has been seriously eroded and undermined. It fails to understand the sanctity of an institution like the Parliament which has a significant portion of its members with criminal records. Fidelity to systems, processes and procedures should not stand in the way of respecting public needs and aspirations. 

Swami Vivekananda had said: "Take up an idea, devote yourself to it, struggle on in patience, and the sun will rise for you." The indomitable Swami is also credited with the memorable declaration: "Give me few men and women who are pure and selfless and I shall shake the world." Anna has followed this wise counsel in letter and spirit.

(The writer is a senior professor at IIM Bangalore)







It has been said that court reporting is termed as one of the most profitable and secure fields in the sphere of employment. But in one's quest to have a successful career choice, working as a court reporter does need specialised training and education. This, of course, is mandatory in the west. The requirement is for attending speeches, discussions, meetings, legal proceedings or other important events and to record what is stated at these events. The recordings are normally referred to as transcripts and may be used for reference, records and the like.
But unlike in the west, court reporting in India did not need specialised training or a degree in law or anything of the sort. An ordinary reporter, armed with his degree in arts, coupled with a short term course in journalism, could get a press accreditation card and visit the Supreme Court of India (SC) for making a story on a certain case, or attending a hearing. All this is now set to change.
The recently promulgated Supreme Court's "Revised Norms for Accreditation of the Legal Correspondents in the Supreme Court of India" makes a law degree mandatory for journalists to cover the Apex Court proceedings. There has been no information as to when this will come into effect. Although the media have been vociferous in its opposition, one has to look at the pros and cons of this proposed move. From the view point of a experienced reporter, after reaching a stage in life in his/her career, the onerous task of studying for a law degree should have merited some consideration from the SC.
If the reasoning behind this new requirement is that reporters sometimes misrepresent what the court says or rules, maybe the SC should mandate a crash course for court reporters which focuses on the do's and don'ts on court reporting.
According to views that have been divergent on this issue, some have hailed it as a good move. It has been stated that the norms are only a reasonable restriction on press freedom. Some have opined that an independent and critical media is an essential element for an informed democracy. A structural reform is essential in order to bring about a change in the manner in which legal matters are reported. Keeping this in mind, they are in sync with the SC prescription of adequate qualifications and experience.
There was a mention that there is every possibility to spread unwanted news by the media by reports of the young and energetic journalists, without properly understanding  court procedures. One would tend to believe, that this really cannot happen. Every editor has the right to argue that he would not send a fresher to court to be part of the courtroom to hear a proceeding and make a report.
What is more is that these norms would place a question mark on the future of journalists who have built their reputation over the years in reporting SC proceedings, sans a law degree.  It is; therefore, felt that the Supreme Court's decision tilts the scales heavily in favour of the reporter. It must be understood that if reporters have adequate experience and are reporting judgments intelligently, and if editors don't have an issue, stringent norms are not necessary at all.
The Supreme Courts promulgation, if enforced, will result in a huge number of journalists, who have been covering proceedings, from being disqualified. That is a worrying aspect of concern.




With all due respect to Anna Hazare and his team for their relentless effort for such a wonderful cause, I feel the Jan Lokpal bill is a symptomatic bill. This bill empowers the common man to take action after the crime has been committed. What about stopping the crime itself? I believe the tempter commits a greater crime than the tempted. Practically every Indian citizen in his life has resorted to bribing officials to get his/her work done. This has now become a part of our lives in every sphere, be it getting our work done in government offices to getting tickets at a counter.

Are there not enough laws, rules and regulations? Hasn't the government passed enough legislations for people to follow. Lets take the traffic rules which are in place. 1.All have to wear a helmet for safety while riding a bike.  2. All have to put their seat belts while driving a car. 3. Using the cell phone while riding/driving is an offense. 4.There are rules for overtaking as well as lines drawn on the road for it. I can go on with it, but just to bring to the notice of the public, how many of us violate these rules on a regular basis and when caught, pay a bribe?

So where does the problem lie? With the police or with us? There are similar incidents in our life where we bypass the system and try to get our work done through a short cut way. We look out for godfathers in all government offices who will do us a favour for a price which we do not mind paying. If ever we need a revolution, it is the revolution of our mindset. We must get the system to work rather than jumping the queue to get it done quickly. All these years, our susegad lives have been made comfortable by paying someone to get our work done. No amount of Lokpal bills can work in our country as long as we are not committed to changing our mindset.We definitely need a Lok pal bill  but at the same time, we need to be vigilant to the various tricks the politicians play to woo  voters and not fall into their traps. We must remember they are there to serve us and it is our right to receive this service. We, as citizens, need to be vigilant to see that they do only this.Lastly, we need a strong Lokpal bill to give us the power to constantly keep tabs on government functioning.








Herald, on the front page of its Heartbeat section, publishes the 'Quote of the Day' in two languages, English and Konkani, and if one notices the English quote it has the author's name, whereas the quotes in Konkani are invariably anonymous. Assuming Konkani quotes were written by Goans, how come such Goans of wisdom were not given credit for their writings? Were they copied or translated from other languages? Or was it that Goans intentionally conspired to keep them anonymous for reasons unknown? The oldest newspaper of Goa, despite its best efforts and resources, is unable to track the author's name. This only goes to show that Generation Past did a pretty decent cover-up job of striking out records of these authors. Compare that with the quotes written in English, finding credits seems so easy, despite the fact that its origins emanate from distant lands.

Of course, these Konkani quotes have survived many generations and some might justify that Portuguese in their quest to crush Konkani language, may have deliberately destroyed records. In that case, how is it that only the author's name got lost and not the quote itself? A very popular Goan Mando 'Tambdde Rosa' might be on most Goan lips, but how many of us know off hand that it was composed by Ligorio Dacosta in the late eighteenth century.

Are we Goans bad and biased history writers waiting for an opportunity to conceal due credits whenever possible? Have we neglected or misunderstood the meaning of intellectual property? Was this a rule of thumb used by our Generation Past to suppress free thinking? Are we not able to come to terms that talent might exist in places where we least expect them?

Let's not be under the impression that this phenomenon existed in Goa only in the centuries gone by; it exists even in a modern Goa, an era of information age and instant communication.

Last year a Konkani film 'O' Maria was released, the producer smartly used Remo Fernandes in the promotion of the film. However, the day of the music launch, Remo was absent at the show. Apparently the producer had to choose between inviting a politician or chance the presence of an honest Remo, and his frank views on politicians. Was Remo's absence, result of the producer's hobnobbing with politicians, or a subconscious effort to keep Remo anonymous from the project? The producers eventually made amends by inviting Remo on centre stage at their silver jubilee celebrations. Too little, too late! Remo is Goa's music icon; you can't sweep him under the carpet, once you get the music out of him. Imagine the music composer was not the famous Remo, but an anonymous artist wanting to make a mark in the industry. With an attitude like this, instead of getting a career boost, would he not be lost in some fine print, to be later mentioned in history as some anonymous artist?
Goan cricketer Shadab Jakati and Swapnil Asnodkar are already going the anonymous way inspite of they being cricketers and members of the winning IPL teams, their names get mentioned very sparingly. Fifty years down the line, these cricketers will go down in history as anonymous cricketers of Goa. On the other hand, fifty years down the line, our present politicians will have their names written in history as great leaders and visionaries, despite our knowledge that their vision never extended more than political seat number crunching and booking air tickets to Delhi.

It is time to start distinguishing true success, it has two advantages: it helps the successful person to strive harder and creates genuine role models for Generation Next.

We need an environment where creativity is respected and the creator gets due credit.







The man on the street who brought down his rulers in a fit of rage and demanded that they be tried is directing similar hatred toward Israel, with much less justification.

 One after the other the leaders of our Arab neighbors, whom Israel has long considered permanent like the Golan Heights and the Sinai Desert, are falling: Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Muammar Gadhafi in Libya and probably soon Bashar Assad in Syria. Thanks to the Internet and Facebook, a major change is taking place: The hitherto invisible political factor in most of these countries is claiming his place - the man on the street.

In Israel, the joy and enthusiasm in light of the "spirit of Tahrir" are accompanied by a certain sadness and disappointment. Not only has the process of democratization on the Arab street not been accompanied by peaceful intentions, it has been followed - for example in Egypt - by an anti-Israel wave that is so strong the temporary military rulers are having a hard time coping with it. That same man on the street who brought down his rulers in a fit of rage and demanded that they be tried is directing similar hatred toward Israel, with much less justification.

On the face of it, these developments reinforce the old argument of the right wing and those opposed to an Israeli withdrawal and concessions; they said there was no point in agreements with dictators - that we should wait for democratization in the Arab states. Now all they see in the coming of democracy is proof of the Arab nations' atavistic hatred of Israel; they find in it a new excuse to toughen their stance and freeze the peace process.

But when the Arab street is in tumult and all political, military or diplomatic nuance is picked up simultaneously by modern electronic gadgets and the heart of the man on the street, the last thing Israel needs is to turn its back on the hope for peace in arrogance and aggression, which only provide excuses for hatred of it.

On the contrary, the Israeli government should lower its profile and stick closely to the desire for peace and the proof that it does not seek to expand.

It must radiate calm, conciliation and moderation as much as possible. It must do this in the hope that when the flames die down, the Arab street will also understand that peace is a key element of the spirit of equality, freedom and democracy.








There is no greater joy than rejoicing in another's failure, especially when the person who has failed was highly successful until just yesterday. The book of Proverbs tells us, "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth," but we are happy even when the person who falls is not our enemy.

We are referring here to the case of singer Margalit Tzan'ani, who until yesterday was on top of the world in entertainment and society circles, and who today is being detained by the police.

The police have been leaking some of the materials gathered during the course of their investigation, including an embarrassing mug-shot of Tzan'ani with an identity number. And the journalists have published everything, because no one really cares if her blood is shed even before an indictment is served, to say nothing of waiting for a conviction. That's because no one here is "innocent until proven guilty." Here, everyone is guilty the second police open a file and begin to leak information.

The most annoying accusation is the one that has been heard on all the news broadcasts: extortion. The police say - and the media repeats this like parrots - that Tzan'ani is suspected of being involved in the extortion of her manager, Assaf Atedgi. But when someone says "extortion," the immediate image that comes to mind is of a gang of criminals attacking innocent people and blackmailing them. These criminals blackmail contractors, club owners and shopkeepers, sometimes under the system of "protection," and sometimes without any kind of excuse.

But the Tzan'ani case is different. According to the reports that have been published, we are talking about an agreement between Tzan'ani and Atedgi that they would share the fees for representing singer Omer Adam. Atedgi wanted to amend the agreement so that more money would go to him. Tzan'ani refused, and in order to solve the problem, the two of them went to a mediator, who decided in favor of Tzan'ani. However, Atedgi continued to refuse to pay. At that point, Tzan'ani turned to several dubious characters to ask for their help in collecting the debt.

It is true that it is forbidden to threaten anyone, even in an indirect way. It is illegal, and it can in no way be considered acceptable. But that is not extortion in the sense that "protection" is considered extortion.

However, if the case were to be described by the police without the bombastic word "extortion," the brave policemen who succeeded in following Tzan'ani even as far as Be'er Sheva would not have received such big headlines.

In a normal country, where the police do their work in secret, where courts act swiftly, and where there is a bailiff's office that collects debts quickly, no one would even have dreamed of turning to criminal families to deal with a business conflict.

But Israel is a paradise for debtors. Any self-employed person or businessman who supplies goods is dependent on the goodwill of the person who owes them the debt. If the debtor doesn't feel like paying, he doesn't - and nothing happens to him. If you go to the police, they will simply tell you that it is a civilian matter and of no interest to them. And if you sue in court, the judge will put pressure on you to reach a compromise because he is in a hurry to close the file as soon as possible. Then an appeal will be lodged, and time will pass, and you will see the debtor looking happy and content, while you are eating your heart out.

That is how the system of justice works here - with outrageous inefficiency. It is like the parable of the vineyard in the Book of Isaiah: "He looked for justice but instead he found cries of violence."

The leaks on the part of the police are also a serious matter. I know several people who, if you show them enough disrespect, or if you prevent them from sleeping properly, would be prepared to admit their guilt in the 1933 murder of Chaim Arlosoroff - just as long as it means you'll leave them alone. That is why the police must not use "all means" to break the spirit of someone who is being interrogated. The accused is likely to admit to something he did not do, and there have in fact been instances of this.

We also do not want these kinds of detentions, which get so much media coverage, to end in tragedy. After all, it is clear why the police publish leaks. It is for their self-aggrandizement, to break the suspect, to turn public opinion against the accused, and in this way to put pressure on the judge to remand them into custody. But that is not legal. That is a means of disrupting the judicial process.

In the case of a celebrity, the leaks also are destructive. Even if Tzan'ani comes out of the affair completely clean, the leaks have by now already caused irreversible damage to her career and earnings. That is why the police have a duty to maintain utter secrecy. But if there are no police leaks, and no pictures from the computers of the prisons service, how will we be able to rejoice at the failures of others?








Until now Israel had supported the occupation of the territories with two pillars: history and security - its right to inherit the land and its obligation to defend it. In recent weeks a third pillar was added, which all these years was hidden under straw and stubble. And maybe it's not a pillar but a snake, whose head must be crushed while it's still small.

According to the school of thought based on history and faith, the Land of Israel was received by the Jewish people from the hand of God, and we are commanded to take all of it by dint of the Covenant of the Pieces that God made with Abraham. That was a nice big gift, we have to admit, stretching from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates. It was granted on various festive occasions not only to Abraham but to his heirs as well. Eventually it was forced to shrink, and now there is really no reason to shrink it further out of choice.

The second, security-based school of thought stipulates that we need virtually all the territories for self-defense. Without them we'll never be able to live in security without feeling threatened. Therefore, if we are ever forced to leave certain parts of the country, even then we'll evacuate only in order to remain, relying forever on temporary "security arrangements," which even social-welfare-oriented MK Shelly Yachimovich will sign.

Sometimes one school of thought overlaps the other and the difference between them becomes blurred. It often happens that members of the security school - people who do not lead a religious way of life - put a knitted skullcap on and then prophesy in the same messianic style. And the opposite happens as well: Rabbis and students bring up reasons in the name of security so as not to rely on the promise alone.

And now, in the middle of the summer, when the social protest is putting the housing shortage at the top of the agenda for a moment, the third school of thought is developing and taking hold. The interior minister - in advance of a Black September of his own - approves the construction of 1,600 housing units for the ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, another 624 units in Pisgat Ze'ev and another 930 in Har Homa Gimmel - all beyond the Green Line. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, for whom the election threshold is a sharp knife at his throat, approved 277 homes in the settlement of Ariel, may it be established in his day. And 42 MKs are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ease the housing shortage in the country via accelerated construction in the territories.

Suddenly we are short of space here in Israel, which has become full to capacity and needs lebensraum. Every cultured person knows that this is a despicable German concept, banned from use because of the associations it brings up. Still, people are starting to use it, if not outright then with a clear implication: We are short of land, we are short of air, let us breathe in this country.

When we embarked on the Six-Day War did we want to remove a threat or did we want to gain control in order to spread out? That's what happens after 44 years of mire and moral corruption, which distort things and make us forget the original objective and replace it with an entirely different one. We were fortunate when we occupied the West Bank because had we not done so, where would we have come to live? And who knows how high housing prices would have risen? The divine promise is now being revealed in all its ability to prophesy about real estate.

The founding fathers, as opposed to the Diadochi who fought for control after Alexander the Great's death, represented a different approach, for the most part. Between "A little goes a long way," and "Don't bite off more than you can chew," they chose to bite; they even agreed to the 1947 UN partition plan for lack of choice. They believed that all the objectives of rational Ben Gurion-style Zionism could be fulfilled even in "Lesser Israel," which is more complete and more at peace with itself. And it has no need for lebensraum, may God preserve us.








Be the internal ills of Israeli society as they may, and they are too numerous to count, most of them can be treated and even cured; but the occupation and colonialism are terminal illnesses. Therefore anyone who refuses to understand - as did Shelly Yachimovich in her interview with Haaretz's weekend magazine - that the socialism of masters, and on behalf of masters, is no less ruthless and despicable than the neoliberalism of the rich on behalf of the rich, is not worthy of seeking the leadership of a party that has pretensions of charting the future.

Indeed, in order to achieve quick results in the social sphere, it is possible to take steps that are relatively easy - cancel the tax reductions for companies, raise the tax percentages on high incomes, transfer money from the settlements to the welfare budgets immediately. If it is permitted to impose heavy customs on a small car, it is also permitted to collect luxury tax on a penthouse on the shores of Tel Aviv, or a large yacht in mid ocean. It is reasonable to assume that it is also possible to find a swift way to renew the construction of public housing in the form of small and inexpensive apartments. On the other hand, the occupation is an existential threat - if Israeli society does not find a way to deal with the settlements, there will be an end to the Jewish state.

Already today, Zionism, in the simple and initial significance of the term, has vacated its place to radical and ruthless nationalism that is partially racist and seeped in professed antidemocratic tendencies of the kind that already led to huge disasters in Europe in the previous century.

Traditional Zionism was based on two mainstays. It was a movement to save an entire nation from destruction and expressed the natural right of that nation to self-rule. Both of these goals were achieved with the establishment of the state - that was a special hour of benevolence and it was supposed to put an end to the period of conquering the land. That was also the hour in which Zionism was supposed to absorb the liberal principles of human rights and civic equality. The terrible disaster of the Six-Day War destroyed this possibility when it turned Israelis into lords over another nation whose rights were denied. But our failure to deal with the injustice implicit in the conquest does not justify our coming to terms with it.

Therefore the Labor Party cannot suffice with the role of a pressure group for one issue, be that issue as lofty as it may. Social and political life is not one dimensional; there is no society without politics, there is no economy without political decisions, and there is no worthy life without morals. The correct demand for a revolution, in the way of thinking that will lead to a different social policy, is not cut off from the larger question of freedom and democracy, human rights and the future of the territories; freedom, justice and equality cannot be divided.

Already from the start of the social protest movement, many people have been bothered by the questions: What is the actual significance of the term "justice" to the youngsters protesting in the street? How is it possible to achieve social justice without justice as a universal value? What are the boundaries of justice and its implementation?

In this respect, there was always a big difference between the right and the left in the world, and now also in Israel. The left considers equality to be a universal value, an expression of a human being's right not merely to the freedom to sleep under a bridge but also to the freedom to live a decent life. The left - and this is the big difference between it and the various types of conservatives - does not consider equality to be an element that restricts freedom but rather a different aspect of a human being's right to control his life.

This takes us back to the occupation. Justice is not merely the right to decent housing for Jews, it is also the right to freedom of a nation under occupation. An enormous opportunity for changing the face of Israel's political culture and charting the face of the future will be lost if the flag-bearers of the protest decide to ignore this truth.








CAIRO - "Give us weapons and we'll kill all the Jews."

So chanted several hundred people outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo last Friday. The proximate cause of the protest was the conflagration in Sinai, following the terror raid near Eilat. But no specific incident is ever needed to stir the Egyptian masses to express hatred for their Jewish neighbors. The intense and academic debate in the West about where legitimate criticism of Israel ends and anti-Semitism begins doesn't resonate in Egypt, or anywhere in the Arab world. A poll conducted last year by the Brookings Institution, for instance, found that just 3 percent of Arabs feel empathy for Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Though various Egyptians I interviewed at last week's protest fitfully tried to distinguish between "Jews" and "Zionists" in their denunciations of Israeli perfidy, their subtlety got lost amid the Hamas T-shirts and open calls for genocide.

Egyptians had their choice of whom to shake their fist at last Friday. In addition to the scene of the mob chanting "All the Israeli blood isn't worth the boot of one Egyptian soldier," another demonstration coalesced outside the U.S. Embassy, calling for the release of Omar Abdel Rahman, the "blind sheikh" sitting in a federal prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Consisting of bearded men and niqab-clad women, these protesters were noticeably more peaceful, in both their composure and their demands ("He's just a blind man," a 31-year-old member of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, a once-banned Islamist organization, pleaded with me ), than the group outside the Israeli Embassy, which featured fashionably dressed youth and, of course, the odd Westerner (no anti-Israel protest in the Arab world is complete without the requisite French, Italian or Swede in a kaffiyeh ). Americans concerned about their country's low popularity on the proverbial "Arab street" can rest assured that it continues to hate Israel far, far more.

It would be a mistake to think that the views expressed at last week's protest are separate from the Egyptian mainstream. Anti-Semitism is the common political language in Egypt. It is the one thing on which all the major political factions can agree - from secular "liberals" to Islamists. While they'll say the most awful things about each other behind closed doors, the one group these two will happily slander in public are Jews or Israelis. For instance, two months ago, at a conference in Budapest sponsored by the Tom Lantos Institute and the Center for Democratic Transition, the vice chairman of Egypt's legendary (and ostensibly "liberal" ) Wafd party declared that "the Holocaust is a lie" and that Anne Frank's diary is a forgery. "Gas chambers and skinning them alive and all this?" he asked rhetorically. "Fanciful stories."

A remark like this in a Western democracy would result in the end of one's political career, if not a jail sentence. But "anti-Semitism remains the glue holding Egypt's disparate political forces together," according to the young Egyptian writers Amr Bargisi and Samuel Tadros, whose prescient article two years ago, "Why are Egypt's 'Liberals' Anti-Semitic?," caused a stir back home. In his new book, "The Wave: Man, God, and the Ballot Box in the Middle East," Reuel Marc Gerecht observes that "Dinner parties with the conspiracy-afflicted Egyptian, Saudi and Jordanian secularized elites, for example, can make Noam Chomsky look nice, introspective and analytically even-handed." Last week, after I stepped out of the office of a prominent liberal political figure, he asked my translator if I was a Jew.

"All the candidates are trying to outdo each other in anti-Israel rhetoric," a 23-year-old Egyptian Christian, who is extremely worried about the future of his country, told me.

Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood now running for president, called upon Egypt's military government to expel the Israeli ambassador last Friday, when Israel mistakenly killed five Egyptian soldiers after last week's firefight. "Gone forever are the days when Israel will kill our children while we do not respond," former Arab League head Amr Moussa, another presidential contender, declared on Twitter.

The hatred that the vast majority of Egyptians feel toward Israel aside, it is highly unlikely that the "new" Egypt will renounce the 1979 Camp David peace treaty or fundamentally alter its relationship toward Israel. This might seem paradoxical, given that the Egyptian people, who have been excluded from the country's political life and whose loathing for Israel was therefore never allowed to manifest itself in Egyptian foreign policy, are slowly taking the helm of government. But the institutional architecture that exists around the preservation of the Camp David treaty - $2 billion a year to the Egyptian military, stability in the Sinai and the Suez Canal, tourism - precludes any dramatic change in Egyptian-Israeli relations, at least for the foreseeable future.

"Cancel for what? Are we ready to go to war with Israel? The answer definitely is no," a prominent Egyptian political analyst told me last week in Cairo (of course, I could not introduce myself to any Egyptian as a contributor to an Israeli newspaper - even Haaretz - and thus, cannot quote any Egyptian in this article by name ).

Egyptian national security, this analyst says, is also adversely affected by the smuggling of weapons and militants out of Gaza, and by emboldened Islamist elements in the Sinai Peninsula. "We can differ from [Hosni] Mubarak concerning some stories like the gas agreement, relations with Saudi Arabia, and corruption in the previous regime," he told me. "But national security? We cannot differ from Mubarak."

Hatred of Israel, he notes, is predicated partly upon "the story of occupation, the story of aggression," but was also encouraged by the Mubarak-era state media and educational institutions. "If you are an Egyptian and read the textbooks under Mubarak's regime, you must hate Israel," he says, adding that a democratic Egypt - one in which secular elements win more influence than Islamist ones - may become less antagonistic to Israel, as they will be able to change the "many, many false stories in our history textbooks."

This was an admirable acknowledgment, all too rare, of one of the most serious problems to bedevil Arab society. But confronting it is a tall order, particularly in a country where people widely believe that they defeated Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

After talking to a cross section of people in Egypt, I have come to the conclusion that it is naive to think that Egyptians or, as polls indicate, the Arab world writ large will ever accept the presence of a Jewish state in their midst. Gestures like the much-heralded Arab Peace Initiative are offered by unelected dictatorships; in no way do they express the actual will of the people. It's unclear if even the majority of Palestinians support a two-state solution, despite the official negotiating position of the corrupt and sclerotic Palestinian Authority. Most of those Arabs who say they support a two-state solution do so only because that is the stance of the PA; were the Palestinians to one day renounce their recognition of Israel (a recognition that does not extend to the state's Jewish identity ), then those Arabs who follow the lead of the Palestinian leadership would respond in kind. Arabs are willing to tolerate Israel, but my fear is that's the most that can ever be expected. It is with this reality in mind that Benjamin Netanyahu has been so insistent on Palestinians recognizing not only Israel's right to exist, but its right to exist as a Jewish state.

All this means that attempts by American administrations and leftist Israelis to alter Arab attitudes by hastily arranging a two-state solution, thereby falling into the trap of "linking" the Palestinian issue to a variety of regional and global problems, are a waste of time. To be sure, the Palestinians deserve justice and a state for their own sake, but the impulse to do right by them should not be animated by a desire to achieve the chimera of Arab approval. Attempts to please the "Arab street" - which will work itself into a froth of rage over Israelis mistakenly killing five Egyptian soldiers, but seems complacent at Bashar Assad killing thousands of his own people - are as fruitless as they are dangerous.

Egypt has massive domestic problems on its hands, and one would think that a wrecked economy, rising Islamism, and increasing lawlessness as the result of a gutted police force would convince most Egyptians to turn inward rather than rattle for confrontation with the Zionist entity. But massive social and political dysfunctions are nothing new in the Arab world. Indeed, they are endemic. And far from convincing elites of the need to focus on self-improvement, the backwardness of Arab societies has made the appeal of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism - blame-shifting in general - all the more appealing. The hope for Egypt, however, and what may make this moment an exception in its own history and in that of the Arab region as a whole, is that its newfound open political culture will make room for responsible voices to combat the cancer of anti-Semitism. In the 1960s, the municipality of Atlanta, Georgia, proclaimed that it was "the city too busy to hate." The most that Israelis can probably hope for is that the same will be true of Egypt.

James Kirchick is writer at large with .Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and- a contributing editor of The New Republic.




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




A widespread shortage of prescription drugs is hampering the treatment of patients who have cancer, severe infections and other serious illnesses. While some Republican politicians have railed against the imaginary threat of rationing under health care reform, Congress has done nothing to alleviate the all-too-real rationing of lifesaving drugs caused by this crisis.

The Food and Drug Administration says that some 180 medically important drugs have been in short supply, many of which are older, cheaper generic drugs administered by injection that have to be kept sterile from contamination.

A survey of 820 hospitals in June by the American Hospital Association found that almost all of them had experienced a shortage of at least one drug in the previous six months and that nearly half had experienced shortages of 21 or more drugs. As a result, more than 80 percent of the hospitals delayed needed treatments, almost 70 percent gave patients a less effective drug, and almost 80 percent rationed or restricted access to drugs.

Although there is limited data on how many patients have been harmed, a survey of 1,800 health care practitioners last year by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices found that a third of the physicians and a fifth of the pharmacists knew of adverse patient outcomes because of shortages, including some deaths from microbes resistant to the backup drugs. Cancer patients receiving less effective drugs may well face increased risks in the future.

Nobody is sure just what is causing the shortages because drug manufacturers are not required to report any reasons to the F.D.A. But several factors are likely to be involved: contamination problems at some manufacturing plants, forcing unexpected production shutdowns; difficulties in getting pharmaceutical ingredients from suppliers, especially those abroad; reluctance to invest in production-line improvement for low-profit generics when high-priced brand-name drugs bring in far higher profits. Sweeping consolidation in the generic drug industry means that fewer companies are left in that market to make up for a shortage.

The shortages are forcing health care providers to buy more expensive products in the absence of cheap generics. Unscrupulous wholesalers have made matters worse by scooping up scarce drugs and offering them to hospitals at markups that often reach 20 times the normal price or more, according to a recent survey.

Beyond limited responses, like using the F.D.A.'s discretionary powers to expedite temporary imports of drugs that are sold overseas but not here, there are very few ways to ease the crisis. For the longer term, bipartisan bills in Congress would require drug makers to give the F.D.A. six months' warning of problems that might disrupt supplies. For that to work, the penalties for noncompliance would need to be stiff.

Other proposals include a national stockpile of critically important drugs, incentives to encourage the manufacture of generic drugs, and broader powers and additional resources for the F.D.A. to head off looming shortages. Some, perhaps many, Congressional Republicans will inevitably oppose an expansion of the F.D.A.'s regulatory authority. This cannot and must not be a fight over ideology. For many Americans, it is a fight for their lives.








Help may finally be on the way for borrowers stuck in high-interest-rate mortgages. Shaila Dewan and Louise Story reported in The Times that the White House is considering a proposal that would ease refinancings for millions of underwater homeowners whose loans are owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-controlled mortgage companies.


It's a good idea, and, properly executed, the benefits would exceed any risks. The biggest question is President Obama's willingness to battle the inevitable opposition.


Fannie, Freddie and investors in the agencies' securities don't want to see their interest income fall. Republican leaders are determined to block anything that Mr. Obama proposes — even if millions of Americans, and the overall economy, would benefit. It is not even clear if the president's entire economic team is on board; when the idea was floated last year, the administration balked.


The basic notion is to ease refinancing rules for borrowers who are current in their payments but can't qualify for new lower-rate loans because their home values have declined. The looser loan standards would not increase the risk of default. By lowering the borrowers' monthly payments, refinancing would make default less likely. It would also free up potentially tens of billions of dollars for consumer spending, helping to ensure that today's low interest rates stimulate the economy as intended. It could even help underwater borrowers restore equity in their homes if borrowers used some of their savings to pay down their loan principal.


The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, may well object that such refinancings would cost the companies money. It is true that they would collect less interest income on refinanced loans. But some or all of the lost income would be offset by lower default rates. The public benefit from fewer defaults and foreclosures — along with the impact of more consumer spending — should trump any benefit derived from squeezing every last penny of interest from homeowners.


Investors in mortgage-backed securities would also collect less on refinanced loans. So be it. Those securities pay a higher rate than many other bonds precisely because of the refinancing risk. The investor losses would also be dispersed over a large, global market.


Refinancings are not a magic bullet. Homeowners facing foreclosure, often because of unemployment, need help as well in order for the housing market, and broader economy, to recover. But timely refinancings could help — if Mr. Obama is willing to push for them.







Understanding what is happening in the economy is essential in hard times. Yet House Republicans have proposed budget cuts that could cripple or end government surveys. The surveys are used to generate timely and accurate data and answer such basic questions as: Is the economy descending into another recession?


Without such data, business leaders, investors and policy makers would be flying blind.


Every five years, the Census Bureau conducts an Economic Census — a detailed survey of nearly five million businesses that serves as the benchmark for measuring economic growth and other important indicators, like inflation, productivity and consumer spending. The next Economic Census begins in 2012. House Republicans propose cutting the bureau's budget to $855 million (President Obama requested $1.02 billion).


The Republicans have not said what the bureau should cut. But the Economic Census, which costs $124 million, would almost certainly be hit. Otherwise, the bureau would have to stop core functions already under way, like the resolution program for the 2010 decennial census, by which local governments challenge undercounts.


Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has said that given the budget deficit, the bill containing the cuts to the census and other programs is necessary "to move our country in the right direction." He has it backward.


The Census Bureau cuts would increase uncertainty about the state of the economy, the drivers and drags on growth and the effectiveness of business and government policy. Precisely because the data are vital, the United States Chamber of Commerce has called for full financing of the Census Bureau.


The House is expected to take up the bill next month. Other business leaders and groups should join the chamber's call. The Obama administration should raise the alarm, and the Senate must be prepared to provide full financing. Less data on the economy won't do any good.







The historically chummy relationship between the oil industry and the federal government changed radically after the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010. The Interior Department reorganized its enabling bureaucracy and wrote new regulations to govern exploration and drilling.


Last week, the department announced that it would resume oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, the first since the explosion. About 20 million unexplored acres in the western gulf will be put up for bid. The sale is part of the administration's gradual return to its prespill strategy of encouraging more oil and gas exploration in coastal waters.


The department also told the oil companies that it will charge them higher fees for the privilege of drilling in the gulf — raising the minimum bid for deep-water leases to $100 an acre from the current $37.50 an acre. Minimum bid prices have not been raised since 1999, when oil was selling at between $9 and $24 dollars a barrel, far less than this year's range of $85 to $105.


This is a smart move aimed at prodding industry to develop its leases instead of hoarding them. It is based on a rigorous analysis showing that companies have a strong incentive to develop leases costing $100 or more while allowing cheaper leases to remain idle.


Bids can range higher, depending on a company's educated guesses about the resource. Raising the initial bid would increase the cost of doing nothing with the lease and discourage the warehousing of millions of acres.


The Interior Department seems serious. Under current law, leases expire after 10 years unless the department grants an extension. In 2009, the department canceled an Exxon Mobil lease because the company "had not demonstrated a commitment to production" and had not made the case for an extension. Exxon Mobil has now sued in federal court.


However the case turns out, the administration's message seems clear: It's time for industry to put up or shut up.







Predicting precisely what path a tropical storm might take and what damage it might cause is not a perfect science, but it is increasingly clear that Hurricane Irene poses what many meteorologists are calling an "extraordinary" threat to the United States, particularly coastal areas in the mid-Atlantic states and in the heavily populated urban corridor of the Northeast. Emergency officials from the Carolinas to Maine are urging residents to take precautions. Given the size and strength of the storm, heeding the warnings would be wise.

The hurricane, a category 3 with winds of 115 mph, battered the Bahamas on Thursday. Six to 10 inches rain was common there, and high winds and a storm surge that could raise water levels by as much as 10-11 feet exacerbated hurricane-related damage. The storm is expected to be off the Florida coast by today and then advance steadily toward the Northeast and New England during the weekend. The impact could be devastating.

Though the precise path of Irene could still change, forecasters now believe the heart of the storm will move up the Atlantic seaboard, staying offshore until making a possible landfall sometime Sunday somewhere east of New York City. From there, they predict, it will move into New England, though in a weakened state. That's a course that understandably frightens emergency and public safety officials. It should.

If the storm follows that path, it will expose 50 million or more residents of the coastal and New England states to potential harm. Though many people in the projected path of the storm are familiar with the capriciousness and power of hurricanes, many others are not. A major hurricane has not hit New York and New England for decades. Preparing for a storm of such magnitude, then, is something new for both emergency planners and for residents.

Preparations were under way Thursday up and down the coast. North Carolina officials, for example, ordered hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists to evacuate four coastal counties, including the Outer Banks, where the storm is expected to hit on Saturday. Most people in the affected area were either leaving or preparing to do so on Thursday, though officials publicly fretted that there were individuals determined to ride out the storm. That's a choice that could have deadly consequences in a worst case scenario.

Officials in Virginia and Maryland were taking precautions, too. They warned residents in coastal and low-lying areas to be prepared to evacuate. The U.S. Navy ordered 27 ships berthed at Norfolk and other Virginia ports to head out to sea. The vessels, which include an aircraft carrier, destroyers and submarines, military officials say, can ride out the storm better at sea than in harbor.

In Maryland and New Jersey, officials checked and rechecked evacuation plans and repeatedly broadcast information about the storm's current location and projected path. Boat owners and marina operators were busy pulling small craft out of the water or securing them for heavy weather. In Rhode Island, emergency officials were handing out sandbags to residents and business owners. Some might question the necessity of those efforts, but they make sense. It is better to be prepared for the worst that a hurricane — or any major weather event — might bring and not need the effort than to ignore warnings and then realize that preparation would have been the better choice.

Officials are particularly worried about the possible impact of Irene in New York, Boston and the coastal communities of New England. An especial concern is coastal flooding since Irene is expected to reach the Northeast at a time when high new moon tides could be exacerbated by wave and surge action tied to Irene. Interior flooding is a concern, too, since forecasters say heavy rains could reach as far inland as western Virginia and Maryland, central Pennsylvania and western New York.

Much of the region has been inundated in recent weeks, and the ground in many areas is so saturated that even a modest amount of rainfall could prompt rainfall. If Irene reaches the area at the intensity predicted, copious rains are expected. The resultant flooding could be disastrous. That's just one of the possible consequences of Irene, whose winds could prove extremely destructive and, in some areas, even spawn tornadoes.

A hurricane of Irene's predicted strength can cause extensive infrastructure damage and make restoration of essential services difficult even in areas like the Outer Banks, where disaster plans and building codes are created with powerful and frequent hurricanes in mind. In places where hurricanes are rare — the centers of only five have passed within 75 miles of New York City since 1851 — the lack of practice and experience and the large numbers of people in relatively small areas could pose problems. To their credit, officials in the region have worked hard to prepare and execute plans and to keep the public informed.

For the moment, residents in Irene's projected path and adjacent areas can only watch, wait and heed instructions from officials about the best ways and the best places to seek protection from the storm. Anything less needlessly exposes one to considerable danger.





While we in the Chattanooga area are enjoying our accustomed hot, clear summer weather, some parts of the Caribbean have been enduring a hurricane, and millions of Americans remain shaken after an earthquake that was centered in Virginia.

Hurricane Irene has swept from the Bahamas and is projected to approach the North Carolina coast by Saturday.

But it could strike any portion of the East Coast, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was urging residents of his huge city to make preparations.

Meanwhile millions of people — from Georgia to Canada — felt an earthquake on Tuesday. It was said to have been the strongest shaking on our East Coast since World War II.

The quake, of 5.8 magnitude, reportedly created a crack atop the famed 555-foot-tall Washington Monument in the District of Columbia.

The monument had to be closed to the public after the quake, denying tourists access until the extent of the damage can be investigated and any needed repairs can be made.

Damage also was reported at the Washington National Cathedral, though it was fortunately limited to "decorative elements," The Associated Press reported. Some stones on the spires broke off, and repairs to the impressive structure will undoubtedly be expensive.

Considering the strength of the quake, however, it is remarkable that there were not reports of deaths or serious injuries.

We hope, in the coming days, that any human tragedies from Hurricane Irene will be similarly limited.





If you think you've heard it all, look at some recent comments by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and you'll quickly realize you haven't.

Almost 46 million Americans get benefits under the federal food stamp program these days. (The program's actual title is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP for short.)

But while some Americans legitimately need food assistance because they have lost their jobs or for other reasons, Vilsack has now declared food stamps a good way to create jobs!

"When you talk about the SNAP program or the food stamp program, you have to recognize that it's also an economic stimulus," he said on MSNBC.

"Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity," the agriculture secretary added. "If people are able to buy a little more in the grocery store, then someone's got to stock it, shelve it, package it, process it, ship it. All of those are jobs. It's the most direct stimulus you can get in the economy during tough times."

What he didn't mention is that those food stamp dollars must first be taxed away from the free market economy -- where they might otherwise be invested to create jobs that would help keep people from needing government assistance in the first place. Or else those dollars must be borrowed, increasing our national debt and the massive interest we have to pay on the debt.

Alarmingly, this is not the first time a prominent Democrat has made the argument that food stamps boost the economy.

Less than a year ago, then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said every dollar spent on food stamps creates nearly $1.80 of economic activity. And Pelosi previously said unemployment benefits create jobs "faster than almost any other initiative you can name."

Do the agriculture secretary, the rest of the Obama administration and Pelosi actually believe that food stamps and unemployment benefits -- however necessary they may be at times -- are the best way to stimulate the economy?

If so, then why isn't our economy going gangbusters by now? After all, a record number of Americans are using food stamps today, and so many Americans have been unemployed long term that Congress has extended unemployment benefits up to 99 weeks!

If the administration and some leaders in Congress think government benefits are a path to prosperity, then our nation is in serious trouble!





With many months still ahead before we pick our next president, a lot of Americans who are deeply disenchanted with President Barack Obama are wondering whom the Republicans will nominate to challenge him. So there naturally is a great deal of interest in the polls.

Approval of the job Obama is doing is plunging so fast that it seems almost impossible for opinion surveys to keep up.

Meanwhile, in the GOP camp, the most recent Gallup survey shows conservative Gov. Rick Perry of Texas jumping into the lead among Republican voters. He has handily overtaken the previous poll leader, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Perry was the favorite with 29 percent of the voters surveyed, compared with 17 percent for Romney. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was third, with 13 percent, and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota was fourth, with 10 percent. Other Republican candidates lagged far behind.

Gallup also finds that Obama is in a statistical tie among registered voters in head-to-head match-ups with the four leading GOP candidates: Perry, Romney, Paul and Bachmann.

While not many things in politics are particularly stable, Perry, at least for the time being, is generating the most enthusiasm among Republican voters -- and it appears that any of the top GOP candidates could give Obama a run for his money.








The popular uprisings have already ousted two long-time presidents in Tunisia and Egypt, another one in Libya is almost gone. Regimes are being challenged in varying degrees almost all over the Arab world. This is really a momentous moment in the history of the region. Yet the question remains as to where these countries are heading?

The Arab uprisings clearly have a regional character; they not only have influenced each other, but they have also been a response to similar grievances. The grievances mainly originated from demographic changes, socio-economic problems and political repression. However, the events take on a different course in each case. It is clear that structural factors such as political and social history, economic development level and institutional capability, as well as ethnic and religious makeup will be important in affecting the transition in these countries.

In Tunisia and Egypt where the leaders are gone, the structures that supported authoritarianism are still intact. So are the socio-economic problems that plagued these countries. In Libya even if Moammar Gadhafi and his family goes, the rentier nature of the state will be there. Similarly, the reform of tribal politics, a legacy of the Gadhafi era, will be hard to change.

One interesting debate, especially in Tunisia and Egypt, has been about institutionalization vs. participation. The actors are discussing whether there should be free elections first and then a remaking of the institutional structure, including the constitution. Although free elections are seen as a sine quo non of democratic governance, without the democratic institutional structure that would guarantee political, civil and social rights, they may be not enough. As history has shown, elections may provide legitimacy for anti-democratic regimes, for instance. So there needs to be a balance between the two. This is not an easy task.

Several transitions in different parts of the world have shown countries moving away from authoritarianism do not necessarily move to democratic governance. On the contrary, the studies have shown that many so-called transition countries became semi-authoritarian states rather than democracies. Similarly, the experiences also demonstrate that transition is not a linear process; thus there may be going back and forth.

Those who rose against their authoritarian rulers have done a very brave thing. Their resolve gives hope for facing the many challenges ahead.





Iran bluntly told Ankara this week that it was "unhappy" with the Turkish aerial operations on the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, terrorist gang's hideouts in northern Iraq and should Turkey decide to undertake a land operation into the mountainous northern Iraq to hunt the terrorists, it must first obtain the permission of Baghdad. Interesting... Why has Iran, which opened its airspace to Turkish operations, become critical of the operation and a probable land offensive? How did it happen that Iran, a country which has been conducting operations on the presence of PJAK, the Iranian version of the separatist gang, in the Kandil range, has become critical of Turkish operations?

The Foreign Minister of Iraq Hoshyar Zebari, an ethnic Kurd, was unhappy as well with the Turkish operations. He not only called for an immediate halt to the operations that he condemned as a breach of Iraqi sovereignty but reminded Ankara that a trilateral Iraqi, Turkish, American joint committee was created for a resolution of the PKK-presence-in-northern-Iraq problem. PKK's propaganda machine, on the other hand, has started to accuse the Zebari's government of collaborating with Ankara in an effort to empty the villages close to the PKK hideouts on the Kandil Mountains. According to claims, Turkey, via the Baghdad government, wants to empty up to 100 villages in the area and has been pledging to pay up to 20 million Iraqi dinars (about 30,000 Turkish Liras or 20,000 dollars) for every family leaving those villages.

First, it was indeed interesting to see Zabari trying to continue fooling the Turks with the myth that the tripartite anti-PKK commission might one day resolve the PKK-related security problems directed at Turkey from northern Iraq... Zebari probably, like Americans, thinks that Turks are so naive to believe that a process that did not serve any good for the past many years, except to make Turkey lose hundreds of its sons to cross border separatist attacks, might now or tomorrow work... Secondly, was Zabari talking differently to the Iraqi domestic public and also differently to the Turks? If for more than a week when Baghdad was so silent about Turkish aerial operations and indeed helping out this way or the other with the Turks to evacuate the villages in close proximity to separatist hideouts on Kandil, was Baghdad supportive of the Turkish operation and a prospective land operation?

Or, is there a change in the equilibrium somewhere else that pressed Tehran as well as Baghdad to make changes in their perceptions about the Turkish anti-PKK operations? For example, could it be that Turkey is changing its Syria policies although not yet fully becoming more in tune with the American policies? Indeed, all through the Syrian crisis, Turkey has been on the side of those opposing sanctions or a military intervention and demanding that Syria be given time to undertake some radical reforms. However, lately, seeing that despite all his pledges, President Bashar al-Assad repeatedly failed to live up to his promises of radical reforms, Ankara has toughened its approaches towards Syria... Yet, it is still against an international intervention.

The Assad or Baas regime in Syria, however, is for obvious reasons of existential importance for Iran... Then, is Iran trying to "domesticate" Turkey and indeed sending a "Behave well on Syria get packing on PKK, otherwise I walk the other way" blackmail message? Where is Zebari in this equilibrium?





The popular uprisings have already ousted two long-time presidents in Tunisia and Egypt, another one in Libya is almost gone. Regimes are being challenged in varying degrees almost all over the Arab world. This is really a momentous moment in the history of the region. Yet the question remains as to where these countries are heading?

The Arab uprisings clearly have a regional character; they not only have influenced each other, but they have also been a response to similar grievances. The grievances mainly originated from demographic changes, socio-economic problems and political repression. However, the events take on a different course in each case. It is clear that structural factors such as political and social history, economic development level and institutional capability, as well as ethnic and religious makeup will be important in affecting the transition in these countries.

In Tunisia and Egypt where the leaders are gone, the structures that supported authoritarianism are still intact. So are the socio-economic problems that plagued these countries. In Libya even if Moammar Gadhafi and his family goes, the rentier nature of the state will be there. Similarly, the reform of tribal politics, a legacy of the Gadhafi era, will be hard to change.

One interesting debate, especially in Tunisia and Egypt, has been about institutionalization vs. participation. The actors are discussing whether there should be free elections first and then a remaking of the institutional structure, including the constitution. Although free elections are seen as a sine quo non of democratic governance, without the democratic institutional structure that would guarantee political, civil and social rights, they may be not enough. As history has shown, elections may provide legitimacy for anti-democratic regimes, for instance. So there needs to be a balance between the two. This is not an easy task.

Several transitions in different parts of the world have shown countries moving away from authoritarianism do not necessarily move to democratic governance. On the contrary, the studies have shown that many so-called transition countries became semi-authoritarian states rather than democracies. Similarly, the experiences also demonstrate that transition is not a linear process; thus there may be going back and forth.

Those who rose against their authoritarian rulers have done a very brave thing. Their resolve gives hope for facing the many challenges ahead.





Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek has an explanation for the most recent escalation of violence in Turkey's southeast: Foreign powers!

Mr. Çiçek's reply to a reporter's question as to who these foreign powers are may well earn him a nomination for the 2011 Speech Apraxia Award: "We know who they are… Those who know who they are know who they are… And they (the evil foreign powers) know it's them."

In the previous rise of armed conflict between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, the Turkish government subtly accused Israel for playing the Kurdish card against Turkey – while not minding to play the Hamas card against the Jewish state. Today, it seems, "those who know it's them" are either the Iranians or the Syrians, or both. But is it not bizarre to see Israel, Iran and Syria in the same camp? A very rare gathering, indeed…

"So how can Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticize the Syrian government for attacking armed terrorist groups while Turkey is conducting such massive operations in response to a few attacks by some PKK insurgents?" No, the previous line in quotation marks is not my question. That question was recently asked by a columnist for the Tehran Times (Turkey's double standard policy on Syria, Tehran Times, Aug.19, 2011).

Since Tehran Times is no more independent from the Mullahs than several Turkish newspapers are from Mr Erdoğan's government, we must raise an eyebrow and ask how Tehran suddenly upgraded the PKK to "insurgents" from "terrorists?" And how, in a span of a year, the nemesis trio Israel, Syria and Iran has united against Turkey – the same Turkey which boasted not just friendly but "brotherly" relations with Syria and Iran.

In fact, Turkey's restive Kurds are the "glass" that makes the House of Turkey a "house of glass" whose owners should have been wise enough not to throw stones at other people's houses.

Two of Turkey's neighbors – with which the Crescent and Star once flew a kite that read "zero problems" on its wings – are now at an alarming distance to Ankara. The third, Iraqi Kurds, are issuing protest after protest for the military offensive against potential PKK safe havens in northern Iraq. Iraqi Kurdish politicians condemned the air raids and shelling by the Turkish military in the past week. A local mayor told Reuters that the air strike hit a car carrying civilians and killed seven, including two children.

Sounds familiar? Not to the deaf Turkish ears. Nevertheless, I'll try to explain why the whole set-up must be familiar.

Last week, eight people died in concerted, triple terrorist attacks in Eilat, southern Israel. In these attacks, the terrorists ambushed a bus, fired rocket-propelled grenades to another, and blew up an Israeli military vehicle. The Israeli retaliation reportedly killed 10, including innocent people. Meanwhile, Israeli forces killed at least three Egyptian policemen in an exchange of fire which Israeli officials say did not aim at the Egyptian policemen – which the Israeli soldiers had merely shot toward the source that was shooting against them.

In both cases, there are terrorist attacks against legitimate states, retaliation from the target state by military means, and there is, sadly, lack of precision in striking back.

The Middle East is slippery surface: too slippery to ideologically rely on faith- or sect-based alliances or faith-based enmity… With already 40,000 graves in its backyard, Turkey should have been the last country to fall for the orientalist my-terrorist-is-bad-but-your-terrorist-is-good game which it despised for decades.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu should have a moment of peace, sit down and rethink the real depth of his theoretical "strategic depth."





It would be naïve to attribute Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's sudden visit to Benghazi earlier this week as being driven by altruism alone. Like most countries involved in the NATO operations against Col. Moammar Gadhafi's forces, Turkey also wants a piece of the post-war cake. Neither can it disregard the stake it already has in the country.

The world got a clear view of this stake immediately after the uprising against Gadhafi when Ankara successfully evacuated tens of thousands of its citizens from that country. The majority of these people were working for the large number of Turkish companies in the country – largely in the construction sector – with projects worth up to 30 billion dollars, according to some estimates.

While many in the West were unaware of this massive involvement by Turkey, it is a known fact now (and so it should not come as a surprise) that Ankara is trying to protect its interests. Hence Foreign Minister Davutoğlu's hasty visit to Benghazi, where he met the head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, and reportedly handed him a bag containing 100 million dollars in aid, with the promise of 200 million more in soft loans and other arrangements to come.

Davutoğlu also assured the leadership in Benghazi that NATO's operation against Gadhafi loyalists would continue for as long as necessary. This, of course, represents a radical about-turn for Ankara. It was, after all, only in March that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan castigated those calling for NATO intervention, angering the Libyan opposition which felt Turkey was preventing an international military response to Gadhafi.

In the meantime, France's prestige among the opposition based in Benghazi was high due to the diplomatic dynamics President Nicolas Sarkozy set in motion resulting in the NATO intervention. But those days are in the past now and Ankara has warm ties with the transitional Libyan administration today, having also dumped Gadhafi in the meantime.

It is clear, however, that Ankara will face competition from countries that were keen on a military intervention against Libya from the start, France being the most obvious one.

Ties between Ankara and Paris are sour anyway after France refused to invite Turkey to a key Libya summit earlier this year.

The French explained that there was no need to invite Turkey since Erdoğan had made his position on a NATO intervention clear. Ankara, however, was not convinced because German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country was also opposed to a NATO operation, had been invited.

The French position acted as a wake-up call for Ankara, which hastily improved its standing in Libya and it is clear that the Turkish presence in that country is fairly secure today. The question now is just how much of the cake it will get for itself.

While other countries are eyeing Libya's rich oil reserves in the first instance, Turkey is concentrating on what it knows best in that country, namely the construction sector. But Turkish Petroleum is nevertheless also interested in securing a foothold in Libya.

One advantage Turkey has is the fact that it is run by the Justice and Development party, or AKP, which has a lot of prestige in the Arab world, and especially among the Sunni masses. Given that "bedding with Westerners" is still something of a social taboo in the Islamic world, this factor could work to Turkey's advantage in the new Libya.

This depends, however, on who actually ends up running the country and what their general political outlook is. It is too early to say that a happy end has been achieved in Libya as there is much that yet needs to play out.

Ankara is nevertheless showing that Turkey is not prepared to leave the field empty-handed and has decided to act early and decisively in this respect. Given that national interest still drives the world, this is to be expected.





The rollercoaster events of the past few weeks in the global markets have shown to all that the "ghost of crisis past," that has been haunting the advanced capitalist economies since 2007, will not likely disappear soon. Over the next months, "positive" economic data might spring up here and there, cheering markets for short periods of time – and creating traps for the small investor who hasn't learned a lesson. But as we have understood, these bursts of optimism are quite fragile, and are followed with new, deep slumps.

Something is "broken" in the global economy, and not many are willing to discuss exactly what that is. One would have hoped that after the great destruction of value in 2007-2009, at least a few informed bodies would start a meaningful discussion regarding the root causes of the problem that has returned to haunt us.

But as a "new phase" in a global drama starts to unfold in front of our eyes, encouraging signs in this respect have appeared: economists are emphasizing more fundamental issues today, as they dare to look beyond the gaze of the myopic markets.

"With the West now in economic permafrost, paper wealth is vulnerable to loss," say Stephen King and Karen Ward, HSBC economists, in their Aug. 23 analysis. "How the burden will be shared – between creditors and debtors, taxes and public services, shareholders and workers – remains unclear … This is no longer an issue about monetary policy and the role of central banks: in a world of winners and losers, hard political choices have to be made, yet, so far, are being avoided."

The two economists add that the world has reached a point where central bankers are beginning to run out of power. The likely solution to the developed world's economic difficulties requires an answer to the question of who will shoulder the cost of the crisis: that, as they emphasize, is a matter of political choice, not monetary policy.

Charles Dumas of Lombard Street Research utters the word "debt-deflation" in his Aug. 10 note – an apparent reference to a non-mainstream economist, Hyman Minsky.

We also have Stephen Lewis of Monument Securities who dares to challenge the norm. In his Aug. 19 note, Lewis says the talk over a "double-dip recession" misses the point, as the term "recession" implies cyclicality. He warns that we should be talking about a "depression," which implies structurality. "US policy makers' first important task now is to analyze the structural weaknesses that underlie the current malaise," he says. "Will they do this? It seems very unlikely."

Then, of course, we have Prof. Nouriel Roubini, who told the Wall Street Journal in an Aug. 15 interview that "Karl Marx had it right." According to a transcript of the interview, he said more important things than that: "You cannot keep on shifting income from labor to capital without having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand. That's what has happened. We thought that markets worked. They're not working."

As the question of who will shoulder the burden takes the center stage, politics and rival political forces inevitably will be the focus from today on. We are sure to hear more of this type of discussion above as long as the "ghost of crisis past" urges experts to find a solution.






Last week on Monday when the Turkish Football Federation faced the public after it evaluated the Ethics Committee report, it was expected to "write history." It wrote history this week on Wednesday, while also putting its signature to a huge scandal… We all know the stage that has been reached, so there is no point in grappling with the summary of the past but the picture that emerges now is grave enough for us not to recover for a long time. As you can remember, a UEFA representative came here at the beginning of the week and contacted many people. The head of the federation, Mehmet Ali Aydınlar, said: "[It's] nothing important, it is a procedural visit. We provided information for him."

After that, at 6 p.m. Wednesday, the bomb went off. "Fenerbahçe is no longer in Europe." Following that, Aydınlar, who has been swimming in a sea of controversies since he took office, added one more controversy and said: "UEFA prioritizes the Champions League. This league is their cherished trademark."

 Well, if UEFA cherishes its own league, why don't you cherish the league you are heading? Why did allow the team you don't dare send to Europe start your own league? More precisely, you have not clarified the balance of accounts from last season either in your own sports or criminal law, and you are trying to start the new Super League season in a rush because "the broadcasting company wants it so." Moreover, you play an "Oriental trick" and mention the "play-off system," and make the muddy water muddier. I'm not saying, "This is guilty, or that is guilty," but the federation's decision Wednesday is the most scandalous decision in the 53-year history of our league, right after the debate on the "play-off system."

The bar that hit the bottom has passed through ground zero and is moving toward the center of earth. And with Wednesday's "historic" move, our football that we are so very, very proud of, has given the impression that it cannot do anything without its "Western big brothers."

The picture that has emerged tells us this: UEFA representative Pierre Cornu came here like a colonial governor and said, "Now, it is understood that you will not be able to handle this." He has pulled the ears of our guys and made the federation pass a decision to the effect that "Fenerbahçe will not participate in the giants' league."

Well then, how can a society desire to host an event like the Olympic Games, where the key issue is not winning but competing, when it muddies its favorite sport so much and after so much mud, instead of looking for a way out, constantly passes the ball around? It is the same society who, with a formation called the Clubs' Union says: "Do not worry, there is no serious problem. These things happen in football," and wants to move on…

Anyhow, Fenerbahçe, and I think for justifiable reasons, boiled over with rage after Wednesday's statement. The chaos had been delayed so much that it had reached its explosion point and finally UEFA had the last word. What needs to be done is for the federation to resign immediately. During the process of the "match-fixing investigation" that started on July 3, this institution and its executives who have been zigzagging and constantly making contradictory statements should demonstrate an example of civil courage and say, "We are sorry, these developments have overwhelmed us, we could not handle them." This is not a shameful thing to do; on the contrary, it is a virtue.

Meanwhile, the same federation is working on determining a league fixture that is expected to be designed "theoretically" based on a "play-off system." For me, this fixture draw is actually the funeral prayers of our football. The imam, as in every Muslim funeral, will ask, "How did you know the deceased," but this time we will not be able to collect enough of our energy, our logic and our conscious to answer him, "We knew him well…"

*Uğur Vardan is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece appeared Thursday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.






The speaker of Parliament has invited academics from universities to discuss preparations for the new constitution.

Cemil Çiçek will meet 23 academics from 17 faculties of law and one Police Academy academic on Sept. 19. The criterion for being invited has not been disclosed. While five academics were invited from Ankara University's Faculty of Law, can there be a reason beyond politics why nobody was invited from Istanbul University's Faculty of Law?

One fourth of the participants in Çiçek's meeting are members of the 2007 Constitution Committee of Justice and Development Party, or AK Party.

 In this new process, Ergun Özbudun (who headed that committee) and friends, will try to benefit from the experiences they have gained instead of insisting on their old views. It is one of the reassurances of the new study period that Özbudun and friends will contribute their gains and experiences of four years.

Assessing extra-parliamentary contribution

It is not clear yet which one of the offices – Office of the Parliament Speaker, Inter-parties Committee or the Constitution Committee – will undertake the business of collecting and assessing non-parliament contributions. In fact, the meeting of the academics will provide insight to the view of the speaker of Parliament on the method of constitutional work.

In the new period we have entered, how will they open the way to contributions outside the parliament? Actually, it is a complicated issue!

In every period, the form and substance of contributions during general assembly periods are expected to be different from each other.

The procedures to be followed in new constitutional work, I guess, will be formed step by step through practice without setting up definite rules beforehand.

CHP and MHP stances

The stances of the two opposition parties, the Republican People's Party, or CHP, and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, are not yet clear. CHP's, "People write the constitution, not the judiciary," does not completely explain their perception. The MHP spokesman, while not opposing to the academics meeting, is content with only saying that they will participate in "a committee formed by equal number of members from each party."

No prerequisites!

One of the first ground rules is to stay away from the "absolute must" mentality. Suggestions under the names of "red lines" and "criterion" are brought to the table not to obtain results but to transfer s into political deals.

Such a situation means writing the new constitution through decisions of political partnerships. The situation, where constitutional work is being used as political material in the hands of political partnerships, is the situation we should most fear and refrain from.

If constitutional debate transforms into political material, it will result in a polarization that will capture the country for many years. I expect our parties to distance themselves from the effect of polarization.

Let us have no obstructions, difficulties

In the new constitution, there is a tendency to develop a provision for each topic. This method would obstruct advancement and block change. In this phase, general principles should be set and others should be left to political powers and the parliament.

Tarhan ERDEM is a columnist for Daily Radikal in which this piece appeared on Thursday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.








A report in this newspaper – which has thus far not been denied by any party involved – tells us that there are godowns in Sindh full of costly and vital flood-relief goods which have been awaiting distribution for perhaps as many as 15 days. There is no shortage of relief goods and we are not crying out for international aid other than that already being delivered. There are stocks of milk powder, bottled water, plastic sheeting and tents, rice and other comestibles and antiseptics to help prevent infectious diseases. There are reportedly dozens of relief camps which have yet to receive any goods at all. It is not lack of transport or aid items that is keeping desperate people from getting the help they need; it is the callous indifference of local officials and chronic ineptitude on the part of the National Disaster Management Agency.

We also learn that relief goods have been given as a 'quota' to a local PPP MNA – who has distributed them among the peasants he 'owns' and his vote-bank irrespective of whether they are flood affectees or not. The local NGOs, which themselves hold stocks of relief goods, are refusing to release them to the district administration because they could not monitor the disbursal or be sure of aid reaching the most needy. They will disburse and monitor themselves – an indictment of the parlous state of public offices and the venality of elected representatives. Over a million people are currently displaced. Around 32,000 houses are destroyed in district Mirpurkhas. It is estimated that over a third of a million people are shelterless in southern Sindh alone. The resources needed to help these people are available. There is no problem of supply or distribution. What is lacking is the honest desire to meet the needs of the neediest. The problem lies entirely with incompetent administrators with political ties and a gutless NDMA which seems unable to bring order to the chaos. A sense of shame is absent from the emotional repertoire of those who have orchestrated this appalling example of man's inhumanity to man. Let us hope they redeem themselves before a crisis becomes a rolling tragedy, and death, disease and hunger stalk the flooded lands.







Karachi has been crying out for help, and for many weeks it appeared that there was no one to hear its call. But the Supreme Court has now heard and responded. The court has observed that the executive has been unable to tackle the situation, and a special five-member bench, headed by the chief justice himself has now been constituted to look into the issue. The attorney general, the chief secretary of Sindh and other officials have been called to appear before the bench on Friday while the MQM has sought to become a party in the case. Perhaps, this step can lead to some results. While there has been some let-up in the killings – and at a meeting chaired by the Sindh CM and the interior minister it was decided that the authorities would continue the 'surgical operation' being carried out in the city since Wednesday – there is no way of saying how long the calm will last. Certainly in the past, such days of peace have been short-lived and there are always fears of blunders by an essentially incompetent government. An extraordinary example of this came in a statement by Syed Qaim Ali Shah two days ago after a meeting which also featured Interior Minister Rehman Malik. Shah suggested that all criminals should leave Karachi; he did not quite spell out where they should go to resume their activities – or why people in other places should suffer their presence. We wonder if the government genuinely has nothing else to offer beyond feeble pleas to murderers and when the next such senseless suggestion will come.

It is clear that the situation in Karachi is highly complex. The SC hearings and the evidence placed before it may help bring some of the realities to light. The apex court has already commented on the disturbing video footage put before it by television channels. Perhaps it can help lay down some suggestions about what should be done next. The people in Karachi are in no doubt as to what they want most of all: peace. The feeling that those in charge have no ideas and no solutions to offer is obviously disheartening and can only add to the despair that now engulfs the streets of Karachi.






Despite the glacial nature of much of our relationship with the Americans of late, functional dialogue continues. A US delegation was in town on Tuesday which met with the president and the prime minister. The agenda for meetings such as this is determined well in advance and changes little with successive meetings so they discussed what they have discussed many times before – bilateral relations, the war on terror and regional security issues. All of these issues are presently coloured by the current slump in the fortunes of this most inconvenient of marriages, and our president was reminding the US delegation that America's already battered image in Pakistan was unlikely to be improved by talk of cutting aid to us. This is almost certainly true, though the aid that comes from America is largely invisible to the common man and as such he is unlikely to care much either way. Whether individual perceptions of the US are coloured by an awareness of the presence or absence of aid is almost immaterial. Collectively, they matter a lot, and are almost universally negative as evidenced by the most recent Pew Global Attitudes report on Pakistan.

This is a state of affairs that the Americans are responsible for in large part themselves with the Raymond Davis case being perhaps the single greatest cause of national bitterness towards America; and to this can be added the Bin Laden raid. A more generalised feeling that Uncle Sam cannot be trusted to speak with anything other than a forked tongue and has ditched us in the past means that as far as PR goes the Americans have a mountain to climb. We are now in a time when the relationship is being recalibrated. Both states need one another but there is no equality discernible in the relationship or even many points of parity. We have in recent months sought to rein in some of the more unilateral US activities on our own soil. Despite the US being less than delighted with our newfound pushiness, the talking continues. PM Gilani is shortly to visit Washington and meet assorted American worthies but probably not President Obama. So the inconvenient marriage struggles on.








Here I was about to write of Karachi – the title floating in my mind "How Stalin would have resolved the situation", standing up against a wall the entire Karachi administration and not a few of its political leaders – and here something has occurred in Chakwal to claim my flitting attention.

I have been accused of various things in my time – heresy to personal failings, from homage to Bacchus to philandering (this last vastly exaggerated...often the quietest souls are the most successful in this field while those who strut about or thunder the most are like dogs whose bark is worse than their bite).

During the last elections my embittered opponents, expecting a free run but not getting it, would buy entire pages of the local press to recount my personal failings, culled mostly from my own columns over the years. Which, in a way, was flattering. Who cares about yesterday's columns? But my opponents, or their local hirelings, would go through them with an avidity I found amusing.

But for all my breaking of the ten commandments and more, never was I accused of rape. Now this defect stands remedied by an application against me by one Ms Tubassam in the court of the local sessions judge. The story is interesting.

On the 17th of August a kidnapping-cum-robbery case is registered against Tabassum, her uncle and aunt, and a few others, in police station Chakwal. The complainant is Tabassum's mother-in-law, who also happens to be her real aunt.

On the 20th of August, full three days later, Tabassum moves a longish application under Sec 22 (A and B) against members of her own family, accusing her sister-in-law of running her as a demimondaine (French for the oldest profession), but laying stress on a singular circumstance that the local MNA, yours truly, subjected her to criminal assault (the word rape sounds jarring if used too often) in May this year, using force and violence and threatening her with dire consequences should she open her mouth.

This puts me in the distinguished company of Dominique Strauss-Kahn...with some important distinctions. In Strauss-Kahn's case the scene of the action is New York's Sofitel Hotel, a suite there putting you back by $3000 a night; the scene of the alleged thriller in my case is my bazaar house in Chakwal, its entrance lined by a row of shops. Enter or leave and you will be noticed by at least a score of people.

The second difference is that whereas Strauss-Kahn's accuser had contacted the police immediately, my femme fatale is three months late, that too after the registration of a criminal case against her. I am not mentioning a third difference: I wasn't about to enter the French presidential race. In the French case, there was some medical evidence to go by. In this case, no medical evidence, no witnesses. Just the word of the Mata Hari.

But how could a mere girl bring such an accusation against a sitting MNA? Where there's smoke there must be a fire, I can hear armchair cynics say. As a permanent member of the club of cynics myself, I can appreciate this line of argument. Except for some telling circumstances, also worthy of consideration.

My opponents, and their number is not small, jump quickly into the fray. Their hirelings in the local press start working overtime to spread word of the MNA's involvement in such a heinous crime. What is the world coming to?

And the Venus from Langah (her village) finds herself with strong legal help from the local bar. Pushing her application are three leading lawyers: Amin, Shaidy Shah and Amir Butt, all Q League stalwarts, Amin having been additional advocate general Punjab and Shaidy Shah an assistant advocate general when Ch Pervaiz Elahi was chief minister. Amir Butt, an able civil lawyer, was a local nazim, again a pillar of the Q League.

These lawyers don't touch a piece of paper without commanding hefty fees. They are not known for doing anything pro bono, this just not being their style. And here for nothing, for no money at all, they hasten to the assistance of a young girl whose virtue and honour were violated by the local MNA: very touching. In the local bar these lawyers are known as members of the Z Group. Now what does Z stand for in Urdu? I'll have to look this one up in the dictionary.

Most of the local press, knowing what is what, and having a fair idea of Ms Tabussam's background, observes restraint. But a small group of ultra-loyalists to my Q League opponents consider this a heaven-sent opportunity, not to be missed. As that old Turkish proverb goes, you can shut the gates of the mightiest fortress but not the mouths of your enemies.

Still, there should be no hard feelings on this score. Politics is not a game for the delicate or the timid. When frustrated opponents get a chance they will be sure to exploit it. The analogy is far-fetched, and I am not making any pompous comparisons, but when Clinton was accused of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, the Republican hard-core just wanted to bring him down. Rats will be rats and your opponents will do what they can.

Even from Ms Tabussam's point of view this strategy is ingenious for it distracts attention from her own case and focuses it on the MNA's exploits.

And Fauzia Behram reserved-seat MPA from the PPP, affectionately called 'Phuppi' (auntie) in local PPP circles, and famous for her wrestling prowess in the Punjab Assembly (she was again in the news recently for felling a woman member from the other side to the ground...I wouldn't want to be on her wrong side) rushes to Langah, promises Ms Tabassum something from the Bait-ul-Maal, and shouts that no one is above the law. I await with trepidation her next move.

Last time Auntie got angry with me she accused me at a public meeting in Thaneel Kamal (this was a year ago) of having an affair with a 23 year old girl. Her niece, Palwasha Khan, reserved-seat PPP MNA, said I should be flattered. I said let me at least have the girl's telephone number. She gave a half smile and walked away. Palwasha is pretty and intelligent, beauty and brains. But I suppose there is no choosing one's aunts.

An affair with a 23 year old indeed...I'd be a happy soul, counting my blessings, if a tenth of these charges were true. I know my own worth in this field. A mirror does not lie. One cannot fake being a Casanova or a ladies' man: one is or one isn't. I wouldn't mind all the slander in the world provided I could convince myself – I am not interested in convincing others – that there was something to all this after all.

I would then not "...all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself, and curse my fate...Desiring this man's art and that man's scope..." I would have a wicked glint in my eyes.

In this particular case my frustration stems from something else. The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has been accused of an affair with the 17-year old Moroccan girl known as Ruby, very tempting and very exciting. From the photos I have seen of Ms Tabussam, my curiosity aroused after her application, not even her fiercest friends would accuse her of resembling Berlusconi's Moroccan flame. This is what rankles.

If I am even remotely guilty of criminally assaulting Ms Tabassum, or anyone like her, then there should be no hope for me, and no clemency. For I would be guilty not only of a criminal offence, a serious matter in itself, but of something far worse in the eyes of the initiated: an appalling and unforgivable lack of taste.

A violation of the law, and a serious one at that, is only worth it if the prize be sufficiently tempting. Far be it from me to run down a lady, any lady, especially one from the demi-monde – I never do that, having always considered the oldest profession to be a necessary adjunct to the human condition – but rape, and on Ms Tabussam?

This is to paint me as a desperate man, bereft of choices. I feel insulted.








Our threshold of tolerance is currently around twenty killed a day in Karachi. Below that, no one moves or cares. Even the public goes to the next headline in the newspaper and flicks to the next channel.

Above that figure, the government "moves" and "decisively" dispatches Rehman Malik to Karachi. Now that "effective step" has been replaced by the president himself calling a meeting of all concerned. Meetings result in statements of the interior minister, like "keeping a watch on Karachi through aerial surveillance", as if the interior ministry does now believe the press report. If the pressure mounts further, the interior minister, based on his superior intelligence sources, finds evil in the eyes of the women of Karachi, who are getting their errant husbands or boyfriends killed by hired assassins.

The public is distracted for a few days by the "effective" actions of the government. In the meantime, the killings go down to five or six a day on their own and the public attention moves to the next problem, most likely the frequent power outages, until the next time the death toll exceeds 20.

There is seldom any pressure on the police IG or the chief minister because everyone has already given up on the police and the provincial government. So we have now a situation where, on an average, a dozen or so people are killed daily, not just shot but brutally mutilated, in the commercial capital of the country, and we concede the police is helpless, the Rangers have no training and it is futile to call the army in without the cause of the strife being addressed. Because people dying are not part of the ruling elite, there is no urgency in finding a solution, as long as the government gets a few more months.

How long can this continue? It is not just people being killed but, since Karachi is the commercial hub of the country, the unrest is affecting the livelihoods of millions of people in the city and in the rest of Pakistan. While our problems in the northwest of the country have been brought about by the wild, Islamic extremists, exasperated by developments beyond our control, like getting the US to leave Afghanistan, the killings in Karachi are the result of a squabble for political and economic hegemony, between the three ethnic groups controlled by an avowedly educated class, which had lived together peacefully for the first four decades of Pakistan.

The MQM gained control of Karachi through its superior internal organisation, effectively aided by a dreaded militant wing, both for keeping its own members in line and for taking on opponents. The ANP, learning from the MQM model, responded by organising itself along similar lines. The PPP, in an effort not to become totally irrelevant in Karachi, has devised the Lyari Gangs/Peace Committee strategy. The result: a three-way uncontrolled gang war motivated by political gains and money. The police, which in all civilised countries is the only force to control a metropolis, however large, has been rendered ineffective, because the staff owe their recruitment to one party or the other, even the senior officers.

The divided loyalty of the police in its rank and file and the way some of them were physically eliminated in the past, is the perfect recipe for disaster that we are seeing.

The Rangers have stayed on permanently, costing the provincial government more than its own paramilitary squad would, because the Ranger provide a false sense of security. The police do not oppose their deployment because the Rangers' presence gives it someone to share the blame with for the crisis in Karachi.

The very fact of the Rangers' permanent deployment in Karachi has rendered their presence ineffectual. Besides, they are not trained for policing, crime investigation or follow up. They can only kill, like a squad killed Sarfraz Shah recently. You can't blame them because that is what they are trained to do.

We can let the present dispensation continue. The ruling elite and the business class will not know where to run once the gang war spreads to their areas, which are relatively insulated so far. Before that happens, it is in the interest of everyone, including the MQM, to do something. The recent reversion to the pre-Musharraf system was a brief ray of hope, because in that system you could have a neutral law-and-order machinery and a criminal justice system, away from the command of the politicians. But that was not to be. The MQM actually got more than they asked for. They would be quite happy to have their nazims in Karachi and Hyderabad, but now it seems the whole of Sindh will follow a system very few like.

But what they must realise that, with both the ANP and the PPP having armed themselves, its hegemony in this business has weakened. An MQM nazim with the police under him will be a party to the fight, which in itself will make the police ineffective. It is in its own long-term interest to have a system where the law-and-order machinery is independent and neutral. Such an arrangement is not in conflict with a strong local government system, which can continue on almost the same lines and be as autonomous as in the Musharraf era.

Without an effective and confident civil administration and police, which is neutral and has the moral and physical power to arrest and prosecute anyone or raid any compound, peace can never return to Karachi. Unless confidence, effectiveness and the powers of the chief secretary and the IG is restored, there can be no peace in Karachi. Without peace, the future of political parties, including the MQM, is in doubt, because a stage will come when the dons with their hired assassins will grab the power for themselves, rather than do the bidding of their political masters.

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email:






The people of the subcontinent are familiar with more than a century of imperialism when the British took control of India's human and material resources to exploit them for the enrichment of their own people. Those imperialists could easily be identified by their colour, language and religion and their eating, drinking and living habits. After a great deal of struggle, the people of the subcontinent succeeded in removing the yoke of British imperialism in 1947.

The Muslims of the subcontinent, under the dynamic leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, realised that they could end up by replacing British imperialism by the oppression of the Hindu majority in undivided India, to the detriment of the interests of Muslims. Accordingly, they launched a movement for an independent Muslim state and succeeded in carving out a homeland for themselves, believing that they could live there without any fear of exploitation by imperialists from within or without. Nobody thought that history would prove them wrong with the emergence and perpetuation of homegrown imperialists in Pakistan mercilessly exploiting their fellow citizens.

Some may question the validity of the term imperialism for the description of the exploitative tendencies of our present-day rulers and the so-called elite. Let me invite them to consult The Dictionary of Human Geography that defines imperialism as "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural and territorial relationship...based on domination and subordination." The main characteristic of imperialism is domination by a small group of people for the subordination of the majority.

If this is an acceptable definition of imperialism in a broad sense, then the majority of the people of Pakistan are living under "imperial" rule. The only difference is that these imperialists cannot be identified by a difference in colour, language or religion but by their deeds. In fact, their guile makes them more dangerous and exploitative of innocent people than even foreign imperialists.

Economic inequality and exploitation is glaringly visible in Pakistan. The living conditions of the majority are characterised by what is termed above as subordination. Dominance of a few and subordination of the rest are obvious in everyday life. A few dynasties that may have got an upper hand for their past services to foreign imperialists, or through their own brutal use of force and selfish behaviour, are dominating economic and political life, and they have begun to believe in, and perpetuate, their divine right to dominate. They not only inherit ill-gotten wealth, but also political leadership.

The domination takes various forms and subordination is ensured in various shapes. In rural areas, the landed aristocracy dominates the poverty-stricken majority of peasants and landless tenants and farm workers, both through the relentless use of influence and raw power. The rural majority works day and night, some of them under conditions close to those of slave labour, and live a subhuman existence. Their honour and their self-respect are trampled on a daily basis. Their fundamental human rights are not even recognised in practice and are violated routinely by absentee landlords who enjoy modern comforts in the palatial bungalows not only in the suburbs of large cities in Pakistan but also abroad.

The same people have become the ruling class that governs at gunpoint or by manipulation of the system and fraudulent and coercive techniques of getting votes in elections and intimidation of the weak. Once in power, they use every means to exploit the human and material resources of the country to build their homes and bank balances at home and abroad. They become land-grabbers and gangsters free to take away the lands and properties of downtrodden families to create "Chak Shahzads" for themselves or to build posh residential areas, naming them "defence" societies or "civil" lines.

Some of them also take spiritual and religious titles as a means to dupe people. They travel in bullet-proof luxury cars purchased by taxpayers' money or from the loot while they are in government and enjoy social and cultural events unmindful of those living around them in urban slums. At the same time, they get away with pretensions of having a long history of being spiritual leaders and "pirs" and saints or descendents of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. They can engage in polygamy and drinking simultaneously when they remain "gaddi nasheen" and custodians of shrines and holy places. They conceal their hypocrisy by living dual lives.

Then there is the new industrialist class that either belongs to the same clique or has become their partner through marriage or partnership in business and industry. They get rich quickly through political patronage, bribery and exploitation of underpaid labourers. They live in comfort in air-conditioned houses in posh areas barricaded and protected by semi-starved guards and a herd of domestic servants.

The government collects taxes mostly from the middle and poorer classes through regressive forms of taxation and through inflation, and spends it mostly on projects that help the rich and powerful enjoy life. The most valuable land is reserved for golf courses to be used by the imperial class while the ordinary citizen cannot find shelter, or a safe footpath to take his child for a walk.

As regards the "inequality in cultural and territorial relationship" between those with imperial power and the subordinate masses, that can be also be witnessed in Pakistan on a daily basis. A child educated at Aitcheson College has nothing in common with a child born in the rural areas of Balochistan, Sindh, or Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and remote areas of Punjab or in urban ghettos everywhere. A graduate of the imperial class coming out of Oxford or Cambridge would not like to mingle with his contemporary counterparts from the interior of the country. While driving to a private club for his evening high tea, he will refuse to recognise the existence of semi-starving children around him. The majority of the people of Pakistan are indeed living under imperial power on the criterion of cultural separation.

What about inequality in "territorial relationship"? The "territories" in which the homegrown imperialists live are quite distinguishable from the mud houses of the subordinated masses. They live in the same country but under clearly carved out boundaries that only can be crossed by the majority of the subjugated people to sweep their streets, clean their houses or wash their dishes. A few people who can manage to move into those imperialists' terrain by their own hard work from among the subordinate classes are exceptions that only prove the rule.

This homegrown imperialism will continue to exist in Pakistan unless the vast majority of the exploited people exercise their fundamental rights and take their destiny in their own hands through peaceful means by dislodging the homegrown imperialists from their entrenched and fortified positions.

The writer is former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.








As his regime crumbled, the maverick colonel kept on living in his imagined world. He was a prisoner of his power. Most Middle Eastern dictators are like him. They emerged as national heroes, spoke anti-western language, promised end of colonialism and soon capitulated to their erstwhile colonisers. Libya's maverick colonel is now part of history, but a history that is still unable to find a way out of the labyrinths he left behind.

For 42 years, the near-mad colonel served western greed through a mutually beneficial arrangement which allowed him unchecked power at home. With billions of dollars at his disposal, he and his family lived like royalty and the western powers, mostly UK, France, and Italy received a rich harvest of Libya's sweet light crude. In addition, they sold billions of dollars of arms, low-level technology, and other products to the rich African country with a small population. The United States remained a silent partner in this business.

When things turned sour, Tony Blair's successor in Britain made the best of the opportunity offered to him through the Arab Spring. The victory at hand in Libya is as much the result of David Cameron's gamble as it is the result of dedicated Libyans who had enough of a dictator. Yet, one cannot deny that the defeat of the Qaddafi forces is largely a result of the support provided by the Royal Air Force (RAF), which for all practical purposes served as the Rebels Air Force.

David Cameron has played it cool: he has kept the exact extent of British intervention a closely guarded secret. He stretched the UN regulation to its ultimate limits, clearly going beyond all legal boundaries, but he was able to keep any "noise" against it at bay. It is military diplomacy at best, a classic case of an illegal and immoral intervention in the affairs of another country, both justified on the basis of huge British interests in the oil-rich country, and carried over with the popular support enjoyed by the Arab Spring.

Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, Libya's delivery from the iron hand of a dictator has been an outright military campaign against the man who had outlived his utility for his masters and who was ready to dig his own grave through miscalculations, mindboggling blunders, and sheer foolishness. He and his sons kept on living in a bygone era without realising that their time was up. Their rhetoric gained them no ground.

The fall of the Libyan dictator is important in the emergence of a new Middle East. One can now say with a degree of confidence that the western strategy of a new Middle East has become a fully operational plan. What started over a year ago as a lack lustre performance has now been strategized. Tunisia and Egypt may have been surprises for the western leadership, but it is to their credit that they have risen to the need of the hour: they have now fully grasped the ground reality that a status quo is impossible in the Middle East and that they have to hard at work to change their colours, repackage their entire tool kit and re-establishing a new order in the Middle East, one country at a time.

They know that the existing dictators must go. Their challenge now is to work with a different breed of men who would be elected through popular vote. Democracy, as it will emerge in the Middle East over the next decade, would pose a different set of challenges to them, but they have already developed techniques to have their men "democratically" elected. Their goals for the region are deeply linked to oil and what it generates – the so-called petro dollars. But they are also interested in a cultural change that would remodel the Middle East for easy access.

Until now, a maverick colonel or a Hosni Mubarak on the payroll could do the job; now they must go through the whole regime of elections, political activism, media control, and factors which influence social change.

None of this is new for them: they have already tested it in Turkey which has become a huge experiment in developing new techniques for a democratic colonialism. During the last few years, Turkey has opened up its markets in a way that was not imaginable before the so-called Islamists became their partners. Turkey's markets at European disposal include the entire communication and transport network, educational sector, a very large number of industries, and an unstated domain of religion: The Catholic Church has opened hundreds of "apartment churches" where young Turks are being indoctrinated. This is a remarkable development in international diplomacy: the western powers and Islamists have joined hands for a total transformation which was unimaginable until now.

The new Middle East may look like Turkey in the next decade. There are plenty of Arab Islamists similar to their Turkish counterparts: men with short beards in designer suits. They are able to sit at the table with the western politicians and speak the same language, both figuratively and literally.

Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, and Syria are fresh fields of operation for Europe and America. The quickness with which revolutions have emerged in these lands may be surprising for some, but these so-called revolutions are perfectly understandable in the larger context of history: keeping dictators in these lands had simply become untenable and hence historical necessity dictated a new dress for the old imperialistic domination.

The writer is a freelance columnist.








The bleeding wound of Karachi is a reminder of the dire straits the country is in. Is it just the nostalgia of an older generation or were we actually quite well managed in the past, perhaps even up to the 80s?

There is little doubt that we were. This was no thanks to our rulers who committed mistake after mistake, culminating in the division of the country in 1971. But, on the ground, the momentum of the colonial state structure continued to carry us forward.

Many among the civil society, whatever little of it there was then, or in politics, hated the so called 'naukar shahi' or the rule of the civil servants. I remember as a young kid demonstrating on the Mall in Lahore against Ayub Khan and shouting 'naukar shahi murdabad'.

We attributed all our failures to the steel frame that the British had left behind and demanded...God knows what. No one had any clear idea what we wanted to replace the colonial civil service structure with. But that did not deter us. Naukar shahi had to be done away with.

We were totally oblivious to our good fortune.

Trains generally ran on time, and railway was the preferred mode of travel. Law and order was deteriorating but the district administrators were by and large in control, the only exception being the political movement against Ayub Khan. Crime was increasing but it was nothing out of the ordinary. There were fewer schools and hospitals because of little investment in education and health but whatever there was functioned reasonably well.

Yes, the civil servants who ran the state were elitists and thought a lot of themselves. Perhaps, coming in top ranks through a competitive examination process gave them a sense of superiority. Perhaps, receiving training in elite academies and the vast powers given to them at a young age reinforced this sense of self-importance. But, looked at another way, they were the best and the brightest in the land and were helping to manage the state.

Anyway, we decided in the 70s to fix them and this started the slow decline. Bhutto struck the first blow but Musharraf put the icing on the cake by destroying the administrative structure of the district. All very noble; down with naukar shahi, up with the rule of the people. Great language, fancy rhetoric, but to what end?

We are, or at least some of us are, beginning to realise the folly of slavish submission to intellectual slogans. Local government by the people for the people not only sounds great but who can argue against it without being called a fascist. The judiciary and the executive must be separate, so laid down the great Montesquieu centuries ago and how can that be questioned?

The theory of separation of powers is not only necessary but essential to the functioning of a modern state. We are seeing the benefits of an independent judiciary, which is holding the executive to account. But, do we have to go down the line and create this separation even at the district, tehsil or village level?

Or, is it that we need to go beyond the slogans and seriously look at the reality on the ground? The executive magistracy had its flaws because the decisions could be summary in nature or influenced by larger considerations of maintaining law and order. Rights may have been trampled now and then but it worked.

Criminals would not be let off because strict standards of judicial evidence were not available – as is happening now. Section 144, pre-emptive arrests or preventive detention did not always adhere to strict standards of the universal declaration of human rights but it allowed the bad eggs to be kept in check.

The problem is, and I am assuming good intentions on all sides, that our intellectual assimilations have outstripped the reality on the ground. We are trying to build a perfect modern state with the legacy of European intellectual development as our guide, paying little attention to our social conditions.

Or, the problem lies in the historical epoch in which we are, to use a Marxist framework. Our social development is not uniform. In fact, apart from a small elite that is intellectually and emotionally twenty-first century, most of our citizens could well be living in the dark ages. To them, the only power that matters is naked; the only law, that is coercive.

To place a twenty-first century framework on the governance of a society that is struggling to understand modern realities may be morally and intellectually laudable, but is it effective? In light of what is happening in Karachi, indeed in much of Pakistan, it appears that it is not. We are looking good on paper but terrible in practice.

It is time that we begin to face realities. The administrative structure that Musharraf in his lack of wisdom bequeathed to us, is not working. This has to change. Maybe not necessarily go back to exactly what it was before but the state structure at the local level has to be given teeth. Its ability to hold deviants to account – not just through violence but through a multiplicity of coercive measures – has to be increased.

The use of pure force can be useful temporarily. Perhaps, if the army is called to restore order in Karachi it could do so in a short time. But the breathing space thus bought has to be sustainable. This the army cannot do, nor the Rangers, nor even the police. Uniformed forces should rarely be used to quell disorder and must remain a last resort. It is only the permanent structure of the state that can do it.

In the context of Karachi, politics has a huge place in creating the necessary conditions for order but it is not enough. Even if a broad agreement is arrived at between contending parties, and that does not seem easy at the moment, it has to be supplemented by an effective state apparatus.

While we are spending a lot of energy discussing the political or criminal realities in Karachi, some thought needs to be given to the administrative arrangement. And not just in Karachi, because while it is the iceberg that looms forcefully in our consciousness, a much bigger malaise lies beneath the surface and it afflicts the entire country.

A short answer would be the revival of magisterial powers to administrators at the local level. Not just for price checking or enforcing other local or special laws but real, coercive powers – including preventive detention.

We are embroiled in an internal war and the state structure is losing out. It may sound retrogressive to seek greater, even draconian, powers but we have little choice. Bit by bit we are breaking up from the inside and anarchy is more visible than order. We have no choice but to do everything to save ourselves.

It is better to be intellectually incorrect than lose out in the battle for survival.








Accurate data form the basis for any planning in a modern state and government system. Be it resource allocations according to population for meeting development goals, public sector's targeting of remote or vulnerable groups through affirmative action or the setting of formulae for political representation at different tiers of government, that in effect sanctions any of the decisions mentioned above, all are based on facts and figures.

It is said that in politics perception is more important than reality. But numbers are supposed to form the basis for any decisions that collectively affect people's lives. Also, the numbers help us understand the reason and the extent of the prevalent gulf between perception and reality at a certain point in time. Because sometimes the perceptions are very close to reality as well but they only get confirmed when there is empirical evidence.

Pakistan is about to go through a series of data collection and verification exercises at the national level which will have an impact on our economy and polity sooner than we actually realise. The ECP has begun the preparation, revision and cleaning of electoral rolls across the country. This would also mean verification of votes according to the civil registry maintained by Nadra.

While the issue of around 37 million unverified voters out of an estimated 80 million is likely to be put to rest after this exercise, many new voters will get registered in new constituencies where they turned 18 or now permanently live. This is to be followed by a population census to be conducted by Pakistan Census Organisation. Sindh and Balochistan witnessed problems in the holding of the housing census just recently but the population census will have an impact not just on resource allocations across the country but on the psyche of people who like to think that they are in a majority in a certain area. Subsequently, a delimitation of constituencies for the national and provincial assemblies as required by the law will take place.

Now what does all this mean for Karachi? Here, what I say is what I perceive, an educated guess but still a non-scientific estimation. However, the issue is that it seems there are other people like me who think and perceive as much. Besides, fellow commentators, they are part of the political parties and some of them fear the change in numbers so much that they want a situation where new numbers are not gathered.

Rational thinkers championing certain interests, pragmatic citizens themselves who get affected by the change and the capable political forces who claim to represent these citizens, revise their facts and review their strategy when numbers change. They would rather not stick to their old facts and preconceived notions. That acumen is missing in Karachi.

The current estimate is that Karachi will see a massive increase in population since the last census mostly due to in-migration. Circumstances are such that many originally belonging to other parts of Pakistan now view themselves as permanent residents meaning they would vote in Karachi.

This was not the case in previous elections otherwise things would have been different even then. Besides, the ANP and the PPP have started following the same political model as the MQM. This means delimitation of constituencies will become a major issue and after that, the next elections will be violent if safeguards are not put in place.

The struggle to replace sole proprietorship with multiple franchises on the political high street is having such horrific fallout on the poor citizens of Karachi.

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, author and public policy adviser. Email: harris.








THE grandson of Nawab Akbar Bugti, Brahamdagh Bugti has claimed that he was only a political leader and playing no role in the armed uprising against the Government in Balochistan but in the same breath has sought UN and Western intervention in the province. In an interview, published in New York Times on Wednesday, he has churned out venomous remarks about Pakistan Army and also demanded of the United States to stop assistance to Pakistan military.

There have been credible reports that foreign hand is active in stirring violence and unrest in the strategically located Balochistan as part of long term regional and global agenda and the interview of Brahamdagh Bugti, which is obviously an arranged one, to an American newspaper and its publication in extraordinary detail confirms these reports. His demand for UN and Western intervention in Balochistan speaks volumes about sinister designs of some powers who are using their tools to achieve their own objectives. Brahamdagh Bugti's claim that he was just waging a peaceful struggle for rights of Baloch people is not supported by ground realities as it is widely believed that during his exile in neighbouring Afghanistan he sponsored acts of violence and sabotage in the province and that is why Pakistan had been demanding of the Afghan Government not to provide sanctuary to him. He then fled to Switzerland and is now engaged in a propaganda campaign to malign and defame the country and its institutions. This he was doing despite the fact that both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani have made repeated offers to all estranged Baloch leaders to come to the negotiating table. If Mr Brahmdagh really believes in peaceful struggle then he should have responded to the calls of the top leadership for talks on all issues and irritants. But his latest outburst clearly shows that he is speaking the language of someone else who wants to create conditions for UN and Western intervention in Balochistan for understandable reasons. Under these circumstances, we would urge both the Federal and Provincial Government to accelerate the pace of economic activity in the province to isolate those with fissiparous tendencies and move beyond statements to initiate a visible process of dialogue for resolution of the issues involved. This has assumed urgency as some forces are trying to exploit the sense of deprivation prevailing in the province to their own advantage.







AT long last, the Federal Government, on Wednesday, gave legal cover to its promised new service structure for doctors, medical professionals and paramedics, envisaging handsome raise in their salaries and perks and privileges. Reaction of the agitating doctors clearly showed that they were satisfied on fulfilment of their longstanding demand.

The Government really deserves credit for offering an attractive package to doctors that offers highly competitive salary structure and improved prospects for the promotion of health professionals. It is very pertinent to note that the authorities have approved the package despite the fact that the Government was faced with serious financial crisis but the decision shows the Government is fully alive to the requirements of the noble profession with which doctors, nurses and health professionals are attached. We are sure that this formal recognition would add to the prestige of the profession and it would attract more and more competent and qualified people, motivated with the spirit of serving the ailing community. But it is obvious that this package would benefit only a fraction of the total strength of the doctors working in the public sector health institutions, as it is, obviously, not applicable to health facilities under the control of the provincial governments. We hope that the provincial governments too would replicate the package to remove sense of deprivation among doctors working in provincial hospitals and medical institutions. While people would now expect of the doctors and nurses to work with genuine dedication and devotion after getting fabulous increase in their salaries, the Government is also required to take steps for improvement of medical facilities in dispensaries and hospitals including provision of latest machinery and labs as well as medicines. It would also be relevant to point out that highly qualified engineers and technicians are currently being treated like ordinary bureaucrats in the public sector and therefore, there is urgent need to revise their salary structure as well because they too are rendering extraordinary services for the country.







SITUATION in Afghanistan is of serious concern for many countries but particularly for the neighbours as a peaceful Afghanistan is vital for stability in the region. In this context when leadership of two friendly countries i.e. Pakistan and China meet, they naturally exchange views on important developments at the regional and international scene including Afghanistan.

On Wednesday Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar held talks with the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi during which China signalled its intention to play a significant role for lasting peace in Afghanistan. With American and NATO draw down of troops in Afghanistan scheduled to be completed in 2014, it is for certain that the neighbouring countries have a stake in peace after that. Pakistan is the immediate neighbour of Afghanistan and China and still hosting more than three million Afghan refugees and it would like to have the views and assessment of Beijing on the emerging situation. China is also working on some mineral projects in Afghanistan and naturally has due interest that peace returns there as soon as possible. In this situation Pakistan must play its critical role to make the United States agree for active involvement of Beijing in negotiations for a lasting peace settlement in Afghanistan. China is a world power and its deep interest in peace is understandable. Also in certain parts of China, activities of militants indicate that some powers want to destabilize the country by creating irritants. Therefore China is naturally concerned with the security and stability of the area and it has a genuine and understandable interest. Peace is indivisible and it could be made durable if all stake holders and neighbouring countries play their due role. We appreciate that the Chinese leadership has offered to play a significant role in peace efforts in Afghanistan because Beijing's involvement would give the dialogue an international peace initiative. Therefore, when international powers, not alone the occupation countries, would be involved in negotiations to restore peace in the war torn country, we think that would help persuade the Taliban to join the serious negotiations and reach a settlement in the larger interest of peace, stability and development in Afghanistan and the region.









Some years ago, in the Indian site, this columnist had written of the NATO militaries as resembling an army of simians. Such a force - if let loose within a confined space – can create immense damage, but are unable to clean up the resultant mess. This is precisely what the world has witnessed in Iraq. Despite more than a decade of sanctions that directly resulted in nearly a million extra deaths during that period ( because of shortages created by the UN-approved measures), the regime of Saddam Hussein was able to provide food, energy and housing to the people of Iraq, whereas eight years after "liberation" by key NATO members, the country and its population are worse off than before the 2003 invasion that led to the execution of Saddam Hussein. As for Afghanistan, after a decade of the world's most modern military force fighting against a ragtag band of insurgents, more than a third of the country is back in the hands of the Taliban, while a fifth of the rest is on the brink of a similar fate. As a consequence of its failure to subdue this force, NATO is desperately clutching at plans for engaging the "moderate Taliban", an oxymoron if ever one was created.

Serbia has yet to recover from its brief burst of battle with NATO, and now Libya has joined the lengthening list of countries devastated by the attentions of NATO. Clearly, the top brass in a military alliance designed to do battle in Europe against the USSR were reluctant to close shop. They have therefore redesigned NATO as a military instrument with multiple uses, especially against "asymmetric threats", a term which refers to countries that have ramshackle militaries. Both Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gaddafy followed the dictates of the NATO powers in surrendering whatever WMD was in their possession, unlike Syria and North Korea, two countries that have been left undisturbed by NATO as a consequence. Clearly, military planners within the alliance are ready for action only against those rivals that have had their conventional capabilities degraded to the point at which they do not represent any significant risk against the alliance. Had George W Bush and Tony Blair truly believed their own rhetoric about Saddam Hussein having WMD, they would never have sent their armies into Iraq the way they did.

As mentioned in these columns, Gaddafy's fate got sealed when he accepted the advice of his Europe-dazzled sons to disarm and place the survival of his regime in the hands of NATO. Since 2003, Muammar Gaddafy dismantled his WMD program, synchronised his intelligence services with that of NATO and generally accepted each of the prescriptions handed over to him. Had NATO been an alliance that respects reciprocity, all this ought to have made NATO turn as blind an eye to his battle with sections of the population as we have seen in the case of Bahrain, where the ruling family has been given a free hand to sort out the situation. Instead, the situation changed when Nicholas Sarkozy was informed by French banks that Colonel Gaddafy may withdraw the immense bank deposits of Libya from them to institutions in China, and when he learnt that several contracts that French enterprises were expecting to come to them would vanish because Gaddafy wanted to spend less on French military and other toys and more on social services. Libya had to be made an example of, lest other Arab governments think of shifting their money elsewhere than within the NATO bloc as a consequence of the loss of $1.3 trillion by the GCC and its people alone because of the financial fraud perpetrated in 2008 by banks and other financial entities headquartered within the NATO bloc.

These days, companies based within NATO are finding it difficult to retain the monopoly position they have enjoyed, sometimes for generations. In particular, Chinese companies are challenging them in numerous markets, as are companies based elsewhere in Asia, including within South Korea and India. As a consequence, they now rely on military force to retain their privileges. This has been illustrated with commendable transparency in the case of Iraq and Libya. In the latter case, even though the fumes of battle have not ceased (and are unlikely to), oil companies such as ENI and Total are hard at work figuring out the assets they can seize because of the local victories of the Sarkozy-appointed "National Transitional Council". Interestingly, even though the NTC is a creation of Paris, the UN has accepted it as the legitimate government of Iraq. Indeed,in the 21st century the UN seems to have regressed into the period between 1919 and 1939,when the League of Nations awarded "mandates" to dominant countries that permitted them to rule weaker ones. In the past decade, similar mandates have been proferred in the case of Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan. In the case of Libya, President Sarkozy's takeover of the Libyan state via the creation of the NTC has been similarly legitimized by the UN in an astonishing abdication of principle.

However, just as in other locations, facts on the ground may not follow the script favoured by NATO. In the case of Libya, this columnist has warned for five months that the NATO intervention would only result in civil war and in the steady destruction of the infrastructure that made Libya one of the more prosperous countries in the region. All this is at risk today, as chaos descends in the form of armed gangs set loose by NATO across the country. Not that there is ever any chance of those responsible for such a catastrophe being held accountable by so-called "international" bodies, most of which are now firmly in the control of the NATO powers in a way that their own economies are not. Over the past decade, tens of thousands of civilian deaths have resulted from NATO operations, without even a mild protest from the International Court or the Human Rights Council. Such inaction is leading to the same loss of respect for the UN system as took place in the past with the League of Nations, which became seen as being controlled by a small group for their own purposes.

Whether it is Libya or any other country, each has the right to develop its societal dynamic in its own way. Unless a country poses a threat to others, the way Talban-controlled Afghanistan did, it is not legitimate target for international action. In the case of Libya, since 2003 Colonel Gaddafy disarmed his military of WMD and fully cooperated with the US-led War on Terror. His fate has become a lesson to others who may have been tempted to follow in his path of conciliation with NATO. Small wonder that the other regimes in the sights of NATO - Syria and Iran in particular - are in no hurry to follow the Libyan example. Rather than seek to finish off a leader who buried the hatchet publicly and fully the way Gaddafy did, NATO would have been better advised to show its magnanimity and its willingness to keep agreements in good faith. That would have acted as an incentive for Syria, Iran and even North Korea to follow suit, thereby making the globe a safer place. Today, all three states - understandably – have zero faith in the bona fides of the NATO powers, and as a consequence are each going their own way. Combine this with the economic desolation seen within NATO ( much of which has been caused by the huge spike in military spending caused by foreign adventures), and overall even the medium-term prognosis for NATO is dim, despite the smiles of congratulation at the advance of NATO proxies into Tripoli.

Unlike during the Vietnam war, when the Pentagon extensively sourced its procurement from Asia, the Bush-Cheney team sought to give US entities a monopoly over the supply of the items needed, even items as militarily inconsequential as toothpaste. The result of such an autarchic policy has been a big increase in spending, with the US alone spending more than a trillion dollars in its wars with Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, we have seen this use of the state machinery to block competition across several sectors. The EU, for example, has banned Indian pharmaceuticals from its market, despite the low cost and high quality of medicines produced in India. Just now, the EU has banned Samsung hi-tech products. A time will come when Asia bans German cars and French defense equipment in retaliation for the frequent bans on Asian products on specious grounds. The US and the EU cannot protect their way out of economic trouble. They need to give their citizens access to the benefits of a global market, rather than break every canon that they have been preaching for decades. As for NATO, it will soon become clear that while it may be possible to defeat a ramshackle force with the massive use of airpower, that may not translate into monopoly privileges over Libyan oil reserves. Should China or India come up with better terms than Italian or French companies, the people of Libya will ensure that their government act in a way that protects their interests, rather than only those of NATO. The use of military power for commercial advantage ought to have vanished when the 19th century did. Its reappearance in Iraq and Libya is a worrisome sign that NATO has not learnt the lessons of history.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.







Following the 2008 discovery of unmarked graves in 55 villages across the northern regions of Baramulla, Bandipore and Handwara in Kashmir by human rights groups, last week, the Indian government confirmed more than 2,000 unidentified bodies had been found in single and mass graves in three northern regions. Another 574 bodies found in the graves have been identified as local residents. Indian Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), for the first time, has officially acknowledged that 2,156 unnamed bodies have been buried in mass graves across Indian Kashmir.

This vindicates the position taken by various human rights activists and independent analysts including this scribe that the over 8000 Kashmiri youth missing, were brutally tortured, murdered and their bodies hidden in unmarked single and mass graves. This gives a fresh twist to the 32 year old struggle, which commenced in 1989, after the Kashmiris lost hope and faith in the Indian government ever acquiescing to upholding the UN Resolutions on Kashmir for the Kashmiris to exercise their right of plebiscite to decide their own fate. Since then, over 100,000 Kashmiris were butchered, their women raped and houses and shops looted and burnt. Thousands of Kashmiri youth lie incarcerated in Indian prisons on trumped up charges but most pathetically, over 8000 of the local Kashmiri youth have been missing and their kith and kin have been driven from pillar to post in search of some clue to the whereabouts of their loved ones. Indian officials set up the commission to investigate and also began a separate police investigation, the findings of which have yet to be released. The commission's 17-page report also urged DNA profiling to identify the bodies, saying the matter should be "investigated thoroughly by an impartial agency." London based Amnesty International is urging India to allow impartial forensic experts to investigate hundreds of unmarked graves in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Indian officials have previously claimed the graves contain the bodies of Kashmiri militants fighting Indian occupation. But the Indian government now says Kashmiri civilians killed in the 20-year-old conflict may also be buried there.

Ultimately, the Indian government should be commended for taking the belated step of identifying the bodies. It is a painful step for the authorities to admit their wanton bloodshed, carnage and the callous process of hiding the remains; however it will provide a closure to the bereaved families of the missing Kashmiri youth. The Amnesty International should be asked where they have been all these thirty two years, when over 700,000 Indian armed forces were wreaking havoc over the hapless Kashmiris. Using draconian laws like POTA and AFSPA by virtue of which they can shoot to kill, enter any house and arrest its inmates without warrants and commit other atrocities yet not be challenged by any court of law. Contemporary history is rife with cases of rape, murder and mayhem. The Rip Van Winkle attitude of the international human rights agencies to be sleeping through decades of suppression and subjugation of the Kashmiris has actually encouraged India to continue with its policies of state terrorism in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. To add insult to injury, India has labeled the just and warranted freedom struggle of the Kashmiris as acts of terrorism and has also accused Pakistan of abetting, arming and launching them. Pakistan has denied such baseless charges since it offers only diplomatic and moral support to the oppressed Kashmiris being crushed under the yoke of Indian tyranny.

What is worse is that some Indian analysts, in order to hide their crimes against humanity are equating the massacres in Kashmir with the situation in Balochistan. They are claiming that "those in Pakistan who are sadly 'rejoicing' at this unfortunate news should think about the atrocities being committed in Balochistan by the Pakistani military and its proxies. At least the Indian state has taken the first step by uncovering human rights violations in Kashmir while Pakistan continues to ignore state oppression being committed against the Baloch. Pakistan can no longer paper over its 'kill and dump' policy in Balochistan. Thousands of Baloch have been missing and Pakistan's spy agencies are said to be behind the abductions, torture and murder of Baloch nationalists. The wave of separatism in Balochistan has picked up momentum because of this phenomenon. If we support the Kashmiris' right to accountability for crimes committed by the Indian security forces, how can we justify our double standards in the case of Balochistan? Pakistan either needs to stop the military operation in Balochistan and give the Baloch their due rights or be prepared for the breakdown of the federation."

These misinformed analysts with their misplaced loyalties need to get their facts straight and understand that some members of the Baloch community are engaged in acts of insurgency, which has neither been endorsed by the United Nations through Resolutions, nor has Balochistan been dubbed as a disputed territory as Kashmir has been. On the other hand, Pakistan has ample evidence of Indian spy agency RAW being engaged in clandestine activities in its fourteen Consulates and Trade Missions in Afghanistan, recruiting, training, arming and launching Baloch youth to carry out subversion in Pakistan.

There are others who are pointing at the killing fields of Karachi and claiming that if Pakistani authorities are letting the bloodbath of innocent Pakistanis continue unabated with little or no action to apprehend the culprits or protect the lives of common citizens then Pakistan has no right to point fingers at Indian atrocities in Kashmir. Here they do have a point to some extent, since it is baffling that more than 100 precious lives of innocent citizens have been lost to torture mongers engaged in a turf war and no finger has been raised. The Pakistan Army intervened in Swat at much less but here the Army is being kept at bay, while the Sindh Rangers and Police are being used with their dilapidated equipment, weaponry and total lack of commitment to take action, thus the killing continues unchecked with impunity.










Durood Sharif are praises which are bestowed upon the beloved Prophet Mohammad Mustafa PBUH. It is an integral part of our beliefs and holds a prominent place in gaining salvation on the Day of Judgment. Allah sends his blessings to the Prophet PBUH innumerably out of his boundless love for Mohammad PBUH. The angels and Muslims send Durood on Prophet PBUH relentlessly as well. However, when Allah showers His Durood on the messenger, He is conferring divine blessings on the prophet PBUH, while when Malaaika and Muslims recite Durood sharif, our purpose is to demonstrate to Allah Subhanatallah extreme love and reverence for the Prophet PBUH.

By offering Durood, as a form of Ibadah, we believe that Allah will grant us his blessings and elevate our status and fate both in this world and the next. In fact, it is said that while praying to Allah, the chances of Dua being answered is increased manifolds if it is followed and preceded by Durood Sharif. We are informed in Al-Qur'an 33:56 that ''Allah Almighty sends His Salaat (Blessings and Honours) on the Prophet & also His angels. O you who believe! Send your Salaat (blessings) on him (Muhammad) and you should greet him with the Islamic way of greeting (Assalamu 'Alaykum).''


It is reported by Hadrat Ka'ab that 70,000 angels descend on the Beloved Prophet Muhammad Mustafa's Pbuh Mosque daily, surround it and touch it with their heavenly wings, and continue reciting Durood Sharif and leave for the heavens in the evening. They are replaced by another 70,000 angels who stay till dawn to be replaced by another 70,000 angels in the morning, and each angel cannot return after its initial visit. This process will keep continuing until the Day of Judgement. A rough calculation reveals that to date almost 70 billion angels have been sent by Allah Almighty to the Beloved Prophet Muhammad Mustafa's Pbuh Mosque to read Durood Sharif upon him. And only Allah Almighty knows how many more will be sent until the Day of Judgement. We as the Muslim Ummah are blessed to have been gifted the Ibadat of Durood Sharif. For every Durood Shareef that we recite, ten sins are forgiven, ten good deeds are entered into our sheet of actions and ten positions are upgraded. If anyone is involved in a difficulty then he must recite countless number of Durood Sharifs. Reciting Durood Sharif eradicates poverty and hunger. It is said that three persons will be under the cool shade and the favors of Allah Taala on the Doom's Day. One who kept the Holy Prophet's Pbuh Sunnah alive, one who removed difficulty of a fellow being and one who recited maximum number of Durood Sharif in his life time.

There are many enlightened traits of reciting Durood sharif regularly as narrated in numerous Hadith. The benefits are excessive such as when one forgets anything and the memory fails to recollect it, then recitation of Durood, will help remember the forgotten thing. Reciting Durood is like giving something in charity. Bad deeds of 200 years (equivalent) are obliterated if a man recites 100 Durood on Friday. If anyone recites Durood Sharif from any place, any part of the world from any distance, it actually reaches the Noble Prophet Pbuh immediately. Allah Taala has appointed several Angels who are given exclusive duty to collect all Durood Sharif and present the same before the Prophet Pbuh immediately.

Hazrat Ali R.A reports that Rasoolullah said, "The real miser is he in whose presence I am mentioned and then he fails to recite Salat on me". The Durood Sharif that is recited by the person is written with a Golden Pen on a Silver tablet by the Angels. The Angels then present this Durood Sharif to Prophet Mohammad Pbuh and proclaim, "O Habeeb of Allah! The son of such and such a person has presented this gift in your majestic court".

In yet another hadith it has come that Huzoor Aqdas Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said: "On the Day of Qiyamat the person most nearest to me will be the person who conferred most durood upon me." In another hadith, Rasulullah said: "Once I met Jibraeel Alayhis Salaam and he gave me glad tidings by saying: 'Your Lord says: Whoever sends durood upon you I will descend upon him My Special Mercy And whoever sends salaam upon you, then I will descend upon him My Special Peace. On this I performed a Sajda-e-Shukr (ie. prostration of gratitude) in the Court of Allah`. Durood has been passed on to us and taught to us to attain salvation, to bless our souls, to realize peace and harmony and to enlighten our existence. It is the best and most lucrative investment that a believer can make over his lifetime for which he can reap rewards in the Hereafter.








What is happening in Karachi will send a shudder through the nerves of even the perpetrators of the holocaust. Those who are involved in this carnage are neither Muslims nor human beings if we view this in the backdrop of what the Holy Quran has to say about the murder of a fellow human being and the message of brotherhood among the Muslims. It is even more painful to see it happening in a country known as citadel of Islam. And make no mistake it is not being done by any foreign power whom we always tend to blame for all our woes. It is a self–inflicted mayhem, a sequel to the turf war among the land, drug and extortionist mafias patronized by the very political forces who are in the government in Sind. The situation in Karachi is best depicted by this couplet " Dil Key Phapholey Jal Uthey Seeney Key Dagh Sey Iss Ghar Ko Aag Lag Gai Ghar Key Chiragh Sey' ( The black spots in the chest have exploded the blisters in my heart and the lamp that was lit to illuminate the house has put it on fire ). Those who were expected or supposed to provide good governance, maintain law and order and protect the life and property of the citizens, are unfortunately the ones who bear the responsibility for turning the city into a cauldron of blood to assuage their ghoulish instincts, greed for ill-gotten money and serving their narrow political interests.

The reason why the repeated negotiations between the political entities in have failed to resolve the issue and stop the killing spree in Karachi is that these parties have not shown the sincerity that could guarantee the implementation of the agreed course of action. Their relations are marred by the mutual -mistrust syndrome. Though publicly all of them have been saying that this game of blood-letting must stop but they have not actually given stop shooting orders to their henchmen. There is another element to this sordid affair. As these parties have been and are still harbouring and patronizing these mafias, they fear that if they withdraw their support to these killers and allow an indiscriminate action against them, their own faces will be unmasked. That explains why the Police and Rangers have not been given adequate powers to quell the violence.

The concern and outcry through out the length and breadth of the country to save Karachi and checkmate the activities of the death merchants, is almost unanimous and that is why we hear different voices and opinions on how this should and can be controlled. Citing the fast deteriorating situation in Karachi and over all bleak scenario in the country, some are even going to the extent of suggesting a military take-over. These calls undoubtedly stem from a genuine concern for what is happening to Karachi and Pakistan. I have no doubt about their patriotism. But perhaps the remedy suggested is not which can cure the disease. Our past experience with the military take-overs is an ample testimony of this fact and hence the reason for rejection of this recipe.

What is needed to be done in Karachi is the initiation of an indiscriminate action against all these elements to restore the writ of the state. It was quite evident since the beginning of this mayhem that the provincial government and the political outfits were neither capable of handling the Karachi situation nor they really intended to do it for the reasons explained above. It is therefore heartening to note that the federal government has finally said enough is enough and has now taken the initiative to restore peace in Karachi and to prevent the unabated butchering of the innocent citizens through target killing. The Prime Miniser chaired two meetings of the Sind cabinet and urged the Sind government to take above the board action against these elements and warned that if it did not stop the carnage somebody else would come to do it. That indicates how serious the situation is and how serious the federal government is about the whole affair. Reportedly the Rangers and police have been given the shoot at sight orders and to take targeted and indiscriminate action against the perpetrators of this gory drama. The emphasis was on the word 'indiscriminate' which means that the action should be initiated without caring for the political fall out. A day before that he even hinted that he could not care less if some body remained in the coalition or not.

That is the spirit and determination which is required to deal with situations like Karachi. The only thing is that the law enforcing agencies should be allowed to do their job without any interference. The statue books already provide remedies for dealing with such scenarios. The initiative by the federal government though coming late yet is a step towards the right direction. The need is to deal with these outlaws ruthlessly now and also to take stern action against their backers whoever they are and send an unmistakable message to them that their days are over and they should be ready for the public disgrace.

To those who are crying hoarse from every convenient roof top to see the back of this government even if the country slides into another unending agony of a martial law, it may be pointed out that the solution to the Karachi conundrum is not the army take-over of the country. According to our constitution the civil authorities have the power to call the army in case they feel that the situation is beyond control and they do need the army to come and fix it. Army coming in aid of the civil administration, if need be, is not objectionable but why go for the extreme option of military take-over of the country? These criminals and their mentors cannot resist the state power if applied with honesty of purpose.







Government officials refer to it blandly as the "SSE," or Sensitive Site Exploitation. That's their oblique term for the extraordinary cache of evidence that was carried away from Osama bin Laden's compound the night the al-Qaeda leader was killed. With the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks a few weeks away, it's possible to use this evidence to sketch a vivid portrait of al-Qaeda, drawing on material contained in more than 100 computer storage devices, including thumb drives, DVDs and CDs, and more than a dozen computers or hard drives — all collected during the May 2 raid.

US officials say three strong themes emerge from their reading of the files, most of which were communications between bin Laden and his top deputy Atiyah Abd al-Rahman. Indeed, because the Libyan-born Atiyah (who's known to analysts by his first name) was the boss's key link with the outside, officials see him as more important than bin Laden's nominal successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Here are the highlights: ?Bin Laden retained until his death a passion to launch a significant attack against the United States, ideally linked to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. He and Atiyah communicated often about who might carry out such a strike, with Atiyah proposing names and bin Laden rejecting them. Bin Laden was still looking for a history-changing attack on big, economically important targets — one that would match, if not outdo, the impact of 9/11. Zawahiri, by contrast, favoured an opportunistic strategy of smaller strikes. ?Bin Laden was a hands-on chief executive, with a role in operations planning and personnel decisions, rather than the detached senior leader that US analysts had hypothesized. Zawahiri, whom the analysts had imagined as the day-to-day leader, was actually quite isolated — and remains so, despite a dozen communications this year. Zawahiri suffers from mistrust between his Egyptian faction of al-Qaeda and other operatives, such as Atiyah. ?Bin Laden was suffering badly from drone attacks on al-Qaeda's base in the tribal areas of Pakistan. He called this the "intelligence war," and said it was "the only weapon that's hurting us." His cadres complained that they couldn't train in the tribal areas, couldn't communicate, couldn't travel easily and couldn't draw new recruits to what amounted to a free-fire zone. Bin Laden discussed moving al-Qaeda's base to another location, but he never took action.

Analysts did not find in the material any smoking gun to suggest Pakistani government complicity in bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad. And it's clear he was paranoid about being found and killed: He ordered his subordinates to restrict movements to help preserve what remained of al-Qaeda in Pakistan. Fear of being discovered was a subject of regular conversation between bin Laden, Atiyah, Zawahiri and others. Bin Laden also worried that al- Qaeda's status among Muslims was dwindling, and that the West had at least partially succeeded in distancing al-Qaeda's message from core Islamic values. Concerned about this eroding base, bin Laden counselled affiliates in North Africa and Yemen to hold back on their efforts to develop a local Islamic extremist state in favour of attacking the United States and its interests. This fear that al-Qaeda's extreme tactics were burning too hot and alienating Muslims was also the theme of a remarkable message that Atiyah sent in 2005 to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the murderous chief of al-Qaeda in Iraq. In this document, made public five years ago by the United States, Atiyah warned that fomenting Sunni-Shiite violence (which was Zarqawi's trademark) was potentially ruinous. The al-Qaeda that emerges from these documents is a badly battered and disoriented group. The June 3 death of Ilyas Kashmiri in a drone attack illustrates the organization's continuing vulnerability. Kashmiri was a ruthless operator who planned the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people and was plotting deadly attacks on Europe last winter that were stopped only because of aggressive counter-terrorism work. (Security services from Europe and Turkey arrested about 20 of Kashmiri's operatives before they could carry out the attacks.)

When top US officials summarize their view of al-Qaeda now, in the run-up to the 9/11 anniversary, they describe an organization that is down but certainly not out. They don't know of any specific plots targeting the United States, 10 years on. But they're looking, pulsing every channel they know. They recognize that it's what we still don't know about al-Qaeda that's most dangerous.

—Courtesy: The Washington Post







AS Paul Keating would say, BHP Billiton has delivered a beautiful set of numbers. Indeed, the former prime minister and treasurer would doubtless have sought more fulsome adjectives to describe the $22.5 billion profit from the miner -- the biggest from an Australian company. We can certainly think of a few. For the moment, beautiful will serve to illustrate the importance of the BHP result, not just to shareholders and employees and suppliers but to all Australians.

In a week dominated by news of the two-speed economy and the impact on manufacturing jobs, the company's 74 per cent increase in underlying profit is a reminder of how vital the resources sector is to the nation. That might seem a counter-intuitive statement, given soaring commodity prices are forcing up the dollar and making manufacturing and tourism less competitive, but good news for BHP is good news for Australia, even as the mining boom causes extensive, and painful, structural adjustment. Mining sector investment is expected to add an extra 3 per cent to annual GDP -- compared with only 1 per cent from the remaining 80 per cent of the economy -- and will provide the basic momentum that will continue to give Australia a growth economy.

High profits at BHP should be cause for national celebration, not an occasion for populist complaints against big business. The nation would be lost without our resource exports to China and India. Our minerals and our location in a region undergoing an extraordinary industrial revolution helped us avoid the global financial collapse of 2008 and will help us again in any double-dip recession. Along with the GDP boost, a healthy mining sector augments the future wealth of workers through their superannuation savings and benefits shareholders directly through higher dividends. But miners pay in other ways, through state royalties and company tax and, from July 1 next year, the proposed federal mining tax on coal and iron ore.

The tax had a difficult birth. The original super-profits tax put forward by Wayne Swan in May last year crippled Kevin Rudd's leadership and all but derailed the notion of a federal mining tax. The Treasurer failed to consult the miners before presenting his flawed model; made things worse by resorting to class rhetoric to sell it to voters; and used misleading figures on the amount of tax already paid by the big companies. Worse still, he failed to make the tax part of a coherent package of tax reform, simply cherrypicking it from the Henry tax report. The end result was a $22 million advertising campaign against the tax and a backlash from Australians with a sophisticated appreciation of the central role played by mining in the economy. The refashioned mining tax negotiated by Julia Gillard after she became Prime Minister was a simpler model and cut the rate from 40 per cent to an effective rate of 22.5 per cent.

The huge BHP profit has prompted calls for miners to pay a higher price for the right to extract finite minerals. This is not the time for knee-jerk reactions but there is room to canvass this issue in the broader context of the Henry recommendations and the October tax summit. Australians understand the economy is underpinned by resources: they are unmoved by ideological objections to mining. But they have a right to know the government is looking out for the national interest and ensuring miners pay appropriate levels of taxation.





SOME Australians agree with Bob Katter that same-sex marriage is laughable. Others agree with the MP's half-brother, Carl, that marriage should not be restricted to partners of opposite gender. Fair-minded people would be united, however, in believing both Katters should have their say.

Not so The Age, which sees the "right" to gay marriage as so vital to the future of mankind that it would deny the right of free speech to those who disagree. Yesterday's Age condemned Mr Katter's "diatribe", claiming his words might incite gay people to take their own lives. "Hateful words and discrimination cause real hurt and harm," it thundered. "The message we should worry about is in rhetoric that encourages bullying and even suicide of gay people." We find the rhetoric of The Age's editorial writers intent on silencing opinions at odds with their own considerably more troubling.

Supporters of liberal, open debate will also be disturbed by The Sydney Morning Herald columnist Elizabeth Farrelly, who claims the views of traditional marriage defender Rebecca Hagelin would "do any dictator proud". Farrelly compared her with Billy Graham, the Ku Klux Klan and Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan. This was "ducking stool-type thinking". White pointy-hood-type thinking. Taliban thinking. The hate-filled, know-nothing demagoguery of the mob. How does Farrelly suggest we respond to such intolerance? Intolerantly, of course: "Why wasn't

she booed off stage for such ugly prattle? Why wasn't she ridiculed across the front pages . . . derided as a Christian . . . ?"

The Australian leans towards libertarianism on social issues, believing the state should tread as lightly as possible around personal issues. It is not our role to pronounce one way or another on same-sex marriage, though we would caution the issue is far more complicated than gay "rights" supporters would have us believe. Departing from the traditional marriage ideal that has served society well thus far should not be taken lightly. There are a range of rights and responsibilities to consider, including the role of a marriage contract in the protection of children. An intelligent discussion about changes to the Marriage Act must consider the potential social consequences, especially for children. As more same-sex couples opt to become parents, for example, how would the interests of a child adopted by two gay men be protected if the men separated and each became involved with a succession of different partners? What role should the biological mother play?

The responsibility of parents towards their children, biological or adopted, is the biggest obligation human beings can assume. From birth to adulthood, children need love and stability. They are not trophies to be coveted or used as weapons in hostilities between estranged partners. A recent NSW case involving two lesbians, a 10-year-old girl and her sperm donor father highlighted the complexity of family breakdowns in such unorthodox circumstances, and should prompt serious soul-searching among advocates for social change. The man, who donated sperm to the now-estranged lesbian couple, will have his name stripped from the child's birth certificate, even though he visited regularly and paid maintenance. After a successful legal action by the biological mother's ex-partner, whose name will supplant his on the birth certificate, he has been told that under the law the girl is no longer his daughter and he is no longer her father. The consequences of same-sex marriage and adoptions for the social welfare system also warrant scrutiny, in the same way that unregistered polygamous and under-age "marriages" among Muslims are attracting attention. The government must guard against taxpayers being exploited.

None of these difficulties are insurmountable, but each demands careful consideration. Australia needs to "have the conversation" that the proponents of social change are urging upon us, but such proponents should not dictate who speaks and what they should or should not be allowed to say. Counter-cultural revolutionaries of the 1960s and 70s were prepared to go to prison to fight censorship. Now they have become the censors, the self-appointed gate-keepers who use political correctness to try to shut down debate. When News Limited columnist Miranda Devine dissented from the "correct" position recently, her Twitter critics demanded her sacking. Jackie Striker wrote to her employer demanding that she receive "urgent counselling" while another protagonist lamented, with Orwellian intent: "Shame we can't autocorrect your mind."

Dissenters, right or left, gay or straight, religious or irreligious, will always be welcome on the pages of this newspaper. We hope some self-styled intellectuals, who recently turned down invitations to write on these pages in order to retain what they perceive as their ideological "purity" change their minds. We also hope that The Age survives the current reign of contempt for its readers and remains in business as a contributor to the debate, and that The Sydney Morning Herald continues to publish Farrelly's columns, if only because of the insight they offer into the confused minds of the inner-city moral-political class. Curiously, Farrelly is opposed to some forms of religion, but does not rule out the idea of an after-life. "In my next life I want to be smug," she tells us. Why wait?






TRANSPORT Minister Anthony Albanese has instinctively put the national interest first in flagging his opposition to any private equity bid for Qantas. Four years after an $11 billion takeover of the airline collapsed, conditions are ripe for another bid, with Qantas shares slumping to an equal-record low of $1.42 on Monday.

Chief executive Alan Joyce says no approaches have been made, although high-level speculation suggests the airline is being stalked. Yesterday's news that it had doubled its net profit last financial year to $250 million underlines its attractiveness.

The Australian supports the free market and believes that, generally, takeovers are not the business of government. But, as Mr Albanese said yesterday, it is in Australia's interests that Qantas remains a majority Australian-owned airline. Peter Costello applied similar logic in 2001 when he rejected Shell's $10bn bid for Woodside Petroleum on the grounds that it could have jeopardised development of vast reserves of liquefied natural gas on Australia's North West Shelf in favour of cheaper projects elsewhere.

Unlike steel, car or computer companies, the fate of Qantas is integral to the lives of millions of Australians. Such concerns would not apply in northern hemisphere countries with large passenger numbers and plentiful airline competition. But Australia needs a national flag carrier to break down the tyranny of distance, from the rest of the world and internally. Whatever undertakings might be made during a takeover bid, the inevitable asset stripping and scaling down of less-profitable arms of the airline would leave many Australians in regional and rural areas without comprehensive services. Nor would Australians be confident that private equity owners would readily honour the airline's vital role at times of emergency, such as the mass evacuations from Egypt when violence broke out in February.

As we said in 2007 when the Airline Partners Australia consortium offered Qantas shareholders a 60 per cent premium to sellout, the airline is a special case. The 1992 Qantas Sale Act sets out what must not change about Qantas, including its name or the fact that its head office and principal operating centre must always be located in Australia. This does not imply, however, that the airline should remain static. In undertaking a major restructure to cut unprofitable international routes and open two new carriers in the growing Asian market, Mr Joyce is striving to improve Qantas's financial health in a volatile global environment. However much trade unions object, such good management serves the airline's future.

By contrast, private equity firms have little interest in the core businesses of the companies they take over. It was no surprise, for example, that those who bought the Nine Network sacrificed the quality current affairs program Sunday and

The Bulletin magazine. Unlike traditional capitalists who took risks in the marketplace to build long-term wealth by producing goods and services and paid dividends to shareholders, private equity mavens tend to be

risk-averse and more interested in applying sophisticated accounting techniques to grab quick profits. Qantas has benefitted exponentially from its privatisation. Any significant ownership change, however, must be subject to a strict national interest test.






WITH the exception of Craig Thomson, the Gillard government's problems are largely ones of perception. We have argued before that the government's policies are mostly headed in the right direction, but it is strangely unable to convince the public that it has done, or wishes to do, anything worthwhile. Perhaps a clue as to why it struggles to gain credit for soundly based policies can be found in the Greens' analysis of the mineral resources rent tax.

As we reported yesterday, the analysis compared the government's probable take from the resources super profits tax proposed by Kevin Rudd with the revised version that Julia Gillard negotiated with the big miners before the last election, and which is now before Parliament. Using comparable Treasury assumptions about the value of mining exports, it found the former would have raised $140 billion during its first 10 years; the latter $38.5 billion.

The former would have brought in enough to fund the benefits promised by the government - cuts to company tax and increased investment allowances for industry, as well as a boost to superannuation. It remains to be seen whether the mineral resource rent tax's scant $4 billion a year in revenue allows the same generosity. In other words, Gillard Labor has compromised on good policy and, by compromising, has limited its ability to bring about the worthwhile changes it has promised.

The compromise, and the selling of a reduced, limited tax as a substantial reform, also limit the government in other ways. This week, BHP Billiton declared a record $22.5 billion profit three days after BlueScope Steel announced it was abandoning its export business, closing steelworks and laying off 1000 workers.

The juxtaposition has placed the division in the national economy between mining and manufacturing at the front of the public's awareness. A resources rent tax, properly drafted and implemented, would be one way to address this issue. We have argued before that a tax on mining rents is entirely justified. Its proceeds, which would be substantial, might be invested in a version of the Future Fund to ensure Australia can benefit from the proceeds of mining after the present boom has subsided.

But the government has closed off that possibility by its compromise over the tax, and must resort instead to another fix - promising to use funds from a steel industry plan intended to assist with adjustment to the carbon tax somehow to help BlueScope's former workers. The effect of all this trimming, ducking and weaving is to undermine the strong arguments that exist for what are - or should have been - sound policies.


THE state budget now looms over all services delivered by the government. Cutbacks are threatened in many portfolios, not least the Department of Family and Community Services where the minister, Pru Goward, is simultaneously working to restructure operations.

Goward has been softening up the public for a radical revision of foster care arrangements. NSW removes more children from their families and places them in foster care than the national average. In this state nearly 11 children in every thousand are removed from families; in Victoria the figure is four per thousand. Goward has described the trend in NSW as the "modern equivalent of stolen children".

Part of Goward's solution is to hand the fostering of children to private welfare agencies. She also says she is making the change to alleviate the financial mess left by the previous government. Since the change will cost a lot to implement, it is not clear how it will help the department's budgetary position - but in any case Goward has been warning that budget cutbacks now threaten her restructure.

If Goward needed support for her quest to change the way things are done, she received it on Wednesday with the tabling in Parliament of a report from the NSW Ombudsman. The report on reviewable deaths of children for 2008-09 reveals the continuing dire reality which the department confronts every day. As we reported yesterday, 57 children died of abuse or neglect during the two years. More than half had been reported to the department as at risk of harm. Aboriginal children were, once again, over-represented in the figures.

This is not a new phenomenon; nor is there any trend in the figures suggesting things are getting worse. The numbers of reviewable deaths rise and fall randomly over the years. What it does show is that despite the department's recent efforts, the problem is not diminishing.

Goward's suggested transfer of the fostering system out of the department and into the hands of private welfare agencies is based on the recommendations of James Wood, who investigated child protection in NSW after a spate of high-profile deaths. Justice Wood's report acknowledged the high cost involved but recommended the change as a medium-term priority.

His inquiry was set up after a series of pathetic deaths - in particular those of two-year-old Dean Shillingsworth, murdered and stuffed into a suitcase, and Shellay Ward, a seven-year-old who was starved to death. The public is gradually forgetting those terrible cases as newer concerns crowd in. But the need for change, as the Ombudsman's figures show, has not gone away.







SIX years ago, Steve Jobs, the man who made Apple a proper noun and who never completed university, spoke to commencement students at Stanford about how to make the most of the time we have on this earth. He described death as ''life's change agent'' - something not to be feared, but embraced - and how it ''clears out the old to make way for the new''.

On Wednesday, Mr Jobs, who has cancer, regretfully initiated his own clearing program by resigning as chief executive of the company he co-founded in 1976, working from a garage; the Apple 1 retailed for $US666.66. In a letter to Apple's board, he wrote, ''I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations … I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.'' Mr Jobs named his replacement, chief operating officer Tim Cook, but has said he will stay on as chairman.

Presciently, probably tragically, Steve Jobs' address to those Stanford students in 2005 will serve as his epitaph: ''Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life,'' he said. ''Don't be trapped by dogma … Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice … have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.''

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Certainly, Mr Jobs applied this credo not only to himself, but to his business. Through a combination of ingenuity, risk-taking, tenacity, surprise and (it must be said) charisma, he fashioned an empire that, while technologically advanced and astonishingly lucrative, has never lost the persuasive power of individual personality.

As The New Yorker journalist Susan Orlean wrote yesterday: ''Funny how much emotion you can feel about a stranger.'' Steve Jobs, especially as far as Apple is concerned, was the core business.

If his success had been limited to just the Macintosh or variants thereof, Mr Jobs would still be hailed as a genius. But he was the person responsible, in the first decade of the new millennium, for expanding Apple's orchard to include three innovations that not only enhanced existing technology but proved how it could be applied to associated endeavours with wild global success. In 2001, came the first iPod, which revolutionised personal entertainment, especially once paired with the iTunes music store launched in 2003; in 2007, the first iPhone showed that telephony was but a component of its myriad capabilities; and, in 2010, the advent of the iPad, described by Mr Jobs as ''so much more intimate than a laptop, and so much more capable than a smartphone''.

Yet, for someone who dotted his 'i's with such flamboyance and who took Apple to the top (this year, it was briefly the world's most valuable company), Steve Jobs and his corporation have known the occasional downturn. Between 1985, when he was forced out in a corporate coup, and his reinstatement in 1997, Apple had more than its share of Ford-Edsel moments: the Apple Newton and several Mac clones have long ago vanished into the mists of failed inventions. In fact, it was not until 2000, when Mr Jobs again became chief executive, that Apple embarked on the real revolution that would take it above and beyond being mere computer sellers.

Steve Jobs told his audience at Stanford that his life has been about three things: ''connecting the dots'', and having confidence that they will; learning from the experiences of love and loss, and how, in the process, to become more creative; and how the significance of death ensures one always thinks of replenishment, of the new.

Australian business could learn a thing or two from the Jobs manifesto. Clinging to old models of business and industry almost invariably proves to be folly. New ideas and knowledge trump the old, as Apple and Steve Jobs showed time after time.


THE priority when a ship is battling to stay afloat is not a change in command on the bridge. The Baillieu government may have sound reasons for shaking up the Ambulance Victoria board. The service's performance has been in long-term decline, as Health Minister David Davis said. A fresh direction may be needed. What is not clear is how a new board and other government-initiated changes will resolve the problems of rising demand, lack of resources and crowded hospital emergency departments that turn away or delay ambulances.

Mr Davis wants a board ''that can work with management and with paramedics and the department to get results''. Some appointments appear well qualified to do that; others suggest the government wants political allies on the board. This essential service is politically sensitive, which led to less transparency than there should be. There is no great obstacle to full and open reporting of performance, assuming the Coalition intends to keep its election pledge of transparency.

A bigger practical challenge is the lack of resources and funding - Ambulance Victoria had a $50 million annual operating deficit in June - to meet demand for ambulances and hospital beds. The population is ageing and growing, resulting in big increases in chronic disease and emergency incidents. Ambulance workloads have risen by 5 per cent a year for a decade. The service cannot do much about hospitals that go on bypass when all beds are taken or ''ramping'', where paramedics can wait for hours at hospital to hand over patients. The Coalition's promise of an extra 340 paramedics over four years will have only a limited impact, given that Ambulance Victoria recruited 356 new paramedics last year.

Halving family ambulance subscriptions is set to have a bigger effect, as membership is predicted to jump by 41 per cent (about 60 per cent of the state's sickest patients get to hospital by means other than an ambulance, which points to potential demand growth). The government also promised to cover the fee revenue gap, but that won't reverse years of deteriorating response times.

To fix the revenue problem, a consultant's report recommended output-based funding, instead of grants, as the Auditor-General has done for the past decade. Mr Davis declined to respond to questions when this came to light in June. The minister, who cites the evidence of decline in last year's Auditor-General's report, should heed his conclusion: Ambulance Victoria is not funded to increase staff to a level that would improve performance. Until the revenue hole is fixed, the rising tide of demand will swamp the service.







Britons fly massive distances to enthuse over coastlines no more alluring than this

According to his obituary in Monday's paper, Professor Paul Wilkinson of St Andrews University, the expert on terrorism and political violence, resisted all temptations to move on to other institutions that sought him because of his affection for its citizens and its university students and staff. But it wasn't just the people who kept him in the kingdom of Fife; it was also, clearly, the place. With his wife, Sue, he lived in the nearby harbour village of Crail, at the eastern end of a coast which is one of the glories of Britain. Perhaps the professor's walks with his dogs took him westward as far as St Monans, with its brightly coloured cottages and a church that is all but lapped by the water; to formally handsome Pittenweem, once home to the hermit St Fillan, whose arm, it was said, lit up to help him write in the dark; to Anstruther, with its bright open waterfront and feted fish restaurant, and beyond – less frequented by visitors – the narrow streets of Cellardyke, seeming to hint at a dark and disturbing past. Crail itself has every sense of having once been a town of substance: the streets down to the harbour are crooked and quirky, but those at the top are broad and important. And from every point on the coast you may get, if the weather is fine (which cannot be guaranteed) rapturous views across the firth to the Isle of May, with its Stevenson lighthouse. Britons fly massive distances to enthuse over coastlines no more alluring than this – a place to be savoured in peace and tranquillity, with or without a dog.





The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the Ebac will do more harm than good

Girls are doing better than boys at 16, yesterday's GCSE results confirmed, at least in subjects such as English and history. This diverting question has prompted a wealth of academic examination, but no exhaustive research is needed to know that adolescent boys are less given to swotting than their sisters, and are perhaps less good at essays. There is no serious gender gap in maths and sciences. And of course any lingering gap is swiftly reversed the moment formal education is done.

Gender does shape life chances, but it is social class that is really hard to escape, especially at school, and most obviously where poor white children are concerned. This government, like the last, claims tackling it is a priority. Michael Gove pins hopes on his English baccalaureate, a set of core subjects including maths, English, sciences, and either history or geography. There are persuasive arguments in its favour. Unfortunately, the drawbacks are bigger. As the schools minister Nick Gibb said yesterday, all children should have the chance to study the subjects that good universities and employers want. Choices about GCSEs made at 14 really can shape the rest of your life. But – as MPs on the Conservative-controlled Commons education committee warned last month – the evidence points overwhelmingly to the uncomfortable conclusion that the Ebac will do more harm than good. One reason is that, like all measurements, the mere fact of counting it can distort the outcome. In this case, the MPs were concerned that the numbers game would lead to a focus on the marginal at the expense of those with the potential to do very well, and – worse – those who would struggle to pass.

Look at what earlier targets for "five good passes" achieved. In 2004, a quarter of students on free school meals sat the Ebac subjects. Last year it was less than one in 10. Of course the A*–C pass rate soared. The results looked great. But in fact children from disadvantaged backgrounds were simply getting a worse deal.

As the MPs point out, the government has yet to address these unintended consequences: no surprise in a proposal that was introduced without consultation, retrospectively and with no clear guidance about its status. The MPs' second anxiety was that trying to shoehorn students into a narrow range of courses risked more, not less, disengagement – and more, not fewer, young people out of education, employment or training. Mr Gove is right that too many students are excluded from top universities by choices made years earlier. But along with contentious reforms to careers advice and radical restructuring of the post-16 maintenance allowance, it looks less and less as if he has the right answers.







Forcing the rich to pay their share is possible, but it will never happen while there is such a failure of political will

Owe them £1,000 and you're at their mercy, but owe them a million and the position is reversed. Keynes's quip about bank managers applies equally to the taxman. If you doubt the power of plutocrats to call the tune to which the Revenue must dance, then just glance at the deal the UK has struck with the Swiss. A regular punter who tried to make his tax payments conditional on a guarantee of anonymity from officialdom and a reduced tax rate wouldn't get far. But where the punter in question has serious cash in some Alpine hideaway, then HMRC is suddenly reduced to a humble supplicant, and so it has now made concessions of precisely this sort in relation to Swiss banks.

Galling as the special treatment is for UK citizens who dutifully file tax returns and keep their dough onshore, the hoped-for £5bn from the concordat is not to be sniffed at in these times. The trickle of riches from Zurich should marginally reduce the quotient of misery being meted out on the rest of the country, and the emergence of cracks in the old Swiss wall of separation is, of course, for the good. But it is far from good enough. The striking of such bilateral deals retards hopes of a comprehensive transnational arrangement for exchanging information and revenues across borders. And unless the avoidance problem is grasped globally, fixing leaks in one tax haven will only tend to increase the footloose flow to others.

Multilateral action is never easy to orchestrate, but it really ought to be possible here, when there is such an overpowering cross-country interest involved. It is not merely London, but Berlin, Paris and Tokyo that fret about seeping coffers. President Obama bemoans the great clusters of companies registered in the Caymans as "the biggest tax scam on record". And tax havens ought to be easy enough to bring to heel: they survive only thanks to the defence and other protections extended by real states, a point underlined by the crown dependency status of the Channel Islands. What frustrates global action is not, then, some great practical obstacle. Rather, it is an almost ideological fear of taking on the rich.

Ever since the days of Reagan and Thatcher, the reigning conventional wisdom has confused the possession of wealth with its creation, fuzzy thinking which has advantaged the well-heeled because it implies that taxes on them are a tariff on general prosperity. After the great bust of 2008, however, even establishment figures began to observe that some of the biggest fortunes were earned through activities which were – at best – useless to the wider economy. During Washington's great summer deficit showdown, Warren Buffett explained that Congress would never restore fiscal rectitude while protecting his own billionaire class as if they were endangered spotted owls. Now French heiresses and executives have stepped forward, too, to explain that they could take more of the burden. Hearteningly, the centre-right government in Paris this week agreed, setting out an "exceptional contribution" for the richest, to apply until happier days arrive.

In London, sadly, such suggestions are still way too taxing for the coalition. Little is nowadays heard of its one-time claim to be "progressive", a line that steadily became impossible to sustain. The only serious extra charge being made on the rich comes from changes to pension tax, which George Osborne tweaked after inheriting from Alistair Darling. What is worse is the ceaseless chancellorial briefing that the new 50p top rate will soon be axed. This chatter continues despite it being too early for there to be any evidence to support Mr Osborne's prejudice that the supertax discourages effort to such an extent that it is failing to raise any money – and indeed, despite emergent suggestive evidence that it is paying real dividends. Forcing the rich to pay their share is perfectly possible, but it will never happen while there is such an egregious failure of political will.






The recent election of a new Constitutional Court chairman saw little of the interest or fanfare typical to Indonesian politics, as incumbent chief Mahfud MD was predictably re-elected to serve another term until August 2014.

Mahfud won five of the nine court judges' votes, beating judges Hardjono (two votes) and Hamdan Zulva (one vote).

After his re-election, Mahfud said, "We want to make the court more assertive and independent. We won't be deterred by criticism so long as our decisions are in the interest of the public as well."

The 54-year-old law expert, who was first elected as a Constitutional Court judge in 2008, is probably one of the most popular figures in the country. He is down to earth and his courage is well known to alter laws deemed inconsistent with the 1945 Constitution and defended by the political elites.

The former National Awakening Party politician and defense minister is also credited for his rigorous efforts to promote transparency in the Constitutional Court, as started by his predecessor, Jimly Asshiddiqie, who, like Mahfud, has a penchant for media exposure.

When two court judges, Akil Mochtar and Arsyad Sanusi, were implicated in bribery allegations while handling a local election dispute in 2010, Mahfud personally assisted the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) with investigating the scandal.

Mahfud also encourages the public to participate in safeguarding the institution's integrity by reporting any corruption they know of to the court.

Recently, he reported a General Elections Commission (KPU) official for allegedly masterminding the falsification of Constitutional Court documents from a 2009 electoral dispute that resulted in the appointment of a politician to the House of Representatives.

One of his admirers is Yenny Wahid, leader of the newly founded Nusantara National Prosperity Party (PKBN), who plans to support Mahfud to run for president in the 2014 elections.

His courage to spotlight corruption in high places has also made him one of Indonesia's newsmakers who often appears on TV and in newspaper headlines, thanks to his unusual generosity in granting interviews — something that a statesman and judge usually refrain from.

Of course, being easily available for interviews is something wonderful in a democratic culture that Indonesia is cultivating, but in the case of Mahfud, he often gets carried away and makes statements that would better come from the mouths of politicians.

For example, in a recent fray over House Speaker Marzuki Alie's controversial proposal to dissolve the KPK, Mahfud savaged Marzuki, saying Marzuki was misguided and that the KPK was "more credible than the House that Marzuki leads. So, logically, if the personnel are not credible, the institution is even less credible and should be disbanded as well".

Despite all the criticism, Mahfud's re-election has undoubtedly pleased those yearning for a clean and accountable Constitutional Court. Since its establishment in 2003, the court has earned a reputation as a role model for transparent, modern, corruption-free, cheap and efficient proceedings.

Hopefully, Mahfud still remembers the promise he made when he became the constitutional judge in 2008: that from then on he would see himself as a statesman, not a politician who would put his political party's interests above anything else.

As chief judge of the Constitutional Court, he should rather talk less and in contexts of the Constitution. As a statesman, he should better control his penchant to publicly comment on everything under the sun just because he enjoys his status as a newsmaker or perhaps celebrity.

He may, and has the right to, aspire for the presidency, but the public will assess his eligibility from his statesmanship rather than his tweets.





Currently, most of the giant international banks offer either an Islamic Commercial Bank (ICB) or an Islamic Business Unit (IBU). The question is, therefore, "How can national Islamic banking be developed?"

First of all, let us look at the infrastructure of Islamic banking during the last six years. A report titled "Islamic Banking Statistics April 2011", which was issued by Bank Indonesia (BI) on June 15, 2011, found that ICB increased from only three banks with 304 offices in 2005 — when Islamic banking was born — to 11 banks with 1,215 offices by December 2010.

ICB continued to grow and became incorporated within 11 banks with 1,242, 1,253, 1,268 and 1,276 offices in January, February, March and April 2011, respectively. The number of IBU grew from 19 units with 154 offices in December 2009 to 23 units with 262 offices in December 2010.

The current total of IBU remains unchanged at 23 units, but the number of offices has increased to 264, 280, 307 and 315 in January, February, March and April 2011, respectively.

What is the financial performance of Islamic banking? Financing instead of credit in conventional banking grew 45.40 percent from Rp 46.89 trillion (US$5.49 billion) as of December 2009 to Rp 68.18 trillion in December 2010.

It increased to Rp 69.72 trillion, Rp 71.45 trillion, Rp 74.25 trillion and Rp 75.73 trillion as of January, February, March and April 2011, respectively.

Actually, the third party fund (depositors' fund) was more fertile as it grew 45.48 percent from Rp 52.27 trillion in December 2009 to Rp 76.04 trillion as of December 2010.

Then it slightly declined to Rp 75.81 trillion in January 2011 and Rp 75.09 trillion in February 2011. The third party fund, however, bounced back to Rp 79.65 trillion in March 2011 and then went down to Rp 79.57 trillion in April 2011.

The growth of both financing and the third party fund resulted in a percentage drop of deposit ratio (FDR) and loan to deposit ratio (LDR) in conventional banking, from 95.57 percent as of April 2010 to 95.17 percent by April 2011. This FDR is in fact higher than the LDR in conventional banking, which reached 78.40 percent over the same period.

It means the capability of being a financial intermediary is better as the FDR reached between 85 and 110 percent, while non-performing financing (NPF), (NPL in conventional banking), went down from 4.47 percent to 3.79 percent, far lower than the 5 percent threshold. Net profits also increased 20 percent from Rp 425 billion in April 2010 to Rp 510 billion in April 2011.

Unfortunately, return on assets (ROA) dropped from 2.06 percent to 1.90 percent, though that is higher than the 1.5 percent threshold. In the clearest terms, the quality of assets in Islamic banking remained good.

The efficiency level reflected in operating costs to operating income ratio was a little worse, going from 77.15 percent to 78.78 percent. However, this ratio shows that Islamic banking has been in the ideal ratio zone, between 70 and 80 percent. Indeed, it is a blue report for Islamic banking.

According to BI, the market share of Islamic banking will be 5 percent higher than the total market of conventional banking in 2015. At the end of 2011, BI is optimistic that the total market share will reach above 3.6-3.7 percent. It will be realized in line with the implementation of the ASEAN community. Why? Because there will be more markets and Islamic banking products. At the same time, the public will pay more attention to Islamic banking, which is able to offer more interesting products and services.

But actually, Islamic banking remains in need of a tonic in order to realize its dreams. How should Islamic banking proceed in the near future?

First: big capital. The capital adequacy ratio (CAR) reached 16.25 percent in December 2010 and then increased to 19.86 percent in April 2011. In short, the CAR in Islamic banking is higher than the CAR in conventional banking, which achieved 17.76 percent in the same period.

In principle, capital should serve as a shield to be able to mitigate any potential risks in banking products, services and business activities. By having big capital, Islamic banking will be stronger to compete with conventional banking in financing.

Without strong capital, Islamic banking may be crushed by both ICB and IBU supported by foreign banks, such as ICB Maybank Indonesia Syariah, BCA Syariah, IBU CIMB Niaga, HSBC Bank International Ltd. and OCBC NISP. Newcomer Bank Kesawan, which operates under the auspices of the Qatar National Bank, will be a strong competitor in Islamic banking. Another bank from Malaysia, Affin Holdings Bhd, will embrace Bank Ina Perdana to be an Islamic bank.

Second: human capital and information technology (IT). It must be acknowledged that Islamic banking lacks capable human capital. BI said that Islamic banking needs 40,000 people for various positions. In my opinion, it will be more efficient and effective to recruit human capital from conventional banking rather than educate newcomers. The latter option would be more costly and would need much more time, as experience cannot be bought.

One of the necessary strategic steps is to send human capital to Malaysia to learn Islamic banking and IT from Malaysian Islamic banks, which are mature, experienced and among market leaders. Human capital should learn about the finance environment and market analysis, marketing, financing and product development to be able to succeed among fierce Islamic banking competition.

Third: risk management. Human capital should also be enriched with risk management. Please remember that Islamic banking faces various potential risks. Normally, these potential risks in the banking world are more likely to emanate from human capital or "people risks" than from processes and IT risks. In other words, human capital should acquire risk management certificates.

This step will enhance human capital to sense any potential risks, which may lead to banking cases. In short, risk management is an urgent and important instrument to anticipate and mitigate any banking business risks.

Fourth: Islamic banking architecture. It is hoped that BI will complete its Islamic banking architecture. It will be a blueprint and road map for Islamic banking, which should be comprehensive and act as a directive for five to 10 years to come.

Thanks to these various tonics, the dream of Islamic banking to increase market share and to compete with conventional banking will be realized more swiftly. It will push national economic growth higher than the 6.5 percent recorded during the second quarter in 2011.

Finally, it will minimize unemployment, which reached 6.80 percent or 8.12 million people in February 2011, down from 7.14 percent or 8.32 million people in August 2010.

The writer is a former assistant vice president of Bank BNI.





Although all the "People of the Book" are familiar with fasting, most Indonesians know it only as a yearly Islamic ritual. In truth, this religious duty could provide even more common ground for all the Abrahamic faiths.

Since the holy month of Ramadhan has traditionally been a good time to remind mankind of the virtues of such moral excellence as restraint, patience, solidarity and compassion, sharing more perspectives at this time of atonement seems auspicious.

Christianity has traditionally given importance to fasting in all its 2,000 years of history. However, not all the churches follow the same fasting calendar, and many let individual believers choose for themselves the time for fasting.

This may be related to a warning given by Jesus about vanity: "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting ... But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting" (Matthew 6:16-18). This passage is part of a list of other religious duties that should be conducted in all humility.

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets … But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing … And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men ... But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen."

The meaning of Jesus' words here is quite straightforward and does not need elaborate interpretation. Also, by putting fasting, praying and charity in one list with the same instructions on how to conduct them, Jesus warns that religious duties and social concern are not to be separated.

It has indeed been recognized since ancient times that fasting is primarily a social virtue and, only secondarily, a private one. People who fast with the hope of gaining only personal benefits miss out on a lot.

The prophet Isaiah, revered by both Christians and Jews, as well as by many Muslim scholars, mentions how God chastised His own people 2,500 years ago: "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

"Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday" (Isaiah 58:3-10).

Another Hebrew prophet from the same times, Zechariah, recounts: "Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: Ask all the people of the land and the priests, 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past 70 years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?'...

"This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other'" (Zechariah 7:4-10).

The Hebrew prophets and Jesus teach in simple words that people need to cleanse not only their stomach; more importantly, they need to rid themselves of evil deeds. It feels good to feast after a fast.

It is even better to refrain from doing harm to others, then fill the heart with goodwill toward the weak and the less fortunate, and busy the hand with good deeds and justice to others. Such is the true fasting for all the "People of the Book".

The writer is a journalist.





Over the coming days we will see the annual exodus of millions of people from big cities — in particular Jakarta — to their hometowns ahead of Idul Fitri festivities. It is estimated that this year the number of holiday revelers will reach 8 million.

The backgrounds of people involved in this annual event, known as mudik, varies. They can be CEOs, high-level government officials, businessmen, small-scale entrepreneurs or housemaids.

Traveling by private cars, on motorbikes, buses, trains or airplanes, they will stay away between one to three weeks to celebrate the Islamic holiday and reunite with families, relatives and old friends.

The higher the demand, the higher the price. The exodus can cost the holiday revelers three to four times their transportation spending during normal times. Worse, many of them are trapped in severe traffic jams for several hours during their journeys.

Mudik (homecoming) is not simply an event. It can arguably explain much of our current socioeconomic situation. The fact is that for millions of people, urbanization is perceived as a solution to their search for wealth.

There is no choice other than urbanization. If they stay in their hometowns, they will not be able to survive.

This group lives and works in cities in the informal sector without sufficient social protection. Their incomes are also much lower than those of people who work in the formal sector.

However, this is still better than remaining in rural areas where they may earn nothing. A simple explanation for this is the fact that Jakarta has the highest human development index (HDI) and gross regional domestic Product (GRDP) among all provinces.

First, it tells us that decentralization, which has been officially implemented by the central government since 2001, has not worked well in the fair distribution of development across the country.

While around 30 percent of the state budget around Rp 350 billion (US$40.95 million) has been distributed to local governments in the form of regional budgets, this amount has not yet generated the anticipated levels of economic growth, not to mention the central government funding spent at local levels.

Local governments spend a large amount of money financing routine expenditures — among other things for public servant salaries, instead of development projects.

Routine spending reaches 70 to 80 percent of the budget in some regions. As a result, the regional and state budgets have no sufficient multiplier effects in boosting regional economies.

This situation is exacerbated by the misunderstanding of decentralization that local governments should increase regional revenue (PAD) as much as possible. To reach this goal, many local governments have levied various taxes and retributions that in turn hamper their economy.

The taxes and retributions have been met with protests, not only from small and medium enterprise owners nationwide, but also foreign investors.

The ultimate success of local governments in the context of decentralization is how they can improve livelihoods and create employment. And this cannot be achieved while there are complex regulations and excessive taxation.

The high rate of urbanization, as reflected in the seasonal exodus, shows that decentralization has failed so far.

Mudik also tells us that economic sectors beyond agriculture have not been developed well in rural areas. In recent years, among all economic sectors the agriculture sector has absorbed the most workers, proving employment for around 40 percent of the workforce.

Meanwhile, its contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) has decreased over time to around 13 percent.

The agriculture sector's contribution to GDP, which is much lower than its share of the labor force demonstrates the low productivity in this sector. It also implies that there is a high rate of underemployment and disguised unemployment in the sector.

Eventually, most farmers earn only a small income. That is why pockets of poverty are much more concentrated in rural areas compared to urban areas.

In 2010, around 9 percent of urban inhabitants were classified as poor, as compared to around 16 percent of inhabitants of rural areas.

The number and share of smallholder and landless farmers has also been consistently increasing over the past 25 years.

This has been happening especially in Java. In reality, it is almost impossible for farmers to improve their livelihood as their production does not reach economies of scale, regardless of their hard work.

Finally, mudik shows the lack of entrepreneurship that Indonesia needs to improve people's welfare. New growth centers have barely been developed.

The economy still strongly depends on old growth centers that have been developed since the colonial era, such as Jakarta and extractive-industry-driven areas that are rich in mining, oil and gas.

This is related to the long-lasting characteristics of the private sector in Indonesia that is less independent vis-á-vis the government. In general, they are more government driven compared to the private sectors in Europe and the United States, for instance.

To overcome this situation, local governments should take full advantage of the opportunities decentralization offers. Among other things, these governments can reform procedures to get business started.

They should be innovative in creating incentives to grow labor-intensive businesses. They could also endorse small businesses, for example, by helping them to reach big business customers or premium-end consumers in urban areas.

In addition, other economic sectors should be developed in rural areas. Governments could focus on creative industries, manufacturing and trade.

Especially in the beginning phase, the focus should be put on how to create added value for agricultural products and other abundant natural resources in these areas.

Regional governments are the best institution to lead this effort, considering their understanding of local contexts. In the long run, entrepreneurship should act as the engine of development.

To realize this, it is critical to grow entrepreneurship through the formal education curricula so that the spirit can spread nationwide in the future.

By doing so, in the next 10 to 15 years Indonesians who live in rural areas will have a choice as to whether they want to move away to take opportunities in big cities or stay in their hometowns to lead a relatively calm life, and will no longer be cornered. Having a choice means we will be happier, as well.

The writer is a public policy analyst and member of Visi Indonesia 2033.


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