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Saturday, August 27, 2011

EDITORIAL 27.08.11

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month august 27, edition 000821, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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




















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There was nothing edifying about the sights and sounds at Ramlila Maidan on Friday when those leading the agitation to push Anna Hazare's Jan Lok Pal Bill and those lending their support to the demand decided to address the gathered masses. Ms Kiran Bedi, who has been vitriolic from the very beginning in her criticism of the Government, Parliament, the parliamentary process and the Constitution, was shockingly intemperate on Friday while berating the very system of which she was an integral part till she retired from the Indian Police Service. Her act-and-tell show in which she mimicked politicians, denigrated Parliament and repudiated electoral democracy using a kafiyeh as a prop may have delighted those looking for tamasha in the guise of protesting against corruption and drawn applause from those for whom democracy and the liberties it guarantees are meaningless, but it has fetched neither Anna Hazare nor his movement anything to boast about. Decency demands that criticism of Ms Bedi's astounding proclivity for taking recourse to rude words and crude gestures be muted, not the least because raucous denunciation would mean granting the former police officer-turned-activist her wish — to be noticed and taken seriously; she deserves neither. This is not how individuals who aspire to be 'leaders' or believe that it is their burden to lead the masses from darkness unto light are expected to behave, that too from a public platform. Not only does she stand diminished after her Friday afternoon stage-show, she has also surrendered the right to be taken seriously as a 'leader'. The attributes of a leader preclude the dubious ability to crudely mock at all and sundry and rudely ridicule institutions that form the core of our democracy; a leader inspires hope, he or she does not paint a bleak picture; a leader highlights all that is good and encourages people to use that as the foundation to build new institutions, he or she does not undermine the very symbol of a democracy, its Parliament, or ask people to abandon the electoral process. Maoists do that, so do separatists and anti-national elements who hold India in contempt.

Having served as a police officer in various capacities for decades Ms Bedi should have known better than to take recourse to language that could have incited the protesters at Ramlila Maidan to indulge in violence. Her repeated attempts to draw the attention of the emotionally-charged crowd to the presence of two senior BJP leaders who also happen to be Members of Parliament and who had gone to Ramlila Maidan to meet Mr Hazare to brief him about their party's position on the proposed anti-corruption law, her repeated call to confront them, her belligerent and threatening tone, were not only downright dangerous but also entirely unexpected and stunningly irresponsible. Would she have owned responsibility if the crowd had set upon the two MPs? Would she have then rushed to protect them? It is evident to all who saw and heard Ms Bedi on Friday that she would have done neither. Which brings us to the question: Can someone who so callously disregards the consequences of words and gestures be trusted to lead the people? More importantly, can someone who cannot distinguish between civil and uncivil be accepted as a representative of civil society? ***************************************





That India's gargantuan bureaucracy lies at the root of much of the country's socio-political malaise is no secret. And in recent times, even its political masters have borne the brunt of its inane babugiri. This has been particularly evident in the many complaints that Members of Parliament from across the country have lodged with the Union Ministry of Rural Development with regard to the conceptualisation and implementation of projects under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. The popular refrain has been that babus often keep Ministers in the dark about projects and rarely care for parliamentarians' suggestions regarding their implementation. Often, Ministers are not even invited for the inauguration of newly-constructed roads. Now, the Rural Development Ministry has taken note of the bureaucracy's flagrant disregard for authority and protocol, and written to all the State Governments to effectively rein in their babus and ensure that the Member of Parliament concerned is given due respect. This is a welcome step. As the letter from Krishi Bhavan notes, Members of Parliament have an important role to play in the planning and implementation of such projects. The Rural Development Ministry has rightly insisted that the MP's suggestions be taken into consideration while giving shape to key elements of the project such as the Comprehensive New Connectivity Priority List and the Comprehensive Upgradation Priority List. In a bid to ensure that its directives are followed, the Ministry has made clear that if MPs are not taken into confidence as envisioned in the guidelines of the yojana, then it will hold back funds for future projects. Towards that end, the Ministry has notified that funding requests for new projects should be accompanied by videographic evidence of the presence of the MPs concerned during the inauguration ceremonies for roads that were built under previous projects. While this in itself is an ingenious idea, the threat to turn off the aid tap, in particular, should do the trick for now.

Introduced under the BJP-led NDA regime in December 2000, the Centre-funded Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana aims to build all-weather roads that will connect remote habitations to the rest of the country. This will allow easy access to economic and social services, accelerate agricultural development and promote employment opportunities in backward areas. With its focus on infrastructure creation — just this past financial year 45,108.53 km of new roads were laid — this yojana is crucial to India's overall growth and development plans. One can only hope that the country's babus with their penchant for endless inefficiency and corruption will not come in the way of such progress.









Anna Hazare's movement against corruption has brought together those who want to see the system change for better. They must now contribute their mite.

The movement led by Anna Hazare has served the very important purpose of placing the issue of corruption at the heart of the national discourse. It has, however, also created the impression in vast numbers that the passing of a Lokpal Bill which is a clone of the Jan Lok Pal Bill drafted by Mr Hazare and his associates, will put all forms of corruption to an immediate end. This is not going to happen. The danger is that the consequent disappointment, which will be massive, will so demoralise people that they will again lapse into a mood of deep depression, resignation and inertia which will be difficult to dispel and, after a brief retreat into the woodwork, the corrupt will emerge and rule again.

It is important to remember this as also the fact that corruption is as much a societal phenomenon as it is governance-related. It pervades every sphere of life. Corporate corruption is as real as widespread as that of the governmental variety. The professions are no exceptions and their members who evade paying taxes are as guilty as officials who receive bribes. Even people like teachers and judges, who are supposed to be above the evil, are no longer always — and perhaps not even overwhelmingly so. Instances of teachers leaking out examination question papers, increasing marks for a consideration and senior academics passing off the work of their junior colleagues as their own, are too frequent for comfort. Judicial corruption has also been under the public scanner, though the judiciary as an institution remains the last resort of the people against administrative and corporate high-handedness and corruption and has a number of outstanding judges.

Given the spread of corruption through all strata and walks of life, it will require more than legislative and administrative action to end it. Mass upsurges, like the one triggered by Mr Hazare, are ephemeral. A comprehensive and multi-dimensional approach is needed. For that one needs sustained political action and popular pressure. That would require a qualitative improvement in Indian politics, which in turn would require more and more people of integrity and vision to join it.

The need for this becomes clear on recognising that corruption is rooted in the structure of India's administration, which has remained the same as during British rule. The Government's basic orientation then was towards the maintenance of law and order and revenue administration. Its powers were awesome and exercised from above. There was no constitutional and democratic accountability. The Indian Councils Act of 1861, which marked the first step in involving Indians in legislation and policy-making, did not provide for elections. Indians were appointed. The Indian Councils Acts of 1892 and 1909, and the Government of India Acts of 1919 and 1935, rested on restricted franchise and gave very little powers to those elected to legislative bodies. The all-important matters of defence and maintenance of law and order were in British hands.

The massive concentration of power in the Government conduced to corruption. Subordinate police, jail and revenue officials were often corrupt. Things however, were kept within bounds from above by a Government which insisted on efficiency in law-and-order administration and maximisation of revenue collection, both of which could be undermined by corruption. The 'steel frame' of the administration was the Indian Civil Service, an elite cadre which often condoned — even rewarded —high-handedness by its members but had little tolerance for personal corruption. It had inherited the mantle of the Covenanted Civil Service of the East India Company, the remunerations for whose members were fixed with the declared intention of putting them "above temptation."

Corruption remained within limits in the immediate post-independence period. At the helm of governments at the Centre and in the States were the stalwarts of the freedom struggle known for their integrity and wisdom and most of whom placed the national interest above their own. The administration, led by the Indian patricians of the ICS who had played a crucial role in helping the political leadership deal with the trauma of Partition, communal riots, influx of refugees and the transition from colonial to national rule, also retained its pre-Independence character. Slowly, however, things began to change.

The stalwart leaders of the freedom struggle, most of them advanced in years when they assumed office after independence, gradually succumbed to gerontion. So did the tall poppies of the ICS and allied civil services. Simultaneously, the powers and functions of the administration expanded as the state became the principal instrument of economic development and social change. With powers, the opportunities of corruption and the temptations born of these also grew. Equally, development opened up new avenues of employment, professional advancement and new business opportunities.

Finally, the introduction of adult franchise changed the character of Indian politics in the short span of a couple of decades. The advantage went to people who could talk to the masses in their own idiom and mobilise their support. Equally, the masses turned towards leaders from their own caste, ethnic and linguistic groups. With the state playing an increasing role in development, those wielding political power, came to control access to the state's resources and their distribution. From this, use of political offices to line private pockets and also resort to the politics of patronage, was a short step.

The field was now open to carpetbaggers, particularly since the educated middle class, many of whose members had joined the freedom struggle because of the humiliating experience of colonial rule, now found the challenges of adult franchise politics a bit too much. Instead, they turned to the new opportunities thrown up by development. This abdication of its political role by the middle class has been a major cause of the poverty of India's political leadership.

Things, however, are changing. The middle class, particularly the younger elements of it, are no longer prepared to put up with the humiliation and extortion to which every citizen is subject the moment he or she steps into a Government office for some work. One can see their massive presence in the movement led by Mr Hazare. It will be a pity if disappointment makes them opt out again. Instead, they should think either of joining one of the existing political parties or forming a party of their own. Abdication is no answer. ***************************************






If Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is allowed to walk away into the sunset, then the very idea of India is in trouble. The former West Bengal chief minister must stand on the dock, held responsible for three decades of murder and corruption

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is fighting hard to win a second innings for his political career — not in Writers' Buildings, the seat of the West Bengal government, but as the public face of his embattled party, the CPI(M). As evidence of the murder, rape and mayhem committed by his cadre through three decades surfaced throughout July and August in the form of mass graves here, an arsenal there and a confession in yet another place, the former chief minister decided to do something about it. Justify.

On August 13, he shocked the people of Bengal by making a rousing speech in defence of Sushanto Ghosh, a former cabinet colleague, who was taken into custody when skeletons of proven Trinamool Congress supporters were found in the backyard of his ancestral house in West Medinipur district. Braving the monsoon downpour, which was followed by an equally torturous sunbake, Bhattacharjee thundered away for a full hour, denying and alternately justifying the mass murders. He forgot that the inconsistencies in his speech were all too apparent. "How can you reason with a demagogue?" an embarrassed second-rung CPI(M) leader remarked to me later.

Savour this: "They have arrested Sushanta Ghosh out of revenge for some incident that had happened 10 years ago."

Later, in the same speech: "This government (Trinamool) has set up commissions to investigate what had happened 40 years ago at Sainbari…. They are initiating commissions to probe the Marichjhapi incident, Ananda Margi incident. This is a revengeful government and is targeting our party and leaders like Sushanta Ghosh."

It was unbelievable that a man generally regarded as suave and moderate should harbour a belief system which supports the applicability of the statute of limitations for criminals. While he obviously lacks the perfidy to deny outright his party's role in the horrific murders of Keshpur, Gorbeta, Pingla, Saibari, Marichjhapi and Bijon Setu (recalled as the Ananda Marg massacre, 1982) — at least not up to now — he is shameless enough to demand that the masses which suffered humiliation and pillage overnight develop short memories.

Unfortunately for him, Bengal's newspapers and TV channels are not only resurrecting a shameful past, but bringing the new generation face to face with some uncomfortable truths. A lot of Bengali intellectuals these days are recalling how Adolf Eichmann, the infamous chief executive of the Nazi holocaust programme, was dragged before an Israeli court full 16 years after World War II and convicted. Even today, two former Nazis, both in their 90s, are facing trial for their individual responsibility in mass murder. The butchers who planned and carried out the infamous Srebrenica massacre were apprehended only last month and flown to the Hague for an international trial. Many of the architects of the Cambodian Communist holocaust of the mid-1970s are still in custody, awaiting trial.

The Bengali people, despite Mamata Banerjee's proclamation not to follow a policy of vendetta, are slowly realising where the convergence occurred between the CPI(M)'s political, economic and social policies. Because Buddhadeb condoned, encouraged and even fanned the criminalisation of his cadre, the entire fabric of life got corrupted. Elite Bengalis were the unwitting coxmen of the deceitful boat of Buddhanomics. This class, mirroring the attitude of ordinary Germans who after World War II pretended ignorance of the crimes of Nazism, looked the other way, or sometimes cheered, as Buddhadeb went his way rigging elections and letting ministers like Sushanto Ghosh and Narayan Biswas run amok. Bhattacharjee inducted as his minister of industries a common criminal, Nirupam Sen, with full awareness of his role in the 1970 Sainbari massacre in which a mother was forced by CPI(M) criminals to lick her murdered son's blood.

Buddhadeb not only let them be but also helped by instructing his cadre to provide the Kolkata chatterati maximum latitude in the expression of their selfish aggrandisement. Therefore, under his rule, Bengal had the highest concentration of economic criminals — whether "industrialists" who stole their workers' provident fund contributions or traders who thrived without paying a paisa in sales tax or civic dues. The result: a Rs 2,00,000 debt bomb inherited by the successor government.

We must make a distinction between the career of Buddhadeb as chief minister (November 2000 to April 2011) and his term as minister for police in the 1993-2000 period. The last 18 years, taken as a whole, made up the most paradoxical phase of Bengal's near history. The liberalisation of the Indian economy was a macro-economic wonder story and no doubt a small part of that flowed to West Bengal despite the CPI(M)'s obstructionism. But all the ugly manifestations of neo-liberalisation were visible in the state — deepening poverty, differences in living standards between income quintiles, destruction of agriculture, criminalisation of the polity, environment degradation hand in hand with urbanisation, etc.

What exacerbated the economic and social crises was the increasing insecurity felt by the Communists. The rise of a viable Opposition forced Buddhadeb to recall the traditions he had himself set in the 1980s. Political murders, election rigging and terrorisation of the masses became a way of life in rural and semi-urban Bengal. However, it is not that more mass murders and vote stealing happened in Buddhadeb's time than in Jyoti Basu's (1977-2000), but because Buddhadeb lived in the age of media glare, his got a bigger share of disrepute.

It is impossible to put a precise figure to the number of political murders condoned by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, either as police minister or chief minister or both. A calculus developed by state Congress leader (now irrigation minister) Manash Ranjan Bhunia, based on union Home Ministry figures, held that close to 20,000 people died in political incidents between 1977 and 2004. A more moderate sum was put out by Salman Khursheed when he was the AICC observer for West Bengal — about 9,000.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between. Given that the police force, which he controlled since 1994, i.e. even under Jyoti Basu, was reduced to state of a partisan, private army of the CPI(M), the vast majority of the murders and mayhem were not even recorded. Gaurav Dutta, an IPS officer who served as SP of Midnapore (pre-bifurcation) was the most visible symbol of this degeneration of police professionalism, but there were countless others. Buddhadeb was intelligent enough to ensure that the police elite was fattened with privileges. Similar immunities were showered on the lower judiciary and public prosecutors. For the CPI(M)'s hapless victim, lodging a FIR was a near impossibility, what to talk of securing justice through conviction. Thousands of ordinary people roamed the paddy fields and open streets as political refugees through three decades of Communist rule.

Every nation which suffers a spell of totalitarian rule must necessarily reinvent itself through a process of social reconciliation focused on putting its society back on legal rails. Mamata Banerjee's policy to bury the past should not confuse forgiveness with forgetting. Prosecuting Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee would be an appropriate way of making the ordinary Bengali understand the might and awe of the rule of law And, if Buddhadeb is allowed to walk free, then there is a danger that with time, the crimes of Bengal's communist rulers would be reduced to a rumour. And we all know what happens to those who forget history.

--The writer is Senior Editor, The Pioneer, and author of "Bengal's Night Without End", New Delhi, 2006.







Should Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee escape censure for the crimes of the CPI(M)? A Saturday Special focus

The timely explosion of the Anna bomb has kept one of the most shameful developments in India's recent history out of media focus: "kankalkand" (loosely translated as "Skeletongate") or the discovery of skeletons in mass graves all over West and East Medinipur districts of southern West Bengal. This provides clinching evidence that genocide was indeed carried out by the CPI(M) throughout its 34-year term which ended in May 2011.

Both the political satraps from whom Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee drew sustenance throughout his term, Sushanta Ghosh of West Medinipur (who held a Cabinet berth) and Laxman Seth of East Medinipur (the undisputed king of Haldia), have been implicated. Now that the wheels of the Law have begun trundling finally, things can only go downhill for Bhattacharjee and the denizens of his once violent empire.

Ghosh was once a rising star in the CPI(M) for having expelled any trace of the Trinamool Congress from his district. Now he is in deep trouble. He was arrested after DNA tests confirmed the claims of a Trinamool Congress supporter that one of the many skeletons unearthed in the backyard of his ancestral house was his father who, eyewitnesses said, was murdered in 2002. Ghosh is presently cooling his heels in judicial custody in Kolkata's Presidency Jail. The West Bengal CID is preparing a chargesheet of murder against him.

From June 4 when villagers of Malikdanga, a few miles off Benachapra residence of the Minister, dug out seven skeletons from a pit till early this week, the police have dug out the skeletal remains of about 31 people in West Medinipur alone. These are all believed to be the remains of Trinamool workers.

What is more embarrassing for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is the discovery of fresh graves in neighbouring East Medinipur as well, on badlands once dominated by strongman former MP Laxman Seth. Some of these were found inside the septic tank of a primary school in Nandigram and at least one was dated back to 2001. Anima Das, the wife of slain Subrata Das, who went missing in 2001, has named Seth and 51 others including Susanto Ghosh and West Medinipur CPI(M) secretary Dipak Sarkar in her FIR. The police have already sent in for DNA tests to establish the identity of the victim.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has claimed that there are "at least 55 more such skeletons" buried in various parts of West Medinipur. This signals bad days ahead for Ghosh, Seth, Sarkar and company. For decades these gentlemen held power of life and death over the people of the two Medinipurs. Now, the hunter is the hunted.

What does the CPI(M) do under the circumstances? Express regret? Go into hiding? No, it has launched a weak and downright objectionable counterattack, which is not finding buyers even in its own camp. Bhattacharjee said at a mass rally on August 13: "These are planned excavations, a politics of vendetta perpetrated by a fascist outfit drinking deep from the cup of SS Ray's Emergency regime."

Though Mamata Banerjee herself is exercising restraint, several senior Trinamool leaders have become vocal in demanding the arrest of Bhattacharjee. "What is he doing at Palm Avenue (the street in which the former Chief Minister lives)? He should be sent to jail and proceedings should be started against him in skeleton cases," demanded senior Trinamool leader and party chief whip, Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay.

His logic is simple. If Manmohan Singh could be held responsible for the conduct of Kalmadi, Raja and Kanimozhi then there is no reason why Bhattacharjee should be spared. More so because he, apart from being the Chief Minister, doubled up as the Police Minister when the crimes were perpetrated.

"He pampered and patronised criminals like Seth, Ghosh and Majid Master. A polygraph test will establish it all," said State Minister Madan Mitra.

Bhattacharjee, meanwhile, has undertaken a complex strategy. He does not deny that the murders were the handiwork of his former cabinet colleague and senior comrade. But he tries to occupy the moral high ground saying that in his own time he did not embrace vendetta politics. "I did not arrest Mamata Banerjee when she led his men in vandalising the State Assembly."

That hardly washes. The Assembly vandalism Bhattacharjee referred to, happened in 2007 in reaction to the CPI(M) and CPI(M)-controlled police's non-stop atrocities in Nandigram. If Bhattacharjee claims to have "spared" the bitter Trinamool MLAs, then it could be equally held against him that he failed to convince the then Speaker, HA Halim, to withdraw the order to deduct the cost of the damaged furniture from the salaries of the Trinamool MLAs.

The Trinamool leaders are sure that Bhattacharjee had all the knowledge of Ghosh's shady deals like his involvement in a huge arms racket spreading as far as Bangladesh, Nepal and Munger districts of Bihar. They also have no doubt that once they get Buddha it would be easier to nail State party secretary Biman Bose because it was Bose who prevailed upon the then Chief Minister to ignore Ghosh's shady conduct.

The more worrying aspect is the growing feeling among the party's rank and file that a change is needed at the top. The vast majority of cadre and external sympathisers believe the CPI(M) can undertake an effective turnaround only by removing Buddhadeb and Biman Bose from their supreme positions and replace them with clean leaders like Abdur Rezzak Mollah, the land minister who had criticised the Singur and Nandigram deals.

Whether or not these leaders are punished for their acts, there is no denying that Banerjee has won the first round by politically mauling the CPI(M) after pinning it down. And why not? Because experience has taught her that Communists, much like felines, have nine lives. The skeletons which are literally tumbling out of the CPI(M)'s closet are giving her the legal route to eliminate the Marxists from their former strongholds. With the police now bending to please, she is certain to attack the CPI(M)'s power base using a mix of threat and inducement.

--The writer is Special Correspondent, The Pioneer







Professional criminals were drawn into the party fold because the Left Front government was fully aware that it was not delivering on governance. It was through terror that they dominated the democratic process and even Front partners were not excluded from this strategy

The large-scale recovery of arms and ammunition after the elections is quite disconcerting. I am sure it is not a good advertisement for Bengal which wants to invite investment. What has made matters worse is the bunch of skeletons dug out from various places, particularly from a place at Garbeta in West Midnapore, which has witnessed a number of bloody clashes over the past one decade.

The discovery of arms and skeletons is a source of embarrassment for the Left Front, especially the CPI(M) which is the biggest party in the Front and which took all major decisions when in government.

Though a section of the media and the Opposition attribute all the source of arms to the CPI(M) there is much exaggeration in their story as it is hard to believe that the CPI(M) cadres would be so naïve as to wrap such huge stockpiles of arms in party flags. The strategy is to put the local Left leaders behind the bars and take hold of the areas.

Having said that, the criminalisation of the CPI(M) cadre base cannot be denied and it is the leadership of the party which must take the responsibility for such degeneration. When I say criminalisation I have no hesitation to state that it took place in various layers. First a large section of goons came under the umbrella of the ruling party. They were involved in all kinds of crimes but the local party leaders ignored their backgrounds as it was decided to deploy them at different places for area domination and other political purposes.

The second layer comprised non-criminals who maintained liaison with the goons and who gradually took to promoting (building) business and utilised the party, goondas and the police to suit their own ends.

These were the people who joined the party perhaps over the past decade and extracted its juice and gave it the bad name. Here again, the leaders were responsible for having ignored their increasing influence in the party just because they were bringing funds and helping in area domination.

Incidentally, domination of an area is needed when your performance level falls. And there is no denying the fact that our level of performance fell drastically over the past 10 years. Lack of performance and ballooning arrogance affected the CPI(M) and with it the entire Left Front.

The problem of politics is that it is the honest and dedicated cadre and not the leadership that have to pay the price of the flawed steps taken by the party. And if thousands of party men are today rendered homeless or are subjected to inhuman torture or even death it is the CPI(M) leadership and no one else that has to be blamed.

The CPI(M) cannot evade responsibility in the Netai firing case or the Nandigram firing incident where the party men were directly involved. These incidents did a big damage to the Left Front. Questions have been raised on a number of occasions regarding my integrity as a Left leader. Many people have asked me as to why I did not come out of the Left Front government or why my party did not take up the several issues which cropped up within the Left Front during our years in power.

The fact is, I did often publicly criticise Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on a number of occasions and also stopped attending to my work at Writers' Buildings after the Nandigram massacre of March 2007. But then even in my own party I was cornered as the general opinion of the members was that we being a small outfit would not be able to survive independent of the Front or the CPI(M) as the Trinamool Congress would lick us off. So we did what a small partner would do: remain silent after registering our protests.

Within the CPI(M) too there were rumblings, but only one senior leader dared to speak out — land minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah. But soon he was reduced to a minority of one and was subdued. Even today he is being gagged whereas the party's lower level leadership would like him to assume a decision making position.

There is also a question as to why I did not take up things up with Jyoti Basu. In fact I did. I personally complained to him about how ruthlessly the CPI(M) behaved inside the Front and even outside it.

I asked for his suggestions and he said that the Front was made after years of struggle and that it would be wrong to break the Front. He said that most leaders of his generation had passed away and he was also on his way out. So he wanted us to remain united and try to steady the Front from within instead of breaking it. He also said that the irresponsible and foolhardy leaders would one day give way and a new leadership would come up. I wish that day comes soon.

-- The writer RSP leader and former Minister









Wah India. Your myriad avatars, your million mutinies never cease to amaze. We try hard to hijack you. Some cry, "India is Indira". Others sing, "You are my Sonia". Still others chant, "Saffron Shining". Then comes civil society`s counter: "Anna is India". Yet you defy all labels. You`re that band baaja and political baraat marrying all tunes - Anna`s Ramlila marching song, Rahul`s rejoinders from Lok Sabha, aam admi`s halla bol. For you remain that battlefield where everything from roving mantris to reigning myths are challenged. And how deftly you go from Gandhigiri to Annagiri when power-wielders stumble from hera-pheri to hara-kiri!

Rewind to Gandhi. Who thought colonial India would turn into Free India thanks to the "half-naked fakir"
Churchill once derided? Yet that civil disobeyer went to Buckingham Palace to meet the king in the freezing English winter dressed in a loincloth and sandals, remarking "the king had on enough for both of us". It turned out to be the sartorial equivalent of fasting. Ever since he punctured martial machismo, that man from Sabarmati hasn`t lacked fans. Ask Obama. He thinks Bapu`s the ideal dinner date.

And what of Incredible India`s incredible women? Who thought Nehru`s quiet daughter would not only become the only `man` in her kitchen cabinet but also be electorally chastened on an `Emergency` basis? Certainly not the Congress`s all-male Syndicate which believed a "gungi gudiya" PM would make politics a doll`s house. The `dumb doll` went on to put the fear of Indira into everyone from privy purse-holders to Pakistan`s macho Yahya Khan. Equally, who`d have wagered Indira`s quiet daughter-in-law would trump those who dubbed her Congress`s phoren Hand? Or betted Maya and Mamata would turn political He-Men Mulayam and Marxists into Ex-Men?

If gender bromides go bust, so do class- and age-related clichA©s. Many Anna supporters are middle class. So eat crow, those who said the middle class is such an apolitical navel-gazer that it won`t go vote let alone champion popular causes. And, no, our youngsters don`t just chase dollar dreams abroad when not swinging between Marx and Mammon at home. Haven`t they wedded Gandhian idealism with crusading consumerism, lapping up all that Anna merchandise? Who says New India is no country for old men? Septuagenarian Anna`s now a youth icon, cheered by protesters and picnickers, Bollywood-wallahs and dabbawallahs. Think: despite Singh-Isn`t-King and other netas avoiding the hippest headgear in town, the cost of "Main
Anna Hazare Hoon" caps have zoomed like aloo-pyaaz prices in these inflation-hit times. What does that make India in these inquilaab-hit times? Priceless.

Political peccadilloes, fasting and feasting, lokpal and jokepal - India`s effervescent, tropical spirit makes a carnival of it all. Look at our record. Salt marches or independence days, spiritual yatras or national elections, cricket matches or hunger strikes, we midnight`s children laugh even as we cry (for) the beloved country. India meri jaan, here`s doffing a topi to you.




                                                                                                                                                TOP ARTICLE



Across the globe, 2011 has been a year to rattle rulers and autho-rities. A quick survey reveals that revolt is afoot across a broad span of generations and places, and in service of a variety of purposes. We have seen the Arab spring, the street marches and battles in capitals from Athens to Madrid, the riots in London, the protests in Israel, and the demonstrations in Delhi.

Popular protest on such a scale and to such extent has not been seen for years. In fact, it takes us back to other eras. Some see parallels with the late 1960s, when, from California to Calcutta, students and workers mobilised. Others press further back, finding echoes of the uprisings that rocked Europe`s monarchs in 1848.

Both of these historical antecedents, inspired by utopian visions, ended in failure. Yet, both genera-ted libraries of interpretation - analysts seeking a thread that would unify the events into a single story. It was Marx and Engels, of course, who became the great theorists of 1848, building their view of world historical change on what happened at the barricades in
Paris, in the squares of Sicily and the streets of Prussia. Equally, 1968 spawned radical philosophies galore, which have kept academics in business since.

Protest is always local, but theories seek a global compass - a pattern of discontent across cases. And naturally, 2011 is fast spawning its own theories. In a recent piece, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman self-parodically referred to his own `theory of everything` as he tried to account for what was happening and why.

Friedman sees a `globalisation of anger`, itself a reaction both to changes in the nature of the global economy and in communication: changes that left people cut off from the skills, knowledge and resources they needed to succeed in a new global economic order. Those left out were subject to governments that had turned miserly, but they were also, simultaneously, empowered by their access to instant information that could inflame and channel their frustrations.

There is no doubt that from SMS to Facebook to Twitter, grassroots protest is more easily mobilised today than it has been in decades. But mobilisation is not the same as motivation. Though the tools may be the same, the uses may be radically divergent. So the animating question should be: Is there in fact a common, unifying thread to these worldwide protests, as many would have us believe?

Take the London riots. London`s opinionators and theorists were in business last month as the streets of their city burned, filling TV channels with diagnoses of what was happening. For conservatives, the collapse of traditional values was to blame. Once the smoke cleared in Tottenham and Camden, they sniffed the reek of moral social decay. For those on the left, the root cause was widening inequality and social deprivation exacerbated by unregulated capitalism. The classical dichotomies of individual character versus social structure were back in play.

But to have watched the London riots unfold was to grow less and less certain of a single, driving narrative. Politics? Utopian imaginings? Urgent material need? The ethos of those evenings seemed to be brand avidity. The rioters had their eyes on quality goods - not your ordinary running shoes, but the limited-edition styles. They raced for the premium denim on the first-floor showroom, not the ordinary jeans at ground level. This was aspirational rioting - the politics was all logo. In their apolitical, self-regarding thievery, these rioters made the punk protesters of the later 1970s and early 1980s look like utopian visio-naries and philosopher kings.

We must take care, in retrospect, not to impose upon the London riots a profundity they did not have - or to connect them mindlessly to other protests elsewhere, whether the Arab Spring or the agitations that have brought thousands to the Ramlila Ground in Delhi over the past weeks. The Indian protests may not be as pure as their instigators attest, but they`re peaceful, for a start, and much more purposeful in their aims than the London eruptions. What could be plainer and more explicit than supporting a hunger strike to eradicate corruption? Premium denim doesn`t figure.

But there is at least one connection between Delhi and London and the other far-flung ruckuses of 2011 - a connection the commentators rarely mention, because it blurs their narratives. Those taking to the streets are not typically `the masses` of certain historical precedents, but members of the middle class. It`s as true of Anna Hazare`s ragtag bands of supporters as of the college kids and techie professionals of the Arab Spring. By the material standards of India or Africa, the so-called deprived of London are also relatively privileged, with refrigerators and microwaves at home and Blackberries in their pockets.

Before we set to our totalising global theories about the protests, it might be equally instructive to contemplate who hasn`t risen up in protest, and why. Have we forgotten the group of people who might have most reason to be angry - those most vulnerable to the effects of a corrupt society, those most wracked by the absence of government aid? For the truly poor, corruption at the Commonwealth Games is not the most pressing issue. Here at the end of the summer of 2011, are they better off for all the global tumult?

The writer is director of the India Institute, King`s College, London.








There`s nothing wrong with the decision of the six new IIMs, as well as the ones in Lucknow and Kozhikode, to award special marks for admission to women and non-engineering students. The rationale behind it is plausible and individual educational institutions should be allowed to make experiments in affirmative action of this sort, as long as they don`t flow from government diktat. The IIMs in question feel that their admission process is skewed towards male engineering graduates, when greater diversity in the classroom would make for more academic creati-vity. Promoting women and non-engineering students with bonus points can inject much-needed diversity in classrooms.

Common Admission Test (CAT) used to screen IIM aspirants is quite formulaic. True, given the massive number of applicants, it is practical to have a nation-wide common entrance exam as the first filter. However, the character of the CAT exam provides an edge to engineering students, a majority of whom are male. As a result, the thinking pattern of IIM students differs little. Giving girls and those from non-engineering backgrounds bonus points can offset the monotony and lead to vibrant classrooms. This is not unlike the affirmative action policy in US universities, where admission criteria for certain candidates are relaxed taking into account the extra edge that diverse backgrounds can bring in.

As long as affirmative action is the discretion of the institutes concerned, not a government mandated rule, meritocracy won`t be diluted. Educational institutes know what is best for them and deserve far greater autonomy over admissions. Besides, there is no rule that says engineers make better management graduates. Cross-discipline studies and interactions need encouraging to foster lateral thinking. Some giants of business, such as Steve Jobs or Richard Branson, owe their success to their ability to think out of the box. That`s something the IIMs should strive for.








Six new IIMs as well as the institutes in Lucknow and Kozhikode have decided to grant special marks for admission to girls and non-engineers. This is unfortunate in the extreme. If anything, the move comes suspiciously close to the policy of reservation - call it quota in a disguised form. While some may argue that there`s a need to add-ress the skewed gender balance at IIMs and to garner a diverse pool of talent, particularly from non-engineering streams, this shouldn`t be done through a policy of giving `grace` marks. That`ll accord unfair advantage to the targeted beneficiaries, many of whom may be non-deserving candidates.

Such a method is certainly not the way forward. For, if the aim is to engender diversity in the classroom, this policy won`t serve the purpose. All it will do is adversely affect academic standards as many deserving students may be deprived of a fair chance to compete on an equal footing. Our IIMs and IITs have created a reputation for promoting meritocracy. A seat in an IIM is coveted and fiercely contested by lakhs of MBA aspirants. So, the IIMs can`t suddenly blink at the need to attract the best and the brightest. To make academic curricula more diverse and courses less linear, they can instead remould selection criteria which, at present, are tailormade for engineering, economics and commerce graduates.

That will call for devising a selection procedure that goes beyond just assessing a candidate`s mathematical, logical and verbal abilities. The IIMs can take the cue from American universities which appraise the overall suitability of applicants, irres-pective of gender. They look at a student`s statement of purpose as well as analytical skills, not just GMAT scores. This automatically allows them to admit a diverse range of students without favouring any group over others. There`s no reason why our management institutes can`t emulate this practice.






The brain, heart and sinews of any Apple device are made by somebody else. Yet when they came together in the hands of Steve Jobs, the company's creator and resurrector, people queued up overnight for the privilege of being the first buyer of his latest electronic toy.

The digital revolutionary has done more than any other man in shrinking wardrobe-sized laboratory computers to fit into our palms. Apple's graphical interface computer brought college kids on board, its music players had the pre-teens tuning in, and toddlers can now doodle on its touch-sensitive tablets.

The icult worship around Jobs goes beyond the prosaic admiration that has made Apple, if just briefly, the world's biggest company. But it doesn't conceal the workings of an egotistic micro-manager who has been probed for dodging taxes. Apple today faces the existential angst of most personality-driven companies when the Great Leader hangs up his boots.

The Apple stock fell 5% after Jobs announced he would be stepping down as its CEO but investors were more concerned in 2004 when he first underwent surgery for cancer of the pancreas. In the seven years since, Jobs has lined up a big chest of innovative products and has also built an enviable second rung of leadership, with formidable reputations apiece. This and a pipeline of maverick engineering — Jobs himself holds 230 patents — should keep the company going for some time. History, however, shows Apple going downhill when Jobs was away, The $2.75 stock at listing in 1980 was trading at slightly over $3 in 1996, when Jobs returned 11 years after being booted out in a boardroom coup. Over the next 15 years of relentless innovation, Apple has climbed to $368 a share. The beast Jobs is leaving behind this time around is gorilla, not the chimp of the mid-1980s.

Apple is what it is today because it marries cutting edge hardware and software to provide the user an experience she hasn't had before. This walled garden approach could, however, be its nemesis. In an industry where innovation is a commodity, locking consumers into proprietary platforms is not a good idea.

Open source yields technological improvements on a scale no individual company can hope to match. Computer and cellphone makers have mostly burnt their fingers with home grown software. Costs of keeping up with Android, Google's free operating software for mobile phones and tablet computers, can be prohibitive. However brilliant the marketing, the iPhone and iPad are under intense pressure from cheap handhelds that use free software operating platforms. A large part of Jobs' halo is due to his marketing chutzpah, yet it can't face the onslaught of the price warriors.

Expensive itoys are yet to carve their territory in price-sensitive markets like India, which mark the new frontiers of the digital world. Jobs' creative genius has been a holding operation, a more conservative leadership at Apple will have to contend with the sobering reality of prices when his legacy begins to wane.







In these uncertain times, when even gold and silver are looking doubtful, Anna Hazare has brought us the most-valuable element of all — the element of surprise. No one anticipated that the grandpa-next-door could become a lightning rod funnelling the frustrations of millions. And until this week, none of the players in the game had any idea what was going on.

Something impressive, clearly, but democracy is about numbers, not impressions. It's about precisely how many people back and oppose a move, not how hard they push. We have an approximate idea of Hazare's support base but the government, the media and the movement itself don't know how many naysayers and fence-sitters are out there.

In the absence of that information, everyone was rudderless. The government and the Opposition were alternately sniping at each other as usual, pausing occasionally to fulminate about the threat to Parliament, their family estate. We mediawallahs were taken by the spontaneity of the movement and ignored the uneasiness of dissenters marginalised by region, religion or caste. Now we're going the other way, accusing Hazare of being supremacist and fascist. And his mass base has no patience for the details, even those of their own Bill. They're saying something very basic: "Oi! Do something! Now!"

Hazare agrees, but the parliamentary system requires protracted deliberation and bargaining. It does not offer immediate gratification. So Hazare wants to use the force of direct people's democracy to overawe representative democracy, an unfair project. With 1.3 billion people, India is not the Athens of Socrates, where every citizen could be heard on every Bill. We surrender our right to be heard to representatives for five years at a time — long enough for them to change their tune. The disconnect between the ruler and the ruled can be bridged only by disruptive protest — big enough this time to take us by surprise.

There are excellent folk remedies for the element of surprise. Sovereign among them is the right to recall, by which legislators who do not perform as advertised can be unseated. It's easier and kinder than toppling a government, but Hazare's movement has put it on the backburner for now. Equally valuable is the practice of voters directly lobbying legislators, without political intervention. It's catching on in India.

But folk remedies aren't enough. Yesterday, Ram was above the courts. Today, the public is above Parliament. Tomorrow, a new extra-constitutional demand may arise. We can decide their validity only by the democratic principle of numbers, but no one ever keeps count.

Could Aadhar do the job? Its authentication network is designed to deliver services and welfare to the public. Could it also pipe opinion electronically the other way through public polls on Bills, with voter authentication? It would certainly be easier for interested parties to access an Aadhar device than to travel to Delhi for a show of strength.

The result would not be a true snapshot of the national mind, for it would exclude huge populations. But it would be truer than media surveys and the claims of activists and politicians. It could inform legislators about the public will which they are elected to execute. And perhaps eliminate the element of surprise from lawmaking.

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine

The views expressed by the author are personal









Imagine the reaction if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh takes a 10-day vacation at an exclusive Rs 22.5 lakh-a-week resort even as Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement roils the nation? The country, the Opposition, the media, everyone, will go ape.

It's certainly difficult to visualise him vacationing anywhere, much less in such a setting, but for most American presidents it's par for the course.

When an earthquake rattled Washington on Tuesday, President Obama received updates while enjoying a round of golf at his favorite vacation spot of Martha's Vineyard, summer playground of the rich and famous. His rental residence there costs $50,000 weekly. It was also from the Vineyard that he monitored the turmoil in Tripoli. No information, though, on how that impacted his handicap.

Critics have been unkind to his vacationing ways. They probably have taken too literally these words of his: "I won't rest until businesses are hiring again, and wages are rising again, and the middle class is thriving again, and we've finally got an economy that works for all Americans again." He said that in February 2010, but has since sought rest coast to coast at places as varied as a national park in Maine, the post-oil spill waters of Florida and the beaches of his native Hawaii.

Even as he takes a break, President Obama can't catch a break. There may be nothing wrong with an American President enjoying some down time. It may actually be fitting since down time seems to well define the state of the American economy and the country's mood, too.

Indian leaders' vacationing habits are less regular. Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi enjoyed brief retreats at Ladakh, Lakshadweep or Sariska. Former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee took time off in Manali or for healing visits to Kerala. There's very little information on the current PM's holidays, or those of his predecessors, though HD Deve Gowda snatched plenty of rest during Cabinet meetings.

American presidents utilising their leave of privilege is hardly limited to the current incumbent of the White House. Obama has vacationed for just over two months since he assumed office in January 2009. According to data gathered by CBS News, George W Bush spent six months of his eight-year tenure on holiday, usually at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, dirt-biking or clearing shrub. Bush was on vacation when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.

Bush's predecessor Bill Clinton took just 28 days off during his entire two terms.

But the man who wanted the word 'it' defined, even took his vacations based on pollsters telling him where the President should go without appearing elitist. So, off he went to the rugged mountain resort at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

On weekends, American presidents have a readymade retreat waiting for them at Camp David near Washington, DC. And it's not just presidents, Americans have perfected the art of the long weekend. During August and the Christmas season each year, the whole country appears to have collectively gone camping, having outsourced the functioning of the nation to call centres in Bangalore.

Despite putting up with the griping, Obama has been luckier than British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was in Tuscany, Italy, as mobs of yobs pillaged London and beyond. As he attempted to resume the rudely interrupted holiday, by taking off for Cornwall, he had to rush back to 10 Downing Street as the Libyan crisis reached a flashpoint. Cameron's hectic schedule also included an afternoon off watching the English cricket team pummel India at the Oval. At that time, he said, "I hope no one will begrudge me an afternoon at the cricket. Particularly when England are playing so well."

The problem for Cameron, and Obama, and certainly the majority of India's Test batsmen, is that of poor timing.

And timing feeds into public perception. As American voters get antsy, and the economy keeps tanking, Obama can only hope that he hasn't earned himself a permanent vacation in 2012.

Currently based in Toronto, Anirudh Bhattacharyya has been a New York-based foreign correspondent for eight years

The views expressed by the author are personal





Collective nouns can be lovely, can be wicked. They can animate, they can annihilate. They are works of art. 'A pride of lions' is perhaps the most famous of collective nouns. No word other than 'pride' can capture the majesty of that being as it sleeps, wakes, wanders with grand unconcern in the sureties of his kingdom. The story is told of when Gautama Buddha once passed through his home town of Kapilavastu with his disciples. His young son Rahula watched the ochre-robed band from his palace's balcony. He asked his mother Yasodhara: "Which of them is my father?" Yasodhara replied: "He who walks like a lion."

My absolute favourite among collective nouns, however, is 'a murder of crows'. The sudden descent of boot-polish wings, the angled glancings of beady eyes, homicidal beaks and thorny toes  on an unsuspecting squirrel or a nestling cannot be better described than as a 'a murder of crows'. Writing of the cheeky and wary Jungle Crows, which  inflict casualties among the eggs and young of many birds, Salim Ali says: "These crows need to be closely investigated!"

Some collective nouns have an unbelievable loveliness to them. What can match for visual allure 'an autumn of leaves' or 'a bend of willows'? Other collective nouns move from beauty to wit, like 'a convocation of eagles', 'a shrewdness of apes', 'an aurora of polar bears', 'a quiver of cobras'.

There is another devastatingly apt collective noun: 'a barren of mules'. It reminds me of Krishna Menon speaking to students at St Stephen's College gathered for an after-dinner meeting. Typically 'zeeing' his 'esses', Menon directed this comment at a leading political idea of his time: "You zee, thiz idea iz like the proverbial mule, with neither pride of anzeztry, nor hope of progeny."

Collective nouns of more recent coinage describe human beings and their preoccupations as well. As one who has had to attend a tedium of committees, I find 'an agenda of tasks' altogether delightful. And I could give these (the nouns, needless to say) a hug: 'a pomposity of professors', 'a greed of lawyers', 'a scoop of journalists'.

Other collective nouns, in vogue for some time, could be refreshed. 'A clan of hyenas', is too dull and would have been better off as 'a drool of hyenas'. Likewise, 'a colony of wasps' is far too prosaic and, in any case, architecturally dated. Perhaps 'an atrium of wasps' would work better. 'A flight of butterflies' is too pat and could be felt on your fingers as 'a tremble of butterflies'. Similarly, 'an intrusion of cockroaches' is too academic and could open a drawerful of revulsion as 'a scurry of cockroaches'. And 'a colony of vultures' is too slummy. Far better, 'a stoop of vultures'.

One collective noun which is about no living thing, but a living moment rings true: 'a blush of embarrassments'. Another one, again, living, throbbing, pulsating, though non-living, is 'a  tick-tock of clocks'.

We can hear a 'tick-tock' of time running out.

What are the clocks that are going tick-tock with such ferocious rapidity? Let me answer that through a set of collective nouns generated by thoughts drawn from recent days.

Jantar Mantar, April 2011: a cap of patriots, a sword of  bravehearts, a banner of supporters, a matter of drafts, a fallacy of propositions, a danger of precedents, a question of principles, a gulp of anxieties, a gargle of  inanities, a nod of yes-men, a prod of volunteers, a frown of activists, a furrow of academics, a chatter of reporters, a  flash of photographers, a gawk of onlookers, a slice of pick-pockets, a slurp of vendors, a shimmer of sages, a blunder of mediators, a curse of cynics, a seizure of opportunists, a sigh of well-wishers, a chant of faithfuls, an obeisance of hopefuls, a stumble of blocks, a clearing of  paths, a hail of triumphalists.

Lal Qila, August 15, 2011: a flutter of arrivals, a fort of  conventions, a shiver of doves, a stripe of children, a  banister of elders,  a gradient of uniforms,  a ramp of diplomats, a rampart of officials, a smile of front-rowers, a  sneer of  back-rowers, a clap of dutifuls, a drizzle of expectations, a hood of ministers, a yawn of spouses, a snooze of old-timers, a silence of the thoughtful, a prayer of the fearful, a promise of the hopeful, a lanyard of statesmen, a shower of petals, an anthem of  citizens, a chorus of innocents, a sky of balloons, a cheer of supporters, a sneer of reporters, a debris of leavings, a picking of beggars.

Ramlila Maidan, August 2011: an ocean of heads, a captain of storms, a ship of hearts, a deck of guards, a stern of navigators, a flank of barnacles, a keel of grudges, a mast of hopes, a wave of pledges, a foam of soaps, a 'hey you' of allegations, a 'you too' of retaliations, a stream of callers, a steth of doctors, an ambulance of fears, a solution of lawyers, a conflict of statements, an area of agreements, a compass of path-finders.

Delhi, August 25, 2011: a finger of admonitions, a fist of retributions, a bulletin of concerns, a weighing of options, a draft of adoptions, a round of talks, a dotting of points, a joining of dots, a minute of dissenters, an hour of assenters, an amendment of MPs, a ground of deflections, a chamber of reflections, a bend of faces, a dart of distempers, a stumble of blocks, a sprint of efforts, a glimmer of hopes.

Delhi, August 26, 2011: a swell of hopes, a pool of regrets, a high of lows, a hum of sighs, a swing of moods, a flight of doves, a dive of hawks, a suspicion of twists, a twist of suspicions, a coil of doubts, a loss of gains, a gain of losses.

Delhi, August 27, 2011: we are a collectivity of nouns in ourselves. We think, speak, behave in ways that reflect all of nature's beings, not necessarily at their most elevated. A pride of lions sauntering across India would marvel at the bio-diversity of our conduct. And sighing, move warily forward.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and governor
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






Saturday will be a decisive day for our nation, declared speaker after speaker at the Ramlila grounds, and in one way they are at least slightly, correct. It is a decisive occasion — for Parliament to recapture the initiative. We need to be able to say, after the debate is done, that finally the richness of India's experience with corruption, and the varieties of opinion on how to deal with it, have been heard — instead of the your-draft-or-mine game that has played out so far. Our political parties cannot disappoint by descending into excessive wrangling or political manoeuvring: they must keep the debate elevated. It is good, for example, that the main opposition party appears unlikely to force a vote on the issue. What is needed is for those who are angry and disillusioned with Parliament, who feel that it is a body unable to take decisions on this matter because it is compromised or ill-equipped, to see a Lok Sabha that is willing to debate the issues in an informed and serious manner. There is no other way to respond to the sort of dismissive contempt that is floating around, much of it from the stage at the Ramlila maidan.

It is important to remember what is at stake on Saturday. It is not, as Team Anna would have it, the possibility of getting a handle on corruption — that will require effort, another wave of reform, and legislation that but includes a strong Lokpal bill that has been produced with sufficient input and considerable deliberation. No, what is at stake is the confidence that some in urban India have in the ability of the institutions of state to deliver, and reform, governance. Under UPA 2, which has chosen to neglect the urban constituency that swept it to power, the distrust of institutions has only grown, and this must be remedied. And the effort to remedy it must come from all parties, for no party benefits from a public climate in which politics is roundly condemned.

The prime minister's speech on Thursday, and Rahul Gandhi's speech on Friday, together with points made by the leader of the opposition in both houses earlier, show that our parliamentarians share a sense of the urgency of the occasion. "We must restore the credibility of politics and governance," Arun Jaitley had argued. That restoration can only come in the highest location of politics in the land, which is the Lok Sabha. And it must start today.






The Reserve Bank of India's annual report was released on Thursday by the deputy governor of the RBI, Subir Gokarn, and it made for sobering reading. There were threats to growth, it warned: not just global factors such as weak external demand or high commodity and oil prices, but internal factors such as continual delays in project execution. As has been argued before, the state-caused inability to ramp up supply in the Indian economy means that inflationary pressure, whether or not caused by external factors, persists. The RBI appears to understand this clearly, talking about "the high and persistent inflation of the last two years," and adding that that monetary policy, while limited in terms of a first-order effect on the phenomenon, is still relevant in "curbing the second-round effects of supply-led inflation."

The RBI expects inflation to go yet higher in the short-term, and that, together with hardening interest rates, could well cause growth in 2011-12 to slow. Meanwhile, the RBI worries, government capital spending has hit a new low even as spending itself has gone up. So deficits might well increase and fiscal space could further tighten, especially if the economy slows more than anticipated, which constrains any attempts at stimulation through fiscal policy. However, the atmospherics with which the RBI surrounds this gloomy news are encouraging: it is necessary for it to create the reputation as a stern inflation-targeting central bank, and thus it is creditable, therefore, that it has signalled its continued focus on inflation even as growth comes under threat and fiscal policy seems cramped.

In particular, the RBI spoke frankly about the danger that a higher inflation level could be expected to be "the new normal." Clearly, the RBI does not intend to quickly abandon its hawkish stance on inflation: since March 2010, it has raised its most instrumental policy rate 11 times. The RBI does, however, have stern words for the government, which it indicates is not being sufficiently supportive in its actions. Two years of inflation have laid bare its "limitation in arresting inflation in absence of adequate supply response," it says. It is now up to the government to initiate second-wave reforms, the only remaining defence against inflation.






Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation is all set to inaugurate "Namma Metro" — the city's spanking new subway system, a plan that has been a glint in city-planners' eyes for two decades now, and has now materialised with the technical assistance of DMRC, and Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES). It is meant to work seamlessly with other trasit systems in the city, and the state's public bus sytem will provide feeder services to various stations. Its full length measures 33 kilometres, and it will weave through the Bangalore's densest commercial and residential areas.

As Delhi has discovered, a rapid transit metro is one of the wisest investments for urban spaces — they whiz people around without diverting expensive land in the process, and allow cities to grow in a compact way, rendering far-off places suddenly accessible. Transit corridors also push up the value of the surrounding land. Most importantly, the metro will take crazy pressure off Bangalore's roads; the once-idyllic town has been lately beset by the crush of cars and other traffic, and associated problems of pollution, accidents, high fuel consumption and frayed nerves.

Apart from the macro-benefits, riding the metro is a uniquely urban pleasure. It is the community of commuters that gives a city its tidal restlessness. A subway is freeing in many ways, it gives people who do not or cannot drive, the same mobility and autonomy as anyone else. A metro-car is an observational treat, as is the feeling of taking diverse fellow-travellers for granted. In some ways, a metro-car is a crucible of citizenship. Hopefully, this much-delayed project will be all that traffic-strangled, crowded Bangalore has been waiting for.







An interesting feature of this "Gandhian" anti-corruption movement, under the leadership of India's most famous Gandhian since Gandhi himself, is the total absence of any portraits of Gandhi in the hands of any processionists. The only figure from our freedom movement to feature on placards is Shaheed Bhagat Singh. The principled and philosophical contradiction between his methods and Gandhi's should be well known to anybody who did not flunk the history exam between Class VI and X. But that is not the story. When people are angry for good reason (as they are over corruption now), it does not matter in whose name they swear and whose portraits they carry. Because, any which way, their point is made.

But there may be a little wake-up call for our MPs from the history of Bhagat Singh's times. At least the MPs from the north and the Hindi heartland would remember the favourite revolutionary invocation of Bhagat Singh's campaign: "Pagdi sambhal jatta... Lut gaya maal tera".

A wee bit of history will be relevant here. This call to the jat (the land-owning peasant) to save his honour (pagdi, or turban) and land was first made by Bhagat Singh's uncle, Ajit Singh, to oppose a punitive land revenue imposed by the British on the peasantry. And if you failed to pay that cess (Rs 20 per acre, a huge amount then), your land was forfeited to the British. Ajit Singh was incarcerated along with Lala Lajpat Rai (later killed in a lathi-charge while opposing the Simon Commission) in the same Mandalay prison, in Burma, where Bahadur Shah Zafar had died in detention. Ajit Singh's movement succeeded, and the cess was withdrawn — but his nephew Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries embraced that pagdi-sambhal exhortation as a rousing battle cry.

But why are we digressing that far into the early history of our freedom movement? Particularly when what's going on is being hailed as our Second War of Independence?

It is relevant, mainly because in this convoluted and yet simplistic and trendy interpretation of our freedom struggle, the new war of independence is being waged against our own political class, particularly Parliament. From "mera neta chor hai" caps to Om Puri's stunningly crude condemnation of Parliament as peopled by "illiterates" and "ganwaars" (we are preferring the exact Hindi pejorative used by him, as the English translation, "rustic", does not capture the contempt of the original), the movement is now utterly anti-political and anti-Parliament. From demanding that Parliament rubber-stamp a pre-drafted law without any change and by a certain deadline, bypassing all "faltu" institutions like the Standing Committee, to gheraoing the homes of the MPs, the central impulse of the movement is that parliamentary processes and institutions are, if at all, a dilatory mechanism in the hands of cynical, corrupt and self-seeking netas.

This is now a strong — and growing — sentiment on the urban street. That is why it makes you remember Bhagat Singh's pagdi sambhal invocation. Because that should be the wake-up call now for our MPs, and indeed for the entire political class, without whom there can be no democracy — but who, with their laziness, cynicism and indeed corruption, are now in danger of losing their honour, as well as their "land", or their foothold in political power. This growing mood, at least in urban, upper-crust India is a rude reminder to the political class. A reminder that in focusing on vote-banks rather than on the larger common good, in treating politics as a hereditary avocation rather than competitive public service, and by themselves subverting parliamentary processes and institutions, particularly bipartisan institutions like the PAC and JPC, they have undermined the very structures of political democracy that bring them power, respect, and even wealth. For nearly three years now, since all of India saw bundles of currency being displayed in the Lok Sabha cash-for-votes scandal, our MPs have only indulged in acts that invite popular scorn and disgust. The writing off of an entire winter session; their inability to pass any bills; daily, nationally-televised obstruction and adjournments have all fuelled this popular disgust. So for them, our MPs, this movement is their "pagdi sambhal..." moment.

This week, after a very, very long time, it seemed as if the political class was waking up to the threat. If you watched the Parliament debate on Thursday, you would have only felt proud of that wonderful institution and not embarrassed. And what of your political class? The most stirring speech was made by a man called Sharad Yadav, an OBC leader who came in from nowhere, learnt political activism in JP's movement, went to jail during the Emergency as a student leader and emerged as a minister, and a brilliant parliamentarian. And he would not be one bit embarrassed if I underlined that he fully personifies Om Puri's description of "half our MPs" as ganwaar. Sharad Yadav is by no means anpadh (illiterate). He, in fact, has a Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. But ganwaar, he would quite proudly admit to being. A line from his speech on Thursday, responding to attacks on Parliament, is worth a mention. "Without the wisdom of Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi," he said, people like him would not have been allowed to bring even their cattle to graze in Delhi. "This House," he said, "is the only place, where you can see the face of the entire nation", where Dalits can be seen as equals and where names like "Ghurau Ram, Garib Ram and Pakodi Lal" walk around as MPs. It is only thanks to Gandhi and his freedom movement that today a Pakodi Lal can come here, he said. A Pakodi Lal in your Lok Sabha? Does that answer Om Puri's description of a place filled with ganwaars? And if so, does that make you feel embarrassed? Mahatma Gandhi would have only been proud.

Parliamentary democracy is our biggest strength, and the greatest instrument of equality in a complex, diverse and unequal society. But, before it can argue with forces of corporate-style insta-solutions and indignant, impatient street-fixes, the political class has to make a quick return to old values. Political parties have to learn to keep talking amongst themselves even as they fight in the battleground of votes, ideas and ideology. Congress cannot treat the BJP as evil and unworthy of even speaking to. Similarly, the BJP cannot be so cynical as to block even virtuous legislation, or reform (like GST) just to spite the Congress. Because even when Parliament does function, when the floor of the House is used not to make or counter arguments or to pass bills, but to exercise lung-power and to jump to the well to earn one more adjournment, what impression does it convey to the street? Until now, only the Maoists used to describe our Parliament as a pig-sty. But if so many urban, educated Indians are now becoming equally disillusioned, it is not a moment too early for our political class to wake up.










With the question of corruption dominating the national discourse, we need to realise that the Lokpal is a limited solution, and additional tools are required to battle this pervasive problem.

Recently, the chief economic advisor, Kaushik Basu suggested a way to reduce bribery, by decriminalising bribe-giving. Currently, bribe givers and takers are equally culpable, resulting in their shared incentive to thwart investigations. But what if only bribe-taking is criminalised and bribe-givers are unpunished and their money, in fact, returned to them upon successful prosecution? Perhaps then, he argued, bribe-givers will cooperate with authorities leading to a reduction in bribery.

The argument makes a lot of sense because it emphasises economic incentives for corruption. Indeed, there is a whole literature on "economics of crime" which argues that if the expected gain from a crime is outweighed by the expected cost, then criminal behaviour will be deterred. With respect to bribery, the expected cost of taking a bribe depends on the likelihood of being caught and the penalty if caught. Because the likelihood of being caught is small, some claim that a very heavy penalty is warranted to deter the behaviour. Prof. Basu's argument, however, focuses on the non-penalty factor — the likelihood of being caught. To the extent that modifying the law heightens the likelihood of being caught, in actuality or just in the people's perception, it will reduce bribery.

Note that the "likelihood of being caught" is a catch-all term that can be decomposed into things such as the likelihood of the bribe-giver making a complaint; the likelihood that the authorities will take action; and the likelihood that the evidence will be conclusive in a court of law. A debatable point is whether bribe-givers could collect enough incriminating evidence to recover the bribe, using numbered currency notes as suggested, or perhaps also tape and video recordings. In the hands of an amateur, this evidence may not be legally convincing. Furthermore, bribe-takers could work through intermediaries, making it difficult to collect evidence. Bribe-givers must also worry that while obtaining a conviction is slow and uncertain, the corrupt official can create mischief in the meanwhile. How much recourse is there for the common man from vindictive officials?

It is possible to address this concern about amateurish collection of evidence. Anyone asked to pay a bribe should contact police or vigilance authorities first. In the ideal situation, professionals then conduct the sting and the collection of evidence. Since the potential bribe-giver receives service, but never pays the bribe, the same incentives are created for reporting bribery as in the original suggestion. Rewards can be added to further encourage complainants to come forward. Another advantage is that the complainant can be kept anonymous; shielded from tortuous legal proceedings and vindictiveness.

Why doesn't this, the current system, work? What can be done to improve it? Here are two possible explanations, and two corresponding solutions.

First, is India really awash in officials demanding bribes? If it is, then the authorities do not need large numbers of complainants — they just need to interact with service providers and follow up with investigations. The implication of pervasive corruption going undetected and of corrupt officials being unpunished, is that vigilance authorities are either inefficient or corrupt themselves. If so, anti-corruption measures should focus on this bottleneck. The Lokpal could be efficacious here.

Second, it is possible that officials are not demanding bribes; and that instead of denying service, they are overwhelmed and inefficient. Then bribe-givers give bribes to get faster service rather than waiting in line. Consider a person who needs approval for a building plan. The approval will eventually arrive, but the person bribes the official for faster approval, or alternatively, builds the building without approval and bribes inspectors to look the other way. In this case, bribe-givers are hardly innocent.

For carefully selected cases where the latter category of corruption occurs, other solutions may be tried — the service provider should introduce a fast, time-guaranteed queue and charge a higher price for it. This would attract potential bribe-givers and convert the corrupt transaction into an honest transaction. It is done, for example, with sales delivery, passports and express mail, and it could work with services, permits, licences and so on. Extra money from the fast queue can improve the speed of the slow queue. Yield management, used in airlines, hotels, hospitals and other capacity constrained settings, can reduce bribery for limited seats in railways, buses etc., till more capacity is built. What this means is keeping a few seats available for last-moment, high willingness-to-pay customers. Instead of bribing they will hopefully pay the higher price.

Prasad teaches at the University of Texas, Dallas . His co-author Vijay Mahajan teaches at the University of Texas, Austin







Preoccupied with the political crisis over the Lokpal legislation, India is paying little attention to the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, the bloody turmoil in Syria, and the rapidly changing geopolitics of the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Delhi's official response to these developments, especially in the United Nations Security Council, has raised some fundamental questions about the nature of India's multilateralism and its long-term strategy towards the Middle East, a region of vital importance to India. Last January, India began a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, after a gap of two decades, amidst expectations that it will actively shape the global security agenda.

Nearly nine months after joining the UNSC, the much anticipated geopolitical élan of a rising power has been replaced by the image of a profoundly ambivalent power.

India abstained when the UNSC authorised the use of force in Libya last March. Delhi also sat on the fence when the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned the Syrian government's human rights violations a few days ago. Delhi's unwillingness to line up against dictatorial rulers in the Middle East and its tendency to abstain in the UN forums has disappointed many quarters — at home and abroad.

How can Delhi construct a different and more credible approach to the historic political transformation under way in the Middle East? Delivering the Prem Bhatia Memorial lecture in the capital a few days ago, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon talked down the domestic and international chatter on India's "rise" and its "responsible" global role. Menon pointed to the many constraints — the nature of our domestic politics and the lack of strategic resources — on India's ability to define the outcomes in the Middle East.

Recognising one's own limitations is the first step in the construction of any credible international policy. In any case, India's voting pattern in the UNSC is not an exceptional one. Through much of the 1990s, China and Russia, permanent members of the UN Security Council tended to abstain rather than contest the Western primacy in the Middle East.

Despite Russia's more assertive foreign policy and China's rising clout in recent years, neither Moscow nor Beijing have been able to alter the terms of the current UNSC debate on the Middle East. Within the confines of a hard-headed realism, India must necessarily find ways to raise its profile in the Middle East and the international discourse on it in the UN. After all, the region is home to millions of Indian expatriates, the main source of energy and hard currency remittances, and a big market for Indian exports.

A more active policy in the Middle East does not mean that India simply tails the West. Being a "responsible power" does not mean voting with the Western powers every time they choose to intervene in the Middle East. After all, Western policy is not driven by altruism and is riddled with many contradictions.

At the same time, India can't rely on the knee-jerk Third Worldism of the past. There is no consensus today, either within the non-aligned movement or the Middle East, on the issues confronting the region.

On the UN Human Rights Council Resolution condemning Syria, Indonesia — one of the founders of the NAM, the world's largest Muslim nation, and a leading democracy — voted for the move. Of the five Arab members of the Council, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar joined the West in criticising Syria. Only Mauritania abstained.

The only consistent principle that matters for India is the relentless pursuit of national interest. In the past, India could afford to frame its policy towards the Middle East in terms of a broad set of principles. That was alright when India was largely marginal to the regional politics of the Middle East. Today, as India's interests continue to grow there, and the region confronts change after decades of stability, Delhi needs a more flexible regional policy that sheds the old shibboleths.

The old rhetoric about "Arab Solidarity" or opposition to foreign intervention in the Middle East makes no sense when Arab states are drawn against each other, and many states in the region are actively intervening in the affairs of others. India's policy in the Middle East can no longer be a prisoner to such notions as state sovereignty or non-intervention. In international politics, all high principles make sense only in a particular context.

As people seek representative governments, minorities — sectarian, religious, and ethnic — seek their rights, and majorities seek to overthrow prolonged rule by minorities, many deep conflicts in the Middle East are boiling over.

Many regional actors, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey, are locked in a fierce contest to shape the regional order even as the West seeks to retain its regional primacy. Where does this leave Indian policy to the Middle East? Four propositions stand out.

One, what Delhi says in the United Nations must reflect India's interests in the Middle East, rather than the past voting behaviour in the UN. After all, multilateralism is not an end in itself, but only an instrument of national strategy.

Two, what India does in the Middle East is far more important than how it votes in the UN. Delhi's attitude to internal struggles within the nations of the Middle East must be guided by assessments of the durability of regimes, the ideological and political orientation of the opposition, and the impact of internal change on India's interests.

Three, as the region's internal and external balance begins to evolve rapidly, India must expand its consultations with all the great powers and regional actors. That is only one necessary part of a broader Indian regional strategy in the Middle East.

Finally, India can no longer limit itself to dealing with just Middle Eastern governments. Amidst great transformation of the Middle East, India must develop the capabilities to engage the many new political forces emerging in the region. For some in the opposition today are bound to become the rulers in the not-too-distant future.

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







The truth about the Indian media's increasing reliance on revenues from news that has been paid for, has long been shrouded in half-truths, corporate denials and misleading information in carefully sifted reports sent out by regulatory bodies. While the national media, flush with high TRP ratings and advertising revenues, is patting itself on its self-righteous back for relentless coverage of the public protests against corruption in high places, it is also time for some plain speak on the actual operative ethics that are driving those ratings and revenues.

On Sunday, August 22, while the Anna andolan was at its peak, the city supplement in one of the biggest multi-edition Hindi dailies in India carried a whole page of classified advertising that extended support for the fasting Anna Hazare and his people, in its local pages. Smiling engagingly in the ads, leaders from small-town and rural India could be seen all across the classified section, extending their heartfelt support to Cause Anna and nestling cosily next to ads for reducing fat, increasing male potency and height. Almost all the ads carried the mugshots and mobile phone numbers of those that had paid for the insertions (one such worthy was even wearing a Main Anna Hoon T-shirt). Close examination revealed the ad-givers to be local builders, heads of religious trusts, educational bodies, regional organisations for migrant workers from Bihar and social workers heading various sanghs and sangathans to save Bharat (Bharat Bachao), and various RWAs.

Queries from colleagues and a bit of Internet surfing revealed that the gatherers of such ads are mostly stringers engaged by the dailies — whose main job today is not to gather news and rush it to the nearest "modem centre" servicing the area, but to identify untapped sources of ad revenue in rural and semi-rural areas . Come any major festival from Chhatth to Ganesh Chaturthi, Rakhi to Independence or Republic Day, and they are handed wads of coupons (parchees) and ordered to coax, cajole or threaten the local leader wannabes and money-lenders into paying for insertions that extend their good wishes (shubh kaamnayein) or fulsome praise (shat shat abhinandan) to their fellow citizens. Their remunerations as news-gatherers may be laughable (did you know, for example, that some of the largest Hindi newspapers in Bihar today pay those manning their "modem centres" around Rs 4,000 per month, while comparable wages for the MNREGA work in the state are Rs 5,400?), but the percentile bonuses from ad-gathering are burgeoning each day. With such bounty available, along with the clout a media ID gets you in small-town India, young men and women are queuing up to be picked up as unaccredited stringers.

Today, the cost of producing an all-colour Hindi daily with some 20 pages stands roughly at Rs 20 per copy, after adding the various commissions paid to agents and hawkers for distribution. Amazingly, the average cover price it sells at, in a highly competitive market, stands firmly around Rs 2.50. How, then, do the papers not merely recover their costs — but make historic profits? The answer lies in the team of underpaid, mostly unaccredited foot-soldiers being sent out to milk small-town India with clearly delineated revenue targets. The biggest beneficiary has been the Hindi media, straddling no less than 11 of India's most populous states. One learns also that all other major vernacular dailies are also recording an unprecedented boom in revenues.

How is this possible, you may ask. In fact, with the roles of editor and owner merging more and more in media that increasingly go public, priorities have changed drastically in recent years. We, however, remain in denial, and have been trying to treat the bipolar disorder it has created in the media with good-natured pleas from bodies like the Editors' Guild or the Press Council or stern admonishments from the CEC. The political animal has been quick to sniff this out and is now avidly courting the ubiquitous stringers. Gone are the days when small-town press briefings meant a few accredited journalists being invited, and given freebies like writing pads, torches or petty cash in envelopes. Today, from Bhagalpur to Chhindwara, you hear of local netas, governments and political parties donating staggering sums of money, air conditioners and TVs for local press clubs and favouring the chosen stringers with lavish gifts, ranging from motorcycles to laptops and plots of (mostly public) land. Even small-town dons with long police records are inserting ads in area pullouts on Rakhi (Bharat mata kee putriyon ko naman) or Republic Day.

The ultimate aim, you see, is no longer to gather news professionally and inform and educate the readers, but to beef up the bottomline and please the ad companies and the shareholders. Until this is understood and effectively addressed, no fervent pleas from the public or media bodies, or even that much-battered institution called the Parliament, will make a real difference to the multi-faceted phenomena that has been subject to casual scrutiny under the one-size-fits-all label of "paid news".

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist and chairperson of Prasar Bharati








Engraved on the portal of the North Block in New Delhi's Central Secretariat are the words: "Liberty does not come down to a people. A people must rise to liberty. Liberty must be earned before it can be enjoyed." They were written by India's British rulers from whom, led by Mahatma Gandhi, Indians earned their liberty.

The surprise of the Anna movement is the rising of young, middle-class, urban Indians, the most visible beneficiaries of India's economic liberalisation (its so-called "second freedom"), demanding action from the very government that claims credit for it. Using Gandhi's methods, they have risen to aspire for a third freedom: from corruption, from the government's apathy, from "chalta hai". Their energy has stirred hope that something fundamental may change at last, as well as apprehension that what will happen cannot be predicted.

Such is the dynamic of revolutionary change that shakes a system out of its rut. Those who have the strength to push the vehicle out may not have the skills required to drive a complex machine. So it is not certain how the vehicle will proceed . These are the uncertainties for Arab countries shaken up by the Jasmine Revolution. India is expected to be more stable, it has been through two big shocks before and has landed solidly on its feet: when the British left (with Churchill predicting that Indians would not be able to manage on their own) and when Indira Gandhi declared an Emergency. India's democratic institutions need reform, but their foundations are strong.

India's youth must bring change. What do they aspire for? For the past year, the Planning Commission has been consulting the people of India, especially the youth, about the challenges before the country and their solutions. Over 950 civil society organisations across the country have already given inputs. Young people in rural areas and small town and urban India have been consulted. These suggestions have been consolidated, along with inputs from organisations representing Scheduled Castes, minorities, women and other groups insufficiently included so far in growth, as well as business associations and state governments. A summary of all inputs compiled by young volunteers, called Listening to India, is posted on the Planning Commission's website.

The Approach Paper to the Twelfth Plan adopted by the Planning Commission on August 20, emphasises the need to improve implementation, accountability and governance, and reduce corruption. It points to ways to do this based on inputs received from the consultations and the Planning Commission's own analysis. Consultations with citizens will continue to shape the Twelfth Plan. Just as the Anna movement could mobilise youth through Facebook, the Planning Commission has also created a platform on Facebook to engage youth (and others) in a systematic, ongoing dialogue . The feedback is being provided to the over 150 working groups, each consisting of representatives of concerned stakeholders, experts and officials engaged with developing the many facets of the Plan. This online consultation process is managed for the Planning Commission by "India@75", an organisation of young people devoted to creating the India they want.

The first responses on Facebook — half from small towns — suggest the tasks ahead. Seventy-four per cent of the youth say that participation of people in local governance is essential for improvements in implementation and reduction in corruption. However, 89 per cent say they are not aware of their local area development plans. Moreover, as many as 44 per cent say they do not even know who their MP or MLA is! Therefore, the gap between the desired state of youth participation in bringing about improvements, and the current reality — the disconnect between the young and their elected representatives and with plans — is large. As the words on North Block remind us, the fruits of desired change — freedom from apathy, corruption, and unaccountable government — must be earned by actions. Demanding change is not enough.

"Be the change you want to see", said Mahatma Gandhi. Young people must take more responsibility for the world immediately around them. They can change the culture of "chalta hai" and helplessness. They can even put discipline into the chaotic traffic of Gurgaon. In cooperation with the local police, some young volunteers are wading into Gurgaon's unruly, peak-hour traffic gridlock, armed with smiles and placards requesting, "No third lane". By stepping out and reminding us to be the discipline that we complain is missing on our roads, they are bringing order.

A strong Lokpal will be a deterrent to corruption. However, it is insufficient for the systemic improvements the country needs. The Approach to the Twelfth Plan calls for efforts to be intensified to skill 500 million young people so that they can earn and contribute to India's demographic dividend. The young respondents on Facebook admit they also need capabilities to effectively participate in local governance. Therefore, along with vocational skills to improve their earnings, India's youth must learn constructive skills of citizenship too. It is inspiring that the vision of India's youth is not merely for more consumption and more GDP. They aspire for a less corrupt and more just society. As they step out, they should remember that this will not be a sprint, but a marathon, for which they must have the stamina.

The writer is a member of the Planning Commission







Engraved on the portal of the North Block in New Delhi's Central Secretariat are the words: "Liberty does not come down to a people. A people must rise to liberty. Liberty must be earned before it can be enjoyed." They were written by India's British rulers from whom, led by Mahatma Gandhi, Indians earned their liberty.

The surprise of the Anna movement is the rising of young, middle-class, urban Indians, the most visible beneficiaries of India's economic liberalisation (its so-called "second freedom"), demanding action from the very government that claims credit for it. Using Gandhi's methods, they have risen to aspire for a third freedom: from corruption, from the government's apathy, from "chalta hai". Their energy has stirred hope that something fundamental may change at last, as well as apprehension that what will happen cannot be predicted.

Such is the dynamic of revolutionary change that shakes a system out of its rut. Those who have the strength to push the vehicle out may not have the skills required to drive a complex machine. So it is not certain how the vehicle will proceed . These are the uncertainties for Arab countries shaken up by the Jasmine Revolution. India is expected to be more stable, it has been through two big shocks before and has landed solidly on its feet: when the British left (with Churchill predicting that Indians would not be able to manage on their own) and when Indira Gandhi declared an Emergency. India's democratic institutions need reform, but their foundations are strong.

India's youth must bring change. What do they aspire for? For the past year, the Planning Commission has been consulting the people of India, especially the youth, about the challenges before the country and their solutions. Over 950 civil society organisations across the country have already given inputs. Young people in rural areas and small town and urban India have been consulted. These suggestions have been consolidated, along with inputs from organisations representing Scheduled Castes, minorities, women and other groups insufficiently included so far in growth, as well as business associations and state governments. A summary of all inputs compiled by young volunteers, called Listening to India, is posted on the Planning Commission's website.

The Approach Paper to the Twelfth Plan adopted by the Planning Commission on August 20, emphasises the need to improve implementation, accountability and governance, and reduce corruption. It points to ways to do this based on inputs received from the consultations and the Planning Commission's own analysis. Consultations with citizens will continue to shape the Twelfth Plan. Just as the Anna movement could mobilise youth through Facebook, the Planning Commission has also created a platform on Facebook to engage youth (and others) in a systematic, ongoing dialogue . The feedback is being provided to the over 150 working groups, each consisting of representatives of concerned stakeholders, experts and officials engaged with developing the many facets of the Plan. This online consultation process is managed for the Planning Commission by "India@75", an organisation of young people devoted to creating the India they want.

The first responses on Facebook — half from small towns — suggest the tasks ahead. Seventy-four per cent of the youth say that participation of people in local governance is essential for improvements in implementation and reduction in corruption. However, 89 per cent say they are not aware of their local area development plans. Moreover, as many as 44 per cent say they do not even know who their MP or MLA is! Therefore, the gap between the desired state of youth participation in bringing about improvements, and the current reality — the disconnect between the young and their elected representatives and with plans — is large. As the words on North Block remind us, the fruits of desired change — freedom from apathy, corruption, and unaccountable government — must be earned by actions. Demanding change is not enough.

"Be the change you want to see", said Mahatma Gandhi. Young people must take more responsibility for the world immediately around them. They can change the culture of "chalta hai" and helplessness. They can even put discipline into the chaotic traffic of Gurgaon. In cooperation with the local police, some young volunteers are wading into Gurgaon's unruly, peak-hour traffic gridlock, armed with smiles and placards requesting, "No third lane". By stepping out and reminding us to be the discipline that we complain is missing on our roads, they are bringing order.

A strong Lokpal will be a deterrent to corruption. However, it is insufficient for the systemic improvements the country needs. The Approach to the Twelfth Plan calls for efforts to be intensified to skill 500 million young people so that they can earn and contribute to India's demographic dividend. The young respondents on Facebook admit they also need capabilities to effectively participate in local governance. Therefore, along with vocational skills to improve their earnings, India's youth must learn constructive skills of citizenship too. It is inspiring that the vision of India's youth is not merely for more consumption and more GDP. They aspire for a less corrupt and more just society. As they step out, they should remember that this will not be a sprint, but a marathon, for which they must have the stamina.

The writer is a member of the Planning Commission







The army in Karachi?

As violence continued to rage in Karachi, Dawn reported on August 23 that Pakistan's chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had asked the heads of TV news channels for video footage of recent violence, and directed the chief secretary and inspector-general of Sindh to submit details about them. The president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Asma Jahangir, as well as the president of the Sindh high court bar association, were summoned on Friday to assist the court. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has offered to "extend all-out support" to the Supreme Court in its investigation, reported The Express Tribune on August 26.

Pakistan's PM does not appear keen to ask the army into Karachi, as some are demanding, reported Dawn on August 22: "Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is of the opinion that a military action in Karachi is not a solution to the law and order problem in the city and says that the issue can be resolved with the 'optimal use of police and Rangers'." The lawyer and former PPP stalwart Aitzaz Ahsan, meanwhile, appeared to suggest an army operation in Karachi, according to the Daily Times of August 23: "'There is no harm in calling in the army to restore peace in Karachi... nobody should be afraid of an army operation, as it would be carried out under the supervision of the Sindh civil administration.' Ahsan cited the example of the UK and India, where the army was called in whenever the civil rulers felt that only the army could help out in resolving the issue. He maintained that peace could not be restored in the provincial capital until an operation would be conducted to deweaponise it. We must consider this option seriously..." The News had earlier reported army chief Ashfaq Kayani's statement that the army would "come up to the expectations of the people of Pakistan if need be." He also reached Karachi on August 25 to "assess the situation," the paper reported.

Taseer's son abducted

The Express Tribune reported on August 26 that Shahbaz Taseer, the son of the assassinated former Punjab governor, Salman Taseer, was abducted early Friday. Reportedly, four men on motorcycles pulled him out of his car after blocking it on a road in Lahore. Shahbaz's brother Shehryar was reported by Dawn as saying that the family had been receiving threats from the Taliban; Taseer's family has been in considered to be in danger after he was shot by a religiously zealot in his personal security force for suggesting modifications in Pakistan's blasphemy law.

Minority report

The Express Tribune reported on August 26: "In a bid to give non-Muslims greater representation in parliament, President Asif Ali Zardari has signed an amendment in Senate election rules to reserve four seats for minorities. The amendment in the Senate (Election) Rules, 1975, came in compliance with provisions of the 18th constitutional amendment, which envisage four seats for non-Muslims, one from each province. Each provincial assembly will elect a senator in the next Senate polls, scheduled for March 2012. Although 10 seats are reserved in the National Assembly for minority members, there is no representation for minorities in the 100-member Senate."







While the government remains stubbornly committed to not privatise PSUs, it now proposes to increase the PSUs remit by way of a sovereign energy fund. On the face of it, the idea is a good one. India's rising energy needs, especially with rising incomes and increasing urbanisation/industrialisation, are far above what domestic sources can supply. While importing is the obvious option, having your own oil/gas fields lowers uncertainty and, in some situations, even keeps a check on costs. That's what has been proposed in the past and is, once again, doing the rounds—a $10bn sovereign wealth fund, made available to PSUs, to be able to buy energy assets overseas.

The fund has been opposed in the past on the grounds that, unlike China, India doesn't own its forex reserves. But once you classify them, the 'hot' reserves which can flow out quickly are relatively small, so a $10bn fund isn't much of a risk. What needs a bit more thought, though, is why the fund should extend support to only PSUs. ONGC and other PSUs have already spent more than R60,000 crore to buy overseas assets, so the plan is to give them some more money to do this.

At the outset, it has to be pointed out that the government is not really giving these PSUs anything—even if this is an outright grant, keep in mind that oil PSUs spent R78,000 crore in just 2010-11 to subsidise the sale of petroleum products on government instructions. But that aside, the real issue is whether the money is spent best by PSUs and whether the PSUs are dynamic enough to make good purchases. One issue in the past has been that, given the need for the government's consent for big purchases, bid details have sometimes leaked out; the necessarily bureaucratic structure of PSUs also slows decision-making. In the past year, the private sector has also made big purchases of energy assets—Adani Mining, for instance, bought an Australian mine for $2.7bn. It may be a good idea for some part of the sovereign fund to be channelised to the private sector, either by way of an equity share or by way of soft loans. On a separate note, just like opening up the oil sector to private firms raised the level of discoveries quite dramatically, the government should consider doing this for the coal sector.





When the government was arm-twisting Cairn into accepting ONGC's demands before it cleared the Cairn-Vedanta sale, many pro-reformers including this newspaper argued that the government must honour its contract. The shoe's on the other foot now, with leading private sector firms asking the government for help in renegotiating contracts they have signed. The government should not accept these demands. If it does, this will open up demands, from even within the government, that any project, such as a PPP awarded for electricity distribution, that is viewed as unfavourable be cancelled/renegotiated.

At the heart of the issue is the Indonesian coal mines purchased by firms such as Tata Power to fuel their ultra mega power projects (UMPPs). With the Indonesian government dramatically raising the cost of coal exports, these UMPPs are now unviable and want the government to raise prices—the UMPPs were awarded on the basis of the lowest bid made by firms for the power they'd supply over the next 25 years. The power ministry's stand is that if there is an escalation clause in the agreement, that will be implemented, but nothing beyond this can be offered. Industry, on the other hand, argues that this is a special situation and will affect the project as well as the Indian bankers who have lent to the project. While this sounds reasonable, the problem is that it encourages firms to bid aggressively to win projects and, having won then, press for a renegotiation on precisely these kind of grounds. If a decision is taken to bail out the UMPPs, the danger is the signal this will send to prospective investors. If the UMPPs are instead re-bid by the bankers and another firm comes in, it may still be willing to offer power at the same price as it will buy out the original owner's equity at a substantial discount. Even if the new bidder wants to sell the power only at a higher price, the old bidder still loses a part of the money he has invested—which is the lesson of capitalism.

What is, of course, true is that the single-part tariff bid that the power ministry introduced some years ago, where the power producer has to take a call on the fuel risk for 15-20 years, was always a bad idea since it is not possible to either anticipate or hedge such risk. Those in the government/Group of Ministers that cleared this have to go back to the drawing board to figure out just how they expected this to work. All future contracts, whether for UMPPs or smaller power projects, should do away with the single-part bid criterion. Needless to say, if power regulators don't allow, as they are at the moment, even legitimate fuel price hikes to be passed on to consumers, even the two-part tariff bid won't work.






What is the ideal age group for CEOs in Indian firms? The days of managers in their 40s taking over the CEO positions are getting shorter and shareholders and corporate boards are increasingly looking at hiring more CEOs in the 50- to 55-year age group. Grey hair, wisdom and experience seem to be back in fashion. Of the big new appointments, Wipro's CEO TK Kurien is 50 as is Tiger Tyagarajan of Genpact. In fact, the increase in CEO age reflects a global trend towards hiring older CEOs. For example, among the S&P 500 firms, while the typical CEO was about 52 years in 1992, in recent years, the typical CEO is about 55 year old. Furthermore, the percentage of new CEOs over 50 has been increasing every year.

Since optimism is a valued trait in a leader, CEOs at all ages have to be willing to hear the bad news over and over and still see a silver lining. But good leaders don't turn a blind eye to the data without good reason, and the data about corporate leaders indicate that age matters a lot more than CEOs and CEO experts think. There is a leadership sweet spot that falls in the 50s and early 60s.

While CEOs almost never get the job at 72, there are those who are effective at that age and beyond. Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has crossed 80. Walter Zable, CEO of electronics manufacturer Cubic, is 95. Marriott International CEO Bill Marriott is 79. Kirk Kerkorian, CEO of Tracinda, is 93. Financier Carl Icahn waded into the fight between Microsoft and Yahoo! at 72. T Boone Pickens is weighing in on the energy quandary at 80. Late Sidney Harman, who died recently, retired at 88 as CEO of audio equipment giant Harman International, where he had long been the dean of S&P 500 CEOs. Dinesh Paliwal, 51, replaced Harman as CEO four years ago. Under such youthful leadership, stock in Harman International has fallen 63%. The oldest five S&P 500 CEOs left are 77 to 79, practically wet behind the ears.

However, as a group, the S&P 500 companies run by the youngest CEOs have been outperforming those run by the oldest. Of the 27 CEOs of S&P 500 who are 47 and younger, 23 have been CEO since the start of 2007. Those 23 stocks are down an average 2.8% over 19 months versus a 9% decline in the S&P 500 index. The six companies with CEOs who are 72 and older are down an average of 21%. Thus, it seems that indeed leadership sweet spot falls in the 50s and early 60s. There is a reason for this: Good leaders are crafted from tough times, especially failure. The necessary experience rarely comes before 50. Research finds that such traits as perseverance, integrity and trust have nothing to do with age, but that conflict management and negotiating skills improve over time.

In the Indian context, the increase in CEO age stems from the fact that with globalisation, CEOs' essential challenge is to manage vastness since greater business complexities and greater firm size require sound judgement and foresight. With an increase in complexities, efficiency and innovation come into play more than ever before. In particular, globalisation as well as the concomitant increase in the size of Indian firms has increased manifold the complexities involved in managing a typical Indian firm. While globalisation has considerably increased the number of factors that influence a CEO's decision making, the increase in firm size has meant that a lot more is at stake for every decision that the CEO makes.

Research in the US shows that selecting a wrong CEO can damage the organisation as a whole and can cause depletion of talent at the top of the firm. As a consequence, we find that in the US now, 62% of all S&P 500 CEOs have earned an advanced degree beyond their undergraduate degree (this includes MBAs, other master degrees, PhDs, etc), when compared to less than 50% in the 1990s. Similarly, since 2000, the percentage of top 100 CEOs who followed one functional path (general management) throughout their career has decreased from 25% to 8%.

With the increasing complexities in Indian firms, it is safe to assume that these findings extend to the Indian context as well. The ability to manage complexities may be a function of age since complexities lead to potential team conflicts. When compared to a relatively simple situation, a complex situation is more likely to be interpreted in very different ways by different people. As a result, team members are more likely to differ in their interpretations of and solutions to today's problems than those a decade ago. As a result, the conflict management abilities conferred by age may matter more today than a decade ago.

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






The latest Sukhoi T-50 prototype—PAK-FA—a twin-engine fifth-generation stealth jet fighter aborted a takeoff at the recently held MAKS Airshow outside Moscow on August 21, 2011, after four days of successful demo flights. While two prototypes of PAK-FA have cumulatively made 48 flights since January 29, 2010, it will be important to know the reasons for this mishap.

A reasonable comparison between the T-50 and its counterparts emanating from the West, for example the F-22 Raptor, denote three primary pointers. First, fifth-generation aerospace technologies, primarily involving improvements in stealth, super cruise, composites, engine thrusts and avionics, are in demand, although some argue that improved unmanned systems could eventually replace these big birds in the future; second, inter-twined escalated costs and innovations put a premium on the buyers whose numbers are shrinking and hence a fierce competition among the producers; and third, there is less visibility in technology diffusion than what is claimed by the producers.

India has recently decided to partner Russia in a joint project known as Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project. It is to be noted that the FGFA will be a derivative of T-50 PAK-FA, which effectively rules out an Indian option of going for either the F-22 Raptor or a possible partnership for the F-35 JSF. As recently as on August 8, the minister of state for defence, MM Pallam Raju, answered a parliamentary query on the status of FGFA: "A Preliminary Design (PD) contract has been signed between HAL and Rosoboronexport, Russia on 21st December, 2010 for implementation of design & development of Prospective Multi-Role Fighter (PMF) Aircraft programme by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) jointly with Sukhoi Design Bureau (SDB) of Russia at a cost of $295 million. Full scale Design & Development work will be taken up under a separate contract. Presently a requirement of around 250 Fighter Jets with induction in Indian Air Force from 2018 onwards is envisaged". The reported cost of 250 such fighters will be anything between $25bn and $30bn by 2030.

As PAK-FA's eventual success will heavily impinge the FGFA, it is time to evaluate India's decision in an objective manner. On the positive side, six pointers are placed for further consideration. First, the need for involvement in a fifth-generation technology programme for India is a logical step forward, not only for possession of an adequate number of frontline fighters in its aerospace arsenal but, more importantly, for its indigenous fighter programme like Tejas that necessitates a graduation to the next level. Second, comparative costs and need-based rationalisation of technology options would place FGFA as a reasonable choice vis-à-vis existing products in the global market. Third, a possible Brahmos-like joint venture for FGFA as envisaged between India and Russia would be the second of its kind, attributes of which would be far more valuable than any other joint technology project executed thus far. Fourth, the Indian 'arms card', defined as the 'abilities to utilise financial strengths to gain industrial and technology dividends', can woo the western countries to offer similar defence related high-tech projects in time to come. Fifth, FGFA is likely to take the bilateral scientific and industrial communities to a new level of involvement, beyond mere exchanges of technical notes and licence production. And last but not the least, fifth-generation technologies have been largely confined to an action-reaction cycle between the West and Russia. As a passive entrant, India could eventually aspire to be a player in the game.

However, such optimistic projections are hindered by limitations at the ground level. First, existing Indian aerospace capabilities are limited, except for a few pockets of excellence like in avionics and composites. Second, the Indian involvement in the FGFA project is very limited, considered to be less than 25% in design and development. Even within design and development, its contribution is limited to a few areas like navigation system, cockpit display, critical software and composites. Third, learning and integrating experiences from Tejas, Kaveri and Su-30MKI and thereby complementing a project like FGFA could prove to be a difficult proposition.

Fourth, even though the comparison between PAK-FA and FGFA is considered to be somewhat similar to the comparison between Su-30M (for Russia) and Su-30MKI (for India), much would depend on how the preliminary design works progress. It would be interesting to see whether India goes beyond limited contribution to get involved in aero-engine, airframe or similar complex technologies. Fifth, a state-blessed FGFA project leaves almost no leverage for aspiring Indian private contractors to get a reasonable share of the pie. How much work would players like Mahindra Aerospace, Jubilant Aerospace, Taneja Aerospace or Dynamatic Technologies get from the FGFA remains to be seen. Even Indian small and medium enterprises will remain as ancillary suppliers to the prime contractor (state-owned HAL forms the Indian side) for the project. And last, much of the design and development work, including innovation, will be confined to the project leaders like the DRDO, HAL and Bharat Electronics Limited.

A project like FGFA is a rarity, like Brahmos, that India can ill afford to lose. Prudence would demand employment of a realist strategy of engagement by India in convincing the Russians to expand the scope of involvement, encourage the Indian private players and must consistently strive to gain as much knowledge as it can.

The author is a senior fellow in security studies at the Observer Research Foundation. These are his personal views







A prominent Hong Kong business family has set up a think tank to look at global economic issues in the latest attempt at developing a world class research institute in Asia that can compete with those in North America or Europe

The Fung Global Institute was established on August 25, Thursday, and will look at global issues from an Asian perspective as economic power increasingly shifts to the East.

As Asian economies have grown, new think tanks have sprouted in the region. But limits on democracy and free speech in many Asian countries mean few have produced research comparable in quality and influence to counterparts such as the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution, Canada's Fraser Institute or Britain's Chatham House.

The Fung Global Insitute said it is recruiting experts from around the globe to provide business leaders and policymakers with research that aims to "help shape and advance international dialogue on Asia's growing influence on the world economy."

Michael Spence, a 2001 Nobel laureate in economics, will chair the think tank's academic board.

The institute is set up with an endowment from the Victor and William Fung Foundation, a charity funded by and named for the two brothers behind trading company Li & Fung Ltd. It will look at four main themes, including global supply chains.

Li & Fung Ltd. is one of the biggest suppliers of clothing and other consumer goods sourced in Asia for Western consumers. — AP





Preparations have begun at the Vellore Central Prison for hanging Murugan, Santhan, and Perarivalan — convicted for their involvement in the 1991 assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Jail officials have fixed September 9 as the date for the executions. The mercy petitions of the three were rejected by President Pratibha Patil earlier this month, 11 years after they were filed, and the Union Home Ministry has notified her decision to the Tamil Nadu government. Of the three, Murugan and Santhan are Sri Lankan Tamils. They were core members of the LTTE team that carried out the ground work for the assassination, acting as its conduits for money and messages; and Perarivalan, an Indian, was charged with buying the battery cells used in the belt bomb worn by Dhanu, the suicide bomber who carried out the assassination. He also bought the battery for an illegal wireless set the assassination squad used to communicate with the LTTE in Sri Lanka. All three were convicted and sentenced to death for murder and criminal conspiracy, along with Nalini, who was granted clemency in 2000. The assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was on the comeback trail two decades ago, shook India. The monstrous crime, months in its planning and cold-blooded in its execution, deserves the harshest civilised punishment. Capital punishment is a throwback to a medievalist bloodlust that has no place in a modern criminal justice system. The sanction of law does not mitigate the cruelty of taking another person's life. It has been The Hindu 's consistent stand for decades that, regardless of person, place, and circumstance, India must abolish capital punishment. The just punishment for crimes such as the Rajiv Gandhi murder must be a lifetime in prison without any possibility of remission.

Globally, an increasing number of countries are tending towards abolition of the death penalty. Ninety-six have done away with it, and 34 are abolitionist in practice by observing official or unofficial moratoria on executions. India too has not carried out any legal execution since 2004, though every year the courts add substantially to the numbers who face the threat of execution. That the government is suddenly eager to fast-track death penalties that it has sat on for years may be no coincidence. But hanging a few condemned prisoners is not going to redeem the UPA in the eyes of the nation. The case of the three LTTE operatives on death row at Vellore offers an opportunity to put an end to the death penalty without in any way going soft on their crimes. The government must seize it by commuting their sentences to life, extending this to all other death row prisoners as well.





Steve Jobs could connect the dots and how. Apple Computer, which he co-founded with Steve Wozniak in 1976, has been a world-beating success under his visionary leadership. It soared from its start as a garage venture into a technology giant with a market valuation of $350 billion, and an unmatched reputation for inventing disruptively brilliant gadgets. Apple's orchard has been sprouting wonderful things starting with the Macintosh computers and going on to the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, each testifying to the value of fine minimalist design and excellence in performance. What makes the legacy of Mr. Jobs remarkable in the fast-changing world of consumer electronics is his ability to come back to the core of innovation after fighting tough battles, and set the bar higher. Neither a 12-year absence after his 1985 exit due to an internal power struggle nor serious health setbacks seemed to curb his spirit. Now that he is stepping down as CEO, the question naturally arises — can Apple maintain its pre-eminence without the boss at the helm? The answer would seem to lie in the leader's own philosophy of life and work.

Mr. Jobs, who was raised by working class parents, did not graduate from college. But he continued to learn. He listened to intuition. He is listed as either primary inventor or co-inventor in more than 230 awarded patents or patent applications. Talent must be allowed to speak and experiment with ideas, even if every move is not bound for immediate commercial success. Mr. Jobs has a timeless message for everyone — the only way to do great work is to love what one does. A second powerful message from the 56-year old tech wizard is to learn from failure. Mr. Jobs is on record that his departure from Apple in the mid-1980s was one of the best things that happened to him — the heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of becoming a beginner once more. He proved himself all over again before returning to the company. Perhaps even more extraordinary is his triumph over life-threatening health challenges. Yet, as events show, indomitable spirit must also defer to the constraints of physical ability. Today, legions of fans look differently at music, video, and the web with each wave of innovation at Apple. The iPad tablet computer is the latest. They will look for the same game-changing impact in future products, an expectation that incoming CEO Tim Cook will have to meet. In a competitive future, Apple will have put its trust in itself. As Mr. Jobs told Stanford University graduates in a 2005 commencement address: "You have to trust in something. Your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever." A fine thought from someone who has lived it.





Casting a glance back at how India appeared to the outside world just a few months ago is rather like looking at grainy footage of yesteryear: a booming economy, IT whiz-kids making waves all over the globe, top ranking in international Test cricket, the ICC Cricket World Cup in the bag, Bollywood on the roll. It seemed India couldn't get anything wrong. All the good news fit to print was coming out of India. And set against the crisis in Pakistan, lurching from one embarrassment to another, the Indian "miracle" looked even more stark.

The British media never quite seemed to get enough of this "new" and "happening" India. For many leading journals, it became the default cover story whenever they ran out of ideas. The Economist produced two special India editions within a span of a few weeks ("Contest of the century: China V India"; and "How India's growth will outpace China"). New Statesman had its latest India cover only last month, with the poser: "Should we fear this new superpower?"

But that was "then." Fast forward and the headlines these days are about India's "stalled" economic reforms; high inflation; speculation about the political fallout of Sonia Gandhi's illness; the 4-0 "whitewash" in cricket; and, of course, the popular "revolt" against corruption, dubbed the "Indian spring."

"It feels like the bad old 1980s again," said an Indian expatriate.

Extensive media coverage

There has been extensive British media coverage of social activist Anna Hazare's campaign with front page reports and photographs topped by special commentaries by familiar India "experts." One London daily ran a full-page report under a four-column, screaming headline: "The grinding routine of corruption that drove ordinary people to Hazare's side."

For a creative take, some newspapers have turned to young Indian novelists. The Guardian carried a breathless front-page dispatch from Chetan Bhagat. Its opening line was: "At the time I write this, millions of my countrymen are on the streets, fighting for a strong anti-corruption law. Many more are glued to their TV sets, watching developments as the initially defiant Indian government looks on track to eat humble pie."

In the Financial Times , another young novelist, Rana Dasgupta, extolled Hazare's "fearlessness" and "Gandhian tactics." These were "very bad times" for India with millions of Indians "tired of watching a corrupt, swaggering political class taking the best for itself."

"Only in a bad time would a movement such as Mr. Hazare's elicit such widespread and emotional allegiance," he wrote.

The so-called "Team Anna" will not be pleased by a lot of what has been written about their leader by some very sober commentators. He has been widely ridiculed for describing his campaign as India's "second freedom struggle," and for attempting to appropriate the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. His own often crude and authoritarian methods, such as meting out corporal punishment for drinking, and his opaque links with divisive and intolerant groups, have also come under scrutiny.

Arundhati Roy's critique in The Hindu of the Hazare campaign has been widely quoted in British newspaper reports from India.

"Booker star leads growing backlash against graft protests," reported The Times , citing Arundhati Roy's article in which she criticised Hazare's campaign for its "aggressive nationalism" and "draconian" methods. Her criticism, it said, was "echoed by other columnists but the backlash is unlikely to stop the momentum behind what is becoming a mass movement."

Much of the criticism of Hazare has centred on his bid to cast himself in the image of a latter-day Gandhi. Patrick French, the author of India: a Portrait , called it a "farce."

Writing in The Sunday Times under the headline "Firebrand in Gandhi garb leads middle class India to revolt," he said: "Anna Hazare, the Gandhian crusader, is not so much an imitation of Gandhi — the 'mahatma,' or 'great soul' — as an imitation of his later imitators. In the decades since independence in 1947, India has seen a procession of latter-day saints claiming to be completing the great man's work. For years Vinoba Bhave dressed in the Gandhian outfit of a white dhoti and shawl, and persuaded landlords to give their spare fields to the poor. Jayaprakash Narayan's popular agitation in the early 1970s provoked Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister, to declare a state of national emergency. Now we have Hazare. Following his release from prison on Friday, he said: 'The fight for freedom has started. India is still not independent.' His followers, largely vocal members of India's assertive new middle class, are delighted."

James Lamont in FT pointed out that until barely six months ago Mr. Hazare was "an obscure civil society leader in India's western state of Maharashtra,'' with a reputation for teaching "morals by tying young offenders to trees."

A profile in The Observer highlighted worries about his "populist contempt" for institutions, such as Parliament, and his "apparent authoritarianism," pointing to his call "for corrupt officials to be hanged." It said his "vision of an India of teetotal, vegetarian rural communities" appealed to "India's right wing."

"So too does his faith," it added.

Reservations about Hazare's campaign notwithstanding, the current turmoil (not to mention the stuttering economy and the white-wash in cricket) has taken much of the shine off the so-called "New India."

It may not be like the "bad old 1980s," but certainly this is not how "India 2011" was supposed to turn out.

The current turmoil has taken much of the shine off the so-called 'New India.'





An appreciable level of seriousness underscores the government's thinking on pressing ahead with the bid for iron ore blocks in the fabulous Hajigak mines in Afghanistan as well as to sponsor the Steel Authority of India proposal to set up a steel plant in that country. The Hajigak mines hold an estimated reserve of 1.8 billion tonnes of iron ore. The "hands-on" interest shown by the new Foreign Secretary, Ranjan Mathai, in the progress in the bidding process testifies to the new thinking. From the Indian policy perspective, the Hajigak project has three dimensions.

The project, quite obviously, stands at a junction where foreign policy intersects national policies. National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon said in New Delhi recently: "Our primary task now and for the foreseeable future is to transform and improve the life of the unacceptably large number of our compatriots who live in poverty, with disease, hunger and illiteracy as their companions in life. This is our overriding priority, and must be the goal of our internal and external security policies. Our quest is the transformation of India, nothing less and nothing more."

Looking back, an esoteric Afghan policy conceived in the ivory tower in the classical mould of the "great game" in the Hindu Kush never really made sense for India. Things, after all, need to add up in life. When Russia supplies helicopters to the Afghan government, it makes the United States buy them at market price from Russian stocks, and servicing and repairs will be met from a trust fund set up by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to that end.

NATO's war is related to Russia's own security as well as its "near abroad." Yet, when the western alliance (or the U.S.) uses the Northern Distribution Network to transport supplies for the troops in Afghanistan, Russia levies a transit fee, estimated to be in excess of $1 billion. Such realism makes sense. Again, the Pentagon, although neck-deep in the uncertain war, did undertake an exhaustive study of Afghanistan's multitrillion-dollar mineral wealth. Indeed, has there ever been a "pure war" in history since Alexander? Hopefully, the Hajigak project will be a "leap of faith" also for the Indian strategic pundits. It is senseless to pursue politics without economics. This realism has long been in coming in our regional policies — be it toward Sri Lanka, Nepal or Bangladesh.

Second, New Delhi is beginning to look beyond the din of the war into a future that seems misty. The Hajigak project is located in the central Bamyan province, which is relatively stable, but it can be optimally realised only if peace arrives in Afghanistan. So what lies ahead in Afghanistan? The U.S. is finding itself in a strategic cul-de-sac and the Taliban pushing the NATO commanders into an "increasingly reactive operational posture," as a former Pentagon analyst, 'Chuck' Spinney, blogged recently, where they are reacting to events rather than moulding them. Indeed, the Taliban has switched gear and is focussing on exhausting the NATO forces and paralysing American willpower "by inducing our [U.S.] military to over and underreact to an unfolding welter of widely dispersed insurgent attacks." In a brilliant analysis, Spinney added: "The probable result is that the U.S. will not leave Afghanistan on its own terms but on its adversary's terms … other than reversing the troop withdrawal and escalating the conflict with yet another troop surge, the only way out of the trap is to negotiate a political settlement with the insurgents … The goal should be one of establishing conditions for the emergence of a neutral and prosperous Afghanistan … It is too late for American leaders to be adhering to the primitive idea that one can only negotiate from a position of strength abroad and economic strength at home — both those bases of power have been blown."

Without doubt, the Taliban is demonstrating great skill in adapting itself to the changing conditions. Its recent operations testify to the impressive reach of the insurgency and a loss of initiative for the U.S. From this point, small decentralised insurgent groups can be expected to create havoc when the American troop withdrawal continues. Fewer and fewer forces will be available to counter them. There is also the great danger that somewhere along the line the Taliban might do a "Khobar" on the NATO. It took just a single team of suicide bombers belonging to Hezbollah Al-Hejaz in October 1983 to attack the famous Khobar Towers in Beirut, where the U.S. Marines were based, and kill 241 of them. This, in turn, compelled President Ronald Reagan to order the troops home post-haste.

In sum, the new thinking in the government on the Afghan situation, as was manifest during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Kabul in May (and presently over Hajigak), has come not a day too soon. Delinking the Indian policy from U.S. strategies in Afghanistan was long overdue. As indeed the need to keep communication lines open with all Afghan groups while dealing principally with the Kabul government; scrupulously avoiding taking sides in that country's fratricidal strife; not even remotely contemplating a military deployment; and, most important, doing all we can to ensure that Afghanistan does not become an arena of conflict with Pakistan. The indications are that much ground has been covered in this direction. Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar's reference to Islamabad's "outreach to Afghanistan and India" in the same breath, in her recent speech at the National Assembly, conveyed a positive signal. This brings us to a third point. How do the Indian regional policies adapt to the U.S. retreat from Afghanistan?

In a nutshell, the U.S. retreat should encourage India to be more active in its regional policies. If one thing is absolutely certain about the Hajigak project, it is that India's involvement in it — or, for that matter, in any Afghan or Central Asian project of large scale — is one hundred per cent predicated on the climate of relations with Pakistan and Iran. Pressing ahead with the Hajigak project would seem to convey a degree of optimism that the improving relationship with Pakistan is sustainable and could possibly be taken to a qualitatively new level of cooperation. Similarly, it also presupposes, perhaps, that new life can be breathed into the insipid ties with Iran. These are hopeful signs.

What has been lacking at the policymaking level is a conceptual framework of regional cooperation. This is evident from the predicament inherited by Mr. Mathai as regards a possible mechanism to evacuate iron ore from Hajigak. The options being considered are through a Pakistani land route and/or through the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran. Evidently, for this to happen, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran ought to form a hub of regional cooperation. Clearly, such a hub has immense potential, be it in terms of energy, market, mineral resources or manpower. But the ground reality is that we have a long way to reach that goal.

Most certainly, Mr. Mathai asked a pertinent question: how do we evacuate iron ore from Afghanistan? A land route via Pakistan is theoretically possible but it will mainly have to be through the Iranian port of Chabahar. That being the case, do we factor in adequately the importance of India's ties with Iran, which are in great disrepair? The fact remains that India hurt Iran's core interests and thereafter subjected the relationship to benign neglect. It could afford this misadventure because it had no economic ties worth mentioning with Afghanistan or the Central Asian countries. Alas, India failed to evolve coordinated policies toward Central Asia in the post-Soviet period. And the appalling failure to exploit our enormous soft power to build the sinews of an economic relationship is all-too evident. Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Prime Ministers fly back and forth every now and then, but no one regards India as a serious player in the region.

However, things can change when India gets full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The American rhetoric often spoke of a Great Central Asia strategy aimed at rolling back Russian and Chinese influence in that region by bringing it closer to the Indian market. By deciding instead to work with Russia and China and the Central Asian countries within a regional framework, India has made a significant policy decision. The diplomatic challenge now will be to put in place the underpinning to galvanise India's economic ties with Central Asia once the SCO membership gains traction. This underpinning principally involves robust ties with Iran and pressing ahead imaginatively with the normalisation process with Pakistan. In sum, India's Hajigak challenge is to get the act together in its regional policies by evolving a strategy of mutually beneficial cooperation with Afghanistan and Central Asia, built on predictable ties with Pakistan and Iran.

(The writer is a former diplomat.)

By deciding to work with Russia, China and the Central Asian countries within a regional framework, India has made a significant policy decision.





Over the last 15 years, India has posted unprecedented economic growth rates. Only China has grown faster. India has emerged as one of the most important rising global powers, but it also has one third of the world's undernourished children and one of the highest rates of child undernutrition in the world. Undernutrition causes 35 per cent of under-5 child deaths, impairs learning outcomes, increases the likelihood of being poor and is linked to illness or death during pregnancy. India is estimated to reach its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) nutrition indicator by 2043. China has already met its goal, halving its 1990 rate of underweight a few years ago. For Brazil, the Goal will most likely be met by 2015. Why is such an economic powerhouse struggling to reduce undernutrition?

Is India's economic growth pro-poor enough?

The decline in India's poverty rates compares well against the more lauded performance of China. Over the period 1981-2005, China's poverty rates declined from 40 per cent to 29 per cent, while India's rates declined from 60 per cent to 42 per cent (both represent about a 30 per cent proportionate decline). Studies find that economic growth continues to reduce poverty, but is not reducing poverty's cousin, undernutrition. Why is it so?

How strong is the enabling environment for undernutrition reduction?

Could it be that India's economic growth is preventing it from reducing undernutrition because of a weak enabling environment for nutrition improvements?

For most countries we would expect agricultural growth to have large impacts on the nutritional status of children. But the latest most authoritative study concludes that agricultural growth in India does not seem to have an impact on child undernutrition.

What about food and poverty programmes? An evaluation of the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) by the Indian Planning Commission in 2005 concluded that the majority of subsidised food does not reach its intended recipients. On the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), the evidence is mixed. A recent systematic review of employment guarantee schemes finds two studies from India. One of these shows a positive net impact on household expenditures; another shows a negative net impact. The Midday Meals Scheme tends to be evaluated positively in terms of child growth, but it does not help infants in the two-three-year age group who are the most vulnerable to nutrition insults.

Discrimination against women in South Asia has long been thought to be one of the key drivers of the high levels of infant undernutrition in the region — levels that are well above those in most of sub-Saharan Africa. Studies show that low status of women is responsible for a significant, but not a majority, share of the difference in infant undernutrition rates between these two regions.

India has a system that is ranked significantly below those of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Professor K. Srinath Reddy and his colleagues note that the Indian public health system spends less than 1 per cent of GDP, and 80 per cent of health expenditures are incurred out-of-pocket. They call on the government to increase spending to six per cent of GDP by 2020 and outline actions needed to strengthen the system.

On sanitation, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), India accounts for 56 per cent of the world's total cases of open defecation. We know that infection rates are powerfully associated with such unsanitary conditions, leading to an increased need to ingest nutrients and fluids and a depressed appetite.

Social discrimination is a powerful exclusionary factor in many Indian States. Research following children over time finds that being from a Scheduled Caste or a backward tribe substantially increases the probability of a child being stunted — and persistently so.

If the underlying context is not strong for economic growth to generate undernutrition reduction, can India's nutrition interventions overcome these barriers?

How strong are the country's nutrition interventions?

The coverage of key nutrition interventions in India is patchy. Interventions on infant and young child feeding practices cover 25 per cent of the population. Access to iron-rich foods and vitamin A supplementation rates are in the 30-40 per cent range depending on the State. The main nutrition intervention, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), has a positive and significant impact on infant nutrition, but at a cost that is four times higher than elsewhere. The Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) programme pays community health workers to reduce infant and maternal mortality, control specific diseases, and improve young child nutrition. So far no evaluations are available to assess its impact on nutrition status, but other evaluations suggest that stronger recruitment and support systems need to be put in place to assist these crucial activists in the fight against undernutrition.

How strong is the governance of nutrition?

Given the multiple opportunities for investing in nutrition and the multiple ways that nutrition status can be undone, it is vital that there is a nutrition strategy backed by strong leadership. Brazil has done this successfully, leading to dramatic declines in hunger and child undernutrition rates. Going by available information, the government is not well supported to do this; and is not sufficiently pushed to act strategically.

First, nutrition data are collected every five to six years. This is too infrequent to track changes and respond to events. Second, because there are so many moving parts in any nutrition strategy, the government needs to use nutrition diagnostic tools to prioritise and sequence action to improve child growth, in the way it does for economic growth. Third, this variation in contexts is also matched by variance in nutrition status. There are many bright spots in the fight against malnutrition (for example, the recent Karnataka Nutrition Mission) but the incentives to analyse and learn from them are weak.

This lack of data and strategic analysis also diminishes the effectiveness of Indian civil society to mobilise around nutrition. For example, the Right to Food Campaign's push for a National Food Security Act makes important demands, but even if some of them are met, they will need transparent monitoring of resource flows to promote accountability of all stakeholders.

Looking forward

At current rates India will meet its MDG target by 2043 rather than 2015. Economic growth is poverty-reducing and this should help undernutrition reduction in the long run. But the current environment is not very supportive to nutrition. Action is needed to:

make agriculture more pro-nutrition by focussing it more on what people living in poverty grow, eat, and need nutritionally

experiment with cash-based alternatives to the TPDS

promote community led approaches to sanitation

increase coverage of essential nutrition interventions in the context of a stronger public health system

focus ICDS resources more on children under two, on severe undernutrition and locate centres where most needed

continue the fight against gender and social exclusion

But most importantly, India needs a national nutrition strategy with a senior leader within the government who is empowered to implement that strategy. Successful implementation needs civil society to play its part, helping shape and deliver the strategy and promoting greater transparency and accountability in the fight against undernutrition.

In the context of rapid economic growth, persistently high levels of undernutrition may seem like a curse but, as has been outlined here, there are many things that can be done to lift the spell. The most important thing is the commitment to do so.

( Lawrence Haddad is Director of the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, and President of the U.K. and Ireland's Development Studies Association. He is an economist; his main research interests are at the intersection of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition. He will deliver a detailed version of this argument in an address on September 2 at the 3rd Britannia Nutrition Foundation symposium in New Delhi .)

India is struggling to reduce its rate of undernutrition. What it needs is a national nutrition strategy, with a senior leader within the government empowered to implement






Freedom is just a word for nothing left to lose, sang Janis Joplin. If she were alive today, she and her song would have surely been banned in China because she used the word "freedom". The sensitive Chinese find the term very subversive and have been scouting around for all songs which have it and proscribing them. Lady Gaga, who no doubt looks menacing to the Chinese, has earned the Communist Party's wrath for mainly two songs. In one, she ends the song with a Spanish line that translates as O freedom, O love... which definitely has the potential to overthrow the system; while the other is no less sinister, since it has the dangerous words: This is my prayer/That I'll die living just as free as my hair.
In the bad old days, party censors were touchy about references to matters like Tiananmen Square, Tibet or the Dalai Lama because these were seen as ways to meddle in the country's internal affairs. Human rights was of course a big bugbear. Lately, however, Beijing has become extra-touchy. Just a few months ago any online search for the word "jasmine" was blocked, as it was seen as a reference to the "jasmine revolutions" in West Asia and North Africa. God forbid a florist wanted to check the flower's prices; he could be hauled off to jail. What next? Arresting someone for ordering the film Born Free for nice family viewing on the weekend?






"Where is the girl who stole the sunlight?
Burnt to a crisp, she's gone without trace-
We treat them as deities, twinkling and bright
Though we know stars are only explosions in space."
From The Angle of the Dangle by Bachchoo

The best place to lose a grain of sand is on the beach. The best place for Osama bin Laden to hide was in a compound close to the people who were supposedly hunting him down.
The latest conspiracy theory on his capture and execution is ingenuous and intriguing, maintaining that Bin Laden and his retinue were apprehended by the Americans altogether elsewhere and then smuggled into the compound in the military town of Abbottabad. The Americans then followed through with the staged landing of helicopters, the deliberate destruction of one of them to obviate the danger to the heroic American squad undertaking this operation and the enactment of the encounter in the bedroom, the execution and removal of the body. The theory acknowledges that a watery grave was the final resting place of OBL (fish be upon him!).
The conspiracy theory is ingenuous in its construction, disingenuous in intent. The world has so far conjectured that the Pakistani Army either colluded in Bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad and that elements of the Armed Forces knew all along that they were sheltering the terrorist, or that the Pakistani Army had a failure of intelligence and really didn't know that Bin Laden was sheltering in their backyard.
The Army Chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has taken the hit. The Pakistani government pleads ignorance of Bin Laden's presence and pleads guilty to a failure of intelligence. As the slogans on the rickshaws in Pakistani cities after the incident said (in various ways in Urdu and Punjabi): "Shoosh, be quiet, the Army is asleep!"
Either way, Pakistan's American sponsors, or American allies in the international line-up against Islamist terror, will be displeased, sceptical and are even now asking hard questions. An internal enquiry, already enquiring, may come to some conclusions. These may contain some truth or they may prove to be a complete obfuscation, known in the enquiry trade as "a fix and a whitewash".
The Pakistani government's favoured option is inefficiency rather than connivance and the international double-cross it implies.
Our conspiracy theory overrides both. It's the Americans who, suspicious of Pakistan's feeble commitment to the anti-terror cause, set out through this Machiavellian plot to bring disgrace or suspicion upon the Pakistani Army. The Army is therefore neither guilty of double dealing nor of inefficiency. Allowing American helicopters to use its skies has been sanctioned before.
To her credit, Carey Schofield's Inside the Pakistan Army, an account of the eight years that this English writer spent in the ranks and on the frontlines of conflict in that country, bravely starts her book with a bald statement of this dilemma. It must have been difficult for a writer, whose commitment to and affection for the institution, operations, personnel and spirit of the Pakistani Army is more than clear, to acknowledge in her introduction that she leans to the failure of intelligence option.
Inside the Pakistan Army is the first portrait of an institution which has governed the 63-year-old country for two-thirds of its existence and has to be seen as a chief bastion against the spread of Islamism in the South Asian theatre. It features interviews with the major players as the themes and narratives unfold. It ought to interest the specialist and the lay reader.
In a breathless introduction Schofield outlines the several paradoxes the Pakistani Army presents. Is it complicit with and encouraging terror or fighting it? Through several narratives of Army offensives against insurgents, mainly in the tribal regions, she comes to the compelling conclusion that several commanders of the Army — she boldly names them — approved of a policy of buying off the warlords of the insurgency.
Others, such as Gen. Faisal Alavi, whose tragic story she presents in detail, the head of the Special Forces, Pakistan's Force de Frappe, believed that paying warlords would only strengthen them and reinforce their ambition of de facto rule over the tribal regions and territories. The danger of the establishment of a Shariac state was evidenced when the Islamists took over Swat and began seeping southwards, even threatening Islamabad.
Alavi, in pursuit of his conviction that the Army if better equipped, trained and led could and had to beat the insurgents, set up official co-operation with the US and the UK special forces, such as the SAS, making material and strategic alliances. While he was at this task briefly in Hereford, rival factions within the Army connived to have him sacked. They influenced Gen. Pervez Musharraf to believe that Alavi had in some serious way broken ranks and been disloyal. Moreover that he had brought the Army into disrepute through his liaison with a Pathan lady who seems to have been a "broad Generaliser", so to speak. Mr Musharraf dismissed Alavi and soon after the protection afforded to him as SF commander was removed, he was ambushed and murdered.
Schofield's account deliberately avoids the larger question of why Pakistan has not generated its own form of sustainable civil democracy. Is the Army the only competent and coherent body that can rule a country conceived as Pakistan was? Is that competence and coherence, not least through the evidence of this book itself, in question today?






At the time of writing (11th day of the famous fast), Anna Hazare is still alive. That statement sounds crass… crude… shocking. It is meant to. I think we have all lost the plot. And in the cacophony of all the noises and voices, we have conveniently overlooked the one person who is at the centre of it all — Mr Hazare. He has been reduced to a sideshow, a mascot, as his overzealous keepers continue to exploit his frail persona and use Mr Hazare as a bargaining chip. Mr Hazare's health is now the nation's obsession... its chief concern. His physical health has become the barometer for the nation's emotional health. If anything happens to Mr Hazare… and let me put it bluntly… if he dies, it will lead to consequences that may be far more terrible than rejecting the Jan Lokpal Bill. But, of course, in polite societies, we don't talk about the death of someone who is very much alive. As of now, the stand-off is on. There's no resolution in sight. But heaven help us, if the situation suddenly deteriorates and his health fails. Hey bhagwan! Till then we shall have to put up with a parade of assorted personalities holding forth on TV channels. Bristling belligerence getting the better of some.
While other lightweights opt for catchy hyperbole. An overenthusiastic ad man described the Ramlila gathering as a Kumbh Mela. Carried away by his own imagery, he went on to declare that the crowds could be still bigger than the pilgrims who gather for the holy dip during the Kumbh. His wild exaggerations were understandable — we have reduced the entire protest to a pathetic game of numbers ("Mine are bigger than yours…"). Awestruck TV anchors urge their camera crew to sweep cameras over the surging crowds and then rhapsodise over the spectacle. A few hand-picked commentators ("especially flown in") hold forth from the Ramlila Maidan and assure viewers they have never witnessed anything like this — the scale, the fervour, and of course, the numbers!
It's always about the numbers. An irate housewife from Noida rants about rising prices and how she has to pay bribes to get a gas connection. The anchor turns to the camera with a triumphant look and thunders, "The entire nation stands solidly behind this lady… this is India's second freedom struggle." And then it's back to this season's biggest reality show… poor Rakhi Sawant will need to do something more than flash her eyes and cleavage if she wants those TRPs. While Salman Khan must be scratching his head to come up with a clever gimmick to promote Bodyguard. As of now, there is just one bona fide superstar in India, and that's Mr Hazare.
But what of the screechy, shrill supporters who chant "Vande Mataram" and "Bharat mata ki jai" on cue the minute cameras cut to close-ups? Emotions are running dangerously high. When that happens… anything can happen. It's like a flash flood or a bush fire. Or open heart surgery. Timing is everything.
As of now, the protests have been admirably non-violent. Those who have taken to the streets have done so only because they fervently (perhaps, naively) believe it is a do-or-die moment — if they let this opportunity go, another one may be a long time coming. There is hope in their hearts that the protest (more against the scourge of corruption than a thumbs up for the Jan Lokpal Bill), will lead to seminal change. Will it? So far, the country has been governed by a succession of elected representatives (irony!) who have ruled like history's worst despots — no questions asked! What we are witnessing across India is a display of collective wrath. The sort of suppressed, accumulated rage that has finally found an outlet. For that alone one must thank Mr Hazare. If Mr Hazare's patience has worn thin, it's in perfect sync with the sentiments of the people. Perhaps for the first time in 64 years, the aam aadmi believes the time has come to aggressively challenge those who have trampled on and abused their trust for six decades. The ordinary citizen is experiencing a heady feeling of instant empowerment after years of being resigned to accepting powerlessness as their collective "fate".
Armed with this new weapon, trusting citizens continue swarming different venues across India demanding to be heard. This has been the single biggest achievement of Mr Hazare. No wonder Manmohan Singh was gracious enough to honour and salute Mr Hazare during his uncharacteristically emotional address in Parliament. What we are witnessing is living, throbbing democracy in motion. It is an image that will endure long after the impasse ends, and everybody goes home to carry on with his or her life… the significant difference being, from this moment on, it will be a transformed life, an aware life, an entitled life. And most crucially, a life that comes with a built-in assurance that in a democracy, every voice counts, even the one that disagrees with you.
For all this to happen, India needs Anna. Alive. The countdown has begun.

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When in trouble there are a few things a Prime Minister or a President of a country can do, with a little bit of luck. If it is US President Barack Obama, he can ensure that a dangerous terrorist is picked out in Pakistan, killed and buried quietly at sea; and if it is UK Prime Minister David Cameron, he could try to win a war in an oil-rich state and swiftly access the country's resources. Both these leaders have suffered seriously failing ratings, and Mr Cameron, especially, has come under a lot of criticism after the terrible riots in London. He has been forced to take a hard line on the breakdown of law and order, promising harsh punishments to the culprits. Till the fall of Tripoli he has also had to face flak over the Libyan war, and now the phone-hacking scandal threatens to bite him again. It was, no doubt, time for him to pull out a charm offensive and see if the public could warm up to him.
Thus Mr Cameron has now unleashed his secret weapon — it is a tiny blonde bundle and happens to be affectionately dubbed FloCam. Her photograph has been on the front page of every newspaper this week, and her red lips and saucy blue eyes have made her quite a hit with the public.
Actually her full name is Florence Rose Endellion Cameron and her proud parents took her back to the Royal Cornwall Hospital, in Truro, where she was born where she could meet the doctors and nurses who helped in her safe passage into this world.
FloCam has made her father's worst critics lose their bile: right from the day she was born she has given photographers and journalists a steady wide-eyed look, which completely bowls them over. Thus, recently her rare appearance enabled the Camerons to overcome a few unhappy moments of questioning over Mr Cameron's ill-advised holiday while London burnt and even about the proposed NHS reforms. This is not the first time that a UK Prime Minister's family has come in rather handy in distracting everyone by providing attractive front-page fodder, nor will it be the last.
Cynics say that both family happiness and grief have been occasionally used by Mr Cameron and other premiers such as Gordon Brown and Tony Blair to win sympathy votes — and why not? Whilst in India, we can still see that there is enormous respect for the privacy of the political class, in Britain there are few limits. On the one hand, not only does the press intrude on privacy, sometimes there are careful spin-doctored reports on the part of the politicians as well. So far, the only taboos had been the children, but even that barrier seems to be falling down. Things began to change a decade ago, in Mr Blair's time. Mr Blair, like John F. Kennedy perhaps, wanted to promote the image of the young, virile politician with a growing youthful family. It is these little "personal" interventions, apparently that make politicians much more human and bring them closer to their constituents.
Thus, while someone like Gordon Brown had resisted his two sons being photographed whilst he was chancellor and Prime Minister, he could not help speaking tearfully about his daughter Jennifer who died shortly after birth. This was a subject on which journalists knew they could get an emotional reaction and it made Mr Brown appear less formidable. Mr Cameron, too, has sometimes spoken about the death of his son who had special needs, and these conversations have also given an insight into him.
Thus, some would say the appearance of the stoic and cheery FloCam was much needed. Her intense blue-eyed gaze has kept the media in thrall for a while, but it does raise the question whether Mr Cameron should exercise restraint in exposing his family in the media? Especially since deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has shown no inclination of allowing his three sons to appear before the camera.

Privacy has also been an issue uppermost in the media mind in India in the last few weeks after the reported illness of Sonia Gandhi. What is interesting is that while international media would have felt no restraint upon them, there has been very little about the state of her health even in the UK papers. Of course, requests may have gone out to all concerned that Mrs Gandhi's privacy should not be disturbed.
However, spin doctors would argue that if occasionally politicians allow a glimpse of their private lives it can prove extremely helpful. Not only does it attract empathy, it removes the distance between the politicians and the public… just look at how wonderfully FloCam has helped her father!

Kishwar Desai can be contacted at








All Party Inquiry Committee (APIC) constituted by the separatists organizations in Kashmir including both factions of APHC to conduct investigation in the killing of Maulana Showkat, the chief of Jamiat-e Ahl-e Hadith on April 8 around a mosque in Srinagar, has come out with what it calls the investigation report. It was released in a meeting in Srinagar attended by heads or representatives of all separatist groups. Release of the report spearheaded by LeT, is the first ever of its kind we have seen in Kashmir for last two decades of armed insurgency. The first question that needs to be answered is why the separatists felt the need of setting up their Inquiry Committee into the killing of Maulana Showkat when no inquiry like that was ordered or even thought of in assassination cases of many prominent leaders that took place in Kashmir during past two decades of armed insurgency. While Hurriyat (M) chief Moulavi Omar Farooq was present at the release of the report in Srinagar, one would like to know why he or any of his followers and allies never demanded an enquiry into the assassination of his father. Why no probe was conducted by the separatists in the case of gunning down of Abdul Ghani Lone? Everybody in Kashmir knows that they and many more were gunned down by the terrorists trained and armed outside Kashmir and acted on the behest of their Pakistani mentors. The reason why the separatists instituted inquiry into the assassination case of Mualana Showkat is that they knew it would be difficult rather impossible to bring the blame to the doorsteps of the security forces and then prove it because the police and intelligence sleuths had good deal of information about the perpetrators of the crime and of their entire network and links. The police and intelligence organizations swung into action immediately after the killing of Maulana Showkat and arrested some people including Javed Munshi on suspicion. Secondly the assassination of the Chairman of JAH, Maulana Showkat created rumblings of factional tension among the community in the Valley which could have escalated into street demonstrations thereby exposing the dissensions among the separatists. They met and decided to announce the constitution of APIC just to diffuse the outbreak of factional strife in the valley. The constituting of APIC was announced with much élan only to sober the agitated tempers and gain time. That precisely happened. No voices were raised demanding the APIC to speed up their job and tell the people about the truth.
The report has now been released. Its contents are not unexpected. This is a very interesting report which brings in many such elements in a shrewd manner as would support the contention that the heinous crime was committed by the culprits who have links with the Indian agencies. In other words, the report does not directly charge the Indian agencies of pushing the criminal acts but getting the dirty job done through its paid agents. The LeT shrewdly tries to trace the link of the assassin to other persons in various militant organizations who they say have links with the Indian agencies. Even the names of some of them have also been mentioned. One Imran is reported to have told the LeT operatives that the double cross agents within the separatists' organizations were planning the assassination of the Liberation Front chief also. A bizarre story of links of these militants with Indian agencies has been built to convince ordinary and unsuspecting Kashmiris that India is contriving these assassinations by scheme.
One doubts whether this fabricated story called the report of APIC will go down the throat of serious minded Kashmiris. The truth is that there is deep dissension within the separatist groups. There are rivalries and vendetta; there are huge money transaction disputes. There is growing realization among many of the activists that they are doing some exercise in futility and that the entire movement is based on falsehoods and canards. Desertions among the separatists' ranks is on increase and besides the deserters, the activist who surrender to the army or those who are captured in action, when interrogated, make startling revelations of complete mess and lawlessness among the militant groups. The separatists of all hues are aware of this and want to put all this under wraps and present a presumptuously united profile of the movement. Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat, the former Chairman of the APHC, once said that those who killed many prominent Kashmiris were "our own men". The report now submitted by the APIC is yet one more cruel joke of separatists with Kashmiris.







Pakistan Foreign Minister seems to have chosen an inopportune time for her maiden visit to its grand ally China. In Beijing she pontificated on Pakistan's desire to establish good friendly relations with her neighbours India and Afghanistan. She spoke of looking into future and building a new approach to bilateral relations and she swore by Pakistan's close relations with China. But the Chinese newspapers mostly ignored the rhetoric and focused on containment of terrorism short of saying that Pakistan was the home of terrorism and it was straining relations with her because of recent terrorist activities of Pakistan trained fundamentalists in some of the cities of Xinjinag, the Eastern Province of China. This is not the first time that Beijing has expressed displeasure on Pakistani trained and based militants expanding their subversive activities in the vulnerable Uighur Autonomous Region of Xinjinag where nearly 18 million Uighur Muslims live. Pakistani religious fanatics have clandestinely entered the Uighur region and are instigating the Uighurs to rise in revolt against local government saying that their rights are being encroached upon and demographic complexion is being reversed by settling millions of Han Chinese on Uighur soil. They say that their culture is being invaded and their identity demolished. Apart from this irritant, the crumbling of law and order in Karachi where killings, loot, arson and butchery are rampant, has also dampened the spirit of the Pakistan Foreign Minster in the course of her maiden visit to Beijing.








When Gen. Kayani, the Pakistani Army Chief, informed his political peers in the Government of the army's willingness to put an end to the spiralling factional killings in the country's commercial capital, Karachi, he was politely suggesting that the military could not be a mute witness to the growing lawlessness in Pakistan's most populous city and its capital in the early days of the country's freedom.
Karachi, always a major port of pre-independence India, recalling Mumbai, say some, became an obvious choice as their new home for millions of refugees, mainly Urdu speaking, who opted for Pakistan at the time of the partitioning of the sub-continent. In the course of time, some three crore plus 'mohajirs' (refugees) made the twin cities of Karachi and Hyderabad, Sindh, their home.
The demographic picture changed further as Karachi's comparative prosperity brought in herds of Pushtuns from the former North West Frontier Province. For many in Balochistan, the ignored largest province in terms of area of Pakistan, Karachi was just a hop away. The original Sindhis thus were submerged by an ocean of aliens bringing with them different cultural and linguistic heritage.
The Mohajirs from India were for the most part Urdu speaking and prone therefore to set themselves up as a different entity from the Sindhis. The Pushtuns are a different kettle of fish; they preferred to live in ghettos of that their own making and were always wary of the Urdu-speaking Mohajirs, who with their better education and other skills, forged ahead leaving the Pushtuns and most locals to look out for low paying jobs such as taxi divers.
The Mohajirs developed a political identity of their own and were willing to take on the Sindhis and the Pushtuns. The Muttahida Quami Movement was thus born in Karachi as a force to reckon with; led most aggressively by Altaf Hussain, who was ultimately forced out of the country by military rulers of the day. Hussain has been orchestrating the MQM's activities from his London base, his pre-recorded speeches playing regularly at all MQM rallies.
Karachi thus has become home to three seemingly irreconcilable interests which in turn has led to the city becoming a regular killing field of the three principal contenders. In the fresh phase of violence 1,138 people were killed in the past six months. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan the body count is on the conservative side but with 1456 people killed and still counting - nearly 40 people were killed last week alone including, a former member of the National Assembly of Pakistan - incredible violence has become a constant.
It is another matter that the Karachi wallahs have found a modus vivendi with the perpetrators of extreme violence; a bomb explosion in a mosque or an act of arson in a crowded bazaar will see people returning to the roads about an hour or two of the violent incidents. Indeed the Karachiite appears to have accepted violence as an acceptable hazard for the "pleasure" of living in the megapolis.
The People's Party of the Bhuttos, now headed by Pak President Asif Ali Zardari, though, it heads the provincial government in coalition with the MQM and the ANP, is virtually non-existent in Karachi and Hyderabad, an odd match which somehow is reflected in Islamabad as well, in the Geelani (PPP) government and one that is not really working.
The MQM, annoyed by PPP's sleight a hand when it replaced popular rule in local bodies by installing Commissionrates which was seen as an attempt to dislodge the MQM from power in Karachi and Hyderabad and, predictably, withdrawn when the MQM walked out of the government in Islamabad.
The demographic phenomenon in Karachi is really a shocker. From 51.45 per cent of the city's population in 1951 and 54.34 in 1998 the Urdu-speaking population now makes up for 48.52 per cent of the city's population. While the Sindhi population halved during the same period from 14.32 per cent in 1951 to 7.22 in 1998, the Pushto speakers have tripled from 3.99 per cent to 11.42 per cent.
The demographic shift has further consolidated since 1998 with more Pushtuns from war-torn tribal areas migrating to the port city. While many believe that the violence has its roots in crime, covertly and overtly aided by the State and the political parties, all three major players have treated Karachi as their fiefdom and have constantly lent support to the violent elements loyal to them.
Politicians however appear content to play out their petty games for their survival, the future of 17 million people of multi ethnicity in the city seems to be of no concern to the State.
And that's what may have prompted Gen. Kayani to make his offer of help to the civilian authority to combat terror in the megapolis. The move, though is looked upon with grave suspicion by political parties. They seem to believe that the military may be trying to make a back-door entry to power by initially offering to help out the civilian government in Sindh.
The Karachiites would not have forgotten the rough end of the stick which they received under Gen. Ziaul Haq's dispensation. Gen. Zia, a refugee himself (from) Jalandhar, always saw himself as a Punjabi first and this was reflected in his handling of the Sindh problem, a policy which Nawaz Sharif, in one of his terms as Prime Minister, pursued in Karachi for a long while. The city did see relatively better days during Gen. Musharraf rule as the military dictator but it was shortlived.
The city, gradually deserted by industries and even major commercial houses, has known anything but peace. In the words of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan what is worse is the ethnic rivalry among the population. It has noticed - and it is common knowledge which even a casual visitor cannot but notice - that one community bars people from the other from being treated in hospitals, sharing same mosques, burying dead or sending its children to schools perceived to be a ethnic 'no-go' area.
When violence peaks, as it has repeatedly these past few months, such is the level of ethnic profiling that an innocent bystander's attire could get him into trouble, with the Urdu-speaking man chosen by his trousers and the Pushtun by his Salwar Kameez. Thus with the city divided into "our zones" and "their zones" it is not surprising that a perennial sense of insecurity should lead to ghettoisation which will only deepen. The police is better known for its absence than presence, at preferred ethnic battle fields and places prone to sectarian violence. A friend in Karachi says that even by the city's own standards, the recent spate of ethnic and political violence has been brutal and prolonged. He confided that he was planning to spend a few months in London now "if only to retain my sanity".







Born on 27th of August, 1910, to a well-to - do Albanian couple in Skopje, Yugoslavia, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was a kind-hearted child who could not withstand the pains and sufferings of others. A hurt bird or an animal, a sick person, a wounded soldier, a hungry beggar, a needy or distressed received her 'Love in Action'.
Florence Nightnigale well known as ''Lady with the Lamp', while nursing an Indian soldier wounded in the Crimean War, had given a word to him before his death, that she will go to India and serve the poor. She died on 14th August, 1910, at the age of 90 years. To keep her word, may be, Florence was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu who landed in Kolkata (India) on 6th January, 1929, when she was just 18 years old.
She was deeply pious and prayed for long hours alone as well as in the mass. Often she prayed loudly too. ''God is Good! God is Truth! God is Love! Praise Him!'' also formed part of prayer. She received Lord's Messages and acted upon them with robust faith. She adopted the name of 'Teresa' in 1931. It was the famous patron of Missionaries of 16th Century. In 1931 itself, she joined Loreto Convent High School, Kolkata as a teacher and later promoted as Principal. Her living room overlooked the slums across the boundary wall of the School where the devils of disease, hunger and heaps of filth moved her heart. She decided to visit those slum-dwellers and serve them. And she did it in various ways for many years. It was on 10th of September, 1946, while on train journey to Darjeeling she received Divine Message to free herself from the Loreto and concentrate herself on service to the poorest of the poor and convert Hell into Heaven. It took the permission two years to come through. She took her 1st teaching class of 5-6 slum children on bare muddy ground using a stick to write Bengali alphabets. However, people appreciated the noble work and more infrastructure and children joined the classes, thus a school came into being.
Subashini Dass, at the age of 19 years, a former Loreto student joined Mother Teresa in March, 1949, and she has been number two in the Missionaries of Charities.
It was in October, 1950, that the Order began and Sister Teresa became Mother Teresa. By then she had received Indian Citizenship also.
Mother Teresa had an Army of more than 3000 sisters and 400 Brothers operating in 71 countries around the world. Her Missionaries of Charity work among the poorest of the poor. Hundreds of thousand of victims of Leprosy, hungry families, dying destitute and orphaned children receive love and care in well-established Leprosy Centre, Children Homes, Schools, feeding stations and homes for dying destitute.
Mother Teresa's first gigantic project was 'Nirmal Hirday' at Kalighat in close proximity of Maha Kali Temple. There are around 150 such homes for the Dying Destitute around the world today. Inmates admitted to these homes receive love and care in abundance and die with dignity and honor. 'Nirmal Shishu Bhawan' in Kolkata is another amazing project where hundreds of unwanted and abandoned babies come from the hospitals, roadsides, slums and dustbins. They are brought up with love and motherly care. Mother Teresa said ''Abortion is a murder in the womb. A child is a gift of God. If you do not want him, give him to me...''
A Leprosy Centre known as 'Shanti Nagar' near Asansol diagnoses and treats thousands of Leprosy victims. They have been provided life of dignity and also trained for vocational work which fetches them good earning.
The free-food kitchen of New York's Queen of Peace Mission is another good piece of Noble gesture of social welfare where even stray youth share the food and transform themselves into useful guys and contribute to the Mission. Gift of love, another project, cares AIDS patients who carry message of love to God from the Mother Teresa, her co-workers and patients.
In reply to a question about the magnitude of Missionaries of Charity, she said ''It is not an institution. It is love in action, not an institution''. She always believed that with an assignment of service, the Lord always provided resources too. Her motto was love and service empowered by sincere prayer.
Mother Teresa and her co-workers led an ascetic's life. Sisters had two or three blue-bordered-plain white 'saries', and other few essential items. Work schedule from 4.40 AM to 10 PM was very tight and tiresome but they performed the divine work of service with pride and pleasure and success always smiled at them. She called upon those who have, to share with have nots. She experienced her own self in others. She always said that while cleaning the wounds of a victim, she felt as if she felt as if she were serving the God directly. Mere 4'-11'' in height, she served good causes with determination and courage knocking down all odds on the way. Once she fell short of quilts. As soon as she put her hands to remove the cotton from the pillow to fill the empty sheet of quilt, a knock at the door surprised everybody. A truck-load of quilts, mattresses, pillows and bed sheets were brought by a man who was on transfer abroad. On another occasion, Home ran short of rice for the Dinner and the inmates had to make do with milk. Lo and Behold! an unknown lady came and dumped a full bag of rice and dispapeared.
In London, Mother wished to purchase a house for the homeless. The seller lowered the consideration from 9000 pounds to 6000 pounds, but to raise that was too an uphill task in those days. The very next day, Mother Teresa, on her return from a visit to co-workers, handed over her bag to Mr John Blaike, a Lawyer, who helped in her mission, telling him ''I think there is some money in it''. He counted and it was exactly five pounds short of 6000 pounds. Mr John took out 5 Pounds currency note from his pocket and made it up 6000 pounds. The house was purchased.
She was called 'Saint of Gutters' also for obvious reasons. She passed away at the age of 87 years on 5th of September, 1997, at 9-30 PM at Kolkata. Her funeral took place on 13th September, 1997. She was given state funeral at Netaji Indoor Stadium Kolkata.
Her body was laid to rest at Mother House, her abode for about 70 years. Floral tributes were paid to her by all the heads of States and other leading personalities of the world.
She was conferred numerous honours and awards by various countries for her bringing excellence to the services to the suffering mankind. She was True Messiah indeed who won the hearts of millions of people all over the world. The human history has not so far found a saintly person of such an immense stature who found place in every heart. She practically experienced God residing in all beings.
She was conferred Padam Shri in 1962, Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, Bharat Ratna in 1980, 'Bharat Ki Mahan Suptri' in 1992. All the prize money accompanying the awards was spent on her spate of new projects. Donations to her projects swelled to millions of dollars.







As expected , our so called ' conscience keepers ' are out to condemn the lone survivor of the dying breed of the genuine Conscience Keepers of the Nation - Anna Hazare . His fault is that he and his lacs of supporters raise slogans like ; Vande Matram , Bharat Mata ki Jai and Jai Hind, to garner support for the movement launched by him to cleanse the body politic of the cancer of corruption . For some libertarians , Anna is a stubborn , autocratic and violator of the democratic system of governance , who indulges in blackmail to have his way . Others of the tribe accuse him of undermining the parliamentary system of democracy and challenge him to contest the elections in order to assert his credentials. To them, he is totally unelectable. In the rage against Anna, these honorable men and women forget that his campaign to eradicate corruption among the high and low public functionaries has awakened the nation. His demand to turn the Jana Lok Pal bill into a law has brought millions across the country on the roads .
The contrarians make a ludicrous argument that the Jana Lok Pal will overthrow the Indian state .That it is draconian anti corruption law where chosen few will administer a huge bureaucracy. The other argument is that the common people who flock to Anna don't know, and are least expected to know, the nitty gritty of Jana Lok Pal Bill . That the organizers have created only a mass frenzy. Well , the opponents of Anna Hazare seem to overlook the spirit of the issue , or tend to see it superficially .One must remember that aim of the Bill is to curb the menace of corruption at all the places . That is a sentiment which goes down well with the agitating masses. Each one of the protesters understands how he is thwarted at all levels by the corrupt public officials and the decadent system as a whole .He experiences it on the death of his near and dear ones: when he is made to run from pillar to post to procure the death certificate . Same is the experience he undergoes to obtain a driving license . passport , a ration card ,or when he has to deposit the electricity bills .These are the dreadful obstacles a poor citizen has to contend with daily , on the routine basis . The common man dreads the thought to confront a patwari for the revenue check of his land holdings and a municipal employee to procure a birth or a death certificate of his near and dear ones.
True, the laws are to be made by the parliament. But can one trust the worthy members of the legislature to make the laws which will tighten the noose around their necks for their brazen and compulsive financial and moral malfeasance . Therefore, they must be coerced to make the laws to purify the rotten system. In the pathological misdemeanors of the legislators, we see utter failure of representative democracy .Our legislature are made up of criminals and millioner politicians , who in no way can claim to represent the people. The Parliamentarians have consistently failed to follow the spirit of the Constitution Of India They are more concerned about their privileges and wielding authority for their personal ends than with the welfare of the state and the citizen .Such has been their conduct as parliamentarians- barring a few exceptions-that their talking about dignity and supremacy of the legislature is like "devil quoting scriptures".
The so called liberals, who oppose the Anna movement from the roof top, see every thing bad in the nationalist slogans and mobilization of the millions on the national agenda . They describe the struggle of Anna a fascist and communal in nature Well, this argument has been torn to the shreds by the Muslims of India when they rebuffed Delhi's Jamia Masjid chief cleric Syed Ahmed Bukhari-who had asked them to stay away from Anna Hazar's movement. Bukhari had described Anna's slogans and struggle as "anti- Islam" .As reported in the press business man and the common Muslims have found no problem with people chanting Vande Mantram . They have expressed solidarity with Anna's movement and described him as some one who is standing up for the country. The so-called liberals take pride in attending seminars and meetings organized abroad courtesy Pakistani ISI and CIA , where they deride India and the Indians -right ,left and the centre . For them, therefore, to denounce Anna is a matter of bread and butter .
Yes , Jana Lok Pal Bill has certain provisions which need to be discussed and debated and, probably, recast . Certainly it will not be a panacea of all ills. But then there is no better alternative. All are agreed that the government Bill is a farce. Let Anna's Bill be a base document, upon which a meaningful anti-corruption law is built .
(The author is former Principal District & Sessions Judge)



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





The flood-hit in Punjab have been left to fend for themselves. Barring some half-hearted rescue efforts here and there, the administration is virtually missing from the scene. The Punjab government has doubled the flood relief amount to Rs 10 crore but the process of loss assessment and making the cash available will take time. What those marooned need is immediate rescue, shelter, food, clean drinking water, fodder and medical help. Punjab has a large number of gurdwaras where the flood victims, including children and the aged, could have been shifted. With the SGPC elections on, representatives of the Sikh "sangat" have by and large failed to reach out to their brethren in distress.


Villagers have shifted to roads or other nearby places for safety. A far-sighted, helpful and sympathetic administration would have set up well in advance temporary shelters, used panchayat or school buildings to accommodate the affected families, which face dislocation whenever the monsoon is "normal". It is not a natural calamity that has suddenly struck the villagers. They are victims of sudden water releases from the Pong Dam and the Bhakra Dam. While it may be imperative to release waters to save the dams, the situation can be handled better if advance warnings are given so that villagers in the flood-prone areas move to safer places in time along with their belongings and save agricultural machinery and equipment from damage.


Punjab is known for community work in times of a crisis or a calamity. There are examples of villagers building protective bundhs to protect their villages from the menacing flood waters. But the government cannot abdicate its responsibility. It has allowed encroachments to come up on river beds at various places which hinder the natural flow of water. The rivers and canals have not been cleared or repaired for long. It is surprising that in a state faced with a declining water table little effort has been made to encourage rainwater harvesting. Successive governments have paid little attention to efficient water management. 









The withdrawal of the state of emergency by Sri Lanka reflects the new confidence that the island nation has gained. The emergency laws, which have been in force for over three decades in some form, are no longer needed. As President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced in the Sri Lankan Parliament on Thursday, the country could now "conduct its affairs through its normal laws and in a democratic manner". Interestingly, before taking the decision to do away with the emergency, President Rajapaksa took a stroll in a park in Colombo without the area getting sanitised. He himself drove down in his personal car to have a feel of the changed security scenario. This and his intelligence agencies' reports must have convinced him that it was now time to end the siege mentality.


Sri Lanka tasted emergency rule first in 1971 when Marxists tried to overthrow the government of the day. The emergency laws were withdrawn in 1977 but reimposed in 1983 when the LTTE emerged as an extra-constitutional force capable of derailing the system. The Sri Lankan Army had a tough time handling the LTTE, which at one time appeared to be not far from achieving its objective of having an independent state for the Tamils of the country. However, in 2009 the LTTE became a part of history. It suffered a crushing defeat — unthinkable some time ago — at the hands of the Sri Lankan Army.


The return of peace is helping the economy to grow at a faster pace. An economy which had been damaged considerably because of the LTTE's activities now hopes to record a growth rate of 8 per cent during the current fiscal year. The lifting of the emergency laws will help Sri Lanka to develop at a faster pace. But the main reason why the emergency has been lifted is the growing international criticism of the government for human rights violations in the Tamil-dominated areas because of the draconian laws remaining in force. The economic condition of the people in these areas is woeful. The Rajapaksa government has been accused of following a discriminator policy, which must be abandoned immediately. A democratic Sri Lanka must not discriminate against its own people owing to the ethnic factor. 
















Apple Computers is today one of the most influential companies in the world, and when Steve Jobs quit as the CEO of Apple, his place in the hall of fame had already been carved out in golden letters with his business and technical accomplishments. He will always be associated with the products that bear his stamp, the Mac computer, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. He helped Apple and its shareholders earn billions of dollars. Only recently, briefly, Apple had more money than the US government.


Steven P. Jobs, who back-packed through India in search of spirituality during his early years, his friend Stephen Wozniak and, later, Armas Clifford Markkula Jr, worked in the 1970s to produce the first Apple computer. The Macintosh computer became the first successful computer to use the graphical user interface and Apple introduced many innovations that later became industry standard. However, on the management front, by 1985, Jobs found himself without a job at Apple. He was ousted in a boardroom battle and went to start another company called NeXT.


Jobs' second coming as the CEO of Apple in 1977 saw the flowering of his vision matching with the technological advances that had taken place in the meantime. He revolutionised how we interact with computers, listen to music and use mobile phones.


He set new standards of technological innovation and aesthetics, and sold them hard, creating millions of consumers and earning billions for his company. The iPad fulfilled a need that users didn't even know existed. Jobs really saw what personal computing means and what it should be. Innovation, smart designing, timing and above all, a commitment of making computers and allied devices easy to use, all these contributed to crafting a success story that has made Jobs a cultural icon. How Apple fares without Jobs is where the real test of his legacy will lie. He has a good successor and has built a good team. Thus, this too seems to be one test that Jobs will pull through with flying colours. 









Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's fears of revolt in the Pakistan Army are not unfounded. Indeed, many in the Pakistan Army are increasingly viewing the war against terror as America's war which Pakistan is forced to fight. There is also a growing feeling that the US is lording over Pakistan and treating it as a client state.


The Pakistan Army is a disciplined force and its soldiers have a long history of acting in accordance with the orders of senior army commanders. Various coups, insurgencies and national emergencies have not rocked the cohesion and discipline in the army. Now because of the variety of factors, loyalty and discipline in the army are being severely tested, and fears of a mutiny in officers' rank are mounting.


In Pakistan, till now, says Prof Anatol Lieven, "(Pakistan — A Hard Country)", there has not been a military coup from below. Every coup has been carried out by serving army chiefs backed by a solid majority of senior officers. Officers and soldiers of the army are keenly aware of the fact that it is unity and discipline in the army that has held the country together. Along with discipline and loyalty, fear of India is drummed into the mind of every Pakistani soldier from the day he joins the army. Thus, apart from the unforeseen consequences of a mutiny in the army, the fear that it will provide an opportunity to India to crush Pakistan appears credible and is widely believed by every Pakistani soldier.


The Pakistan Army's history shows that in the past commanding officers were westernised and secular in their outlook. Stephen Cohen in his book, "Pakistan's Army", has identified three generations of army officers. The first was the British generation when the Pakistan army was set up. They came mostly from loyal westernised families and did not hold strong religious views. After World War II, when Britain was not in a position to provide the type of aid which the young Pakistan Army needed, Pakistan turned to the US and this spawned an American generation of officers who were secular in attitude and un-Islamic in outlook. But the tide turned after Pakistan's humiliating defeat in the Bangladesh war. And the American generation was replaced by the Zia generation. General Zia wanted to build up a devout and puritanical army and with that end in view allowed religious groups like the Tablighi Jamaat to hold classes and give discourses in the army units. Zia himself attended the convocation of the group — the first army chief to do so.


The new generations of officers hailing from middle classes are generally hostile to Western ideas and receptive to Islamic teachings. In a sense, younger officers reflect the larger society and are becoming more Islamic and anti-West. Many of them are imbued with anti-Western, particularly anti-American, sentiments. Shuza Nawaz, a well-known expert on Pakistan's army speaks of the emergence of a "different breed of officers" children of the lower middle class akin to General Zia's own background who chose the service because of its economic and social advantages rather than military traditions.


Now the American raid in Abbottabad and the killing of Osama bin Laden has caused within the army a deep sense of anger and humiliation. In a way, it was a projection of American power and a clear message to Pakistan to align itself with America or face the consequences. Drone attacks on militants within Pakistan have also been causing an acute sense of unease in the army ranks. It is said that using anti-American anger without getting burned by it has become a fine art with Pakistan. What is worrying the military leadership now is the sense of anger within the army is accompanied by a feeling of humiliation. Unilateral nature of some of the US decisions and action has added fuel to the fire.


There is also growing criticism of Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaque Kayani within the country and in the army barracks. His close links with the Obama administration have not gone down well with the army. The overwhelming opinion in the army is that Americans pose a danger to Pakistan's national security, and it is time the military leadership drew a red line. The terrorist attack on PNS, Meheran, a naval airbase, in Karachi, has further exposed the army and the ISI to public criticism for sheer incompetence. Deflection of public criticism by blaming India or America is no longer working. Along with anti-American anger there is also sympathy for Al-Qaeda. It is not precisely known how far anti-American officers are wedded to radical Islam or if anti-Americanism reflects outright sympathy for the Talibani elements in the army.


The situation in Pakistan is difficult and grim. It is rocked by ethnic clashes, jihadi terrorism and general lawlessness. It has become a dysfunctional state; its economy is in a mess and the legal system has broken down. Its politicians are derided as clowns. The army, though supreme, with its badly tarnished image, is sunk in gloom. The Pakistan Army is no longer as it was loyal and professional as it was before. A number of army personnel are members of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Some military and intelligence officers have been involved in assassination attempts against Gen Pervez Musharraf (retd). There is desertion and surrender of soldiers before militants, and there is a growing feeling among sections of the Pakistan Army that they are fighting against their own countrymen at the behest of the US.


A division among officers on ideological lines is thus neither unlikely nor impossible. Such a division would hasten the fragmentation of the army.


The split is likely to stem from the differences among the officers with secular or Islamic leanings. A strong army has so far held together Pakistan, but if it gets divided on fundamental issues like the identity and the purpose of Pakistan, or relations with major outside powers like the US, and disaffected officers join the radicals to gain access to Pakistan's rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal, it will indeed be a dangerous scenario.


The writer, a former Director, National Police Academy, is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi.








I was a student at the London University in the mid-sixties. Those were the days of 'Hippies' and flower power. Sending money from India was a problem and as a student the Reserve Bank allowed 600 pounds (about Rs 12,000 at that time). This had to cover tuition, board, lodging, travel and entertainment.


I shared a flat off Kensington High Street, with an English artist (Bill Holmes) and a plumber (David Cole). Guess who was the richest? Yes, Dave the plumber. He treated us to pints of beer every weekend, at the Devonshire Arms, our local pub. I, in turn, used to make aloo curry with onions and tomatoes which we devoured with brown bread and achaar.


To make ends meet I did odd jobs. Like delivering mail in freezing December early mornings when there was a Christmas rush at the post office. Most students did this to earn 30 pounds for 10 days' work. I also worked as a loo cleaner at Ronny Scots Jazz Club in Soho. Horrible work, but I did get paid to listen to some amazing jazz.


One Friday evening when we were at the Devonshire Arms, Dave was at the bar replenishing our drinks. He got into an animated conversation with a guy at the bar — a pot-bellied fellow (PBF). Bill and I were wondering why he was taking so long when he came back with PBF in tow. Apparently PBF was a film maker and was keen that I, a young turbaned lad, act in his next film. He had made films with all nationalities but never had a Sardar in the lead.


He promised me 50 pounds for a four-hour shoot. A lot of money, equivalent to one month's allowance. I asked for the script, he said just come to this address in Earls Court on Monday and we would take it from there. Never having acted before, I was reluctant. But Bill and Dave persuaded me to go for it.


So I arrive at the appointed hour and enter this basement flat. The set was a bedroom, with a huge double bed. I am ushered into a corner for my makeup. This guy asks me to remove my shirt and proceeds to 'paint' a cobra tattoo on each arm. I ask who the co-stars are. No response. A few minutes later this gorgeous blonde walks in draped in a towel. She proceeds to the bed, and the director says to me: "Right, take your clothes off and sit next to her on the bed." I am set to run away from this, but then thinking of 50 pounds I say to myself "what the hell". So there I am in the clothes I was born in, with turban on head and go and sit next to my co-star. "Lights, Camera, Action," says PBF. Nothing happens. He again screams "Action" — nothing!


Minutes later I am heading towards the Devonshire Arms to drown my sorrows in a pint of beer. I had failed the screen test!









The Anna Hazare movement - I am reluctant to call it the Civil Society Movement, for civil society is much larger than this - is a remarkable phenomenon. The stir is slickly timed and finely orchestrated, and the pulling in of so many disparate elements into its vortex is, purely in 'marketing' terms, an achievement in itself. What one is witnessing day after day on the television is in some ways energizing: such a sense of commitment, such crowds, such enthusiasm. And all seemingly Gandhian; at least without any signs of violence, so far.


The cause is laudable: undoubtedly corruption in public life is a looming issue and there is a growing feeling - ably articulated by Anna himself - of there being lack of justice for the common man. The question, however, is: where is it all headed? How will it end? What would have been achieved at the end of it? If the 'demands' of the Anna Team - not so civilly raised, one would have to add, certainly not without a touch of arrogance at times - are met and a victory for the civil society is declared, would it be a pyrrhic victory where one would have to sit down afterwards and compute with care and sorrow the losses suffered?


Conflicting voices


There can be little doubt that on the part of the government - the other party, so to speak - the stir has not been handled well. There have been conflicting voices, too many heavy-handed statements, too much of incremental 'giving in' or 'yielding of ground', too little preparation for meeting the challenges posed by the scale of the movement and for gauging the mood of the nation. The Opposition is also not covering itself with glory: there is lack of clarity in its views; the impression is gaining ground that they are in it simply for gaining points; there is greater interest on their part in enjoying the present discomfiture of the government rather than in giving cogent thought to the long-term implications of a movement such as this.


At the other end, for the common people, this is all a great spectacle, a perfect opportunity for venting their anger and their frustration. How many among the agitators or the sympathisers, however, truly understand what the intricacies of the issues involved are? The ambit of the Lokpal or the Jan Lokpal bill, the reservations about keeping some offices or institutions out and the virtual impossibility of implementing some of the ambitious provisions will always remain a question. A panacea is what everyone is looking for and hoping to get. But there is no panacea. All around, there is a welter of confusion.


In search of a panacea



From all this, however, one thing is emerging with clarity. Whatever the merits of the agitation, in the manner in which it is shaping it is questioning the very fabric of our Constitution, for that document and Parliament, which is so fundamental an institution of our democratic system, are being truly challenged. While no one would deny that something, something even drastic, needs to be done as far as rooting out corruption from our public, and private lives goes, the point is whether the methodology being adopted by the Civil Society team for doing it is right.


To try and raise the level of our conscience and to voice the aspirations of the common man is one thing. But to ask that every rule, every system in place, should be bent or broken is another. What is the government being told, not asked, to do? Withdraw your bill and substitute it with the Bill that the 'Team' has cobbled together; this must be done by the end of this month; bypass the Standing Committee of Parliament; pass the Bill - not present or debate, but to pass it as it is - before the present session of Parliament runs out. And so on. These are diktats, not recommendations or prescriptions. And to agree to them, as has been pointed out in clear and cogent terms, is to subvert the processes established by our Constitution. There is need, therefore, to pull back a bit, I believe. And to reflect about long-term implications.


In the energy that has been released by Anna Hazare's stir, especially among youth, there are great signs of hope. But that energy needs to be channelled, watchfully and constructively. Poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz once sang beautifully of the 'crop of hope' - yeh fasl ummeedon ki humdum - but then hinted darkly that it could also wither away as quickly as it grew: 'ghaarat jaayegi' were his words. Before that happens, there is need to nurture that crop with care and to help it turn into a harvest of gold. Perhaps Anna himself will think of ways of doing it, for he does have the ear of the young, it seems.











It is said that when a pigeon sees a cat, it simply closes its eyes instead of flying off. Since the cat is not visible to it with eyes closed, it feels smug that the danger has receded.


The government did something quite similar in the face of the rising public revulsion over the omnipresent corruption and ignored it for too long. It thought that the voices of protests were just storms in teacups which could be easily ignored, or, better still, suppressed through tried and tested strong-arm tactics. That is why it came to the stage where it had to eat crow on the Anna Hazare issue. Drunk on power, its leading lights ensconced in bungalows in Lutyen's Delhi never realised that Anna was only a symbol of the public anger. If it would silence his voice, somebody else would take his place.


Worse than unleashing the police might against him was the vilification campaign. Manish Tiwari's fulmination that he was corrupt from head to toe was the ideal oil to the fire. The aggression proved counter-productive and helped broaden the protests, which otherwise might have been far less severe.


Had the government been upright, this might have passed off as "firmness". But at the hands of the mega scam-tainted UPA government, it was only seen as haughtiness, which proved to be its undoing.


'Empire strikes back'


Ironically, there is a pattern to this "Empire Strikes Back" syndrome. All sort of enquiries are started against those who dare to say that the government is corrupt. Ramdev was a saint till he protested. Even Lalit Modi was fine till he blew the whistle on minister Shashi Tharoor in the IPL imbroglio. The message that went out loud and clear was that if anyone dared to protest against corruption in the government, he himself would be hauled over coals. If Anna Hazare's fast was blackmail, so was this tit for tat, and helped in adding indignation to public anger.


The government made another tactical error. What was revulsion towards the politicians in general was allowed to be focused on the government alone by keeping away the opposition parties from the preliminary negotiations with Team Anna on the Bill. No party can claim to be squeaking clean but the ill-thought-out policy of the government gave them a chance to strike a holier-than-thou attitude. Not only that, it brought almost the entire Opposition together. The more the government shouted that the campaign was an opposition conspiracy, the more isolated it found itself.


Even now, it is not too late to realise that corruption by a government functionary is the fountain-head of all corruption. When a minister takes his 10 per cent (if not more), he is giving an open general licence to the contractor to use substandard material. When a bureaucrat takes money on the sly for appointments and postings, he is making all his subordinates employ unfair means.


The public is in a cleft-stick and one has to shell out money even to get what is one's right. While the common man who is forced to pay a tidy sum to get his revenue record or driving licence or ration card in time is given sermons that he should be honest, hardly anything is done to those who demand and accept this bribe. Ironically, he is told that he is equally culpable. That is adding insult to injury.


Scratching the surface


When a man has to pay bribes even to get his due, he is encouraged to curry special favours from government functionaries by offering illegal gratification.


A few cases of action against corrupt officials are cited as the shining examples of a clean-up drive. Given the size of the country and the extent of corruption, these do not even constitute the scratching of the surface. In any case, even the action against men like Kalmadi and Raja came about after nationwide hue and cry.


In governance, what matters most is public perception. Ministers must not only be honest but also perceived to be so. Right now, quite the opposite is true. So many politicians have gone from rags to riches in such a short time that the entire class stands discredited in the public eye. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that Mr Manmohan Singh's legendary honesty is being seen as no more than a mask behind which various ministers are looting the country. This image can be salvaged only through genuine action on the ground, not by unleashing legal eagles on the likes of Anna Hazare.


The Jan Lokpal Bill may have many flaws. Perhaps it is not the answer to the problem of corruption in the country. Anna Hazare's fast may amount to "blackmail". But what cannot be lost sight of is that it came after a never-ending cycle of scams, scandals and corruption.


The government should have seized the initiative with an even more potent Bill of its own, and made Team Anna redundant in the process. Instead, it came up with a hopelessly diluted "Jokepal Bill" and ended up smearing its own face with the accusation that it was going all out to protect the wrong-doers.


The UPA should consider itself lucky that the protests are being spearheaded by Gandhian crusaders. If it continues to sideline them, there is a very real danger of the movement passing into the hands of the people who have no respect for non-violent means. That is a possibility which every right-thinking person should be frightened of.











In June 1992, within a few days of prodding from Delhi, the Maharashtra government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a company called Enron. The MOU was to set up the world's largest gas-fired power plant. It would be run by a foreign company called Dabhol Power Corporation. DPC would be located in the Gram Panchayat limits of a village called Dabhol. It was going to be a Rs 10,000-crore project, and the company was guaranteed to succeed. This was because it had a heads-i-win, tails-youlose power purchase agreement with the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB), which ensured profits whether or not it sold power! And if its creditors defaulted, it had a sovereign guarantee from Delhi.


So in its wisdom, and armed with powers granted to it by the Constitution, the village council of Dabhol decided to ask DPC for its share of taxes. The village could legitimately levy property tax on any commercial entity which was located within its area, just like other municipal councils or corporations. They figured that for such a giant project, they could expect a couple of crores of taxes per annum. That would take care of their roads and the schools. Alas it was not so! The villagers were shocked to learn that they could barely expect a few lakhs. The autonomy of the local government was extremely limited, notwithstanding the constitutional amendment for panchayati raj, championed by the late Rajiv Gandhi. Never mind that almost 3,000 farmers had lost their land to DPC. Never mind that the project was being thrust upon by Delhi against their wishes. Never mind that there was great opacity and haste in pushing the project. Never mind that the power purchase agreement with MSEB was a top-secret document. The villagers' lot was to do the bidding of higher-up layers of government and be quiet. (Any similarity to Jaitapur is purely coincidental!)


Enron ended up being criminally indicted, and the DPC saga is well known. The state paid a heavy price to get itself disentangled from various obligations. The people of Maharashtra paid a heavy price in terms of a decade of power shortage.


But today's column is about that rude lesson learnt by Dabhol's village council. It serves as a tiny example of the several ways that autonomy of lower forms of government is steadily eroding in India. Instead of decentralising aggressively, and genuine devolution of powers to lower tiers of government, we find that Delhi is getting stronger, often at the expense of state and village governments.


Later this year when the central government passes the right to food, it would effectively be imposing its will on states' functioning. When the right to education was passed, that is a topic which is on the states' list of our constitution. Even electricity is in the states' domain, although DPC overrode that. When the country passes the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, it would mark a historic occasion. That's because it would mean, that all states of India would have surrendered their right to impose sales tax, and would now defer to Delhi. Of course, the GST regime would be great to curb tax evasion, and will enhance inter-state commerce and increase efficiency. But these gains would be at the price of sacrificing tax autonomy at the state level.


Seen from the lens of losing autonomy, the anti-corruption agitation led by Anna Hazare is also an expression of discomfort. Just as passage of the right to information restored power to an individual (the lowest tier) to be on par with any Member of Parliament, similarly Anna's movement is also about wresting some more power back to the lower tiers. The tug of war between centralising and decentralising forces will intensify in the days to come.


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Three weeks ago, The Economist noted a key transition in the global economy. It pointed out that the emerging markets now account for a greater share of world gross domestic product (GDP) than the developed economies. The magazine also pointed out that while the rich world's output was still below 2007 levels, the emerging economies had grown by 20 per cent since then. Its conclusion: "The rich world's woes have clearly hastened the shift of global economic power towards the emerging markets."

A useful reference point for confirming this is Goldman Sachs' Brics report of 2003, which postulated the then novel notion that the four Brics economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China) would become larger than the economies of the G6 by 2040. Goldman also forecast that China would overtake the US and become the world's largest economy by 2041. Eight years ago, those projections were considered far-out. In 2011, they read like the cautious forecasts of someone who likes to hedge his bets.

For a start, make three plausible assumptions: that the US will be stuck in a low-growth trajectory, that the yuan will rise annually against the dollar by the 5 per cent that it has been doing in recent years, and that China will slow down but grow by at least 8 per cent annually. Taken together, they mean that China's GDP would have reached $19 trillion by 2021, and probably become as big as the US (which is $14 trillion today). That would be an astonishing two decades ahead of the Goldman schedule. The phrase that comes to mind is Alvin Toffler's Future Shock — the future is getting here at a faster rate than anyone had thought possible.

Then look at India. Assume that the Planning Commission's annual growth target for the next five years (9 per cent) is missed, and India manages only 8 per cent — the same as in the last decade. If you also assume 6 per cent inflation, and a steady rupee-dollar exchange rate, India's GDP would more than treble in dollar terms by 2021, be as big as a stagnant Japan's, and therefore poised to become the third largest economy in the world — a decade ahead of the Goldman schedule. More Future Shock.

A third Brics country, Brazil, has benefited from the commodity boom, its currency has soared, and its GDP is now nearly as big as Italy's — something that Goldman said would happen only by 2025. With these country scenarios as a backdrop, if you re-assess the big prediction by Goldman – that Brics would be bigger than the G6 by 2040 – the plausible scenario today is that they might overtake the G6 a full decade before that date.

If the theme since 2003 has been about the coming power shift in global affairs, some transitions have already occurred — as The Economist has noted. But the period from now till 2021 is going to be the defining decade. So far the Brics economies have had momentum, now they will also have mass. The difference is between a bird hitting a plane, and a meteor hitting Earth.

The mandatory word of caution has to be that it is always possible for countries to veer off course. You only have to study how the advanced economies have committed hara-kiri since 1999, to see how the most assured futures can turn into troubled realities. And who is to tell that the virus will not spread? When it comes to the emerging markets, every decade other than the last one has claimed one or more victims. Still, the default scenario today is one in which the global power shift is round the next corner.







The increasing support for Anna Hazare is telling. Even those who are critical of his methods support his cause. I am pretty sure that this feeling about corruption has little to do with whether one is party to it. Most people I know who pay bribes claim they do so to avoid harassment by one official or another. They look forward to the day when they can carry on with their daily grind, receiving from the government whatever they are entitled to and have voted for, without having to grease anyone's palms. This is understandable — very few people who do illegal things do so because they love doing illegal things. People are corrupt in India because the material life resulting from corruption – an illegal act – is better than a corruption-free existence. There is a problem with not accepting this position, for then we are claiming that there is something rotten in the Indian gene.

There is another common trait I see among the people who hate corruption. They all believe that the "establishment" is corrupt. They, therefore, want to "establish" an institution filled with good people who would investigate corrupt activities and punish those involved in them. First, we are confident of finding good people who will not be swayed by the gains to be made from being corrupt. Second, we are also confident that as long as civil society is watching, these good people can be chosen by the very same individuals and group who are going to be investigated. The question that remains unanswered is: have we, as a society, thought about what we will do if some members of the new institution are also corrupt? After all, we did build a vigilance commission and we do have a vigilance officer in each government department. How come we are still on the streets fighting against corruption at lower levels of government?

If (some) people are corrupt because they find it profitable, then there are two ways to stop corruption. One is the surety with which corrupt actors get caught and are then punished. This makes corruption very costly, if caught. We need to ensure that the probability of catching corruption is high and the path to punishment is easy and smooth. This is what the Lok Pal Bill, if enacted, is trying to do. The other way to stop corruption is to remove possibilities of making profits through corruption. Both need to be simultaneously implemented; otherwise, resourceful as we are, if there are enough ways to profit from corruption, we will find out ways to avoid, or corrupt, the members of investigating institutions. Unfortunately, as we try to intensify the policing on corruption highways, we keep adding newer highways of corruption all the time. Policing is expensive; if these highways are not built, we will save on the policing costs. More importantly, the investigating agencies will not be overworked and become more efficient in catching those who are corrupt.

Let me introduce a new corruption highway that we are in the process of constructing, overshadowed by all the Lok Pal activities. The land acquisition Bill in Parliament has proposed that owners of lands acquired in rural areas will get six times their current market value and the owners of urban lands will get two times their current market value.There are too many problems with this clause, were it to pass and all these problems together make it easier for corrupt activities to develop.

There are two immediate problems with the land acquisition Bill. The fundamental one is the power being given to the government to act as an intermediary in the transfer of land owned by a set of private parties to another set of private parties. Based on this fundamental problem of letting in the government in what should be a market-based activity, the compensation principle generates avenues of corruption. Let me explain how. Suppose that a particular modification of the use of rural land will increase the land value by four times; a developer is willing to pay 100 per unit of the land, while the last recorded sale of a unit of this land was 25. An honest public servant will not acquire this land. She has the responsibility of not doling out money from one group to another; so if the government cannot pass off the land acquired at six times the current market price to someone who is willing to pay that amount, she should not go ahead with this acquisition. But I am a resourceful Indian (amazingly, when it comes to corruption it does not matter in which ivory tower one resides), so let me outline a process by which I can make a gain from this system. I need to record a sale at 16 per unit. I sell a part of my land at 16 and lose 9 per unit. Now the developer's 100 is an acceptable price for the public official. I sell each of my land units at 100, make a profit of 75, and can easily recoup my 9 per unit loss. Observe that I can make a similar gain if the market price was 10 and the developer was willing to pay 100. For then, instead of 60, which is what the government should pay me, I need to register a sale at 16 so that the government pays me (close to) 100! Of course, the public official is also smart and resourceful; she knows precisely what I am doing and demands a share of my profit and we have something which is called corruption!

Are we thinking about these things while we search for good Indians?

The author is Research Director, India Development Foundation






Reports of the 25 paise coin's demise and the expected birth of two-rupee, hundred-rupee and even thousand-rupee coins don't trouble self-styled Gandhians crusading for financial rectitude in a blaze of publicity. But people who have to worry about the spiralling cost of everything, including Gandhi caps and an unending supply of freshly-laundered crisp white dhotis and kurtas, cannot ignore these warnings of bleak times ahead with money rapidly losing all value.

A chazi, as we schoolboys called the four-anna coin, predecessor of the doomed 25 paise, bought a bottle of Rose and Thistle lemonade with the tantalising marble that no juggling could ever get out. It was a respectable sum to hand across the tuck shop counter or give the box-wallah in return for bright stamp-sized pictures that you dampened and pressed on your arm and, hey presto! you had a colourful tattoo.

The chazi soared to grander heights. "A chavanni membership of the (Congress) party was a badge of honour," an MP reminded Parliament recently. It also plumbed to abysmal depths. As I have written before in this column, some small boys from Burrabazar at a Republic Day parade burst out chanting "Chavanni! Chavanni!" when the Kolkata Police contingent, pot-bellied and panting, shambled past. It was their nickname for constables though I suspect the latter already demanded far more than 25 paise for the least favour.

The 50-paise coin, equivalent of the old eight annas, is probably next on the hit list. It's already gone in one sense for never, in the dozens of times I have flown out of Kolkata airport, has the newsagent in the terminal given me back the change when I have bought a Rs 2.50 newspaper. He always opens his drawer, gazes into it and murmurs, "Sorry but I don't have 50 paise." Never does he suggest taking two rupees. He always takes three, selling the paper at a premium.

Others too play that game. I was glad when the fee for an hour's parking was increased from Rs 7 to Rs 10 because that's what the parking man outside the high court demanded anyway. He always rapped out a peremptory "10 rupees!" when you returned to your parked car. "I don't keep change," he retorted when you pointed out timidly that you had parked for a bare 25 minutes and a full hour's charge was Rs 7. Now, a 10-rupee note will change hands without argument.

Coins once meant gold, silver and copper. Devi Chaudhurani's gold mohur in Bankim Chandra Chatterji's eponymous novel, finds its equivalent in the gold sovereign that William Boot, the innocent hero of Evelyn Waugh's Scoop, is done out of. Tradition decreed welcoming a bride or a newborn with a guinea. But it wasn't all give; there was take too: the new son-in-law who paid obeisance to his mother-in-law with a guinea had to be blessed with two. But just as rupees, annas and pies became decimal paise, metal yielded to nickel-brass, cupro-nickel, aluminium-bronze and aluminium.

Liberia was left moneyless when a bunch of Lebanese traders with tin trunks mopped up all the US dollar notes that were the country's currency. India can always print and mint more but I have known children's piggy banks painstakingly stuffed over the years with two, three and five paise coins going to waste. Five-rupee coins are becoming thinner and lighter.

With legions at his beck and call and the mightiest in the land at his feet, Baburao Hazare should ask why our savings are steadily being robbed. Paper money was bad enough, and for that sleight of hand we must thank China whose seventh century Tang emperors first thought of taking the public for a ride. When Europe introduced notes in the 14th century, the holder was entitled to exchange them at the official bank for the equivalent value in gold or silver. Arvind Kejriwal, economist, erstwhile income-tax official, activist and Hazare's right-hand man, should demand the meaning of "I promise to pay the bearer the sum of one hundred rupees" on a Rs 100 note. How will the governor of the Reserve Bank of India redeem his solemn word? By exchanging one 100-rupee note for another?

We are being short-changed all the way. Self-proclaimed champions of justice aren't interested in complaints that won't make newspaper headlines, draw TV cameras or force the prime minister's intercession. The really poor haven't flocked to the Ramlila grounds. Just as protest fasting is for those who never go hungry, coins are for the poor… and numismatists.  







Imagine getting fresh produce at your table that has been locally and sustainably grown in hygienic, disease-free conditions. Now add to that the knowledge that while you're eating, you are involuntarily conserving resources, reducing your carbon footprint and participating in ecological farming, perhaps even providing landless women and marginalised farmers with jobs.

Okay, it may not make your palak paneer, pesto or rocket salad taste any sweeter, but if you're like me, you will be ready to pay more for the privilege of this choice.

And now the best part – suppose you don't actually have to pay more – all this is available for the same price as your pesticide-ridden, chemically-fertilised produce coming from farms located several hundred miles away? I'd make the switch in a heartbeat — I can't imagine why others wouldn't.

This isn't just an imaginary scenario of a utopian farming commune but something we could see happening around urban pockets, if a couple of agri-entrepreneurs succeed in their attempts to find creative solutions in a sector ignored by policy-makers and educators alike.

Anju Srivastava is a former advertising professional and a first-time entrepreneur with big ideas and a desire to do good. As founder, WinGreens Farms, she has positioned herself as an ethical intermediary between farmers and retailers, straddling the rural-urban divide with empathy and compassion. And a sharp business model.

Cutting straight through to the essence of what's troubling the agriculture sector – fragmented land holdings, the controversial land ceiling Act, lower returns on investment, high dependence on monsoons and crop cycles, distorting fertiliser subsidies, lack of education and thus, investment into modern farming techniques – Srivastava has devised an innovative solution for farmers with small land holdings.

Instead of outright buying or even contracting, Srivastava rents land from farmers at higher than their existing revenues. Then, for an additional salary, she hires those same farmers' families to work the land, thus providing them with not just a rental income, but also a fixed salary. She employs their women as casual labour, which further helps augment family income. By doing all this, she takes the risk away from exactly those people who are at highest risk. And by making them her employees, she makes skilling them acceptable.

But this column is about entrepreneurship, not philanthropy, so what does WinGreens get out of this? Plenty, it appears.

Srivastava is able to explode productivity by introducing high-value, low-water use crops and modern farming techniques. When Srivastava tweaks traditional cropping pattern, swapping jowar and bajra for herbs and salads, converting to drip irrigation to save gallons of water and bring down electricity bills, using composting and other sustainable farming techniques to conserve and improve soil, she gets exponentially higher output of already high-value produce.

"Jab zameen sone ke bhaav hai, to uspe sona ugaana chahiye, na?" (When the land is worth the price of gold, then shouldn't we grow gold on it?) she says as we sit at a coffee shop in New Delhi, less than 50 miles from the three villages where her pilot project has been functional for the past three years .

Where farmers were able to get a revenue of '20,000 per acre per annum, Srivastava, through these techniques, has managed to get '12 lakh per acre per annum, thus creating wealth. "My farmer's family incomes have gone up from '20,000 to '3 lakh per annum," for every acre of land they continue to own, Srivastava says, pride in her voice. And in the process, she ends up educating her farmer-employees, teaching by demonstration.

But because she is a newbie to farming, Srivastava has been circumspect in her growth. She has limited herself to renting 4 acres in Haryana, experimenting with inter-cropping high-value plants like garlic and turmeric with traditional crops, focusing on improving yields. But come November and she will have another 20 acres under her belt and ready to produce winter vegetables such as carrot, cauliflower and bok choy.

"We're on the verge of take-off. Our aim is to minimise food miles and supply the freshest, ethical and traceable produce. And we want this model to be replicable in all parts of India," Srivastava says. She will limit herself to 50 acres over the next three years, but believes that other farmers will be inspired as they learn how to improve yields, and hundreds of acres of farmland will begin to be cultivated more efficiently.

But breaking into traditional cropping patterns requires patience. Embedded inefficiencies become part of the farmer's DNA, and inertia won't let him switch to new crops. And change seems too risky.

"We found an innovative way of taking risk away from the farmer," says Srivastava. With the help of one of the world's largest irrigation companies, Jain Irrigation Systems, Srivastava is helping farms switch to drip irrigation, which waters only the root of plants. This has cut her water and electricity use by almost half. And a 90 per cent subsidy on drip irrigation that the Haryana government offers makes this even more profitable.

But what's really practical is the forward linkage she has created with large retailers — Spencers, Reliance Retail, Big Bazaar and Bharti-Walmart's Easy Day. Currently, she supplies edible greens as well as oxy-generators in garden pots through rented branded kiosk space. And has recently expanded to set up live counters to demonstrate preparation and test-marketing of chutneys, dips and pestos from her farm-grown fresh produce while she waits for various government licenses that will allow her to stock her processed produce on retail shelves.

Srivastava is pulling in all the weight of her past-life corporate networks and personal contacts as she plans her business strategy. Mentor-friends like Technopak's Arvind Singhal have been helping her. Coincidentally, he, too, is experimenting with his own farm-to-market initiative in Uttarakhand — Amrylis Farmworks, currently being handled by son, Aditya.

"We've bought 20 acres in Uttarakhand and are experimenting with 30 different fruit and vegetables, as well as exotic flowers, trying to find the right crop mix," says the 26-year old."Once our project becomes viable, we'll transfer all the technology and know-how to local farmers, free of charge," Singhal tells me over a very strong double espressso.

Singhal is also experimenting with sustainable techniques. Amrylis uses greenhouses or polyhouses, which the government subsidises, to increase yields. "Output has increased 10-20 times," he says.

Both these entrepreneurs are taking risks in a sector that's never been considered exciting. Ideas such as Srivastava's are brilliant in their simplicity — doing well by doing good? C K Prahalad would approve!

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After nearly four months of dither by the government, it's taken the normally reticent Rahul Gandhi to articulate Indians' anguish about corruption. In Parliament today, Gandhi thanked Anna Hazare for speaking out against graft at all levels; he also said that the Lokpal could be made into a constitutional authority like the Election Commission. Gandhi correctly said that an empowered Lokpal will be a necessary, but not sufficient instrument to curb corruption. For that to happen, democratic institutions need to kick in at all levels to hold people to account. By emphasising the role of democratic institutions and Parliament, Gandhi has tried to create a broad, all-party platform to debate and formulate institutions to curb corruption. This is something the government, and the Congress party at its core, failed to do for four months, as the anti-graft movement gathered strength. Gandhi said at least five different areas need special regulations to curb graft: government procurement, land and mining, delivery of pensions and ration cards, tax evasion and political funding. He could have added more: the police and law officers prey on the poor, villagers are at the mercy of local officials, hospital employees extort money from the families of the ill and injured.

It's easy to agree with much that Gandhi said, but his proposal to reform electoral finance through state funding is flawed. Yes, today political funding is a black hole where unaccounted billions of rupees disappear, never to be seen again. But if, as Gandhi says, the state funds political parties and campaigns, it'll be tough to devise a formula acceptable to all parties. Any ruling party will always be suspected of favouring itself over rivals. And even with state funding, there's no guarantee that political outfits wouldn't make a little extra on the side with corporate and private contributions. To reform political funding, India has to move to a system of transparent, voluntary donations to political parties and campaigns. This is allowed in law, but most people choose to keep funding under wraps fearing political reprisal or vendetta. Political parties will now debate the Lokpal; after that they should sit down with businesses and work out how to reform campaign finance.







 The finance ministry has substantially raised the monetary limit for legally contesting indirect tax disputes. Welcome as this is, it is at best an incremental step to reduce litigation. Total tax arrears — direct and indirect — have crossed a staggering . 3.9 lakh crore, which is 40% of the estimated tax collections this fiscal year. Of this, a substantial amount is difficult to recover as defaulters have no assets left, or vanished without a money trail or secured a stay order from courts. Clearly, we need action to clear up this mess and also overhaul the system to prevent a build up of arrears. For this, the tax department should get to the root of the problem that leads to disputes between the authorities and taxpayers. The most important among them is the poor drafting of tax laws that often leads to opposing and varying interpretation of the provisions. Tax laws should be simple and clear-cut if the government wants to lower litigation. The new direct taxes code can and should remove ambiguity to encourage voluntary compliance. The problem will also be addressed by the goods and services tax. Second, cases mount when litigants are reluctant to settle pending ones. Third, there is also unwillingness on the part of the system to take a decision that favours the taxpayer and that adds to case backlog. We should bring down the number of levels of appeals and also incentivise settlement of disputes. The dispute settlement mechanism should become more robust and cases should be disposed of fast.

Of course, tax cheats should not be let off the hook. The government should make creative use of technology to go after big tax offenders that now swim effortlessly outside the tax net. Recent initiatives in using IT to collate taxpayer information have been only partly successful. However, it's unfair to burden a taxpayer with an outgo that is not due under law. Tax officers should not make high-pitched assessments in their zeal to collect taxes. What is needed, therefore, is a cultural change in the way taxes are collected and arrears recovered. Lower tax rates, without exemptions, will also help cut litigation.








There is always a fashion week around the corner in some city in India. But with designers as over-worked and under-rested as the Indian cricket team, will this artistically sensitive community also do its mite to support Anna (Hazare) for the next ramp show? There is no doubt that the anachronistically dressed Gandhian has effected a resurgence of retro and triggered a revalidation of white k h a d ifor a new generation that should catapult him into the same league as the fashion world's Anna (Wintour). Indeed, thanks to him there has been an unexpected Indian contribution to the current international Autumn/ Winter 2011-12 accent on 'statement' accessories as well. Though the d h o t iAnna wears is yet to catch on with a motorcycle and metro-rail habituated youth, his inscribed Anna t o p i s(a 21st century recasting of the defunct headgear paradoxically named after a man who never wore it, Mahatma Gandhi) are undoubtedly the fashion statement of this season of discontent. Thanks to its sleek silhouette and androgynous appeal (another A/W 2011-12 trend) the chances of it making an international splash are high, especially as it has potential for a seamless transition from couture to pret-a-porter.

It is not unusual to see Indian designers get inspired by historic happenings or artistic ferment in other parts of the world; so far most tumultuous Indian events have not given them a defining leitmotif that can get their creative juices flowing. This movement, having also captured the attention of their target clientele, thus presents a unique opportunity for the Indian design fraternity to guide the t o p i'stransition from mass to class, and even offer the international fashion world another uniquely Indian element to draw on after the Nehru jacket and b a n d g ala.





We understand an insurance product as one in which we pay a small premium to avert the small probability of a huge loss. That is why insurance-linked savings products are expected to yield somewhat lesser returns because the returns have to account for the inherent insurance premium. Now imagine an insurance-linked savings product, called a "savings assurance plan" into which you could invest a periodic sum (premium) every year for, say, 10 years. The policy tells you that if you survive the 10 years, you shall receive "the maturity benefit (a certain assured sum) — plus any attaching bonuses, payable on the maturity date of this benefit". Let us say this takes care of the savings element in the policy.

But what if the policy's insurance element states thus: "In case of death during the first year from the date of commencement of the policy, a basic benefit of 80% of the premiums received will be paid to the nominee of the life assured and in case death after the first year, the amount payable on death will be the 'lesser of ': The sum assured (in the maturity benefit) — plus any attaching bonuses; or the total of the premiums paid plus interest, at 6% per annum compounded, on each premium from the premium due date to the date of death"? Now does that surprise you? Well, it appalls me, considering it is a real-life "insurancelinked-savings" product of a prestigious insurance company I came across recently, duly approved by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda)!

Why is the above product shocking? Because, in case of policyholder's death before 10 years, the maturity benefit plus bonuses is almost always likely to be greater than the premium paid plus 6% interest, so that almost invariably, what the survivor will be paid in case of the death is whatever the policyholder had invested plus 6%, which in any case is the least the policyholders could have earned for their nominees in a simple fixed deposit (FD) in a bank, with possibly a higher return. What is worse, the policy has a three-year lockin and one cannot even borrow against it. So, not only does the so-called insurancelinked savings policy afford no insurance, it offers way less interest and flexibility and convenience than any ordinary bank FD.
So, if an insurance product has no insurance element in it, exactly what service does the insurance company render the policyholder? And for this non-service, how do they justify lopping off 20% of the dead policyholder's premium paid if the unfortunate policyholder were to die in the very first year?
Further, is the company being fair to the policyholder in case he survives the 10-year period? Well, the product is very cleverly structured (for the insurance company, that is). The company pegs the maturity benefit (in case of survival) at 84.25% of the nominal value of the premiums paid in this case. For example, if the premium is . 1 lakh per annum for 10 years, the nominal value of the premiums is . 10 lakh. Against this, the maturity benefit is only . 8.425 lakh, which works out to the present value of the 10-year annuity discounted at 4%. Now the attaching bonuses of this company stood at 3.25% at the end of six years of the ten-year period, implying a surrender value of the policy at the end of six years (in case one wanted to exit the policy at the end of six years) to less than the principal paid over six years! And at the end of 10 years if the policyholder survives, even if the "attaching bonuses" improve to, say, 10% at the end of 10 years — an unlikely scenario — that 10% would apply to the maturity benefit which was the discounted value of the annuity at 4%. This would imply a princely return of 6% on your investments, when there was in fact no insurance element to the product! But laymen frequently fall victim to such products.

    Now all this raises two interesting questions. One pertains to the quality of governance in an insurance company. Is this really an honest product, providing any real value to the policyholders? If yes, it is difficult to see what it is. If not, and if such a product is an aberration that slipped through by error, should a responsible company in the financial sector, recall the product just as reputed companies recall defective autos? It takes years for financial companies to build their reputation. A single product like this has the potential to kill that reputation, in case a matter like this ends up in a court of law. The second issue pertains to Irda itself. According to its website, Irda's objectives are to protect the investor's interest; promote orderly growth of insurance industry in the country; devise control activities needed for smooth functioning of insurance companies including investment of funds and solvency requirements to be maintained by insurance companies; and adjudicate on disputes, among others. It is difficult to see how clearing the above product addresses any of the above objectives.

Of course, the above product may not be unique of its kind. Perhaps issues of these kinds are what are at the bottom of the "turf war" between Sebi and Irda that erupt from time to time. It is easy to see why Sebi's concerns may have been justifiable and how Irda may have a long way to go before it acquires the status of a respectable regulator working truly in the interests of the hapless policyholders.









President George W Bush was famous for proclaiming democracy promotion as a central focus of American foreign policy. He was not alone in this rhetoric. Most US presidents since Woodrow Wilson have made similar statements. So it was a striking departure when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified to Congress earlier this year about the "three D's" of American foreign policy — defence, diplomacy and development. The "D" of democracy was glaringly absent, suggesting a fundamental policy change by President Barack Obama's administration.

In the eyes of many critics at home and abroad, the Bush administration's excesses tarnished the idea of democracy promotion. Bush's invocation of democracy to justify the invasion of Iraq implied that democracy could be imposed at the barrel of a gun. Moreover, Bush's exaggerated rhetoric was often at odds with his practice, giving rise to charges of hypocrisy. He somehow found it easier to criticise Zimbabwe, Cuba, and Burma than Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and he quickly toned down his initial reproach of Egypt.
There is a danger, however, in over-reacting to the Bush administration's policy failures. Democracy is not an American imposition, and it can take many forms. The desire for greater participation grows as economies develop and people adjust to modernisation.

Nor is democracy in retreat. Freedom House, a non-governmental organisation, listed 86 free countries at the beginning of the Bush years, a total that increased slightly, to 89, by the end of his term. Democracy remains a worthy and widespread goal, which should be distinguished from the means chosen to attain it. There is a difference between assertive promotion of democracy and more gentle support. Avoiding coercion, premature elections, and hypocritical rhetoric does not rule out a patient policy of economic assistance, quiet diplomacy, and multilateral efforts to support the development of civil society, the rule of law, and support for well-managed elections.

Equally important to the foreign-policy methods used to support democracy abroad are the ways in which we practice it at home. When we try to impose democracy, we tarnish it. When we live up to our own best traditions, we can stimulate emulation and generate the soft power of attraction. This approach is what Ronald Reagan called the "shining city on the hill." For example, many people both inside and outside the US had become cynical about the American political system, arguing that it was dominated by money and closed to outsiders. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 did a great deal to restore the soft power of American democracy.

Another aspect of America's domestic practice of liberal democracy that is currently being debated is how the country deals with the threat of terrorism. In the climate of extreme fear that followed the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration's tortured legal interpretations of international and domestic law tarnished American democracy and diminished its soft power.

Fortunately, a free press, an independent judiciary, and a contentious legislature helped to bring such practices into public debate. Obama has proclaimed that he will close the Guantánamo detention facility within a year, and he has declassified the legal memos that were used to justify what is now widely regarded as torture of detainees. But the problem of how to deal with terrorism is not just a question of the past. The threat remains with us, and it is important to remember that people in democracies want both liberty and security.
In moments of extreme fear, the pendulum of attitudes swings toward the security end of that spectrum. Abraham Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus during the Civil War, and Franklin Roosevelt interned Japanese-American citizens during the early days of World War II.
When some of the more reasonable members of the Bush administration are asked today how they could have taken the positions that they did in 2002, they cite the anthrax attacks that followed 9/11, the intelligence reports of an impending attack with nuclear materials, and widespread public fear of a second attack. In such circumstances, liberal democracy and security are in tension.

Terrorism is a form of theater. It works not by sheer destruction, but rather by dramatising atrocious acts against civilians. It is like jiu jitsu: the weaker adversary wins by leveraging the power of the stronger against itself. Terrorists hope to create a climate of fear and insecurity that will provoke liberal democracies to harm themselves by undercutting their quality in terms of their own values. Preventing new terrorist attacks while understanding and avoiding the mistakes of the past will be essential if we are to preserve and support liberal democracy both at home and abroad. That is the debate that the Obama administration is leading in the US today.

(The author is a professor at Harvard University) © Project Syndicate, 2011

Joseph S Nye






Recently, as the English cricket team re-enacted the Battle of Plassey in Birmingham, faithfully assisted by a supporting cast of our putative world champions, a more dramatic spectacle erupted all around it and eclipsed the coronation ceremony. Riots had broken out all over Britain.

London was burning, Manchester was ruled by mobs, gangs of young men were smashing store windows in Birmingham with the same sadistic determination that Alistair Cook summoned up while smashing the toothless Indian bowling all over the park. British Prime Minister David Cameron looked irritable on TV, perhaps because his much-awaited summer vacation, coming on the heels of a nasty and protracted tabloid scandal, was so rudely interrupted.

The riots startled TV pundits and laymen alike, who are more used to seeing such broadcasts emerge from a Third World hell-hole or some banana republic. Assorted experts were trotted out to spin their pet theories. If you're the type who lies awake at night worrying about the perils of globalisation, you will have no trouble seeing in the mix of things a familiar set of villains — the financial and debt crises, austerity drive, a Tory government, unemployment and income inequality. Those with a taste for psycho-babble can be richly rewarded with panel discussions about the mob mind, garnished with references to Jung and Canetti. Meanwhile, various Third World dictatorships have been watching with interest, and could barely contain their schadenfreude.

Cameron's own diagnosis is predictable: the parasitism and antisocial culture bred by an indulgent welfare state is to blame. He has threatened to kick out folks from government housing colonies, that den of all social vices.
To those who analyse urban riots, admittedly an esoteric pastime, all this should inspire not the gaping disbelief displayed by the commercial media but a sense of déjà vu. The notion that glittering neighbourhoods in affluent nations are immune to social breakdown is incorrect. Police strikes have been made rare in these countries by essential services acts, and if you look at what unfolded on those rare occasions, you might want to check your pro-union sympathies at the door as far as policemen are concerned.

Boston 1919, Melbourne 1923 and Montreal 1969 are all infamous episodes when the withdrawal of police patrols turned the streets into jungles in the space of a day or two. In the summer of 1977, there was a power blackout in New York City that lasted through the night and turned Big Apple into a playing field for arsonists, looters and vandals.

Only a couple of months ago, a massive crowd of hockey fans gathered in Vancouver's downtown after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup finals to the Boston Bruins. What the city lacked in hockey, they made up that night in mayhem and anarchy. I spent the better part of the last decade in Vancouver, and I can testify that save for a few seedy pockets populated by junkies and prostitutes, this is as laidback, idyllic and dainty a little town as you will ever come across, where public disorder seems as likely to occur as a UFO landing. Well, except that the UFO landed once before — there were riots after the 1994 Stanley Cup finals too. Amidst all the pontification about deep social causes, the simplest theory of riots is often missed — they are their own rationale. If you are alone and pick up a brick and aim it at a store window, there will be plenty of cops and prison cells to give you a taste of the incarceration industry's hospitality. If you're one of thousands rushing in to gather merchandise without a credit card, you will be rather unlucky to be among the few token arrests the police will make in order to save face. Dumb choice in one instance, a pretty good bargain in the other.
People so inclined will riot when they sense the prospect of a riot, because there is safety in numbers. The avalanche can be triggered by a very minor cue: maybe a small weakness in the defences like a power blackout or a police strike, maybe a local scuffle that leads to a critical mass of angry agitators, maybe rumours of a UFO landing.

Of course, you and I, upstanding citizens animated by our conscience rather than incentives, cannot imagine indulging in such remorseless opportunism. But humanity is a big club and young adult males have, across ages and cultures, displayed a proclivity towards both ruthlessness and cunning.

Nor is this sort of thing confined to law and order. Recessions happen because people are worried about recessions. Banks fail because depositors pull out all their money worried about bank failure. A currency tanks because speculators come to believe it will. A country defaults because creditors lose faith in its solvency, making it impossible to roll over debt. Psychology is no less important than fundamentals when self-fulfilling prophecies are possible. Beneath every peaceful community, there lurks an ugly riot.

(The author is Associate Professor at Delhi School of Economics)








For over three months now, the Government's position on the Lokpal issue has been quite unclear. During this period, the situation has gradually got out of control with the Anna Hazare camp insisting on one — and only one — thing, namely the unconditional passage of their version of the Lokpal Bill and the Government careening like a drunken driver who has lost all control. The country and the world have been subjected to some amazing sights and ineptitude. Overall, the Government's credibility has been eroded beyond repair and has led not only to calls by the Opposition for the Prime Minister's resignation but also, by some people, for a general election. Unnerved by the goings-on and its own gross incompetence, the Congress has been muttering darkly about the absence of its President, Ms Sonia Gandhi.

Finally, however, thanks to the intervention in Parliament made by the party's second most important spokesperson and General-Secretary, Mr Rahul Gandhi, the country now has a better idea of how the Government is thinking about the issue. The burden of Mr Gandhi's song, which lasted about 15 minutes, was that the Government would not allow itself to be bullied. Towards this end, he made three important observations. First, he said, since corruption was intimately linked to the problem of funding political parties and elections, Government funding of the two was essential. This is an old chestnut that has been chewed over many times with no consensus on just how to allocate the money across different claimants. There is no reason to believe that it is a solvable problem. Second, he said, the Lokpal would have to be accountable to Parliament, which means it would have to be a constitutional authority. This requires an amendment to the Constitution, which is a long drawn out process — except, of course, during an Emergency. Third, he said, just one law was not enough to tackle the problem of corruption. This means a comprehensive reform of so many laws that, once again, the time horizon stretches almost indefinitely. The country has seen how difficult it has been to reform the financial sector, where so many changes are needed to so many different laws that the Government has had to set up a semi-permanent body to come up with all the legislative changes that are needed.

Thus, Mr Gandhi has made clear the essence of the Government's response: we will not be bulldozed into passing an ill-conceived law. No one was expecting such a firm stand which, in some ways, dilutes the Prime Minister's assurances on Thursday. He had promised a debate on all three versions of the Bill. Little wonder, then, that the Hazare camp is saying that that the Government has no credibility. Mr Gandhi has, for all intents and purposes, told Anna Hazare and his supporters to take a walk. That they will, but in which direction? 






In its latest order, the Supreme Court has made a distinction between eligibility and qualifying criterion for the admission of OBC students. Eligibility is taken as the minimum marks to be obtained in the qualifying examination for a person to be eligible for admission, whereas qualifying marks relate to those obtained by the last candidate of the general category, who was admitted. Choice of the eligible mark is arbitrary; the qualifying mark is a fact. 


Invariably, the eligibility criterion is lower than the qualifying marks. In its wisdom, the Supreme Court has said that in admitting students from the OBC category, only the eligibility criterion is valid and not the qualifying marks. I wonder what the IITs should do — they have no eligibility criterion and depend only on the marks obtained in the Joint Entrance Examination.

The IITs have had a long history of admitting SC/ST students. In 1971, the Indian government introduced reservation of 22.5 per cent for the SCs and STs in admission to the IITs. It was done hurriedly and without preparation. 

Reportedly, there was a case in one of the IITs, where a student was admitted with zero marks in all four subjects of the entrance examination. While the other SC/ST students had realised they had performed badly and opted out of the later examinations, this particular candidate had entered all four exams, and as it happened, there were not enough students to fill the quota, and so he too was admitted.

At this stage, I became the Dean in IIT Delhi, in charge of undergraduate courses. Realising what a travesty of justice it would be if such poor quality students were allowed to continue for five years or even more without any prospect of getting a degree, I introduced minimum performance for continuing in IIT. At the end of the year, of the 53 SC/ST students admitted, admission for 47 of them was terminated. In fact, one of them wrote me a letter of thanks for saving his career.

Professor Nurul Hasan, the then Minister for Education, called me for an explanation. I told him that every student had written two sets of internal tests, two semester examinations and also a supplementary examination. On each occasion, I had sent letters to the student and to the parents, expressing my concern at the poor performance and fears that if they continued in the IIT, their future would be ruined. 

The Minister was impressed but still concerned. He went through the list of students who had been terminated and found one Ashok Chaturvedi there.  Ye kaisa aa gaya (how did he come in here?) he asked. I explained that the IITs give automatic admission to the top 10 students from each school board and that he was one of them. He looked at me and then asked aap kya lengechai or coffee? (What will you have, tea or coffee?) That was that.


In a subsequent meeting, I suggested that no SC or ST student should be admitted without securing a minimum of two-thirds of the marks listed for admission for the general candidates to the IITs and to the BHU.

That did not help because not enough candidates qualified. Mr Shankaranand, himself an SC, had become Minister for Education and, at first, he objected to the suggestion made by the Additional Secretary, Professor Jha, to reduce the qualifying marks further, by saying that it would bring a bad name to the community. In the end, he yielded. 

Nowadays, the cut-off is 50 per cent. Unfortunately, sympathy and charity have not helped. Even after 40 years of reservation, SC/ST candidates do not seem to be doing well in the IITs. In IIT Delhi, general category students passed out with an average Grade Point Average of 7.5, whereas the SC/STs had an average of around 5-6. By IIT standards that is low, very low. 


In the light of this record of nearly 40 years, I conclude:

Reservation at the IIT level has not helped SC/T candidates.

It is inconceivable that a community that produced an Ambedkar cannot produce a few hundred students each year to perform well in the IITs.

Therefore, the system used by the IITs does not attract the best students from the SC/ST communities. SC/ST candidates look for a career in government establishments, which only reserve posts for their community but do not show any preference to IIT graduates. 

Hence, it appears that good quality SC/ST candidates voluntarily prefer to study in institutions other than the IITs, where the competition is less severe and admission is easier. Thus, it appears highly probable that the IITs are not attracting the best students from these communities.

I go further and suggest that reservation at the university level is not the correct solution to the backwardness of communities. Instead, reservation should be given at the earliest stage — say at the end of the first standard, or at the most, the fifth standard. 

I suggest that in each district, a hundred or two hundred best students be selected at this low level and sent — with adequate scholarships — to the schools from where the IITs and other such institutions get their regular students. With such good education, the SC/ST students should be able to compete, on equal terms, perhaps, without any need for special privileges. 

Selected students may even be below the poverty line (BPL) — they will mostly be SC/STs — but will definitely not bear the stigma of caste. The "SC Brahmins" — who want to preserve their hegemony rather than truly help the underprivileged — are likely to object. But then, there is the Supreme Court; but that is another story.   

Reservation at the university level is not the correct solution to the backwardness of communities. This is borne out by their poor performance. Instead, seats should be reserved at the primary school level.



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Many have noted an atmosphere of intimidation being sought to be created by the massed protesters of the Jan Lokpal Bill movement. Chances are that if they don't agree with you, they will send a posse from Ramlila Maidan to camp outside your house in a bid to elicit compliance. Rahul Gandhi learnt this to his cost on Friday. Shortly after he suggested in the Lok Sabha that the Lokpal be accorded a constitutional status — same as the Chief Election Commissioner or the CAG — rather than a mere statutory one being deliberated now, the Ramlila battalions were exhorted to picket his residence. Earlier, the tweeting mob was asked to similarly coerce Congress MPs and leaders, including the Prime Minister. The purpose is to barrack them into lending their support to the movement's version of the Lokpal Bill and no other. This was not Gandhi's way. It is suggested by the movement's leaders that the Congress general secretary's proposal is diversionary. Former Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan does not agree. In any case, the move can be seen as a postponing tactic only for those who unreasonably insist that the Lokpal be installed, say, no later than 10 days from now, by short-circuiting parliamentary processes and by forcing all MPs to vote one way, that desired by the movement. It is not clear what will be lost if a Constitution amendment bill takes two or three months. The famous jurist, Fali Nariman, said in an interview to this newspaper about two months ago that a constitutional footing for the Lokpal will imbue the position with greater responsibility. It can also be argued that just as the writ of the CEC and the CAG runs across India, so will that of the Lokpal if Mr Nariman's view and Mr Gandhi's is considered. In that event, some of the key points raised by Hazare like the national remit for the anti-graft baron are likely to be addressed more easily, removing a serious point of friction. With PM taking the lead, on Friday the Lok Sabha was to debate the movement's bill as a "document" alongside other versions in order to get a sense of the House. It made no sense to introduce voting at this stage as the idea was to glean valuable inputs from the several suggestions that are in the public domain. Mr Hazare had indeed wanted his bill to be given an airing in the House, and this was a perfect opportunity. Regrettably, the move was aborted with the BJP leadership seeking a vote on the three thorny elements of the Hazare movement. An early resolution of issues looks to be slipping away.







Freedom is just a word for nothing left to lose, sang Janis Joplin. If she were alive today, she and her song would have surely been banned in China because she used the word "freedom". The sensitive Chinese find the term very subversive and have been scouting around for all songs which have it and proscribing them. Lady Gaga, who no doubt looks menacing to the Chinese, has earned the Communist Party's wrath for her songs. In one, she ends the song with a Spanish line that translates as O freedom, O love... which definitely has the potential to overthrow the system. In the old days, party censors were touchy about references to matters like Tiananmen Square, Tibet or the Dalai Lama as these were seen as ways to meddle in the country's internal affairs. Human rights was of course a big bugbear. Lately, however, Beijing has become extra-touchy. A few months ago any online search for the word "jasmine" was blocked, as it was seen as a reference to the "jasmine revolutions" in West Asia and North Africa. God forbid a florist wanted to check the flower's prices; he could be hauled off to jail. What next? Arresting someone for ordering the film Born Free for nice family viewing on the weekend?







"Where is the girl who stole the sunlight? Burnt to a crisp, she's gone without trace- We treat them as deities, twinkling and bright Though we know stars are only explosions in space." From The Angle of the Dangle by Bachchoo The best place to lose a grain of sand is on the beach. The best place for Osama bin Laden to hide was in a compound close to the people who were supposedly hunting him down. The latest conspiracy theory on his capture and execution is ingenuous and intriguing, maintaining that Bin Laden and his retinue were apprehended by the Americans altogether elsewhere and then smuggled into the compound in the military town of Abbottabad. The Americans then followed through with the staged landing of helicopters, the deliberate destruction of one of them to obviate the danger to the heroic American squad undertaking this operation and the enactment of the encounter in the bedroom, the execution and removal of the body. The theory acknowledges that a watery grave was the final resting place of OBL (fish be upon him!). The conspiracy theory is ingenuous in its construction, disingenuous in intent. The world has so far conjectured that the Pakistani Army either colluded in Bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad and that elements of the Armed Forces knew all along that they were sheltering the terrorist, or that the Pakistani Army had a failure of intelligence and really didn't know that Bin Laden was sheltering in their backyard. The Army Chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has taken the hit. The Pakistani government pleads ignorance of Bin Laden's presence and pleads guilty to a failure of intelligence. As the slogans on the rickshaws in Pakistani cities after the incident said (in various ways in Urdu and Punjabi): "Shoosh, be quiet, the Army is asleep!" Either way, Pakistan's American sponsors, or American allies in the international line-up against Islamist terror, will be displeased, sceptical and are even now asking hard questions. An internal enquiry, already enquiring, may come to some conclusions. These may contain some truth or they may prove to be a complete obfuscation, known in the enquiry trade as "a fix and a whitewash". The Pakistani government's favoured option is inefficiency rather than connivance and the international double-cross it implies. Our conspiracy theory overrides both. It's the Americans who, suspicious of Pakistan's feeble commitment to the anti-terror cause, set out through this Machiavellian plot to bring disgrace or suspicion upon the Pakistani Army. The Army is therefore neither guilty of double dealing nor of inefficiency. Allowing American helicopters to use its skies has been sanctioned before. To her credit, Carey Schofield's Inside the Pakistan Army, an account of the eight years that this English writer spent in the ranks and on the frontlines of conflict in that country, bravely starts her book with a bald statement of this dilemma. It must have been difficult for a writer, whose commitment to and affection for the institution, operations, personnel and spirit of the Pakistani Army is more than clear, to acknowledge in her introduction that she leans to the failure of intelligence option. Inside the Pakistan Army is the first portrait of an institution which has governed the 63-year-old country for two-thirds of its existence and has to be seen as a chief bastion against the spread of Islamism in the South Asian theatre. It features interviews with the major players as the themes and narratives unfold. It ought to interest the specialist and the lay reader. In a breathless introduction Schofield outlines the several paradoxes the Pakistani Army presents. Is it complicit with and encouraging terror or fighting it? Through several narratives of Army offensives against insurgents, mainly in the tribal regions, she comes to the compelling conclusion that several commanders of the Army — she boldly names them — approved of a policy of buying off the warlords of the insurgency. Others, such as Gen. Faisal Alavi, whose tragic story she presents in detail, the head of the Special Forces, Pakistan's Force de Frappe, believed that paying warlords would only strengthen them and reinforce their ambition of de facto rule over the tribal regions and territories. The danger of the establishment of a Shariac state was evidenced when the Islamists took over Swat and began seeping southwards, even threatening Islamabad. Alavi, in pursuit of his conviction that the Army if better equipped, trained and led could and had to beat the insurgents, set up official co-operation with the US and the UK special forces, such as the SAS, making material and strategic alliances. While he was at this task briefly in Hereford, rival factions within the Army connived to have him sacked. They influenced Gen. Pervez Musharraf to believe that Alavi had in some serious way broken ranks and been disloyal. Moreover that he had brought the Army into disrepute through his liaison with a Pathan lady who seems to have been a "broad Generaliser", so to speak. Mr Musharraf dismissed Alavi and soon after the protection afforded to him as SF commander was removed, he was ambushed and murdered. Schofield's account deliberately avoids the larger question of why Pakistan has not generated its own form of sustainable civil democracy. Is the Army the only competent and coherent body that can rule a country conceived as Pakistan was? Is that competence and coherence, not least through the evidence of this book itself, in question today?









WAS it hypocrisy or a realisation of the responsibilities that devolve upon them? The jury of public opinion is "out" on that one. While it was indeed reassuring that parliamentary leaders of all political parties joined ranks in asserting the primacy of the legislature and its prescribed processes that were being made light of in the demands from Team Anna for expeditious passage of its version of the Lokpal legislation, it will take more than lofty statements to restore aam aadmi's confidence in Parliament and its institutions.
  It would not help if note was taken that the very next morning Question Hour came a cropper in both Houses. It is a sad reality that just as the government remained insensitive to public outrage over the corruption, legislators fail to understand that their (mis)conduct has similarly disgusted the citizens. What makes that even more unacceptable is that when nothing that is politically controversial is on the agenda the quality of debate is capable of rising high ~ as in the Rajya Sabha during the impeachment motion. Yet, it is simultaneously true that in the absence of potential political fireworks the attendance dwindles, the proceedings are listless. The apex legislature, it is obvious, has been reduced to a political boxing ring.
More than once during the "live" discussions on TV over the last few days, participants made it clear they found no reason to have respect, or faith, in MPs when much of their energy was squandered on forcing adjournments, shouting slogans and trading personal charges. Bringing intelligence and application to bear when approving legislation, or serious debate on issues of national importance was not on the priority list. That persons with criminal records "adorned" the benches, and money and muscle were now standard electoral-aids further lowered the public image of what was once termed the "temple of democracy". Maybe that is not a complete reflection of the legislature, but it is not completely off the mark. When live-telecasts were introduced it was hoped the quality of debate would improve: on the contrary it only resulted in increased, competitive rowdy behaviour. While it is true that it is the duty of the government to "run" the House, surely it cannot be the duty of Opposition leaders to disrupt proceedings? The time has come for MPs, across the board, to accept that they too are guilty of blunting the cutting edge of Indian democracy.



THE Trinamul Congress government appears to have curtailed the standard time-span for evaluation of a new regime by ten days. And quite the most significant decision of the first 90 days in office is to defer the idea of reviving the West Bengal Legislative Council, 42 years after it was abolished by the first United Front regime. The state can scarcely afford the luxury of a bicameral legislature, an anachronism at the state level. Admittedly, the ruling party could well have revived the Vidhan Parishad on the strength of its numbers in the Assembly. "Some CPI-M and Left members opposed the move and I have decided to defer it,'' was Mamata Banerjee's justification for backtracking on a pre-election promise. Days after the vacuous renaming of the state, this must rank as another instance of ruling party-opposition coordination. Better sense has prevailed not least because of the failure of the special committee to reach a unanimous decision. There is little doubt that the actual reason for the proposed revival was to accommodate ardent loyalists. The lolly, in the shape of a redundant entity, would have been forbiddingly expensive for a state up to its neck in debt; it is good therefore that better sense has prevailed.

Aside from shelving the Vidhan Parishad proposal, there is little or nothing categorical in Sarkarer Nobboi Din (The Government's Ninety Days) that has been published with a cover photograph of the Chief Minister. Of course, the state's name is to be changed and new areas have been added to the jurisdiction of Kolkata Police. Otherwise, there is an inherent tentativeness in this 55-page booklet on weightier issues as land reforms, the fiscal crisis, Darjeeling, Junglemahal, investment and higher education. The next publication will be convincing only if it focuses on achievements.

Coinciding with the 90 days in office, the Chief Minister has courteously appealed to the Opposition ~ with folded hands ~ to abjure bandhs. This is unlikely to be accepted if the immediate response of the parties ~ from the CPI-M to the BJP ~ is an index. Miss Banerjee has realised the compulsions of governance close to five years after she had called serial bandhs over the land acquisition in Singur (December 2006). In her bid to regulate protest, she comes through as a CM on the same wavelength as her predecessor. It will not be easy though to jettison an institutionalised feature of West Bengal politics in the decades since Independence.  All parties have exploited this disruptive form of agitprop, only to realise the futility of the exercise.



THE IIT council is scheduled to take a call on 14 September on the Ramasami committee's report on reforms. Not that these premier centres of excellence are targeting a reformation; but should the panel's recommendations be accepted without modification, this could lead to a dramatic change in the functioning of IITs as indeed other technological colleges. Chief among the suggestions is a single admission test that will take care of entry to IITs and the state-level institutions. On the face of it, this is a theoretically sound concept. The admission tests are at present conducted by the IITs, state-level boards and the AICTE. A single exam will ensure uniformity in evaluation. There are merits and demerits of both systems, however. Standards of school-leaving exams ~ ISC, CBSE and state Higher Secondary councils ~ vary from state to state. And the varying syllabi may militate against a common all-India evaluation. The recommendation calls for reflection; in the interests of the students, it would be unfair to rush to a decision.

The Ramasami committee's suggestion on tenure-based faculties deserves unqualified support. It is somewhat similar to the system that obtains in campuses in America, and is embedded in the concept of perform or perish. The system will ensure regularity and quality of classroom lectures, a casualty of higher education at least in West Bengal. Small wonder that two years ago, the UGC had stipulated a minimum number of lectures to justify the enormously hiked pay-band. If the entry of students is to be regulated, the performance of the faculties ought also to be subject to evaluation.

Yet another suggestion relates to the fee structure. It would be an under-statement to call the proposed hike exorbitant. The committee has recommended Rs 2 lakh a year for IITs, up from the present Rs 50,000. In terms of fees, the IITs will rank next to the IIMs. Even allowing for the proposed subsidy for weaker sections, this will severely compromise those who aren't poor enough to be called 'weaker' but not rich enough to afford Rs 2 lakh a year. Unlike the IIMs, the under-graduate course in IITs is meant for those straight out of school. It would be less than fair to charge the students at the rate of the post-graduate B-schools. To cite lucrative offers at the end of the B Tech course is to proceed from conclusion to premise. It will only encourage loan melas in banks.








ANNA Hazare has said that his movement will not end after creating a Lokpal. He has announced his intention to take up other grievances related to farmers, workers, students and the rest. Addressing grievances piecemeal is not the answer. What India needs is a system and structure of governance that redresses problems in the natural course. That is what lasting reform of the system implies. That is what a functioning democracy must deliver. What might be the agenda that can reform the system to deliver effective governance in the natural course?

This is what young people inspired by the desire to end corruption might consider. The suggestions outlined below reiterate ideas that have been expressed through these columns earlier. Diverse suggestions have been lumped together to attempt a cohesive agenda that addresses the system and structure of governance and not merely specific current issues.

Consider first the structure of governance. It needs to be streamlined and simplified. That can be accomplished by creating a five-tier system. The five tiers would be federal, state, district, block and primary. The present districts should be delimited so that each district conforms to each parliamentary constituency. Similarly, each block should conform to each assembly constituency. The primary units would be the rural village and the urban (Mohallah) colony. The number of polling booths required to create a primary unit may be specified. By such delimitation the multiplicity of authority would be reduced. The jurisdiction of legislators would be better demarcated.

As for the system of governance, the Constitution must be viewed afresh in order to fulfil the intentions of its framers. Ours is a written Constitution. Its text leaves little room for ambiguity. Distortions were created in its interpretation from its very inception. Our Constitution is neither Westminster nor is the elected President a titular head. Unless the huge gap between precept and practice is removed there is little scope for either delivering effective governance or curtailing corruption. Indeed, all the amendments to the Constitution need to be reviewed. Many were introduced through political expediency and not for real legislative compulsions. All superfluous amendments need to be ruthlessly scrapped.

Also, several provisions of the Constitution and some of its Directive Principles have been virtually ignored over the past six decades. That has eroded the federal character of Indian politics. Broadly, we must decentralize power to offer self-rule and democracy to the people. At the same time we must allow the President to exercise the powers assigned to the office by our written Constitution. That would help create democracy at the grassroots and through a President exercising executive responsibility create unity and cohesion at the Centre. It might be observed that in America the states have more power than states in India, at the same time the US President has more powers than the Prime Minister in India.

Over the years the role of legislators has been distorted to empower them with executive responsibility in addition to legislative work. The discretionary development fund allotted to each legislator that is spent in each respective constituency is one example. Keeping in mind this distorted view of the legislator's role that has already got deeply embedded in the consciousness of the electorate a modification suggests itself. Each primary, block and district level should have elected executive councils accountable to local residents empowered to deal with all problems accruing exclusively to each respective constituency. The development fund should be used by the respective executive council and not singularly by the legislator.

The local MP might chair the district executive council and the local MLA could chair the block executive council. The primary level at both the rural and urban constituencies should have an elected headman presiding over the executive council. All the adult residents of the primary unit would comprise the general body having voting rights. There should also be created a new primary tier of the police that would be accountable to the primary executive council. It might be mentioned that such a primary tier of police could prove to be an invaluable data source for federal counter-terrorism Intelligence. The permanent residents of each district would be considered owners of the land and natural resources that fall within its parameters. They would have the constitutional right to have a say and be consulted in the exploitation of such resources by either the government or private parties.

To address various demands for new states there should be constituted a Second States Reorganisation Commission empowered to create smaller states preferably to be carved out from within the borders of existing large states. It should also consider the conversion of all major metropolitan capitals into city-states that might host space and facilities to the newly created small states that fall within the original large state.
The Planning Commission should be replaced by the Peoples' Planning Commission that would be accountable to the empowered Inter-State Council as envisaged in the Constitution. The President with a mandate from both Parliament and all State Assemblies would preside over this Council. . This Commission should ensure that the bulk of public funds, including those realized from public sector disinvestment, are deployed to provide rural development including new roads, management of drinking and irrigation water, power generation, healthcare and literacy.

Public investment in these sectors would hugely expand employment and create purchasing power in rural India. In industry there should be created in addition to the public and private sectors a Workers' Sector in which all employees would have a share of profit and ownership, and in floor level management. All board decisions of workers' sector units would be transparent to workers. In short, the proposed People's Plan would help develop India's richest natural resource ~ its human population.

Finally, the new agenda should seek the introduction of a clause in the Directive Principles of the Constitution that commits the nation to strive for the goal of a South Asian Union comprising all nations of erstwhile British India, plus other SAARC nations that might want to be included, that delivers a common market, joint defence and free movement of goods and people across borders. The realization of this goal alone would enable India to play its rightful role in the comity of nations.

Thus, decentralized administration, an empowered President, smaller states, a South Asian Union and a People's Plan constitute an explicit five-point agenda that Young India might consider. After the creation of an acceptable agenda, either this or another, young Indians might proceed to create a political party on its basis, contest the general election, form a government and create a New India of their dreams. That is the real challenge facing young Indians seeking genuine change.

On 14 April 2011, I wrote in these columns: 'These days many young Indians are displaying formidable talent and enterprise in the world of commerce. Well, the challenge of creating a political party is no more daunting than of creating a business corporation. Both enterprises require communication, organization and marketing. Only, parties deal with ideas and policies and not with products and services. It is a tough task. But the national mood revealed by the countrywide reaction to Anna Hazare's fast indicates that the time for it to succeed has arrived.' The media is full of the young enlightened middle class that has got drawn into India's Second War of Independence. Well, implementing some such agenda as this would be the real challenge facing this class.
The creation of a Lokpal would be just the first immediate small step. For the Lokpal to be incorporated in the proposed agenda, it would be a constitutional body accountable wholly to the President without reference to the Cabinet. Likewise the CBI converted into a constitutional body would, like all other constitutional bodies, be accountable wholly to the President. The Lokpal would be confined to dealing only with political corruption in both the Centre and, through its branches, in the states. The Central Vigilance Commission would continue to look after the rest of the corruption cases. To imagine that an instant solution to end corruption exists is delusional. Fighting corruption genuinely would require dogged effort. Is Young India up to facing the challenge?

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist






The government of India woke up late to honour one of the country's illustrious sons and recently issued a commemorative stamp on his 126th birth anniversary. Pandit K Santanam of Lahore was a Tamil Iyengar Brahmin who recorded the horror of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre for the probe committee appointed by the Indian National Congress. He had worked in close association with Mahatma Gandhi, Lala Lajpat Rai and other stalwarts of India's freedom movement. His greatest contribution to the national cause was the two-volume report he compiled on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 13 April, 1919. He met hundreds of the victims and their families and worked tirelessly for their rehabilitation.

He made Lahore and Punjab his home, never wanted to leave the cosmopolitan city and was heart-broken over Partition. Pandit K Santanam (1885-1949), son of A Krishnamachari Iyengar, was educated at Kumbakonam, Madras, Cambridge and London. Losing his parents when he was still a child, he received financial and moral support from his elder brother K Bhashyam who later became a minister in the erstwhile Madras presidency.
Settling in Lahore in 1911, Santanam practiced as Barrister at Lahore High Court. He married Krishna, daughter of Arya Samaj leader Pandit Atma Ram Vedi, in 1916. The couple had four daughters, including the lone survivor, Madhuri Santanam Sondhi, 77, widow of eminent parliamentarian and IFS topper, the late ML Sondhi.

In 1924, Lajpat Rai made Santanam managing director of Lakshmi Insurance Company. It soon expanded into a highly successful all-India life insurance enterprise, remembered for its integrity, caring service and the employment and shelter it offered to political sufferers. Pandit Santanam was an eminent lawyer and a leading light of the Congress. Many activists of the freedom struggle who had been tried by the British looked up to Pandit Santanam for their defence. A woman of no mean scholarship, Madhuri Santanam lives in New Delhi and heads the ML Sondhi Memorial Trust. She spoke to RC RAJAMANI about her father and her life with him
First, about your father in your own words…

Kumbakonam, the famous temple-cum-educational centre, was the birthplace of my father. When Swami Vivekananda visited that town, my father would have been a young adolescent. From what I have heard from my father and elders of the family, his childhood was typically Tamil ~ he played in the streets of Kumbakonam, swam in the Cauvery, and went to school and college there.

On his return from England, why did your father choose to go to Lahore and not Madras?

Returning to India, my father refused the strongly suggested shuddhi ceremony meant for Brahmins to de-pollute themselves after overseas travel. He knew well his refusal would antagonise his community and make life difficult for him. So, on arrival in Bombay, he went straight to Lahore, well, via Lucknow and Rangoon but he certainly didn't go south, not straightaway. This decision, almost a leap in the dark, was to turn out to be a very happy one. He enrolled at the Bar at Lahore High Court and prospered. Friends found him a bride, Krishna Vedi from a UP Arya Samaj family whom he married in 1916, an early inter-regional inter-caste marriage that attracted Press comment ~ both The Tribune and The Hindu wrote about it. The couple brought up their children without any notion of caste.

What was his role in the aftermath of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre?

My father began to draw public attention in 1919 after the clamping of martial law in several districts of Punjab following the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh. Not many advocates at that time were willing to appear on behalf of people victimised by the government but my father took up the Lahore Leaders Case instituted against Lala Harkishen Lal and others. He was appalled at the summary manner in which the martial court conducted its proceedings and wanted to have the case shifted to another court. For this, he had to go to Indian's then summer capital Shimla but travelling to and out of Punjab was severely restricted, especially for lawyers. Nevertheless, he managed to smuggle himself out by train, hiding under a bunk which came to be occupied by an Englishman.  
In Shimla, he failed to get the Leaders case transferred to another court, but he did meet the Indian member of the Viceroy's Council, Sir Sankaran Nair, and apprised him of happenings in Punjab which helped the news travelling across the country. He made it a practice of giving only half of his earnings to my mother to take care of household expenses and the rest went towards helping those persecuted politically and the Congress. He also helped needy individuals and aspiring entrepreneurs. For many years after his death, I would run into people on trains and planes, at hotels and other places who on learning of my relationship with Pandit K Santanam, would recount how he had helped them.

As a Tamil, how did your father take to a new culture?

Apparently, he had no problem plunging into a new environment and culture, possibly due to his natural cosmopolitan temperament that was strengthened during his stay abroad. Yes, both parents participated actively in the rich cultural and social life of Lahore ~ we had music baithaks at home, Ram Gopal ~ the Bharatanatyam dancer ~ stayed with us on his visits to Lahore; so did good friends Sarojini Naidu and Badshah Khan among a host of others.

What was your father's role in the freedom movement?

In 1920, he gave up his legal practice during Mahatma Gandhi's Non-Cooperation Movement, and lectured at the college set up by Lajpat Rai. The next 10 years of his life were politically vibrant. He was made the general secretary of the Punjab Provincial Congress Committee (1921-22) and the president of the Batala PCC in April 1922. At this time, he was but 37 years of age. He also served as the municipal commissioner of Lahore from 1921 to 23, and thus his identification with Punjab became complete. Rajaji (himself an Iyengar) recalled with amusement in later years that whenever Santanam rose to make a point in Congress meetings, they would all wait with bated breath for his signature preface to any comment ~ "In Punjab...". In 1926, he was appointed one of the general secretaries of the AICC along with Dr Ansari and A Ramaswami Iyengar. He was jailed three times for offences which included participation in the Non-Cooperation Movement and satyagrahas. Great was his disappointment when the Muslim League gained popularity, leading to the terrible Partition riots and the division of the country in 1947.

The two years that he lived after Independence, surrounded by displaced and grieving Punjabi families, drove him to refugee rehabilitation work, and he became a member of the advisory committee for the ministry of relief and rehabilitation in 1948.

What memories do you have of your father?

Well, I was born when my father was 50 years old. I knew him as an elderly person. But he was full of life, joie de vivre. He often wore the achkan and churidhar. The Gandhi cap, of course, was his trademark. The most striking thing about him was his sense of humour and healthy sense of self-respect and dignity. Since I was sent to a boarding school in Murree, a hill station near Rawalpindi, in effect, I would spend only about two months a year with my father.

Do you recall having seen leaders of the Freedom movement and Congress stalwarts at your home in Lahore?
What I recall of my father was basically as the head of the Lakshmi Insurance Company. When he came back in the evening, several political leaders used to wait for him. Since I was too young, I did not know who these leaders were. What I remember is that he helped many Congressmen who came with some petition or the other.
Did you ever meet Nehru in the company of your father?

No, not really. But my mother and I had a meeting with Nehru in Delhi after the death of my father. We spent quite some time with him.

Pandit Santanam had all the credentials needed to become a member of Nehru's Cabinet. Why do you think this did not happen?

Well, this thought never occurred to me then since I was too young. Now, looking back with a historical perspective, my father was not exactly in the group of Congressmen to which Nehru and others belonged. I mean, with his background of banking and insurance, my father must have been in favour of free enterprise, which was not looked upon favourably during the initial years of our Independence. Socialism and public sector were the economic mantra then. Well, this is my surmise; In any case, my father was too proud to ask for anything.
Your father never wanted to leave Lahore. How did he come to Delhi?

Yes, it is true that he never wanted to leave Lahore where he had established himself and built a house and a large circle of friends, admirers and associates. Perhaps he never wanted to believe that Partition was imminent. At the time of Independence, he was in Kashmir with his family to escape the heat and dust of Lahore as he was suffering from an acute bout of asthma. But he could never return to Lahore as Partition riots had broken out and my father's house and other properties were lost forever. We reached Delhi practically empty handed. 







I could go on but owing to weakness, I am ending my speech here.
Mr Anna Hazare while speaking at the Ramlila Maidan on Day 10 of his fast

We are passing through an interesting and turbulent period.
Army chief General VK Singh on the Hazare campaign

You made my day. I have been dying to see a smile on your face.
Dr Murli Manohar Joshi to Dr Manmohan Singh in the Lok Sabha

Workers cannot do away with their right to organise bandhs and strikes, come what may.
Leader of Opposition in Pashchimbanga Assembly Dr Suryakanta Mishra

Civilians are being killed by Maoists. A Left worker was killed a few days ago. A Trinamul worker too has been killed. The politics of murder has to stop. Killing people is a criminal offence; no one has the right to kill.
Pashchimbanga chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee

This is the highest number of doctoral degrees awarded among all IITs but we could do better. Our aim is to see to it that 30 per cent of all IIT students pursue a PhD.
Director of IIT Kharagpur Mr Damodar Acharya while congratulating 245 students for receiving their doctoral degree from Kharagpur IIT

The Prime Minister, the then finance minister who is now the home minister and the current telecom minister have told the House that no loss has been caused to the exchequer through spectrum sale.
Jailed DMK MP Ms Kanimozhi's counsel Mr Sushil Kumar in a CBI court

It the players have played the IPL at the cost of national commitment, then it isn't fair.
Former Indian cricket captain Tiger Pataudi after India's 0-4 loss to England

I always wanted to retire while playing but sometimes things don't go your way... I hope I get to watch in my lifetime India playing the World Cup. Bigger and better players than Bhutia will see to it.
Baichung Bhutia while announcing his retirement from international football







The record of the progress made by Co-operative Credit Societies in Bengal set out in the annual report of the Registrar for 1910-11 is satisfactory in one sense and disappointing in another. The societies in 1905-06 numbered 57, with a membership of 2,606 and an aggregate capital of Rs 32,000. By 1909-10 there were 511 societies in existence, their total membership being 22,871 and their  combined capital nearly Rs 7 lakhs. Further progress was recorded last year, and at the end of that period the number of societies had grown to 715, their membership to 35,250 and their aggregate capital to just under Rs 11 lakhs. The ratio of advance thus shown is highly encouraging. But it is obvious that, magnificent as the work of the societies undoubtedly is, their operations touch only an infinitesimal proportion of the people of this Province, which possesses a population of 52.5 million souls. The reason is not far to seek. Mr Buchan in his Report affirms that the movement has received considerable attention during the year, and that there has been a marked increase in public interest of a detached and impersonal kind. The advantages that must accrue to India from co-operation are admitted by all. "And yet," says the Registrar, "as far as practical results are concerned the co-operative appeal is still a voice crying in the wilderness. We have the spectacle of a movement which could do more practical good to India than any scheme now within the sphere of practical politics being held back because the more enlightened Indians decline to give a small amount of their time to it. All honour is due to those who have put their hands to the work. But their number is still lamentably small. Here is surely an object which deserves the practical and enthusiastic support of the leaders of Indian opinion." There  is unfortunately nothing new in this complaint. Year by year the attention of the educated classes has been directed to the great field open to them. But while professions of sympathy with "our people" are more plentiful in Bengal than in any other part of the world that has risen to the dignity of newspapers and oratory, the apathy of orators and writers, when it is a question of saving the ryot from the toils of usury, is equally pronounced. It is noteworthy, moreover, that out of the twelve honorary organisers of co-operative credit societies in the Province seven bear European names. The movement means more to India than the provision of credit on equitable terms. It has been instrumental in Bengal in stimulating interest in education and in sanitation, and an increasing number of the societies give monthly subscriptions to village schools. The improvement of agriculture is another question to which the societies devote their attention. Mr Buchan states, moreover, that he could cite cases of village feuds of long duration being settled as a result of the movement and of the rival factions joining in harmonious work in one society.The local arbitration of village disputes, also, is becoming common where societies are established, and the people consequently do not waste their substance in petty but expensive litigation.








Dare to know — Sapere Aude — that memorable motto of the Enlightenment propounded by the philosopher, Immanuel Kant, in the 18th century laid the basis of not only advancement of knowledge but also of an era of robust individualism. That age saw the emergence of capitalist entrepreneurship and innovation, all emanating from the initiatives of individuals. "Prometheus unbound" is how one historian described this age. The spirit of that epoch is now a remote past. The late 20th century and the early 21st century do not celebrate the eccentric individual or the maverick genius. Decisions today are taken, more often than not, by men and women dressed in black — power dressing, as the jargon has it — working in committees. Not that decisions taken by committees are necessarily wrong but they do tend towards promoting conformism. The overwhelming pressure is to preserve the status quo, to follow the precedent or the trend. Individual talent given to thinking and acting against the grain gets ignored and thus dries up in such an ambience. Conformism is the opiate of the imagination.

Given this overarching context, a person like Steve Jobs deserves to be exalted. In his chosen field, Mr Jobs, in spite of the many illnesses that he battled, is already a legend. His legendary status is due to the fact that when all industries are driven by the market and information about the market, Mr Jobs decided he would make his own market. Not for him the conventional routes of market research and market testing before launching a new product. He trusted his instincts and his gut feeling. Above all, he was always confident that the product he was offering to his consumers was the best and that is why it would be preferred. He was proved right more than once. Mr Jobs is single-handedly responsible for making computers a necessity of modern life. They could have easily remained trapped in the cocoon of a geek's obsession or hobby. Apple became the byword for excellence and innovation.

The hallmark of Mr Jobs's career was his ability to take risks. This is what marked him out as an archetypal innovator. He did not accept the boundaries of either the market or technology. This allowed him to channel his creative energies into producing gadgets that, before his advent, had seemed almost inconceivable. In this sense, Mr Jobs revived the spirit of Prometheus: he had the courage to steal fire (read innovative gadgets) for the use of human beings. He brought to the skills and instincts of a master entrepreneur the genius of an inventor. He personified the era of individualism in an epoch that privileged collective effort. Mr Jobs was also poignantly aware of his own fragility. He knew instinctively that an individual is infinite in his faculties and can be like an angel in action but also, in the eternal stream of time, nothing more than a ripple.








About 20 years ago, I found myself in the same room as Anna Hazare, at a meeting organized by the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi. Mr Hazare was becoming known in environmental circles for the work he had done in his native village, Ralegan Siddhi. His successful programmes of watershed conservation and afforestation stood in stark contrast to the efforts of the state forest department, which had handed over vast tracts of virgin forests to industry. Moreover, whereas the forest department was hostile to community participation, identifying villagers as 'enemies of the forest', Hazare had energized peasants to care for and renew their natural environment.

When Anna Hazare came into that Delhi meeting room of the early 1990s he wore the same dress as he does now. He exuded the same simplicity. But, as I recall, he spoke softly, even with some diffidence. He was not entirely at home in a hall filled with urban folks whose cultural, albeit not moral, capital, was far greater than his.

It is said that power and wealth make men younger. So, apparently, does the attention of television. As we become older, the rest of us grow less alert, less energetic, less combative. This law of biology Hazare seems now to have defied. For the man I now see on my screen is not the man I once saw in a seminar room in New Delhi. He challenges and taunts the government and its ministers, wagging his finger at the cameras. Once, Hazare was the voice and conscience of the village of Ralegan Siddhi; now he demands that he be seen as the saviour of the nation itself.

Some television channels claim that Anna Hazare represents the overwhelming bulk of Indians. Print, cyberspace and soundings on the street suggest a more complicated picture. Liberals worry about the dangers to policy reform contained in street agitations led by men whose perfervid rhetoric undermines constitutional democracy. Dalits and backward castes see this as a reprise of the anti-Mandal agitation, led and directed by suvarna activists.

To these political reservations may be added the caution of the empirical sociologist. The population of the Delhi metropolitan area is in excess of 10 million; yet at their height, the crowds in the Ramlila Maidan have never exceeded 50,000. In May 1998, 400,000 residents of Calcutta marched in protest against the Pokhran blasts. No one then said that 'India stands against Nuclear Bombs'. Now, however, as television cameras endlessly show the same scenes at the same place, we are told that 'India is for Anna'.

This said, it would be unwise to dismiss the resonance or social impact of the campaign led by Anna Hazare. It comes on the back of a series of scandals promoted by the present United Progressive Alliance government — Commonwealth Games, 2G, Adarsh, et al. The media coverage of these scandals, over the past year and more, has led to a sense of disgust against this government in particular, and (what is more worrying) against the idea of government in general. It is this moment, this mood, this anger and this sense of betrayal, that Anna Hazare has ridden on. Hence the transformation of a previously obscure man from rural Maharashtra into a figure of — even if fleetingly — national importance.

The success of Anna Hazare is explained in large part by the character of those he opposes. He appears to be everything the prime minister and his ministers are not — courageous, independent-minded, willing to stake his life for a principle. In an otherwise sceptical piece — which, among other things, calls Anna Hazare a "moral tyrant" presiding over a "comical anti-corruption opera"— the columnist C.P. Surendran writes that "a party that can't argue its case against a retired army truck driver whose only strength really is a kind of stolid integrity and a talent for skipping meals doesn't deserve to be in power". These two strengths — honesty and the willingness to eschew food, and by extension, the material life altogether — shine in comparison with the dishonest and grasping men on the other side.

Large swathes of the middle class have thus embraced Anna Hazare out of disgust with Manmohan Singh's government. That said, one must caution against an excessive identification with Anna Hazare. Hazare is a good man, perhaps even a saintly man. But his understanding remains that of a village patriarch.

The strengths and limitations of Anna Hazare are identified in Green and Saffron, a book by Mukul Sharma that shall appear later this year. Sharma is an admired environmental journalist, who did extensive fieldwork in Ralegan Siddhi. He was greatly impressed by much of what he saw. Careful management of water had improved crop yields, increased incomes, and reduced indebtedness. On the other hand, he found the approach of Anna Hazare "deeply brahmanical". Liquor, tobacco, even cable TV were forbidden. Dalit families were compelled to adopt a vegetarian diet. Those who violated these rules — or orders — were tied to a post and flogged.

Sharma found that on Hazare's instructions, no panchayat elections had been held in the village for the past two decades. During state and national elections, no campaigning was allowed in Ralegan Siddhi. The reporter concluded that "crucial to this genuine reform experiment is the absolute removal from within its precincts of many of the defining ideals of modern democracy".

The sound-bites spontaneously offered by Anna Hazare in recent weeks do not inspire confidence. Emblematic here was his dismissal of the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and of the government's pointman in its handling of the anti-corruption movement, Kapil Sibal. Hazare said that Dr Singh and Mr Sibal did not understand India because they had taken degrees at foreign universities.

As it happens,worthier men have had foreign degrees; among them, the two greatest social reformers of modern India, M.K. Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar.

Hazare claims that the last 64 years of political freedom have been utterly wasted ("chausutt saal mein humko sahi azaadi nahin mili hai"). The fact is that had it not been for the groundwork laid by the Constitution, and by visionaries like Nehru, Patel, Ambedkar, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and others, Dalits and women would not have equal rights under the law, nor would elections based on universal franchise be regularly and freely held.

Dalits and women were less-than-equal citizens in the raj of the British, and in the raj of Anna Hazare's much admired Shivaji Maharaj as well. Those other regimes did not have, either, constitutional guarantees for the freedom of movement, combination and expression. To be sure, there remains a large slippage between precept and practice. I have elsewhere called India a "fifty-fifty democracy". The jurist, Nani Palkhivala, once said the same thing somewhat differently: India, he suggested, is a second-class democracy with a first-class Constitution.

In the years since Palkhivala first made this remark, India may have become a third-class democracy. But the ideal remains, to match which one needs patient, hard work on a variety of fronts. Anna Hazare claims that the creation of a single lok pal will end 60 per cent to 65 per cent of corruption. That remark confuses a village with a nation. A benign (and occasionally brutal) patriarch can bring about improvements in a small community. But a nation's problems cannot be solved by a Super-Cop or Super-Sarpanch, even (or perhaps especially) if he be assisted (as the legislation envisages) by thousands of busybody and themselves corruptible inspectors.

Improving the quality and functioning of democratic institutions will require far more than a lok pal, whether jan or sarkari. We have to work for, among other things, changes in the law to make funding of elections more transparent, and to completely debar criminals from contesting elections; the reform of political parties to make them less dependent on family and kin; the use of technology to make the delivery of social services less arbitrary and more efficient; the insulation of the bureaucracy and the police from political interference; the lateral entry of professionals into public service, and more. In striving for these changes one must draw upon the experience, and expertise, of the very many Indians who share Hazare's idealism without being limited by his parochialism.


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




The continuous  upgradation of China's military postures with respect to India should  prompt our defence authorities to improve our own defensive and offensive capabilities.

The latest alert about Beijing's military spending and plans has come from a report to the US Congress by the Pentagon. The report is not specific to India but touches upon many areas of  concern for the country. One important revelation is that China has strengthened its nuclear capabilities against India by replacing its liquid-fuelled CSS-2 nuclear-capable missiles with more advanced solid-fuel CSS-5 systems.

That does not mean a sudden heightening of any hostile posture towards India and may even be part of the general upgradation of conventional and nuclear equipment. But it means that Beijing has deployed a better and more efficient nuclear weapons system, with a bigger reach and strike power, against India. Though it is claimed to be meant to boost its deterrent posture, in the event of hostilities there is no difference between deterrence and offence.

The report has also mentioned the big expansion in rail and road infrastructure being carried out by China along its border with India. This has happened over the last few years.  Though China has claimed that the infrastructure development is aimed at boosting economic development, its military significance should not be underplayed.

India has recently tried to improve its connectivity and facilities along the border but the efforts are much too slow-paced and far too inadequate in view of the requirements. There are also reports of fast expansion of the Chinese navy which can now project its power close to India in the Indian Ocean. China also has close military ties with Pakistan and these are being continuously strengthened.

Though India does not have a hostile relationship with China, the relationship is strained by many irritants, mainly relating to the longstanding border dispute. Economic ties are steadily improving and co-operation and dispute resolution mechanisms are in place. But there are always chances of conflicts of interest arising or the present tensions worsening  in future.

Therefore it is in India's interest to be fully prepared for any eventuality that, hopefully, may not arise. China's increasing military investment, which the Pentagon report has explained in some detail, is causing anxiety to other countries also. But India has to be more alert than others because its dispute with China is bigger than what any other country has with Beijing.







Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalaitha has launched a welcome campaign to recover land belonging to common people encroached and grabbed by influential politicians and their associates, and to take action against the land-grabbers.

Land is the most basic possession of ordinary citizens and is becoming a more and more valuable asset with changes taking place in society and the economy. Even as its value increases it is increasingly becoming a target for powerful people. Grabbing of land  by a nexus of politicians, officials and anti-social elements is not special to Tamil Nadu. The victims do not get any hearing or relief because of the influence wielded by politicians and they have to silently accept the reality of power.The drive launched by the AIADMK government will hopefully bring relief to many who had lost their land.

The campaign has brought to light thousands of cases of land-grabbing. Jayalalitha is not known for half-measures and so the government has initiated a concerted legal and administrative action all over the state. It has set up a special machinery to accept complaints from dispossessed people and take action.

The methods of grabbing have ranged from forceful entry to deception to creation of false documents with the connivance of officials. Many influential persons have been arrested and the encroached land is being restored to their rightful owners. The latest arrest is that of a former DMK minister who is alleged to have  forcibly acquired land from its owner to build the party's office there.

Three former ministers have been arrested till now on charges of land-grabbing. Some highly-placed persons, including those close to the Karunanidhi family, business men and others have come under the spotlight and felt the heat of the ongoing campaign.

It is important that the campaign should not become a vindictive exercise against AIADMK's  opponents in the DMK. It has acquired a political colour because most of the cases which have come to light involve DMK politicians or those close to them.

The charge is that they illegally acquired properties during the party's long stint in power in the state. The DMK has also sought to challenge the campaign on the argument that it is discriminatory and vindictive. It must be ensured that all genuine complaints are acted upon without political consideration.








Totally fabricated stories are being flashed on Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN at the instance of Arabian and western powers.
Just in case you did not know, Muammar Qadhafi and Bashar Assad are victims of a media war, relentless, no holds barred. I am making this observation with a degree of authority because I returned last week from Damascus, Ham'a, Homs and vast Syrian spaces in between in searing 45°. As for Libya, well, I have been there earlier.

Some months ago, when David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy were salivating at Libyan oil, the International Herald Tribune published a cartoon. A group of hatted Europeans are sipping Campari under an umbrella. Uncle Sam, looking rather like a butler, says,

"There is a fire raging next door." The European grandees reply: "don't just stand there; go put out the fire." Altruism is obviously at a discount when major fires, like the one in Libya, are to be put out. European leaders may be drooling at the sight of Libyan light crude, but all their representatives, flying in from Malta to Benghazi, have been trumped by the visit to Libyan opposition leaders by Jeff Feltman, US envoy and expert on Middle East. Americans are not likely to loosen their grip on energy resources.

The ultimate compliment to Feltman came from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah after Israeli reversal in the 2006 Lebanon war. The government of Fouad Siniora, installed with American help was called the 'Feltman government' by Nasrallah. The label was adopted by Lebanese opposition groups.

The US ambassador to Syria, Robert Stephen Ford is no mean operator either. He has been travelling around the country with the audacity of a Special Forces stuntman in diplomatic guise. His visit to Ham'a, a Salafist centre, along with the French ambassador, in early Ramadan created conditions for some frightful rioting against the regime. The army retaliated, killing 75.

Just when the Bashar Assad establishment was seething with rage, last week Ford decided to poke his fingers in the regime's eye by turning up in Darr'a, another trouble spot where the variety of Muslims in bad odour with the west are up in arms against Assad. But there is no ambiguity in Ford's mission: he had gone to boost the morale of exactly the variety who, two months ago, had come out on the streets across the border in Jordan, brandishing their swords and demanding Shariah.

But has anyone seen that story? Of course not, because stories about human rights in any monarchy in West Asia are taboo by edict of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on whose coffers an economically declining west has its eye. Only Republican dictatorships are in the line of fire. And towards this end the media has been deployed – BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and Al Arabia, the last two represent the monarchies (Saudi Arabia and Qatar) now in the coalition of the willing, (Israel is the silent partner) in a blistering media assault on Assad's regime. Mission Libya, in their perception, is as good as accomplished.

Divisions in leadership

After the Darr'a visit, the Syrian cabinet got into a huddle. Should the meddlesome US ambassador be shown the door? There were divisions in the highest leadership. Ford stays on. Assad knows his clout. When John Negroponte was US ambassador to Iraq, Ford was his deputy. The Pentagon confirmed to Newsweek in 2005, that the two masterminded "hit squads of Kurdish and Shia fighters to target leaders of the Iraqi insurgency".
Negroponte described Ford as "one of those very tireless people...who, didn't mind putting on his flak jacket and helmet and going out of the Green Zone to meet contacts. And now his genius is being put to good use in Syria.

It is universally accepted that disinformation is part of warfare. But who is the Assad regime at war with? In imitation of the choreography in Libya, an impression is sought to be created that the Alawite dominated regime is brutalising the majority Sunni population.

To amplify this image, totally fabricated stories are being flashed on Al Jazeera, Al Arabia, BBC and CNN. "I have seen with my own eyes," says a lady hosting some Indian friends, "how arms are being smuggled from Turkey in my hometown, Aleppo, given to the rebels but the subsequent violence is being blamed on the regime." The lady is a scarf wearing Sunni.

Non Arab ambassadors visited the coastal town of Latakia to verify reports of "heavy shelling from the sea." Persistent questioning of a cross section of people revealed that no shelling had ever taken place.

Journalists on a tour of Ham's were shown the police station from where 17 people, including policemen, were pulled out, beheaded and their bodies thrown in the nearby river. However macabre the story, it gets no play because it is a narrative of the government which is in the west's line of fire.

The story of 'mass graves' in Darr'a makes headlines on BBC and CNN even though inquiries made by embassies reveal that the burial of five members of a family (intra family vendetta) had been exaggerated as 'mass graves,' resulting from an army crackdown.

But how is the media circumventing censorship? The New York Times says that "the Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy 'shadow' internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks."

Really? What some people will not do for freedom! A million deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and heaven knows how many more to follow in Syria, and wherever else, is but a small sacrifice to keep the flame of freedom burning eternally and all flames need fuel.







None of us have ever heard of Arifa. And she would have just loved it that way. By the time you read this, let us pray that Arifa will be stable and will survive. Last evening, she was spending a quiet contended time with her friend in his car at Miramar, enjoying the evening, when she saw two men, bleeding and under attack barge into her car. As four more men attacked the car, Arifa got out and fled only to be chased down and stabbed.
As your newspaper was being put to bed, doctors were struggling to save her life in an operation theatre at a private clinic while other doctors were doing the same at GMC where the alleged history sheeter Gallu and is friend Manjunath Kambli lie injured.

While both lives are precious, the attack on the young couple, albeit unplanned and sudden,  at Miramar at right in front of  a police van, shatters the sense of well being of a peaceful town.
This incident shatters not just the peace of Panjim. This doesn't too just enhance our sense of un-ease. What it does is that it shatters the myth of innocence that daylight murders, gang wars and innocent bystanders like Arifa getting attacked in such gang wars, happen in another world. The sadness is the brutal reminder that Goa is just another state and Panjim, just another town, in the cesspool of violence and crime that urban India is subjected to.

Much has been written and discussed about the efficiency of Goa's police  and the manner in which tackles crime and yet another post mortem of  how the basic crime control and crime tackling  mechanism needs a complete overhaul cdan be oput off for another day. But what needs to be addressed right here and right now is that when crime takes place, why s there not a quick action response.

In Fridays attack, the gangsters who attacked their rival with choppers sped down the main road from Campal to Miramar and Dona Paula. There was a police patrol van in the vicinity when this attack took place. How did the four attackers manage to assault on the streets, chase them and then attack an innocent girl, with no intervention from the police?

The fact that nobody has been chased down and pinned down, a good four hours after the incident ( at the time of writing this), is not surprising. If they had indeed arrested someone, it would have been surprising.
Information coming in points to gang rivalry. It is learnt that the attackers belonged to a gang at war with Galu and his men, who have the protection and support of a cabinet minister in the government and have helped him in the past. This again is hardly out of order in a Goa where a nexus between a law maker and law breaker is not just a nexus. It's a deep rooted partnership. It is this same partnership which results in PSI Vaibhav Naik supplying fake currency to Hemant Chodankar of Vasco to play and give him returns. It is this partnership which makes policemen not just confidants but beneficiaries of loot and crime. 

It is no real irony that this incident happened on a day when Goas most wanted drug lord Atala was brought back by the CBI which is investigating the nexus between police and drug dealers.

All this may not have a direct link to today's attacks at Miramar. But it goes on to highlight that activities of criminal gangs, and this includes drug dealers thrive and prosper in a regime that allows a complaint police and politicians.
For a moment think of Arifa, as the ace of a ordinary Goan. While the belt of Anjuna, Arpora, Siolim and Candolim and Calangute is fast getting a reputation of not being family or even children friendly given the kind of activities it encourages, there are some sensitized pockets, especially the capital of Panjim. This is where the well heeled live, send their children to school, buy expensive homes, eat in the best restaurants. Panjim is a showcase town where untoward things do not always happen. But beneath the sheen there is dirt and when it comes to the surface, innocents like Arifa gat attacked.

If a defining image of which side gets protection and which side suffers is needed, here's this. A minister rushed to GMC to check on gangster Gallu, while Arifa battled for her life at the Campal Clinic. This is the image which defines the Goa of today.







Everyone looks at Anna Hazare and what do they see, just like Joseph Stalin and Mahatma Gandhi, they see a cult of personality. Anna's team seems to be making this all about Anna. No more cries, no more lies because when a new leader takes charge the old one dies. The youth has found its youth icon and for a change, it's not any Bollywood actor, politician, cricketer or celebrity. Anna may be aged, but is very young at heart and at the moment, has become an icon for some of the youth. The government seems to be losing all its power, as the hand of Anna has struck the hour. I may not absolutely concur with his methods of protest, but he is definitely better than all the other youth leaders that we have today. Anna Hazare, all of a sudden, has become the poster boy of Gen Next. People can relate to him as he is a common man just like anyone of us. There have been many reports against him which may be true or false, I really don't want to comment on that as I feel the cause is more important than the person. The politicians have accused him of a lot of things but the accusations made against him don't seem to have any concrete foundation. I truly believe that the issue is more significant than the person. It's extremely vital that we don't lose the plot when we fight a social evil. It's true that Anna started the movement which has re-ignited the long lost patriotism in the country but for how long it will last remains to be seen.

At least one good thing about this protest is that it is peaceful. In the past, we have seen many leaders trying to disintegrate the country by their parochial and communal ideologies. The fight against corruption has really united the country, especially the youth for a noble cause. I don't like the idea of taking to the streets and public gatherings because it's simply not safe. Terror is on the rise and we all know that. So we have to be a little more sensible in our ways of protests. God forbid if anything happens at this point in time, it will only take all the attention away from the fight against corruption. The change will eventually come.
This movement has the backing of majority of the people. If everyone is for it then there can't be anyone against it. And if majority of the people are supporting it, then I feel that we've already won the fight against corruption. It may take time for the bill to pass but if the people have really changed, then the change is already here. 


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




It's what journalists call burying the lead. More than halfway through his speech on Friday to central bankers meeting in Jackson Hole, Ben Bernanke said the recession would not cause lasting damage to the economy "if — and I stress if — our country takes the necessary steps to secure that outcome."


President Obama? Senator? Congressman? The chairman is talking to you. He is saying that wrong priorities and policy missteps are the biggest threat facing the economy today.


Mr. Bernanke said that the Federal Reserve would do "all it can" to promote the recovery and hinted that it would approve additional stimulus measures at its policy meeting in September, if the economy showed further signs of slowing. The signs are already grim.


On the day of the speech, the government reported that in the second quarter the economy grew at an anemic 1 percent annual rate. That is not nearly enough to lower unemployment or push the recovery forward. In the first quarter, growth was a mere 0.4 percent. Two consecutive quarters below 2 percent usually portend recession.


The problem is that the Fed's options, basically easing credit by various means, cannot by themselves turn things around. Lower interest rates can help homeowners with equity to refinance, or small businesses with strong sales to borrow cheaply. But they do nothing for underwater homeowners or businesses where sales are poor because of paltry consumer demand.


The real value in Mr. Bernanke's speech is that he explained what really ails the economy — and made the case for a better fiscal response to address those ills. "Good, proactive housing policies" would speed recovery, he said, as would "putting people back to work."


If Mr. Bernanke advocated specific policies to achieve those aims, he would be violating the etiquette that requires Fed chairmen to leave fiscal details to Congress.


So allow us. The best, proactive way to revive the housing market is to help bankrupt and delinquent borrowers rework their mortgages through principal reductions. It is also important to ease refinancing rules so underwater borrowers who are current in their payments can trade in their high-rate mortgages for lower-rate loans. The Obama administration is considering new refinancing rules, but mortgage investors are sure to resist.


One of the best ways to put people back to work is to fully reauthorize the highway trust fund, a big job creator and vital source of money for improving the nation's infrastructure. Job creation also requires that federal funds are made available to repair and renovate schools, and to rehire teachers, police officers and firefighters who have lost their jobs in budget cutbacks.


Again, President Obama is expected to include such ideas in his jobs program to be unveiled next month. He will have to — finally — be ready to fight the Republicans' relentless demands for even deeper spending cuts.


Mr. Bernanke stressed that the best path was to nail down a credible plan for reducing deficits over the longer term, while promoting stronger economic performance through tax and spending measures. It would help, he said, if Congress and the administration could manage all that like professionals.


"The negotiations that took place over the summer," he said, referring to the debt ceiling debacle, "disrupted financial markets and probably the economy as well." Mr. Bernanke is right. The weak economy cannot tolerate any more political antics, policy mistakes or inaction.







In a landmark decision this week, the New Jersey Supreme Court set new guidelines for how courts and juries must assess eyewitness identification of criminal suspects. The laudable decision applies only in New Jersey but could have a national impact. It provides a thorough, science-based explanation of how eyewitness evidence can become tainted and offers a judicious template for the United States Supreme Court and other states to follow.


Eyewitness identification has been a subject of hundreds of studies over the last three decades, showing that memory and perception can be highly unreliable. Of the 273 people freed from prison with DNA evidence by The Innocence Project in cases reshaping this area of law, three out of four were convicted with false identifications.


In a unanimous opinion, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner noted that misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions across the country. He wrote: "The changes outlined in this decision are significant because eyewitness identifications bear directly on guilt or innocence. At stake is the very integrity of the criminal justice system and the courts' ability to conduct fair trials."


Under the new guidelines, a trial judge must hold a hearing to consider a wide range of factors if the defendant presents evidence that the identification was unfairly suggestive. Some factors relate to the witness, some to the culprit, others to the event — like the amount of time the witness observed what occurred, whether the witness and suspect were of different races, how light or dim the scene was. Other critical factors deal with the identification process, like how the police lineup was set up.


As before, eyewitness evidence would not be admissible at trial if the court found that, given "the totality of the circumstances," there was "a substantial likelihood of misidentification." However, if the judge decides to admit disputed eyewitness evidence, he or she must now instruct jurors on the factors that might affect its reliability.


The New Jersey decision puts aside an approach to eyewitness evidence established in 1977 by the United States Supreme Court and still followed by all other states. That approach, Chief Justice Rabner said, overstates "the jury's innate ability to evaluate eyewitness testimony."


The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a major case about eyewitness identification in November, the first on this issue since that 1977 decision. The Roberts court should pay close attention to the well-grounded decision reached by the Rabner court in New Jersey.







Since the start of the recession, record numbers of Americans have enrolled in college in search of new skills that would improve their employment prospects. Unfortunately, far too many students enrolled in expensive for-profit schools end up dogged by ruinous debts, with little in the way of skills or credentials to show for their efforts.


The schools sometimes push these students into high-cost private loans that they can never hope to repay, even when they are eligible for affordable federal loans. Because the private loans have fewer consumer accommodations like hardship deferments, the borrowers often have little choice but to default.


Worse yet, these loans and the bad credit history follow the debtors for the rest of their lives. Even filing for bankruptcy doesn't clean the slate.


Legislation is pending in both houses of Congress that would make private school loans dischargeable through bankruptcy, as most of them were before Congress changed the law in 2005. It had long been the case that federally backed student loans were protected during bankruptcy proceedings. That is reasonable, since those loans were backed by taxpayer dollars and flexibly structured so that borrowers could receive deferment in tough times and resume payments when their finances improved.



The country has a compelling interest in making it as difficult as possible for student borrowers to elude payment for federal loans. There was no reason for extending that protection to private lenders of student loans.


For starters, that gives these lenders, who often turn a huge profit, an undeserved advantage over credit card issuers, gambling casinos and other issuers of unsecured credit whose debts are still subject to discharge in bankruptcy. The change also encouraged reckless underwriting by lenders, who no longer felt compelled to determine the borrower's ability to pay. And it led to financial catastrophe for students who were duped into signing up for pricey private loans.


Bills sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and Representative Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee, would eliminate the unfair protections for private student lenders and give struggling borrowers a chance at a fresh start.








Last year, the United States Supreme Court blocked the broadcasting of the nonjury civil trial on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. That August, the measure was struck down by Judge Vaughn Walker of Federal District Court, who presided at the trial. The case is pending appeal.


On Monday, a lawyer representing the victorious plaintiffs will be urging a federal district judge in San Francisco, James Ware, to grant a motion to make public the videotape of the 12-day trial. In the interest of fostering confidence in the judicial system, the motion should be granted. Proposition 8's supporters insisted that the broadcast ban was needed to protect their two witnesses — experts who testified in open court and whose identities were well known. Their arguments are even less persuasive now.


The trial was over more than a year ago, and the 13-volume trial transcript is public and available on the Internet. Legally, there is a presumption of access to judicial records, a point made in a brief filed by a media coalition, including The New York Times Company.


The demand to keep the videotapes secret is as flimsy as the arguments for denying gay people the fundamental right to marry. The proposition's backers will not be hurt in any way if the footage is released. The American public, on the other hand, stands to lose something very valuable if it is denied the chance to see and hear what happened in a critically important case on marriage equality.









Nimbyism is the coming thing in Britain. Leading columnists like it. Simon Jenkins penned an article in The Guardian whose headline began, "Bravo for nimbyism." His colleague Alexander Chancellor had already declared, "I don't feel bad about nimbyism."


Nimby is the acronym from "not in my backyard." With an added "-ism," it's a social phenomenon characterized by a measure of hypocrisy. According to a major study on Britain's energy future published last year by the University of Cardiff, 82 percent of Brits are favorable to wind power. But try to put a wind turbine near someone's backyard and all hell breaks loose. Planning permission for onshore wind farms now takes forever; a dwindling number — about a third — ever gets approval.


As they adopt nimbyism in droves, touchy-feely, green, politically correct types who only eat bacon from locally reared pampered pigs and would hug any hypothetical wind farm morph into rabid reactionaries. They bleat about 350-foot eyesores, turbine noise and animal suffering. Chancellor had this to say of wind farms: "They kill bats by exploding their little lungs. They frighten horses with an effect known as 'shadow flicker.' "


Aaah, the poor bats! Give me oil from the mass-murderer Qaddafi or sweet-talking Saudis so long as I don't have a dead bat or spooked horse on my conscience.


I've thought about the aesthetics of wind turbines. Sure, they don't belong in Arcadia — but then nor do we. I prefer them to processions of electricity pylons. They have a certain sleek muscularity. I like the lazy circling of their honed blades. I would not go as far as Chris Huhne, the secretary of state for energy, who recently declared — to loud boos — at a debate in Wotton-Under-Edge (I kid you not) that he found the turbines "absolutely beautiful," but nor are they Jenkins's "aesthetic travesty." They're tolerable in the name of secure, renewable, low-carbon energy.


For which Britain has great need. A net exporter of energy for many years, thanks to North Sea oil, Britain became a net importer in 2004 and now relies on imports for 28 percent of its energy. Its 18 nuclear reactors are aging — all but one will have to be shut by 2023. With renewable sources like wind and solar accounting for just 3.3 percent of energy consumption in 2010, Britain is a long way from its target — mandated by the European Union — of 15 percent by 2020.


In theory, green-organic Brits get all this. The Cardiff survey found that 81 percent of people are concerned that Britain will become too dependent on imported energy. Even if fewer people now say there are risks to Britain from climate change — 66 percent today against 77 percent in 2005 (an economic crisis does focus the mind on the present) — they support using a mix of energy sources (74 percent), and 82 percent claim they would "probably or definitely vote in favor of building new wind farms in Britain," against 41 percent for nuclear power stations.


But that's before nimbyism kicks in. We live in a nimbyfying world: idealism abounds, propelled by planet shrinkage, but so does ego, inflated by solipsistic online universes. Where they converge is in hypocrisy and humbug.


People, always conservative, want change less than ever — and certainly not on their bucolic patch — even if they acknowledge it's needed. In the pretty village of Clare in Suffolk, where British Telecom has proposed all of three wind turbines, people are up in arms. Huge signs line the road with slogans like "Stop BT's turbines." Opponents summon visions of a Britain so carpeted in windmills there'd be nowhere left for aircraft to make emergency landings or TV signals to penetrate spinning blades.


True, wind power is erratic and no panacea, but nor is it the trumpet of doom.


So, at about twice the price, Britain is now being forced to build most new wind farms offshore. In 2010, onshore installations dropped 38 percent compared with 2009, while offshore ones tripled. All the added cost of that undersea cabling will one day be billed to someone.


Britain is not alone in its inconsistencies. Liberals in Park Slope, Brooklyn, love bikes until an irksome new bike lane beside Prospect Park riles them. Liberals in Massachusetts think wind power's all right until a wind farm is proposed for Nantucket Sound. Liberal Rhode Island gets exercised over a proposed 427-foot wind turbine.


Some objections make sense. As a paid-up Park Sloper, I think it is nuts to have built a bike lane that fouls traffic right next to a park full of roads for bikers.


Could it be then that I oppose all nimbyism except my own? The horror! I refuse to believe it. Weaning the West of oil dependency is going to take the sacrifice of a few pristine views. Windy Britain should be as pro-wind as it claims — not only out at sea, but in its backyards.







 "Should the military wait for another tape release to start a house cleaning?"

The question belongs to Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a deputy chairman for Turkey's main opposition, the Republican People's Party, or CHP.

A human right activist and a former chairman of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, the biggest city in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast, Tanrıkulu is now in charge of the democratization and civil rights affairs of the party.

"I am against illegal tapings as it violates basic rights," he said. "On the other hand, many topics that former Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner allegedly said on the tapes were claims that human rights activists and journalists have been raising for the last three decades. So they have to be probed carefully and in detail."

Bekir Bozdağ, one of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's deputies in charge of legal affairs, speaks likewise. He says that what Koşaner allegedly said amounted to self-criticism within the Turkish military and that it should take the necessary steps to correct wrongdoings.

The Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, is a big army with a historical background. On the coat of arms of the Land Forces Command the date of establishment is written as 209 B.C. You did not read it wrong: The Turkish Land Forces starts its history with the army of Mete, the leader of the Central Asian proto-Turk leader of the Huns, who stormed the whole of Eurasia, including Central Europe. The names of the lower ranks of the Turkish army today have been almost the same for more than 2,000 years.

Today, the armed forces of the modern Turkish Republic is one of the biggest in the Western defense alliance NATO and the biggest in its region (despite the lack of national nuclear capabilities which only exist under the NATO umbrella) after the Russian military.

The problem is that the democratization of institutions in Turkey is not moving at the same pace. Turkish voters' need of democracy in both politics and the economy goes beyond the maneuvering capacity of the centuries-old institutions of Turkey – that includes the military.

The Turkish military was the subject of a number of radical reforms in the last few centuries, which coincided with reforms in politics and the economy of the era.

The 1826 reform of Mahmud II, who abolished the Janissary system in favor of regular armies, was followed by the first bill of rights, or Tanzimat, in 1839, the first property reform in 1856 and the first parliamentary constitution in 1876.

The 1926 reform of the military by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was a result of the regime change to the Republic in 1923 and the adoption of a new economic order in 1924. Similar to Mahmud II, Atatürk also aimed for the clear noninterference of military personnel into political affairs. The balances were destroyed under the NATO system of the 1950s, where a strong military was preferable to weak politicians for the Western allies of Turkey.

Now for a third time in recent Turkish history, civilian – and elected by the people this time – authority is strong enough to establish control over the military. The government is getting prepared for a series of legal changes within the framework of the new constitution and this time, it has the opposition on its side, with some minor differences. It is time for the Turkish military to see that the time has come for a new reform.





It's too bad the late Edward Said, the scholar who coined the term "orientalism," didn't live to see this latest evidence for his thesis. But if you want to know what's wrong with the world's media, a new blog on an upstart website tells it all. Check out, "The Casbah" at

If neo-jingoism is the way to promote a new report on the "Arab Spring," the uprising of peoples throughout the Middle East and elsewhere to toss off tyranny, well how about a site on China named, or one on Africa named We'll keep you abreast of happenings in Latin America with

Don't get me wrong, I'm the first to welcome the host of new websites examining the region in which we live. Globalpost is just one, founded by a team of veterans from Time magazine and the Washington Post who by and large do a good job. Even the first story as part of this new "Casbah" series is a valuable contribution, a look at the propaganda of the official Syrian news agency. This "Middle East Bloggers Spring" tends to fall into two categories: those started by foreigners about the region and those launched indigenously by natives who want to explain themselves to the world, much like the Daily News back in 1961. My favorite in the second category is, started by a group of Tunisian young people, none of them over 25.

The first category offers a certain familiarity of tone and professionalism. The second category is certainly the more authentic.

May they all prosper and grow rich. But when this new means of reporting veers toward the tone of much of the old… well, we are right back to the architecture of subtle stereotypes and prejudice. This, in turn, is very much at the root of the western ignorance that has contributed to the sad state of the world. It all becomes an effort to explain today's events as a sort of pageant, with stage props from Humphrey Bogart's "Casablanca" or Harrison Ford's "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Many have decried this phenomenon since literary theorist Edward Said published "Orientalism" in 1978, a book which essentially argues that the "East," as it is understood in the "West," was invented by the same "West." A more recent work is "Dining With Al Qaeda," by Hugh Pope, the veteran journalist based in Istanbul for the past 30 years. His book basically boils down his seven years working as the Middle East correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. The unending demand by editors, he said, was for stories that explained regional dynamics in terms of Islam's conflict with the West. "But this is not an analytical tool for anything," he said at a book signing.

I empathize with journalists trying to explain complexity with a paucity of good metaphors. As one of the sages asked rhetorically, "How do you explain the concept of the ocean to a man who has lived his whole life in the desert?" The answer is to use whatever is familiar, perhaps starting with a glass of water.

But groping for imagery out of the "Arabian Nights" is disgraceful. "Casbah" as the name of a putative source of insight is as offensive as it is vulgar.





I grew up with an immense feeling of admiration and pride for the Turkish Armed Forces. My childhood and my youth years were filled with this feeling. During my executive years in the paper, I spent the utmost care not to use one ugly photograph of a Turkish soldier.

I have held leftist ideas since my high school years. I have been against military coups all through my life, but the place the Turkish army holds in my heart has always, and I mean always, been different. The consciousness brought by the region I am living in, plus the sentiment that was created in me and in my family because we immigrated to this land from the Balkans, made me love our army at all times.

I consider it above blame.


What about now… My feelings at the moment are chaotic. I wander with confused feelings that swing from one end to the other. On one hand, there is still the consciousness of this region; on the other side, my trauma.

I experienced the first major trauma in the incident of the memorandum concerning Cengiz Çandar and Mehmet Ali Birand. I am still recovering from the rage of being deceived.

This rage was followed by the things I learned in the past four or five years and the things that were revealed after this: Coup allegations, Internet memorandums and others.

* * *

And I have reached these days…

Unfortunately, the Turkish army is not the same old Turkish army in my eyes anymore. Those keen and active SAT commandos, those heroic kids with bandanas tied to their heads, the photos of whom, once upon a time, I selected with my own hands…

The heroes that finish a task in 10 minutes in Kardak… (The disputed island with Greece.)

Unfortunately, they are each a ghost for me now…

* * *

We have cluttered the Turkish army all over the place. They, some soldiers, that is, themselves, from inside…

With some mistakes they did, with those incredible mistakes… With conscious, unconscious, stupid things… Some others, from outside; they are conscious, with a hundred percent conscious strikes…

All together, we have beaten hollow one of the most successful armies of this century. They were not beaten at the front; they were beaten hollow at the barracks. For that heroic army, we even denied an honorable retreat.

 We have reduced them to such a miserable state that they could not defend the secrecy of their most secret meetings. We all joined forces; some soldiers from the inside, some civilians from outside.

Some of them with the churlishness of, "I am a soldier, nobody can do anything to me," and some others with the pretext of supposedly, "bringing democracy…"

We have defended our own army… We have defeated our own army. That same army was the pride of the brand-new nation fresh from its Liberation War. That army fought in Korea and returned decorated with medals.

That army, when world giants of the past century were falling apart against tiny nations, was able to accomplish an overseas operation in Cyprus despite all the impossibilities. That army was able to silence, at the beginning of this century, one of the strongest guerilla movements in the world. That army had put its signature to social campaigns fascinating other nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Yes, that was our, our Turkey's army.

We all together joined our forces and downgraded that army, even at the eyes of its Chief of General Staff personally, to a miserable community. Some of us might take a special pleasure from this.

I don't. I am only in a deep sorrow.

Because of the region I live in, my family's history, the land we left behind and the very near and very dangerous history in front of us that has started being written now, all tell me the same things.

This country still needs a strong army.

And at a moment when we need it the most, the soldier is trying to heal its wound with a gauze bandage in his hand.

One day, history will write today like this…





Libya is one of those countries where two cultures meet with each other in a rather visible fashion. Do you remember the opening observations of Trotsky in "Russian Revolution 1917"? Just like that: "Savages throw away their bows and arrows for rifles all at once, without travelling the road which lay between these two weapons in the past." Whenever I think of the now deposed president of the Mickey Mouse state in Libya, I think of this articulation of cultures and/or modes of production. There are two types of countries in the world: Those that are integrated and those that are articulated to the global economic system. Libya belongs to the second. There are so many countries in our neighborhood that belong to this second group. Turkey on the other hand belongs to the first group. That makes Turkey, the only country of our neighborhood other than Israel, well integrated in global economic, political and social networks, important for our civilization. Unlike Israel, Turkey could directly participate in intervening in the development process of other countries. Not through armies of soldiers, but with armies of entrepreneurs. Life is a changing.

The most important global project of the twentieth century was the integration of China in the global economic network. It looks as if time has come for the integration of the Islamic geography to the global economic system in the 21st century. That is how I tend to see the Arab Spring nowadays. It started in Tunisia and Egypt and toppled governments there relatively easily. Both Tunisia and Egypt are less articulated but more integrated in the global economic system. There is some basic modern institutional structure to guide the transition process. But not so in Libya and Yemen. The latter are more articulated than integrated. What does the end of the Mickey Mouse state in Libya mean for the integration project? This should be a new beginning to mend the missing link. Bring in policy reforms for the free interaction of market participants. Moammar bey has been preventing this to secure his personal grip on power for the last 42 years.

Less integrated more articulated means that there is a missing link in the modernization process. The missing link is about the level of development of the middle class. Middle class means those people who prove their successes in the marketplace every day. The middle class is not about sons and friends of Hosni bey in Egypt but those unnamed entrepreneurs earning their way through free interaction in the market place. The absence of policy reforms and price controls everywhere is what deters entrepreneurial development. The 1980 policy reforms in Turkey made Turkey ready to play a pivotal role in the integration of our neighborhood in the global economic system.

Col. Gadhafi has been leading a country where the schoolchildren believe that the highest rank in the army is a colonel? Funny? Not funny at all a short while ago in that Mickey Mouse state in Libya. Turkey was like that some time ago, too. There was this rather strong ideological certainty that "there are no Kurds living on Earth!" It just started to evaporate with the opening of the country together with increasing wealth that the openness has brought. We now have a 19th century problem to deal with in the 21st century. That is what the Kurdish issue is turning into nowadays.

The second before the last legacy of the Ottoman Empire still haunts us. Turkey on the other hand is better placed to deal with this legacy compared to 10 years ago.





You might be familiar with my column neighbor Burak Bekdil. In many ways, he is a great writer — always clever, witty, and sharp. But, apparently, Mr. Bekdil sometimes experiences a problem with quoting people accurately.

This came to my attention a while ago, because Mr. Bekdil repeatedly attributed a slightly modified quote to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan. He argued that Erdoğan, in his famous burst of temper at Davos in 2009, said to Israeli President Shimon Peres: "You Jews know well how to kill."

Mr. Bekdil loved this sentence so much that he used it in many of his columns. On May 27, 2010, he wrote, "We have a prime minister who thinks 'Jews know well how to kill'." On January 27, 2011, he spoke about "[Erdoğan's] infamous line, 'Jews know well how to kill'." A bit earlier, on November 10, 2009, he devoted an entire column to this issue, defining Erdoğan as someone who believes, "Jews know well how to kill, they are liars and persecutors who use weapons of mass destruction."

Quotes and parentheses:

However, as I said, all of these were slightly, yet significantly, modified quotes. Because, at that famous night at Davos, Erdoğan did not say "You Jews know well how to kill." Speaking to Peres, and recalling Israel's civilian victims in Gaza, he rather said, "You know well how to kill." The context of the discussion makes it very safe to assume that the "you" here referred to the Israeli government, which is a state, and not "Jews," which are a people.

The nuance here, of course, is not unimportant. Because while a "you Jews" sentence would be clearly anti-Semitic, the "you" sentence, in reference to a state, would be just a harsh political criticism. Personally speaking, I would agree with that second statement, for I think that not just Israel but most states ("Leviathans," to recall Thomas Hobbes) "know well to kill." Turkey as well used to be an infamous state in that regard, with its state-organized "unsolved murders," but we luckily have tamed the Turkish Leviathan considerably in the past decade.

Anyway, let's go back to Mr. Bekdil. We should not be unfair to him, for, in his latest column, he presented another modified version of his favorite Erdoğan quote. This time, he wrote:

"It has been more than two and a half years since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told to Israeli President Shimon Peres's face, "You (Jews) know well how to kill."

The parentheses here are in the original. So, it seems that Mr. Bekdil, after two and a half years, decided to be a little bit fair to Erdoğan, and opted for second-guessing his mind rather than directly putting words into his mouth. With this pace of correction, I hope, he will give us an un-manipulated version of the quote, which has no reference to "Jews," sometime in 2014.

Real versus fictional:

Now, if this were the only case of manipulative propaganda against the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP), I would have not cared. But it is just a single example of a very common trend. Since the AKP came to power in 2002, some secularist Turks, who despise the party for their own (and perhaps legitimate) reasons, do everything they can to portray it to the West as an anti-Semitic, fanatic and shariah-thumping cadre. The AKP's attempts to set the headscarf free in the campus, for example, are depicted as "an attack on the secular state." Or when a municipality in Istanbul orders bars not to serve alcohol on the streets, which would have been very normal in the United States due to laws on "public intoxication," this is presented as a "ban on alcohol" by Taliban-in-disguise.

None of this means that the AKP deserves no criticism. Quite the contrary, there are many legitimate reasons to criticize the party, such as its "patrimonial" (leader-dominated) structure, and the intolerant and daunting tone Erdoğan sometimes uses. The secularists will do a better job if they voice these real problems honestly, instead of producing dishonest propaganda. And if they wish to give a try, quoting people accurately can be a good start.

For Mustafa Akyol's all works, including his recent book on Islamic liberalism, visit his blog,





One of the many challenges the Egypt revolution brought to the surface is to discern the diverse facets of political discourse and to identify what each group stands for. The years of no discussion have brought to the surface hundreds of political groupings. The splinters were understandable following a false unity of oppression. In short everyone was in the same boat before. There was not much choice – you were either part of the regime or a minority of a decorative disabled opposition.

With the growing promise of playing a more inclusive game of politics, all were quick to show their uniqueness. Initially, and specifically in March during the first referendum over constitutional amendments, speculation of a very polarized picture was present. The initial divide was religious versus civil. With such a premise, the diversity from extreme left to extreme right has been alarming to many. As the groups find their way in the maze of a new era, learning how to play together has become a must. Although enthused with their new found freedoms, they seem to be increasingly challenged with the unfamiliar territory they find themselves facing. Many are developing the required political skill sets to deal with the evolving political realities. To address a voting population of over 40 million, all political players will have to adopt new ways of conducting their business.

The world-acclaimed youth of Egypt is obviously more comfortable with the social media and communication tools. They seem to also be able to embrace collective leadership concepts, of debate and dialogue more naturally. One wonders whether the displayed characteristics are only a virtue of being young, have accumulated less baggage from the past or more exposed to global experiences and political models. The probability is a combination of all. Although also faced with the challenges of public exposure and responsibilities for major political change, they have been mostly impressive in their ability to organize express, dialogue and take clear stands. A host of young political leaders have impressed the public with their knowledge, vision and eloquence.

 Meanwhile, many of the "Tahrir" youth have also been actively involved in civic action. They are certainly leading a new form of civic activity. The increasing number of creative initiatives that have been sprouting is notable. The spirit of the revolution, or as it is now commonly referred to as the "spirit of Tahrir," continues through their engagement with communities all over the country. Many have displayed extraordinary voluntary engagement. Political awareness, legal support for the demonstrators, the injured and the martyrs' families, food and basic life conditions of waste collection, clean water and sewage in the many unplanned settlements across the country are but a few of the many areas and causes addressed. They are connected and are reaching out to society. More importantly they are mobilizing the technical, human and financial support they need. How these newer forms of social engagement will interact with the existing heritage of structured civil society organizations has yet to be seen.

It is no coincidence that the private sector starts to display its social corporate responsibility albeit in the same old fashion. Currently, the three major telecommunication companies advertise major commitments to address serious issues of education, water and job creation. Cause marketing is no new tool except that this time over, it might be guided by the recent demand for effective change and not just to create a philanthropic image here and there. As in the political and social spheres, enterprising youth are actively creating new business ideas and slowly changing the face of economic activity.

The slowest change to manifest in a nation is cultural change. Egyptians are in the process of enriching their culture as the youth proceed to energize the new and healthy Egypt. The fusion of old and young might just produce Egypt's new formula.






There is a certain reality Turkey constantly forgets about.

Or two realities, perhaps.

First, we are surrounded by something called "the world."

Second, Turkey is no "Nasreddin Hodja's ass;" we do not inhabit the center of the world.

We are going through a match-fixing disgrace.

As a matter of fact, the "match fixing" itself was a disgrace.

Our manner of "handling" that rigging turned out to be yet another disgrace just as great as the rigging itself.

Our football federation endeavored to brush over the "match-fixing issue" as if the world and its common rules did not exist.

Excessive intervention by politicians in football; the fans' pressure that bore no regard either for "reason or honesty;" federation officials' "personal calculations" over their careers pushed events to the brink, letting all come unhinged.

The conversations over fixing matches were published across the board.

Many people were apprehended by the court upon the prosecutor's request.

The federation, however, failed to "form" an opinion based on existing "input," even as world football agreed that "opinion suffices to determine rigging."

It pulled out all the stops and strained every nerve to avoid making a decision.

It said, "Let the judiciary decide," "We are waiting for the bill of indictment," "We could not take their plea yet" and "We will send Fenerbahçe to the Champions League."

This is what we heard for months.

For months.

Then came along the UEFA inspector who spoke for 35 minutes with the prosecutor investigating the allegations.

And decided there was rigging involved.

The UEFA saw in 35 minutes the truth which the Turkish Football Federation, or TFF, failed to see for months.

And that is the difference between the world and us, anyway.

Boasting and bragging around to oneself about "how much we developed" yields no results; to develop, you behave as a "developed" person.

You ought not to be forced to make a decision after months of haggling when UEFA finally concludes there is rigging involved.

Now, there is an entirely farcical situation at hand.

Fenerbahçe is too "shady" to join the Champions League but "clean" enough to play in the Turkish league.

Does that correspond with reason?

If there are no problems with Fenerbahçe, then why do you not send them to the Champions League? And if there is a problem, then why do you let them play in the league?

It seems they are unable to realize how this conflicting situation disgraces both Turkey and themselves.

After all, they are accustomed to that cheap and "local" type of dodgery; they think they can "manage" it.

They cannot, however, "manage" it, as there exists the "world," and Turkey is also a part of that world.

And there is no place for such guile in that world.

You can manage to fool yourself as such, but you cannot manage to fool the world.

They are beating around the bush to prevent Fenerbahçe from being relegated league.

Things, however, are getting more and more complicated.

It is no difficult guesswork what the rivals of a Fenerbahçe that stays out of the Champions League will do in every match; it is also clear that all football fans will go off of Turkish football.

You say that "Turkish football stands too much to lose in a league without Fenerbahçe" and that "football revenues will fall without Fenerbahçe and that everyone will be impoverished in turn"?


All club presidents came together and demanded that Fenerbahçe stay in the league.

In the end, you do now what you will eventually be forced by the world to do and relegate Fenerbahçe from the league. If all clubs heartily believe that "a league without Fenerbahçe would harm everyone," then no team would show up for any matches for the first two weeks of the season and they would all "be relegated" and continue on in the lower league.

The teams in Bank Asya League One would move up to the Spor Toto Super League, while those in the Spor Toto Super League would play in the Bank Asya League One, and then the teams would slowly rise up to the upper league.

If they sincerely want to play alongside with Fenerbahçe, the other teams then would also agree to pay this "price."

This disgrace cannot be staved off without a "price" being paid, and someone will pay it.

There are no solutions that would allow you to "turn a blind eye" to the rigging. If you are to find a solution, this will only happen by "seeing and recognizing" the match fixing.

Otherwise, the "world" will once again come around and force you to pay that price.

*Ahmet Altan is the editor in chief of daily Taraf in which this piece appeared on Friday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.





This week, among all the other developments going on around the world, Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser at the White House, gave an important interview in which he laid down two "core principals" for the United States in terms of the preferred model for any future military interventions. While talking to Foreign Policy Magazine, Rhodes said that in order for the U.S. to intervene militarily, the drive first had to come from an indigenous political movement as it is "far more legitimate and effective [in allowing] regime change to be pursued."

"Secondly," he said, "we put an emphasis on burden sharing, so that the U.S. won't be bearing the brunt of the burden" and so that there won't just be international support for the effort, but also meaningful international contribution.

We just witnessed how these two principals were met during the Libyan intervention. First the Libyan people, starting from Benghazi, revolted and showed impeccable defiance toward dictator Moammar Gadhafi for weeks until Gadhafi threatened to start an all-out war against rebels in Benghazi and wipe them all out. The valuable contribution was provided primarily by the French and British before NATO took over the entire operation. In an unprecedented development, some other Muslim countries, such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar also took part in the operation with their fighter jets and other sizable military contributions.

Turkey, following initial bafflement and delay, became one of the leading international actors supporting the rebels' transition government. Fast forward to this week and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's visit to Benghazi, just one day after the rebel forces swept into Tripoli; hosting the latest Libyan contact meeting in Istanbul also boosted Turkey's image further.

Can, then, the template elaborated by Rhodes and confirmed by Victoria Nuland, spokesperson of the U.S. State Department, be implemented for Syria? Even though the West has started calling on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down, there is no one talking about any manner of military operation yet. U.S. administration officials have so far repeated the line, "Everything is on the table," whenever I've asked about it.

Ankara has not called on al-Assad to leave because it believes that, just like U.S. administration officials stated a couple of weeks ago in background talks, if it makes such a call and Damascus doesn't take heed, Turkey will lose its leverage and room for diplomacy.

In reality, Ankara may have already passed the point of no return. Ankara either realized or is about to realize that it cannot keep issuing denunciations everyday while al-Assad responds by saying "mind your business."

Copying the Libyan template, it can be safely argued that in Syria, too, "the buck stops with the Syrian people" before anything else. Syrians have to secure an ever-higher number of people to fill the streets so that this overwhelming majority will lead to wider international condemnation and isolation for al-Assad but also, hopefully, defections from his security and Cabinet team.

While all these upheavals are ongoing, Ankara's friendship appears the most valuable in Washington, one that reminds us almost of the Cold War.

Cross-border operations into northern Iraq, once a source of great contention between Ankara and Washington, are now strongly backed by Washington. The U.S. administration also leaves the problems with Turkey's freedom of press issues to its NGOs to handle.

During the Cold War, Washington backed the powerful Turkish military and bureaucracy elite for decades while Turkey was strongly pushing back the Soviets.

Now, Washington supports Turkey's powerful Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and conservative establishment, because it knows that there is no viable opposition in sight and the Turkish military is completely under civilian control.

Washington appears to be favoring Turkey's stability and seeking to promote its ties with the AKP while rushing to shape several transitions in other parts of the Middle East.

Taking the side of the mighty is just some of the smart politics Washington pursues. And there is nothing wrong with that.









The kidnapping of the son of the late Punjab governor, Salmaan Taseer, from a busy road in Lahore as he was on his way to his office highlights the rapidity with which the security situation is deteriorating across the country. Shahbaz Taseer was abducted, as his driver looked on helplessly, by four armed men who reportedly bundled him into a Land Cruiser and fled the scene. The police say it is too early to comment on the motives behind the kidnapping. It is widely known that the Taseer family had been receiving threats since the murder early this year of the former governor by his own police guard; the latter was apparently incensed by Taseer's comments regarding the country's blasphemy laws and their alleged misuse. Hearings in the case continue. There are fears that the same forces that hailed Taseer's killer as a hero may have a hand in the most recent abduction. There is a lack of clarity as to whether the Taseer family had been given police protection, though it is understood that the guards provided by the state may have been withdrawn some days ago. Police investigators are also examining the possibility that disputes over the Taseer family's extensive business interests may have motivated the kidnapping which appeared well-planned and expertly executed by elements that seemed familiar with Shahbaz's movements.

The prime minister has contacted the family, and ordered the police to do everything possible to find the culprits. It is only right that every effort be made to ensure the recovery of the victim. However, PM Gilani would do well to also examine the overall law and order situation in the country. It has been deteriorating rapidly in all our major cities for some time. It is these factors that lead to crimes such as the one committed against Shahbaz Taseer. It is too early to say who kidnapped him and why. We hope the police will succeed in tracking down those involved. But we must also find ways to crack down on crime at large. This effort should include an examination of police performance and technical capacity as well as an effort to improve upon these areas where necessary. At the same time, we need also to examine growing intolerance in the country and prevent a still greater descent into anarchy than the one we are seeing right now.






While the Rangers and police in Karachi are working furiously to clean up the city in the wake of violence that has left it resembling a war zone, the government faces growing criticism of the methods employed to curb violence and questions about the potential success of any operation – surgical or otherwise – in which sufficient groundwork has not been laid by relevant political forces. Under these circumstances in which the executive has ostensibly failed to protect the people of Karachi, the judiciary has stepped in once again to rap the government's knuckles and remind it of its duties. While measures such as giving police powers to Rangers or carrying out surgical operations are fraught with political and logistical difficulties, hopes are being focused on the Supreme Court as an objective mediator and adjudicator of the conflict. In this vein, the SC's five-member special bench hearing the suo motu case regarding targeted killings in Karachi met on Friday and asked, among other things, that intelligence agencies better coordinate with law enforcement forces; that copies of the daily situation reports prepared at police stations for the perusal of the provincial police officer and chief secretary be submitted before the court; and the court be provided the exact number of persons killed and injured in Karachi. The SC seems to have understood the peculiar nature of the problem in Karachi: that the police are often helpless because of the overt and covert political support enjoyed by warring gangs. Thus, if the crackdown launched by provincial authorities is to reap results, criminals need to be stopped from flexing their political muscle.

The SC may be able to play an important role in this regard. It may want to seek detailed criminal records of those arrested, ascertain their political affiliations, if any, and ensure that cases are lodged and pursued to their logical conclusion against these criminals. This will not only ensure that criminals are unable to activate their political patrons and secure release but also to make sure that those rounded up for show to the media are not petty criminals or innocent citizens. Indeed, as more and more 'suspects' are arrested everyday and the numbers flaunted before TV cameras, security experts are rightly questioning whether paramilitary troops have the intelligence to identify and locate the real guilty who enjoy widespread political protection and access to arms. It is certain, then, that the melting pot of criminal elements that have taken over Karachi will be susceptible to control only if this protection, weapons' access and local power is withdrawn.






The military has once more come under attack from militants who clearly see it as a key target in the fierce battle they are waging in our country. This time the site of their action was the garrison town of Risalpur – best known as the home of the prestigious Air Force Academy and other military institutions. As in previous attacks, the terrorists chose carefully when they decided where to strike and when. A bomb attached to a child's tricycle went off during the Iftar gathering at an eatery where military personnel often gathered to break their fast. Five Air Force men were among the 11 killed in the blast. Some 15 others were rushed to hospitals to receive treatment. This latest attack is similar to the one that took place at a bakery in the cantonment area of Nowshera – located only seven kilometres away from Risalpur – a few months ago. It would appear that the same groups may be involved in the two incidents. However, the bombing at the Decent Café is the first terrorist incident on this scale in Risalpur itself, and indicates the bombers are becoming more daring by the day.

This is obviously not a comforting idea for any of us. It indicates that despite the efforts made over the years, despite the great loss of lives of both civilians and soldiers, we are still a long way away from defeating the militants. Security experts, policy planners and others must sit down together to rethink strategy in light of all that we have seen over the last few years, and decide how best to stop the militants who remain able to strike even in the most secure locations.








Never before in the short history of Pakistan have its people undergone such anguish as they do now. For them time is measured by throbs of pain. Karachi, which is three times bigger than Libya in terms of population, was once a city of lights but has morphed into a concrete jungle where death stalks the streets. Since 2001 there have been more than 35,000 countrywide fatalities in terrorist incidents, which recur with unrelenting frequency.

Add to this the economic strangulation of the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis who have little hope that the future will bring better days and their desperation becomes obvious. This is similar to the agony of the poet Shelly who pleaded: "O! lift me like a wave, a leaf, a cloud! I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!"

Despite their gruelling circumstances many in Pakistan found solace in prayer and contemplation last night, which they believe was Lailat-ul-Qadr, or the Night of Destiny. It was on this night that the first lines of the Holy Quran were revealed and all authorities agree that this happened in the last third of Ramazan, probably on the 27th of the month.

The 23-year-long process of revelation thus began with the words: "Read in the name of thy Sustainer, who created – created man out of a germ-cell; Read, for thy Sustainer is the Most Bountiful One who has taught (man) the use of the pen; taught man what he did not know." These five verses were placed at the beginning of chapter 96 of the Quran, titled Al-Alaq (The Germ-Cell).

A few authorities, however, believe that Surah Fatihah was the first revelation, but this is conclusively refuted by several authentic Traditions which confirm that the quoted verses were the first. The confusion is at once removed if it is taken into consideration that the earliest revelations consisted of only a few lines and were placed in various chapters of the Quran, whereas the Fatihah was the first surah (chapter) revealed in its entirety to the Holy Prophet (pubh) at one time.

Three elements in the verses which constitute the beginning of Quranic revelation are of particular significance in the context of the formidable problems that contemporary Pakistan faces. The first is the word iqra, which translates as "recite" or "read." Recitation could imply the mere repetition of Quranic passages without understanding their meaning, and this violates the fundamental principle of the Holy Book, which repeatedly exhorts believers to use their reason and describes itself as a scripture "for people who think."

Recitation without comprehension leaves it to others to interpret the teachings of the Quran. In the context of Pakistan, and also of other non-Arabic-speaking Muslim societies, this implies that the semi-literate mullah is given a free hand to propound his own understanding of Islamic precepts. This narrow literalist interpretation of Quranic texts is the source of religious obscurantism and is the fount on which the Taliban and other extremist outfits derive justification for their rejectionist worldview and violent ideology.

Those who perpetrate these outrages profess Islam, but for them there is no dividing line between the sacred and the profane. They have killed with abandon even during the holy month of Ramazan. This was again evident from the suicide bombing at the Jamrud mosque in the Khyber Agency on Aug 19, in which 56 worshippers lost their lives and more than a hundred were injured. The imam of a mosque in Birmingham had it right when he was interviewed by an Islamabad-based television anchor after the recent riots that wracked several British cities. His only message to Pakistan, his country of origin, was: "Never equate any religion, least of all Islam, with violence."

At the other end of the spectrum is excessive asceticism and renunciation of the world. The Quran pronounces against exaggeration in religion and counsels moderation in several of its passages, such as: "And thus We have willed you to be a community of the middle way..." At another level this disposes of the imagined conflict between the spirit and the flesh and, in the words of Muhammad Asad, is "a bold affirmation of the natural, God-willed unity of the twofold aspect of human life. This balanced attitude, peculiar to Islam, flows directly from the concept of God's oneness and, hence, of the unity of purpose underlying His creation."

The other connotation of the word iqra – i.e., "read" implies understanding of the words and ideas embodied in the Quran and is infinitely more preferable to "recite." It is only through the comprehension of the Quranic message, which is founded on moderation, that violent extremism can be defeated. In this sense there is no such person as an "Islamic extremist," because the entire teachings of the scripture is built on the substructure of temperance. There are only "Islamic distortionists," and this is the term that should be used for those who kill, maim and destroy in the name of religion.

The second element of the five verses with which the revelation of the Quran began is the concept of God having "created man out of a germ-cell." Here the verb khalaqa, which means "to create," is repeated twice and is in the past tense, implying that "the act of divine creation has been and is being continuously repeated." Related to this is the very first reference to man in the sequence of Quranic revelation. His origin is from an insignificant microscopic biological organism, or a "germ-cell," but with enormous intellectual and spiritual potential, as this is a part of the continuous process of Divine creation.

The third and last element of the verses with which the revelation of the Quran began is man's unique God-given ability to write. The acquisition of knowledge and its articulation is emphasised above all else. This is a cumulative process and perforce learning is transmitted from man to man, culture to culture and generation to generation in the thrilling adventure of the ascent of man. But there are limits to the knowledge that the human race can acquire, and hence there is need for God's guidance. Shakespeare sums this up in Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than can be dreamt of in your philosophy."

Pakistan has ignored education to its own peril. An illiterate public has been exploited by those who distort religion to advance their agenda of hate and violence. The alleyways of Karachi resonate with the wailing of the bereaved, the country bleeds from terrorist violence and kidnappings have become routine. On Aug 26, the late Salmaan Taseer's son Shahbaz was abducted from Lahore; earlier an American citizen was kidnapped from the same city. Last month two Swiss nationals disappeared from Balochistan, as did eight Pakistanis working for an NGO, and it is uncertain what will become of them.

The world's leading Islamic, scholars such as the renowned Egyptian theologian Dr Yusuf Al-Qardawai and the Grand Shaikh of Al-Azhar, Dr Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, who died last year, sternly condemned such violence in their fatwas (decrees). Dr Tantawi singled out "the twisted reading" of the Quran which he said "represents Islam as a bloody religion which wages war on all," and he described hostage-taking as "a type of criminal action and ignorance, rejected not only by Islam but also by all of humanity."

The end of Ramazan is nearing, but children no longer await Eid with joy and ecstasy, the imagination of ordinary people has become turbid with fear and their vision obscured by the mist of tears. The measures that should be taken are obvious, but nothing can be expected from the corrupt and inept leadership of the country.

The writer is the publisher of Criterion Quarterly. Email: iftimurshed







No government in India has bent over backwards to please a civil society campaign as much as the Manmohan Singh government in respect of the Jan Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill, drafted by a small group, including Anna Hazare, nominated by an NGO called India against Corruption (IAC). And no individual act has recently attracted as much popular support as Hazare's fast for the passage of the bill on terms dictated by him.

At the time of writing, Hazare hasn't broken his fast, but offered to do so if parliament accepts his terms. The result of the drama unfolding over the past fortnight is that India may have a somewhat stronger Lokpal than intended by the government. But the Lokpal will also probably have excessive powers and inadequate public accountability. A lot will depend on how wisely parliament's standing committee on legal matters handles the issue, and whether Team Anna shows more flexibility than it has done so far.

Whatever happens, the government's ham-handed actions have set several precedents. One of them strengthens a particular type of potentially vigilantist civil society movements, which bypass the normal processes of democracy and claim moral authority superior to that of the people's elected representatives.

The government wasn't sincere about the Lokpal issue and drafted a badly flawed bill. But IAC's Jan Lokpal Bill too is substantively flawed. An all-powerful Lokpal is no magic wand against corruption. The Lokpal would enter the picture only after corruption has occurred. But to pre-empt and control corruption, especially where it affects the poor, other means are needed.

The IAC bill would virtually create a parallel government, a gigantic apparatus that subsumes the Central Bureau of Investigation and Central Vigilance Commission and usurps all kinds of police, investigative, prosecution and quasi-judicial powers. This violates the principle of separation of powers which is vital to democracy. The Lokpal would also "approve interception and monitoring of messages of data or voice transmitted through telephones, internet or any other medium..."

Corruption doesn't occur primarily, as Team Anna holds, because there's no "independent, empowered...anti-corruption institution." The real reasons include unequal access to centres of power and seeking rent to enable such access; neoliberal policies that encourage privatisation of common property resources through sweetheart deals; the rise of super-greedy entrepreneurs; increasingly compromised civil servants; poorly monitored public service delivery; and a dysfunctional justice delivery system.

Correcting these will need electoral and administrative reforms, social audit of important programmes, good grievance redressal, and new laws on judicial accountability, whistleblower protection, and rights to public services. Some of these measures have been suggested by another citizens' group, the National Campaign for People's Right to Information. Anna Hazare has ignored them.

Hazare has been projected as a messiah and a parallel national power centre. His team demands that its bill be instantly passed in its pristine form – on pain of the government being toppled. This subverts debate and imposes the will of a handful of people on the nation.

Team Hazare members openly question even parliament's legislative supremacy. The argument is: democracy is the rule of the people, and we alone represent the people. Just look at the crowds in Ramlila Maidan and you'll understand, as Kiran Bedi memorably said, that "Anna is India and India is Anna"!

But majoritarianism isn't democracy. It easily evolves into right-wing authoritarianism. It's equally dangerous to pass off a highly coercive tactic like a fast-unto-death as normal democratic protest.

The government's capitulation to the Hazare campaign had little to do with the Jan Lokpal Bill's merits, or the government's newfound respect for civil society or democratic dissent. The government capitulated, as it always does, when faced with a movement with an elite character.

The movement has attracted ordinary people's support because of widespread revulsion against corruption, not positive support for the Jan Lokpal Bill. But the original campaign, launched in April, was Facebook- and Twitter-driven. It mobilised upper-middle-class people through the technology of using free missed calls to have them answered. A telecom company provided it, and somebody paid a pretty penny for the 13 million calls answered by Aug 15.

The middle class has dictated terms to the government on many issues for many years: exchanging terrorists for civilian hostages on the IC-814 flight hijacked to Kandahar in 1999, and getting affirmative action diluted in the 2000s through groups like Youth for Equality.

The agitation against affirmative action was driven by hatred of the "low" castes, or "chura-chamars." The present campaign is motivated by disdain for democratic politics. But there's continuity between the two. That's one reason why Dalits, low-caste Hindus, and large numbers of Muslims are cold towards Hazare's movement or suspicious of it.

Hazare has repeatedly said that existing democratic politics is itself corrupt. He doesn't believe in elections because people "cast their vote under the influence of Rs100 or a bottle of liquor ...." This cynical view shows utter contempt for the Indian people who have repeatedly punished corrupt or under-performing politicians through elections.

There's a difference, though. The elite strata which have planned and lead the core of this agitation have a specifically corporate character. They are all products of post-1991 neoliberal policies and belong to new service sector businesses like Information Technology.

These strata worship their CEOs and are servile towards corporate hierarchy. They have had no exposure whatever to ordinary people. They love spectacles akin to the cricket World Cup, created by 24-hour news channels. Hazare's fast is just that.

There has also been corporate funding of the Lokpal movement. NGOs run by Hazare's close supporters have received millions of dollars in corporate and Ford Foundation donations.

This past January, 14 industrialists wrote a letter to Prime Minister Singh complaining of a "widespread governance deficit," and pressing for an anti-corruption ombudsman. Since then, London-based controversial businessman S P Hinduja (God bless his pure soul!) has held forth on corruption and the need for a Lokpal. Strongly pro-corporate media groups lead the Jan Lokpal campaign.

It's as if a large chunk of businessmen had decided to ditch the Congress-led UPA government because it's not delivering "second generation" neoliberal policies such as reckless privatisation and dismantlement of such paltry labour protection as exists. Many industrialists are perhaps suspicious of Congress president Sonia Gandhi's mildly left-of-centre political bent and her inaccessibility. Logically, this means they would opt for the Bharatiya Janata Party.

This fits in with the involvement of Hindutva forces in the Hazare campaign, frankly admitted by Sushma Swaraj in parliament on Aug 17, and confirmed by the BJP president's Aug 26 letter to Hazare. The RSS has long tried to tap into popular sentiment against corruption. Three years ago, it roped in Hazare and Baba Ramdev. It got its ideologue K N Govindacharya to set up the rabidly communal Bharat Swabhiman Trust with Ramdev.

Ramdev's network logistically sustained IAC before and through Hazare's Jantar Mantar fast in April. However, Ramdev's own fast following Hazare's proved an embarrassment and the RSS zeroed in exclusively on Hazare.

A movement of which Hazare is the figurehead, but which is controlled externally and clandestinely, has the potential to destabilise the government from the right. This does not bode well for Indian's democracy.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1






Why is Hafiz Sayeed, the head of a UN-sanctioned organisation, being provided an audience with some of Pakistan's most prestigious talk show hosts? Why is the US ambassador to Pakistan being detained at Islamabad airport, if even for a few minutes? What explains the appearances of fiction script writers and comics wearing red topis on serious news television talk shows?

We don't need an inquiry commission to explore these questions. We just need a healthy respect for Pakistan. A country of almost 200 million people is not a disposable bag of Halloween tricks. It is serious business. How serious? A brazen raid of a city that hosts Pakistan's most important military academy should raise structural questions. The presence of the world's most wanted terrorist in that city should raise existential questions. The unchallenged destruction of key military hardware, purchased with hard earned foreign assistance should raise capacity questions. The torture and murder of an intrepid investigative journalist should raise moral and legal questions.

That's exactly what happened. The US raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad raised questions. Bin Laden's presence there raised questions. The P3C Orion attack at PNS Mehran raised questions. Most gruesomely, Saleem Shehzad's torture and murder raised questions.

Unfortunately, the universe's response to these questions leaves much to be desired. Whatever Pakistan's elected leaders, bureaucrats, technocrats and generals may be saying to the rest of the world, the basic message being conveyed on television, through press releases and by proxy is very simple: "Osama bin who? Pakistan is a fortress of Islam. Got questions? You're a traitor."

This may represent an adequate defence for a 10-year-old facing down schoolyard bullies. But Pakistan is not ten. It is 64. International relations demand something slightly more sophisticated. Parading clownish conspiracy theorists and internationally-despised terrorists on prime time television is so bush league, it beggars belief. If the best response Pakistan can conjure to India's incredible capacity for propaganda is a bumbling faux historian that wears a red topi, Pakistan is in serious trouble. It is as if Pakistan wants to insist on bringing a knife to a gun fight. A blunt, boring butter knife. Made of plastic. In Gujranwala. If the best response that Pakistan can conjure to American hubris and myopia in the region is to harass the US ambassador, Pakistan is in really, really serious trouble. It is as if Pakistan insists on wearing Bermuda shorts, and a tank top with nihari stains on it to board meetings in which everyone else is dressed in Armani suits.

What motivation could there possibly be for Hafiz Sayeed to magically appear on television other than to scare the people who are watching Pakistan closely? Last time we checked, the JuD (or its spin off Falah-e-Insaaniat Foundation) had yet to achieve a greater name in welfare work than the Edhi Foundation. Nor had 80 odd JuD madrassahs begun to dispense education that could hold a candle to the stellar learning experience under-privileged Pakistani kids enjoy at The Citizens Foundation's 660 schools. What exactly is going on?

The impulse in Pakistan, as always, is to conjure up a conspiracy of genius. In a dark and smoke-filled room in Aabpara somewhere, the cunning machinations of the ISI are hard at work. The truth is probably a lot scarier. Public service has not been a first, second or third choice for Pakistan's best and brightest young people for over two generations now. This raises a simple, but damning problem. The people analysing the state of the world and helping the Pakistani state make decisions are not going to win any Nobel prizes for physics or chemistry anytime soon.

Yet for decades, the most important decisions Pakistan has made, both in state and across society, have in fact been made by the owners of less than stellar intellects. The results are there for all to see. The dubious distinction of having as many as 40 million children out of school in Pakistan is not an empty slogan. It is a real problem. This is reflected in a profound and growing inability across Pakistani state and society to think. Forget critical thinking. Pakistan's systemic underinvestment in education and knowledge-generation, and its sustained overinvestment in sentimentality, zealous pride and empty slogans have real consequences.

One of them is the stoppage of the US ambassador at Islamabad airport. Another is the mysterious popping up of Hafiz Sayeed on big time talk shows. Yet another is the nonsense and tripe spewed by clownish conspiracy theorists. These events may be entirely independent and coincidental. Or they may be painstakingly well coordinated and timed. In either case, they represent the sum total of creativity and tactics employed by a state and society that simply doesn't have any answers. Pakistan keeps doing less than optimal, and more than surreal things because that's the best it can do.

At home, body bags pile sky high in Karachi and across Khyber. The fighting sons of Landhi, Orakzai, Lyari, Wazistan, Orangi, Bajaur, Surjani Town and Mohmand. Taking shrapnel and bullets. Taking hammers and tongs. Taking ball bearings and fire. Bearing the brunt of citizenship in a country that provides only 35,000 policemen to a city of 18 million – but somehow manages to afford an airline with one of the world's highest employee to aircraft ratios. Adding insult to injury are constant ads from military affiliated foundations, recruiting policemen. Not to shut down the violence in Karachi or Khyber – but to shut down dissent in Bahrain.

Away from home, Pakistan constantly seeks financial aid from other countries. Pakistanis then want to turn around and call those countries names. The military is the primary recipient of foreign assistance, while political governments and NGOs have received a mere pittance. Yet somehow this results in the military being lauded for its "nationalism", and the political class and civil society being dragged through the mud for their "treasonous" habit of dissent. This too is a product of a profound and growing inability to think.

It doesn't stop there. Much of the obsession of both so-called liberals and so-called conservatives in Pakistan with religion is a dislocated zeal for arguing about God and the role of faith in public life. That's a great topic for a Christopher Hitchens debate with any reasonable person, but it is not primary to Pakistan today. The most problematic manifestations of faith in Pakistan are not shampoo ads for women that observe hijaab. The most problematic manifestations of faith in Pakistan are terrorism, public sympathy for contract killers, a twisted national legal framework that incentivises the exploitation of minorities and ridiculous "piety" laws being implemented by a dysfunctional legal and judicial system. In short, exactly the kind of problems we would expect to see in a society that is increasingly bereft of the capacity of discerning thought.

The manner in which manifest religiosity has been mixed in with manifest nationalism, and a dangerously superficial ability to quote Allama Iqbal is germane to the unthinking Pakistani society. Harassing representatives of foreign governments, parading alleged terrorist masterminds, and deploying nutty conspiracy theorists has no basis in either South Asian tradition, or orthodox Islam, or even notions of Pakistaniat. But the unthinking Pakistani society isn't thinking. Ahistoric and anachronistic, there is no way out for society. It has to begin thinking. The effective Pakistani state will remain an elusive and impossible dream until it does.

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy.







It is an ugly truth that most prefer to hide. In Afghanistan, the richest source of Taliban funding is the money paid by the US taxpayers. The latest military-led investigation has provided credible evidence that the US taxpayers' money meant to cover transportation costs in Afghanistan is making its way into Taliban hands.

In what can accurately be described as an orchestrated armed conflict, the Pentagon has already paid tens of millions of dollars in protection money to the Taliban who then use the money to buy weapons and explosives. According to media reports, US dollars are being indirectly funnelled to the Taliban and Afghan warlords to secure convoys carrying supplies to the foreign troops in Afghanistan.

And, what is even more shocking, six of the eight prime contractors in Afghanistan are involved in a criminal enterprise or support for the enemy. Critically, there is no system of oversight and accountability within the murky web of subcontractors involved in the shipment of more than 70% of all the US military food, fuel and weapons across Afghanistan.

General McChrystal, the former US commander of Isaf in Afghanistan, once confessed in a meeting with a Kabul-based ambassador that the US taxpayers' dollars were a partial source of funding the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan. In the summer of 2010, the US House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by John F Tierney, published its report which revealed that there was an annual flow of approximately $400 million in US tax dollars to the Taliban.

Last year, General David Petraeus secretly fired Rear Admiral Kathleen Dussault, the director of Task Force in Afghanistan, who wanted to cut off the diversion of the US funds to the Taliban because the Pentagon did not want to stop paying protection money to Taliban commanders.

Further, it is an outrage that the military generals accepted their crimes and justified them on the basis that there is no other way to move the amount of military supplies required to re-supply the network of more than 200 American bases.

Unlike Iraq, where the Pentagon favoured using American contractors, local contractors are performing the bulk of those tasks in Afghanistan.

The Afghan troops also claim to have found US-supplied equipments in Taliban bases. It is widely believed in Afghanistan that the US is funding the Taliban and the Pentagon has no intention of ending the conflict. The US military-industrial complex wants to prolong the conflict so that its troops can stay in Afghanistan for the next few decades.

The US funds the religious seminaries both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, which produce young Taliban. US army helicopters regularly deliver supplies behind Taliban lines. CIA's involvement in drug trafficking is also well-known. Under US watch, Afghanistan has become the largest opium and hashish producing country in the world, accounting for 85% of the global illicit production. And senior US officials publicly admit that 'narcotics eradication is not on their agenda in Afghanistan'.

This finding of how the US government is financing the insurgents in Afghanistan debunks the "war on terror" as a cruel hoax. In addition, private contractors undermine the Obama administration's exit strategy in Afghanistan, since Afghan soldiers routinely drop out of training to take more lucrative jobs as security guards hired by various private firms.

Now it's a fact that the US is helping fund both sides of the war in Afghanistan, proving that the war in Afghanistan is inherently flawed and unwinnable. Rampant fraud and corruption continue to highlight the futility of the war. There is not, and never has been a military solution to Afghanistan.








 When is it permissible to be economical with the truth, in the name of loyalty to an individual, a party or a cause? Does loyalty to a party demand that its voters and supporters unconditionally defend the bum choices made by party leaders? Does loyalty to a cause deemed righteous legitimise all means to promote it, whether fair or foul? If the Zardari-led PPP is evil incarnate, is it then justifiable to condemn each and every decision it makes regardless of its merit? Are we in a state of war where we have conclusively decided which side ought to lose at all costs? Can the media lower its standards of professionalism, portray one side of a story, and disguise opinion by presenting it as fact, all in the name of larger public good? Are we so desperate that we no longer have room for fairness and integrity in public discourse?

If a public servant is appointed to an esteemed position by a corrupt government, is such a bureaucrat automatically condemnable? The public mind once infused with perceptions of culpability by the media can hardly be neutralised. This is what makes issuing rebuttals a futile exercise. Buland Akhtar Rana, the newly appointed Auditor General (AG), has been dragged through a nasty media trial for sometime now. Anyone who believes that our popular media outfits provide credible information, the veracity of which need not be second-guessed, is convinced by now that the ruling regime has yet again picked the most sullied official to serve as the AG. But you delve deeper into the allegations and they don't add up. There are three formal allegations against Rana: he sexually harassed a co-worker; he possesses two identity cards; and he possesses multiple passports.

Then there are informal disqualifications; prime amongst them being the fact that he hails from Multan, the prime minister's hometown. And if there could be a prize for circular reasoning, this media verdict would be a front runner: now that Rana stands convicted in the public eye for possessing 'allegedly' dubious credentials, he has become too controversial a person to be sworn into an office as hallowed as that of the AG. Let us start with the allegations. There was a charge of sexual harassment brought against Rana. The AG's office sought the prime minister's permission to charge sheet him. Prime Minister Gilani (Rana's country cousin from Multan) gave the permission to initiate a formal inquiry. The inquiry was conducted. The inquiry committee honourably exonerated Rana.

While the inquiry was underway, Rana was not considered for elevation to the next grade, while his juniors were promoted. Once his name was cleared, the next promotion board considered and promoted Rana and granted him seniority (in accordance with the rules) from the date he ought to have been promoted had it not been for the unsubstantiated charges and consequent inquiry. The second media allegation (based on secret intelligence reports, we are told) is that Rana possesses two identity cards. Do they have different names and ages? Is he involved in espionage? Has he been abusing his different identities in any manner? There is no theory posited to explain any of this. But Rana's version is simpler and more believable: he had an old identity card, and was then issued a new one by Nadra that has the old card's number inscribed on it.

Moving on, Rana is alleged to have three passports. He has one ordinary passport that every Pakistani citizen is entitled to. He has one official passport issued to public servants when travelling abroad on government business. And being a dual citizen (of Pakistan and Canada) he has a Canadian passport as well. So does this third passport make him a criminal or a traitor unfit to serve as the AG? Do dual citizens have dubious/divided loyalty to Pakistan? Should they be barred from assuming public office? In today's global village are Pakistani expatriates an asset or a liability for their country of origin? Will Pakistan's sovereignty and foreign policy suddenly become autonomous if expatriates and dual citizens are legally ousted from our circle of trust? Will it prevent our indigenous elites from submitting to the diktat of foreign masters?

Parochial laws neither stem the drain of human resource nor bolster state sovereignty. We need aggressive policies to engage our expatriates, not divorce ourselves further. But these are policy choices and reasonable people can disagree about them. There is however no confusion in our law as it stands. Pakistani citizens are not prohibited from acquiring foreign nationality. The law allows retention of dual citizenship in relation to certain prescribed countries, which include the UK, the US and Canada. Further, the law does not require public office holders, including the prime minister, federal ministers, judges etc. (or parliamentarians for that matter) to cede a foreign citizenship, should they have one, before swearing the oath of allegiance to the Constitution of Pakistan and their respective offices. If sitting federal ministers in charge of the most sensitive federal portfolios can retain dual citizenship, why can't the chief auditor?

There is no denying that the PPP has not only made a habit of disregarding merit but also mocking it. The honours announced this Independence Day, with the highest civilian awards conferred on Fehmida Mirza, Farooq Naek, Rehman Malik and Salman Farooqi, was the latest reminder of such mockery. So how do we judge career bureaucrats who have the misfortune of reaching their pinnacle at a time when a thoroughly corrupt and discredited coterie is in control of the federal government? Do we discard the cardinal principle of justice that no one can be condemned on suspicion and painted all black for being in cahoots with the merry-making Zardari-Gilani gang? Or do we scrutinise the facts of each case and hold public servants to account for their individual acts and omissions? This is where the media portrayal of Buland Akhtar Rana's credentials and the honourable leader of the opposition's knee-jerk response to Rana's appointment have been wanting.

Chaudhary Nisar was in the right when he rejected the government appointed chairman Nab and was vindicated in court. There the government was under a legal obligation to meaningfully consult the opposition leader in making such appointment. In the matter of the AG, however, the prerogative rests squarely with the government. Had such appointment been marred by illegality, Chaudhary Nisar's condemnation would be justified. Had there been pending inquiries against Rana – a career civil servant and grade 22 officer, the senior-most in the audit and accounts group – on charges of corruption, malfeasance or abuse of authority etc. (as was the case in other executive appointments), the rejection of the new AG would be understandable. But to use dismissed charges of harassment, multiple passports, and a Multan domicile as evidence of Rana's mala fide intent in discharging duties he has yet to assume adds a shallowness to the otherwise genuine criticism of government actions thwarting the PAC's work.

While the government appoints the AG, it cannot remove him. This office has the same security of tenure as afforded to Supreme Court judges. Let Buland Akhtar Rana falter in his job and there will be cause to move the Supreme Judicial Council on grounds of misconduct. Given this unfortunate backdrop, it bodes well for everyone that the Chief Justice has sought government's response to the allegations against Rana. It will help clear up the controversy. And in the event that Rana's version of the truth bears out, there must be retribution for all those who brought bogus allegations against him.








August 23 was a picture perfect day. But there hung in the air a fear. We were being warned of a deadly hurricane hitting the North East over the weekend. As the afternoon sunlight drenched the green landscape in pastel shades of gentle gold, suddenly the atmosphere moved. An urgent gust of wind shook up trees and trampled the grass making furrows as it requisitioned it. Irene's (hurricane have names in the US) precursor is here, I shouted out from the balcony to alert the family. By the time others arrived, the air current had passed leaving behind a sullen quiet. Very strange, I mumbled to myself.

Ten minutes later, the solid wood dining table hosting my laptop began to shake. I thought the lady downstairs must be getting some electrical work done in her apartment (walls and floors are literally made of cardboard wood). A few seconds later, the shaking turned to a vicious tremble. The work-friendly table with Italian hand carving suddenly looked menacing.

Was the table trying to tell me something? Of course! We were being hit by an earthquake of 5.8 magnitude. The last time North East USA was hit by a similar earthquake was 114 years ago. Earth shaking event as this is as rare as a blue moon. Rushing to hear the TV news we heard that 22 states, which means almost half of America had trembled so bad that people ran for their lives in New York, Washington, Boston and other big cities with high rises. Martha's Vineyard, the summer haven for the wealthy too got a shaking.

Did the most powerful man in the world currently vacationing in this idyllic island feel the tremor? President Obama was said to have been playing golf around 1.51 pm when America trembled.

Nature has a message none of us appear listening. Least of all the politicians and the generals. Their hands are stained in dirty cash mixed with blood of the poor and innocent of the Earth. But the greed of world politicians, be it America, England, Middle East or South Asia is limitless. These predators – civil and military – despite being cursed, abused, spit upon and damned – continue with their plunder and assault on human rights. They are unstoppable.

With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 around the corner, Americans get jumpy each time something shatters their calm. Thousands streamed out on streets when the earthquake struck. Many feared another terror attack. But soon they realised that it was Mother Nature giving them a hard jolt. The Pentagon, White House and Capitol Hill evacuated its staff, while people inside all other government buildings were asked to leave. Fright straddled across people's faces as they stood out in the sun under an open sky. Flights at major airports were halted with airplanes grounded; eight nuclear plants were immediately put on a watch list with two of them being shut down. Washington Monument, America's most prized structure commemorating its independence suffered cracks. It's been closed to public indefinitely.

As the skyscrapers swayed in New York and the centuries old crystal chandeliers created an orchestra of their own at swank Manhattan buildings, executives in dark suits stormed the streets. A press conference by the Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance announcing the dismissal of sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), was shown live with panicked journalists fleeing the room. DSK despite DNA evidence incriminating him in raping a hotel maid is a free man today.

What happens tomorrow when Irene is expected to strike? Chad Myers, the weatherman at CNN is freaking out. He paints a grim picture of 100 feet waves hitting New York with wildly ferocious winds lashing out at anything that crosses the path of Irene. The advance party – thunder and lightning has arrived.

The writer is a freelance journalist. Email: anjumniaz@rocket









THE issue of fake-degree holders in Parliament remained a hotly debated one for quite some time with different institutions and courts involved in scrutiny of documents of the members of the parliament and provincial assemblies and rendering those found guilty as disqualified. But this time, it is Balochistan High Court that has disqualified Senator Ali Muhammad Rind, ordering the concerned authorities to suspend all the privileges conferred on him with immediate effect. The reason is different — he was convicted by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in corruption cases and hence ineligible to hold the public office.

The case has once again highlighted the fact that a number of fake degree holders and criminals of all sorts landed in the parliament during 2008 elections. At a certain point of time an avalanche of fake degree holders came to surface and the Higher Education Commission, relevant universities and Election Commission of Pakistan came into action against those who reached the elected houses through fraudulent manner. The media also pinpointed the cases, forcing the institutions concerned to initiate necessary proceedings but regrettably administrative powers and tactics were used widely to block the process. As a result, with few exceptions, cases of others went into the background giving them opportunity to use their influence and clout to stall the proceedings effectively. We believe that even where the judgements were delivered and members declared disqualified to hold the office, demands of justice were not met, as mere disqualification was not enough to punish those who breached confidence of the masses and indulged in misconduct of the extreme sort. We had all along been demanding that apart from their disqualification, such elements should be barred from contesting elections for life and monetary benefits enjoyed by them during tenure of their fraudulent membership should be recovered from them. Criminal cases should also be framed against them and all this would have added to the credibility and prestige of the representative institutions. We believe that there should be no room for these people either in parliament or in the society. In fact, there are many others in Parliament, who remain dumb and deaf during their entire tenure and hardly participate in the proceedings of the concerned houses except pronouncing 'yes' and 'nos' on occasion of voting in the house. Such people should also be weeded out by their electorates in elections.







PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari has rightly prioritized China on his agenda, as he would again be leaving on a visit to the friendly country on August 31, the eighth one after assuming the office of the President in September 2008. This speaks volumes about the importance the President and his PPP Government is attaching to solidify further relations with China that has proved to be an all weather friend of the country.

As per details made available by the Foreign Office spokesperson on Thursday, the main engagement of the President in China would be participation in China-Eurasia Expo being held in Urumqi but taking advantage of his presence there, he would also be having meaningful interaction with the political leadership of that country and the business community. Otherwise too, his decision to participate in an international trade fair where Pakistan is taking part in a big way is indication of the fact that the President lays emphasis on promotion of trade and commercial ties with China. His presence would also dispel the impression created by hostile propaganda by some vested foreign forces that Pakistan has, in any way, any hand in the recent trouble in the eastern Xinjiang province last month. It is heartening to note that during previous visits of the President to China, the two countries signed over fifty agreements and MoUs for cooperation in various fields. In fact, China has proved to be a willing and enthusiastic partner in the socio-economic development of Pakistan but we have so far failed ourselves because of bureaucratic tendencies to delay implementation of the agreements and understanding reached for the purpose. President Zardari himself has been holding regular meetings to ensure follow up action but despite that the progress is not as satisfactory as it should have been especially in areas like cooperation in building small and big dams and energy projects. We hope that the President would lay right focus on this aspect as well to translate his efforts into reality.







AS Karachi is bleeding, there are fresh reports indicating further flight of capital from the city, which should be a cause of concern for the relevant authorities in the Government. It is strange that on the one hand the Government is making strenuous efforts to attract investment but it is oblivious of the perception and consequences of the flight of capital from Karachi.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif deserves credit for highlighting the issue during visit to the city on Thursday when he pointed out that the business community was forced to migrate and shift their investment to other countries due to alarming law and order situation in Karachi. He urged all segments of the society to get united against the killings and lawlessness in the economic hub of the country. Apart from flight of capital, which is believed to be in the range of billions of dollars, industrialists and other entrepreneurs are also shifting their industries and businesses to other countries. According to credible sources, investors seem unwilling to invest in Pakistan and they have been transferring their assets and funds to foreign countries since 2008 and that is one of the reasons that despite all time high remittances by overseas Pakistanis and foreign exchange reserves, the economic condition of the country is deteriorating day by day. According to former Finance Minister Dr Salman Shah some of the industrial units are being shifting from Pakistan to Bangladesh, China and Malaysia due to less-conducive business environment, worsening security situation and lingering energy crisis. This shows that secure environment is more important for investors than other considerations like strategic location, cheap labour force, expanding market and easy availability of raw material. We hope that the Government would resolve security issues on priority basis as flight of capital and transferring of assets means loss of productivity and resultantly exports as well as compounding of the unemployment problem besides inflicting more dents on the popularity of the regime.








India continues its sinister designs and water terrorism by making dams and reservoirs on Pakistani rivers in violation of Indus Water Treaty. India has recently released 80000 to 100000 causecs of water after its dams were filled and could no longer accommodate additional water. On 16th August 2011, India spilled more than 70,000 cusecs of additional water into River Sutlej without prior information to Pakistani authorities, inundating dozens of villages in Ganda Singhwala area of Kasur district, which has caused billions of rupees loss to the farmers of the area. Water experts say that New Delhi, in sheer violation of the Indus Water Treaty, released more than 70,000 cusecs of water into River Sutlej at Pakistani side, which mounted its level to an alarming extent and washed away dozens of villages in Kasur after creating an emergency flood situation in the entire area. Agriculturists have suffered as the floods have destroyed the standing crops on a vast land comprising hundreds of hectares.

Officials said that thousands of stranded people are lying under the open sky in most parts of Kasur district while they are yet to receive any emergency aid from the authorities concerned. Over 170 villages along the Ravi are also evacuated every year while the local administration is put on high alert in Narowal and Sialkot districts to cope with any emergency, official sources said. "The local administration is working with the villagers to get over one hundred villages evacuated in Narowal district in the wake of possible deluge in the locality as India has started diverting floodwaters to Pakistan," sources added. It is worth mentioning that during the Pak-India parleys held in March and May 2010, India had agreed to install telemetry system on the rivers in its territory to check real-time water flow. But later, New Delhi has backtracked from its promises vis-à-vis issues raised by Islamabad.

In such an eventuality, the question remains, how insidiously India is violating the Indus Water Teary (IWT-1960) by diverting the river courses. In the second week of August 2011, the experts said: "We have credible reports that India during this season is going to release about 200,000-cusec additional water in the River Ravi, Sutlej, Jhelum and Chenab". Meanwhile, this high flow of water has washed away thousands of villages in Punjab province. Experts say that on one hand India is stealing Pakistani water by building dams on rivers flowing into Pakistan from Occupied Kashmir, whereas on the other hand New Delhi deflects river-courses during monsoon season to release floodwater towards Pakistani side. According to reports, India is constructing many dams on River Jhelum, out of which 4 big and 16 small dams have started functioning. India is constructing the third largest dam of the world in Kargil on River Indus, which will block 45 % flow of water to Pakistan.

This is being done under well thought-out strategy to render Pakistan's link-canal system redundant, destroy agriculture of Pakistan, which is its mainstay, and turn Pakistan into a desert. India has plans to construct 62 dams/hydro-electric units on Rivers Chenab and Jhelum; thus enabling it to render these rivers dry by 2014. Using its clout in Afghanistan, India has succeeded in convincing Karzai regime to build a dam on River Kabul and set up Kama Hydroelectric Project using 0.5MAF of Pakistan water. It has offered technical assistance for the proposed project, which will have serious repercussions on the water flow in River Indus. Apart from India's river diversion plan, Pakistanis leadership also failed to construct large reservoirs during the last thirty years to meet the growing food requirements of ever-increasing population, which exacerbated the situation. It has to be mentioned that conscientious leaders in other countries plan 50 to 100 years ahead to construct such projects.

Today, agricultural sector in Pakistan contributes 24 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); two-third of population living in rural areas depends on it; absorbs more than 50 per cent of the labour force and provides the base for 75 per cent of exports in the form of raw materials and value-added products. India's think-tanks have been working on river diversion plans with a view to creating acute water shortage in Pakistan, which could lead to shortage of wheat and other crops and also stoke inter-provincial conflicts over distribution of water. Last year, US Senate had released a report, which warned that the Indus Water Treaty may fail to avert water wars between India and Pakistan, acknowledging that dams India is building in occupied Kashmir will limit supply of water to Pakistan at crucial moments. Currently, the most controversial dam project is the proposed 330-megawatt dam on the Kishenganga River, a tributary of the Indus. Though the World Bank is a mediator in case differences emerge on Indus Water Treaty, but it does not play its role effectively.

In the past, there have been wars between many countries of the world over religions, usurpation of territories and control of resources including oil, but in view of acute shortages of water in Africa, Middle East, Asia and elsewhere, the future wars could be fought over water. In addition to Kashmir dispute, the Indus River Basin has been an area of conflict between India and Pakistan for about four decades. Spanning 1,800 miles, the river and its tributaries together make up one of the largest irrigation canals in the world. Dams and canals built in order to provide hydropower and irrigation have dried up stretches of the Indus River. In fact, it is the responsibility of the international community to urge India to honour its commitment under the treaty. And this is the only way to avoid war. With the climate change and as a consequence shrinking water availability across the Middle East, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, violent conflict between states is increasingly likely.

It has been estimated by the experts that by 2025, more than two billion people are expected to live in countries that find it difficult or impossible to mobilize the water resources needed to meet the needs of agriculture, industry and households. Population growth, urbanization and the rapid development of manufacturing industries are relentlessly increasing demand for finite water resources. Symptoms of the resulting water stress are increasingly visible. In northern China, rivers now run dry in their lower reaches for much of the year. In parts of Pakistan and India, groundwater levels are falling so rapidly that from 10 percent to 20 percent of agricultural production is under threat. Shortage of power has also adversely impacted our economy, as electricity is not available to make up the shortfall of water through the use of tube wells especially when underground water table has receded. Pakistan must expedite the construction of Bhasha-Daimler project to overcome water and electricity shortages to keep the wheels of its industry running.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.







The US led invaders vastly superior in men and material laced with most sophisticated munitions and technology invaded Afghanistan on 7 October 2001 and won the conventional battle against ill-equipped and impoverished Taliban in quick time and prematurely sounded drumbeats of victory in December 2001. Soon they got stuck in low intensity guerrilla war in which they started losing. The US led coalition forces had viewed the Taliban as scum of the earth that would be trampled under their boots. However, despite applying massive force with impunity for a decade and resorting to brutal torture, the aggressors couldn't defeat their much inferior opponents. A stage has come when the US back is against the wall and it has ordered troop drawdown but it is clueless how to extricate itself out of the black hole.

Gen David Petraeus and Gen McChrystal who were undeservingly glorified and rated as heroes of Iraq were shifted to Afghan theatre once Obama took over and center of gravity shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan . Iraqi Sunnis helped curtailing violence in Iraq in 2007 by fighting al-Qaeda, but the crown was put on Petraeus head. An impression was built that his troop surge had broken the back of al-Qaeda in volatile provinces, which eventually enabled US-NATO troops to start handing over frontline duties to Iraqi National Army.

While Petraeus continued as Commander Centcom, McChrystal was appointed head of ISAF in Afghanistan with the hope that he will repeat his success story there as well. On his request 17000 US troops were moved out of Iraq in March 2009 to beef up the military strength in Afghanistan . Bulk of force was sent to Helmand Province in the south to augment strength of British forces. A grand operation was launched with 15000 troops and it was boasted that this stronghold of Taliban will be dismantled. The new commander did not take into consideration that demography, topography and obtaining operational environment in Afghanistan were quite different to Iraq . Dissimilarities were not evaluated realistically. The much hyped operation soon turned into a big fiasco.

When similar reverses were met in eastern Afghanistan in September 2009, McChrystal lost his nerves and in panic closed up all the forward posts established along Afghan-Pak border. He was so unhinged that posts facing Angoor Adda in South Waziristan were also abandoned right at the time when Pak Army's major offensive had unfolded in that region. Instead of providing the anvil, he facilitated flight of runaway Taliban after the main base of TTP was dismantled in November 2009. By adopting defeatist strategy, he not only shrunk the perimeter of security but also emboldened the Taliban to wrest the initiative and to strike at will targets in depth.

He then dispatched a distress signal seeking 50,000 additional troops asserting that if reinforcements were not made available, Afghanistan will be lost. Petraeus and Admiral Mike Mullen supported him leaving reluctant Obama with no option but to accede to his request. He sanctioned dispatch of 32000 extra US troops in December but also announced that withdrawal of US-NATO forces would commence from July 2011 onwards. The second troop surge brought no relief to McChrystal since his second offensive in Helmand in early 2010 also failed to deliver. McChrystal's efforts to drive a wedge between al-Qaeda and Taliban and to divide Taliban made no headway. Likewise, his efforts to win hearts and minds of Pashtun Afghans and to limit civilian casualties didn't reverse the rising trend of anti-Americanism. In frustration he gave a controversial interview to a magazine criticizing Obama Administration. His indiscretion cost him his post and he was abruptly retired from service. Petraeus was made to wear the additional hat of commander US-NATO Afghan forces. Petraeus in whom greater hopes were pinned that he will be able to turn the tide also disappointed the Americans. He reversed the policy of winning hearts and minds of McChrystal and removed restrictions on field commanders in the use of air sorties. As a consequence civilian casualties surged up. Petraeus didn't pick up courage to mount an offensive in Kandahar that had been conceived by McChrystal since he didn't want to face another failure after Helmand fiasco. Since the whole responsibility had come on his shoulders, he didn't want to be booted out unceremoniously like McChrystal. As a cover up, he convinced higher military and civilian leadership in Washington that neutralization of NW in a preliminary operation was vital for the success of Kandahar operation. In the face of Gen Kayani's defiance, he threatened that in case Pak troops failed to take action, his troops would be constrained to step into FATA. This operation which was supposed to be launched in May 2010 has so far not materialized.

Petraeus relied on air power and seldom used ground troops to fight tactical battles face to face. Troops devoid of cause and feeling homesick had little heart to get involved in serious combat since they wanted to return home safe and sound. The airpower can assist but cannot win wars. Same is the case with armor. Ultimately it is the thin skinned infantry under dynamic junior leaders which assaults with bayonet fitted rifles, captures ground and hold it. This is exactly what Pak Army has been doing under most adverse conditions and winning.

A superior general is the one who snatches victory out of he jaws of defeat using lesser force and more skill, while a weak general is the one who uses a sledgehammer instead of a swatter to kill a fly and even then overturns victory into defeat. Instead of owning it up that that the US-NATO forces have patently failed to accomplish any of the assigned objectives and have lost the war, Petraeus in line with the policies of his predecessors kept blaming Pakistan for their failures. He also misled Pentagon and Obama by wrongfully claiming that after pulverizing al-Qaeda, substantial progress had been achieved against the Taliban. Till his last day in office, he stuck to his stance that victory was possible if greater force was applied, more time was given and Pakistan was forced to do more.

Pakistan Army helped USA in enfeebling al-Qaeda by arresting large number of its leaders and operatives and keeping them on the run all these years at a heavy cost. The US now wants the Army to uproot Haqqani network, remnants of al-Qaeda and Afghan Shura allegedly based in Quetta so that it doesn't have to encounter any opposition. The US must not forget that the 152000 strong ISAF aided by over 100,000 strong ANA is fighting the main battle against Taliban-alQaeda in Afghanistan while Pakistan Army is fighting the auxiliary battle. Success or failure of the battle will hinge upon the outcome of main effort and not the auxiliary effort.

Conflicting two-track US policy of desiring talks with Taliban and at the same time wishing their emasculation so that the US could bargain from a position of strength has bred utter confusion. Obama desires de-escalation and exit whereas hawks in Pentagon want escalation and permanent stay. Apparently 2014 has been declared as the cutout date but the US officials are saying that the departure date is still in fluid form and may stretch up to 2024. Resort to accelerated violent means by occupation forces to gain ascendancy over Taliban before talks runs counter to declared intent of seeking a negotiated end to the conflict. Daily night raids and reckless bombings have increased casualty rate of civilians. This dual-faced muddled policy is not only keeping resistance forces unified but also pushing fence sitters towards Taliban camp. Resultantly, space for negotiations is getting constricted thereby dimming prospects of negotiated political settlement.

—The writer is a freelance defence analyst.









Lailat ul-Qadr or Night of Power is a very important occasion in the history of Islam and in our personnel lives. During Ramazan falls the night of al-Qadr on which day the Prophet received his call and First verses of the Holy Qur'an were revealed at Mt. Hira. "Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power. (97.1). It is on this night that God's decree for the year is brought down on the earthly plane. "And Angels and the spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees". (97.4). "The Night of Power is better than a thousand months." Yusuf Ali interprets this verse as, "A thousand Nights must be taken in a very indefinite sense as denoting a very long period of time. One moment of enlightment under God's light is better than thousand of months/years of animal life and such a moment of enlightenment translates into a period of spiritual glory". The Holy Prophet (Pbuh) said about al-Qadr whosoever rises up for vigil and prayers during the night of al-Qadr with faith, and in hope of recompense, will have all his previous sins forgiven.

Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar in his eloquent discourse the religion of Islam comments, 'the injunction laid down in the Holy Qur'an runs as follows: the month of Ramadan is that in which the Holy Qur'an was revealed….(2:185). It will be seen from the words of the injunction that the choice of this particular month is not without a reason. It is well known that the Holy Qur'an was revealed piecemeal during a period of 23 years and this verse states that the Qur'an's revelation began in the month of Ramadan, which is historically true. The first revelation came to the holy prophet (PBUH) during Ramadan when he was in the cave of Hira. The month which witnessed the greatest spiritual experience of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was thus considered to be the most suitable month for the spiritual discipline of the Muslim community which was to be affected through fasting.

Allah says in the Qur'an in Surah Al-Qadr: "We have indeed revealed this (message) in the Night of Power. And what will explain to thee what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down the angels and the spirit by God's permission, on every errand: Peace! This until the rise of Morning." (97:1-5) Allah also says about this powerful night in Surah Dukhan: "By the book that makes things clear. We sent it down during a blessed night. For We (ever) wish to warn (against evil). In that (night) is made distinct every affair of wisdom, by command, from Our Presence. For We (ever) send (revelations), as a mercy from Thy Lord: for He hears and knows (all things)". (44:1-6)

Allah said in the Qur'an in Surah A 1-Baqarah: "Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong)."(2:185) the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said about Lailatul-Qadr: It as narrated by Abu Hurayra that Prophet said, "Anyone who stays awake for the Night Of Power with belief and for the pleasure of Allah, all his previous sins will be forgiven." (Bukhari and Muslim) It has also been reported by Aisha, the wife of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh) who said: "I asked the Messenger of Allah if I knew which night was the Night of Power and what Prayer I should say during that night? He said to me: Say: "O Allah! You are forgiving and you love forgiveness, so you too forgive me. The Revelation of the Qur'an started in the month of Ramadan and specifically on the Night of Power. The Revelation of the Qur'an; a sign of Mercy, a guide and a blessing of Allah to mankind.

The Night of Power is a night of blessings Allah has blessed this Night. Therefore whosoever is interested in receiving the blessings of Allah may look forward to the Night of Power. Anyone who seeks the Night of Power and lives it, all his/her sin will be erased. This is, as if, he/she is, born again now free of all sin and mistakes. It is believed that the Night of Power falls during one of the odd numbered nights of the last ten days of Ramadan, i.e. 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th. It has been emphasized that it is most likely to be the 27th night. The signs of Lailatul-Qadr could be either that the sun rises early in the morning without rays, Rain may fall either during the night or during the day of that night, During night the sky will be slightly foggy, The sky will be slightly lighted without reflections and without rays and undeniably the angels and Gabriel all descend down onto earth for many purposes. If one wants to be blessed enough to observe the night of power, then it is advisable to find it in the last ten days of Ramadan through fasting, recitation of the Holy Book, Zikr of Allah, offering Nawafil and Taraweeh, Charity to the needy, Supplication or Dua for others and yourself and offering prayers in congregation.

Fasting is the best way to search for the Night of Power for it is only through fasting that it sanctifies the human personality; it cuts the carnal self to its size: brightens and heightens human virtues; reactivates pious resolves, infuses order, obedience, and responsibility, enriches the soul and purifies the body thereby influencing the personality of a Muslim. Fasting, must lead a true believer to exemplary standards of behavior, which must necessarily be symbolic of the traits and lofty character of the Holy Prophet. We can hope to establish a righteous society only if we imbibe into our daily lives on a 365 days basis, the many virtues that attend to the various formats of Islamic worship as elaborated in the Holy Qur'an.

It is only through the study of the Holy book and following it in letter and spirit that it leads to reformation of 'self' through a conscious management of the 'self'. It is this process, which is to receive our utmost attention, whilst we engage in fasting. If this objective is to make our behavior symbolic of the virtues attending to fasting such as mercy, generosity, truthfulness, endurance, patience and fortitude. We should not defeat and outrage the primary teaching underlying this fundamental injunction of Islam, because in the final analysis fasting erases from the believing soul every evil, it perfects and liberates the human spirit and directs it towards common welfare thus helping in the establishment of a righteous and stable society.








PM Gillani is right in warning politicians to deliver in Karachi to save democracy. Islamabad and Sindh should strategize to undertake the operation in Karachi to restore peace, bring culprits to book and de-weaponize it. PPP has majority in Sindh and therefore it has the political backing of the public to make a government and deliver. PML (N) and other parties in center can render their support to PPP on Karachi operation to strengthen democracy, deliver justice and end politics of extortions and target killings in Sindh. Mian Nawaz Sharif should come forward to play his role in restoring law and order in Karachi.

The calls for inducting military in Karachi are premature at this stage and a handful of options can still help restore peace in Karachi. Military should insist on political and legal accountability at this stage. Gillani has wisely rejected calls for inviting military to protect vested stake. Military is not required to control unrest at this stage because more than 50% of Karachi is peaceful. The existing number of police and rangers can restore law and order provided they are allowed to uphold law. Sindh government should rationalize police deployed on VIP duties so that maximum number of police can deployed on streets to protect public. Instead of performing routine policing duties, rangers and other paramilitary forces should only be used against identified target on lines of military in aid to civil power (IACP). Provincial borders should be sealed and provinces should be altered to catch fleeing culprits.

Politicians, legal experts and media are taking use of military IACP as a constitutional right. Since, judiciary has ended era of martial laws so Karachi situation must be settled through parliamentary democratic accountability. The era of use of military in IACP must end. In trichotomy of power in the democracy military is part of the state and relevant articles of the Constitution can only be invoked to protect interests of the state. Legal experts should not confuse the nation by giving blank cheques to the government(s) to use state institutions to cover its democratic failures and avert resultant accountability in the democracy. Military, as custodian of state cannot and must not clean the mess of rogue politicians and political parties. It should ensure that federal and provincial governments, state democratic institutions and election commission uphold the law to bring culprits to book and provide justice to public. Thus, Karachi can help start culture of democratic accountability of rogue politicians, failed political parties and strengthening of state institutions to protect public, state and democracy.

It is opined that Doctrine of Necessity (DoN) is dead after Musharraf and independence of judiciary. Judiciary is the supreme custodian of a state in trichotomy of power in a parliamentary form of democracy. Accordingly, judiciary is obliged to take notice of failure of government in Karachi including killings, extortion and other serious crimes. Military, as part of democratic "checks and balances" is obliged to support judiciary to uphold law to end target killings. It brings us to a fundamental question: can judiciary (like military), under DoN remove a democratic government if it fails to resign due to its failure to protect public? The final answer is yes. In case a failed government refuses to uphold parliamentary form of democracy and resign, Judiciary is required to remove rogue government to protect state, public and democracy. Karachi is a turf war among major political parties ahead of next elections. Therefore, judiciary is well within its legal, democratic and moral rights to safeguard life, property and state. It is a different matter if it decides to act or not. Political accountability is must to block DoN. The parliamentary democracy of Pakistan was stifled in last 60 years due to the judiciary-military nexus of DoN. Karachi is an opportunity for political parties and governments to hold themselves accountable lest state institutions are forced to use law to oust failed governments to complete transformation of parliamentary democracy from dictatorship and bring a permanent end to DoN. Politicians should not forget that today state institutions are supporting democracy as Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg did after the death of Zia ul Haq. Instead of taking over as the next martial law administrator, he supported democracy. Judiciary and military are there to support democracy provided politicians are ready to respect bindings of parliamentary democracy including resignations and accountability.

PPP can take many steps to restore law and order in Sindh. As a majority party in Sindh Assembly, it should replace governor and CM. Karachi needs one central authority to restore law and order. It cannot be run simultaneously from State Guest House, Bilawal House, Governor House and CM house. PPP has to take a decision whether it will run Sindh under Governor Rule with its own governor or an effective CM supported by a neutral yet experienced Governor. There is across the board consensus that Sindh leadership has to be changed to bring peace in Karachi. Gorbachev was master of compromises but history is witness that it was Yeltsin who used compromise to get rid of him.

Commissioner system should be restored in Karachi. Police should be returned under deputy commissioner and magistracy system should be made effective. Police Ordinance 2002 has failed to serve public, keep police free from political interference and accountable to public. It has failed to resist influence of local mayors, politicians and the influential. Independent police has failed because public is unhappy with city policing, independent police complaint commission and poor law and order. The Ordinance has turned independent police into a state within a state that is infested with corruption, excesses against public, and unwilling to respect law and courts of the land. In UK, the corruption, poor policing, high cost of policing and political interference in policing has shown that city policing is a failure.

After restoration of commissioner system, state should come down upon the criminals with full might of the law. A three-pronged strategy can help get rid of organized crime in Karachi and rest of the country. The courts should be established on street corners and justice should be served there and then including public hangings on line of China and Kuwait. The appeal process should be followed as per the existing system but without delays. The local and overseas bank accounts of individuals and political parties should be screened and scrutinize their source of earning to rule out extortion money and bank robberies. Search operations should also be conducted to trace hidden money. De-weaponization can done with help of latest techniques including imaging and modern techniques like use of chemicals to trace gun powder residue and bloodstains on person and place, by collecting fingerprints from dead bodies and matching it with NADRA finger print database to find the killers. It will accelerate process of accountability, and make the process of justice transparent and quick.

West is equally interested to see a cover up of Karachi mayhem to protect its Afghan policy. There is need to scour the record of containers to rule out reports of its role in weaponization of Karachi to arm-twist Islamabad into a compromise. Reportedly, NATO's Afghan transport deal is worth more than $8bn. Arab media reports show that around 14,000 people have very high stakes in Pak-Afghan NATO transport deal which is also fueling standoff in Karachi. Islamabad needs to take stock of these earnings, their use and tax value so that it can recover its share $11.5t held in offshore tax havens. Thus, policy of strengthening railway, quick justice, commissioner system and political accountability can help restore peace in Karachi, end DoN and strengthen democracy.







We are living in truly interesting times, as the Chinese would put it. What a remarkable year it has been for the Middle East, and the rest of the world! We will all remember and cherish these historic moments for the rest of our lives, wherever we are or whoever we are. For it's not every day that you get to see history being enacted and mighty men, who have ruled and controlled the destiny of millions of people for decades, come crashing down on the ground. The Libyan people have finally joined the Tunisians and Egyptians in celebrations and are rejoicing the departure of their tormentor after four decades of vile, total tyranny. And this isn't just their victory or that of the people of the Middle East. This is an epic triumph that belongs to us all — everyone who believes in freedom, human dignity and an individual's and people's right to choose their destiny.

This is the best Ramadan the Libyans have had in decades. And this Eid the Libyans will have their celebrations doubled. Indeed, this will be a special Eid for the Egyptians and Tunisians as well. For there's not a greater gift than freedom — freedom from fear, freedom from tyranny and freedom from indignity. However, this is also a critical point in the history of the liberated country — and the Middle East. Thanks to the decades of abuse of power and one man's absolute tyranny, Libya today has no functioning institutions and infrastructure. As in the other so-called Arab socialist republics, police and security forces and intelligence agencies have been so abused and accustomed to protecting the powers that be that they aren't good for anything else. Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, Libya, a largely tribal society, doesn't even have a basic institutional framework in place. On the other hand, this deficiency could also prove a blessing as Libya's new leaders will not have to face the resistance of the forces of status quo as has been the case in the neighboring countries.

Libya's new leaders and people won't have much time to celebrate though. Dethroning Qaddafi may have been the easy part. The real struggle to build a new Libya begins now. The challenges facing the country on all fronts are daunting. But for a people who have managed to surmount the greatest challenge to their existence with their determination and enduring faith in themselves and in a better Libya could transcend any obstacle. While the Libyans are celebrating their hard-earned victory, there has been much jubilation and backslapping in the West. Much is being made of the Western support to people's revolt against Muammar Qaddafi. Of course, the NATO bombing targeting Qaddafi's forces — and many innocent civilians — has played a significant role in tilting the scales against the tyrant. However, the credit for this revolution in the end goes to the Libyan people.

Without their initiative, without their steadfastness and above all without their monumental sacrifices, this dawn of hope would have never arrived. It's the Libyan uprising that persuaded the West to abandon its appeasement of the dictator for those handsome contracts and billions of dollars of deals and shift its patronage. Again, it was the infectious courage and resolve of ordinary Libyans that forced the Arab and Muslim nations to give up their cautious indifference. Which wasn't too difficult. Qaddafi had few friends and supporters even among his neighbors. Few tears will be shed for the despot. For all his rhetoric for the oppressed of the world, he offered his own people nothing but endless suffering. His fate, and like that of his other disgraced peers, should be a wake-up call to others who have all these years abused the sacred trust and responsibility thrust on them.

The ignominious end of Qaddafi is almost certain to hasten the departure of the Assads and Salehs. Their collapse is imminent, as inevitable as the sunrise tomorrow. And the longer they drag their feet, the greater humiliation will be their fate. All those sacrifices by the people of Syria, Yemen and elsewhere will not go in vain. The dawn is nigh. And you could almost smell the sweet freedom, wherever you are and whoever you are. Let's hope Libya's new leaders will learn from history and do not end up as other wannabe revolutionaries of the Arab world have — assuming absolute power and turning on their own people to abuse it. Let's not forget Qaddafi, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Tunisia's Ben Ali, Syria's Hafez Assad, whose son is now trying to outdo him in cruelty, and many others had all thrown up previous regimes, promising moon to their people and look where and how they ended up. Road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions. But the Libyans, or for that matter the Egyptians, Tunisians and others, are capable of dealing with future tyrants just as they have dealt with the just departed lot. And they are equally capable of dealing with all those vultures waiting in the wings — waiting to move in for the big kill. Western powers do themselves no justice if they believe they could arm-twist Qaddafi's inexperienced successors into signing on the dotted line. The people of Libya are watching. They are in no mood for more clever colonial games. The West mustn't squander the goodwill it has earned itself in Libya with such shenanigans. The Libyan revolution for once saw the Western nations and Arabs and Muslims on the same side and, more important, on the side of justice and freedom. After a disastrous decade of wars and crimes against humanity, the West finds itself on the right side of history. Which is to be welcomed even by cynics like us.

If this support for the Libyan freedom isn't underpinned by the thirst for oil and all the riches waiting to be explored and exploited in Libya, let the United States and its comrades-in-arms across the Atlantic extend similar support to the Palestinians. Let Washington, London and Paris spread the cheer all around and bless the Palestinian demand for statehood when it comes up at the United Nations next month. While the Libyans have struggled for freedom these past six months, the Palestinians have pined for it for the past six decades. And they aren't any less committed and sincere in their aspirations for freedom and democracy. The Coalition of the Willing has an opportunity to redeem itself.—Gulf News







AUSTRALIAN educators have often failed to do justice to our nation's history.

Adults remember social studies classes tracing the Plantagenets, Tudors and Stuarts but imparting little information about Australia's federation or our role in the world wars. Parents find it equally frustrating that their children's courses are often short on facts and long on social critiques, imparting strong anti-Western bias and overly negative perceptions of Australia's past.

Despite an admirable commitment to providing a broader undergraduate education followed by later specialisation through its Melbourne Model, the University of Melbourne is facing declining enrolments in Australian history, one of the traditional pillars of a broad, liberal education. The discipline's share of the arts faculty's undergraduates fell from almost 12 per cent in 2007 to less than 9 per cent last year.

Such a decline, which undoubtedly reflects the situation in other Australian universities, is deeply regrettable on two counts: first because without a comprehensive knowledge of Australia's past, it is almost impossible properly to understand important political and social issues of the 21st century, such as indigenous disadvantage, global trade, water policy and immigration; and second because today's undergraduate history students are tomorrow's classroom teachers. Australian schools need more high-calibre history teachers with the passion and knowledge to bring the subject alive for a new generation.

As Frank Furedi writes in Inquirer today, Australia's historical legacy is in trouble. It is understandable that the University of Melbourne should review its performance in teaching history, given low student numbers, but it is disquieting that the four professors, including three from overseas, who headed the review advocate moving away from subjects centred on the "national narrative". They recommend subjects that "connect this country to the region and the world" and those "like Australian environmental history, which connect Aboriginal, economic and cultural history and historical geography". Much would depend on the quality of the new courses, but if students are to understand Australia's past in an international context or the nation's environmental history, such courses would need to be built on solid, factual narratives, not ideology.

Too many university and school history courses built around historical interpretation, thematic strands and teachers' moral perceptions are devoid of rigorous content, leaving many graduates without basic knowledge. They may, for example, have listened to teachers laud anti-Vietnam War protests as social activism, but remain woefully ignorant about colonialism, Communism, the domino theory or the Australia-US alliance. Reinforcing such an approach would be a mistake.

Australian history is always relevant and must never take a back seat. Contrary to the notion that students are not interested, the fascination of young people with their Anzac heritage shows otherwise. As the Anzac centenary approaches, educators should capitalise on the intense interest to promote history. Students are sufficiently discerning to expect a factual narrative about the meaning of the anniversary rather than wayward, anti-war interpretations. In attempting to revive history enrolments, academics should not underestimate students.





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.






THE possibility that one of her backbenchers could face a criminal charge would seem to be the least of Julia Gillard's problems.

 Whether police find enough wrongdoing to charge Craig Thomson, or anyone else for that matter, is almost a sidebar to a story that has the power to wreck a once great political party and destroy its brand with the Australian public. The alleged bad behaviour of the member for Dobell has already done untold damage to Labor, lifting a curtain on the conduct of the trade unions that fund and influence so much of the party's operations. The Prime Minister's status is now threatened by her failure to distance herself from a union culture that, while not universal, would dismay most union members.

It is appropriate that there be a police inquiry into allegations that as national secretary of the Health Services Union, Mr Thomson misused his union credit card to make more than $100,000 of personal expenditures, including hiring prostitutes. Although he has denied these claims, the HSU was right to refer the matters to the NSW Police.

However, in the end, it is not these investigations that are likely to do most damage to the Labor brand, but those undertaken by the press and the opposition as they seek to expose the underbelly of the trade union movement more generally. Mr Thomson is but one person, but the allegations against him threaten to reveal a much wider picture of entrenched and unedifying behaviour by other union and Labor officials.

In these pages last Monday, Labor strategist Bruce Hawker argued that after 120 years of union involvement in the party, it was now time to "rethink the power exercised by unions within the ALP" because they now exerted undue influence. Thanks to the member for Dobell, there is even more reason for the Prime Minister to put some space between herself and the union movement. The ACTU, through its anti-Work Choices campaign in the lead-up to the 2007 election, helped deliver power to Kevin Rudd, but the then prime minister always put distance between his administration and the unions. In November 2009, for example, Mr Rudd told federal parliament that the withdrawal from the ALP of the WA division of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union was "good news all around".

Ms Gillard is a creature of the Victorian Left and the union movement and is closely linked to the ACTU through her work in rolling back Work Choices when she was the responsible minister in the Rudd government. Her failure as Prime Minister to distance herself and her government from the union movement makes it even harder to manage the Thomson matter. It is true that Ms Gillard had few options initially but to back Mr Thomson and try to contain the damage to her minority government.

There are no easy answers for Labor and the Prime Minister did as well as she could in the circumstances. It would be naive to think Labor would not do everything possible to avoid a byelection at a time when its primary vote is stuck at 27 per cent. Equally, it was a matter for the ALP that it chose to bail out Mr Thomson with a $90,000 gift to cover the costs of a defamation action he had taken in order to ensure he was not declared bankrupt and forced to leave parliament, thus causing an election in Dobell. It might have been a cynical use of party funds, but it is not a matter for the parliament.

There have been other issues raised that do not count for much in the public's assessment of the rights and wrongs of this matter. It it not central to the issue whether Ms Gillard's office or her chief of staff, Ben Hubbard, knew about the Thomson allegations two years ago. Nor is it particularly important that senator George Brandis contacted the NSW Police Minister about the case. The government's reprehensible effort to equate the Thomson allegations with a shoplifting charge against a Liberal senator is equally irrelevant to the core problem.

So is the opposition's tough line on granting pairs in the House of Representatives. Despite the efforts by some sections of the press to paint it otherwise, it is a legitimate tactic by the opposition at this point in the political cycle. It is absolutely legitimate also for Tony Abbott to pursue the Thomson case in a robust manner. This is not a personal matter concerning Mr Thomson's use, or not, of prostitutes: it is about whether he is telling the truth. Indeed, the most damaging element of this week's developments is that Ms Gillard has expressed confidence in a man who does not have the confidence of his own former employer. The union he led for several years has so little trust in Mr Thomson's behaviour that it believes it has no option but to ask the police to take a look.

Ms Gillard's support for her backbencher is unsustainable. Labor must now consider the alternatives, including exiling Mr Thomson to the crossbenches and taking its chances on the floor of the parliament. Before the Thomson affair, Labor strategists had a faint hope they could pull back some of the party's vote at the next election and then rebuild in opposition. That calculation must be wearing thin.

There is nothing absolute in politics and Labor may have to assess the relative damage of a byelection and general election now against the damage that it will sustain if it tries to support Mr Thomson for another two years.






ANOTHER week for Julia Gillard, another dreadful opinion poll, another blow to the government's credibility from the slow-acting poison that is the Craig Thomson affair. Yet no one can say this is the worst things can get - for who knows what lies ahead?

There are signs, though, that the bluster from the opposition which has kept the government permanently on the back foot is just that. The relative failure of the truckies' protest against the government on Monday indicates that though the government is certainly unpopular its performance does not infuriate voters enough to bring many into the streets. We reported yesterday on the losses suffered in towns around Canberra which had hoped to cash in on feeding and housing the protesting thousands as they passed through, only to find the numbers barely reached double figures. The organisers planned a revolution but the crowds stayed away.

Any shallowness in the opposition to the government should not surprise. Australian politics today is divided into two parts - the substantial and the superficial. On the surface, all seems storm-driven and catastrophic. The government's opponents dominate the airwaves with their lashing messages of doom and disaster. Gillard, Wayne Swan and their cabinet colleagues can barely be heard as their opponents from all parts of the country seize on their apparent political weakness, and thunder their various self-interested messages.

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Beneath this troubled surface, though, things are a lot calmer. The economy is - no matter what is happening overseas - doing well. The mining boom continues, with BHP Billiton this week announcing another immense profit. But mining's success is also warping the economy. BlueScope Steel's announcement of closures and job cuts showed the process produces losers as well as winners. This is a time of transformation for Australia. The country is fortunate that it is occurring when it is wealthy enough, and opportunities are opening up often enough, to make it relatively painless. But relatively painless is not without pain - as workers laid off in Port Kembla and in Hastings in Victoria are finding out.

With the economy performing steadily, if unevenly, the ship of government is also still functioning. Yes, the Thomson affair has opened a dangerous hole below the waterline. It may eventually sink the government if Thomson is forced out of Parliament and the government's majority is lost. But the government is managing to patch itself up and carry on. It is certainly a distraction, as the opposition uses every means available to widen the hole and increase the damage. In Parliament on Thursday Gillard managed to silence the opposition momentarily, accusing it of interfering in the police management of the matter. But other developments this week - the Health Services Union's decision to refer the matter to police being the main one - have complicated the government's task. Putting the interests of its members ahead of other considerations such as loyalty to Labor was the right course for the union. If charges are laid though, they may, paradoxically, make things easier for Gillard in the short term: she will be able to respond to all further questions by saying the matter is before the court.

The argument is frequently made - most recently by the truckies protesting in Canberra and their chosen leaders - that the Gillard government lacks legitimacy. It does not. It was elected by the people a year ago, and formed a workable majority in Parliament with the votes of independent MPs. Its hold on power may be tenuous, but it endures. The failings of one MP - if there are proved to be any - do not undermine that legitimacy, whatever temporary setbacks may ensue. It has applied itself to its task responsibly. As things stand, Parliament is working. The government's legislative program is proceeding apace, and has not been held up or blocked. As we have argued in the past, the Prime Minister's promise before the last election not to introduce a carbon tax was unfortunate. She should not have made it. Australia - as she knew then - needs a way to ensure the polluters pay the full price of the environmental damage they cause. In the national interest, the promise had to be broken.

Australia does not need another general election. What it needs, as the economy undergoes its inevitable transformation under pressure from the mining boom and the rising dollar, is a government aware of the problems likely to arise, and able to implement programs that cope with them. It also needs a government prepared to face the difficult political task of mitigating Australia's contribution to climate change by putting a price on carbon pollution. At present, the opposition - its energies absorbed by its campaign of blustering negativity - has little to say of any weight on these important matters. It believes its own victory is inevitable. That arrogance offers Labor - now the only political player of substance in the game - its only opportunity.


PEOPLE are ridiculing the Defence Materiel Organisation for buying Italian torpedoes before the instructions have been translated. This is unfair. This minor setback is better seen as an opportunity. The story of the translation would make an excellent scenario for Australia's premier opera company.

Act I: We find Bruce, a handsome young scholar who has just completed his doctorate on Dante's Inferno, in a Canberra motel, despairing over his Defence Department translation contract. He sings the aria: Only done the fuel tank chapter, and the money's nearly finished. A cleaner, Maria, enters. She comforts him in the moving aria What's up, love? which becomes the poignant duet:

I know bugger-all about torpedoes.

Maria reveals she is only moonlighting as a cleaner. A recent graduate in weapons engineering, she can't find work. They resolve to collaborate, singing the rollicking duet Elica! That's propeller in Italiano. Act II: Ernie, head of the DMO, suspects Bruce has secret help and has Maria tailed. Maria, meanwhile, realises she genuinely loves Bruce, not her old boyfriend from the North Korean embassy, the mysterious Kim Jong-il. We haven't worked the ending out yet, but readers can already see, surely, that the situation is bursting with dramatic possibilities and a guaranteed box-office smash.






ONCE upon a time, back when there were a dozen Victorian Football League teams and when 12 was an easily divisible number, the annual fixture was more a matter of simple arithmetic than commercial convenience. But as the years rolled on, as Australian Rules became a national game and as more teams came into being, the AFL draw has metamorphosed into something neither fair nor equitable, but a process that is (to adjust metaphors) not cricket.

As The Saturday Age reports today, the AFL is under criticism by clubs, commentators and supporters for its handling of the annual fixture. Although the 2012 draw is not released until the last week of October, after clubs have had the chance to comment on several drafts, calls are already growing for an overhaul of future draws. The present system, they say, is inequitable, and doesn't allow teams to play each other twice, at home and away, or, indeed, play at the same venues. Also, under the present draw system, not all teams have the same commercial and attendance opportunities, and more powerful teams are predictably thrashing developing teams, thereby reducing interest in the game - and what is football without its dedicated supporters?

The league's own justification is smug: ''An equitable draw which maximises attendances and television audiences.'' But there's more to it than that: the very basis of fair play on which the game itself depends should also apply to how fixtures are determined - where or when they are played, and by whom. Next year, as the AFL gains an 18th team, would be a good time to aim for a fairer approach.








Google's executive chair reaffirmed the revolution confronting his television industry audience

There are occasions on which the name of a speaker is more instructive than the detail of what he or she has to say. It is no disrespect to Eric Schmidt's thoughtful MacTaggart lecture last night to observe that it was one. The very fact of a computing engineer delivering the leading address in the television industry calendar is proof of change. A medium that once swept all before it is coming to recognise that its future is tangled up with the web.

Google's executive chair reaffirmed the revolution confronting his audience. Every passing month, he reported, more video footage is uploaded to the web than all three big US networks have broadcast in the last 60 years. Although more hours are still passed watching the old-fashioned box, the rapid take-up of on-demand viewing is, as The Wire's writer has said, replacing the old idea of TV as a run of appointments, with television as lending library. Mr Schmidt persuasively argued these changing patterns of production and consumption would profoundly affect every aspect of the business, from crafting scripts to hunting out talent. His call to train and empower more technicians resonated. Likewise Google's take on copyright is adroit. Rights were not carved in granite by God. Rather, they embody a social compromise, a compromise which will necessarily evolve with technology.

On the question of paying the bills the man from Google had more convincing to do. For all its glamour, television is an industry with interests, like any other. Sky subscriptions may be buoyant and ITV may have clambered out of the ditch, but it is not for nothing that media execs mutter about a certain tech giant bowling them googlies. In the crude economics, commercial programmes are (arguably like newsprint) interesting froth atop a less-airy advertising business. Google is not itself in TV, as Mr Schmidt said, but it sure is in advertising.

The merchant John Wanamaker once moaned half his ad budget was wasted; his difficulty was that he didn't know which half. Google's brilliance has been in harnessing technology to allow advertisers to refine their efforts. More targeted commercials are efficient, but they also drain the pool that has always cross-subsidised what is now called content. Thanks to the web, good television can reach more people than ever, but that does not guarantee that the free market will fund quality. It has been sustained in Britain by a complex ecology which features both a BBC license fee and considerable regulation.

This ecology will have to evolve with the times. But just as TV must reconceive its work in the face of technology, tech giants have thinking to do about the role that they can play in sustaining the habitat of creativity.





His followers survival as an armed faction in a future Libya would be disastrous, but is improbable

As the Nato battering ram opens up breaches for the Libyan rebels in Tripoli and Sirte, it is hard not to feel some pity for the men trying to bar their way. Spear carriers in a drama in which Muammar Gaddafi still sees himself as a resistance hero and a martyr, many will now pay a high price for his terminal self-delusion.

How far their leader fell away from the ideals which first inspired him can be read both in his own ravaged face, marked by arrogance and self-indulgence, and in the scarred landscape of the country which he took over the brink into disaster. He modelled himself on his hero, Gamal Abdel Nasser, but the difference between the Egyptian leader and his Libyan acolyte was immense. Nasser too provoked the west, ruled in an authoritarian manner, offered his people a less-than-coherent ideology, and precipitated wars which ended badly for his country and for him.

Yet when he died, worn out by the strain of brokering an agreement between the Palestinians and King Hussein of Jordan, he was mourned from one end of the Arab world to the other, and beyond. Few doubted Nasser's essential decency, sanity and commitment to the good of Egypt and of the Arab world, even when they regretted some of his decisions. The opposite could be said of Gaddafi.

His career has been characterised by a cruel combination of hypocrisy and capriciousness. The hypocrisy lay in imposing on Libyans a fiction in which they were in theory empowered but in fact were stripped of any real influence over their society's affairs. Of course, some were favoured, as in all such systems, and they form a constituency of sorts, but their good fortune was always subject to his whim.

The capriciousness touched every aspect of Libyan life. Gaddafi was the absolute arbiter of both domestic and foreign policy, yet when things went wrong, his style was to pose as the aggrieved representative of the people's interests and blame the consequences of his decisions on others. In this way he constantly rewrote the script of Libya's modern history so that he was always the hero, always the good guy, always the wise and all-seeing leader.

In the beginning, more than a generation ago, he was responsible for changes which genuinely improved the lives of ordinary Libyans. But as the years went by his policies came to resemble the actions of a spoiled child in a sandpit, except that the sandpit was a real country inhabited by real people. In foreign policy, he wasted Libya's oil wealth, fought unnecessary wars, and provoked confrontations ending either in Libya's defeat or its isolation. Even where there was a grain of sense or logic in his position, and sometimes there was, he never seemed to be able to grasp that his country was too small and his own abilities too limited for the leading role he envisaged for Libya and himself.

Gaddafi could not follow: he could only lead, or try to lead. His idea of his international influence was ludicrous. He recently claimed, for instance, that western countries were turning to the Green Book for solutions to the global economic crisis. The irony is that he had finally begun to move in more sensible directions. He took good advice when he listened to those who recommended a rapprochement with western countries, and when he allowed his son Saif to emerge as the spokesman for more rational economic policies at home and for some kind of political liberalisation, even if it was defined in a suspiciously vague way.

But as the Arab spring burst on Libya, it revealed how completely his and his family's credibility had been undermined by his years of pretence and play-acting. Yet he still retains some followers. Their survival as an armed faction in a future Libya would be disastrous but is improbable. It is clear that for the Libyan people, in their majority, the sooner he and they are off the national stage the better.







He's been unfashionable for decades, but in an era of big-pharma and proliferating diagnoses, is it time to reassess?

The trouble with great men or women who lead the kind of lives described as "colourful" is that they provide critics with a ready-made excuse to dismiss their work. At the same time, it's doubtful that someone like Ronald Laing, whose name is still disdained 22 years after his death, would have broken as much ground were he not arrogant, angry and unconventional. A psychiatrist born into the age of doctor-knows-best, Laing's questioning of every assumption about mental illness earned him derision, as well as a devoted following. His first book, The Divided Self, which presented schizophrenia as a rational response to intolerable experiences, was written at just 28. Sanity, Madness and the Family set out his most controversial idea: that family life plays an important part in the development of schizophrenia. This put him at loggerheads with an establishment that saw mental illness as a medical problem, not one that could to be explained by society or patients' relationships. Laing may have alienated carers and relatives of schizophrenics, and been unrealistic about treatments. But he provoked scrutiny of psychiatric methods, and opened a rich seam of thinking about our civilisation's discontents to boot. He's been unfashionable for decades, but in an era of big-pharma and proliferating diagnoses, is time for a reassessment? A theatre adaptation of his work, Knots, this summer suggests new minds are interested. They'd do best to forget the baggage and let his remarkable writing speak for itself.






Ramadhan is coming to an end and Muslims in Indonesia and across the world will celebrate Idul Fitri — a festival that marks the completion of the month-long fasting and its associated prayers and rituals.

Although the starting point for the post-Ramadhan celebration may vary from one group to another, such differences should not reduce enjoyment of the festivities, let alone trigger disunity and disharmony.

Muslims deserve to celebrate the festivities as they have obediently taken a break from the routine, including refraining from food, drink and sex from sunrise till dusk; exercising restraint, particularly controlling their temper, and performing prayers and rituals with a greater frequency and quantity than in any other month in the Islamic calendar.

However, joy and hardship are like two sides of the same coin. Apart from enjoying the Idul Fitri celebration that complements every individual's religious achievement during Ramadhan, Idul Fitri will also mean hardship for almost every household here, including non-Muslims, as the dreaded time of the year has come: no maids. Year in, year out, millions of families face the chaos of doing household chores in the absence of their domestic helpers.

Every Idul Fitri holiday, or Lebaran, people try to take on the stress of doing these jobs. And yet daily spending goes up, by at least three times, as soon as there is no one to do the washing or cooking at home, not to mention the mental and physical energy involved as millions suddenly juggle household and work responsibilities.

Every Idul Fitri also means extra expenditure. With mudik (homecoming), for decades it has been a tradition for most Indonesian families to reunite with friends and loved ones, and the joy of Idul Fitri celebration has always been connected with appearance and new clothes. Therefore, more money will be spent on the seasonal home-bound travel and the purchase of personal goods and clothes.

Above all these seasonal festivities and the homecoming tradition, Idul Fitri is the perfect time for Muslims to forgive and forget any differences or animosities that may have occurred with others during the past year. It comes as no surprise if here in Indonesia the popular Idul Fitri greeting minal aidin wal faizin is widely associated with the act of forgiving and seeking forgiveness, although it literally means happy returns of the feast. It does not matter anyway, as Idul Fitri marks a return to human nature as God's most distinguished creature after one month of purification.

We hope that all holiday revelers arrive home safely to enjoy Idul Fitri with their loved ones. Meanwhile, for those who opt to stay in the capital city, this is a good opportunity to relish congestion-free traffic, at least for a week.

Happy Idul Fitri everyone.




The City Council's approval of the Jakarta 2010-2030 spatial plan — a new city development blueprint for the next two decades — on Wednesday is expected to encourage the provincial authorities to repair the chaotic condition of the city as a result of rampant violations of the previous spatial plan, which expired in 2010.

Failure to uphold land appropriation is the most blatant example of the city authorities' violations of the 2000-2010 spatial plan. Many plots of land were allocated for green areas, but eventually were converted into commercial areas and other urban facilities. As a result, the city's green areas continue to deplete to only about 9 percent of the city's territory of 650 square kilometers, far behind the ideal figure of 30 percent.

It is good that the new bylaw on city spatial plan sets an ambitious target of earmarking 30 percent of the territory for green areas. But we doubt it would materialize as the plan lacks details on how to achieve the target. Just for the record, the city authorities were unable to meet the target of allocating 13.94 percent of the city's area for green areas under the previous spatial plan.

On paper, the new bylaw is commendable on how it rules on how the city should be developed over the next 20 years. Among the main issues stipulated in the bylaw are transportation and flood management, two problems that have been plaguing the capital for decades. Under the new bylaw, the city will expand the role of public transportation – the integration of Transjakarta Busway, railway, MRT and monorail, which is designed to accommodate 60 percent of the total trips in the city. Another creditable ruling is the development and improvement of pedestrian walkways and construction bicycle lanes across the city, which shows the city management's concern about environment preservation. The ordinance also suggests a move to dredge 13 main rivers dissecting the city and improvement of the capacity of the west and east flood canals and Cengkareng Drain as well as construction of a giant sea wall on the North Jakarta coast. All the projects would significantly mitigate the impacts of seasonal flooding.

The spatial bylaw also orders the city administration to draft two more bylaws on the detailed spatial planning and zoning regulation. The zoning bylaw is to support the ruling stipulated in the 2010-2030 spatial bylaw, especially the formation of five zoning functions of the city: the informal sector, residential areas, economy, environment and social and culture.

As soon as the new spatial plan comes into effect, hopes will abound that the future development of Jakarta will result in a metropolitan city that is a better place to live. But the bylaw, despite its good intentions, will remain a document if there is no strong commitment to implement it. Therefore, the bylaw must accept participation of the general public to ensure its transparent implementation.





Here comes Idul Fitri again, when more than 15 million people will go on mudik (homecoming) to celebrate the day of forgiveness. After a full month of fasting, Muslims will celebrate the post-Ramadhan (Idul Fitri) festivities.

Borrowed from Arabic, id means to be back and al-fitri means pure, nature, or disposition, suggesting a kind of "back-to-nature" status. According to Islam, a newborn is clean without any original sins. Islam teaches that naturally and biologically a newborn has the disposition to be good.

It is the parent who is responsible for making him or her good or otherwise. Clearly, from an Islamic point of view, early childhood education is the first and most important phase of education. Character and charity develop over a life time, but it starts at home. The home environment is the filter by which subsequent values and qualities are processed.

The fasting month teaches introspection, compassion with the hunger and social solidarity. People have to refrain from consuming food and drink, which are otherwise halal (lawful and permissible) from sunrise till dawn in other months. The moral is clear: You dare not compromise your own rights, let alone others'. Should they internalize and implement the essence of fasting, Muslims would not be dishonest or commit corruption.

By completing the month-long fasting, Muslims are now reborn to set a new life. The Idul Fitri festivity is meant to celebrate victory over desire, lust and impulse during Ramadhan. After Ramadhan, they are supposed to be mindful that all these are worldly temptations that could trap and push them toward disaster.

During Ramadhan, Muslims are obliged to give food or money to the poor. It is narrated that the Prophet Muhammad was generous and during Ramadhan was most charitable. As tough as the fasting month may have been, the feeling of being reborn — without sin — is so strong among true Muslims so they are already looking forward to another Ramadhan to come.

Muslims are encouraged to share their prosperity with others. Muslims are reminded of the saying by the Prophet Muhammad, that the true possession is the charity contributed to others. The act of giving brings happiness both to the giver and receiver. The more you give the happier you are.

To err is human, but to persistently commit wrongdoing is mischievous and self-damaging. The more you commit wrongdoing, the more depressed and miserable you are. Wrongdoing is a symptom of mental illness. The month of forgiveness comes down to you once a year to guide you back to the straight path. By nature (fitrah) humans have disposition to be good.

Feeling poor and destitute, some people erroneously think they possess nothing to give. As a matter of truth everybody controls forgiveness treasured in the heart. Everybody makes mistakes that are psychologically burdensome. To forgive and to be forgiven equally generate relief and happiness on both parties.

Ramadhan, in comparison to other months in the year, is like Friday to other days in the week. Regardless of social status — rich or poor — all Muslims celebrate. Muslims are obliged to give obligatory charity (zakat fitrah) before performing the Idul Fitri prayer. The purpose is to share prosperity with the poor so that they could also celebrate.

The bottom line is that the spirit and attitude of giving optional charity (sedekah) and forgiveness are to be materialized in the other months throughout the year. Muslims need Ramadhan just like vehicles need an overhaul. It renews their faith to energize life commitments to social solidarity and performing noble deeds.

We tend to overlook the role played by maids and servants. How could we survive without them? Housewives agree that without them household tasks just fall apart. Mudik is a recurring social phenomenon inseparable from Ramadhan. And when maids and servants are on mudik, we realize that the poor are another pillar of society. Their role is simply irreplaceable by machinery.

Due to arrogance and self-overestimation many people lose sight of the greatness in their maids and servants. By way of tobat (asking for God's forgiveness) your sins could be forgiven for, say, not performing vertical worship, such as fasting and daily prayers.

On the contrary, violating ethics of horizontal worship such as social interaction is to be settled socially through silaturahim, which literally means establishing compassion. The Prophet Muhammad said that silaturahim would lengthen your age. This is to suggest that interaction and negotiation develop harmony and brotherhood.

The Idul Fitri festivity is not the end. Government offices, social institutions, even small-scale communities regularly hold a halal bihalal, an Arabic-like expression coined to refer to a social gathering held a few weeks after the Idul Fitri festivity. Again, the mission is to institutionalize silaturahim. The Presidential Palace usually holds it after the Idul Fitri prayer, where high-ranking officials, regardless of their faith and religion, are invited. Political and bureaucratic silaturahim perhaps!

If you are abusive or violent toward your maids or servants, you have to ask for their forgiveness. It is them who have the right; God would not forgive you for them. Forgiveness from a maid or servant could be the only key for abusive and violent bosses and housewives to open the gates of Paradise!

As Muslims break the fast of the last day of Ramadhan, they begin takbir, which literally means to magnify greatness of God by reciting Allahu Akbar; God is great, in a loud voice in groups or individually until sunset on the day of Idul Fitri.

The moral: No matter how powerful and authoritative you are, you are dependent on others. Takbir is a divine reminder to Muslims. Humans are created equal. It is God who is great. In His eyes the noblest one is one — regardless of social status — who fears Him most. Takbir educates us to be modest, respectful and polite.

While it was formerly hypothesized that growth in science would reduce dependence on religion, the Ramadhan phenomenon verifies that both religion and science go hand in hand. Fasting is medically curing, forgiving is psychologically satisfying and mudik and halal bihalal are socially rewarding.

The writer is a professor at Indonesian Education University, Bandung.





A flashback to the mass cheating incident at an elementary school in Surabaya left our hearts wrenched and minds disturbed. Academic knowledge often becomes children's benchmark for success and thus every possible way is taken and considered halal.

But how about morality and motivation that serve as a basis for children's own, and our nation's, advancement? How can we solve traffic jams and other complex issues in life if the way our nation thinks and conducts its education are in opposition?

Sometimes we value and praise our children according to their academic achievement stated in annual reports or exam results. What we often miss is the process in-between, whether the result came from an optimal enjoyable learning experience or by pure memorizing, copying, or worse, by cheating.

This is important because, without the joy of learning, a child will lose its curiosity.

Every parent and employer wants the best for their children and company. The aim is for the children and company to match their performance with their potential, to experience a meaningful and well-rounded success.

However, to reach well-rounded success and stay motivated is not easy, because you are required to be not only strong academically, but also to be innovative, adaptable to changes, and able to transform your new ideas into vivid implementation plans.

Naturally, each of us is curious and creative as a child. Throughout our childhood development, these natural traits are supported by our education and family environment through a range of knowledge and guidance.

Simple activities like play, choosing our clothes for the day, observation, sound expression, or trying something new, provide golden opportunities for children to actively create an experience based on what they see visually, rather than just memorizing or copying.

Through these active experiences children become enlightened and make relevant connections between their personal worlds and the real world, engaging them with interesting, day-to-day interpretations. Unconsciously, these moments of enlightenment continue at work or later in life, when we learn about new products or develop knowledge, enlivening us with a wow effect and a sense of achievement when we experience it.

What parents or employers often miss is that if a child's or an employee's involvement is motivated by the fulfillment of curiosity and creative traits, not by a "reward-and-punishment" system, then the child or employee will engage him/herself to a life-long learning system and total working commitment that makes them adaptable to changes, immune to extreme stress levels and, ultimately, wanting to the best for themselves and their employers.

These issues have been researched extensively and proven in many life and product evolutions. In reality, providing a child or employee with appropriate and increasing challenges, and letting a certain degree of autonomy work on those challenges, reinforces well-rounded education and skills for such children or employees.

Unfortunately, business and parents fail to fashion a change in this motivation paradigm, even after years of psychology scientists' research into such theory. Many still run their businesses with the "reward and punishment" system and wonder why they fail to motivate their children or employees.

And while the need to fulfill curiosity from an academic viewpoint receives a lot of attention and effort throughout childhood, the need to fulfill a child's creative traits, and to find creative outlets for him or her, is still very limited.

Along with growing complexities in the real world, academic achievement is not necessarily a benchmark for success. We have all undergone this when we plan to enter a reputable school or the working sector. Yes indeed, the gate is guarded by admission heroes and super HR departments, whose first filter is a candidate's prior academic results. However, during panel interviews and school or working periodic assessments, students or employees are not solely valued by their academic history.

In fact, according to a survey conducted by IBM in 2010, which looked at 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries, creativity is the top leadership quality required in any business. Creativity is the main source for problem solving and advancement, whether minimal or groundbreaking.

Unfortunately, art and creativity have long been underestimated in Asia, let alone in Indonesia. Most of us agree that art touches a person heart and soul; however, our definition for art is often limited to something beautiful and valuable to admire and look at, but never really as a medium to facilitate creativity, especially for the non-artsy child.

We may buy very expensive artworks to hang on our walls of fame, but many times do not appreciate our children's scribbles and freedom of expression, by judging them to not have any talent for art or creativity.

As for creativity, many of us unconsciously kill the creative spirit by looking for shortcuts and easy fixes that we think will be good enough to survive our current problems, but not really work on (creative) solutions that can fix the problem in the long-term, or even permanently.

We quickly implement a plan for a problem by copying others. For example, on city infrastructure development, quickly building the monorail pillars to cure Jakarta's transportation problems based on fixes done in other countries; or by generalizing a solution for different problems while creating another bigger problem, like building flyovers above two-lane roads to provide access between the city and remote areas, while in the process only creating more traffic jams and bottlenecks — not just between those areas but also within the city.

Interestingly, the gap between the perceived importance and rating of creativity is the widest between those of childhood and those of the working world. Only a few schools and children's enrichment programs are already embedding an approach to inspire and ignite children's creativity in their curriculums.

On the other hand, many multinational companies encourage, and provide training for, their employees to inspire creativity, such as creative selling, thinking outside the box, achievement motivation, etc. It seems that the urgency of having a competitive advantage and sustainable growth in business drive companies to provide such trainings.

In summary, to brace our nation for advancement, first we need to change our paradigms regarding the motivation for learning, from a results orientation to a learning process orientation. Second, we need to feed children's and employees' curiosity and creativity rather than assess and reward them with a carrot-and-stick system in order to reinforce well-roundedness and total commitment.

Last but not least, we need to appreciate and inspire more substantial creativity and value the acts and consequences before making decisions or choosing solutions.

The writer, a Sampoerna Foundation scholar 2004, is co-owner of Abrakadoodle Indonesia, a children's art education program from the US. The opinions expressed are her own.






Idul Fitri, which is fast approaching, is one of the most significant Muslim festivals in the Islamic Calendar. Muslims around the world celebrate it as it comes immediately after the end of Ramadhan. Those fasting during Ramadhan consider Idul Fitri as a day of victory and joy associated with a benign commitment to sharing it with others.

Idul Fitri, locally known as Lebaran, is for all Muslims an occasion not only to celebrate but also to be introspective and reflect on the degree to which they have brought themselves closer to the true tenets of their religion, and how prepared they are to identify themselves with the woes of the disadvantaged and less fortunate members of society. Prior to the giving of alms (zakat) to the poor at the end of Ramadhan, if it is to be more than a symbolic act of piety, it is necessary to heed the rights and the needs among our people, like the Idul Fitri bonuses for domestic workers.

Domestic workers deserve the Idul Fitri bonus even though there is no specific government regulation granting them one. Every year, it is public knowledge that employers still frequently violate the rules regarding the Idul Fitri bonus. It would be better if they were given more than their one month's salary, because domestic workers' salaries are mostly lower than in the formal sector.

Over the long term, however, doing the right thing for the needy will be fruitless given the yawning social gap that only grows worse during the Idul Fitri festivities. Mudik (homecoming) for Idul Fitri can spark social suspicion and disharmony as the wealthy and affluent fail to exercise restraint in their personal purchases which, in turn, allows them to indulge in a show of wealth, even unwittingly, while staying in their hometowns and villages.

Such deference to the feelings of those among the disadvantaged segments of society is expected. The traders and business people could undertake self-examination as to whether they participate in fair business practices to spread their profits through larger volumes of transactions. Both responsibilities and obligations must accompany this overarching, buoyant trend.

Idul Fitri should also be viewed as a great moment of spreading the light of unity among Muslims. We frequently find that many people fast on the day of Idul Fitri. This situation has created a lot of confusion. Apart from discussing the issue with a fiqh perspective, we should also ponder family, social and psychological dimensions. How can a Muslim celebrate Idul Fitri with his or her family and friends in such situations?

With Idul Fitri just around the corner, Indonesia can play a significant role in urging the Muslim World League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or the Islamic Fiqh Academy to take up this matter as an important issue in order to unite Muslims. A day will come when Muslims all over the world will observe Ramadhan and Idul Fitri as well as Idul Adha on the same day. Islamic organizations such as Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah should agree to speak with one voice in terms of the days of the Islamic calendar.

I believe the need for Muslim unity may start at the regional level. Indonesia, together with other members of Mabims (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore Religious Council), must put an end to the differences in dates on which we celebrate our Ramadhan, Idul Fitri, Idul Adha and the Maulidur Rasul (the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad).

Another matter of importance is to prevent chaos during the Idul Fitri celebration. Idul Fitri provides the opportunity to advance Islamic solidarity, which is clearly seen in the open houses held during Lebaran. Open house celebrations serve the dual purpose of celebrating Idul Fitri and renewing social bonds with friends and relatives.

However, there have been incidents in the past when these kinds of Idul Fitri open houses have resulted in deaths as people were trampled in an attempt to get gifts. The worst incident in recent years took place in 2008 in Pasuruan, East Java, when 21 people died outside a businessman's house.

Therefore, those who want to provide charity for the poor and orphans should use the appropriate channels. Other parties that want to open their houses to the public would be advised to first notify the police and the mayor, to make sure that the distribution of gifts remains orderly. The same thing should apply to vehicle convoys on the eve of Idul Fitri. Instead of driving around and chanting takbir, Muslims could celebrate it near their respective mosques.

Idul Fitri is indeed no ordinary festival. It is a festival with a difference. It has a definite purpose, a norm to convey, a lesson to teach. None of us can afford to celebrate this extraordinary occasion through extravagance and prodigality, through unbridled fun and frolic, through gaudy and expensive dresses, through spectacular functions and feasts.

Muslims share their happiness in celebration and in prayer. Let us celebrate Idul Fitri in its true spirit, as it is meant to be celebrated. To all of you, I wish a blessed Idul Fitri. Eid Mubarak!

The writer, a graduate of the University of Canberra  in Australia, is a lecturer at Andalas University, Padang.



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