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Monday, August 29, 2011

EDITORIAL 29.08.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month august 29, edition 000822, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

For ENGLISH  EDITORIAL  http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

 

THE PIONEER

  1. BEYOND THE AGITATION
  2. MOCKERY OF CONSTITUTION
  3. CBI A WEAPON OF OFFENCE - BALBIR K PUNJ
  4. DEFINING A STRONG, EFFECTIVE LOKPAL BILL - SHASHI SHEKHAR
  5. ENCOURAGE SPORTS CULTURE - NAVEEN JINDAL
  6. AFTER THE RIOTS, COPS GEAR UP FOR CARNIVAL

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. DANCE OF DEMOCRACY
  2. TABLET WARS
  3. WAYS TO FIT THE BILL - MANOJ MITTA
  4. 'GOVERNMENT MUST END IMPUNITY CULTURE, REPEAL LAWS LIKE AFSPA' - HUMRA
  5. QURAISHI   WHAT'S IN A NAME? - MONOBINA GUPTA

 HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. BEGINNING OF A BEGINNING
  2. LIVE AND LET DIY
  3. NOT OFF THE MARK - KAVITA A SHARMA
  4. THE GRAND ILLUSION - AMITAV GHOSH
  5. HARDLY A REVOLUTION - SOUMITRO DAS

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. FAST AND FUTURE
  2. UNIFORM DISCIPLINE
  3. GETTING REAL
  4. A POST-ANNA POLITICS  - MK VENU
  5. HOW THE STORY ENDS - YUBARAJ GHIMIRE
  6. ERRING ON THE SIDE OF GOOD SENSE - JAITHIRTH RAO
  7. ACT TOGETHER, FOR THE WORLD'S SAKE
  8. THE FUTURE BLOWS IN
  9. OF ACCOUNTS AND ACCOUNTABILITY - N K SINGH

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. IITS BOW OUT
  2. YES THEY CAN
  3. THE AGE OF WISDOM - MEGHNAD DESAI
  4. ONE NUMBER SAYS IT ALL - STEPHEN S ROACH

THE HINDU

  1. MEDIA PRESSURE MAY HELP SPEED UP FOOD SECURITY MOVES
  2. SIGNIFICANT VICTORY
  3. OBESITY'S GLOBAL CHALLENGE - PETER WALKER
  4. LIBYA POSES POLICY CHALLENGE TO ASIAN GIANTS - JAMES M. DORSEY
  5. CHINA'S STEADY PROGRESS IN SPACE - N. GOPAL RAJ
  6. GETTING CHEWED UP OVER A CULTURAL SYMBOL - NARAYAN LAKSHMAN

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. NOW ENACT A GOOD LOKPAL LAW SWIFTLY
  2. WHAT'S NEXT FOR LIBYA? - S. NIHAL SINGH
  3. INDIA RISES BUT FALTERS - JAGMOHAN

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. SUPREMACY OF PARLIAMENT
  2. BOOSTING MEDICAL SERVICES
  3. ROAD ACCIDENTS - BY SAYED ESSAR NAQVI
  4. WOES OF AIR INDIA  - BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA
  5. INDIA'S COASTAL SECURITY - BY ANIRUDH PRAKASH

 THE TRIBUNE

  1. END OF A LIMITED BATTLE 
  2. ORGAN TRANSPLANT
  3. ALARMING LAWLESSNESS IN PAK
  4. NORMALISING INDO-PAK TIES - BY MAHARAJAKRISHNA RASGOTRA
  5. A MAN NAMED GOD - BY HARISH DHILLON
  6. CAPACITY BUILDING FOR FUTURE CONFLICT - BRIG GURMEET KANWAL (RETD)
  7. ARMY AS AN INSTRUMENT OF NATIONAL POWER - COL B.N. BHATIA (RETD)

 MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. THE DIMINISHING OF RAHUL GANDHI

 BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. VICTORY FOR ALL
  2. APPLE WITHOUT JOBS
  3. SOUTH ASIAN CROSSROADS - SANJAYA BARU
  4. LIFE LESSONS FROM VALUABLE WASTELANDS - SUNITA NARAIN
  5. THE RISE AND DECLINE OF FIAT MONEY? - ALOK SHEEL
  6. CLEAR AND PRESENT DOUBLE DIP - N CHANDRA MOHAN

 THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. A VICTORY FOR INDIA
  2. 13- YEAR LOW
  3. COSMIC BLING
  4. NEXT BIG REFORM: POLICE AUTONOMY
  5. CHINA, INDIA AND RURAL MARKETS WILL SCRIPT FUTURE   
  6. JOE A SCARIA
  7. ENERGY CONSUMERS IN TIME WARP  - SOMA BANERJEE

 BUSINESS LINE

  1. ON TO THE NEXT ROUND
  2. LOKPAL BILL ONCE AGAIN IN LIMBO - B.S.RAGHAVAN
  3. TRADE UNIONISM AMIDST JOBLESSNESS - C.GOPINATH
  4. HOW INDUSTRY DEALT WITH REFORMS - CHANDRAJIT BANERJEE
  5. MANUFACTURING WILL NOT CREATE JOBS - ASHOAK UPADHYAY
  6. SOME DELAY IN LICENCES WILL BEEF UP BANKING - SHISHIR SINHA

 DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. NOW ENACT A GOOD LOKPAL LAW SWIFTLY
  2. WHAT WILL TV DO NOW?
  3. WHAT'S NEXT FOR LIBYA?
  4. ALL ROADS LEAD TO RAMLILA
  5. INDIA RISES BUT FALTERS
  6. GOD'S LOVE LETTERS

 THE STATESMAN

  1. ONENESS OF BEINGS~II
  2. BOEING COMPLEX A CHIC DESIGN STUDIO  - SIMON CALDER

 THE TELEGRAPH

  1. FLOOD OF IDEAS
  2. GIRLS IN A SPOT
  3. IF SALT LOSES ITS SAVOUR
  4. WAY TO GO  - GWYNNE DYER

 DECCAN HERALD

  1. PEOPLE'S WILL
  2. DISMAL SCENARIO
  3. BOTOX OF HARD CASH -  M J AKBAR

 OHERALDO

  1. PRODIGAL SON IPAVES THE WAY
  2. CAUSE & CURE OF CORRUPTION - IBONIO D'SOUZA
  3. PORT INFRASTRUCTURE & SERVICES - NITIN KUNCOLIENKAR

 HAARTEZ

  1. A NEW ORDER IN THE SINAI
  2. WE'RE NOT REALLY FREE
  3. BY MERAV MICHAELI
  4. THE MOSHES' MISTAKES  - BY ELIA LEIBOWITZ
  5. FOR LIFE, NOT DEATH  - BY URI TUVAL

 THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. THE NATION'S CRUELEST IMMIGRATION LAW
  2. THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY TO GRADE TESTS
  3. DIDN'T THEY LEARN ANYTHING FROM WHITEY BULGER?
  4. 'INDEPENDENTS' CANDIDATES REALLY LOVE
  5. WHEN ROOMMATES WERE RANDOM - BY DALTON CONLEY
  6. DANGEROUS WHITE STEREOTYPES - BY PATRICIA A. TURNER

 HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. A BAYRAM MORNING
  2. RAMADAN AS 'NATIONAL EVENT'
  3. NEW MILITARY, NEW TURKEY
  4. SONER ÇAĞAPTAY - ATA AKINER
  5. LIBYA: WHAT NOW?
  6. WHY CAN'T STIMULUS PACKAGES STIMULUTE?
  7. TURKEY'S MYSTERIOUS REFORM AGENDA
  8. ARE OUR CHILDREN VICTIMS OF CEREALS? - MEHMET ALTAN

 THE NEWS

  1. MIRZA'S BOMBSHELLS
  2. THE BIG SWITCH-OFF
  3. THE POLITICS OF ANTI-SECULAR SCHOLARSHIP  -  AFIYA SHEHRBANO
  4. NOT THAT SERIOUS YET  -  HUSSAIN H ZAIDI
  5. WRONGDOINGS IN RAMAZAN  -   DR A Q KHAN
  6. TIN HAT TIME  -  CHRIS CORK
  7. NO WAY TO BUILD BRIDGES
  8. SHARIF'S STANCE  -  AREEBA MALIK

 PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. IT WAS NATO'S RAID NOT AFGHANS
  2. THE ERODING TARBELA AND MANGLA
  3. HAZARE WINS HALF BATTLE
  4. AFGHANISTAN RETURNING TO BRINK - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  5. GLOBAL AGENDA WITH ECONOMIC DEBT - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN
  6. PARENTS: RIGHTS & OBLIGATIONS — 28 - SIRAJUDDIN AZIZ
  7. DECENTRALISATION & ECONOMIC GROWTH - RIAZ MISSEN
  8. OBAMA'S WORST NIGHTMARE - JOHN HUGHES

 THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. THE POLITICS OF DEPRESSION
  2. GLOBAL REACH OF EXTREMISM
  3. BUSINESS AND BANK ARE ON SONG ON PRODUCTIVITY LINK

 THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. HOPING FOR THAT OLD OBAMA MAGIC
  2. A $180BN REASON TO RETHINK WOMEN'S WORK
  3. HOPING FOR THAT OLD OBAMA MAGIC
  4. A $180BN REASON TO RETHINK WOMEN'S WORK
  5. UNEASY AND UNTIMELY FITS THE CROWN

 THE GUARDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF ... SWIMMING THE CHANNEL
  2. AUSTRALIA: A POISONOUS POLITICAL CLIMATE
  3. RIGHTS AND WRONG'UNS

 THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. 'GRATUITOUS' BOMBING OF A DEFEATED ENEMY - BY HIROAKI SATO
  2. BUDGET REPAIR AND LIBERAL DEFIANCE - BY GEORGE WILL
  3. FUTURE OF NONVIOLENT UPRISINGS AFTER GADHAFI - BY GWYNNE DYER
  4. LIBYA FACES PERIOD OF RELIANCE ON FOREIGN HELP - BY BARAK BARFI
  5. PALESTINIAN STATE MUST FIELD ISRAELI CONCERNS - BY MICHAEL BRÖNING
  6. THE FEUDAL LORDS OF POWER
  7. MR. KIM GOES TO RUSSIA

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

BEYOND THE AGITATION

PEOPLE AND THEIR PARLIAMENT HAVE WON


With Anna Hazare ending his protest fast on Sunday and Ramlila Maidan being vacated of its gathered masses, the nearly fortnight-long agitation for a strong Lokpal Bill has come to an end, at least for the time being. Hopefully, the Standing Committee of Parliament which is dealing with the draft of the proposed Bill to appoint a Lokpal will be sufficiently mindful in ensuring that there is little or nothing to cavil at when it comes up for debate and voting in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. It is also to be hoped that the Bill will be ready by the Winter Session of Parliament so that appropriate legislative action can follow without any needless delay. The last thing we need is a fresh spell of agitation of the kind witnessed in recent days -- not only would that cause damage to Parliament's credibility but also bring into disrepute the very process of law-making. That said, it would be in order to make a larger point to underscore the fact that Parliament remains the cornerstone of our democracy and it is still the best forum to redress grievances and address aspirations through legislative action. After all, what seemed to be an insurmountable problem posed by intractable leaders of the movement was resolved within the chambers of Parliament through parliamentary means.

True, it could be argued that but for the pressure brought about by Anna Hazare's agitation, perhaps Parliament would have rested easy, leaving the issue to the Standing Committee and waiting for the Bill to come up for debate and voting in due course. This argument is not without merit. The agitation acted as an impetus for Parliament to act with alacrity. It also offered an opportunity for parliamentarians to rise to the occasion and act resolutely. The spirit of the agitation and the angst of the agitators were not lost on our MPs and it is to their credit that they came up with a solution to the problem which, in large measure, was the Congress's making: Had it handled the demands of Anna Hazare and his team with greater finesse and sensitivity (after deciding to co-draft the Bill with them), had it introduced a Bill that was not designed to reduce the proposed Lokpal to a caricature of what was widely expected, and had it not been so criminally callous in its response to the rising tide of popular outrage against corruption across the country, it is unlikely we would have had to witness this kind of agitprop. A second point that deserves to be highlighted is the role played by the main Opposition party, the BJP, in bringing the dispute to a closure. It is to the BJP's credit that it stepped forward to fulfil the responsibility which should have been fulfilled by the Government. The statesmanship of the BJP's senior leaders, their emphasis on finding a solution without compromising the primacy of Parliament and, more importantly, by working within the Constitution and its framework, has been in sharp contrast to the cussedness of the Congress's leaders who stood on prestige and nursed huge egos instead of forging the path ahead.

Thankfully, better sense prevailed on Saturday in Parliament. On Sunday evening, large crowds took to the streets to celebrate 'victory'. If there has been a victory, it is that of the people and their Parliament.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

MOCKERY OF CONSTITUTION

GUJARAT GOVERNOR DOES CONGRESS'S BIDDING


At a time when the establishment of the office of ombudsman has snowballed into a matter of national concern, the Governor of Gujarat found the empty seat of the State's Lokayukta to be too much of an eyesore. That is the reason which is being touted to justify why after sitting on the file forwarded to her by the State Government for an inordinately long time she suddenly chose to appoint a Lokayukta of her choice. While doing so last Thursday, Ms Kamla Beniwal brazenly ignored the recommendation of the Government headed by Chief Minister Narendra Modi. That in the process she violated one of the most fundamental principles of federalism that govern the constitutional framework of this nation is clearly of no concern to the Governor who appears to be more keen to keep the Congress in good humour than to ensure probity in public life. For there is little else, apart from crass partisan politics, that can explain Ms Beniwal's unilateral decision. It has been reported that the Governor was advised by the Attorney-General of India to take matters into her own hands and unilaterally appoint a Lokayukta. The office, after all, had been lying vacant for seven long years since the State's last Lokayukta, Mr SM Soni, resigned in 2003. A long list of indisputable reasons can be cited why the office remained vacant; not surprisingly, these reasons trace their way right back to the Raj Bhavan in Gandhinagar and to Ms Beniwal's penchant for technical details and her love for unending paperwork. In the present context, all this is rendered immaterial. What is material is the blatant abuse of power by Ms Beniwal.

Section 3 of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act of 1986 states that "the Governor shall by warrant under his/her hand and seal appoint a person to be known as the Lokayukta". Ms Beniwal has interpreted this as her right to appoint a Lokayukta without the State Government's concurrence. Yet, as the State's Health Minister Jay Narayan Vyas has rightly pointed out that no law or legal statute can be read in isolation without due regard for the fundamental principles of policy-making and governance. Section 3 then must also be read in consonance with the other Section of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act that clearly states the appointment of the Lokayukta should be based on the recommendation of the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers. This is the norm in all such appointments: The Government selects and the Governor approves. This is in keeping with India's federal structure and the constitutional authority vested in State Governments. That Ms Beniwal has chosen to ignore this fact and imposed her entirely unwarranted 'decision' on the State is unacceptable. It sets a dangerous precedent and must be negated at once if the majesty of the Constitution is to be upheld.

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

CBI A WEAPON OF OFFENCE

BALBIR K PUNJ


Whenever the Congress has been in power at the Centre, it has brazenly misused agencies of the state, especially the CBI, to further its political agenda.

Time and again the Congress and the Union Government it heads have denied misusing investigative agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Directorate of Enforcement to advance the party's interests. But the Congress has now been caught on the wrong foot. In its effort to meet the political challenge posed to the Congress by the YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh, led by Mr Jaganmohan Reddy, son of the late Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, the Government has launched a seven-State CBI investigation into the Reddy family's assets and the source of funds for Mr Reddy's various business ventures.

The FIR filed in this connection names YSR Reddy as a co-accused in the several cases of corruption that the agency claims it has discovered during its investigations. Mr Reddy has hit back at the Congress by getting MLAs (and MPs) loyal to him to withdraw their support to the State Government, thus weakening it. The Congress's attempts to malign YSR Reddy, the man who was credited with reviving the party in Andhra Pradesh after it remained out of power for over a decade, just to get even with his son for daring the party high command, are ridiculous. For if YSR Reddy was guilty of amassing wealth, he did so during the seven years that he was in power. The Congress cannot pretend that it was not aware of what it describes as the Reddy family's 'massive corruption.

The CBI has portrayed the father-son duo as the fountain head of corruption in Andhra Pradesh. But Mr Reddy, a young politician, could not have played a big role in the alleged corrupt deals unless his father was using him as a shield. Either way, why did the Congress turn a blind eye to these deals even after the party won a second term under YSR Reddy's leadership? Clearly the Congress's sudden urge to be virtuous is no more than a disguise for its attempt to crush Mr Reddy who has the support of as many as 26 MLAs and several MPs. That the CBI is being used to neutralise the threat that Mr Reddy poses to the Congress is in itself proof of the ruling party's misuse of Government agencies to further its political agenda.

Such instances of misuse of investigative agencies are neither new nor unknown. In fact it was the suspicion of the Supreme Court on this count that compelled it to take up the issue of investigations into the 2G Spectrum scam and Hasan Ali's case. In the latter case, both the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court have severely criticised the CBI and the ED for shoddy investigation. Recently the Delhi Police was also castigated for its three-year delay in investigating the cash-for-vote scandal that rocked the Lok Sabha in 2008. The report that the police have finally traced the cash displayed in the Lok Sabha to Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh — the same person whom the BJP MPs had accused of attempting to bribe them — explains why the investigation was delayed for so long. After all, as is well known, Mr Singh played a major role in saving the UPA1 regime during the 2008 confidence vote.

In the Hasan Ali episode also the reluctance of the ED to get to the accused was noted by the Supreme Court. It was only following this that he was arrested and investigations were conducted that led to unearthing his part in deals that involved illicitly sending money abroad. The court also criticised the investigative agencies for their lethargic role in tracing the black money trail abroad. This resulted in the Government charging the Supreme Court with intruding into the executive's domain by taking over the black money investigation. It is alleged that the Government wants to protect Hasan Ali because a free and fair inquiry into his financial affairs could expose some leaders of the Congress. It may also be recalled how the Union Government has been chided by the Supreme Court in several other cases wherein the central figures are Congress leaders.

The misuse of investigative agencies to protect Congress leaders and their patrons on the one hand and to browbeat the Opposition on the other has been a common practice for decades. After the Congress returned to power in 1980, an inquiry commission was set up to look into the affairs of Gandhian institutions promoted by Jayaprakash Narayan. Unleashing Government agencies to hound the party's opponents and publicly accusing critics of being CIA agents was a common practice in the 1970s and 1980s. The practice so infuriated the Swatantra Party MP Piloo Mody that he once came to Parliament with a placard around his neck, declaring that he was a CIA agent. But the practice of maligning and defaming critics continues. This is exemplified by the vituperative and vulgar attack on Anna Hazare by Congress spokespersons.

There are innumerable instances to show how the Congress, whenever it has been in power at the Centre, has misused agencies of the state to exonerate individuals known for their proximity to the party leadership of charges of corruption. For instance, Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi was let off the hook by UPA1 although there was substantial evidence to prove his involvement in the Bofors scandal. Each time this has happened, the the Government has defended its indefensible decisions by insisting that it acted as per the advice of its legal officers. That claim, of course, is no more than a fig leaf and would not pass scrutiny.

The massive response to last fortnight's anti-corruption agitation led by Anna Hazare can be attributed to the popular perception that the Congress is steeped in corruption and that it heads a tainted regime. That perception has been greatly strengthened by the Government's handling of the 2G Spectrum scam, the CWG lootfest, the Hasan Ali case and the manner in which it tried to appoint a bureaucrat accused of corruption as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner despite the Opposition pointing out that he should not be considered for the job. The spontaneous response of the masses in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and, indeed, across the country, to Anna Hazare's movement and the large turnout at Ramlila Maidan where he sat on anashan is really an expression of lack of confidence in the present Union Government, especially the Congress.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

DEFINING A STRONG, EFFECTIVE LOKPAL BILL

SHASHI SHEKHAR


With mounting popular anger over corruption, various draft proposals for an effective and strong Lokpal Bill have surfaced. Each proposal fails to address the fundamental question of accountability. The final draft of the Lokpal Bill should take a holistic view of structural, constitutional and systemic reforms while ensuring justice is delivered. Here are some suggestions towards that end

There are now at least four draft proposals for what everyone fashions to be a strong and effective Lokpal. They all miss the point that no reform against corruption can derive strength from good intentions or 'independence' without clear accountability. Hence the Lokpal debate cannot be about a single agency, office or officer. Instead it has to be about a system of Government and a culture of governance rooted in the principle of accountability.

A strong and effective Lokpal Bill has to be one that takes a holistic view of structural reforms to the Constitution and systemic reforms to how laws are enforced and justice delivered. Unfortunately, all of the proposals in circulation only tinker with the idea of adding a new layer of bureaucracy without cleaning up the underlying mess.

The current political crisis in Indonesia is a stark pointer to the inadequacy of all of these proposals. In an interview to the Jakarta Globe on August 25, the chairman of Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Committee admitted that fighting corruption was complex and the need of the hour for Indonesia were systemic reforms and bureaucratic reforms. This late wisdom coming nine years after Indonesia's version of a Lokpal came into place.

India doesn't need to waste another decade to learn what we already know today. Here is an outline for a strong Lokpal Bill that would be consistent with the principles of Ambedkarite constitutionalism.

This Lokpal Bill should be respectful of constitutional division of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary and federalism. It should strive to establish checks and balances while recognising the elected people's representatives as the only representatives of the people's will. The Lokpal Bill may be a guiding template to States, but it should be left to each individual State to come up with its own legislation where appropriate. The Lokpal Bill must not impinge on States' rights to make their own laws.

Objectives of the Lokpal Bill

The goal of the Lokpal Bill should not be to create a new expansive agency but to make existing agencies efficient and accountable. Hence the Lokpal Bill should strive to provide crystal clarity on what role existing agencies shall play and how they will be independent and accountable in dealing with situations where individuals acting on behalf of the Union Government, Parliament or judiciary must be investigated and prosecuted.

The Lokpal Bill must also not define new crimes nor define new kinds of punishments but must strive to remove ambiguity and ensure consistency in existing definitions so the Union Government, Parliament and judiciary when convicted of wrong doing do not enjoy special provisions or exceptions. Lastly, the Lokpal Bill must ensure that there is continuous monitoring and feedback on the effectiveness of such investigations and prosecutions through the creation of a new limited agency. This agency should be limited to monitoring effectiveness and make recommendations to Parliament on any corrective legislative or executive action.

Finally, the Lokpal Bill must strive to create a culture of accountability to the people by requiring people's representatives and judiciary to be fully accountable to Parliament for conflicts of interest and ethics violations with respect to matters inside Parliament and courts. It must also strive to ensure there is no immunity from criminal prosecution for acts committed outside Parliament or courts.

With these objectives the Lokpal should legislate on constitutional reforms to ensure a culture of accountability within governance and on justice delivery reforms to ensure a system of Government that is fair, unbiased and committed to justice delivery.

Constitutional Reforms

BR Ambedkar in his speech in the Constituent Assembly introducing the draft Constitution explained how the draft tried to achieve responsibility in our system of Government at the expense of stability. Clearly, six decades on we have failed on both fronts with minority Governments giving instability and apathetic Governments shirking responsibility. Hence the goal of the constitutional reforms has to be about making the Prime Minister accountable.

This can be achieved if we consider the idea of adding a single non-voting seat to every State Assembly and to the Lok Sabha. This single non-voting seat could have for its constituency all eligible voters within that State in the case of a State Assembly and similarly it could have all of the eligible voters in India in the case of the Lok Sabha. During elections this all-State or all-India constituency could go to polls along with the other legislative and parliamentary constituencies. The person who gets elected to this non-voting Lok Sabha or Assembly seat could be automatically considered to be the Leader of the House as he or she would be reflecting the collective will of all the voters of that Legislative Assembly or Parliament. Since the seat is a non-voting addition to the strength of the House this seat will not change the balance of power in the legislature which continues to be same as before.

By virtue of being the leader of the House the person elected to the all-State or all-India constituency will have to be invited by the Governor or the President to form the next Government as the Chief Minister or Prime Minister. Irrespective of whether a party or a combination of parties has a legislative majority the Chief Minister or Prime Minister will have a fixed term which will be the same as the term of the legislature. Removal of the Chief Minister of Prime Minister would now require a higher legislative bar similar to a Presidential impeachment. The anti-defection law becomes redundant and irrelevant since the Government no longer depends on a simple majority in the legislature.

In the absence of anti-defection laws, a cultural shift could be effected wherein legislators across party lines can think independently and come together to propose bi-partisan Bills in a manner similar to what we see in the United States. The Chief Minister or Prime Minister could then also have the additional freedom to appoint members to his Cabinet from outside the legislature thus eliminating another source of instability and dissidence.

The net effect of the above constitutional amendments would be that the legislature could solely focus on its twin responsibilities of law-making and executive oversight. The stability of Governments would no longer be impacted by how fractured or fragmented the legislature is. Overall we could move towards a culture where the executive is focussed on law enforcement and the legislature on law-making while both keep the judiciary out of either responsibility thus restoring the balance of power and separation of powers intended by the Constitution.

A culture of direct accountability of the executive can be restored as against the current disturbing trend by which Chief Ministers and Prime Ministers have taken an indirect route office without contesting elections.

Justice Delivery Reforms

We must also consider recasting the Home Ministry into a separate for justice delivery which shall be responsible for all investigations and prosecutions within the jurisdiction of the Union Government. The justice Minister should control three agencies for investigations, prosecutions and vigilance. The Central Bureau of Investigation should be recast as the sole Federal Investigation Agency with clear jurisdiction instead of the current ad-hoc manner of referring investigations to CBI. The NIA and the CBI should be merged. The investigation agency should not require special permission to investigate and prosecute Members of Parliament or judiciary for conduct outside Parliamentary or conduct outside court proceedings.

The Central Attorney's Office shall be responsible for conducting prosecutions. The Central Vigilance Commissioner shall be responsible for whistleblower protection. The appointment of the heads to these three agencies should be subject to approval by Parliament. The heads of all three agencies should be subject to parliamentary oversight for their conduct. The Justice Ministry should also be responsible for a quasi-Government National Justice Commission that harnesses judicial and prosecutorial talent and promotes excellence in those areas. The mission of this commission is to monitor the needs across the nation and to help State and local Governments add capacity with right talent.

In addition, the Supreme Court should be recast as a purely constitutional court with the discretion to take up or reject appeals based on their constitutional merit. Its primary role would be limited to interpreting the Constitution and ruling merely on constitutionality of decisions of lower courts and constitutionality of actions of all agencies of the State. Four Regional Appellate Courts should be set up for all appeals of decisions in lower courts. Appointment of all judges to Supreme Court and Regional Appellate Courts shall be subject to parliamentary approval upon the recommendation of the Ministry of Justice.

The Supreme Court should comprise a limited number of judges (an odd number less than 10) who should be appointed for life. There should be strict entry criteria for Public Interest Litigation to be taken up by the Supreme Court based purely on constitutional merit. The Supreme Court should not have the power to assume any executive functions including but not limited to — investigations, prosecutions, law making and other executive actions.

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THE PIONEER

OPED

ENCOURAGE SPORTS CULTURE

NAVEEN JINDAL


August 29 is celebrated as the 'National Sports Day' in memory of legendry hockey player Dhyan Chand. On this day the Government must initiate steps to rejuvenate the national game and restore it to its golden past

Today, we celebrate National Sports Day in the remembrance of 'Hockey ke Jadoogar' Dhyan Chand. I am a sportsperson myself and thus I feel deeply connected to and truly recognise the importance of sports in our country.

Sports has provided a unique opportunity for young people from all over the country to come together, live in the same environment, share the same food and at the same time compete with each other to attain higher and higher levels of sporting excellence. The importance of any sport is the joy in playing it. Playing the game and playing well is what sport is all about.

Our performance in the previous Olympic Games 2008 was not up to the mark. It is high time for our sports-persons to roll up their sleeves and get prepared for the 2012 Olympic Games. Our National Flag must fly high and our torch must burn bright at those games. At the world stage we still have a lot to achieve if we have to do our nation proud. India is doing well in many fields and is gaining recognition for it across the world. The time has come now to prove ourselves in the sporting fields of the world. Huge talent lies in India, the challenge lies in harnessing this talent, nurturing it, providing the best facilities, training and exposure. For this, an all round effort has to be made, involving the Union and the State Governments, Sports Federations, Universities and Schools.

Sports must start from the childhood and schools are the first arena for training. A healthy child will grow up to be healthy young adult and can then form the base from which we will see fresh sporting talent emerge. Children in many States are victims of malnutrition. So, we must work towards ensuring that our children are well-nourished, adequately taken care of and given proper medical care. These children will then go to school, take part in sports and games and then become sportsperson like Vijender Singh, Akhil Kumar, Jitendra Kumar, Dinesh Kumar, Geeta Devi, Gagan Narang,Vijay kumar, Deepika Kumari, Sushil kumar, Manoj Kumar, Abhinav Bindra, etc.

We need to encourage a 'sports culture' where children are encouraged to play — by their parents, teachers and the society. Schools need to offer sports as a regular subject and not only as an optional choice. And likewise colleges and universities should also include sports as a subject. The present culture of using sports quota has undoubtedly helped students but if sports is offered as a main subject then these students can further develop their talent in the field of sports itself.

The current performance of our sportspersons in CWG 2010 has attracted national and international attention towards Indian sports scenario. We felt extremely proud when India stood at number two at the CWG medal tally. If the present infrastructure has given our sports man such success then with a proper modern and developed setting our players can make an international mark.

Our focus should reach out to the rural villages of our country, so that more players like Deepika Kumari, Paramjeet Samota, Manoj Kumar, Sandeep Singh, Geetika Jakhar, Manjeet Kaur, Mandeep Kaur, Narsingh Pancham Yadav can find their proper representation. Efforts need to be made to ensure extensive and impartial recruitment across the country, provide world-class training and exposure to our sportspersons. For this, an all round effort has to be made, involving Union and State Governments, Sports Federations, Universities and Schools. I would also propose the involvement of the corporate sector both public and private that should be given tax breaks for sponsoring and supporting Olympic sports and athletes.

Our Government is paying special attention to sports and youth affairs. We are committed to take our country to the top in all sporting fields. In my State, Haryana, the State Government is taking keen interest in proper development of sports and its infrastructure. In the past few years, Haryana Government has brought many plans to boost sports.

I call forth all our children, students and youth to take keen interest in sports. We should maintain the present position in CWG and put in every possible effort to make a mark in Olympic as well.

August 29 is celebrated as the National Sports Day, which is named after the 'Hockey ke Jadoogar' Dhyan chand. So, we must talk about our national game Hockey which once had a glorious stature. Presently, our performance has not remained any match to its golden past. We must take necessary steps to rejuvenate the sport once again.

Indian cricket is an international brand now. But we must ensure that our position in Olympic sports like Football, Table Tennis, Swimming, Boxing, Kabbadi, Athletics, Gymnastics, Shooting should gain a substantial world position. I am happy to see that games like Badminton, Tennis, Shooting, Chess, Golf, Wrestling, and Archery have become popular and Indians are beginning to do well.

Sports help in building a team spirit and thus form a binding thread amongst the countrymen. They are also an occasion for promoting national integration.

As a country of young people, India has great potential in the world of sports and games. We are yet to fully harness the talent of our youth in this vast field. We need to bring a nationwide movement of youth in sports. And a close coordination between the Centre, State and sports association will surely bring about the necessary development.

--The writer is the Member of Parliament, Kurukshetra, Haryana. He is also a sportsperson. ***************************************


THE PIONEER

OPED

AFTER THE RIOTS, COPS GEAR UP FOR CARNIVAL


In the wake of the recent riots that swept through London and other British cities, the police are not taking any chances for the Notting Hill Carnival, writes Cassandra Vinograd

British police will flood the streets of the capital during the Notting Hill Carnival, officials said on Friday, deployed among the Calypso dancers and steel drum bands following intelligence suggesting gangs want to create trouble there.

The move reflects a city — and police force — still on edge after four nights of rioting and looting this month left London reeling, amid questions whether the initial police response was adequate.

Thousands of officers will be on patrol at the carnival and elsewhere in the capital, creating a combined force bigger than the 5,000 officers who were on duty for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton earlier this year.

The two-day festival starting on Sunday will also end before dark as a precaution.

Police have already arrested 40 people in raids before the carnival, which celebrates Caribbean culture and typically attracts about one million people. There will be 5,500 officers on duty in London's Notting Hill on Sunday and 6,500 on Monday, the main day of the carnival, police said.

The disorder earlier this month, which spread from London to other cities across England, was blamed on gangs stirring up trouble and prompted soul-searching about deeper-rooted social issues in Britain.

Police Commander Steve Rodhouse said intelligence suggests gangs want to come to the carnival "and create trouble".

He told reporters at a media briefing this week that security operations had been reviewed in light of the recent unrest to take into consideration that the carnival would be taking place "in unusual and exceptional circumstances".

Launched in 1964 with a few Trinidadian steel bands, the carnival has grown into a major street event that lures partygoers from all over the world. It is billed as Europe's largest street festival, attracting people to its parades, rows of jerk chicken vendors and thumping sound stages set up throughout the west London neighbourhood.

Public drunkenness and disorder at the event usually prompt a few hundred arrests each year. Unrest has typically broken out after dark. To address concerns from performers and local businesses, festival organisers decided to wrap up the event a few hours early this year, at 7 pm.

Chris Boothman, one of the carnival's co-directors, stressed that organisers are not expecting "anything out of the ordinary" and that past festivalgoers know there's nothing to fear.

He conceded that he could understand why recent riots in London might concern the uninitiated. To them, he said, "our message would be if you're planning to come, come early, enjoy yourself and get home safe."

Boothman said carnival organisers have no problem with the police reinforcements — as long as their presence doesn't change the flavour of the day.

"Our problem will be if the officers give the impression the police are flooding the carnival," he said.

Rodhouse shrugged off the suggestion that reinforced policing in Notting Hill will leave the rest of London without a strong policing presence, saying: "This is not the case."

In addition to the officers in Notting Hill itself, police said 4,000 ones will be on duty across London to complement the thousands of officers typically on duty on a normal weekend.

"To those who want to come to corrupt this magnificent event you are not welcome. Please do not come," Rodhouse said, adding that the force "will do everything in its power to make it as hard as possible for you."

--AP

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

DANCE OF DEMOCRACY

 

The Lokpal is an idea whose time has come. That's how BJP leader Sushma Swaraj put it last Saturday. It's a point hammered home by Anna Hazare's anti-graft protest - and how. If Parliament adopted a unanimous "sense of the House" resolution to break the Lokpal logjam, it's because Anna's done what politicians generally haven't save when expedient: he's turned national spotlight on corruption. It's been a victory for the social activist, who ended his fast only when his key demands were met. Yet we also witnessed lawmakers go beyond homilies to adopt a just cause backed by ordinary citizens: the creation of a strong anti-graft watchdog. It was a memorable day: Parliament and people's power partnering each other in the dance of democracy.

With a fasting Anna standing firm, it had become untenable for the UPA to prolong the face-off. But isn't there a larger lesson for those who set store by the fact that they're elected by the people? The democratic contract bonding citizens to their political representatives isn't just a matter of form; its substance is what political institutions deliver between - and irrespective of - periodic elections. Massive popular participation in Anna's campaign signals society's deep anguish at corruption-fuelled institutional rot. Let's wake up to that. Yes, it'll take time and collective effort to find remedies via legislative deterrence and systemic reform. That's no excuse for inaction.

The government and
Team Anna must now move from conflict to cooperation. With its broad framework in place, disagreements on the Lokpal Bill's details shouldn't prompt renewed breakdown in negotiations. Crafting this legislation is a complex and onerous task, aimed at establishing an authority in sync with the system of checks and balances underpinning our democracy. No one as of now can claim to be the sole and final word on what the contours and powers of such an ombudsman should be. The government's proposed Lokpal is widely viewed as toothless, the Jan Lokpal version too harsh. Only flexibility will help find middle ground.

Both government and civil society must be willing to consider all inputs so that the best possible Bill can be framed. As for the political class as a whole, it's time to demonstrate sincerity of purpose. The Lokpal Bill, hanging fire for over four decades, has come before Parliament nine times in different versions. That's poor advertisement for politicians claiming to be as keen on fighting corruption as civil society. Anna has said the battle to create a good, effective Lokpal is only half-won. Given that they assert parliamentary prerogative in lawmaking, legislators must help win the other half.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TABLET WARS

 

With the announcement of Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple CEO, there's gloom about Apple's uncertain prospects without him at the helm. But doomsayers miss the point. The issue isn't about which of the two heavyweights currently slugging it out in the mobile computing segment - Apple or Google with its Android platform - will come out on top. It's about how competition is spurring innovation at a breakneck pace. That's not going to change. Even if the former does lose some of its edge temporarily, it's unlikely to slip too far. And Android, which has grown blazingly fast to become the dominant smartphone platform, isn't going away anytime soon.

While fears about the death of the personal computer are exaggerated, these technology wars are pushing up the timeframe for evolution and innovation. New versions of both platforms, due this year, are shaping up to be the most significant ones to date. They're likely to provide some clarity on how the industry will shape up in the short-to-medium term. The two represent drastically different views of what post-PC devices might look like: Apple with its walled garden approach, limiting what a user can do with his device in order to give him a cohesive experience, and Android devices with the reverse trade-off - more customisation, less slickness. The latter appears well suited to evolve a device with the flexibility necessary to replace the traditional computer. The free, open nature of this platform makes it possible for innovators in developing markets like India's to utilise their tech expertise. But in the end, whichever wins out - or, as is more likely, however both learn to coexist given the market's sheer size - the end-user is the winner.

 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                TOP ARTICLE

WAYS TO FIT THE BILL

MANOJ MITTA

When Aamir Khan, the hero of the film 3 Idiots, was at the Ramlila Ground last Saturday, Parliament was debating the three sticking points between the government and Team Anna. Though the "sense of the House" resolution proclaimed an "in principle" agreement with them, it is far from certain to what extent Anna Hazare`s three non-negotiable demands will be accommodated in the Lokpal Bill ultimately passed into law. For, each of those demands - incorporation of a citizens' charter, jurisdiction over lower bureaucracy and the same law stipulating state Loka-yuktas - will have far-reaching repercussions, whether constitutional or administrative.

Take the question about Parliament's legislative competence to establish an ombudsman covering public servants at the state level. Though there were eight earlier attempts in 43 years to have a Lokpal enactment, this is the first time the federal issue of imposing the Lokayukta on states has arisen. Curiously, this is despite the fact that the first ever Bill was called the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill 1968. But the two terms then had no federal connotations. While Lokpal referred to the chairperson of the central ombudsman, Lokayuktas referred to its own members!

So, if Lokayukta is instead regarded as the Lokpal's state-level counterpart, one school of thought is that the Bill passed by Parliament can be little more than a model law for states. Another is that since India is a signatory to a UN treaty on corruption, the Centre is empowered by Article 253 of the Constitution to enact a law applicable across the country in keeping with its international obligation.

Between these two weighty viewpoints, there is one reason why the UPA government should go by the latter. Notwithstanding the buzz created by his "game-changing" idea, Rahul Gandhi is not the first person to suggest the Lokpal should be a constitutional body (like the
Election Commission) rather than just a statutory body (like the CBI or CVC). The credit is due to the Veerappa Moily-headed Second Administrative Reforms Commission which recommended in 2007 that the Constitution should be amen-ded to create a national ombudsman having jurisdiction over not only Union ministers but also chief ministers. In the detailed presentation it is scheduled to make in the near future before the standing committee, Team Anna would do well to exploit this opening offered by the Moily panel.

Similarly, Team Anna could take advantage of the 1968 Bill to drive home its demand that, besides dealing with corruption cases, Lokpal and Lokayuktas should enforce the citizens' charter made by each department. The charter is meant to give, among other things, an undertaking on the time it would take to fulfil various public grievances. The 1968 Bill, which had been passed by the Lok Sabha before it lapsed, can well be cited as a precedent since it covered complaints concerning allegations of misconduct and also grievances of maladministration. The counter-argument to including public grievances in the Bill's ambit is that the Lokpal might get over-burdened and diverted from attending to corruption cases.

Such apprehensions about efficiency can perhaps be addressed by studying the experience of the Karnataka Lokayukta, which deals with both corruption cases and public grievances. If the much-touted Karnataka model bears out those fears, the Centre has the option of adopting the alternative suggested by the Aruna Roy-led National Campaign for Right to Information (NCPRI). Namely, create a separate body focussed on public grievances.

The NCPRI draft formulations may prove to be a practical solution to the conflict on whether the Lokpal's remit should extend to the lower bureaucracy. According to Team Anna, in the interest of uniformity, the Lokpal should be the sole corruption ombudsman whether the allegations are against the prime minister or the lowest central government employee. The counter-argument is again the problem of overburdening. The government is evidently so apprehensive of this that, in the resolution Parliament adopted, it entered a caveat saying the lower bureaucracy would be "under Lokpal through appropriate mechanism".

Given the commitment to keep that appropriate mechanism under the Lokpal, the standing committee could, tweaking the NCPRI formulation, suggest a body that deals with the lower bureaucracy in coordination with the Lokpal. Such an arrangement may also meet Team Anna's contention that there could often be confusion over where an FIR should be registered if there were two separate bodies for investigating corruption allegations against government servants. After all, the level up to which officers are involved in a given scam is not always apparent at the stage of the FIR.

There is another public interest issue that forced the government to deviate from its approach of letting the Lokpal focus on big-ticket scams. As Team Anna emphasised, the Lokpal in such a scenario would have no remedy for the common man who is a victim of extortionate corruption by petty officials.

In any case, the legislative outcome of the historic Ramlila fast goes beyond the cryptic parliamentary resolution. It bears no mention of the issues on which the government and Team Anna came to an agreement. Team Anna, for instance, is not insisting any more on the Lokpal being the sanctioning and investigating agency for allegations against the higher judiciary. It settled for an assurance that its concerns would be addressed while strengthening the pending Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill. In return, the government is apparently reconciled to bringing the PM under the Lokpal. Give-and-take negotiations do not, however, detract from the magnitude of Anna's achievement.

 

 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                Q&A

'GOVERNMENT MUST END IMPUNITY CULTURE, REPEAL LAWS LIKE AFSPA'

HUMRA QURAISHI

The discovery of over 2,000 bodies buried in unmarked graves in Kashmir has caused widespread shock. Links are being drawn between these bodies and civili-ans who 'disappeared' over the years, allegedly targeted by security forces fighting militancy . Meenakshi Ganguly , South Asian director at the Human Rights Watch (HRW), spoke with Humra Quraishi on the need for accountability:

Does the HRW think the dead in these graves could be civilians missing from the Valley?

Yes, we do link these graves to those that are missing. The government insisted that all those missing had gone to
Pakistan to join militant groups. Some did. But in other cases, witnesses saw a person being taken into custody by the security forces - after which they disappeared.

The report by the Jammu & Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) is significant because it is the first official investigation. It has found, as human rights workers and Kashmiris alleged, that some graves contain the bodies of the 'disappeared'. These are not mass graves as in
Iraq or former Yugoslavia where scores of bodies were dumped into pits. But the SHRC inquiry found 18 graves that contain more than one body.

What should happen now?

We want an independent and credible investigation into this. A commission of inquiry should be formed with the capacity to conduct forensic tests and question members of security forces involved in operations, even those no longer in service.

The government should invite Kashmiri families to submit all information about the 'disappeared', so that each case can be investigated.

How has the state machi-nery responded to the discovered graves?

We have not yet seen a clear response. The inquiry report was leaked. The commission has to submit its findings to the government and make recommendations. We hope the SHRC makes strong recommendations to conduct a proper inquiry in a time-bound and transparent manner. The state government should then investigate each and every allegation of a 'disappearance'. The central government should cooperate because many possible perpetrators could belong to the army or federal forces like the
CRPF and BSF.


Could the reality of these graves disappear under politicking?

The government has repeatedly claimed there will be zero tolerance for human rights violations. Addressing the issue of enforced disappearances will be a significant confidence-building measure. India also has an obligation to investigate these under international laws and because it has signed the
United Nations convention against enforced disappearances.

Human rights forums cannot go beyond a point in confronting governments - so, what next?

In a democracy, eventually governments have to respond to public sentiment - we saw this play out at the Ramlila Ground. Human rights groups and the media have a significant role in highlighting violations in Kashmir and elsewhere. But the government must end the culture of impunity, repeal laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that provide soldiers with widespread powers but immunity from prosecution for human rights violations. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must keep his 2004 promise to repeal AFSPA.

How does the reality of mass unmarked graves impact people?

Disappearances are among the most heinous of human rights violations. Families are left without answers, caught between hope and despair. I've met numerous families still waiting for news of their loved ones. I hope finally the government will provide answers and solace to these families - and prosecute the perpetrators.

 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

MONOBINA GUPTA

If there is one thing that leaves the Bengali ego irreparably bruised, it is the mere insinuation of cultural deficit. Many may not even wince at being slandered as cultural imperialists. But lacking in the department of culture surely is an affront intolerable to a self-respecting Bengali. The race to acquire the right cultural trappings begins right at the top. Present chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her Marxist predecessor, though sworn political adversaries, are united in their reverence for Rabindrasangeet, Nazrulgeeti and Sukanta's poems. Come Durga Puja, and you may be treated to a full-throated renditions of Rabindrasangeet as you wait for the traffic light to turn green at important intersections. Amid this heightened cultural superiority is it so surprising for Bengal's political classes to pick the mouthful Paschimbanga rather than a succinct Bengal?

Bengalis are particularly touchy about names. Parents usually do not christen their daughters 'Pinky' or 'Sweetie', or sons 'Sunny' or 'Lucky'. Instead you could end up with an eight-letter name like mine, punctuated with confusing sounding vowels, and mutilated mercilessly by Dilliwallahs exercising the right to verbalise a name their own imaginative way! Distortions are just part of the name-game. A Marxist home minister of the country, without meaning offence, had once expressed wonder at the utterly frivolous name of the leader of a delegation calling on him. He kept intoning his name in genuine awe, till the delegation members burst out laughing.

The business of anointing not just precious offsprings but buildings of brick and mortar, roads, parks and metro stations with lofty names has a great deal to do with this 'Aamra Bangali' self-congratulatory sensibility. Little wonder discussions about the state's baptism threw up high-sounding names - Bangabhumi, Bangadesh, Gaur Banga. Bengal or Banga, in comparison, sounded trite and irreverent.

Rechristening is by now a craft mastered by political parties. Mamata Banerjee has been on a spree of renaming metro stations after luminaries like Mahatma Gandhi, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Prafulla Chandra Roy, Rajendra Prasad, Anukul Thakur, Mangal Pandey, Uttam Kumar and Sukanta. Many more in the dusty hall of fame are in queue. The former Marxist rulers too had a field day. The Left Front government celebrated its landmark 1977 victory by painting the tower of Shaheed Minar a gleaming red. Who knows - the new rulers may splash another coating of green and white on the faded red! During the Left Front's extraordinarily long tenure, the road many of us grew up calling Lower Circular Road one day became Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road; Theatre Road became Shakespeare Sarani. Harrington Road was christened Ho Chi Minh Sarani; Camac Park Street, one of the most iconic locations in the city, was renamed Mother Teresa Sarani. Rarely, if ever, and even then mostly in jest, does a Calcuttan refer to Park Street by its re-designated name.

As a prabashi Bangali in Delhi, i am often asked: "Where are you originally from?" My answer veers between "Bengal" and "West Bengal". Tragically, Paschimbanga is likely to roll uneasily off the tongues of non-Bengalis, hopeless at striking the right balance between 'a' and 'o'. 'Bongo' or 'Banga'? Why put people through the agony? But then, knowing my clan's fondness for grand prose and verse, it is not really a bolt from the blue. Funnily, Paschimbanga does not even fit the bill of a proper name change. Paschim, any Bengali will tell you, is nothing but 'West' in Bengali. Will Paschimbanga fare better than Bengal?

Unlikely. The chief minister wanted to move the state up the alphabetic ladder. According to her, West Bengal's ministers were greeted with the yawns of a dozing audience at important meetings. Will they now hold their yawns and save their 40 winks till 'P' arrives?

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

BEGINNING OF A BEGINNING

Now after the ignition, it's about pressing the foot on the pedal. In the avoidable skirmishes between the Government of India and Anna Hazare and his associates, the nation got 12 days of high drama and a flurry of low blows. But thankfully, on Saturday, we saw the immovable object move to an unstoppable force. The withdrawal of Mr Hazare's fast came after both Houses of Parliament expressed solidarity with the anti-corruption crusader's three core demands regarding the proposed Lokpal Bill. Mr Hazare had earlier demanded a parliamentary resolution on these demands — a citizens' charter, the lower bureaucracy coming under the lokpal's purview and the establishment of lokayuktas in all states. But coming from the state of ugly deadlock, the parliamentary endorsement was a gesture that was good enough for Mr Hazare to call off his fast. However way one looks at it, the ongoing agitation has finally got the serious attention of the political class, the government included, instead of the earlier tooth and nail resistance in the name of the sanctity of Parliament to a strong Lokpal Bill.

In the discussion in Parliament that preceded the rapprochement, parliamentarians finally set their cards on the table regarding the issue at hand. Especially forthright were the two leaders of the Opposition of the two Houses, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. Even though we are yet to be clear about the kind of effective Lokpal Bill the government says it wants to pass, the fact that the nation's legislative body has at last come together to go beyond homilies is most satisfying. Mr Hazare has spoken about the "victory of the Jan Lokpal Bill being a partial victory". He and his associates now hope that the government convenes a special session of Parliament to pass the Bill in a month's time. Considering that Parliament will now be debating the pros and cons of each of the various drafts of the Lokpal Bill, which will then be looked at by the parliamentary standing committee before Parliament passes the law, we would actually consider Saturday's achievement as the ball set moving.

At stake is firming up the most effective Lokpal Bill with safeguards to prevent its misuse. So while a deadline keeps the legislation of this landmark law from slipping away into the horizon, a month should be a working deadline. What must be ensured is that the foot is not taken off the pedal. While views and counterviews will continue to float about on the method used by Mr Hazare to make the nation's lawmakers forge an effective law against statutory corruption, Mr Hazare has unleashed a genie that cannot be put back in the bottle: the will of the people. Consider Saturday's breakthrough — or climbdowns — as the beginning of a beginning.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

LIVE AND LET DIY

 

We share the bewilderment of the Chinese at American VIPs doing things for themselves

T he inscrutable Chinese who are not fazed by the prospect of trade and border wars were completely thrown off kilter recently. No, it was not that Barack Obama was found to be a reincarnation of Zhou en-Lai but that the new US ambassador to China was spotted carrying his own rucksack and buying himself a cup of coffee in Seattle airport. Then along comes Barack himself, disembarking at Shanghai airport, holding an umbrella over his head, creating a Confucian conundrum which the Chinese are yet to figure out.

Now, we share the bewilderment of the Chinese at VIPs doing things for themselves. Our VIPs would not dream of lining up for coffee or holding anything, leave alone an umbrella. In fact, not just VIPs, most middle-class Indians are loathe to do too much by way of heavy lifting and this includes such arduous tasks as getting yourself a glass of water or straightening the bedclothes. No, we have underpaid flunkeys for all these tasks. In fact, the presence of people around you at all times to wipe the imaginary sweat from your brow is an indication of your social standing. We are often shocked and awed that western leaders actually pay for family vacations. Here, the political family -and we really mean all 125 members -usually go on a jolly and a jaunt paid for by you and me. Such privileges extend far beyond one's term in office.

While Bill Clinton and Tony Blair may be raking it in posthigh office, it is unlikely that they have someone to do the dishes.
We can take heart from the fact that the Chinese are as protocol conscious as we are. Even a petty party functionary would rather do two years of hard labour in the Gulag than be caught carrying his own briefcase. Don't get us wrong, we are all for a good work ethic, someone's else's that is. Now where did that pesky peon go?
We'd asked him to fetch us some coffee from the machine which is a whole annoying two metres away from us ages ago.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

NOT OFF THE MARK

KAVITA A SHARMA,

The Supreme Court rendered a landmark judgement on August 9 when it held that evaluated answer sheets are covered under the Right to Information Act and that this judgement would apply to all examinations including ones conducted by the public service commissions, universities, boards and also professional bodies.

The judgement takes me back to the 1990s when the Parents' Forum for Meaningful Education (PFME) filed an application on behalf of a student in the District Consumer Forum of Haryana. The student wanted to access his answer scripts of his chemistry paper and then redressal of any grievance in case of an error. His board results showed that he had failed in the subject. The consumer forum ordered that the answer scripts be shown to him. Eight continuation sheets were found missing but nothing could be done as the board chose to go into appeal to the State Consumer Forum where PFME lost. This was because of an earlier order of the National Consumer Forum said an examinee was not a consumer and an examining body was an institution providing 'service' for a consideration.

We could not approach the high court because of a Supreme Court judgement in which it held that the process of evaluation of answer papers or of subsequent verification of marks under Clause 3 of Regulation 104 of the Maharashtra State Board did not attract the principles of natural justice.

In the August 9 judgement, the court, on the other hand, took the view that when an examinee is permitted to examine his answer sheet, the examining body is not giving him any new information but an opportunity to read what he had written earlier. Therefore, in furnishing the answer-book, there was no breach of confidentiality, privacy, secrecy or trust.

Of course, there was a genuine fear that the safety of the examiner would be endangered if his identity was revealed. So the court accepted the validity of this argument and exempted from disclosure not only the identity of the examiner but also of the scrutiniser, co-ordinator and head examiner. Further the court allayed the apprehensions of the examining bodies that they might have to store the corrected answer scripts running into lakhs for long periods and this could lead to infrastructural and administrative problems. It was clarified that "the right to access information" will have a certain time limit. In this case, what the RTI has achieved is something for which there was no mechanism earlier as the consumer court also did not see the statutory examining bodies as 'service providers' for a consideration.

Having taken this step, it is logical that the examining bodies should set up a grievance redressal mechanism even if it is at a small fee to cover the administrative costs. The fear that the examining body would be flooded with applications for access to corrected answer scripts may not be well founded as examinees too want a finality of results so as to move on with their career goals.

Kavita A Sharma is former principal, Hindu College, University of Delhi. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE GRAND ILLUSION

AMITAV GHOSH

In the great torrent of words inspired by the anti-corruption movement, what is not being discussed has proved to be almost as significant as what is being said. As a writer I have always been fascinated by the silences that suddenly congeal within the ceaseless argumentation of our collective life. In this instance some of these silences are so striking as to make one wonder why nobody ever mentions the herd of elephants in the room.

Here is one relatively minor instance: on innumerable occasions over the last couple of weeks commentators have excoriated the Congress for its 'lack of leadership'. Yet, not once have I heard anyone remarking on the fact that this is not just a figure of speech - it is literally true. Sonia Gandhi, the actual leader of the party and the fount of its power, is indeed absent, and is known to be incommunicado because she is recuperating from an operation. It is as if some kind of taboo had arisen around this subject.

But here is a much more significant example: several members of the Congress have spoken with great eloquence about the importance of respecting the sovereignty of Parliament and about the dangers of creating an extra-parliamentary source of legislation. Thus for example P Chidambaram: "Do not diminish the sovereign right of Parliament to make laws. The day this right is diminished even by one millimeter, that will be the saddest day for our democracy."

Reading this, anyone would imagine that the functioning of  Chidambaram's own party conformed to some ideal model of a Westminster-style democracy. Yet, a basic premise of a parliamentary democracy is that the office of prime minister is held by the leader of the dominant party: in other words executive and political power are vested in the same person.

Could we imagine for example, a situation in which British Prime Minister David Cameron, having led his party to victory in an election, would pick a member of the House of Lords to be the prime minister?

The truth is that members of the Congress are singularly ill-placed to wax indignant about the dangers of bowing to an extra-parliamentary power. They looked to Sonia Gandhi for leadership even when she was not in Parliament; nor is the legislature the real source of her authority. This is indeed the root of the problem for the Congress today: it is itself structured in such a way as to divorce power from the legislature. The prime minister has never won an election; the country knows that his authority is limited and that he is not the government's guiding force. This has created an opacity at the very core of the political system: even if the protagonists were blameless, the situation is guaranteed to generate mistrust.

The differences between the Westminster model and our own political system are obvious. Why then are they so rarely mentioned, even while the model is constantly invoked? Is it because we have become so accustomed to being lauded as the 'world's largest democracy' that we can no longer see what stares us in the face? Or is it because this rhetoric has made us unwilling - or unable - to distinguish between form and substance in politics?

When we look at the form of our political life it is indeed a parliamentary democracy - and considering the available alternatives this is undoubtedly a good thing. But there is another equally important aspect to Indian politics, a dynastic aspect, which it shares with several countries in the region - Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines.

In Pakistan, the pre-eminent dynasty has played no small part in plunging the country into crisis. But a crisis sometimes brings certain truths to the fore. It is not an accident that the term 'deep State' was coined in Pakistan, to describe a situation in which the actual mechanisms of power are hidden behind a public performance of electoral politics.

But the 'deep State' is now no longer exclusive to Pakistan; its workings are discernible also in some of the world's leading democracies, including Britain and the United States: they were evident for example, in the ways in which these countries were led into the Iraq war in the teeth of widespread

popular opposition; no less were they apparent in the way that the interests of banks were privileged over the interests of ordinary people after the financial crisis of 2008.

To millions of people around the world it has become evident that the forms of democracy are not in themselves a safeguard against the manipulation of government by unseen powers. The most moving articulation of this came perhaps from the 'indignados' - the protestors who filled the streets of Spain earlier this year: "Some of us have clearly defined ideologies, others are apolitical, but we are all concerned and angry about the political, economic and social outlook that we see around us: corruption among politicians, businessmen, bankers, leaving us helpless, without a voice… Instead of placing money above human beings, we shall put it back to our service. We are people, not products. I am not a product of what I buy, why I buy and who I buy from."

In India, the events of the last couple of years have unmasked, as never before, our own 'deep State'. As scandal after scandal has unfolded, it has become evident that the collusion between politicians, corporations and the media, is of a staggering magnitude, and that it operates on a scale that far exceeds anything that most people could even imagine. Indeed, it has become apparent that the locus of power in the country has largely shifted away from New Delhi to the corporate towers of Mumbai; it is apparent also that the political class is unable to rectify this.

Something clearly had to be done; it was clear also that the formal institutions of our democracy were not going to do it. The movement that has filled the gap offers cause for both hope and misgiving. In its insistence on bringing political processes into the open, it is trying to restore some of the content that has leached out of governance in India. In failing to address the role of the private sector in corruption it is itself ignoring the elephants in the room. What is undeniable is that its emergence is a development of enormous significance.

The movement has already tasted power and in the months to come it could turn in many directions. The political class is right to be apprehensive about this. Yet, it was this very class that allowed the substance of politics to leak from its grasp even as it clung to the forms.

Inasmuch as the country, as a whole, has allowed this to happen, we are all to blame.

Amitav Ghosh's latest novel is River of Smoke.

The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

HARDLY A REVOLUTION

SOUMITRO DAS

A middle-class revolution is a contradiction in terms. To be middle-class in India today is to be a creature of privilege. To be middle-class is not to go hungry ever, not to have to pull one's children out of school so that they can help in putting food on the table, not being prey to a thousand diseases deriving from an unhygienic environment and the list could go on and on. Who could the middle-class revolt against if not itself?

However, it's a quirk of history that the class which is economically the most powerful in the country is not the most powerful politically. The legislature is dominated by downtrodden masses of the country. It is they who vote in a new Parliament every five years or so. The middle-class doesn't have the numbers to win the parliamentary game and, therefore, desists from casting its vote. Thus, its attitude towards democracy is at best ambivalent, at worst schizophrenic. It likes to flaunt the country's democratic credentials before the world community; but it is furious about not having a say in how the country should be run, especially when legislators elected by, for example, the rural masses get away with the kind of indiscipline that would shame any politician in the developed world.

The middle-class holds the political class in contempt. There are several reasons for this. One of them is the fact that most politicians would be unable to secure and hold down a job in the private sector. Another reason is the fact that our legislators are elected by the most poor and illiterate mass of people to be found anywhere on earth. Such an electorate, the middle-class thinks, is unable to produce modern leadership. Then, there is the behaviour of our politicians inside and outside the legislature. They can indulge in acts of hooliganism, but the middle-class is watching them on TV.

The complaint about criminals sitting in Parliament is partly misinformed. Registering cases against political rivals is one of the easiest things to do in India. Amar Singh may represent the worst in our politics, but he is certainly not a murderer. Yet, he has murder cases against him. One also remembers the occasion when Mayawati asked her cohorts to register cases against Mulayam Singh Yadav all over UP and overnight Yadav was faced with the prospect of fighting cases in a 100 different courts in the state. So this business of criminality needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis; no generalisations - such as Arvind Kejriwal's, "They are all thieves" - are warranted. Last, but not the least, the political class is demonised by the media. The middle-class follows the media faithfully, since it's the media that promote the fiction that the middle-class speaks for the nation and that all other points of view are mendacious, if not superfluous.

All this to say that Anna Hazare's movement, being largely driven by the middle- class, is not a revolution. For it to be revolutionary it must scare the living daylights out of the middle-class. What could be a real revolution in this country? The answer is provided by Dalit voices that were heard briefly amid the cacophony surrounding Anna's fast. Both Kancha Ilaiah and Chandrabhan Prasad said that the central issue before the country is not corruption, but the caste system. Ilaiah and Prasad are right. Dalit insurgence is the one thing that is liable to scare the living daylights out of not only our middle-class, but also out of village notables who rule through traditional bodies such as caste panchayats.

It's not just a coincidence that Kiran Bedi named Lalu Prasad, Amar Singh, Ram Vilas Paswan and Mulayam Singh Yadav when she implied that a parliamentary standing committee composed of such people would be unlikely to do justice to a strong lokpal legislation. They are all caste politicians, protagonists of  India's 'long revolution'.

The middle-class is comfortable with Hazare's movement. It's in charge. And what it wants to seek through the institution of the lokpal is a sort of a permanent moral guardianship over the political class as a whole.

Soumitro Das is a Kolkata-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FAST AND FUTURE

 

Anna Hazare was supposed to break his fast at 10 am on Sunday, but in the event he — and everyone else — was kept waiting while a member of his "team" made an interminable "mission accomplished" speech. When it is something as hydra-headed and intangible as corruption, however, it is difficult to imagine how victory could be defined — and more, since the reduction of corruption is something that unites most people, including those in Parliament, it puzzling why a milestone on the way to reducing it should be seen as a matter of victory or defeat at all. If there are real lessons to be taken away from the past ten days, one should be that this is about more than the hubris of Team Anna or the leaden reactions of UPA 2. It is about the emergence of an increasingly aware urban Indian, and of the stability and responsiveness of the Indian constitutional system.

In the end, Team Anna's maximalist demands — their bill, or an agitation — had to be dialled down; Parliament's right to amend, make and pass legislation was reiterated; and the Indian people got to see their political leaders, across party lines, speak firmly about the many variants of corruption that affect this country's citizens, and about what could be done to deal with them. In the debates in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, MPs from the two main national parties did not respond to the anti-politician mood that was visible onstage at the Ramlila Maidan; but those from smaller parties were not so restrained. Again, Sharad Yadav had a pointed defence of Parliament— "27 MPs have spent time behind bars and this House saw to it they were put behind bars" — and Lalu Prasad said "the Constitution should not be bypassed one bit." In these words from backward-class leaders who emerged from a previous agitation, we see the power of Parliament and Constitution to represent and to inspire. That, with the flexibility of Indian politics, is what has been underlined this week.

MPs must not waste this moment, but get to the business of governance. And, above all, of reform, for that is the third great lesson of the Anna moment: that legislature and executive have not being doing enough. The construction of a grievance redressal system, and the strengthening of CBI independence, should be buttressed by reforms that empower and address the aspirations of urban India, ignored for seven years. That, then, would be victory.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

UNIFORM DISCIPLINE

 

After all the first, fraught confrontations between the Delhi police and Anna Hazare's team, it must be said that both sides backed off and cooperated in ensuring that this protest went off with minimal tension. The police renegotiated its agreement with Team Anna, allowing in as many people as Ramlila grounds could take, permitting loudspeakers and tents and parking space, and allowing all this for an extendable 15-day stretch.

And as the days went by, the numbers swelled, emotions ran high, but there was a palpable sense of security in the Ramlila grounds and surrounding areas. Temporarily, it created a public square of the kind that out cities sorely miss, a place for speeches and songs, a place to gather together. It was often boisterous, often angry, but it felt safe. And while the commitment and discipline of the protesters must be applauded, this is in no small part because of the remarkable effectiveness of Delhi's police. They set up unobtrusive security checks, politely gave directions, and allowed this carnivalesque protest to go on with minimal interference.

Of course, for all its purported Gandhian methods, there were some in the Anna movement who got carried away by the anti-establishment energy of it all, there were people who got drunk and made trouble, who harassed and heckled others on the street, Anna topi-wearing gangs of motorcyclists listing and weaving through the roads of central Delhi. The police moved in swiftly and efficiently, putting in extra barricades, arresting a few hundred traffic violators. Overall, over the last ten days, we witnessed a new standard in public order policing, one that respected a group's democratic right to raise hell, and ensured that this goal was achieved with the least inconvenience to others.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GETTING REAL

 

India's business interests across the Middle East and North Africa have expanded dramatically in recent years. Several Indian companies are heavily invested in Libya, and stand to suffer considerably from the ongoing tumult. 15,400 Indians had left Libya by the time the rebellion against Gaddafi gathered steam, according to the foreign ministry; many thousands remained. Yet India's foreign policy remains cautious and wary, strangely reluctant to take on a role commensurate with its weight in the world.

In UN forums, it has been conspicuous for straddling the fence — as a non-permanent Security Council member, it abstained when the UNSC authorised the use of force in Libya. Unwilling to recognise the changed terms of the debate, India prefers the rote north-vs-south debate, unwilling to see that the old consensus has cracked. Our commercial interests are clearly at cross-purposes with our diplomatic approach. What's more, the Arab Spring has genuinely upended previous calculations. What is happening in Libya would well happen in Syria, in this cascading revolution across the region.

India, like much of the world, had assumed a certain stability in the region, and framed its diplomacy with those assumptions. However, this chaos in Libya can't be construed only in terms of Western intervention (though that is an admittedly complicating factor). It is also an internal aspiration for change, or like in Syria, a majority trying to empower itself against minority domination. Libya's National Transition Council is recognised by 45 countries. India must make up its own mind after clear-eyed analysis, keeping its own interests in mind. Most importantly, this situation is a reminder of how India's diplomacy needs to be quick-witted and nimble, able to recognise reversals and adapt. When the facts change, our foreign policy must be able to assimilate them and change accordingly. Instead of letting a broad set of principles articulated in the past determine present strategy, we must be guided by our real priorities. As revolution sweeps across the region, India must go beyond the standard interactions with governments and develop ties with the new forces there, so that it can take an informed position on these contestations.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

A POST-ANNA POLITICS

MK VENU

 

Anna Hazare, himself a veteran of many a campaign against corruption in the past, was sober and understated enough to describe his victory as "aadha" (half) after receiving a letter from the prime minister conveying Parliament's resolve to discuss three critical issues emerging from the Jan Lokpal draft. He also thanked parliamentarians, and admitted that a whole lot remained to be done in the battle against corruption.

He realises that this time round (unlike in the past when he confined himself to the Maharashtra region) his campaign has seized the nation's imagination, and will create unprecedented expectations in regard to some concrete steps being taken against corruption in the near future. Such expectations, scary as they may appear, will have to be managed by both Anna Hazare and the political class as things return to normal in the weeks and months ahead.

If one looks at Hazare's style carefully, he appears very rigid about his demands when he is fasting. However, he is quite flexible and pragmatic when dealing with the political class in normal times. This showed in the easy and natural personal interactivity he has with some Maharashtra politicians, such as Vilasrao Deshmukh and others, who are not exactly perceived as paragons of clean politics. It was also interesting to see that finally two Congress leaders, Deshmukh and Sandeep Dikshit, were allowed to be part of Team Anna's victory recital of the national anthem from the high stage at the Ramlila maidan. Earlier, Anna Hazare had been very careful not to allow political leaders to use their platform.

The Anna Hazare campaign, such as it was, will have a lasting impact both in political and systemic terms. Politically, the mainstream parties were startled at the support that progressively developed for Hazare during his 12-day fast. The presence of youth cutting across class, regions, religions and possibly caste would have got mainstream parties worried. The insecurity of some regional and caste-based party leaders in the Lok Sabha was visible during the debate, as they questioned whether there was anything in the Jan Lokpal bill for the poorest among the Dalits, backwards and Muslims. The DMK expressed worry over some provisions which could change the federal character of the constitution. Which is why speaker after speaker from the Congress kept giving assurances that the provisions of Jan Lokpal bill would be considered only within the contours of the present constitutional arrangement.

The real political impact, if at all, of the Jan Lokpal campaign will be known in the way strong regional parties, which have been vehemently asserting their federal autonomy, perform in the next general elections. The fundamental character of Hazare's Jan Lokpal draft is to push the envelope towards a more unitary system of governance. Theoretically, this tendency should suit the BJP which has historically believed in a unitary system of governance. However, the progressive fragmentation of India's polity on caste and regional lines has made both the BJP and Congress go against their instinct, and accept the coalition form of governance.

It was therefore a bit ironic to see the BJP fully supporting Team Anna's campaign against corruption — but the convenor of the National Democratic Alliance, Sharad Yadav, expressing loads of scepticism over the nature and character of the Anna Hazare movement. Even Mayawati has invited Team Anna to implement his agenda by fighting elections and formally entering the system, however flawed it may be.

The interesting thing to watch is which way the millions of youth supporting Anna Hazare get radicalised politically in the two years before the next general elections. Surely most of the Anna supporters would have voted for the Congress, BJP or regional parties in the last general elections. If they consolidate in a big way on the issue of corruption against the establishment, then it is bad news for the Congress-led UPA. The BJP and other regional outfits could gain. Given the utterly fragmented nature of voting in the general elections, a small swing of up to 2 per cent away from the Congress is all that will be needed to weaken the UPA. And this small swing could be brought about by Anna Hazare's new voters.

The Congress sensed this during the last four days of Hazare's fast. Initially, it hardened its position against Team Anna. Then it went out on a limb to accommodate them. The Congress's anxiety not to completely lose what seems like a new political space created by the Hazare movement was reflected in Rahul Gandhi racing ahead to offer a "game changing idea" of giving the Lokpal a constitutional status like the Election Commission. The idea seemed too radical even for the most ardent civil society activist.

The Congress is evidently trying to seize the new space created by Anna's politics (some TV channels described it as apolitical!), and therefore Jyotiraditya Scindia tried hard to explain in his Lok Sabha address that the UPA had institutionalised the interface between civil society and the government through the institution of the National Advisory Council. He claimed the RTI Act as the biggest contribution of this interface. While there is some truth in Scindia's assertion, the Congress-led UPA has already benefited from those initiatives in the 2009 general elections.

Now they have to do a lot more to beat anti-incumbency building against them. The UPA's best bet is now to come up with some real, tangible governance reforms in its remaining two years. The Lokpal may come up in whatever form it does after the standing committee dovetails the provisions endorsed in principle by Parliament. That alone will not help matters. The Congress needs to make good on other promises made by Sonia Gandhi at the Burari session last year.

A model public services delivery legislation needs to be brought about. It will be in line with the spirit of the citizen's charter, and the demand to bring the lower bureaucracy under the Lokpal. The political class must involve civil society in making public services delivery work at the state level. Anna Hazare must shift the energies of his supporters to a form of active interface with the lower bureaucracy, to ensure effective implementation of Lokpal provisions in regard to delivery of small public services. Another initiative which is practical and could redeem the Congress somewhat is a new electoral funding system. India will have a GDP of $2 trillion by 2012. Only 0.3 per cent of a year's GDP is needed to generate over Rs 30,000 crore, which is roughly what is spent over five years in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The state should create this fund, and put it under Election Commission's administration for transparent allocation to political parties. A special cess can be put on corporate India to recover this. This is easy — and does not require an agitation by civil society!

The writer is managing editor, 'The Financial Express'

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

HOW THE STORY ENDS

YUBARAJ GHIMIRE

 

These days, Nepal is as disillusioned with civil society as with its political parties, five years after the sweeping political transformation that led up to this situation, a change that began with a civil society-led mass movement.

Civil society had then commanded wide popular support, almost emerging as a credible alternative institution, at a time when the political leadership — almost without exception — was seen as corrupt, inefficient, and unable to improve Nepal's economy. The former king, Gyanendra, tried to take advantage of the battered reputation of political parties, and took over power in February, 2005, perhaps having already informed India and the US of his intentions. He says he planned to helm the nation for three years, first to control the Maoist insurgency (that had been raging for a decade, and had cost more than 14,000 lives), and then to gradually hand over power to political parties.

It was at this point that several known faces from NGOs, consultancies, former civil servants and politicians who had lost elections in the past came forward under the mantle of civil society, opposing the royal takeover.

They did not ignore the unpopularity of political leaders either. In the early days of protest meetings, civil society groups invited political leaders, including G.P. Koirala and Madhav Nepal, but made it clear that they were not welcome on the dais.

Civil society leaders were also popular in the eyes of the donors and the international community that supported this movement for democracy. The vilification of mainstream political parties also gave the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists an open forum, and allowed them to take the lead in the movement. The Nepali media too, by and large, became part of this movement for democracy, and worked in coordination with civil society. The Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) gradually took the front seat of the mass movement, alongside the Maoists, when civil society realised that it could not substitute for political parties, no matter how unpopular they were.

However, the record of the political parties that these civil society-media groups backed, and the anarchy and instability that followed, have made many of these "leading faces" unpopular with the people now. They are accused of having double standards on issues like state brutality, corruption, and lack of accountability in politics and governance.

Some statistics of the number of people killed by the state, or in political violence in the post-2006 era estimate it at being much more than the 21 people killed during the movement against the monarchy. More than 350 cases of murder, abduction and confiscation of individual property, involving top Maoist leaders and politicians, have been withdrawn. But Nepali civil society has not spoken out, in contrast to what they did during the monarchist regime. That the current dispensation is unprecedently corrupt is openly claimed in the media; some of the leaders are still running rich NGOs or are associated with ethnic and other movements that receive huge funds from donors. In short, civil society leaders are not viewed with respect, and differently from politicians any more.

The Anna Hazare phenomenon is being talked about, debated and discussed in Nepal with its own bias. But invariably, it gets lumped with the failure and the double standards of Nepali civil society. However, one stark similarity lies in politicians having to take a backseat in the Ramlila maidan, just as in Kathmandu, in the first few meetings during the monarchist regime.

Keshav Poudel, the editor of the fortnightly magazine New Spotlight, said on Twitter: "Parliament is dead, long live Anna." The comment is no doubt based on the Nepali experience, in which the leaders at the crest of the movement for democracy undermined institutions including parliament, resulting in an erosion of the authority of the state — which is now almost at the verge of collapse. And civil society leaders' silence is being viewed as their culpability in the overall failure.

Judging by the Nepali experience, the challenges before the Anna Hazare-led movement are many. Will it join hands with non-Congress or non-UPA parties? Will it support one or the other group in the next election? And most important, will the faces around Anna strictly maintain their watchdog status, or will they develop political ambitions and affiliations?

Civil society, in Nepal's context, is a group that wants to rule or enjoy power without accountability. They have shunned open activity — except occasionally appearing in the print and electronic media, given their friendly association of the past. Nevertheless, the fallout of the Anna Hazare movement will be closely observed in neighbouring Nepal.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

ERRING ON THE SIDE OF GOOD SENSE

JAITHIRTH RAO

 

Everybody is writing you letters. I thought I would join the group. You are busy. But I am hopeful that one of your numerous advisers (hopefully, one not of the hardliner persuasion) reads this, and conveys the gist. And of course, I hope you find it useful in these perilous times.

Your spokesmen have in the last few months, weeks and days taken the high road as far as "constitutional rectitude" and "parliamentary supremacy" are concerned. I would like to draw the attention of your advisers to several historical precedents that might help them persuade you that pragmatic agreements and compromises are very much part of the grand old Congress party's traditions and that you can take comfort that you are following in the footsteps of your professional forebears.

In 1985, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi signed an "accord" with Sant Longowal. This accord was signed by Rajiv Gandhi with a person who was not operating in any official capacity. Sant Longowal was not a chief minister or for that matter any minister. And Rajiv, who wanted to bring peace to Punjab, did not allow formal technicalities like prior parliamentary approval or approval from a standing committee to get in his way. If I remember right, Rajiv Gandhi went ahead with the agreement without any approval from his cabinet even though they undoubtedly would have given him, and did give him, ex-post-facto approval.

And it was not in Punjab alone. Rajiv signed another "accord" with the All Assam Students Union, which represented no government and which was not even a political party. The AASU could well be described as a "civil society movement" much like Anna Hazare's. No one accused Rajiv Gandhi of violating constitutional norms, undermining Parliament's integrity or giving inappropriate recognition to unelected members of self-styled civil society. Incidentally, in the Assam accord, Rajiv Gandhi agreed to specific legislative commitments. If Rajiv Gandhi did it, surely at least in the Congress party's view, such actions must be quite in order. Why would you then hesitate in signing an "accord" with Hazare and his group?

Incidentally, the founder of the modern version of your party, Indira Gandhi, signed an "accord" with Sheikh Abdullah at a time when the latter had no official position and in fact, when he might have had sedition charges pending against him! Following in Indira Gandhi's footsteps is something that even the hardest hardliners in your party cannot fault you for.

If none of these political initiatives, which involved implicit and even explicit official dealings with unelected, unofficial civil society actors and which involved "truncation of due parliamentary process" succeeded in undermining our Constitution or our Parliament, then why did you think reaching out to the Hazare group and signing an "accord" with them, would somehow have dealt a body-blow to our Constitution and its institutions?

Talking of constitutional propriety and tradition, President Zail Singh violated precedent and tradition when he swore in Rajiv Gandhi as prime minister after Indira's death. At that time Rajiv Gandhi was not a minister. No meeting of parliamentarians or of the Congress parliamentary party was held. So there was no official, correct, constitutional way of stating that, in fact, Rajiv Gandhi represented the majority. If constitutional precedent were to be followed, President Zail Singh should have sworn in the senior-most cabinet minister as the PM (this is what Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan did when Nehru, and later, Shastri died. He swore in Gulzarilal Nanda.) President Zail Singh followed his instincts for realpolitik and I have not heard too many people quibbling about his action. If "respect for parliamentary procedures" could have been bypassed when Rajiv Gandhi was made prime minister, why could you not have bypassed it now by withdrawing one bill from a standing committee and introducing another bill in Parliament? Realpolitik considerations, common sense, wisdom and sagacity have in the past overruled technicalities.

I have been wondering for some time why the Hazare movement and the large crowds distrust the government and were convinced that, if given an "out", the government would once again postpone a proper Lokpal bill or come up with a toothless one. Why this so-called "trust deficit"? And then I thought of Telangana and your erstwhile allies, the TRS. Chandrababu Naidu's defeat was, in substantial measure, due to the sweep in Telangana following the Congress-TRS alliance and a virtual promise of a Telangana state. TRS leader Chandrasekhar Rao joined UPA 1 without the usual demands of an ATM ministry or even a piggybank ministry. Five years of UPA 1 went by and the TRS felt that they had been "tricked". During UPA 2, the same Chandrasekhar Rao went on a fast. The home minister of India publicly announced that a bill to create a separate Telangana state would be introduced in Parliament "immediately". Months, years, later after yet another committee report and more discussions, the TRS can claim to have been "tricked" once again by the government's tactic of making promises, buying time and then backing away. The English expression, I believe, is "bait and switch".

No wonder Anna Hazare was reluctant to give up his fast and his lieutenants were wary of stopping the agitation based on mere "assurances", however solemn or well-meant they may have been on your part.

Your party and your government can find enough precedents in the actions of your forebears that can help you take imaginative political steps without hiding behind the smokescreen of constitutional and parliamentary procedures.

The writer is an entrepreneur

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

ACT TOGETHER, FOR THE WORLD'S SAKE

 

Hold onto your hats and your wallets. Since the end of the Cold War, the global system has been held together to a large degree by four critical ruling bargains. Today all four are coming unstuck at once and will need to be rebuilt. Whether and how that rebuilding happens will determine a lot about what's in your wallet and whether your hat flies off.

Now let me say that in English: the European Union is cracking up. The Arab world is cracking up. China's growth model is under pressure, and America's credit-driven capitalist model has suffered a warning heart attack and needs a total rethink. Recasting any one of these alone would be huge. Doing all four at once — when the world has never been more interconnected — is mind-boggling

Let's start with the Middle East, the world's oil tap. Libyans just joined Tunisians, Egyptians and Yemenis in ousting their dictator, while Syrians and Iranians hope to soon follow suit. In time, virtually every Middle East autocrat will be deposed or forced to share power. The old model was based on kings and military dictators capturing the oil revenue, ensconcing themselves in power and buying off key segments of their populations. The lid has been blown off by an Arab youth bulge that today can see just how everyone else is living and is no longer ready to accept being behind, undereducated, unemployed, humiliated and powerless. It will take time for these societies to write their own social contracts for how to live together without an iron fist from above.

Farther north, it was a nice idea, this European Union and euro-zone: Let's have a monetary union and a common currency but let everyone run their own fiscal policy, as long as they swear to work and save like Germans. Alas, it was too good to be true. Large government welfare programmes in some European countries, without the revenue to finance them from local production, eventually led to a piling up of sovereign debt. The producer-savers in northern Europe are now drawing up a new deal with the overspenders — the PIIGS: Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain. It is unlikely that the Germans would just break out of the EU, since a good chunk of their exports go to those overspending, uncompetitive countries. Instead, the northern Europeans are trying to force stronger, rule-based discipline on the PIIGS. But how much more austerity can these countries absorb?

Going East, China has been relying on a model built on a deliberately undervalued currency and export-led growth, with low domestic consumption and high savings. This has allowed the Communist Party to sustain a unique bargain with its people: We give you jobs and rising standards of living, and you give us power. This bargain is now under threat. Persistent unemployment in China's American and European markets is making Beijing's undervalued-currency/low-consumption/high-export model less sustainable for the world. It has to move from an assembly-copying-manufacturing economy to a knowledge-services-innovation economy. This requires more freedom and rule of law, and you can already see mounting demands for it.

As for America, we've thrived in recent decades with a credit-consumption-led economy, whereby we maintained a middle class by using more steroids (easy credit, subprime mortgages and construction work) and less muscle-building (education, skill-building and innovation). It's put us in a deep hole, and the only way to dig out now is a new, hybrid politics that mixes spending cuts, tax increases, tax reform and investments in infrastructure, education, research and production.

When the world is experiencing so many wrenching changes at once, the need for America to be rock-solid is greater than ever. If we don't get our act together — which will require collective action normally reserved for wartime — we are not going to just be prolonging an American crisis, but feeding a global one.Thomas L. Friedman

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE FUTURE BLOWS IN

 

The scale of Hurricane Irene, which could cause more extensive damage along the US's Eastern Seaboard than any storm in decades, is reviving an old question: are hurricanes getting worse because of human-induced climate change?

The short answer from scientists is that they are still trying to figure it out. But many of them do believe that hurricanes will get more intense as the planet warms, and they see large hurricanes like Irene as a harbinger.

While the number of the most intense storms has clearly been rising since the 1970s, researchers have come to differing conclusions about whether that increase can be attributed to human activities. "On a longer time scale, I think — but not all of my colleagues agree — that the evidence for a connection between Atlantic hurricanes and global climate change is fairly compelling," said Kerry Emanuel, an expert on the issue at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Among those who disagree is Thomas R. Knutson, a federal researcher at the US government's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton. The rising trend of recent decades occurred over too short a period to be sure it was not a consequence of natural variability, he said, and statistics from earlier years are not reliable enough to draw firm conclusions about any long-term trend in hurricane intensities.

"Everyone sort of agrees on this short-term trend, but then the agreement starts to break down when you go back longer-term," Knutson said. He argues, essentially, that Emanuel's conclusion is premature, though he adds that evidence for a human impact on hurricanes could eventually be established.

While scientists from both camps tend to think hurricanes are likely to intensify, they do not have great confidence in their ability to project the magnitude of that increase.

One climate-change projection, prepared by Knutson's group, is that the annual number of the most intense storms will double over the course of the 21st century. But what proportion of those would actually hit land is another murky issue. Scientists say climate change could alter steering currents or other traits of the atmosphere that influence hurricane behavior.

Storms are one of nature's ways of moving heat around, and high temperatures at the ocean surface tend to feed hurricanes and make them stronger. That appears to be a prime factor in explaining the power of Hurricane Irene, since temperatures in the Atlantic are well above their long-term average for this time of year.

The ocean has been getting warmer for decades, and most climate scientists say it is because greenhouse gases are trapping extra heat. Rising sea-surface temperatures are factored into both Knutson's and Emanuel's analyses, but they disagree on the effect that warming in remote areas of the tropics will have on Atlantic hurricanes.

Air temperatures are also rising because of greenhouse gases, scientists say. That causes land ice to melt, one of several factors leading to a rise in sea level. That increase, in turn, is making coastlines more vulnerable to damage from the storm surges that can accompany powerful hurricanes.

Overall damage from hurricanes has skyrocketed in recent decades, but most experts agree that is mainly due to excessive development along vulnerable coastlines.

In a statement five years ago, Emanuel, Knutson and eight colleagues called this "the main hurricane problem facing the United States," and they pleaded for a reassessment of policies that subsidise coastal development — a reassessment that has not happened.

"We are optimistic that continued research will eventually resolve much of the current controversy over the effect of climate change on hurricanes," they wrote at the time. "But the more urgent problem of our lemming-like march to the sea requires immediate and sustained attention." Justin Gills

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

OF ACCOUNTS AND ACCOUNTABILITY

N K SINGH

 

Recently, there has been sharp focus on the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. The CAG report on the 2G spectrum allocation provided a credible basis both for the CBI investigation and the hearings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament. Similarly, the CAG report on multiple irregularities related to the Commonwealth Games has proved embarrassing for the government. CAG's report on the Adarsh housing scam in Maharashtra adds to the woes of a beleagured government. On the horizon are reports on the working of the civil aviation and petroleum ministries on the purchase of aircrafts and cost overruns on production-sharing contracts.

Questions are being asked as to whether the CAG has overstepped its constitutional powers. Aspersions are also being cast as to whether these reports are setting the agenda of the national dialogue.

We must understand the role and obligations of the CAG under the Constitution of India and in light of the fact that separation of powers is one of the basic features of the Constitution. It can be nobody's case that everything that the CAG says is gospel truth. As the principal auditor, it is his obligation to point out deviations and irregularities as he perceives and it is for the concerned ministry or institution to reply, respond, correct and initiate follow up action wherever appropriate. Sensationalising the CAG's findings not only politicises a constitutional entity but distracts from the objectivity of his findings.

There are however many other issues relating to the working of the CAG. First, the CAG has performed the constitutional mandate given to him. The CAG is the guardian of the public purse for both the Centre and the states. This is the reason why Dr B.R. Ambedkar said that the CAG shall be the most important officer under the Constitution of India. The enormous growth in the size and complexity of government budget also has a bearing on the duties of the CAG.

Second, unlike many other countries like Japan, New Zealand, Australia and France, the CAG in India mainly performs the function of ex-post audit. Many regretfully describe it as a dissection well after rigor mortis has set in. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the legal power to enforce action on its findings, recover losses of government money and property and initiate action against delinquent officials.

Third, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution had recommended the creation of a multi-member audit commission on the lines of Election Commission, whose members may have the same constitutional status and terms of service as the CAG. A similar position already exists in other countries like Japan, France, Germany, South Korea in the form of audit boards or audit courts.

Fourth, the Constitution of India visualised the CAG to be both comptroller as well as auditor-general. However, in practice, the CAG is only fulfilling the role of an auditor-general and not that of a comptroller. The government by an executive order assigned the role of the comptroller on the Controller General of Defence Accounts. However, the constitutional obligation of acting as a comptroller rests only with the CAG, a function which he has unfortunately not discharged. In this respect, the CAG of India differs from the CAG of Britain, which has powers and functions of both comptroller as well as the auditor-general.

Fifth, the Constitution does not lay down any qualifications for the appointment of the CAG and does not prescribe any procedure for making the appointment except that the CAG shall be appointed by the President of India. In the UK, the appointment of the CAG is ratified by the House of Commons on the recommendation of the PM made in agreement with the chairman of the PAC.

Sixth, there is no system of external audit of the CAG in India. External audit of the office of the CAG exists in the UK based on the principle that the agency that audits other outfits should itself demonstrate professional soundness and efficiency.

Seventh, it is believed that CAG has recommended some two years ago for amending the Act of 1971 to widen its scope with growing number of public-private partnerships and the spending by local bodies largely remaining outside its purview.

Finally, the CAG is an examining agency and not an investigating one and nor does it have the sweeping powers like some other functional democracies. It is expected to consider the efficiency, economy and effectiveness of all public expenditures and revenue and is the most important watchdog in our democratic set up. India has entered an uncertain phase of governance. Coalition politics cripples purposeful financial rectitude. In these uncertain times, which may last for long, there is a need to strengthen the CAG further.

The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

IITS BOW OUT

 

As it turns out, Jairam Ramesh's remarks that the IIT's faculties were not world class wasn't far off the mark. The 2011 edition of the Academic Ranking of World Universities shows that India has just one university that made it to the top 500 in the world, and no, it wasn't an IIT despite the fact that these institutions admit the top 0.1% of India's eligible population. It was the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). The IITs had one entry in the top 500 last year—IIT Kharagpur—but even that college didn't make the cut this time around, since it had been sliding anyway from being between 303-401 in 2008 to 401-500 in 2010. IIT Delhi last figured on the list, at between 401 and 500, way back in 2003.

 

China, on the other hand, has been steadily increasing its share in the top 500 universities—from just 8 in 2005, to 22 in 2010 and 23 in 2011. Little surprise then that China has managed to maintain a scorching pace of economic growth for so many years while India is spluttering after less than a decade of high growth. China has 19.6% of the world's population, but with 7% of the world's top 500 universities, it has 9.9% of global GDP—India has 17.1% of population and just 2.8% of GDP since it has just 0.2% of the top 500 universities. The equation is a simple one: as GDP grows, so do wages and this makes industries/economies uncompetitive; the only way to fix the balance is through hikes in productivity and that comes from not just education, but from top class education, the type that results in more patents, for instance—India's patents record is improving but is a small fraction of China's.

So why doesn't India have better universities? Well, a recent report by the University Grants Commission found that the 15 IITs were short of 1,693 teachers. Then there's the reservations and the bureaucratic obscurantism that ensures there's no punishment for poor performers or rewards for high performers, how can they, if you have reservations as an instrument of state policy—under the new Right to Education Act, state governments are to prescribe even the size of classrooms and salaries for primary school teachers. What bets even the IISc falls off the list next year?

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

YES THEY CAN

 

After all the fumbling and bumbling, just when people had become to despair that India's parliamentarians were as dysfunctional as those in the US, the MPs rose to the occasion, and magnificently. After conceding the role played by Anna Hazare and the salience of many of his points, MPs put aside their often vicious party politics and came together to reassert that it was only Parliament that has the power to make laws and that it wouldn't be rushed into passing a law without examining it thoroughly in the standing committee, never mind the enormous pressure being exerted by the fasting Hazare. At the same time, however, the BJP's Arun Jaitley rose to assure the government that workable solutions could be crafted to even the tricky points raised by Hazare, solutions that were within the federal structure of the Constitution. How the MPs finally come up with a solution that gives the country a strong Lokpal while ensuring it doesn't become an all-powerful monolith remains to be seen.

Much of the current crisis, possibly the major reason why Hazare caught the public imagination the way he did, has to do with the government's sluggish response in dealing with corruption to the extent of questioning the CAG's credentials and even denying there was a scam—remember Kapil Sibal's famous zero-revenue-loss press conference? But, that apart, as the Prime Minister said, the Lokpal, empowered or not, is no solution as it comes into play after the damage has been done. The government did well to drop the permission-to-prosecute clause that protects corrupt civil servants, and needs to move quickly on other solutions worked out by it. These include the proposal that all natural resources will be auctioned, a public procurement policy that will make government procurement transparent, and a law passed whereby many powers will be taken away from line ministries and would be given to Parliament-monitored independent regulators.

While the government has its task cut out to move on the reforms agenda, none of this can be achieved unless the Opposition behaves as responsibly as it did over the weekend. The Hazare crisis, in fact, is much smaller than the crisis facing the economy in the face of a possible double-dip recession globally. No country can escape unscathed, but if India is able to move on legislating reforms, the impact can be mitigated—from the 9% growth the government was targeting as recently as February, the consensus GDP forecast is now between 7 and 7.5%. Both savings and investment levels have taken a beating, tax-to-GDP levels have fallen considerably … in other words, with inflation proving difficult to combat, the economy is in trouble. In such a situation, India can't afford the luxury of a situation where, to use Sushma Swaraj's words, the BJP's core parliamentary committee meets and takes a decision on whether to allow Parliament to function that day—as PRS Legislative Research points out, Parliament worked harder even during the height of the Bofors crisis. The old ways can no longer do.

Either for the government or for the Opposition.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE AGE OF WISDOM

MEGHNAD DESAI

 

The government or the country has had no chance to celebrate the 20th anniversary of liberal reforms. The decisive shift in economic policymaking, which Narasimha Rao with Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram inaugurated, has been vindicated. India is now a byword for economic competence and a seriously high ranking member of the G20. Of course, there are still detractors of the reforms both within and outside the Congress. The excessive corruption we have seen exposed is blamed on the reforms as if the first 40 years of independence were squeaky clean. People say inequality has increased. Yes, we see more of it since the media is not restricted to just Doordarshan. The media displays the wealth of Indians, but inequality was never absent in India. It was well hidden.

The real question is not whether the reforms have worked but why did it take India so long to stumble on the right model. After all, India never became a completely planned economy à la China. Deng Xiaoping saw the writing on the wall and in 1978 changed Chinese economic policy root and branch. He, a life long Leninist, realised that everything he had believed about capitalism was mistaken. Nearby Taiwan, whom the Communists held as beneath contempt, had become a miracle economy and the Chinese had been left with an iron bowl with little rice in it. The decisive change came after 29 years of economic policymaking, which was based as much on the fantasy of an ageing Mao as anything else. This resulted in the largest famine of modern days.

Compared to China's 29, India took 44 years to correct its course. This is because, at their very worst, the Congress policymakers were never as cut off from the people as the Chinese Communist Party was. India never had a famine; just endemic starvation. That was thanks to democracy.

I have a theory that newly independent nations take a while to grow up and come to their senses about the compulsions of economics. To begin with, their leaders indulge in the half understood rubbish they have picked up in their youth the essence of which is a rejection of reality, especially as it reflects alien rule, and idealism which is easy to acquire and hard to shed. This has happened elsewhere. I have heard Julius Nyerere, the charismatic head of Tanzania, confess that his policy of Ujama—uplift of the poorest—ruined the economy because it was based on an idea of socialism borrowed from the USSR, totally unsuitable to African conditions. Mozambique has had 36 years of independence, but the first 25 were spent on unfeasible economic programmes. Now it is a shining example of macroeconomic responsibility and is enjoying some decent growth at last.

South Africa is currently having a similar debate about its economic policy. Years of apartheid created a two or three tier economy. South Africa is the most prosperous of all the sub-Saharan countries and always has been from even before the collapse of apartheid. At that time, there was a high degree of public ownership in the organised sector and trade unions were strong. But nationalisation and trade unions were designed to consolidate the gains of the white minority. Black trade unions had a tough time on their hands to defend the rights of their members in an atmosphere of rampant discrimination.

The debate now has gone back to nationalisation. South Africa has suffered from the recession, especially in its mining sector, which shed much labour. The programme of Black Economic Empowerment has not been working as fast as was hoped. The idea was to increase black ownership of mines and other businesses. Yet black unemployment remains stubbornly high. The answer of populist politicians is to nationalise the mines. This is supposed to remove any economic calculations in employing workers. Boom or bust employment has to be increased. When in Johannesburg recently, I tried to follow the logic of as to why this would help and not wreck the mining sector by making it uncompetitive.

South Africa has had only 17 years since the end of apartheid. It may be that the age of wisdom has not yet arrived. To empower the black people, South Africa needs a radical skilling initiative so that black unemployed workers can become employable, plus a programme for small and medium enterprise (SME) creation, since it is the SMEs who are the major employers in every economy. But a suspicion of the private sector pervades the African National Congress. Any idea that SMEs in the private sector will be the engines of employment creation and empowerment has no chance of advance. The public sector is much more amenable to uneconomic manipulation and that is what we may very well get. Perhaps another 10 years or so and wisdom may prevail. In the meantime, South Africa will 'enjoy' its own equivalent of the Hindu rate of growth.

The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

ONE NUMBER SAYS IT ALL

STEPHEN S ROACH

 

The number is 0.2%. It is the average annualised growth of US consumer spending over the past 14 quarters—calculated in inflation-adjusted terms from the first quarter of 2008 to the second quarter of 2011. Never before in the post-World War II era have American consumers been so weak for so long. This one number encapsulates much of what is wrong today in the US—and in the global economy.

There are two distinct phases to this period of unprecedented US consumer weakness. From the first quarter of 2008 through the second period of 2009, consumer demand fell for six consecutive quarters at a 2.2% annual rate. Not surprisingly, the contraction was most acute during the depths of the Great Crisis, when consumption plunged at a 4.5% rate in the third and fourth quarters of 2008.

As the US economy bottomed out in mid-2009, consumers entered a second phase—a very subdued recovery. Annualised real consumption growth over the subsequent eight-quarter period from the third quarter of 2009 through the second quarter of 2011 averaged 2.1%. That is the most anaemic consumer recovery on record—fully 1.5 percentage points slower than the 12-year pre-crisis trend of 3.6% that prevailed between 1996 and 2007.

These figures are a good deal weaker than originally stated. As part of the annual reworking of the US National Income and Product Accounts that was released in July 2011, Commerce Department statisticians slashed their earlier estimates of consumer spending. The 14-quarter growth trend from early 2008 to mid-2011 was cut from 0.5% to 0.2%; the bulk of the downward revision was concentrated in the first six quarters of this period—for which the estimate of the annualised consumption decline was doubled, from 1.1% to 2.2%.

I have been tracking these so-called benchmark revisions for about 40 years. This is, by far, one of the most significant I have ever seen. We all knew it was tough for the American consumer—but this revision portrays the crisis-induced cutbacks and subsequent anaemic recovery in a much dimmer light.

The reasons behind this are not hard to fathom. By exploiting a record credit bubble to borrow against an unprecedented property bubble, American consumers spent well beyond their means for many years. When both bubbles burst, over-extended US households had no choice but to cut back and rebuild their damaged balance sheets by paying down outsize debt burdens and rebuilding depleted savings.

Yet, on both counts, balance-sheet repair has only just begun. While household-sector debt was pruned to 115% of disposable personal income in early 2011 from the peak of 130% hit in 2007, it remains well in excess of the 75% average of the 1970-2000 period. And, while the personal saving rate rose to 5% of disposable income in the first half of 2011 from the rock-bottom 1.2% low hit in mid-2005, this is far short of the nearly 8% norm that prevailed during the last 30 years of the twentieth century.

With retrenchment and balance-sheet repair only in its early stages, the zombie-like behaviour of American consumers should persist. The 2.1% consumption growth trend realised during the anaemic recovery of the past two years could well be indicative of what lies ahead for years to come.

Such an outcome would have three profound implications for the economic outlook: First, since consumer demand still accounts for 71% of real GDP, a protracted shortfall in trend consumption represents a major headwind for overall US economic growth. While misguided Washington policymakers would like nothing better than for consumers to return to their old risky ways and start spending again, over-extended American households now know better. The heavy artillery of monetary and fiscal stimulus is being wasted on attempts to short-circuit balance-sheet repair.

Second, persistent weakness in consumption and GDP growth puts the US economy on a much weaker growth trajectory than that which is built into the government's long-term budget estimates. The Congressional Budget Office is assuming 3.4% average growth in real GDP over the 2013 to 2016 period. If the growth trend is one percentage point lower—a distinct possibility in an era of protracted consumption weakness—budget deficits would be a significantly higher.

Indeed, a CBO rule of thumb equates a sustained one-percentage-point shortfall in real GDP growth with budget deficits that are roughly $3 trillion larger over a ten-year period. Needless to say, such an outcome would spell serious trouble for America's already-contentious deficit-and-debt debate.

Finally, no other economy is capable of filling the void left by a protracted shortfall of US consumption. Europe and Japan are in no position to take up the slack, and consumer sectors in the world's major developing economies—especially China—lack the scale and dynamism to take over. So enduring weakness in US consumption implies pressure on the growth of export-led developing economies. The good news is that will force them to embrace long-overdue rebalancing strategies aimed at stimulating domestic consumer demand.

What can be done? While measures adapted in the depths of the crisis—massive fiscal and monetary stimuli—were effective in placing a bottom under the free-fall, they have been ineffective in sparking meaningful recovery. That should hardly be surprising in an era of balance-sheet repair.

Instead, the US needs a menu of policies tailored to the needs and pressures bearing down on American consumers. Some possibilities: debt forgiveness to speed up the deleveraging process; creative saving policies that restore financial security to crisis-battered Americans; and, of course, jobs and the income they generate.

The US economy—as well as the global economy—cannot get back on its feet without the American consumer. It is time to look beyond ideology—on the left as well as on the right—and frame the policy debate with that key consideration in mind.

The author, a member of the faculty at Yale University, is non-executive chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and the author of 'The Next Asia'.Copyright: Project Syndicate 2011 www.project-syndicate.org

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MEDIA PRESSURE MAY HELP SPEED UP FOOD SECURITY MOVES

More than two years have passed and there seems to be no progress worth speaking about in making the promised law that will guarantee food for the people. The promise came from the UPA-2 as part of its election manifesto in 2009. It was a time of recovery from a time of economic troubles. The impact of the global economic slowdown came on top of the agrarian crisis and the closure of several industrial undertakings, resulting in the loss of jobs and wage cuts that impoverished thousands of workers.

Economists have warned of yet another economic crisis, which may turn out to be more severe than the 2008 financial crisis and recession. Nearer home, the Reserve Bank of India has warned of higher inflation and a slowdown in economic growth. The food inflation rate is dangerously close to 10 per cent.

Seen in this context, the need to speed up the process of providing food security to hundreds of millions of people, whose ranks are likely to increase in the months to come, stands out. The news media have a role to play in meeting this challenge. Last year, it was a news report in a national daily that drew the attention of the highest court of the land to the fact that thousands of tonnes of wheat and rice were rotting in warehouses. The Supreme Court of India gave a direction to the government that if it could not store the grain, it could give it to the people to eat.

The 2010 Global Hunger Index shows that India holds the 67th rank among 122 developing countries. It has also stated that "serious hunger" is prevalent in all the States. According to the Index, 42 per cent of the world's underweight children live in India. A 2005 study showed 46 per cent children under three years of age were underweight. These studies bring home the point that the food security law must urgently ensure not just food — but nutritious food.

Following several rounds of discussion at various levels for about two years, the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on Food cleared the Food Security Bill in the second week of July 2011. The Bill seeks to cover 75 per cent of the BPL (Below Poverty Line) population and 50 per cent of the urban population. The Bill thus entitles 68 per cent of the country's population to food security. Each beneficiary under the BPL (now renamed the priority sector) will be entitled to 7 kg of food grains; rice will be provided at Rs. 3 a kg and wheat at Rs. 2 a kg. In the general category, each identified beneficiary will be given 3-4 kg at half the minimum support price the government pays to the farmers from whom they procure rice and wheat. The government plans to introduce the Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament after consulting Chief Ministers. The total subsidy is estimated to be in the region of Rs. 95,000 crore.

The final bill appears to be a heavily doctored version of the draft presented by the National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi. For instance, although the NAC proposed that 90 per cent of the rural population must be covered for food security, the official draft has reduced the coverage to 75 per cent. The UPA government's refusal to accept the Universal Public Distribution System recommended by several experts in the field has come under sharp criticism from political leaders and social activists. Another major criticism is against the cash transfers system, which will only place the beneficiaries at the mercy of retailers.

The Bill in its present form may not be acceptable to many State governments, which follow much better norms in defining the beneficiaries as well as their entitlements. Even the Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, C. Rangarajan, who was against the inclusion of APL households among the beneficiaries has apparently changed his stand and said that they could be given legal entitlements, though with a lesser quantity of food grains. There are some positive elements in the Bill such as the inclusion of the mid-day meal scheme among the beneficiaries and the provision of cooked and nutritional food for pregnant and lactating women. But among those who were actively working for a strong and effective Food Security Act, there is an overwhelming feeling of disappointment and being let down.

The news media, particularly the Indian language press and television channels, can still play a more informative and insightful pro-active role in educating readers and audiences on the vital issues at stake. Nothing can bring out the social responsibility role of the media than the challenge of covering mass deprivation and building a public agenda to overcome massive social deficits on the food and nutrition fronts.

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

SIGNIFICANT VICTORY

Parliament's unanimous adoption of a resolution agreeing "in principle" with Team Anna's position on the three sticking points that prolonged the standoff on the Lokpal legislation is a triumph for the anti-corruption mood in the country — and for the Gandhian technique of non-violent mass agitation on issues of vital concern to the people. Anna Hazare and his team deserve full credit for recognising and riding this popular mood, which showed plenty of signs of becoming a wave; for giving concrete shape to the inchoate aspirations of the movement against corruption through the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill; and for working out a strategy and tactics that refused to compromise on the core issues but knew when to raise the stakes and when to settle. As for the political players, the major opposition parties did well to recognise the soundness of the core demands of Team Anna and keep up the pressure on the government. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the politically savvy elements in the United Progressive Alliance regime can also take some credit for the way they finally acted to resolve this crisis.

What is clear to everyone — except the unreconstructed elements within the political system who have long been opposed to a strong, independent, and effective statutory authority to go after corruption at all levels — is that the Lokpal Bill that was introduced in Parliament by the government and is now before a Standing Committee lies thoroughly discredited. The government must not be guided by those in its ranks who advocate some kind of rearguard action in committee or on the floor of the House to go back on commitments made. The fact is that in sum, that is, in the parliamentary resolution and during the preceding rounds of discussion with Team Anna, the government conceded the following key demands. In addition to Ministers, Members of Parliament (subject to Article 105 of the Constitution), and Group 'A' officers, the Prime Minister at one end and the lower bureaucracy at the other will be brought under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal. Secondly, under the same statute, strong and effective Lokayuktas on the same model as the Lokpal will be established in all States. Team Anna contends that no constitutional problem is involved here since the Lokpal legislation deals with substantive and procedural criminal law, which is covered by Entries 1 and 2 of the Concurrent List in the Constitution. The bottom-line is that it makes no sense to have a strong and effective Lokpal to investigate and prosecute central public servants for corruption while having defunct or no Lokayuktas in States. Thirdly, the Lokpal legislation will provide for a grievance redressal system, requiring all public authorities to prepare a citizen's charter and make commitments to be met within a specified time frame. Constitutionally speaking, these arrangements are covered by Entry 8 of the Concurrent List dealing with actionable wrongs. Whether the Lokpal or another authority established under the same law will oversee this grievance redressal system remains an open question. For its part, Team Anna has agreed that judges need not come under the Lokpal provided a credible and independent Judicial Conduct Commission, free from conflict of interest and empowered to investigate and prosecute charges of corruption against judges, is established by law. Unfortunately, the contentious issue of a selection committee for the Lokpal could not be resolved. But considering that virtually everyone outside the UPA seems opposed to the official Lokpal Bill's provision that the government will nominate five of the nine members of the selection committee, this can probably be regarded as a dead letter.

There are some excellent provisions in the Jan Lokpal Bill that have gone mostly unnoticed. For instance, Section 6(o) provides that the Lokpal can recommend the cancellation or modification of a lease, licence, permission, contract or agreement obtained from a public authority by corrupt means; if the public authority rejects the recommendation, the Lokpal can "approach [the] appropriate High Court for seeking appropriate directions to be given to the public authority." It can also press for the blacklisting of those involved in acts of corruption. Then there is Section 31(1), which stipulates that "no government official shall be eligible to take up jobs, assignments, consultancies, etc. with any person, company, or organisation that he had dealt with in his official capacity." Section 31(2) provides that "all contracts, public-private partnerships, transfer by way of sale, lease, and any form of largesse by any public authority shall be done with complete transparency and by calling for public tender/auction/bids unless it is an emergency measure or where it is not possible to do so for reasons to be recorded in writing." And Section 31(3) requires that "all contracts, agreements or MOUs known by any name related to transfer of natural resources, including land and mines to any private entity by any method like public-private partnerships, sale, lease or any form of largesse by any public authority shall be put on the website within a week of being signed."

In appraising what has happened over the past fortnight, a red herring needs to be got out of the way — the idea of the 'supremacy of Parliament' versus everyone who comes up against it. Parliamentarians who assert this need to learn their Constitution. In India, unlike Britain, Parliament is not supreme; the Constitution is. Nor is law-making "the sole prerogative" of Parliament. The significant victory of the anti-corruption campaigners gives political India a rare opportunity to translate fine anti-corruption sentiments into a potent law that can be a game-changer. The challenge before the people of India is to ensure, by keeping up the pressure, that in the tricky business of law making in committee and on the floor of the Houses of Parliament a potentially powerful instrument is not blunted.

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THE HINDU

OBESITY'S GLOBAL CHALLENGE

PETER WALKER

Governments around the world need to make immediate and dramatic policy changes to reverse a pandemic of obesity, public health scientists have warned.

The call to act — which includes a prediction that almost half of British men could be clinically obese by 2030 — comes in a series of papers published on August 26 in the Lancet medical journal.

The journal begins with a strongly-worded editorial arguing that voluntary food industry codes are ineffective and ministers must intervene more directly.

"Without prevention and control of the risk factors for obesity now, health systems will be overwhelmed to breaking point," the editorial says. "Yet governments' reactions so far are wholly inadequate and rely heavily on self-regulation by the food and beverage industry, and the so-called nudge approach." There was a particular need for leadership ahead of a U.N. summit in New York next month on preventing non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer, said one of the authors, Boyd Swinburn, from the centre for obesity prevention at Melbourne's Deakin University.

"Governments have abdicated responsibility. Like a frog sitting in a pan of hot water, we haven't realised what's been happening until it's too late." The journal carries four new research papers by academics in the U.K., U.S. and Australia on what is termed "the global obesity pandemic", charting its causes, implications, likely progression and the ways it could be reversed.

One study, by Claire Wang from Columbia University's school of public health, uses British and American data to track the possible increase in obesity levels if governments continue with current policies.

Based on around 20 years of historic data, the study says that by 2030 as many as 48 per cent of British men could be obese — having a body mass index of more than 30 — as against 26 per cent now. For women, the figure could rise from 26 per cent to up to 43 per cent.

Such a progression is not certain, particularly given slightly more positive data over recent years. But if the historic trend continues into the next two decades the U.K. could have 26 million obese people, up 11 million on the current figure.

Swinburn's paper comes up with a clear primary culprit: a powerful global food industry "which is producing more processed, affordable, and effectively-marketed food than ever before".

He said an "increased supply of cheap, palatable, energy-dense foods", coupled with better distribution and marketing, had led to "passive overconsumption."

Another study by Steven Gortmaker from Harvard University's school of public health, concludes that the response by governments has been a failure of will which mirrored previous struggles to tackle tobacco consumption.

Ministers knew it made sense to crack down on junk foods but did not have the political will to take on such a huge industry.

"I think governments get it, but don't know what to do about it, and don't think it's their responsibility. But it is their responsibility," he said.

His study lists eight cost-effective policies. Topped by a tax on unhealthy food and drink, the rest focus on shielding children from TV advertising or ensuring they exercise more.

The Lancet carries a comment by Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the U.K. government, carried in large type across the cover: "The conclusions are unambiguous. We need collaborative societal changes in many aspects of our environment to avoid the morbid consequences of overweight and obesity." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

Health experts blame passive overeating for global pandemic, warning that governments must tackle obesity now.

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THE HINDU

LIBYA POSES POLICY CHALLENGE TO ASIAN GIANTS

JAMES M. DORSEY

An offer to assist Libya with its post-Qadhafi reconstruction and rehabilitation coupled with India's remaining days as president of the United Nations Security Council and an invitation to attend this week's Friends of Libya conference in Paris enable India to turn the page in its somewhat troubled relations with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)-backed rebels poised to form the North African country's new government.

The opportunity arises as India alongside China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa – the five Security Council members that did not support the imposition last March of a no-fly zone in Libya and NATO's bombing campaign — finds itself forced to rethink its approach towards embattled Arab autocratic leaders in the wake of the rebels' takeover of the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

China and Russia scrambled last week to improve their ties with the rebel Transition National Council (TNC) in a bid to salvage commercial ties and opportunities in post-Qadhafi Libya. Libya may be their most immediate concern as the TNC asserts its authority in the country, but India like China, Russia and the others, is certain to debate the implications of Mr. Qadhafi's fall in its policy towards other embattled Arab leaders, first and foremost Syrian president Bashar al Assad.

Alarm bells rang out last week in the Chinese and Russian capitals after Abdeljalil Mayouf, a manager of the rebel-controlled Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGOCO) warned that China, Russia and Brazil, in contrast to Western nations, could face political obstacles in reverting back to business as usual once Mr. Qadhafi has been removed from power. Mr. Mayouf did not mention India, but there is no doubt that in his view, it falls into the same category as China, Russia and Brazil.

To be sure, Mr. Mayouf represents only one strand of thinking among the rebels, who have agreed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy inviting India along with the other four recalcitrant Security Council members to the Paris conference to discuss support for the TNC.

Foreign assistance is crucial as the TNC faces the daunting task of enforcing law and order; preventing further acts of revenge and retribution; providing basic services such as water, electricity, food and fuel; reviving oil exports and kick-starting the economy while at the same time hunting down Mr. Qadhafi and gaining control of Qadhafi strongholds such as his hometown of Sirte.

The exercise is likely to provide India and others in the international community a template for similar situations that are certain to arise as anti-government protests sweep the Middle East and North Africa, particularly as protesters' resolve in Syria and in Yemen is boosted by events in Libya and opposition groups seek to emulate the Libyan model of forming a united leadership that effectively serves as a government-in-waiting.

Syria is probably next in line with protesters displaying the kind of resilience and perseverance that has rendered Mr. Assad's five-month old brutal crackdown a failure. As western sanctions particularly of Syria's oil sector start to kick in, the question no longer is if but when Mr. Assad will be forced out of office. India alongside China and Russia is likely to want to ensure that it maintains some kind of constructive relationship with the forces likely to succeed the Syrian leader.

Commentators have been quick to note that Asia's commercial interests in Libya are limited and are likely to in good time assert the same with regard to Syria. India's interests in Libya are virtually non-existent while China relied last year on Libya for only three per cent of its crude imports but had to evacuate from Libya 36,000 workers employed by 75 primarily State-owned Chinese companies earlier this year.

Yet, even if commercial ties with Libya and Syria are relatively miniscule, there is a lot more at stake for India and other Asian nations not only in the three countries whose autocratic leaders were toppled this year, i.e. Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, but across the Middle East and North Africa. Beyond chancing that their companies will be at a disadvantage in competing for lucrative post-revolution contracts, they risk negative perceptions in a region in which millions are closely monitoring events in Libya and Syria and are likely to be reinvigorated by the demise of Mr. Qadhafi.

Mr. Qadhafi's fall was preceded by peaceful mass protests that forced the Presidents of Tunisia and Egypt to resign earlier this year. The grievances that have propelled the rebellion in Libya and the protests in Syria, Tunisia and Egypt are shared with the population of a swath of land that stretches from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the Gulf. Change by hook or by crook is likely to be the name of the game for the next decade in the Middle East and North Africa, a region that is strategic because of its geography, energy resources and the financial clout of its oil producers.

No doubt, the struggle for greater political freedom and economic opportunity is likely to be protracted and bloody and the transition towards more open societies messy at best. In a region in which the struggle to get rid of the yoke of dictatorship faces the constant threat of sectarian and tribal strife, India with its mosaic of ethnic and religious groups cohabiting in a democracy and its long-standing ties to parts of the Middle East has much to offer.

That is most immediately true in Libya where the TNC has to quickly move from the rebel capital of Benghazi in the east of the country to Tripoli in a demonstrative gesture of its taking control of the country and a city of two million that is without political leadership or direction. With no running water in Tripoli because supply from aquifers in the desert has been disrupted by the fighting and barely any electricity, the TNC has already promised to immediately start distributing 30,000 tons of gasoline as well as diesel fuel for power stations.

In a country, in which in his 42 years in power Mr. Qadhafi ensured that no institutions developed that could challenge his authority, the TNC and its elected successor will need substantial support in building a more open, transparent society from scratch. Iraq, which was wracked by sectarian violence and fratricide after the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein, has served as an example of how not to do it. Those lessons are reflected in the TNC's blueprint for the future, which outlines a 20-month timetable for the transition as well as procedures to ensure that the process is transparent.

Like the rebels, Mr. Qadhafi too appears to have drawn inspiration from Iraq's example. He allowed his capital to fall, ensured his escape and vowed to wage an insurgency. Hussein fled to his hometown of Tikrit where he exploited his successor's policies to fuel sectarian strife. Mr. Qadhafi's whereabouts remain a mystery and it is not clear whether he has returned to Sirte. Unlike Hussein, Mr. Qadhafi has no powerful neighbours on whose support he will be able to rely. As a result, Mr. Qadhafi's final stand could prove to be a less bloody and wrenching battle than that of Hussein and his associates.

For India like for China and Russia, the challenge is to develop middle rather than short-term policies that enable it to capitalise on political and economic opportunities amid initial chaos and instability. Transition in Syria is likely to prove as messy as it is in Libya.

It took five months of bloodshed in Syria for India and the other Security Council holdouts to endorse condemnation of Mr. Assad's crackdown and then only in the weakest possible form because of their concern that it could lead to foreign military intervention. Syrians, unlike Libyans, oppose foreign military aid and have so far insisted that they do not want to move from peaceful to armed resistance.

This should make it easier for India, if not for Russia and China, to get on the right side of history. Doing so does not require a political U-turn but would mean a more forceful stand against the brutality of an embattled leader that does not give him an effective license to brutally crackdown on protesters by effectively blocking an international consensus. Libya offers an opportunity for countries like India to demonstrate that their heart is in the right place.

( James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer .)

Change by any possible means is the name of the game in the Middle East and North Africa.

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THE HINDU

CHINA'S STEADY PROGRESS IN SPACE

N. GOPAL RAJ

China's manned space programme is preparing for another decisive step forward — the launch of its first outpost in space, the Tiangong-1. This orbiting space laboratory and its two successors will test hardware and provide the operational experience needed for the country to put up a full-fledged space station by around 2020.

Media reports have indicated that the Tiangong-1, a name that translates as "Heavenly Palace," could be launched by an improved Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre (JSLC) in north-west China at the end of August. However, the recent failure of a Long March 2C rocket carrying an experimental satellite has given rise to rumours that the launch might be postponed.

In 2003, China became the third nation capable of sending humans into space when Yang Liwei circled the earth for about 21 hours in the Shenzhou-5 capsule. Two years later, two of its astronauts stayed aloft in the Shenzhou-6 for nearly five days. That was followed by a three-day mission by three men aboard the Shenzhou-7 in 2008, one of whom came out of the capsule and carried out a spacewalk.

Right from 1987, when the Chinese government came up with "Plan 863-2" for the development of the space sector, a space station in low earth orbit was set as the goal for its human space flight programme, according to Gregory Kulacki of the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists and Jeffrey Lewis, currently with the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California.

A place in space

The Chinese aerospace experts on the committee that developed the plan decided that such a space station would be one of the hallmarks of a twenty-first century great power. "A country with the capability of claiming and holding a long-term place in space would signal international significance and national strength," Dr. Kulacki and Dr. Lewis observed out in their book on the Chinese space programme.

The Tiangong-1, along with the Tiangong-2 and -3 that are to follow, will be vital stepping stones towards that objective. Much as the Salyuts did for the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s and the Skylab for the U.S. in 1970s, the Tiangongs will provide China with hands-on experience in docking spacecraft, maintaining crew in space and keeping a space laboratory going.

Indeed, the path that the Chinese have chosen to follow resembles that of the Soviet Union, which launched a series of smaller Salyut stations before going on to assemble the much larger Mir space station.

The eight-tonne Tiangong-1 will have two modules. The larger one, which the Chinese have called the "experiment module," will be here the astronauts live and, as its name suggests, carry out various experiments. The other, which has been termed the "resource module," will house support systems, including the solar arrays that supply the electricity required by on-board equipment.

Docking of spacecraft

China's goal is to realise the docking of two spacecraft during the second half of 2011, declared Mr. Yang Liwei, now deputy head of the China Manned Space Engineering office, at a press conference earlier this year.

The Tiangong-1 will have two docking ports, one at each end of the spacecraft, according to information published by the office on its website.

The plan is to first launch the space lab and then send an unmanned Shenzhou-8 to automatically dock with it. Such docking is essential for periodically sending crews and supplies to an orbiting space laboratory or station. That capability will also be needed for assembling the large space station that China wants to establish by early next decade, which will have multiple modules that are launched separately.

The Soviet Union first demonstrated automatic docking between two spacecraft in October 1967 and repeated it again the following year.

Despite this experience, several early manned Soyuz capsules had difficulties in automatically docking with Salyut stations.

If the Shenzhou-8 is successful, then two manned missions are likely to follow next year. The Shenzhou-9 could have a three-person male crew while the Shenzhou-10 could see two men and a woman going to the space lab, according to Brian Harvey, an Ireland-based space analyst who has published a book on the Chinese space programme.

The 'Tiangong' series

Although the Tiangong-1 is expected to remain operational for about two years, it will not, unlike the Mir and now the International Space Station, be continuously occupied.

The Chinese had not disclosed how long the Shenzhou-9 and -10 missions would last, Mr. Harvey told this correspondent. However, it was thought that these missions could each be about 10 days to 20 days in duration.

Subsequent Tiangongs were likely to see increasingly longer missions, as happened with the later Salyut stations of the Soviet Union. The Chinese were also working on a cargo version of the Shenzhou, which would allow the astronauts to stay aboard a space station for extended periods of time, he said.

"An important part of the thinking of Tiangong is that it will carry scientific experiments that are man-tended from time to time and can be left to operate automatically in between visits," he added.

China's progress in manned spaceflight was "very impressive," remarked Phillip S. Clark, a British expert on the Chinese programme.

"The speed and capabilities of China's manned programme are often derided but on their fourth manned flight the Chinese aim to complete orbital docking and transfer to a space lab," he pointed out in a recent posting on a forum at the space website NASASpaceFlight.com.

Space station

For China, the goal is to build a 60-tonne space station made up of different modules. Earlier this year, the public were asked to suggest names for the space station, which is to be completed around 2020.

The core module of the station, weighing of 20 tonnes to 22 tonnes, will be launched first. Two smaller laboratory modules will then be linked to the core module. A manned spaceship as well as a supply vessel can be docked to the space station.

In order to launch modules of the 20-tonne class, the Long March 5 rocket, which is under development, has to become operational. The rocket will also be used to send a sample-return mission to the Moon.

China currently anticipates completing its space station in the early years of the next decade, which, coincidentally, is about the time that the International Space Station is scheduled to be decommissioned, observed Dr. Kulacki on the blog All Things Nuclear.

"If both those things happen, China's space station will become the de-facto new international space station," he pointed out.

The impending launch of its first space outpost is part of a 'very impressive' plan.

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THE HINDU

GETTING CHEWED UP OVER A CULTURAL SYMBOL

NARAYAN LAKSHMAN

Picture this: from posh city restaurants to tree-shaded charpoys in the villages of India, people are blissfully chewing paan , or betel nut, as they have done for centuries. Suddenly, United Nations narcotics agents arrive, and either arrest the chewers or confiscate all stocks of the culturally-important product.

While this may never ever be a nightmare scenario for India, a similar situation has been giving a headache to one head of State — President Evo Morales of Bolivia.

With his country pushed into a diplomatic corner owing to the obstinacy of the U.N. system, on June 29 Bolivia's first-ever Aymara Indian President was left with no option but to announce it would exit from one of the most important global conventions on narcotic drugs.

The convention

The temporal provenance of his troubles goes back to 1976 when, under the "brutal dictatorship" of Hugo Banzer, Bolivia signed up to the 1961 U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (UNSCND). The Convention had on its list of banned substances Bolivia's cultural equivalent of paan — the coca leaf.

Mr. Morales described the chewing of coca leaf as "an important symbol of the history and identity of the indigenous cultures of the Andes." The report that sought its inclusion in the list was criticised for its "poor methodology, racist connotations, and cultural insensitivity."

A study by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) cited shoddy work by the U.N. inquiry into the coca leaf's properties, which sought to link coca chewing to "a lack of productivity in the work environment because indigenous coca chewing communities... had a poorer job performance when compared with non-coca chewing regions." But it did not specify how performance was measured, or whether there was any direct causal connection between coca-chewing and productivity.

Coca leaf composition

Writing about the biochemical composition of the coca leaf in The New York Times , Mr. Morales argued that, similar to many other plants, coca leaf had small quantities of chemical compounds called alkaloids. In other plants these include caffeine and nicotine, which have addictive properties, and quinine, which has medicinal properties. While the coca leaf has alkaloids, "the one that concerns anti-drug officials is the cocaine alkaloid, which amounts to less than one-tenth of a percent of the leaf." To be made into a narcotic, the alkaloid needs to be extracted, concentrated and subjected to extensive chemical processing.

Mr. Morales wrote: "What is absurd about the 1961 convention is that it considers the coca leaf in its natural, unaltered state to be a narcotic. The paste or the concentrate that is extracted from the coca leaf, commonly known as cocaine, is indeed a narcotic, but the plant itself is not."

The fact that a plant, leaf or flower contains a fractional amount of alkaloids does not automatically imply it is a narcotic – certainly not in the eyes of the U.N. So why discriminate against the coca leaf? A more insidious factor driving this debate came up when in 2009 Mr. Morales wrote to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon seeking the reform of Article 49 of the UNSCND. He affirmed that "coca leaf chewing is a one-thousand-year-old ancestral practice of the Andean indigenous peoples that cannot and should not be prohibited." But he was rebuffed. "The U.S. publicly opposed the amendment in an attempt to maintain control and stabilise the prolonged international drug war," according to the COHA analysis.

The questions

So, is this a fallout of the U.S. offshoring its drug wars and targeting developing countries for supplying cocaine to willing consumers within its own borders? If so, should its primary focus not be on securing its own borders from drug inflows or adopting anti-drug policies to curb domestic consumption? Does it even make sense to go after an iconic cultural symbol of Bolivia especially when over 90 per cent of cocaine coming into the U.S. is anyway from Colombia, according to the U.N.'s own Office on Drugs and Crime?

In any case, under its 2009 Constitution, Bolivia had four years to renegotiate the terms of the UNSCND or adherence to it, or withdraw from the Convention. Facing a wall of opposition by advanced economies, led by the U.S., this condition inexorably led Mr. Morales to announce that Bolivia would exit the Convention.

The U.S. is unlikely, however, to allow Bolivia to exit unpunished. When Bolivia proposed expanding legal-licensed coca farming in 2003, U.S. officials warned that Bolivia might lose most of its $50 million in U.S. aid.

Yet it is the U.S. that may find itself at the wrong end of a relationship with a solid ally in the fight against illegal cocaine production. As the U.S. State Department admitted in a 2008 narcotics report, "During 2007, the Government of Bolivia managed to eradicate more than 6,000 hectares of coca, surpassing its eradication goal of 5,000 hectares. Bolivian counternarcotics units were active in interdiction and lab seizures."

With the U.N. moving against coca-chewing in Bolivia, the U.S. may find itself at the wrong end of a relationship with a solid ally.

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

NOW ENACT A GOOD LOKPAL LAW SWIFTLY

A signal moment arrived in our recent history when doughty 74-year-old social activist Anna Hazare on Sunday morning ended his 12-day-long fast at New Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, which had become the symbol of a stormy campaign to battle corruption and had shaken up the establishment. The denouement came after Mr Hazare was assured by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on behalf of Parliament, following a Saturday discussion in both Houses, that the nation's elected representatives would "in principle" consider the points made from the street on enacting a strong Lokpal law to check pervasive corruption. The instruments and processes of democracy prevailed in the end over the temptations of instant gratification and peremptory justice being held out by the proponents of mobocracy. Regrettably, that was the basis on which reckless or extremist elements in the Jan Lokpal movement sought to tutor their followers made impatient by heady promises which, if permitted to fructify, would have dealt a body blow to the democratic order.
Led by the Prime Minister, Parliament rose in the end to its full height, after some initial confusion when technical flourishes were on display rather than a political grasp of cascading events, and sensibly nodded deference to the people's sentiments. For his part, Mr Hazare exhibited statesmanship, dispensed with the supercilious counsel of some of his team, and showed an earthy understanding of lawmaking and the need to safeguard the instruments of democracy. His resolve in sustaining a long fast at his age to press for a public cause will also be admired.
It is noteworthy that Parliament did not budge on the fundamentals, and Mr Hazare sought not to oblige it to do so, although the import of his early efforts had pointed there. The issues put in the foreground by the Jan Lokpal movement will receive due consideration of Parliament, along with inputs by other citizens' groups, while enacting the Lokpal law. The raucous movement at last came to accept this, abandoning threats of setting deadlines. It is now Parliament's turn, and particularly the ruling party's, to show the right temperament and move swiftly to deliver on an effective Lokpal law, without permitting bureaucratic bungling and delays. Other elements of the bouquet of measures and laws needed to fight corruption in all its forms also need to be pushed expeditiously. Consideration is also due to Rahul Gandhi's suggestion of constitutional status for the proposed Lokpal. The idea is endorsed by eminent jurists and men of probity such as former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma and Fali Nariman.

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

WHAT'S NEXT FOR LIBYA?

S. NIHAL SINGH

After 42 years of Col. Muammar Gaddafi's rule in Libya has virtually ended, the new interim administration in the form of the National Transitional Council (NTC) has immense tasks ahead of it. Its handicap is, and will remain, the stark fact that, but months of intensive bombing over Libya by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation warplanes under the guise of a UN resolution seeking to protect civilians, the rebels would not have prevailed. There were also supplies of arms from France and Qatar, among other countries, and training and other help from such Gulf nations as the United Arab Emirates. There are no two opinions on the despotic and often bizarre nature of Gaddafi rule, but rather like the "guided democracy" inflicted upon their peoples by more than one military dictator, this is a regime change brought about by external powers, with France and Britain in the lead, with the United States choosing to stay in the background despite its major and continuing military contribution.
Among the many challenges facing the new administration is to seek national reconciliation — the rebel stronghold Benghazi is in the eastern half of the country. And in a nation of tribal affiliations, with Berbers playing a major role in helping take the capital Tripoli, giving the feeling of inclusiveness is vital. Col. Gaddafi still commands the loyalty of his tribe. Second, the NTC is still a rather ad hoc organisation which must be buttressed by inviting other than eastern tribes and professionals who can bring expertise in their areas. Unlike in Egypt, Col. Gaddafi had denuded the country of institutions and ostensibly giving up office, ruled with an iron hand with the assistance of his sons and tribal loyalists. Having lost his compound in Tripoli, he has taken to issuing defiant radio messages and it is symbolically important for the authorities to capture him. They have placed a bounty on his head.
But Libya is fortunate in being sparsely populated in an immense area rich in oil and minerals. Although its oil installations have been partially damaged in the fighting, it should take less than a year to get its daily production of 1.5 million barrels of oil moving again. In the medium term, it can rely on Libyan funds frozen in the West amounting to some $170 billion, according to some estimates, while a group of countries meeting in Qatar has been facilitating immediate grants to help the NTC with such expenses as paying salaries of public sector workers and urgent imports of food and medicines. The composition of the help group is interesting, comprising, among others, the United States, Britain, France, Qatar and Turkey. Besides, Libya has many experts in various fields it can tap; they were forced to leave the country. A sum of $ 1.5 billion of the Gaddafi regime has been unfrozen by the United Nations Security Council.
Depending upon how the NTC performs its arduous tasks, the nationalist pull will come into play sooner, rather than later, and the help of the Western powers can become a liability for seeking to establish legitimacy. If Libyans are savouring the fruits of the Arab Spring, which took half a year of virtual civil war and much bloodshed, they will not be immune to the infection of the strong streak of nationalism, perhaps laced with forms of Islamist tendencies that increasingly prevails in the region. How Libyan rulers will balance their continuing need for Western assistance and expertise with asserting their legitimacy will remain a central dilemma.
The bizarre nature of Col. Gaddafi's rule and rubbing such important leaders as the King of Saudi Arabia the wrong way were important reasons for the Gulf monarchies and the Arab League providing the West with cover for the intense Nato bombing runs in excess of 7,000 sorties that finally broke the back of Col. Gaddafi's superior forces. Qatar has also played an important role in giving money and material to Benghazi in keeping with its ambition to play a prominent regional role on the strength of its oil and gas riches. And the state-funded Al Jazeera Arabic television channel has become a mascot for all Arabs seeking more power and freedom for themselves and their countries.
Libya also reminds us that the Arab Spring, which had seemed to end with Tunisia and Egypt in the hard summer, is still green. Libya has been a bloody and long drawn out affair but has in the end brought its people new help, albeit with a push and shove from the West. Yemen is still mired in a civil war, with its President, Abdullah Saleh, convalescing in Saudi Arabia but vowing to return, and tribal loyalties still playing out their deadly power play. Syria, whose people have suffered deeply in the face of their brave and continuing protests being answered by preponderant military force, is facing Western sanctions and a call for President Bashar Assad to step down. Seeing how the resolution on Libya was stretched, Russia and some in the Arab world are reluctant to arm the West with United Nations' authority to intervene in Syria. Europe, in any case, is counting the cost of its air warfare over Libya in today's straightened circumstances.
Returning to Libya, what does the future hold for it? The short-term answer can only be ambiguous, given the nature of the problems it faces. A handicap the new dispensation suffers from is the lack of a charismatic leader. The head of the NTC, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, is a former minister who defected early, and, for all his earnestness, lacks charisma. Perhaps returning members of the diaspore will provide a new leader who can sway the people and lead to the beginnings of a modern nation state. The NTC is hoping that it will be able to account for Col. Gaddafi fairly soon because his cult has been promoted so assiduously for so long that a section of Libyans will not feel completely secure until he is gone or safely under lock and key. He and his son Saif, initially wrongly reported to have been arrested, are also wanted on war crime charges by the International Court in The Hague.

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

INDIA RISES BUT FALTERS

JAGMOHAN

On August 15, 1947, two great visions were entertained by two of the most powerful minds of modern India. One was by statesman Jawaharlal Nehru and the other by savant Sri Aurobindo. Both visions failed to materialise. Why? In the answer to this question lies one of the most instructive lessons of modern Indian history, and also the reason for the whirlpool of moral chaos in which the country finds itself today.
In his speech, on August 14-15, 1947, Nehru had said: "A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance." What he had envisioned was that the noble values ingrained in the ancient philosophy of India, which were submerged under the debris of unfavourable times, would get rediscovered and be used as an asset. He had hoped that "the best of the old" in the Indian tradition and "the best of the new" in the modern world would get synthesised for raising a great edifice for the future India.
But this vision soon slipped Nehru's mind. He forgot the soul of governance. It did not occur to him that the Constitution and the institutions that were being set up under it required an inner controller, a moral compass. He took practically no measures to ensure that the administrative structure was underpinned by the value of honest work and creative and constructive zeal.
Nehru had recognised the moment when India's destiny was taking a sharp turn. But, unfortunately, he could not raise his leadership to a level that could bring about a civilisational change and create elevating national ethos and attitudes. Along with India's Constitution and Five-Year Plan, he could have been instrumental in the formulation and execution of a comprehensive national regeneration programme.
But that was not to be. A golden opportunity, provided by India's tryst with destiny, was lost. Nehru, instead of assuming the role of an all-round helmsman and a master builder of a new society, chose to be a mere political administrator. Those who came after him did not even have the capacity to reconstruct the original vision or to evolve another on similar lines. The result is for all of us to see: a huge edifice of governance but made of poor clay; a bloated setup of modern institutions but with a barren soul. No wonder, the country was recently visited by an epidemic of corruption. And now people are out on the streets, demanding, ironically, the creation of more institutions whilst the infection is in the soul, which has been in slumber even in free India.
Separately, on August 15, 1947, Sri Aurobindo, in a message broadcast to the nation from All-India Radio, unfolded his vision of free India: "India is arising, not to only serve her material interests but also to live for God and the world." It was not to become a "docile pupil of the West", but to act as a torchbearer of its awakened nobility. It could offer to the world its spiritual gifts, such as those contained in the philosophy of Sanatan Dharma, which according to him, is a universal, eternal religion which embraces all others, providing a metaphysical basis for the ideals of equality, fraternity and national and international harmony.
It was in the context of Sri Aurobindo's belief in the eternal and universal values, embedded in India's culture, that he, in his message on August 15, 1947, visualised a great role for it in bringing about a "worldwide union" and in providing a "fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind". He also thought that India would develop "a larger statesmanship". But what do we find today?
A small group of countries holds sway over global economy and international power structure. And where is the "larger statesmanship"? What effort has India made in the direction?
Instead, India has itself jumped on the bandwagon driven by globalisation, deregulation and other ingredients of neo-liberalism — the ingredients that are creating worldwide imbalances, not only in the economy but also in ecology. Consequently, the country is now witnessing rapid depletion of natural resources and ever-widening disparities of income and lifestyles.
Clearly, both the visions have fallen flat. First, the spiritual wasteland which India had become, due to long years of civilisational decay, was not reclaimed and fertilised to receive new seeds which freedom and modernity had brought. Second, neither the educational system nor the general atmosphere has been tuned to the need for creation of a permanent stream of men and women of character and conscience.
It is not possible to have an honest and elevating framework of governance without providing an honest and elevating mindscape to the nation. We must now pick up the gems from our wisdom tradition and now compose that mindscape.

Jagmohan is a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SUPREMACY OF PARLIAMENT

 

After twelve days of hectic interaction between the government and the civil society team, a breakthrough has been made. It is India's victory. It has established the supremacy of the Parliament, a subject that that had unfortunately come under unnecessary debate. None among the stakeholders was against strong rules to combat corruption, a social evil of serious implications. But the modalities were a contentious issue. Now a compromise formula has finally emerged and both sides have realized that neither the pressure of public opinion can be disregarded nor constitutional obligations overlooked. The world was watching the standoff with great curiosity. It is now convinced that Indian democracy has the capacity and resilience to absorb shocks howsoever challenging. Of course, credit should go to Anna Hazare not only for generating awareness among the people but more importantly for leading the movement without the minutest incident of violence. It was in true Gandhian in spirit. If at all any violence was noticed in this entire bizarre happening, it was Delhi police's brutal attack on the rally of Baba Ramdev for which Union Home Minister has to be answerable.
The decision of the Parliament expressed in new terminology as "Sense of House' accepting three points of Jan Lokpal Bill draft has been conveyed by the Prime Minister in his letter to Anna Hazare. It shows that the Prime Minister was much concerned about the situation, and had twice made appeal to the fasting civil activist to break his fast as his life was precious for the nation. Now the task before the Parliament and the government is to give teeth to the Lokpal Bill in a manner that neither the law of the land is violated or the authority of the Parliament is not challenged nor are corrupt and tainted functionaries spared the brunt of law. Eradicating corruption is a complicated task but there is no turning away from taking some hard decisions in this context.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

BOOSTING MEDICAL SERVICES

 

Union Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad has been frugal to his home State in seeing that medical services in J&K are streamlined and maximized to reach the needy people. Owing to the fact that J&K is a hilly state and connectivity is a rather strained, people living at far off places find it difficult to get medical treatment in time and save precious lives. Apart from this, the ever increasing population of the twin capitals, Jammu and Srinagar, has put great strain on existing medical services. To mitigate the difficulties of the people of the State, the former Chief Minster and current Union Health Minister has gone out of way to establish two Super Special Hospitals in these two cities. During his recent meeting convened to review the Jammu and Kashmir Medical Education Department at Nirman Bhawan in New Delhi, he had a detailed discussion on the project.
The idea of having two Super Specialty Hospitals, one each in Jammu and Srinagar, developed from the perception that on international level great advancement has been made in the field of medical sciences. India, though considered among countries with advanced medical services, still needs to keep pace with the fast developing new methodology of treatment and cure of diseases and researches in the field. It goes to the vision of the Union Minister not to have waited too long to streamline medical services in the country. By choosing his home state as the place for establishing advanced institutes, he has rendered great service to the State. Even prior to it, he was instrumental in providing a super class dental college and hospital to Jammu which is now a model of excellent dental hospitals in the country.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

ROAD ACCIDENTS

BY SAYED ESSAR NAQVI

 

This articles has been composed in view of the accident that took place recently.
The accident took place when a bus was coming from Surankote to Poonch. It fell into a gorge near Madana area. Around twenty persons were killed and the number of the injured was even more than this. Those who died include women and children also. It was so terrible that the bus was almost crushed. Escaping death from such a situation is only a miracle. The tragedy left many homes merely houses comprising of bricks and stones. There are certain families which lost their only earning member of their family. Which inturn left them economically paralyzed. They are left to the mercy of almighty.
This is not the first time that this sort of accident occurred on this route in particular and other routes of Poonch in general. Similar sort of accident took place on the same route in 2008 itself which claimed many lives and hence left many individuals helpless.
A simple question comes after looking at the above narrated picture of the accident that is, what could be the cause of these types of mis-happenings? First and foremost, the observable reason is the condition of vehicles deployed in that particular route. Almost all of them are in undesirable condition. For instance, the condition of their tyres is so miserable that they seem merely tubes rather than complete tyres. The conditions seem like that not tyres but tubes are running on the roads. Simply speaking, the condition of vehicles is so miserable that everything of their body moves except for engine. It's very common that the people travelling on these routes often encounter with problems like puncturing of tyres etc. Sometimes these problems end up in extreme cases like an accident.
Secondly, the drivers who drive on these local routes seem undertrained. Being the inhabitants of local areas they are well accustomed with the routes and their nature but actually don't seem have got enough training to drive safely on the roads. As a the result of this they fail to handle the vehicle smartly and sometimes get killed themselves even.
Apart from poor condition of the vehicles and undertrained drivers the overloading of the vehicles could also be held responsible for the mishappening like this. The number of passengers exceeds the permitted which results in overcrowding and consequently imbalances the situation. It may occasionally put the situation out of control for the drivers.
One could also admit that the most unexpected cause of tragedies like this is the casual attitude of the concerned authorities. For instance, the condition of the vehicles is something which is occasionally enquired. Also, least attention is paid to check the overloading of the transported vehicles on these sorts of routes.
Lastly, I intend to suggest the probable remedies or precautions which could be exercised to avoid such disastrous accidents. These precautions are precisely the avoidance of the cause which is supportive for an accident to occur. First of all the condition of the concerned vehicles should be improved. There should be a limit for the vehicle to run before it undergoes repairment.
Besides, travelling agents should be strictly directed by the concerned authorities not to overload the buses and other vehicles. In case anybody is found guilty of overloading he/she should be strictly punished with heavy fine which should also go to the extent of cancellation of permits in the extreme cases. One could also expect the co-operation of people regarding this issue. They should also acquire the awareness of not travelling in the overcrowded buses in hurry because better be late than never. People can also pressurize drivers not drive overloaded buses.
It is our fundamental as well as moral duty to save our people from unnatural deaths like an accident. Representatives along with the administration of the concerned areas are required to trace out the causes of these kinds of accidents and remove them. Automatically, the effect would be good and smooth transport facilities. Also, the people are required to have enough awareness to make themselves safe. They can help themselves through the continuous awareness of the condition of the vehicle and not letting it to overload. If any vehicle is found guilty of it they are supposed to complain the concerned authorities. Reciprocally, authorities are supposed to take action against the culprits of the same. Only a safe road and good conditioned vehicle can make one to think of travelling safely. And only then travelling could become a hobby.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

WOES OF AIR INDIA

BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA

 

Kautilya says in Arthasastra "Just as it is impossible not to taste the honey or poison that finds itself at the tip of the tongue, so it is impossible for a government employee not to eat up a part of government revenue. Just as it is not possible to find whether the fish moving under water is drinking water or not, similarly it is not possible to find out how much money the government employees have embezzled" (2.9). This is the difficult situation when the Ministers are honest and keen to weed out corruption. One can imagine the hapless situation when the Ministers join the officials in capturing illegal benefits. This is the story of Air India.
The draft report of CAG reportedly points out that Air India voluntarily closed services on profitable routes. The Amritsar-Birmingham service was started in 2005. This was closed in 2008 citing 'technical problems.' Soon thereafter Jet Airways started service on this route. Similarly services were closed on the profitable Kolkata-Bangkok and Kolkata-Dhaka routes. Kingfisher and Jet Airways started services here. Other routes closed were those of Delhi-Kochi, Kochi-Kuwait and Kochi-Muscat. The management preferred to operate only on easy routes even if they were unprofitable.
Air India entered into a contract to buy 111 airplanes at a massive cost of Rs 44,000 crores in 2005 when the company's market share was declining and the balance sheet was in the red. Air India took 28 airplanes on dry lease between 2000 and 2005 even though it did not have pilots to fly these. The management was more excited about making purchases than making profits for the company. The company has the highest employee per aircraft in the industry. The management was more interested in making fresh appointments rather than getting works done from existing employees.
Two paths are open to the officials of a Public Sector Undertakings. First route is of making the company profitable. This involves confronting and haggling with the Employees Union and vendors. The airline industry is much dependent upon customer interface. Polite and warm dealing by the staff brings in customers. This requires much effort in cultivating Human Resources. This path is full of thorns. The results are also uncertain. Disgruntled employees can complain to the Minister and have the MD transferred. Therefore, PSU officials prefer to tread the other easier path. They close profitable routes so that they do not have to struggle with technical problems. They bother not about the quality of service lest they step on the toes of the Unions. They dance to the tune of the minister and secretaries of their parent ministry and provide them with various facilities. They start air service to an unprofitable destination in the Minister's constituency even though it may be a loss proposition for the company. One high official of Air India said "I feel like a woman with 1,000 husbands," referring to the constant demands from government officials. It is more convenient for the officials to join the minister and the secretaries in bleeding the company, than resisting the demands of the minister and secretaries and facing their ire. The problem is not restricted to Air India. It is common to other PSUs like MTNL and Prasar Bharati which too are running in loss.
An unholy nexus has been established between the minister, secretaries and officials of the PSUs. All get opportunities of making money on the sly in this dispensation.
They can get commissions in purchases, appoint favourite persons, and also use or misuse facilities like guest houses and free seats. In return, the secretaries ensure continued flow of government money. Privatizing the company will deprive the secretaries of the various benefits that they get. Therefore, they plead with the Government to provide more funds to keep the company afloat. Recently Rs 800 crores has been provided to Air India as equity by the Government. The money will ensure that the stream of benefits accruing to the minister and secretaries will continue unabated.
It would be necessary for the officials of the company to improve morale of the employees and remove the inefficient among them, sort out technical problems, return excess leased aircraft and cancel excess orders to make the company profitable. Instead Air India has embarked on reducing incentives of the staff to cut costs; and slash fares to increase customers. This will not work. Fewer incentives will weaken the staff morale and cancel benefits that may arise from slashing of fares. The reduced revenues from slashed fares will make things worse.
Peter Harbison, executive chairman of Center for Asia Pacific Aviation, a research group in Sydney, Australia, singled out Air India as an example of government mismanagement. "There are other state-owned airlines in other emerging-market countries that have similar problems, but I can't think of one as bad as Air India," he said. He cited Indonesia's national carrier, Garuda, which once was an airline with heavy debts and a fleet of unsafe old planes that regulators in Europe refused to let land there. But under a businessman, Emirsyah Satar, who was named chief executive in 2005, Garuda Indonesia has been transformed into a profitable company.
These problems of Air India are rooted in the very nature of PSUs. Running a business requires a temperament very different than that of an official. A successful businessman smells and thinks money morning, evening and night. The official is thinking more about his promotions and keeping the minister in good humour. Therefore, fundamentally, the Government must not enter into business at all. This is the learning from the spate of failed nationalizations made by Indira Gandhi. The Government may, if at all, enter business for a short period in areas where the private sector fears to tread. For example, the Government will be well advised to invest in a company to launch commercial satellites. Private businessmen may not have the knowledge or the risk taking ability to enter such hazy areas. The Government may privatize it once the company is successful. It is better to privatize a PSU when profitable than to privatize it when it starts making losses.
We should not get confused by the few exceptions to this rule. Most profitable PSUs are today monopolies or have huge historical investments. The State Bank of India, for example, has a huge network that was built over more than a century. It manages the clearing house in most cities. These factors give it an edge over newly formed private sector banks. This formula, however, is not applicable to companies like Air India, MTNL and Prasar Bharati which are not able to face competition from private players. Role of the government is to regulate and guide private businesses. The government must not step into their shoes. We must privatize Air India as soon as possible.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

INDIA'S COASTAL SECURITY

BY ANIRUDH PRAKASH

 

In a recent statement to the parliament, the minister for state for home affairs stated that threats to major coastal cities from pan-Islamist terrorist outfits continue to exit. And he added that the government is ably prepared to respond to such threats. Notwithstanding such a claim by the government, doubts about the robustness of India's coastal security mechanism continue to linger; doubts that have been proven right by a series of events off the Mumbai coast in the last few months.
Firstly, on June 12, 2011, a cargo ship M.V. Wisdom which was en route to Alang in Gujarat drifted towards the Mumbai coast after breaking its tug and eventually got stranded in Juhu beach. This incident was followed by another involving a Panama flagged ship, M.V. Pavit, which ran aground near Juhu beach on July 30, 2011 after having been abandoned by its crew a month earlier near Oman. The most worrisome part in this episode was the fact that this ship drifted in the Indian territorial waters for nearly 100 hours and remained undetected by the navy, the coast guard and the coastal police - the three agencies entrusted with the responsibility of coastal security. A few days later, on August 4, 2011, yet another Panama flagged oil tanker, M. V. Rak with 60,000 metric tonnes of coal and 340 tonnes of fuel oil on board sank off the coast of Mumbai. The sinking ship discharged more than 25 tonnes of oil resulting in a major oil spill and thereby endangering marine life in the area.
The government's approach towards coastal security has always been reactive and top down. Corrective measures were undertaken only after a major incident and implemented without preparing the environment at the ground level and thus enable them to function effectively. To begin with, large-scale smuggling along the western coast had compelled the government to establish the coast guard in August 1978 with a mandate to protect the maritime and national interests of the country as well as to assist in anti-smuggling operations. But the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai highlighted the fact that an inadequately manned and ill-equipped coast guard alone cannot safeguard the coasts. Instead of addressing the fundamental issue of lack of manpower and inadequate equipment, the Indian government launched a new scheme to cater for the terror challenge. This was Operation Swan, launched in August 1993 to prevent clandestine landings along the Maharashtra and Gujarat coasts. It was a three layer security arrangement involving the navy, the coast guard and a joint patrolling team drawn from personnel belonging to the navy, coast guard, state police, and customs. While the underlying idea appears doable, the fact remains that Operation Swan has not resulted in a single seizure even after being for 18-years. Inadequate attention paid to overcome the basic problems of coordination, manpower, equipment, and motivation among the various concerned agencies at the ground level has been the main reason for this failure.
Even as Operation Swan was in progress, the Indian government launched yet another ambitious project - the Coastal Security Scheme in 2005, which involved setting up a series of coastal police stations to strengthen the surveillance infrastructure along the coast. The scheme was, however, a non starter because the coastal states did not display any enthusiasm in implementing it as they did not perceive any threat to their coasts. Despite Mumbai being a preferred target of the terrorists, Maharashtra too implemented the scheme only in a piecemeal manner. Moreover, the decision to set up coastal police stations with a mandate to patrol shallow waters gave an excuse for the navy to withdraw from joint patrolling immediately. Thus, coastal defence along Mumbai was rendered weak, giving an opportunity for the terrorists to strike.
The severity of the 26/11 incident compelled the Indian government to take several measures to overhaul the coastal security apparatus. Yet again it insisted that the navy and the coast guard should pool their resources to guard India's territorial and coastal waters. It also instructed the state governments to establish coastal police stations and ensure that manpower and interceptor boats were provided to them.
Over the last two years, various measures to strengthen coastal security have begun to be gradually implemented. For instance, the navy has assumed the responsibility of coastal security and has set up four joint operation centres for better coordination. It has also increased surveillance patrols along the coast and has been conducting several joint coastal security exercises. The coast guard, likewise, has set up five coast guard stations along with a regional and a divisional head quarter and is in the process of setting up four more stations. It has also inducted several offshore patrol vessels which have helped in stepping up patrolling along the coasts and territorial waters. Similarly, under the coastal security scheme, 72 coastal police stations have been operationalised and an additional 154 police stations are in the process of being established in two phases. Around 183 interceptor boats have been provided to the police stations and their manpower is being enhanced.
However, incidents of ships drifting in the country's territorial waters undetected raise questions about the effectiveness of all these measures. Here, it is important to reiterate that the problem lies not in the measures adopted but in the inadequate attention paid to the functioning of the system at the ground level where the actual action takes place. For example, a series of coastal police stations have been operationalised, with some having adequate manpower and interceptor boats. Still these police stations have been unable to function effectively which was evident during the M.V. Pavit incident. There are reasons behind such failure.
Firstly, sufficient attention has not been paid to provide these police stations with essential requirements such as proper training to their personnel for sea operations, adequate fuel and funds for the running and maintenance of the boats, buildings for police stations, etc. Secondly, the respective jurisdictions of the coastal police stations and police stations located near the shores have not been communicated clearly to the personnel on the ground, leading to widespread confusion. Thirdly, information sharing and coordination between the marine police, coast guard and navy remain a problem. At present whatever coordination or information sharing takes place between the three agencies is largely based on personal rapport between the concerned officers. But this rapport has to be institutionalised. And most importantly, if India's coastal security has to become strong, it is essential for the police forces in the coastal states to shed their land centric outlook and turn their attention to coastal security duties as well. (INAV)

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EDITORIAL

END OF A LIMITED BATTLE 

BUT THE WAR ON CORRUPTION MUST RAGE ON

 

Now that anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare has called off his fast and the tension between the government and civil society has dissipated, it is time for introspection  among all actors in the drama — the government, the opposition and Team Anna. The lesson for the government is all too clear—that it can no longer take the passivity of the country's middle class for granted. The disgust of people at large with the series of corruption scandals that rocked the nation in the preceding months found expression through Anna's movement. The opposition too stood exposed by the lip service it paid to corruption. The shifting stance of the BJP and the confusion in its ranks did little to inspire confidence in its ability and sincerity to fight on this issue. As for civil society, it would have perhaps run out of steam had it been confronted by a government that was astute and not prone to making blunders like the arrest of Anna at a crucial juncture of its movement.

 

That Anna Hazare became a rallying point in the sentiment against corruption is beyond question. The redeeming feature is that no government can now afford to ignore corruption the way governments have been doing earlier. If all this leads to greater accountability of politicians to society, it would indeed be a big plus. But riding  a wave of popularity after having forced the Central government and the opposition to agree to a "Sense of the House" resolution in Parliament accepting 'in principle' three of his key demands, Anna has indicated that he will now fight for electoral reforms to bring in the 'right to recall' elected representatives and 'right to reject' all candidates listed on a ballot paper. While all this may sound good, Anna must not let his campaign against corruption get diffused with fighting an assortment of causes.

 

 Indeed, it would be folly for civil society to rest content with its limited victory in the war on corruption. It would need to keep a close watch on the Standing Committee's recommendations on the Lokpal issue, on the ultimate bill that is adopted by Parliament and on the way the enacted reforms are implemented. Besides, it would be unrealistic to expect the Lokpal bill to be the panacea for all corruption-related ills.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ORGAN TRANSPLANT

LAW MUST STOP RACKETS, PROMOTE DONATIONS

 

Parliament has made some far-reaching amendments to the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, which provide a ray of hope to hundreds of thousands of people waiting for a transplant. The list of the relatives who can donate an organ has now been expanded to include grandparents and grandchildren. To exclude the possibility of rackets and exploitation of the poor, it was so far limited only to parents, sisters, brothers and spouses of the patients. Formalities have also been reduced for all other donations by "near-relatives" (related by blood). These will have to come through authorisation committees but the donors need not undergo screening as the submission of a birth certificate will suffice.

 

Other laudable steps include the setting up of an organ removal and storage network and a national registry of donors. To weed out illegal commercial dealings, the punishment has been enhanced from five to 10 years of imprisonment and the fine from Rs 10,000-20,000 to Rs 20 lakh-1 crore. What has to be borne in mind is that there are thousands of people in dire need of not just kidneys but also hearts, lungs, livers and pancreas etc. It is necessary not only to keep away the ghoulish racketeers, but also to extend a helping hand to the patients.

 

Because of the lack of public enthusiasm about organ donation, there is an acute shortage. According to the Indian Chronic Kidney Disease registry, 74.5 per cent of their patients do not receive any form of renal replacement therapy. The hopeless situation can be remedied only if there is a sustained public awareness about the urgency of cadaver donation. Just as the resistance about blood donation reduced gradually, the organ donors too would shed their inhibition slowly. There should be trained counsellors in intensive care units to support the deceased organ donation programme. India sees about 114,000 deaths in road accidents annually, of which nearly 67 per cent are brain deaths. A column in the application for the driving licence asking whether a person is willing to donate his organs may help.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

ALARMING LAWLESSNESS IN PAK

LESSONS FROM ABDUCTION OF SLAIN GOVERNOR'S SON

 

Suicide bombings, abductions, kidnappings, murders and other such incidents have become almost a daily occurrence in Pakistan. Anything can happen to anybody, anywhere, anytime irrespective of how big or mighty he is. Thus, the abduction of assassinated Punjab Governor Salman Taseer's son Shahbaz Taseer in broad daylight in Lahore is not a surprising development. He was forcibly taken out of his Mercedes car on Friday as he was about to reach his office and bundled into another vehicle, a Land Cruiser, by a few armed persons. According to the present Governor of Punjab, Sardar Lateef Khosa, there was no proper security arrangement for the Taseer family. That may be the reason why there were no security guards with Shahbaz to challenge his abductors. Yet the provincial government claims that it had posted security guards for the protection of Shahbaz Taseer. The case may take a more curious turn if there is substance in Mr Khosa's allegation that elements in the provincial administration may be involved in the incident.

 

Shahbaz Taseer's abduction came despite intelligence reports that sons of influential personalities might meet such a fate at the hands of banned extremist organisations. The Taseer family had been receiving threats from extremists ever since Shahbaz's father, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his own security guard because of his controversial stand on the blasphemy law. And the assassin got widespread appreciation for what he had done. This showed that anything could happen to any member of the Taseer family in a country where law and order was there only in name.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

NORMALISING INDO-PAK TIES

INTIMATIONS OF A NEW BEGINNING

BY MAHARAJAKRISHNA RASGOTRA

 

The visit of Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Ms Hina Rabbani Khar, went off better than one had expected. She struck the right notes when she spoke of "changed mindsets", the need to "shed the burden of history", and the young generation's desire for peace and friendly relations with India. She owned up, without the least hesitation or embarrassment, Manishankar Aiyar's idea of "uninterrupted and uninterruptible" India-Pakistan dialogue to resolve problems.

 

After Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna's bad experience in Islamabad with Shah Mehmood Qureshi last year, a gesture from Pakistan was called for to restore civility and a modicum of mutual courtesy and respect between high-level interlocutors. Ms Khar made the gesture with commendable dignity and grace. Her poise and youthful charm and the candour and transparent sincerity of her public pronouncements have warmed many hearts and won her a large constituency in India. All this augurs well for a sustained effort to make the dialogue "uninterruptible" and result-oriented.

 

I was dismayed by the huge play in our media of Ms Khar's Birkin handbag and Jimmy Choo shoes, and her meeting with Hurriyat leaders. The first is pardonable, because she came here at the end of Delhi's Couture Week and dazzled the Capital as no ramp-walker had done. The media should have paid more attention to the elegance, warmth, simplicity and conviction in which she clothed her words and her mission of peace. The tone of voice and feelings of Pakistan's youth she brought to us merit India's serious attention. A fast globalising world is no place for abiding animosity, and it was a particularly touching gesture on Ms Khar's part to pray at the two famous dargahs in Delhi and Ajmer for India-Pakistan peace.

 

I personally attach no importance to her meeting with the Hurriyat leaders. It needn't have caused the kind of flutter it did in government circles and in our media. These gentlemen are known to be Pakistan's constituency in our country. It was not entirely inappropriate for Pakistan's Foreign Secretary to describe the event as "democratic reach-out". We should have laughed the matter off, instead of expressing concern over it. Ms Khar herself, having done the chore, was dismissive of the event. Perhaps, the Generals back home, who must have concurred in her peace mission, needed a mollifier.

 

Pakistan is in a difficult internal situation and growing isolation externally. At home, it is ravaged by violence on the part of a whole generation of young jehadis raised in Pakistan's madarsas. They will be around for another decade or two; this is, therefore, a problem for the long haul. Externally, the ISI and the army are engaged in a running feud with the US and are, seemingly, unwilling or unable to stabilise Pakistan's turbulent western frontier to prevent the Taliban's depredations in Afghanistan.

 

There is some muted appreciation in Pakistan that while its army is engaged in action in the west, India is not giving them cause for concern in the east, but well-meaning Pakistanis are looking for more tangible support for Pakistan's fragile democracy. Many Pakistani friends have told me in recent months of a mood-change in Pakistan in regard to India, even in sections of the Pakistan military. In Pakistan's list of enemies, they say, India has been downgraded to the lowly third position, after the US and the indigenous terrorist organisations!

 

There isn't much India can do to help Pakistan in its ongoing spat with the US: they are allies of long standing, need each other and are bound to make up as the situation becomes clear in Afghanistan. Nor can much be done to allay Islamabad's unwarranted concern over India's development work in Afghanistan. But a lot can be done to forge a good neighbourly relationship through greatly enhanced people-to-people contacts, sports links, trade facilitation, joint economic activity, student exchanges and cooperation in ending the menace of terrorism. This last is a core issue with India and the onus to resolve it lies on Pakistan. What is needed is a visible dismantling of the whole India-focused apparatus of terror created and nurtured by the ISI since the 1980s.

 

Both China and the US have exploited Pakistan's geo-strategic importance, in parallel ways at different times, during the last six decades as an armed balancer against India in South Asia, and as the base for jehad against the erstwhile USSR. Unanticipated consequences of Pakistan's enthusiastic participation in those ventures is now threatening its stability; none of it has really enriched or strengthened Pakistan.

 

Pakistan's truly geo-strategic role lies in its as-yet-unrealised potential as a highway for the flow of trade and commerce, thought and culture between Central Asia and India. Activation of that role would enrich Pakistan and eliminate its aid-dependence in no time. In the bargain, it would make two vast regions dependent on it. But realisation of this potential also requires a stable, tranquil and cooperative Afghanistan.

 

India and Pakistan need not be at odds with each other in Afghanistan. We should be working together to safeguard Afghanistan's independence and integrity, its development and stability. Pakistan's suspicions of an Indian pincer on its left flank are totally misplaced. Sadly, Afghanistan did not figure in the Foreign Ministers' talks last month.

 

Of course, there are issues between our two countries, and Kashmir is the foremost among them. It is not a core issue only for Pakistan; Islamabad's illegal occupation of a part of the Indian state is a core issue for India as well. But the short-point about Kashmir is that India cannot give it to Pakistan, and Pakistan cannot take it by war or by turning its back on India. And clearly India is not going to war with Pakistan over PoK. Therefore, the only viable solution lies in restoring the freedom of movement and cultural and economic intercourse across the LoC: then it wouldn't matter very much which part of J&K belonged where. Our joint endeavour should be to make J&K a free-trade area and reduce the LoC to a line on the map. Rightly, therefore, the central focus in the Foreign Ministers' talks was on Kashmir-related CBMs. The CBMs they agreed on, though, are too slow-moving and much too limited in scope and in the areas they cover.

 

The dialogue on security issues should not remain confined to Kashmir, terrorism or the slow-moving Mumbai trial in Pakistan. Pakistan's security concerns vis-a-vis India, which keep General Ashfaque Parvez Kayani so distressingly India-focused, should be addressed in candid talks. Why can't the Chiefs of Staff of the Army of the two countries meet to allay each other's concerns? War is no longer an option for either country; so, why don't we invite General Kayani over for a visit and reassure him of India's peaceful intent? And why not go a step further and invite President Zardari to be the Chief Guest during the Republic Day celebrations in 2012 or 2013?

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's initiatives at Sharm-el-Sheikh (Egypt), Thimpu and Chandigarh, viewed with much skepticism at the time, were far-sighted. It is time now for even bolder steps.

 

The writer is a former Foreign Secretary of India.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

A MAN NAMED GOD

BY HARISH DHILLON

 

His college mates named him God. They did so teasingly. But years later when I reestablished contact with him, I felt that his friends had known, even then, of his many godlike qualities and had named him aptly.

 

The organisation that he headed ran amongst other things, an excellent multi-speciality hospital. So when one of my employees had exhausted all possible financial resources, including help from the teachers and students, and was still nowhere near the end of his wife's medical treatment, I thought of this wonderful hospital and rang him up. He asked me to fax him all the papers and the next day he called to say that his cardiologist had confirmed that both the diagnosis and the course of treatment being followed were right. Unfortunately his hospital did not have the facilities for the procedure that needed to be followed.

 

I thanked him but he must have sensed my frustration because he rang me up the next day to say that he had made arrangements for the girl's treatment at a hospital in Delhi. Everything would be taken care of, the transportation to Delhi, the board and lodging for the patient and her attendants, and of course for the procedure and the medication.

 

The girl was ferried to Delhi and the procedure was successfully carried out. Unfortunately she developed some post-operation complications and died. The doctors hinted that it was because of the delay in carrying out the procedure. I rang him up to thank him for all that he had done, I broke down and wept. I wept for the loss of a young life, I wept in gratitude for all his kindness, and I wept for the futility of it all.

 

He came up the next day, sat me down on a chair, knelt on the floor in front of me and holding my hands said: "Old man, I never want to hear you weep like that again. What can we do to avoid this kind of situation in the future?"

 

"I have tried very hard to persuade the subordinate staff to use their medical allowance towards medical insurance. But their needs for the present preclude all thought of what might happen in the future. I would like to set up a corpus, the interest to be used for just this kind of emergency."

 

Though his organisation did undertake a great deal of charitable work, their rules did not permit them to give away money in such a manner. But within the month he had spoken to people and I received enough money from various sources to set up my fund.

 

It has been many years since this happened. The fund has helped many people in distress. And in all these years he has not once referred either to the incident or to what he did for me. I know he has forgotten all about it. I like to feel that there is something godlike about this behaviour.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CAPACITY BUILDING FOR FUTURE CONFLICT

THE PROBABILITY OF THE NEXT MAJOR CONFLICT BREAKING OUT IN THE MOUNTAINS IS HIGH DUE TO UNRESOLVED TERRITORIAL DISPUTES WITH CHINA AND PAKISTAN. IMMEDIATE STEPS ARE NEEDED TO BUILD AND ENHANCE THE CAPABILITIES NECESSARY FOR DEFEATING FUTURE THREATS AND CHALLENGES 

BRIG GURMEET KANWAL (RETD)

 

The key geo-strategic challenges in South Asia emanate from the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and on the Af-Pak border; unresolved territorial disputes between India and China, and India and Pakistan; and the almost unbridled march of radical extremism sweeping across the strategic landscape. In May 1998, India and Pakistan had crossed the nuclear Rubicon and declared themselves as nuclear weapons states. Though there has been little nuclear sabre-rattling, tensions are inherent in the possession of nuclear weapons by neighbours with a long history of conflict. While the probability of conventional conflict on the Indian sub-continent remains low, its possibility cannot be altogether ruled out. Hence, there is an inescapable requirement for defence planners to analyse future threats and challenges carefully and build the required military capacities if push comes to shove.  

In view of India's unresolved territorial disputes with China and Pakistan in the Himalayan region, there is a very high probability that the next major land conflict on the sub-continent will again break out in the mountains. As it is not in India's interest to enlarge a conflict with Pakistan to the plains south of the Ravi River due to the possibility of escalation to a nuclear exchange, there is high probability that the next conflict, having broken out in the Himalayas, will remain confined to the mountains. While the three strike corps are necessary for conventional deterrence and have served their purpose well, it is in India's interest to enhance its military capability to fight and win future wars in the mountains. 

A strategic defensive posture runs the risk of losing some territory to the adversary if capabilities do not exist for launching a deep ingress to stabilise the situation. The first requirement is to upgrade India's military strategy of dissuasion against China to that of genuine conventional and nuclear deterrence and vigorous border management during peace. Genuine deterrence can come only from the ability to take the fight deep into the adversary's territory through major offensive operations. To achieve this objective, it is necessary to raise and position one mountain strike corps each in J&K for offensive operations against China and Pakistan and in the northeast for operations against China. In addition, as a strike corps can be employed only in a particular sector and cannot be easily redeployed in the mountains, it is necessary to give the defensive corps limited capability to launch offensive operations with integral resources. 

In the modern era, military strategists have invariably preferred Liddell Hart's strategy of the indirect approach through deep manoeuvre, rather than the heavy attrition that used to be routine on the battlefields of World War-I, to achieve a favourable decision. It is necessary to recognise that in the Indian context manoeuvre is extremely limited in the mountains and India's capability for vertical envelopment is rather low. In the plains too India's strike corps cannot execute deep manoeuvres due to the risk of Pakistan's nuclear red lines being threatened early during a war. As firepower is the other side of the coin, it is inescapably necessary to substantially upgrade capabilities to inflict punishment and indeed achieve victory through the orchestration of overwhelming firepower. Unless firepower capabilities are upgraded by an order of magnitude, India will have to be content with a stalemate. 

Firepower capabilities that must be enhanced include conventionally-armed ballistic missiles to attack high value targets in depth. Air-to-ground and helicopter attack capabilities should be modernised, particularly those enabling deep ground penetration and accurate night strikes. In fact, the IAF should aim to dominate the air space and air strikes must paralyse the adversary's ability to conduct cohesive ground operations. Artillery rockets, guns and mortars must also be modernised. Lighter and more mobile equipment is required so that these can be rapidly redeployed in neighbouring sectors. India's holdings of precision-guided munitions (PGMs) continue to be low. In recent conflicts like the war in Iraq in 2003 and the ongoing Afghan conflict, PGMs have formed almost 80 per cent of the total ammunition used. Indian PGM holdings must go up progressively to at least 20 to 30 per cent in order to achieve high levels of operational efficiencies. Defence planners must recognise that it is firepower asymmetries that will help to achieve military decisions and ultimately break the adversary's will to fight. 

Capabilities for heliborne assault, vertical envelopment and amphibious operations are inadequate for both conventional conflict and dealing effectively with contingencies that might arise while discharging India's emerging regional responsibilities. Two rapid reaction-cum-air assault divisions, with an amphibious brigade each, need to be raised by the end of the 13th Defence Plan, (2017-22). The expenditure on these divisions will be highly capital intensive and will be subject to the defence budget being gradually raised to first 2.5 per cent and then 3 per cent of the GDP.  

C4I2SR capabilities are still rudimentary and must be substantially modernised to exploit the synergies that can be achieved by a network centric force. A seamless intelligence-cum-targeting network must be established to fully synergise the strike capabilities of air and ground forces in real time. A good early warning network will enable the army to reduce the number of troops that are permanently deployed for border management and will add to the reserves available for offensive operations. Infrastructural developments along the northern borders have failed to keep pace with the army's ability to fight forward and must be speeded up.  

During the long history of post-independence conflicts with neighbours and prolonged deployment for internal security, the armed forces have held the nation together. Dark clouds can once again be seen on the horizon, but the efforts being made to weather the gathering storm are inadequate. The government must immediately initiate steps to build the capacities that are so necessary for defeating future threats and challenges. It must take the opposition parties into confidence as a bipartisan approach must be followed in dealing with major national security issues. In fact, there is a requirement to establish a permanent National Security Commission mandated by an act of Parliament to oversee the development of military and non-military capacities for national security.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

ARMY AS AN INSTRUMENT OF NATIONAL POWER

COL B.N. BHATIA (RETD)

 

Everyone knows the Army's challenge in countering insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir for over two decades has been enormous. Expansive mountainous terrain favouring the insurgents, an aggrieved population easily swayed by propaganda and an extensive Line of Control (LoC) facilitating infiltration gave Pakistan the ideal "playing field" to up the ante. To bleed India and fatigue its security forces has been Pakistan's objective.

 

We have played into Pakistan's hands all along. The counter-insurgency grid expanded manifold in the Kashmir Valley, in line with the adversary's plan to make us commit more troops. It later spilled south of the Pir Panjal ranges into the Jammu-Poonch region, consuming more Army formations. The Doda hinterland came next. What do you think should have been India's response?

 

Insurgencies cannot be countered by the military alone. A multi-pronged approach using other instruments of national power like economic, political, social and information, if implemented once the situation had stabilised in mid-1990s, would have changed the situation and eased the army's involvement. If such a plan was drawn at the apex level it left those at the operational level guessing. Was there a vision for peace? Not likely

 

How did the foremost principle of war – economy of force – get violated? Leadership voids at political levels, including associated diplomacy and administrative services which failed to keep pace with the ground situation, kept the army slogging. And voila! What did we have in 1999?

 

A fearful Pakistan imagining that its sponsored insurgency in J&K was on the wane, masterminded intrusions across the LoC in the Kargil sector. Surprised both at the political and military levels, the Army went into overdrive to evict the intruders. What followed were a series of sheer frontal attacks a la World War-I. Young officers and men assaulted dominating heights in ways unthinkable by any army in the world. If there was any brilliance in generalship during this war, it was just to move and organise troops who willingly sacrificed themselves to regain the lost territory.

 

We had again played into the enemy's hands by joining battle in a place, manner and time of his choosing and advantage. Rather than "economy of force", we used overwhelming force. When was the last time we thought of dislocating the enemy psychologically? Arguably this cannot be done in the face of political riders, as happened in Kargil.

 

To secure its own territory, India was forced to launch attacks in such disadvantageous circumstances because of the fear of nuclear retaliation or a flare-up. Nuclear weapons are not what Pakistan got from the bakery down the street while coming into the Kargil heights. They had it much earlier. Did Indian leadership at the core political level ever war-gamed such a scenario in conjunction with the military chiefs?

 

It was always known that Pakistan's acquisition of nuclear weapons would enable it to raise the threshold of tolerance for India, allowing it to resort to more derring-do in its proxy war.

 

This happened again just a couple of years later. In December 2001 the attack on the Parliament was the highpoint. Yet again we reacted in a huff and mobilised the armed forces. What followed during Operation Parakaram was ten months of strategic stalemate sans any results.

 

Estimates of total costs of this "misadventure" could touch Rs 10,000 crore. More than that, this self-goal cost us dearly. We lost face and bared our inability to follow through a resolute intention. Terribly blown apart was the credibility of our deterrence. Former Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal A.Y. Tipnis remarked: "We have shown enormous patience, now it is time to show we have resolve too. Inaction is damaging our credibility; people have begun to believe India is incapable of taking any action." Strategic affairs commentator Brahma Chellaney wrote: "The harsh truth is that the government played a game of bluff not just with Pakistan but also with its own military… When a nation enjoys credibility, it can usually achieve its objectives with a mere threat to use force. However, when there are serious credibility problems, even modest objectives are difficult to accomplish. Vajpayee ended up practising coercive non-diplomacy."

 

Did we end up also fooling ourselves? Probably we're used to it by now. It's sad when we realise that Kautilya's Arthashastra originated here. No matter how powerful an army is and how competent its generals, its effectiveness can be easily diluted as we have witnessed all along.

 

Leadership at the political level is structurally, mentally, intellectually and emotionally "distanced" from military leadership. The price is heavy. Unfortunately there is no "fiscal" calculation of what it costs the nation. No one knows or cares at the level where it should matter most. To continue to pretend that this callousness can continue indefinitely without affecting either the military leadership or the efficiency of the fighting force would be ineptitude of the highest order.

 

A friend called up to say that if the "Anna effect" was misjudged in our own country, how can we ever dream of assessing the capabilities and intentions of other nations? A valid point. And, if in our little dream world we imagine that others have not already noted our continued failings it will be compounding the error.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

THE DIMINISHING OF RAHUL GANDHI

WITH HIS PUBLIC SILENCE TILL THE END, THE GANDHI SCION EMERGED AS RELUCTANT TO COMMIT HIMSELF TO A POINT OF VIEW

 

In October 2009, Open magazine ran a cover story with the title 'Will the Congress rule for the next 20 years?' The Congress had just won three state elections soon after its Lok Sabha triumph, the Opposition was still in disarray, Manmohan Singh seemed like a man in charge, Sonia Gandhi confident and Rahul Gandhi waited in the wings. It was still an over-the-top question but the fact that it could even be asked by a serious national magazine reflected something of the prevailing political mood.

 

How times have changed since. Harold Wilson gave the political lexicon its time-worn cliché of a week being a long time in politics, the Congress has had two miserably long years. The party was already on the mat long before the Anna Hazare movement burst on the national consciousness and among the many things its dynamics has thrown up is to expose in sharp relief the leadership problems at its top.

Even if it is too early to seriously judge the long-term political impact of the churning we have seen in terms of the public-neta equation, among the many questions that emerges as a by-product is one on the politics and political style of Rahul Gandhi.

 

This is an important question for a party that is still beholden to the Gandhi family and a serious one for a leader who in the past two years has actively sought to project the personae of a youth leader and of a man of the people (as opposed to a man of government).

 

With Sonia Gandhi away convalescing, Rahul Gandhi's initial absence from the scene was initially explainable as he was overseas. He is said to have played an important role in behind-the-scenes efforts after his return, including suggestions by the party's spin doctors that he was instrumental in changing the government's attitude from aggression to conciliation after Anna's arrest.

In the public eye though, the impression remains of a leader who simply refused to engage in a public debate or to visibly commit himself to a point of view in his government's greatest hour of need almost till the very end.
His deafening public silence in the days between Anna's arrest to his eventual prepared speech in the Lok Sabha on Friday only served to raise more questions than answers.

 

By dodging direct questions on the Anna movement until then, the Congress' leader in waiting not only strengthened the impression of a rudderless party being left adrift, he did himself no favours. Even when he did speak, seeking to regain the initiative through his call for an Election-Commission like Lok Pal, the biggest question was why did he not say so earlier?

 

Crises often tend to show up weak points in sharp relief and this crisis has shown up the inadequacies in the making of Brand Rahul.

 

His image makers have so far relied on a carefully calibrated strategy of visibly trying to identify him with the downtrodden. From telling Orissa tribals two years ago that he was their soldier in Delhi to his televised road show with UP's farmers, the Gandhi scion has consistently tried to cultivate the imagery of a messiah of the other India, the India that seemingly lost out in the reforms.

There are two fundamental problems with this strategy. The first is that the divide between shining India and rural Bharat was never as clear-cut as it seemed to some Congress strategists. Many of India's urban centres voted strongly for the Congress last time but the daily frustrations of dealing with government in India's cities have in no small measure driven the sinews of this current movement. By choosing to focus almost exclusively on an old socialist style 'protector of the (mostly rural) people' neta imagery, Team Rahul may have made an original ideational mistake.

 

The deeper problem though is that Brand Rahul is steeped in an older kind of top-down politics that is increasingly at odds with the quicksilver world of modern interconnectivity. In that old Doordarshan-type model, the leader spoke, his words were listened to reverently, and there was little genuine public accountability. That world has changed irrevocably.

 

You can't speak down at the people any more, you have to engage with them, partake in debate, and most importantly answer questions on sticky issues. That is the one thing Rahul Gandhi has seemed reluctant to do. Even in his pet causes he has seemed to cast project the figure of a benevolent protector rather than an instinctive man of the people ready for questions, engaged in public debates and leading agendas.
    In short, he has preferred not to get his hands dirty, but to take safe, mostly choreographed positions. This style of cocooned politics, while seeming to maintain a distance from its daily hustle bustle, is at odds even with his family's record in the Congress.

 

Long before she inherited Nehru's mantle, Indira Gandhi was deeply involved in the cut and thrust of daily politics, including in the decision to sack Kerala's first Communist government in the 1950s, and even Rajiv Gandhi who had a short induction period, oversaw Buta Singh's efforts to run the 1982 Asian Games.
Rahul Gandhi has now had 7 years as an MP, four as party general secretary, and the question is how long will he be an absentee leader, a perpetual leader in training; of the party but somehow seeming aloof from it.


It is a long way to go for the next election but for Rahul Gandhi it may be time to think of a reboot.

 

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******************************************************************************************BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

VICTORY FOR ALL

A TYPICALLY INDIAN END TO A VERY INDIAN AGITATION

India's biggest lesson to the world has been, and remains, the view that a negotiated compromise is always better than one's victory and another's defeat. Once again the elected representatives of the people in Parliament and a social activist who succeeded in galvanising a sizeable segment of civil society, with help from sections of the media, have ended a political impasse through a negotiated compromise that enables all concerned to declare victory. Anna Hazare has called this "half victory" only because some of his advisers and aides seem to have opted for the very un-Indian stance of seeking not just their "victory" but also the defeat of their adversary, Parliament. In rejecting such an outcome Prime Minister Manmohan Singh fulfilled his constitutional obligation to uphold the dignity of Parliament and his high office. In the event, the entire Parliament united to support a sentiment that had come to grip the imagination of the people of India without yielding ground on the principle that all laws in a democracy can only be made by the elected representatives of the people, not social activists and television anchors!

Mr Hazare's so-called "half victory" could in fact have been a full victory if he had followed the sage advice of some of his greatest and wisest supporters like Swami Agnivesh, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Santosh Hegde, Aruna Roy and Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who spoke in one voice and advised him to accept Parliament's appeal a few days ago. If Mr Hazare had responded to the joint appeal of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, who together assured him that Parliament would take on board his views on a "Jan Lok Pal", he would have stood taller and could have easily declared full victory that evening. Regrettably, the hot heads around Mr Hazare discouraged him from doing so and prolonged the crisis and the television drama. In the event, the final outcome was no different because the "sense of the House" as expressed on Saturday night, after a daylong debate, was no different from the sense expressed by the Speaker of the House.

Whatever the future course of events, there are many lessons to be learnt by all concerned from this episode. The ruling Congress party has much soul-searching to do about its political instincts; the Opposition must ask itself how it can balance better its role as the opposition in New Delhi and a party in government in one state or another; the prime minister and his government must reflect on their competencies and responses and learn lessons for the future to be able to handle such situations better; civil society activists must come to terms with the limits to their power in shaping public policy; and, finally, the media must introspect about its tactics if it wishes to be taken seriously and wants to preserve the constitutional freedoms it enjoys. Every actor in this saga can declare victory, but in the end it is India and every Indian who must win. That has indeed happened in this case.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

APPLE WITHOUT JOBS

STEVE JOBS HAS BEEN A UNIQUE AND INSPIRATIONAL LEADER

There are many good reasons why there has been a global reaction to Apple founder Steven P Jobs' decision to step down and call it a day. Apple Inc is regarded as one of the most valuable companies in the world — in terms of market capitalisation it briefly displaced oil giant Exxon Mobil, whose revenue is almost four times that of Apple, to become numero uno. Also, Apple's products – MacBook, iPod, iPhone and iPad – continue to cast a spell on users who are willing to wait for hours in serpentine queues to be among the first to buy these products. In India Apple's iPhone and iPad may have a relatively slender market share but both Apple and Steve Jobs are almost household names. Apple's success story is linked to Mr Jobs' charisma and deep involvement with the company's product designs. To his credit, Mr Jobs has 313 Apple patents (much more than most granted to other technology chiefs), which demonstrates his eye for detail. He is also considered a business icon, "designer of designers", charismatic person, powerful speaker and brand guru.

However, Apple has had its share of hiccups. It came under a cloud after allegations of running "sweatshops" in countries like China. The other Steve (co-founder Steve Wozniak, also known as "Wizard of Woz") has always been overshadowed by Mr Jobs. Apple has had its share of controversy too. Music labels alleged being bullied into accepting Apple's pricing and other terms even as they claimed that iTunes ate into their profit margins. Even print media houses protested against Apple's "biased" revenue-sharing agreements for content provided on the iPad. Even so, these issues have not overshadowed Mr Jobs' business achievements.

At the Stanford Commencement address in 2005, Mr Jobs outlined his philosophy: "... the only way to do great work is to love what you do." The result is evident. Apple Inc is likely to exceed $100 billion in revenue by the end of its fiscal year this September. Over 15 billion iTunes have been downloaded. This July, in just one day over one million users bought and downloaded Mac OS X Lion. iPods and iPhones have been all the rage around the world. In the 2011 April-June quarter, Apple sold 20.34 million iPhones, 9.25 million iPads, 3.95 million Macs and 7.54 million iPods. And this June Apple launched its "iCloud" services.

Will Apple lose its magic after Mr Jobs? Analysts believe that as chairman he will continue to leave his mark on both the company and its products even as he hands over the reins to Tim Cook, the new CEO and old hand at Apple who has been handling operations in Mr Jobs' absence. Similar concerns were raised when Louis Gerstner of IBM handed over the reins to Samuel Palmisano and when Paul Otellini took charge of Intel after Craig Barrett. However, Mr Cook will have to answer a bigger question: with Google acquiring Motorola Mobility, and the Android operating system catching the fancy of smartphone users, what should be Apple's next move? Mr Cook has around $28 billion in cash to think about it.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

SOUTH ASIAN CROSSROADS

THE SUBCONTINENT IS ON WAY TO BECOMING THE CROSSROADS OF ASIA ONCE AGAIN

SANJAYA BARU

If the new strategic partnership between Bangladesh and India takes the expected step forward next week, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Dhaka, it could herald a new beginning for the eastern sub-region of South Asia including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India (BBNI).

Major confidence building initiatives taken by the two Bay of Bengal neighbours, with new agreements and initiatives on the border before the weekend, have already created a favourable environment for a successful visit to Dhaka by Prime Minister Singh. Indeed, the Dhaka visit could become this year's most important foreign policy initiative by Dr Singh.

Bangladesh is keen on a BBNI sub-regional co-operation in the hydro power sector and seeks what it calls a more "equitable share" of Teesta River water. This should be possible in theory and could become the game-changer for the region. Dr Singh's visit to Bangladesh could help begin a new era in closer and better connectivity between India and Bangladesh opening up the possibility of new land-based infrastructure projects that will enable road and rail links between South Asia and South-east Asia.

Going beyond sub-regional co-operation, a strong Indian initiative to revive the moribund Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation would help speed up the process of bridge building with South-east Asia through Myanmar and Thailand. The Asian Development Bank is ready to fund projects that would improve connectivity as well as the region's social and economic infrastructure.

Interestingly, many member countries of the Association of South-east Asian Nations are once again focused on their region's links with South Asia. This is an opportune time for both India and Bangladesh, and indeed Myanmar, to adopt a collective approach in taking major infrastructure and energy projects forward, with support from the Asian Development Bank.

Indians have traditionally been brought up on the idea that the flow of people in this part of Asia has been from the west of India, from Central Asia. There has been a similar, if less intrusive, flow of people from India to the east as well, both by land and sea. India was not merely the recipient of invaders and settlers from its west, but it was also the home of migrants, traders, teachers and travellers who have gone east.

The partition of the subcontinent cut off India's land links with both Central and West Asia, on the one hand, and its land links with South-east Asia, on the other. It is these links that the creation of a South Asian free trade area and the new infrastructure projects will revive.

Though action on the western land border will take time, till Pakistan is able to get its internal act together, improve relations with India and the latter is able to reconnect with Afghanistan and beyond by land, the region stands at the cusp of meaningful action both on the eastern land border and also across the maritime frontier.

Even with Pakistan there has been some progress. Reports of a meeting of minds on trade and connectivity between India and Pakistan offer hope of further progress on this front. Pakistan is reported to be on the verge of agreeing to normal trade relations with India, which would imply implementing the World Trade Organisation's "most favoured nation" obligations and offering transit trade rights that would facilitate trade among India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

But land was not the only link in history between India and its neighbours. Waves of seafarers all the way from Gujarat to the Bengal coast sailed across both the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

The modernisation of ports and improved air connectivity have brought both regions closer. Air connectivity between India and its wider southern Asian neighbourhood, ranging from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Straits and beyond, is already very good. Sea connectivity too is set to increase, restoring ancient links between the ports of the Gulf region and western India and the Bay of Bengal littoral.

What this means is that South Asia has the potential to once again become the crossroads of Asia — linking the land-based and the maritime economies of West Asia, Central Asia and the whole of East and South-east Asia.

It is obvious that India has a stake in this given the geo-economics of the region. However, what is not often appreciated in the region is the enormous benefit the new infrastructural connectivity and economic links will confer on countries to India's east and west, including the large and small land-locked economies of Central Asia and the Himalayan region.

Stop thinking of India as an isolated subcontinent cut off by the high Himalayas, the deserts and the oceans, an "island" so to speak, and think of the region as the "crossroads" between Asia's resource-rich west and north-western regions and its booming industrial economies of the East and South-east Asia. Seen this way, the benefits of regional integration would be continent-wide and not restricted to the region's largest economy.

The important thing about the India-Bangladesh relationship at this point in time is that there is strong political commitment to a movement forward at the highest levels in both countries. By resolving residual bilateral differences the leadership of both countries would be building a new partnership with South-east and East Asia for the 21st century.

A similar movement forward on the western border is also possible, if more difficult. But pure self-interest should guide the political leadership of all the countries in the region to re-establish the region's role as Asia's crossroads.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

LIFE LESSONS FROM VALUABLE WASTELANDS

SUNITA NARAIN

We were standing at the edge of what looked like a swamp — there were grass, pools and streams. On one side there was land heavily barricaded with high walls, barbed wires and armed security. A board read: East Coast Energy, Kakarapalli. A bloody battle had taken place in this village in Andhra Pradesh a few months ago. People protesting against the takeover of their wetland were shot at and three of them lost their lives. Now the site of the 2,640 Mw thermal power plant is under siege — locked and in court.

Looking at the faces around me – a group of some 50 journalists from leading newspapers from across the country – it was clear that none of us could understand this battle. Why were those people fighting for this piece of wetland, which was neither private land nor rich agricultural land? The people, mostly fisher folk, were obviously poor. Then why were they on a hunger strike, which had now crossed a year? Why were they so belligerent that they were willing to lay down their lives?

We then met a group of farmers from a neighbouring village. In Sompeta a proposed 2,640 Mw coal power plant – this one by Nagarjuna Construction Company – had been similarly fought off. Here, too, a bloody battle had taken place in which people lost their lives. The matter has been suspended; the environmental clearance has been cancelled. But the company wants the site. The people say they will fight to the death.

These are today's battles. I could see that though all of us were moved, we were unable to comprehend what was going on.

On our drive to the village through Srikakulam district, we were shown sites proposed for a nuclear plant, a pharma and chemical city and numerous thermal power projects. It was a massive takeover and understandably so. This is coastal India, where the land meets the sea. This land frontier is ideal for new growth projects. There is ample water for nuclear plants' huge cooling needs; there is easy access to imported coal for thermal power projects and chemical plants can dump their toxic waste into the sea without having to invest in expensive treatment systems.

There is another advantage. The government holds large parts of land, which means companies do not have to go through the messy land acquisition process. Moreover, they can obtain property at throwaway prices. This land is variously classified in government records — from tampara (swamp) to poramboke (wasteland) to bela (wetland). Whatever the classification, it underscores that the land has no real economic value and can, therefore, be easily given away at cheap rates.

This is where policy gets practice fundamentally and fatally wrong. This is not useless wasteland, as the revenue office described it while giving it to the thermal power company for a pittance. This is highly productive land, both in terms of its ecological functions and economic uses. But we cannot, or won't, see this because it is not in our interest.

Consider this. This dead swamp is a living sponge, which soaks water, reducing the intensity of floods; the delicately maintained freshwater balance reduces the advance of salinity, which can infiltrate groundwater and ruin drinking water sources. This is a living ecosystem. It plays critical life functions.

These "wastelands" are fertile because they provide livelihood benefits. In Sompeta the bela provides water for irrigation and drinking. In both villages fish catch is an important economic opportunity. It is another matter that the fisher folk in our eyes look poor and desperate for a makeover. But this is their life and the water body is their common asset, which provides them jobs and gives them money to put food on the table. These benefits cannot be discounted.

The problem is lack of policy to protect the interests of water. The environmental impact assessment has limited brief for water issues, or so it would seem. In Kakarapalli and Sompeta the appraisal reports termed the land barren and non-fertile wasteland. The data were collected during summer when water was at its lowest level.

No legal protection exists for water bodies. The Forest Conservation Act provides protection for forests and, incidentally, protects the land where streams and rivers are born. Today, the water structure is invariable common property, which can be taken apart. Its land use can be changed in revenue or municipal records at the stroke of a pen. It can be mutilated and dismembered.

The people of Kakarapalli and Sompeta are teaching us a lesson for future survival. Listen to them before it is too late. There should be no choice here — water and the life it gives are more important than any industry.

sunita@cseindia.org 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

THE RISE AND DECLINE OF FIAT MONEY?

THE GOLD STANDARD MAY HAVE BEEN SUPERIOR TO THE CURRENT US-DOLLAR LED INTERNATIONAL MONETARY SYSTEM

ALOK SHEEL

Indeed the Idols I have loved so long Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much wrong: Have drown'd my Honour in a shallow Cup, And sold my Reputation for a Song.

Read fiscal and monetary policies fashioned in the post-war period for Idols, and Omar Khayyam may well have been talking of latter day economic policy-makers in his Rubaiyat. Although policy-makers seemed blissfully unaware, the forces of globalisation were straining and blunting the domestic macro-economic policy framework honed in the post-war period.

In particular, the ageing of Western societies was straining the fiscal framework. The "good deflation" triggered by the entry of China and India into the global market, rising cross-border capital flows arising out of Bretton Woods II, and financial innovation that gave rise to shadow banking were straining the monetary framework. Policy spillovers were also making the task of macro-economic management enormously complicated.

The European Currency Union was an attempt to adjust to the forces of globalisation. But it had one fatal flaw that was masked by the Great Moderation but became painfully apparent in the wake of the Great Recession. The latter has also further eroded the legitimacy of the international monetary system.

Macro-economic policy and the international monetary system now seem to be at a historic tipping point, just as they were during the Great Depression. Reshaping them are the great challenges for the future. How might this be done? Does the past provide some guidance?

The Euro area's fragilities can theoretically – but not of course politically – be overcome by also returning to basics through an institutional re-unification of monetary and fiscal policies. How monetary and fiscal tools themselves need to be reshaped is less clear. Coordinated macro-economic policies and structural reforms across borders are clearly part of this reshaping. However, except in crises, the G 20 has still to figure out a way of how to go about this expeditiously and effectively. The benefits of policy coordination are nevertheless manifest. Apart from policy spillovers in an increasingly integrating global economy, it is apparent that even the unstable status quo is perhaps better than an un-coordinated rebalancing of the global economy. A rise in savings in one part of the global economy in the absence of a rise in consumption in some other part would lead to lower growth in the aggregate.

Could the World Trade Organisation serve as a model for arriving at a global agreement, or consensus, on the use of macro-economic policy tools? Welfare gains from trade are symmetric, since most countries have at least some comparative advantage. However, gains from macro-economic policies may be asymmetric, on account of the inherent advantages accruing to the issuer of the global reserve currency. An agreement on macro-economic policy coordination within the G20 is, therefore, closely linked to the overhaul of the reserve currency system.

This looks unlikely at this stage. There is no good reason for the reserve currency issuer to give up its enormous advantage in the matter of financing internal and external deficits at low costs. No other currency appears to have the market depth or intrinsic strength to take over the mantle of an alternative reserve currency from the dollar. The Euro in its current form suffers from obvious structural weaknesses. The much touted SDR does not have the essential requirements of a currency. The reserve currency itself might change in future with shifting geo-political and economic fortunes, just as it transitioned from the pound sterling to the US dollar in the inter-war period. However, a shift to a more legitimate multi-currency system would be against the tide of history, which is moving towards greater universalisation and integration through trade and investment. The rise of money itself as a form of universal exchange on the back of barter was a manifestation of the universalising trend inherent in markets. A globalised world has space for just one reserve currency. The problem of the reserve currency advantage, attendant moral hazards and legitimacy issues will not go away. So where do we go from here?

Both fiscal and monetary policies have been debased within just 40 years of the end of the gold standard. Consider the seventies and the current spike in public debt, or the Greenspan "put" and the current quantitative easing, and their inflationary outcomes. This indicates that despite certain inherent weaknesses, the gold standard may have been no worse than, and arguably superior to, fiat money.

The gold standard imparted a degree of inflexibility to using macro-economic policies to stabilise growth, since money could not be created at will. Fiat money, however, suffers from the obverse problem that has seen policy-makers succumb to moral hazards inherent in excessive policy flexibility. The gold standard at least delivered on price stability over the long term. Since the stock of gold is limited and finite, its value could not be eroded significantly. The stock of fiat money, on the other hand, is potentially unlimited and policy-makers cannot be trusted to use it wisely.

A return to fiscal and monetary rectitude may well entail re-anchoring fiscal and monetary tools, and with it money itself, to gold (or some other natural material whose supply is limited) in some manner. This was underscored recently by Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank.

How this re-anchoring should be done is not clear at this stage. However, the concept itself might not be entirely fanciful. The market response to the debasement of macro-economic policies since the onset of the recent financial crisis seems to be to turn to gold as a safe haven, a status long occupied by the US dollar. The Rogers International Commodities Index (RICI) and gold prices represented by the World Gold Council (WGC) series, that moved in tandem from 2000 right up to 2007 have diverged ever since. Gold prices have been moving steeply upwards, while commodities have been volatile.

Gold now seems to be behaving more like a currency than a commodity. Is this a classic illustration of the age-old Gresham's Law that bad money drives good money out of the market? The question is whether this is a temporary trend or a structural shift. Be it as it may, some long-term damage has been done. The gold standard and its variants have been around for millennia, outliving several disastrous monetary experiments. Fiat money has been with us for just four decades. Why should this time be different? The experience of the last four decades makes the historian fear for the future of fiat money.

The author is a civil servant. These views are personal

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BUSINESS STANDARD

CLEAR AND PRESENT DOUBLE DIP

THE THREAT IS REAL THE SLOW PACE OF JOB CREATION ESPECIALLY BY START-UPS IS AN INDICATOR

N CHANDRA MOHAN

Together with the travails of debt-ridden Euro economies, the imminent prospect of a double-dip recession in the US – that accounts for 23 per cent of global GDP – is bound to trigger a nasty, brutish and prolonged slump in the world economy. Fear and panic have gripped stock markets in a bear hug as the US economy's recovery from the recession that began in December 2007 is showing signs of flagging. Nothing can dispel the blues that another dip is in the offing as the ranks of the jobless keep rising.

The threat of a double-dip recession is real. With the revisions in US GDP growth estimates, the current pace of expansion is a flat 0.7 per cent a year during the first half of this year that indicates the rebound has been much less robust than was thought earlier. That output has also not returned to the level attained before the recession was mentioned by US Federal System Chairman Ben Bernanke in his address to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City's economic symposium at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

What is a double-dip recession? The popular impression is that it is W shaped: recession followed by a weak recovery and another recession like in 1980 and 1981-82. But the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) does not recognise such a recession. They are the high priests who determine when the US economy enters a cyclical downturn and rebounds from it. According to them, the recession can be dated to December 2007 and the recovery process started 18 months later.

This committee believes that two periods of contraction will be either two separate recessions or parts of one recession. They took their time in announcing in September 2010 that the trough of the longest recession since World War II was reached in June 2009. Economic activity is typically below normal in the early stages of expansion and it sometimes remains so later on as well. They felt that any future downturn would be a new recession than a continuation of the one that set in from December 2007.

However, a double-dip is highly probable because the US economy has recovered much less than was considered even by the NBER. The recent behaviour of the US labour market is a case in point. The worker-population ratio, which measures the share of adults who are employed, was 63 per cent before the recession of 2007 struck. Eighteen months later, it declined to 59.4 per cent in June 2009 — when the R-word officially ended. The latest number shows an even further drop to 58.1 per cent in July 2011.

The recovery process obviously hasn't extended to the employment front. And unlike the latest 2009-10 Indian data of the National Sample Survey Organisation, falling levels of employment are reflected in higher rates of unemployment to 9.1 per cent in the US. All the evidence is also pointing to a rise in the number of those who are unemployed on a long-term basis of more than a year. And if the underemployed in the US economy are factored in, the employment deficit is closer to 16 per cent.

In this milieu, economists like Paul Krugman ask where is the economic recovery supposed to come from? The vast numbers of unemployed and underemployed are bound to dampen consumer spending. US consumers in any case are burdened by housing debt. Businesses are also unlikely to invest given the lack of consumer demand. The deficiency of aggregate demand is, therefore, likely to weaken any incipient recovery and set off another dip in US economic activity in the coming months.

The gloomy tidings of another economic contraction, thanks to the slackening pace of employment is supported by a recent study by E J Reedy and Robert E Litan titled "Starting Smaller; Staying Smaller: America's Slow Leak in Job Creation" for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Indicative of a longer-term trend is the fact that start-ups created 3.5 per cent of US jobs annually in the 1980s. This shrank to 2.6 per cent during the 2000s, according to US Census Bureau numbers.

The shrinking job creation of US start-ups is important, because this is the difference between positive and negative overall net job growth. Conventional wisdom only focuses on jobs being created by big companies. But new businesses are vital to the labour market since they generated around 3 million new jobs every year before the recession struck in December 2007. But firms born in 2009 created 2.3 million jobs or 700,000 jobs below the recent historic norm.

The slackening pace of job creation in US start-ups is also reflected in per business numbers that show new establishments generated a peak level of 10.4 jobs on the average in 2002, which declined to less than eight in 2009. The pullback by start-ups, the nation's most critical source of job creation, together with the grim tidings of long-term unemployment; the persisting downtrend in worker-population ratios, will further weaken what has been a tepid recovery and clear the decks for a double-dip recession.

From the Ivory Tower makes research from the academic world accessible to our readers

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

A VICTORY FOR INDIA

HAZARE MOVEMENT FORCED GOVERNMENT AND PARLIAMENT TO CHANGE FOR THE BETTER


A popular movement can bend even the most supercilious administration to its will. That's the takeaway after Parliament, in a rare display of maturity cutting across party lines, cleared the way for Anna Hazare's conditions to go the Lokpal standing committee, and Hazare himself broke his fast on Sunday. The end of the standoff involved, as it had to, a climbdown by both government and the activists. The government had to retreat from the position initially adopted by prime minister Singh that only the government and no one else had the right to suggest how rules and laws should be framed. Forced to back down, and with the help of lawmakers among allied and opposition parties, Parliament suddenly looked like a united front. Once three conditions – including the lower bureaucracy under the Lokpal, forming similar bodies in states and having a citizens' charter for the delivery of public goods – were included, the activists were ready to make a deal.
As the Lokpal now moves to the legislative grind, we will, of course, encounter hurdles in framing the new law and implementing it. For example, the lower bureaucracy reports to state governments. Will making it answerable to a Central Lokpal infringe on states' privileges? Can even a fair and efficient Lokpal ensure the delivery of public goods across India, eliminating petty corruption? And what will be the cost of running what promises to be a vast administrative structure running parallel to the executive and the judiciary? At the moment, all these are imponderables. No democracy as vast and varied as India has ever attempted anything like this before, so there are no historical or practical lessons to be drawn from anywhere else in the world. Parallels with tiny Scandinavian nations are meaningless, because India's size and complexity dwarves them. Yet, a start has been made, and hurdles along the way will have to be overcome. Above all, the Hazare movement has achieved something unique: it forced an increasingly opaque, selfabsorbed and arrogant administration to retreat and it forced Parliament to look at itself and assume its responsibilities with dignity. These are no small gains.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

13- year Low

Prolonged periods of inflation are bound to affect savings adversely


High and persistent inflation exacts a very heavy price. It impacts individual welfare adversely by reducing both real income and purchasing power. At the macro-level, it affects savings, investment and growth, in that order. Rising prices force people to spend more on daily expenses. That is not all. Inflation erodes the real value of money and affects the incentive to save adversely. In such a scenario, if loose monetary policy keeps the nominal rate of interest artificially low, resulting in a negative real interest rate, then households will respond by cutting back on savings. This is precisely what has happened. Household savings in financial instruments (deposits with banks and non-banking finance companies, investment in stocks, debentures and small savings instruments besides life insurance, provident fund and pension funds) dropped to a 13-year low last fiscal — from 12.1% of GDP in 2009-10 to 9.7% of GDP in 2010-11. The last time net financial savings as a percentage of GDP dipped below 10% was in 1997-98 when GDP growth dipped to 4.3%. In contrast, GDP growth was 8.5% in 2010-11; so the fall in household savings is not because of poor economic growth. The RBI's explanation that the decline is because financial liabilities have risen is only part of the reason. The reality is the Bank's easy money policy with very low nominal interest rates for a very long time is equally responsible. In its bid to keep interest rates low for corporates, the Bank lost sight of the fact that there is a flip side to low or negative real interest rates. Households see no point in saving. On the contrary, they'd rather consume more today since there's a likelihood of prices increasing further tomorrow.


Thanks to this short-termism, one of our biggest strengths — a high domestic savings rate — has been eroded. The secular trend of a rising savings-GDP ratio, driven by high GDP growth, has been reversed. The only silver lining is that the RBI and the government seem to have realised there is no trade-off between growth and inflation. Hopefully, the recent rise in nominal interest rates will induce savers to turn once again to financial instruments.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

COSMIC BLING

NOW, THE SKY IS THE LIMIT WHEN IT COMES TO THE BIGGEST DIAMONDS

 

The husbands of newly-married socialites Kim Kardashian and Petra Ecclestone must be thanking their lucky stars that news of a planet-sized diamond (which would surely be their wives' assessment of the just-detected celestial body entirely made of carbon) came too late for their engagement ring hunt. Indeed, the discovery of this blingy space rock accessory of a pulsar by a professor in Australia and his team of astronomers is sure to raise many questions. After all, it may be a small star for scientists, but it is a giant rock for girls in search of best friends. The most crucial query, of course, would be: how many carats is this crystalline rock measuring 60,000 km in diameter? Even if it has been whittled down to a fraction of its size like the Kohinoor, its price, naturally, would be astronomical. No less important would be a confirmation of whether that is the foreversparkling place in the sky all legendary diamond lovers go to.


Advertisements showing film stars in sparkling orbit may be less fanciful in the light of this discovery, but the chances of humans getting their hands (or ring fingers) on any of that orbiting carbon any time soon is unlikely considering it is 4000 light years away from Earth. Still, the lure of cosmic diamonds (as opposed to conflict diamonds) could see a surge in private funding of deep space travel projects with an eye to commercial benefits. Even those of more poetic bent of mind should be pleased, for one of the first truisms of childhood (inevitably debunked before adolescence) now stands vindicated. Jane Taylor had written in 1806 that her 'twinkle, twinkle, little star' was "l i k ea diamond in the sky". Now we know it i sone. So, we propose that the planet be named Elizabeth or Jane Taylor, for obvious reasons.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NEXT BIG REFORM: POLICE AUTONOMY

AFTER THE LOKPAL BILL, THE NEXT BIG REFORM INVOLVES FREEING THE POLICE SERVICE FROM POLITICAL CONTROL

 

The monsoon session of Parliament will give the government pause for thought: why has the promise of UPA-II evaporated? As T K Arun perceptively pointed out on this page on July 28, the Congress has become a party of power-brokers. It remains glued together by the fraying power of dynasty.
Apart from a pragmatic but sinewy Lokpal Bill, six other political reforms are needed to liberate Indian governance from atavistic, 19th-century colonial laws. The six reforms fall into three broad categories: police, judicial and electoral. A previous piece dealt with judicial and electoral reforms, including debarring candidates with criminal records. Police reform carries the promise of the greatest impact on citizens' day-to-day lives.
The N N Vohra committee report laid bare the nexus between politicians and crime syndicates. The report was made public 18 years ago; the annexures, containing names of specific politicians with links to crime syndicates, remain classified to this day. The rot runs deep. Top police officers "pay" to win promotions to the highest post. Auctioned posts are funded by politicians cutting across party lines and builder-lobbies. Once ensconced, senior police officers return the "investment" made on them to their politiciansponsors by turning a blind eye to illegal proxy land deals and other acts of political corruption. Many police officers use their high office not to gather actionable intelligence against terror sleeper cells but to extract "commissions" from builders who flout FSI regulations and power brokers who run profitable rackets: the water-tanker mafia, kerosene and diesel adulterators, bookies, illicit bar owners and smugglers. Responding to an RTI query, Maharashtra's Public Information Officer (PIO) revealed on August 2 that, between January 2009 and January 2011, senior state politicians led by home minister R R Patil and the chief minister's office "made 231 recommendations/requests to the police department for the posts of additional superintendent, deputy superintendent, inspectors, assistant inspectors and sub-inspectors". Of these, 54 "requests" were complied with. India has 15.60 lakh policemen or one policeman for 774 citizens. The average across Europe and the US is one police officer for around 300 citizens. Poor pay, outdated weaponry and appalling living conditions are a blight on Indian law enforcement. When a deputy superintendent of police receives a salary of . 13,500 and a constable . 4,900, corruption is inevitable. Policing is a state subject and all political parties have a vested interest in not ceding control of law enforcement to an independent, professional police force.
The Supreme Court has long been aware of the toxic relationship between politicians and the police. It passed a seminal order in September 2006 to delink the two; the seven-directive order provides a complete blueprint to transform law enforcement in India. The first directive mandates the setting up of state security commissions (SSCs) to ensure the police is freed from political influence. The SSCs would periodically evaluate policing performance in their state. The second directive requires each director-general of police (DGP) to be appointed for a minimum tenure of two years through a meritbased, transparent process. The third and fourth directives deal with operational duties of police officers and the separation of the investigative and law and order (beat) functions of the police. The fifth directive — crucially — orders the creation of an independent police establishment board to decide transfers, promotions and postings, a much-abused tool in the hands of state politicians. The sixth directive envisages a police complaints authority and the seventh directive a national security commission for the selection of chiefs of central police organisations.
    Taken together, the seven directives of the Supreme Court provide the architecture of an independent, well-paid, accountable police force equipped to deal firmly and fairly with local law enforcement, intelligence gathering from communities, counter-terrorism operations and day-to-day policing. It will sever the umbilical chord that today binds the police with politicians and the underworld.
In November 2010, the Supreme Court issued notices to several states which had not complied with its seven directives and were thus in contempt. Over the past few months, as law enforcement has plumbed new depths with Supreme Court-monitored CBI investigations into various scams, there was renewed hope that the states and the Centre will fall into line and implement the Supreme Court's directives. That hope was belied when the UPA government, far from pressing the states (at least where it is in government) to comply with the Supreme Court's seven directives, took the CBI entirely out of the ambit of the RTI. A more regressive approach to policing is hard to imagine. Autonomy for the CBI must now be high on the Supreme Court's agenda even as it seeks to enforce its own order on police reforms. Chief Justice of India Sarosh Kapadia is a tough and fair arbiter of the public interest. If he concludes that vested political interests are improperly superseding public interest in defying court-directed police reforms, he could use the full force of his judicial authority. The bogus concept of "judicial overreach", floated by apologists of government inaction, certainly would not apply were he to act decisively.


Only by wrenching control of law enforcement away from politicians will we have an effective, modern and accountable police force. The Election Commission's strict code of conduct has dramatically reduced incidents of violence and boothcapturing in recent years. An autonomous, empowered police authority would similarly professionalise the law and order ecosystem in India and give citizens the 21st century police force they deserve.

 

MINHAZ MERCHANT

CHAIRMAN, MERCHANT MEDIA

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

ET INTERACTIVE

CHINA, INDIA AND RURAL MARKETS WILL SCRIPT FUTURE

JOE A SCARIA


Life in the fast-lane of technology products has never been easy for tech gadgetmakers. The degree of difficulty has only increased in recent years owing to the acceleration of technological changes that translates into a make-or-break situation for new products in the market place. This is much like a movie launch for which the verdict from the general public arrives in a matter of a few days. Add the extra complexity presented by cultural and demographic differences across geographies, to get an idea of the challenges faced by companies like Canon. Amidst the jangle of new technologies, new brands and the blurring of boundaries between different gadgets themselves, Canon India CEO & president Kensaku Konishi sees the future growth of his industry coming from two key geographies, namely China and India, and the rural markets in particular in the two countries.


Revenues in India have been growing significantly for Canon over the past three years, from . 840 crore in 2009 to . 1,257 crore in 2010, and a projection of . 1,650 crore for this calendar year. "India's revenue contribution is still only a small fraction of the company's global revenues, but what is significant is that India, along with China, holds out the best prospects for the company. And the rural markets here, noted for their new-found disposable incomes, will play a key role. In the coming years, China and India are the ones tipped to grow at 20% plus for the company," says Konishi.


According to him, gadgetinterest is particularly on the rise in India's rural areas, a fact that is reflected in the company's choice of locations for its exclusive showrooms across the country. Canon has launched an ambitious plan to roll out exclusive retail stores across India, and 30 of them have already been launched across 19 cities, including Nasik, Indore and Mysore. Konishi says 70 more will be opened this year, and 300 by 2013, and points out that already, over 50% of revenues are being generated outside of the metros. Canon is banking on that rural push to achieve a 30% revenue growth next year, compared to an average 35% over the past five years.


Given that the gadget world is a predatory one where a new breakthrough preys on an older one, digital cameras were once thought to be easy fodder for mobile phone cameras. Konishi says the fears were completely misplaced. "Mobile cameras actually sparked an interest in photography among the masses, which in turn led many of them to buy a digital camera for better output. What began as a passing interest for many when they began clicking with mobile phones has now grown into a serious passion, for which they now rely on digital cameras. In fact, the professional camera segment has been growing for us."


In the intensely-competitive world of consumer electronics, Canon is also exploring new business verticals, of which one of the new stars is the managed-print services (MPS), which addresses costreduction in the area of printouts taken in offices. The MPS market is still in its infancy in India, but Canon has managed to rope in 40 large corporates in the country to use this offering to drastically cut on expenses incurred in print-outs at offices. MPS is being offered not as a mere cost-saving formula, but a paradigm shift in the way companies have to look at their printing, copying and documentation activities across departments to achieve optimal efficiency.
Worldwide, there are major players like Xerox, HP and Ricoh in the MPS segment, but Canon sees a significant market for the vertical in India, given the scant attention given to print-cost management in many offices. "The managed document services offering comprises a complete solution for corporates, covering not only printing or copying but everything from buying solutions to reduction of overall costs and increase in efficiency," says Konishi. The MPS concept initially caught on in the West, and is now catching the eye of Indian corporates. Canon is expecting to have over 50 large corporates to have the MPS solution by the year-end. The crux of the concept, he says, is not merely to have a consumables buying solution, but to reduce the overall costs and increase efficiency levels.


Canon is also betting on the e-governance projects in the country to contribute to its revenues. The company has partnered with TCS in the passport seva project for passport automation, recently completed trials using a systems integrator for the government's UID (Aadhar) project, and its image capturing technology has been used in an Employees State Insurance Corporation project. Konishi admits that some segments, like printers for home use, have been flat for a while, but he feels the encouraging growth in tier-II and III cities and an overall rural pull is more than making up for it.

 

KENSAKU KONISHI

CEO & PRESIDENT

Canon India

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ENERGY QUOTIENT

ENERGY CONSUMERS IN TIME WARP

SOMA BANERJEE



    Indian energy consumers are living in a time wrap, far removed from global realities. Be it petroleum products, electricity or coal, skewed pricing policies and inability to propel growth in these vital sectors have created a regime where energy consumers are led to live in a fool's paradise completely oblivious to the need of conservation and sustainability. Artificially controlled low fuel prices, coupled with complete absence of political will and regulatory failure, have insulated Indian energy consumers so much that price shocks look almost inevitable sooner than later. The government needs to show the grit and denationalise the coal sector, allow power tariffs to reflect true costs of fuel and encourage fuel suppliers to evolve into fuel managers who can ensure adequate supplies of fuel to meet the growing energy needs of the economy. The government's approach paper to the 12th Five Year plan calls for Coal India to become a coal supplier and not just a mining company: "…. Should plan to import coal to meet coal demands. This requires blending of imported and domestic coal as supplied by Coal India," the approach paper says.


Let us focus on electricity and the fuel for running power plants vis-a-vis the tariff at which consumers buy power. According to reported information, Tata Power that will be commissioning the country's first super critical power plant and the much-famed ultra mega project shortly, has had to incur a huge escalation in fuel costs. The company has developed the power plant at Mundra based on imported coal. Coal prices in Indonesia, where Tata Power had bought into a mine, have increased from $24 a tonne in 2006 (when the project was bid) to $60 a tonne now. The global picture is even sharper. Average imported coal prices have moved from $99 a tonne to $120 a tonne in the last five years. It is being estimated that the dependence on imported coal is set to rise in the coming years and there is no escaping the hardening commodity prices. An energy report by CLSA estimates almost 30% of the additional coal requirement for power plants will be met by imported coal. Production of domestic coal supplies have fallen short consistently with most supply commitments remaining unfulfilled. It is being estimated that the shortfall in domestic coal supplies are set to increase from 60 metric tonne in FY 2012 to 200 mt by FY 17.


On the price front, the picture is even bleaker. While the average cost of supply (all-India) level increased from . 2.64 per unit to . 3.42 per unit, i.e., an increase of 30%, the increase in revenue has been only 18% (due to low tariffs). Regulators that are empowered to ask for tariff revisions on their own if distribution companies or state utilities fail to do so too have not played their role. Result: huge revenue gaps and hefty increases in the losses of state utilities. As many as five states have not touched tariffs over five years, while seven states have revised tariffs in the last three to five years. The rising fuel costs coupled with operational costs and employee costs have only led to higher losses.


According to a study by AF Mercados EMI on distribution tariffs, states would need to increase tariffs between 8% and 12% on an average if they were neutralise the revenue gap of the state electricity boards. This is based on a subsidies being paid out at current levels to state utilities. The study shows that while Rajasthan is closest to passing on the cost of producing power to the tariff (requires to increase tariffs by 4.9% to meet the revenue gap), states like Mizoram at the end of the ladder need to hike tariffs by 24% to cover costs. It is important to note that the tariff increases being pointed out are only to meet power production costs and not a positive return for the state utilities that are mandated to earn at least a 3% net of tax return on their investments. The phenomenal price jump cannot be passed on to consumers (as was done before under a two-part tariff formula). Companies like Tata Power, Reliance Power,Lanco or GMR that have planned imported-coal based power plants may need a magic wand or two, if they were to meet targets set on returns. It is significant to note that unlike the past, the ultra mega projects were given out by the government on tariff-based bids, i.e., the lowest tariff bidder won the right to build the power plant. More and more of these power companies are now asking for fresh negotiations on power purchase agreements, as selling power at the tariffs bid is becoming increasingly difficult. Today, the capital cost of power per unit has come to be lower than the variable cost (primarily fuel) per unit. While intense competition has brought down capital costs and increased efficiency, monopolies in the domestic fuel market and globally rising commodity prices have resulted in a total mismatch in the power sector.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

ON TO THE NEXT ROUND

It would be simplistic to assume that it is only a matter of time before the country is rid of the scourge of corruption, now that Parliament has unanimously resolved to put in place an effective legislative arrangement or because Anna Hazare is satisfied with the Parliament's good intentions, as reflected in his decision to end the fast. At one level, Anna Hazare's fast was about corruption in public life; yet, at another, subtler level, it was actually about compelling rulers to effect a mid-course correction in their actions by creating a groundswell of public opinion.

Successive governments have long believed that legitimacy in governance is something sought and gained once every five years through the medium of a general election. Once gained, it should never be challenged, except in the genteel ways of Parliamentary democracy. But civil society, led by Anna Hazare, has challenged this notion by mounting a campaign that has, no doubt, been non-violent to the most exemplary degree but nevertheless not bereft of an element of coercion. One can be sure that neither the Government nor, indeed, the entire political class is about to give up its freedom to indulge in the morally degenerate ways of politics the country has been witness to all these years, merely because some citizens object to it. Wars are won by getting the better of opponents in seemingly endless skirmishes and innumerable battles, no matter that a historian at a later date may identify a particular campaign as the most decisive. Anna and his team, no doubt, recognise that, in matters such as these, progress is achieved more by incremental steps than through success in one dramatic encounter. Hence Anna's decision to end his fast, even though he had earlier declared that it would go on until a Bill conforming to his specifications is passed by Parliament.

The establishment, on its part, may be keen to deflect the narrative of political discourse currently centred on corruption into something that it would be more comfortable with. Expect therefore a resurgence in polemics based on caste, religion or some narrow cultural or class divide mouthed by those who see themselves at the receiving end of the current public revulsion against venal politicians and self-serving civil servants. The success in the crusade against corruption that civil society is now engaged in will depend on how it manages to keep the public focus on issues that matter the most.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

LOKPAL BILL ONCE AGAIN IN LIMBO

B.S.RAGHAVAN

Never underestimate the cleverness of the political class or the games it is capable of playing. All the parties are one when it comes to whatever affects, or conduces to, their self-interest as a class.

They will pass unanimously and in a jiffy, without debate or any scrutiny by any Committee, select or standing, Bills heftily raising the emoluments and funds for local area development.

In all the 65 years after Independence, not one case of corruption or other kind of malfeasance against any member of the political class has been effectively pursued to the very end, resulting in conviction or a jail sentence.

Every party or political combine, during election campaigns, solemnly promises to fast-forward pending corruption cases against politicians and bring the corrupt in their midst to book but, once it assumes power, lets things drift.

This make-believe every party resorts to, whether it is the Bofors pay-off, Bihar fodder swindle or any other of the numerous scams the country has been witnessing.

The initial outwardly frenetic pace of the ongoing investigations on the scams soon peters out, leaving the accused to strut on the national stage with impunity and even become Cabinet Ministers. Everything finally settles down to the old motto of the entire political class regardless of party or ideology: Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

The prime example is the Lokpal Bill. For 42 years, it has been allowed to languish as if by tacit consent across the political spectrum, but there has never been any lack of commitment to passing it from all the various parties in power and in Opposition.

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, himself, in September 2004, soon after the UPA-I came into power, declared that "the need for Lokpal is much more urgent at present than ever before", and undertook to take effective action in this regard "without any further loss of time." (Mark the words).

GREAT RELIEF

It took all of seven years and a nation-wide upheaval following a 74-year old Gandhian's two fasts bringing what The Hindu called "a sea of humanity…on the lines of (Egypt's) Tahrir Square march" to throw a jittery Government into a tizzy and force both Houses of Parliament to pass a "Sense of the House" statement by the thumping of desks, which was said to denote unanimity.

That this has made Anna Hazare break his fast and he has been spared to play his role as the nation's conscience for many years to come is certainly a matter of great relief.

That said, despite all the spin put on it by Team Anna, the Government spokespersons, and public-spirited persons keen to see the back of the impasse, the "Sense of the House", is nothing more than a pious, though persuasive, call to the Standing Committee, to take into account, while considering all versions of the Lokpal Bill received by it, the agreement of both Houses "in principle" on the Citizens' Charter, inclusion of lower bureaucracy under Lokpal "through an appropriate mechanism" and establishment of Lokayuktas in the States, bearing in mind "their practicality, implementability…and constitutionality."

If it is remembered that this is what any Parliamentary Standing Committee is, in any case, duty bound to do in respect of all legislations referred to it, the position is no great advance from what existed even before Anna went on fast, except that it has broadened and deepened the people's participation in the fight against corruption and compelled both Houses of Parliament to declare their stand on the three issues insisted upon by Team Anna; even if only "in principle".

If it is also remembered that, according to the Chairman of the Standing Committee, Mr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, its report will need four months, and that there is no guarantee of its exactly conforming to the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill, I foresee trouble ahead.

Which means that, once again, the Lokpal Bill will be in limbo. Not to worry, the political class will be saying to itself, laughing in its sleeve!

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

TRADE UNIONISM AMIDST JOBLESSNESS

C.GOPINATH

The nightly TV news reporter, standing in the street next to a utility pole, and in a voice filled with alarm and concern, pointed to an open junction box full of disorderly wires and said this was a case of sabotage.

The report was on a strike by employees of Verizon Communications, a telecom company, and the reporter seemed to suggest that an employee or sympathiser must have done this sabotage as part of the strike action. He said it took over a day to set this box right but did not indicate if this was a unique case or there were more like that, for Verizon must have thousands of junction boxes.

Clearly, the line-technician of Verizon was a critical person in the company and needed to be on hand to sort through that mass of wires, respond to customer complaints quickly, and sympathetically. He was now being asked by top management to give up some of his benefits and security because the company needed to cut costs.

The employees, in turn, responded by asking why the five top management members of Verizon paid themselves $258 million (about Rs 1,161 crore) in the last four years in compensation (salary, bonuses, etc.) if they were focused on costs. The company then started releasing ads to show that its employees were well paid with good benefits!

FAT CAT SALARIES

Top management may justify continuing to receive high salaries on the grounds that their strategic decision making capabilities were required in these turbulent times. However, as the financial services industry recently established, paying top management top salaries is not necessarily the way to either get top talent or guarantee wise decision-making.

The 45,000 employees of Verizon went on strike nationally on August 7 after their contract expired. (After about two weeks, they returned to work on the previous contract while negotiations continued.) The company's demands included moving to a system where the company will contribute to a pension plan rather than pay full pension itself, tying pay increases to job performance, making employees pay more towards health care, and having flexibility in work assignments, layoffs, etc.

Verizon has been doing well financially, but it argues that the good performance is coming from its wireless division (which is not unionised) and that its landline business (whose workers were on strike) is on the decline.

Support for unions is running pretty low in America these days. Some estimate that only about 12 per cent of private sector workforce is unionised now.

Just early this year, the newly elected conservative governor (and a Republican) of the state of Wisconsin, approved a law passed by his Republican party in the legislatures which placed restrictions on the rights of public employees, including their bargaining rights, and also made them pay more towards health care and pension.

The state was running a large budget deficit. Then, a well-coordinated public opposition to the governor's actions tried to recall the legislators as punishment.

Although they lost two seats in the recall, the Republican party managed to keep control of the state's legislative chambers suggesting that there are strong feelings among the public that the unions need to be cut down to size.

On another front, 22 states in the US have passed what are called 'right-to-work' laws, a clever name for what some see essentially as statutes to weaken unions. These laws prohibit agreements between unions and employers that require an employee to be a member of a union, either before or after hiring, or be required to pay union dues.

BOEING'S EXPERIENCE

Now, Boeing moved some of its manufacturing operations from Washington state (where it had problems with frequent strikes by unionised employees) to South Carolina, which is a right-to-work state.

And wage rates in Seattle are about twice those in South Carolina. That whole shift is now caught in a law suit as the National Labour Relations Board, a federal government agency, ordered Boeing to move back its production to Washington, because it saw the company's move as violating union rights. (A loose-tongued President of the company is reported to have said that the move was to teach a lesson to the machinists in Seattle for their past strikes!)

It is a tough time for the Verizon employees to strike, with the economy what it is and unemployment lingering at 9.1 per cent. Now, United Auto Workers (the auto industry union) has asked its employees for permission to strike if its negotiations with Ford Motor Company fail.

Let us not forget that only recently, all the American auto companies were brought to their knees partly due to costs from the accumulation of benefits they had conceded to the union when the companies were doing well.

Large companies have no patience for labour unions that restrict their operating flexibility; small businesses are looking for reduced worker obligations like health care premium requirements so they can survive in a very competitive economy. Meanwhile, employees everywhere are justifiably looking for some job security.

In such a situation, unions that try to hold to their traditional role of protecting wages and privileges not in line with the reality of the times will only find their role increasingly becoming irrelevant and public opinion turning against them.

But, if top management uses its power with the board to extract large compensations for themselves, can we complain against the unions for trying to leverage their power? It is time both sides stopped trying to extract their monopoly profits.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

HOW INDUSTRY DEALT WITH REFORMS

CHANDRAJIT BANERJEE

On July 24, 1991, exactly a month after he had taken charge of the Finance Ministry, Dr Manmohan Singh presented a revolutionary Budget.

He spoke of the economic crisis facing the country and the sacrifices needed to overcome the problems. However, he did not stop at short-term crisis management.

He went ahead with long-term reforms, which proved to be critical in driving productivity and growth during the next two decades.

Earlier that day, the Statement on Industrial Policy had been issued, consigning the licence-permit raj to history. The speed with which such a wide host of initiatives was announced is a contrast to today's relatively slow-moving and more consultative process.

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

The 1991 Budget speech was also prescient of many of the issues we are facing today. The Budget speech suggested that while the creation of wealth must be encouraged, those who create and own wealth "have to hold it as a trust and use it in the interest of society".

It elaborated on how to reform the planning process to bring in more elements of market-based pricing system for better resource allocation. It also recognised that given the need to eradicate poverty, hunger and disease, huge investments were needed to be directed to certain sectors, which may not be achieved by just the market economy.

We continue to grapple with these issues even in the current scenario.

To say that industry was taken aback by the speed of the reforms is to put it mildly. Indian industry was thrown open to competition from abroad after many decades of protection, and had to fight for survival.

Besides, the plethora of restrictions on investments, import of raw material and essential inputs and funds made them focus on getting the approvals rather than operating efficiency. Indian companies were perceived to have become inefficient, with less productivity.

In the decade that followed, custom duties on industrial products were brought down significantly to further remove any protection. Although the industry was initially apprehensive of how it would cope, it emerged stronger and more competitive.

Today, questions are being raised on how the industry has benefited from reforms and if the industry has done enough to give back to society.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) played a key role in supporting the reforms and improving competitiveness. In subsequent years, the reform process also introduced much greater competition across sectors by dismantling public sector monopolies and allowing private sector players into many sectors. Here again, the private sector has participated enthusiastically and emerged as strong players.

So when questions are raised about the industry's contribution to society, it must be remembered that companies had to fight for survival in the post-reform scenario. It is only now that the industry has gained in confidence and is in a position to give back.

Companies are increasingly focusing on corporate social responsibility, with many of them producing externally audited annual reports that provide updates on ecological and social performance, in addition to their financial performance. The realisation is now taking place that prosperity of the people is good for businesses. The industry is therefore as keen as the government to see a more inclusive growth model emerging in the coming years.

ECONOMIC REFORMS

The other question being asked is if the people, in general, have gained from economic reforms.

While there has been considerable debate on this and I don't want to dwell on this too elaborately, I would like to point out that per capita income has increased steadily during the last 20 years.

Expectations have run ahead so fast that some segments of the population are bound to feel left out from the general progress. The fact that people are saving a much higher proportion of their income itself indicates that in general, people are more secure.

Of course, much remains to be done to raise people's standards of living. In particular, the economic reforms have been unable to usher in significant change in the agricultural sector, where many restrictions still remain.

Productivity remains low, market linkages haven't been created, rural infrastructure is deficient and availability of finance is limited. Since a large part of the population is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, it is no wonder that the benefits of economic reform haven't yet touched their lives.

Reforms also need to be supported by improvements in the delivery of government services in areas such as health and education, without which the expected improvements won't take place. Industry is today deeply aware of the shortcomings in the employability of the labour force.

For the benefits of reform to spread wider, it is necessary to create a qualified, healthy and skilled workforce. The private sector is willing to work in partnership with the government in these areas and innovative schemes should be taken up, wherein the private sector can play a more active part.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

MANUFACTURING WILL NOT CREATE JOBS

ASHOAK UPADHYAY

Last month, the RBI Governor, Dr D. Subbarao, made a fervent pitch for the manufacturing sector. "To reap the demographic dividends, we need to find jobs for 150-200 millions who will be thrown out of the farm sector." The services sector will not do the needful, the Governor felt. "We need to focus on manufacturing," he said.

A few days ago, in the Rajya Sabha, the Commerce and Industry Minister, Mr Anand Sharma, informed members that a "high-level panel chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh" has confirmed the need for a new manufacturing policy that will enable the creation of mega industrial zones with world-class infrastructure facilities.

The plan, he solemnly affirmed, was to raise the contribution of manufacturing from its current contribution of 16 per cent to 26 per cent in the country's GDP within a decade and, in the bargain, create 100 million jobs within that period and double it by 2025.

POLICY TO REALITY

Dr Subbarao's plea for manufacturing was in the nature of a critique of the kind of growth that has come to characterise India's magical journey since 2003-04.

It confirms the trend in investments, especially foreign direct investments, that have flowed largely into the services sector and the least in manufacturing, the highest concentration in Maharashtra that houses the country's financial capital and the lowest in States such as Madhya Pradesh that house the largest number of farm-dependent labour.

If manufacturing has to play a bigger role in GDP growth, more than simple policy formulas are required. From the vantage point of New Delhi, numbers can tell spell-binding stories, and the concept of industrial zones peppered throughout the countryside, creating jobs with the latest technologies, can seem convincing as transformative catalysts.

But the history of recent policy-making tells a different story, mostly of operational neglect, ill-conceived and executed measures and hasty retractions that add confusion to disorder. The new mining policy reads wonderfully in air-conditioned seminar halls or in CCEA meetings. But out in the States from Goa to Bengal, both have proved dismal failures, with one investor after another facing up to the realisation that land or mines for that matter are not available as easily as the policy had made them out to be.

Assume a magic wand waves away every operational problem, the PM-blessed policy does get off the ground and industrial zones spring up like daffodils in spring.

NO JOBS GOING AROUND

Will they create the kind of jobs both the RBI Governor and the New Delhi policymakers dream of? It seems difficult to conceive of manufacturing based on increasing productivity through technology creating the kind of mass employment that traditional small enterprises do.

A report that appeared in this paper on August 23 pointed out that in automobile firms robots are increasingly replacing labour on factory floors. The quest for higher efficiencies and improved quality levels in a highly competitive market environment are in fact reducing the number of jobs in factories.

There is an additional reason for the drive to automation: To safeguard against production disruption arising from labour disputes. In the past few months, auto belts such as Gurgaon-Manesar, Chennai region and Halol have all seen labour strikes, the report points out.

Newer entrants such as Renault-Nissan and Volkswagen are not taking any chances and are being built with high reliance on machinery.

The tag words in this case are: Efficiency, low fatigue, greater throughput and lesser labour disputes.

So, seriously, do firms take them to heart that in a joint venture between Japan's Honda and Siddharth Shriram Group, Honda Siel Cars India, mechanisation levels at its Greater Noida factory have jumped to 80 per cent, from just 30 per cent in 1998.

Not all firms will move to robotics or achieve the same level of automation across the board. In some lines of activity, assembly floors, for instance, manual labour still has its uses. So employment could increase with greater manufacturing facilities. The issue however is: What kind of employment will that be?

To glimpse the future, gaze into the past. A study of factor employment and compensation in India's organised sector by the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) of the US Department of Labor provides some useful insights.

TEMPORARY LABOUR

Based on Annual Survey of Industries data between 1999 and 2005, the study found factory level earnings to be $0.91 an hour, roughly 3 per cent of compensation costs of manufacturing employees in the US.

Adjusting for difficulties in comparison across years and representative trends because not all registered companies report data, the BLS still found in 2005 that factory employment had increased 5 per cent over 1999 and that they comprised 74.2 per cent of all organised manufacturing employment.

What kind of employment? Contract labour had more than doubled between 1999 and 2005 to 28 per cent of the total workforce.

The 66 {+t} {+h} round of the National Sample Survey covering a later period found 18 million more casual workers as against 6.4 million regular workers over the five years after the BLS period. It may just be possible then that unemployment is falling but the kind of jobs sprouting up — "contractual" or "casual"— have grave implications for the policymakers. Contract workers do not get social insurance or other benefits enjoyed by regular permanent employees.

In effect, the onus of doing so for an increasing number of "employed" has in effect been transferred by the employer — often in the organised sector — to the state.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

SOME DELAY IN LICENCES WILL BEEF UP BANKING

SHISHIR SINHA

The wait is getting longer for draft guidelines for new banking licences. The Reserve Bank was supposed to issue the draft few days ago. Now it has gone on record to say that until and unless the Banking Regulation Act is amended, the new licences are unlikely to be issued.

In a freewheeling interview with Business Line, Mr Ashwin Parekh, National Leader (Global Financial Services), Ernst & Young, feels that this wait may help in creating a strong environment for the banking sector.

Excerpts from the interview:

It seems corporates will have to wait longer to get new banking licence; is this wait justified?

After the RBI Governor's reference last week, it might take some more time.

What you may say from the references made by the regulators and after the discussions with the Ministry of Finance, one gets the impression that there would be some waiting involved before we see the new policy on banking licences.

The reference made to the amendment of the Banking Regulation Act is very relevant in this regard.

There will be other provisions required under both the Reserve Bank of India Act and the Banking Regulation Act to ensure that the regulator can closely monitor the shareholding of the banking companies once they are licensed.

I would like to draw attention to the examples in the recent past, in regard to Bank of Rajasthan and United Western Bank. It looks, therefore, that there will be some waiting involved before the new guidelines are announced.

A little delay in issuing banking licences will help in creating a stronger environment.

It seems some sectors will not be given new licences. The Government and the RBI have hinted that realty may be one of them. In your opinion, which other sectors should be kept out and why?

Financial services, and in particular, banking business are very different from the manufacturing and services in other sectors which the corporates are familiar with.

Despite their best intentions, they have to understand that getting into banking industry is a larger responsibility.

Businesses which are prone to the market risk arising out of cyclical economic factors are perhaps worst suited for getting into banking business.

Therefore, those corporates that have concentration of risk by virtue of having large exposure to few businesses and whose asset portfolio is not well diversified are better off keeping away from this sector.

Also, corporates engaged in sunrise sectors may also reconsider seeking presence in the banking sector.

However, diversified conglomerates with sound governance track record should seriously look at getting into this sector. They will not have deep pockets but, most significantly, a bent of mind to serve the economy.

The Finance Ministry and the RBI seem to agree on 49 per cent cap for foreign direct investment. Do you think it is sufficient?

Considering that the Foreign Direct Investment route would be open only to non-banking company investors and also given the fact that the new banking companies will be required to make commitment to inclusive banking, the 49 per cent cap should be there for the first five years.

Subsequently the promoters could be allowed to increase it to 74 per cent.

Keeping the capital requirement in mind, what should be initial-paid up capital for new banks?

Once again, we should examine the aspect in regard to the kind of banking that would be permitted to the new entrants. They would require sizeable capital, at least Rs 1,000 crore to begin with. An ability to increase capital by another Rs 1,000 crore in a span of following three years may be very essential. If we evolve a separate order of banking for regional and community activities, then perhaps the capital requirement could be less; however this seems unlikely.

There are two extreme view — one says banking industry should go for consolidation while other believes that more new licences should be given. How do you co-relate these two?

Considering the references made by the regulators in the recent past, it now appears that the Government should seriously look at the consolidation route. To my mind, there is larger scope for consolidation with the public sector companies, if it is managed well.

There seems to be delay on two other major reforms, insurance and pension, in the financial sector. What sense are you are getting from the foreign investors?

Considering that the Government's mind is preoccupied, these reforms have been pushed back for a while.

I am sure that foreign investors may be getting more impatient, but it looks like they will have to wait.

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

NOW ENACT A GOOD LOKPAL LAW SWIFTLY

 

A signal moment arrived in our recent history when doughty 74-year-old social activist Anna Hazare on Sunday morning ended his 12-day-long fast at New Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, which had become the symbol of a stormy campaign to battle corruption and had shaken up the establishment. The denouement came after Mr Hazare was assured by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on behalf of Parliament, following a Saturday discussion in both Houses, that the nation's elected representatives would "in principle" consider the points made from the street on enacting a strong Lokpal law to check pervasive corruption. The instruments and processes of democracy prevailed in the end over the temptations of instant gratification and peremptory justice being held out by the proponents of mobocracy. Regrettably, that was the basis on which reckless or extremist elements in the Jan Lokpal movement sought to tutor their followers made impatient by heady promises which, if permitted to fructify, would have dealt a body blow to the democratic order. Led by the Prime Minister, Parliament rose in the end to its full height, after some initial confusion when technical flourishes were on display rather than a political grasp of cascading events, and sensibly nodded deference to the people's sentiments. For his part, Mr Hazare exhibited statesmanship, dispensed with the supercilious counsel of some of his team, and showed an earthy understanding of lawmaking and the need to safeguard the instruments of democracy. His resolve in sustaining a long fast at his age to press for a public cause will also be admired. It is noteworthy that Parliament did not budge on the fundamentals, and Mr Hazare sought not to oblige it to do so, although the import of his early efforts had pointed there. The issues put in the foreground by the Jan Lokpal movement will receive due consideration of Parliament, along with inputs by other citizens' groups, while enacting the Lokpal law. The raucous movement at last came to accept this, abandoning threats of setting deadlines. It is now Parliament's turn, and particularly the ruling party's, to show the right temperament and move swiftly to deliver on an effective Lokpal law, without permitting bureaucratic bungling and delays. Other elements of the bouquet of measures and laws needed to fight graft in all its forms also need to be pushed expeditiously. Consideration is also due to Rahul Gandhi's suggestion of constitutional status for the proposed Lokpal. The idea is endorsed by eminent jurists and men of probity such as former CJI J.S. Verma and Fali Nariman.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WHAT WILL TV DO NOW?

 

While the nation is cheering the resolution of the nearly two-week-long Anna Hazare agitation, one section of society might have mixed feelings about it coming to an end. We mean the media of course, specifically TV reporters and anchors who covered each and every second of the episode. The question being asked in TV newsrooms is: what next? The Ramlila Maidan protest and other mini-protests in different parts of the country kept reporters very busy and anchors literally sleepless. It has been a good year for them — first the World Cup, then the IPL, and now the Hazare agitation. There is nothing that live TV loves more than colour and action, and the events at the maidan provided both, with Team Anna helpfully feeding quotes at every step. The wise old men and women, otherwise known as TV panellists, too are a slightly sad lot. Here was their moment, as they held forth on issues like constitutional propriety without tripping over the words, and then dashed from one studio to another to join the same group they had just left behind.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WHAT'S NEXT FOR LIBYA?

 

After 42 years of Col. Muammar Gaddafi's rule in Libya has virtually ended, the new interim administration in the form of the National Transitional Council (NTC) has immense tasks ahead of it. Its handicap is, and will remain, the stark fact that, but months of intensive bombing over Libya by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation warplanes under the guise of a UN resolution seeking to protect civilians, the rebels would not have prevailed. There were also supplies of arms from France and Qatar, among other countries, and training and other help from such Gulf nations as the United Arab Emirates. There are no two opinions on the despotic and often bizarre nature of Gaddafi rule, but rather like the "guided democracy" inflicted upon their peoples by more than one military dictator, this is a regime change brought about by external powers, with France and Britain in the lead, with the United States choosing to stay in the background despite its major and continuing military contribution. Among the many challenges facing the new administration is to seek national reconciliation — the rebel stronghold Benghazi is in the eastern half of the country. And in a nation of tribal affiliations, with Berbers playing a major role in helping take the capital Tripoli, giving the feeling of inclusiveness is vital. Col. Gaddafi still commands the loyalty of his tribe. Second, the NTC is still a rather ad hoc organisation which must be buttressed by inviting other than eastern tribes and professionals who can bring expertise in their areas. Unlike in Egypt, Col. Gaddafi had denuded the country of institutions and ostensibly giving up office, ruled with an iron hand with the assistance of his sons and tribal loyalists. Having lost his compound in Tripoli, he has taken to issuing defiant radio messages and it is symbolically important for the authorities to capture him. They have placed a bounty on his head. But Libya is fortunate in being sparsely populated in an immense area rich in oil and minerals. Although its oil installations have been partially damaged in the fighting, it should take less than a year to get its daily production of 1.5 million barrels of oil moving again. In the medium term, it can rely on Libyan funds frozen in the West amounting to some $170 billion, according to some estimates, while a group of countries meeting in Qatar has been facilitating immediate grants to help the NTC with such expenses as paying salaries of public sector workers and urgent imports of food and medicines. The composition of the help group is interesting, comprising, among others, the United States, Britain, France, Qatar and Turkey. Besides, Libya has many experts in various fields it can tap; they were forced to leave the country. A sum of $ 1.5 billion of the Gaddafi regime has been unfrozen by the United Nations Security Council. Depending upon how the NTC performs its arduous tasks, the nationalist pull will come into play sooner, rather than later, and the help of the Western powers can become a liability for seeking to establish legitimacy. If Libyans are savouring the fruits of the Arab Spring, which took half a year of virtual civil war and much bloodshed, they will not be immune to the infection of the strong streak of nationalism, perhaps laced with forms of Islamist tendencies that increasingly prevails in the region. How Libyan rulers will balance their continuing need for Western assistance and expertise with asserting their legitimacy will remain a central dilemma. The bizarre nature of Col. Gaddafi's rule and rubbing such important leaders as the King of Saudi Arabia the wrong way were important reasons for the Gulf monarchies and the Arab League providing the West with cover for the intense Nato bombing runs in excess of 7,000 sorties that finally broke the back of Col. Gaddafi's superior forces. Qatar has also played an important role in giving money and material to Benghazi in keeping with its ambition to play a prominent regional role on the strength of its oil and gas riches. And the state-funded Al Jazeera Arabic television channel has become a mascot for all Arabs seeking more power and freedom for themselves and their countries. Libya also reminds us that the Arab Spring, which had seemed to end with Tunisia and Egypt in the hard summer, is still green. Libya has been a bloody and long drawn out affair but has in the end brought its people new help, albeit with a push and shove from the West. Yemen is still mired in a civil war, with its President, Abdullah Saleh, convalescing in Saudi Arabia but vowing to return, and tribal loyalties still playing out their deadly power play. Syria, whose people have suffered deeply in the face of their brave and continuing protests being answered by preponderant military force, is facing Western sanctions and a call for President Bashar Assad to step down. Seeing how the resolution on Libya was stretched, Russia and some in the Arab world are reluctant to arm the West with UN' authority to intervene in Syria. Europe, in any case, is counting the cost of its air warfare over Libya in today's straightened circumstances. Returning to Libya, what does the future hold for it? The short-term answer can only be ambiguous, given the nature of the problems it faces. A handicap the new dispensation suffers from is the lack of a charismatic leader. The head of the NTC, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, is a former minister who defected early, and, for all his earnestness, lacks charisma. Perhaps returning members of the diaspore will provide a new leader who can sway the people and lead to the beginnings of a modern nation state. The NTC is hoping that it will be able to account for Col. Gaddafi soon as his cult has been promoted so assiduously for so long that a section of Libyans will not feel completely secure until he is gone or safely under lock and key. He and his son Saif, initially wrongly reported to have been arrested, are also wanted on war crime charges by the International Court in The Hague.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

ALL ROADS LEAD TO RAMLILA

 

The jinxed galli Gautam Palli in Lucknow is considered one of the best-known addresses of the city. The government-owned huge bungalows, surrounded by trees, are made available to only to top bureaucrats and politicians in this colony that lies barely 500 mt from the chief minister's residence. Of late, however, a jinx is said to be working on this posh colony and, one by one, all its residents are falling on bad days. First of all, a senior IAS officer, Vijay Shankar Pandey, faced rough weather after his name figured in the Hasan Ali case. Once known as the most powerful bureaucrat of the Mayawati regime, Mr Pandey was thrown out to the board of revenue and has been languishing there ever since. Then Anant Misra, another resident of the same colony, lost his job as minister after the killing of chief medical officer Dr V.P. Singh. Mr Misra, as health minister, was asked to take moral responsibility for the murder and scam in his department. He is yet to be rehabilitated. Another minister, Dharam Singh Saini, is facing the heat of the Lokayukta, while his colleague, Avadh Pal Singh Yadav — also a resident of Gautam Palli — had to resign after the Lokayukta found him guilty of corruption. Other residents of Gautam Palli are now apprehensive of bad luck crossing their path and some have even started pujas to ward off the jinx. Anna's debt to Congress In the last 12 days of Anna Hazare's fast, his supporters have been severely critical of the UPA and opposed each and every policy formulated by it. However, the so-called Team Anna has also sought some inspiration from the Congress. As far as raising slogans at Ramlila Maidan or other such events organised by them go, protesters have been flipping through the Congress' decades-old slogan book. Slogans like "Anna nahi yeh aandhi hai, desh ka doosra Gandhi hai" and "Anna tum sangharsh karo hum tumhare saath hain" are improvisations of trademark Congress jingles that the party has been using successfully throughout the country. Team Anna and its supporters have just replaced the names of Congress leaders with Anna's name and are shouting out these popular chants. So, is imitation the best form of flattery in this case as well? Channel wars Assam ministers are set to start a virtual media war in the state by launching more news channels in the state. If insiders are to be believed, a consortium of Congress leaders, which includes ministers, are contemplating launching a news channel, the ninth in the state, to counter the supremacy of other ministers who own channels. Education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, whose wife owns a news channel, is in the eye of the storm of his detractors. Everyone knows his cold war with industry minister Pradyut Bordoloi. Mr Bordoloi, whose relatives own an FM radio station, is finding it difficult to match Mr Sarma, who generally succeeds because of strong media back-up. Other Congress ministers — Rockybul Hussain, who owns a newspaper and a cable news network in his home district, and his senior colleague MLA Anjan Dutta, who owns a newspaper — are said to have joined Mr Bordoloi in his mission to launch the news channel. No loyalty Anna Hazare's movement against graft has inspired all sections of society in Rajasthan to come out on the streets to protest against corruption. Students skipped classes, lawyers joined the protests and crowd marched in the streets. Places like Statue Circle became the centres of protests and sit-in. But people were surprised when they saw politicians speaking against corruption. The list of political crusaders included those who have been facing serious charges of corruption. Some of them were even vocal in the Assembly against corruption. "They (netas) always live with corruption, but when 'corruption' itself is cornered, the netas immediately changed their loyalty," said a protester, Mohan Kumawat. The issue provided fodder to the protesters to make jokes about the netas. "Ye log to bhrashtachar mein bhi imandar nahi hai. Jab bhrashtachar par attack hua to ye log saath chhod gaye, (These people are not even loyal to corruption. When corruption is attacked, these people are the first to leave)" another protester at Statue Circle said. Street politics The two major political parties in Madhya Pradesh — the ruling BJP and the main Opposition Congress — have come out on the streets and are trying to take political advantage by blaming each other for the miserable condition of roads across the state. While the state BJP leaders are busy passing the buck, the Congress has also pitched in its entire might to counter the BJP's assault. Recently, the state Cabinet passed a resolution to ask the Centre to hand over the national highways to the state. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan even wrote a letter to the Centre to reiterate this point. State Congress chief Kantilal Bhuria was quick to retort to Mr Chouhan to fulfil the responsibility of maintaining 40,000 km of state highways that are now in a pitiable state. In the midst of all the sound and fury, Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly Ajay Singh seized the initiative last week by writing to senior BJP leader and MP from Bhopal Kailash Joshi to stop "road politics"

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

INDIA RISES BUT FALTERS

 

On August 15, 1947, two great visions were entertained by two of the most powerful minds of modern India. One was by statesman Jawaharlal Nehru and the other by savant Sri Aurobindo. Both visions failed to materialise. Why? In the answer to this question lies one of the most instructive lessons of modern Indian history, and also the reason for the whirlpool of moral chaos in which the country finds itself today. In his speech, on August 14-15, 1947, Nehru had said: "A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance." What he had envisioned was that the noble values ingrained in the ancient philosophy of India, which were submerged under the debris of unfavourable times, would get rediscovered and be used as an asset. He had hoped that "the best of the old" in the Indian tradition and "the best of the new" in the modern world would get synthesised for raising a great edifice for the future India. But this vision soon slipped Nehru's mind. He forgot the soul of governance. It did not occur to him that the Constitution and the institutions that were being set up under it required an inner controller, a moral compass. He took practically no measures to ensure that the administrative structure was underpinned by the value of honest work and creative and constructive zeal. Nehru had recognised the moment when India's destiny was taking a sharp turn. But, unfortunately, he could not raise his leadership to a level that could bring about a civilisational change and create elevating national ethos and attitudes. Along with India's Constitution and Five-Year Plan, he could have been instrumental in the formulation and execution of a comprehensive national regeneration programme. But that was not to be. A golden opportunity, provided by India's tryst with destiny, was lost. Nehru, instead of assuming the role of an all-round helmsman and a master builder of a new society, chose to be a mere political administrator. Those who came after him did not even have the capacity to reconstruct the original vision or to evolve another on similar lines. The result is for all of us to see: a huge edifice of governance but made of poor clay; a bloated setup of modern institutions but with a barren soul. No wonder, the country was recently visited by an epidemic of corruption. And now people are out on the streets, demanding, ironically, the creation of more institutions whilst the infection is in the soul, which has been in slumber even in free India. Separately, on August 15, 1947, Sri Aurobindo, in a message broadcast to the nation from All-India Radio, unfolded his vision of free India: "India is arising, not to only serve her material interests but also to live for God and the world." It was not to become a "docile pupil of the West", but to act as a torchbearer of its awakened nobility. It could offer to the world its spiritual gifts, such as those contained in the philosophy of Sanatan Dharma, which according to him is a universal, eternal religion which embraces all others, providing a metaphysical basis for the ideals of equality, fraternity and national and international harmony. It was in the context of Sri Aurobindo's belief in the eternal and universal values, embedded in India's culture, that he, in his message on August 15, 1947, visualised a great role for it in bringing about a "worldwide union" and in providing a "fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind". He also thought that India would develop "a larger statesmanship". But what do we find today? A small group of countries holds sway over global economy and international power structure. And where is the "larger statesmanship"? What effort has India made in the direction? Instead, India has itself jumped on the bandwagon driven by globalisation, deregulation and other ingredients of neo-liberalism — the ingredients that are creating worldwide imbalances, not only in the economy but also in ecology. Consequently, the country is now witnessing, rapid depletion of natural resources and ever-widening disparities of income and lifestyles. Clearly, both the visions have fallen flat. First, the spiritual wasteland which India had become, due to long years of civilisational decay, was not reclaimed and fertilised to receive new seeds which freedom and modernity had brought. Second, neither the educational system nor the general atmosphere has been tuned to the need for creation of a permanent stream of men and women of character and conscience. It is not possible to have an honest and elevating framework of governance without providing an honest and elevating mindscape to the nation. We must now pick up the gems from our wisdom tradition and now compose that mindscape. Jagmohan is a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

GOD'S LOVE LETTERS

 

Madly in love with a maiden, a youth wrote her love letters daily. He did this for years, till she married the postman! Something similar happens while reading scripture. We forget who has written, what, how and why. I laughed when someone complained: "The Biblical Song of Songs is like pornography!" Reason? "God" never appears even once in its eight chapters; but lover-beloved, kisses-embraces and breasts-thighs do, with shocking frequency. In a recent lecture, Frank Clooney, professor in Harvard's Divinity School, stressed the need to read scripture of other religions to harmoniously live in multi-religious societies. Clooney reads the Ninth century Tamil text, Tiruvaymoli (Holy Word of Mouth) by Shatakopan, "our saint" (Nammalvar) and draws insightful parallels with the song: She muses longingly: "Upon my bed at night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him and found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer" (Song 3:1). Tiruvaymoli reads: "Our lord, he lies on the snake bed, but he does not come. Alas, who will save the life of this doer of stubborn deeds now? The whole city sleeps, the whole world is intense darkness" (V.4.1). She suffers heartache: "I look for just one word to say to you alone, but I don't find it anywhere. My shell-bracelets have slipped, I have lost my lustre, my full breasts have turned pale, I grow weak; my king rides the eagle with cruel eyes, yet I keep on desiring that lord of Venkatam" (Tiruvaymoli VIII.2.1). "I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and was gone. My soul failed me when he spoke; I sought him but did not find him; I called him but he gave no answer" (Song 5:6). He overwhelms her: "My beloved is all radiant and ruddy, distinguished among 10,000. His head is finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven" (Song 5:10-11). "Oh, my heart is melting beyond the limit of my life's breath, my desire grows — what can this servant do now, how can I think of the wondrous one who dwells in holy Katkarai where fragrant kavi flowers perfume the streets?" (Tiruvaymoli IX.6.1). "The saints are drunk with love, their thirst is for love," wrote Kabir. Mystics have exulted in their relationship with God as lover-beloved, or with God as lover and them as beloved. Yet, God's loving presence is punctuated by God's agonising absence. Thus, life becomes an ecstatic excruciating seesaw of love-and-loss best felt in the union-and-parting of lovers. Transcending religious boundaries, can't we allow God's love letters, scripture, to nurse our hearts? Lurking behind our daily loves we'll sense the one who is love. Then, we'll neither dismiss scripture as pornography nor wed those who are but carriers of God's love. Francis Gonsalves is the principal of the Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. He can be contacted at fragons@gmail.com

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

ONENESS OF BEINGS~II

 THE CONTEMPORARY CRISIS OF CULTURE AND CIVILIZATION

THE impact of the European Renaissance on  Indian society was well absorbed by the Reformation movement initiated by Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. They salvaged the Indian mind from the dilemma of the age and the rehabilitation was facilitated by the revival of the doctrines of the Upanashad. The spirit of the European Renaissance ~ rational inquiry, human rights, joy of living ~ was nothing new to the Indian mind.

 The Upanishads have forbidden accepting anything that is not amenable to reason. The very first verse of the Isha-Upanisad states: "Enjoy yourself by tyaga, do not get tempted by other's wealth." Tyaga is not sacrifice; rather it denotes the acceptance with all humility of what one owes to this world and repayment of debts. The Taittiriya-Upanishad celebrates the joy of being as it proclaims, "Everything is derived from joy, is nourished in joy, and finally returns to joy." (Verse 3.6).

However, the activities of Christian missionaries helped spread education and medical care. This made a profound impact on enlightened Indians. They did not fail to take note of the wide gap between the awareness of one's responsibility to others ~ repeatedly asserted in the Mahabharata ~ and its ineffective realisation in social practice. This is apparent in the continuance of such offensive social customs as caste discrimination and treatment of  untouchables, so-called.

Swami Vivekananda unequivocally pointed out this reality when he said, "No religion on earth preached the dignity of humanity in such a lofty strain as Hinduism, and no religion on earth treads upon the necks of the poor and the low in such a fashion as Hinduism."

The Upanishadic doctrines of Oneness and Truth were explored by Mahatma Gandhi through satyagraha, which asserts the supremacy of Truth over brute physical strength. Maintaining an undeniable link with its past heritage, the revival of Indian culture in the modern period reaffirmed the concept of "oneness" by extending the claim that all religions point to the same goal. Jagadish Bose once said, "The more deeply we perceive, the more striking becomes the evidence that a uniform plan links every form in manifold nature." The idea enriched by such great personalities as Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Aurobindo proved to be the mainstay of pluralism in Indian culture.

Sindh was at the crossroads of two genuinely distinct philosophical traditions of classical India and the Hellenic world, which independently took up some identical basic questions of ethics and metaphysics. One of the aphorisms attributed to the ancient Greek sage Socrates, carved onto the temple of Apollo at Delphi, says, "Gnothi seauton" ~ "Know thyself". The "self" has been explored in a number of quotations of the Chhandogya-Upanishad. It is the knowledge of Self that holds the secret of how to transcend death. The Katha-Upanisad observes: "A rare discriminating man, desiring immortality, turns his eyes inwards and sees the Self."

.1.1 ~ Translation by Balasubramanian).

Gilgamesh, the oldest story recorded in human history and written in circa 1700 BC, is about a  king, Gilgamesh who reigned in the Sumerian city of Uruk in 2750 BC. The protagonist, after the death of his beloved friend, sets out on a long desperate journey to find the only man on earth, Utnapishtim, who can tell him how to escape death. The agonising journey of Gilgamesh ultimately ends in realising the futility of his quest for eternal life.
While Gilgamesh's futile journey for eternal life is through hostile physical nature, the odyssey of Yudhishthira in the Mahabharata is through the depth of his inner self. Confronted with conflicting conceptions of various duties at every turn of life, he is often confused to take the right course. His quest for truth leads him to a journey of asking questions ~ questions concerning the human condition, about one's relationship with one's self and with the world one lives in. He wanders through all the outer worlds knocking at every alien door to come to his own until the conflicting claims of his personality dissolves into the fullness of "impersonal" transcending the mortal barriers of existence, thereby transforming himself into the rare discriminating man of the Katha-Upanishad. Such a way of looking at the world and structuring human relations accordingly is the distinctive feature of the cultural tradition of India.
Ancient Greece, which is the source of Western philosophy, shared the same awareness of individual perfectibility as contemplated in classical Indian thoughts of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. The intellectual development of Enlightenment, in the name of progress, shifted its focus from making perfect man to make imperfect man comfortable. This shift of individual values from attainment of perfection to striving for comfort had a far-reaching consequence.

The Tertullian voice for embracing faith as opposed to reason ~ "What Athens has to do with Jerusalem" ~ had long been silenced. The universal light of reason has also been set aside. To separate humane from sacred in the name of modernity, the Machiavellian operation of removing ethics and morality from the society is complete. A culture of rights devoid of any sense of commitment to  society and awareness of responsibilities to others has pervaded all forms of human relations, and that too under the pretense of various "isms". Such has been the end of the road for so-called development and progress, of the lack of enthusiasm for which India stood perennially accused.

In its reluctance to look beyond the surface, human existence is now lost in a maze of a depthless entity that lacks the intention to face reality in its entirety. In the intellectual vacuum so formed, the notion of fragmentation and incoherence rules the roost and is presented as the dominant culture of the day.
We are faced with a strange paradox. While breakthrough of scientific truths in diverse fields of the physical universe are inching towards increased appreciation of the idea of oneness of truth, the metaphysical thoughts of the day are drifting apart by celebrating the relativity of truth in a meaningless world.

The journey from Gilgamesh to Yudhishthira took about 1300 years for human civilisation to realise that the real obstacle to the path of eternal life is not external but internal. Yet more than 2000 years after Yudhishthira's decisive journey to eternal life, civilisation ~ driven by primitive instincts of selfish greed ~ has circled back to the vulgar competition for material gain in which a few are enriched at the expense of others. We are thus steadily losing the battle against poverty and ignorance not due to the dearth of material resources but by making ourselves culturally bankrupt.

It is high time that we restore our cultural priority. The individual must be aware of his/her responsibility towards others ~ responsibility arising not from an idea of duty or obedience to some law, but from being together in a human situation. Such a system of secular morality alone is capable of balancing the tilt in today's culture of selfish "rights". The theism that effectively accounts for the inescapability of these ethical values can provide a moral compass until a wholly secular culture is evolved.

Given the people's allegiance to communal, state or group loyalties, it is necessary to realise the importance of "oneness" underlying the belief systems in the superstructure of Indian culture. Non-violence and tolerance are essential ingredients that form the basis of a broader ethic capable of exploring ways of governance and reducing social conflict in India.

The ancient Greek adage, "meden agan ~ "(let there be) nothing in excess", carved on the temple at Delphi has become more relevant now as never in the past. Before it is too late to avert the sinking of our titanic civilization, let us pray in Tagore's voice: "Make us worthy of simple great gifts that we have received unasked ~ this sky and the light, the life, this body and the mind ~ and save us from perils of overmuch desire."

    (Concluded)

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

BOEING COMPLEX A CHIC DESIGN STUDIO

SIMON CALDER


SEATTLE, 28 AUG: The most unusual building in the vast Boeing complex at Everett, north of Seattle, resembles a chic interior-design studio. The elegant curves of the Dreamliner Gallery embrace the ultimate pick-and-mix showroom. Customers for the world's most advanced airliner choose fixtures and fittings from economy-class seats and business-class bidets to coffee makers and the galley sink. Executives from the dozens of airlines with orders for the Boeing 787 have been flown here to make their selection. But so far none has seen their shiny new toys take to the skies.


Last night, Boeing officials were hoping that a ceremony at Everett marking Federal Aviation Administration approval of the new "Dreamliner" will signal a change in fortunes.


The first of 55 Boeing 787s for the launch customer, ANA of Japan, is due to land in Tokyo a month from today. But Britain's airlines must wait for several years for theirs to arrive. The aircraft represents the most radical innovation in aviation since the Boeing 747 entered service 41 years ago. So high is the 787's specification that, even with a score of cancellations this year, it has the biggest pre-launch order book of any wide-bodied jet. Airlines are hungry for the 20 per cent fuel saving compared with other "big twins", while environmentalists long for the new plane to replace old, thirsty and dirty aircraft.


"The Dreamliner promises to be much cheaper to fly than the aircraft it will replace," said Douglas McNeil, analyst with Charles Stanley Securities. "With $100 oil seemingly here to stay, that can't come quickly enough for the airline industry."


The biggest beneficiaries, though, should be the 250 or so passengers aboard each plane. For the first time, passenger comfort has been at the heart of the design. The windows are much larger than on current aircraft, and are fitted with "smart glass" that is designed to reduce glare and obviate the need for individual shutters.
Unlike present aircraft, which are pressurised to an altitude of 8,000 feet, the 787 is calibrated to 6,000 feet. This margin greatly reduces the debilitating effects of a long flight. Even though the first scheduled link is a Japanese domestic hop of just 340 miles, the 787's range of 8,800 miles will enable non-stop connections from London to previously hard-to-reach destinations such as Bali, Honolulu and the Chilean capital, Santiago. Shorter routes previously abandoned as uneconomic could re-appear: Anchorage, New Orleans, Durban in South Africa, the Peruvian capital Lima and Manila in the Philippines are obvious candidates.


the independent

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THE TELEGRAPH

FLOOD OF IDEAS

At the end of her first day in the Writers' Buildings last May, the West Bengal chief minister announced that she would appoint an expert committee on how best to use flood waters. The flood waters have since arrived, and are waiting for the chief minister to make up her mind about the committee, for the committee to make up its mind about what to do with floods, for the government to decide on the recommendations of the committee, and for it to act on its decisions. This contrasts with the dispatch with which the government that preceded her acted in 2000, when the state was faced with equally disastrous floods. Then, the chief minister had approached the central committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which called a meeting of the central committee in Delhi, which passed a resolution on October 2, 2000, asking the Central government to declare the floods a national disaster and rush to the help of the state. It is debatable which is more effective, making resolutions one does not mean to keep or passing resolutions that one knows to be pointless.

Considering the pace hitherto maintained by the present chief minister, appointing the flood committee may take some time; however resolute they may be, the flood waters may find it difficult to hold on that long. Meanwhile, the chief minister's attention has turned to inflation. On Saturday, she asked the chief secretary to hold an inquiry into the rise in the prices of fruit and vegetables. Then she charged into two local markets, and on the basis of the voluntary confessions she extracted from the traders, declared that middlemen and wholesalers were indulging in black marketing to raise prices. Her interlocutors must have been confused, because there cannot be a black market without a white market, and there cannot be two markets unless there are price controls, as in grains; till now at least, the chief minister has not ordered prices to stop rising, so the black market is a figment of her imagination.

However wrong she may be, it would be unwise for the chief secretary to come to a different conclusion from hers in his inquiry. But the rise in the prices of fruit and vegetables has a proximate cause, namely the floods in areas that grow it. Since Bengal lies at the downstream end of two of the world's biggest rivers, there is not much chance of preventing floods. Much can be done, however, to prevent casualties and disruption. Buildings on stilts, or at least, two-storeyed buildings would be useful; cleaning and deepening ponds would increase storage, while diversion of flood water to drier areas would serve a dual purpose. Rice grows in Bengal because it tolerates floods; but so do many commercially valuable trees. Such solutions are more likely to come from an expert committee than from an amateur chief minister

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

 

GIRLS IN A SPOT

Must the route to every social good be determined by the shifting dynamics among politicians? That the falling numbers of girls in Maharashtra should impel political parties in the state to try to improve the child sex ratio is a good thing in itself. But it may be less of a good thing when the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, allies in government, push forward leaders brimful of schemes, each trying to outdo the other. The minister for women and child development, Varsha Gaikwad of the Congress, has been campaigning since the end of June in different parts of the state to end sex selective abortion and save the female child. She had formulated a couple of incentive schemes, one of these specifically for girls below the poverty line. But the finance minister, Ajit Pawar, is rather inclined to put these on the shelf.

With Supriya Sule, the NCP member of parliament, leading a padayatra, and Vinayak Mete, another NCP leader, launching a programme for the improvement of the female child's lot (to be funded by non-governmental organizations), while Mr Pawar keeps Ms Gaikwad's schemes at bay, the NCP seems to be making as much hay as possible out of the skewed sex ratio before the zilla parishad and municipal corporation elections come up in 2012. Maharashtra reserves 50 per cent of the seats in local and municipal bodies for women. Any pretext to hog the limelight is important now, since the NCP is debating whether to run the gauntlet of the forthcoming elections on its own. As the Congress is doing. Ms Gaikwad, blocked from launching her own schemes, has started off a couple of Central programmes to help the female child. The scene is bristling with schemes, ideas of schemes, programmes, meetings and padayatras. Does this mean that girls will be allowed to live? History only offers gloom, so maybe the future should be given a chance.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

IF SALT LOSES ITS SAVOUR

TROUBLE IN THE US ECONOMY WILL HAVE ITS EFFECT ON INDIA TOO ASHOK MITRA

Times change; so do identities. In the not altogether distant past, 'market' used to mean the place where one did the day's shopping, buying cereals, vegetables, eggs, fish, meat, provisions and suchlike. No longer. The market is now the share market. The media report, with religious regularity, hourly movements in the market, how prices — share prices — behaved in the morning session, how prices oscillated during the afternoon, where prices closed at the end of the day. With the increasing trend towards exclusive growth and command over the economy fast turning into a hegemony of the affluent, speculating in the market — buying and selling of shares — is currently the central concern of the government too. Market behaviour — whether share prices are moving up or down and by how much — is considered the barometer of the country's economic health. Neither the government nor the media are unduly bothered about the daily trends in the prices of commodities that humble householders, straining to make ends meet, are avidly interested in, like prices of foodgrains. At most an index of consumer prices is released on a weekly basis.

This shift in market identity has led to a reversal in the perception of what is good or bad for it. In those ancient days, any increase in market prices was considered a bad thing, since it would cause hardship to the common man. With the stock exchanges appropriating the nomenclature of the market, the concept of a desirable development is transformed: if the market is buoyant and prices soar, cheers rent the air; gloom descends if prices dip.

When prices of food and other daily necessities rise steeply and the nation's majority suffers, the government says it has no magic wand to control prices; the finance minister piously looks up to the weather god as in the colonial era. It is a different story when share prices crash, as they have done in the wake of the downgrading of the credit rating of the United States of America by Standard and Poor's. Shares plummeted in Wall Street and, to borrow the Japanese phrase, the resulting shokku was felt worldwide. India could not remain unaffected. The prestigious index, the sensex, came down by several notches at one go. Speculators, blind with fear, called Standard and Poor's dirty names. The country's upper classes were told over the past two decades to accept as gospel truth that what was good for the share market was good for them and, ipso facto, good for the economy; and now, suddenly, this near-calamity. The authorities bestirred themselves with extraordinary rapidity. Reserve Bank of India officials and senior civil servants pleaded with investors not to panic: they were keeping a watch on the situation; the finance minister rushed to read out a solemn-to-the-occasion statement — India would sail through the crisis, our 'fundamentals' were strong enough to cope with temporary vicissitude of fortune.

These 'fundamentals' must be a mysterious category. The finance minister could not have been referring to the stagnation of agriculture or to the fact that close to one-third of our people are too poor to buy enough food for their body. Nor could he have in mind that other dubious achievement, the phenomenon of jobless growth. The rate of industrial growth — including growth in infrastructures — has of late slowed down. The undoubtedly marked increase in merchandise exports is not of much help since we continue to import more than we export. In only two areas the record is impressive: global demand for Indian softwares has kept growing at an exponential rate, and our foreign exchange holdings have touched a seemingly comfortable level.

The circumstances are nonetheless dicey. The immediate prospects for the American economy, the world's largest, look gloomy. For the first time since the nightmarish 1930s, the US rate of unemployment has touched 10 per cent. President Barack Obama has lost to the Republican Congress in the fiscal battle, the Congress has agreed to raise a wee bit the ceiling on public debt on the condition that budgetary expenditure is drastically cut over the years. Keynesian measures to boost employment through public initiative is therefore an act of reckoning. The banking sector, yet to get out of the trauma of the sub-prime debacle, will be exceedingly reluctant to go on any expansionary binge. Its role, in any case, continues to be incorrigibly profit-centric. Given the state of the economy, the corporate bodies too are more than likely to keep pruning their investment plans. To add to the woes, average American consumers persist in their preference for foreign goods over home products on grounds of both price and quality: in a free enterprise system, clamping of any restrictions on imports is inconceivable. The Standard and Poor's verdict has effected the coup de grâce. Its message is brutally simple: the US is no longer a safe haven for investors. It will, therefore, be no surprise in case a good and proper recession sets in, leading to a shrinkage in the American economy. That would be grim tidings for many Asian countries, including India. Our exports of semi-manufactures and manufactures, raw materials and minerals are bound to decline. Of vastly greater significance would be the plummeting of software earnings, accompanied by a parallel contraction in remittances sent home by expatriate skilled and semiskilled workers.

For some never-say-die optimists, it need not be an entirely bleak picture. The American crisis, they will suggest, can, at least in the short run, lead to a substantial increase in our holdings of foreign exchange by courtesy of the genre known as international finance capital. To induce banks and corporations to keep the economy afloat, the Federal Reserve Board is under commitment to maintain the US prime rate of interest at near-zero level. This would persuade footloose capital to move out of the US and search alternative locations where the rate of return is not so abysmally low. There could be hardly any better choice to park their funds than India where the rate of interest offered ranges around 8 to 10 per cent. Foreign institutional investors are sure to flock in, don the role of big players in Indian bourses to gladden the heart of investors. Share prices would, in consequence, begin to stabilize — and even move up. Once the process gathers steam, everything would turn hunky-dory and the nation's affluent set would get back their peace of mind.

But it all depends. The meat of the issue is how the American nation copes with the nitty-gritty of the emerging realities. A nagging spell of economic stagnation alongside a 10 per cent rate or more of unemployment is breeding ground for despair. Of equal concern is the country's ever increasing balance of payments deficit; the Chinese authorities have been blunt but what they have said is true: rising US external indebtedness implies that the country is living on the charity of others.

These are all combustible material. The riots in England should leave some lessons behind. The jobless and under-privileged may for quite a while idly walk by shop windows displaying dazzling luscious jewellery, sophisticated electronic goods and other luxuries; but a weekend can arrive when they are no longer content with window-shopping; they decide on window-breaking and wild bouts of what the British prime minister calls vandalism. Is the US immune to a similar sort of development? A lot of emotions is pent up under the surface: deep disenchantment with the purposeless loss of American lives in the remote wilderness of Iraq and Afghanistan, resentment at the administration's exertions to bail out the very banks and corporations that were primarily responsible for the crisis spawned in 2008, a feeling that foreigners are appropriating American jobs and the government is doing nothing about it, residual racial and ethnic tensions carried over from the past, anger at measures afoot to rob organized labour of trade union rights. Should social tranquillity be rudely disturbed, even if spasmodically and temporarily, the impact is capable of disequilibrating the economy to an extent where production plunges, finance capital loses its way and chaos takes over. Given the close interlink the Asian countries have developed with the US economy, this could be equally disastrous for them, including for India. That China would be a co-victim could provide zero solace.

The finance minister's 'fundamentals' would go up in smoke once the turmoil in the US crosses a certain point. For one thing, the gushing flow of dollars that might swell over forcing exchange assets to lose their significance if, following the economic crash on the domestic front, the external value of the American dollar descends to inconceivably low levels. Our dollar holdings would then be rendered almost worthless. That would be an apt instance of inability to salt the earth because salt itself has lost its savour.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

WAY TO GO

GWYNNE DYER

"Brother Colonel" Muammar Gaddafi's time is up: the rebels are now in the heart of Libya's capital, Tripoli. But Libya has seen six months of fighting, at least a thousand deaths, and foreign military intervention in support of the rebels. This is not the kind of nonviolent revolution that we have come to expect in the 21st century. Are the rules changing again?

From Lisbon in 1974 to Manila in 1986, East Berlin in 1989, Moscow in 1991, Jakarta in 1995, Belgrade in 2000, and Cairo early this year, popular revolutions using nonviolent tactics have driven dictators from power. Violent revolutions have been commonplace for over two centuries now, but the great discovery of our own era has been how to make the dictators quit without shedding blood.

The success of the early nonviolent revolutions was a surprise to almost everybody, but as time passed and the list of successes lengthened, we grew to think of them as normal. Now, in Libya, we seem to have a throwback to an earlier time. It's a good thing that Gaddafi is finished, but nobody can claim that this is a success of nonviolence.

What lessons should we draw from this, especially at a time when several other attempts to use nonviolent techniques to bring about a democratic revolution, notably in Yemen and Syria, are struggling to survive? Are there places where these techniques simply won't work?

Nonviolent revolutions can succeed when the great majority of people in a country share the same basic identity. If we all belong to the same society, then it is an act of great moral import for its members to kill one another, or for the rulers to kill the citizens. So long as the rebels do not resort to force, it is difficult for even a cruel and repressive regime to start using lethal force against peaceful protesters.

Nonviolence works much less well in countries whose populations are deeply divided by language, religion, or ethnicity, since it depends heavily on people having a shared identity. Syria, for example, has a Kurdish-speaking minority, and even the Arabic-speaking majority is divided into Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Christians and Druze.

Unfinished story

Yemenis all speak Arabic, but their society is divided into Shias and Sunnis and riven by tribal rivalries of long-standing and great complexity. Libya is homogeneous in language and religion and much more prosperous than Syria or Yemen, but it is not a fully unified society despite all that. It's an urbanized, seemingly modern country, but for a great many Libyans, tribal loyalties come first.

So the revolution in Libya was violent from the start. In Syria, the protests began nonviolently and have largely remained so, but the regime has not felt constrained to avoid the use of force and some 2,000 civilians have been killed. In Yemen, the students who launched the protest movement were trying to emulate Egypt's nonviolent democratic revolution, but they have been sidelined by tribal rivalries.

This is regrettable, but it is not surprising. Nonviolence works best in fairly cohesive societies, which is not what we are dealing with here. The remarkable thing in Libya is not that the revolution has been violent, but that the revolutionaries have worked so hard to keep the tribalism from taking over. What they are aiming for, quite explicitly, is a Libyan society that is not only democratic but also post-tribal. If the fall of Tripoli is not too bloody, they stand a reasonable chance of creating it.

Nonviolence has mostly run out of easy societies to transform, which is a measure of how successful it has been in the past 40 years. But even in the most divided societies it has a role to play, and people are willing to risk their lives to make it work. This story still has some distance to run.

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

EDITORIAL

PEOPLE'S WILL

''THE CLIMB-DOWN BY THE GOVT IS A VICTORY FOR THE PEOPLE.''


It would be wrong to consider the acceptance ''in principle'' by the government of the demands made by civil society led by Anna Hazare about the Lokpal bill as a victory for one side and defeat for the other. The tumultuous, spontaneous and wide support received by Hazare showed that the people were behind him. Therefore, the climbdown made by the government on Saturday is a victory of the people, not of a group of persons. Hazare was only an agent of the people who made the government realise that it had to reconnect with them to retain its legitimacy.


It is easy to look at it as a surrender, considering that the government had once summarily rejected the Jan Lokpal bill but has now accepted almost everything in it, though in principle. But it might be better to take a more positive view,  and see it as a case of a government becoming wiser through trauma and ordeal.

The Hazare movement was sometimes painted as a threat to the supremacy of parliament. The resolution of the situation on Saturday showed the fallacy of that perception. Parliament witnessed an excellent debate on all the issues that came to the fore in the last few days. Its standing has not come down. The Lokpal bill will ultimately be passed by parliament only. It has not been coerced into accepting anything. The sense of the House resolution has recommended positive consideration of the civil society proposals to the standing committee which is studying the Lokpal legislation.


Parliament's power and authority have not been compromised in any way. Actually parliament, and the country's democratic system, has been strengthened by their ability to respond to people's sentiments. A technical debate on parliament's powers is not relevant as long as the spirit of democracy wins.

The cause of an independent and effective Lokpal will not be realised till one is actually set up. The standing committee has to study the sense of the House recommendations. It is not bound by the resolution. The committee's recommendations need not be accepted by parliament also.  Therefore, there is much to go before the bill becomes law and comes into effect. Civil society has to be watchful against any dilution of the promises made by the government. On its part, the government should feel humble and learn its lessons from a very historic moment of democratic outreach.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

DISMAL SCENARIO

''AGRICULTURAL GROWTH IS THE ONLY BRIGHT SPOT.''


The Reserve Bank of India's annual report would not receive the attention it receives now, if the issues and the scenario it reports about were normal. But these are difficult times for the economy, with a scaled down target of growth, soaring inflation, troubled financial markets and unfavourable  global circumstances. These are the factors that have caused concern to the  bank in the last many months and they will continue to preoccupy it in the near future.


It is quite clear about the big threat to the economy, posed by inflation. It knows it has a role to fight it, and is frank about it. It warns against accepting the present high levels as the ''new  normal'', but sees the rate at about 7 per cent by the end of the financial year. It has raised the policy rates 11 times since March 2010 and the report has indicated  it would continue thke harsh stance in the near future. It hopes that monetary policy may help to curb the second round effects of supply side inflation.


But there is a note of dismay over the lack of support from the government for its actions. Even this is not new. The RBI has expressed this sentiment in the past also. It has said that two years of inflation have ''laid bare its imitation…in the absence of adequate supply response'' from the government. It is not only global factors which are inhibiting growth and fuelling inflation. Weak external demand and high commodity prices are a reality but factors like the inability to ramp up supply, continuous project delays, which are internal, had a major role in the deterioration of the economic  situation.


There are other worries too. The fiscal budget for the current year is likely to go beyond budgetary projections. The government's capital spending has gone down while overall expenditure has gone up. If growth slows down, which is likely, revenues will decline and the deficit will widen further. At the same time the fiscal ability to act in a difficult situation is more limited than during the 2008 global crisis.


Investment may fall and there is a downside risk to industrial growth. All these paint a gloomy picture where only better agricultural growth prospects remain a bright spot. Overall, the report is not an encouraging one, but it is realistic. Its suggestions and recommendations should receive the government's urgent attention.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

BOTOX OF HARD CASH

 M J AKBAR


There is an eminently logical reason why the corruption debate reels like a drunk bounced out for being too disorderly even for a high-consumption bar.

This is because everyone wants to end corruption but not end it completely. And so the BJP would like honesty everywhere, with a little margin for mine-diggers in Karnataka. The Congress wants a clean India down to every well in every village, but not so pure that it cannot feed the venal thirst of ministers or its holy cows — and these days the herd includes a holy bull. No political party is really free from this trap. A regional leader who postures as the epitome of simple, rumpled honesty sends a businessman whose blubber is not limited to his bank account to the Rajya Sabha.

There is a cancer at the heart of our democracy: our electoral system is fuelled by black money rather than white funds. The institutions which report to politicians know this, and make their own arrangements. The CBI can get ferocious when it wants about its preferred seasonal targets, but it has no interest in stopping fellow policemen from taking Rs 150 a month from each shanty in each Delhi slum in order to ensure that the water supply is not cut off. The poor are not forgiven simply because they are impoverished. Governance has become bloated, wherever you look, with Botox injections of hard cash.

The only person who wants to eradicate it completely is Anna Hazare. As he piquantly pointed out once, he could never afford to fight an election.
The debate has careened through a myriad prescriptions without concentrating on the root of our crisis, corruption in elections. Manmohan Singh did checkpoint the need for electoral reform; but that was a tick mark which no one, including his own party, picked up with any conviction. The political class has gathered to check the corruption of businessmen, judges, bureaucrats (down to the district level) and anyone else you can think of. But when it comes to introspection, the assembled elite begins to dissemble. It would rather not discuss a Lokpal empowered to delve into the cash flow of politics.

The alibis are always there, most notably, the Election Commission, alleged guardian of probity. That is like saying that the judiciary exists. Police and judges were created to prevent crime. If they had done so there would be no debate. The Election Commission is transparently sincere in its intentions, but the challenge is far beyond its authorised capabilities. If you want even a vague idea of the levels of money involved in politics, all you have to do is read the published statements of politicians.

Insurance of loyalty

The Congress chief in Andhra Pradesh claims that the MLAs who resigned from his party to join Jagan Reddy have been paid around Rs 10 crore each. Don't treat that as fact. If cash was the only insurance of loyalty, then the Congress has enough to buy out every Opposition party in the country. But what that claim does indicate is the range within which such offers are made.

I hope no one believes that the solution to electoral corruption lies in state funding; that would be feeding taxpayer's money into an insatiable trough. It would increase budgets, not decrease them.

Anna Hazare's commitment and courage have unnerved the Congress, but not destabilised the ruling coalition. The Congress counterattack was led by home minister P Chidambaram who threw Anna into Tihar jail, and then discovered that his 'victim' had the alchemist's ability to turn dross into gold. It is a measure of Congress discomfiture that the loudest noise in the current debate is the sound of Chidambaram's silence.

It took a surprising while for Congress to realise that this movement was deeper than the surface activity of twitters would suggest. The poor know that Anna Hazare is one of their own, in a way that his associates may or may not be. It does not matter to them who his advisers are. They have rallied behind him, and that is sufficient for them. The Congress lost more sympathy by trying to sully Anna's personal reputation than perhaps on any other count.

But, paradoxically, it is fear of the Anna effect on the electorate that ensures the survival of the ruling coalition. So Anna both rocks the government as well as ensures its continuity. As has been well said, nothing clears the mind like the sight of a noose, and the coalition parties are practical enough to see such a dismal future very clearly indeed.

The prime minister must address a different question: how long can he remain in office without being able to govern? He has fought his last election. He is free from electoral compromises; it is akin to an American president's second term, where he must keep the party in mind, but the much more compelling need for re-election is out of the way. Much of this opportunity has already been lost. Will the rest be frittered away as well?

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

PRODIGAL SON IPAVES THE WAY

The stories Steve Jobs really sets your mind in a think zone. Its content is of having to trust in fate, destiny, life, suffering and 'karma'. Jobs, the American business magnate and inventor also won a different battle. It was a battle with cancer.
This is the story of a man who co-founded Apple Computer with Steve Wozniak in the US in 1976. His young age then, wealth and charisma was synonymous with his company and industries.
From humble beginnings to graduation from high school in 1972, he later enrolled in college and dropped out after only one semester. He never regretted this decision. Instead, he went on to say that Mac would never have hade multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts, if he continued his college term. He loved to brag. Call it an idiosyncrasy, but one has to admit that this was the package that made a Steve Jobs, tick.
In what started out as a small time venture quickly grew into $350 billion main stream techie company, with a stunning array of products, GenNext would crave for. In 1983 Steve Jobs lured John Sculley away from Pepsico. But Johnny's term in Apple had been controversial.
An internal power struggle between Steve and the board of directors that included Johnny, saw him depart from Apple in 1984 only to return back in 1996, when Apple purchased his company NeXT, is testimony of his prodigality. The second home coming never saw him retracing his steps.
Steve Jobs' positives like the one on doing great work and love what one does and also learning from your failures, must be attributed to his indomitable spirit. This spirit lives on in Steve Jobs till today.
Negatives aside, it must be appreciated that Jobs' intellect was no flash in the pan. His vision was mixed with a think tank mind in GenNext's future wardrobe.
The pundits of Silicon Valley have a term for Steve Jobs' charisma: the reality distortion field. This is quite true. Look at the reality of today's world of IT. The future of today's IT lives in Jobs' reality. This is the reality where exquisite design and sheer utility are addictive and usable tools.
Jobs' famous persuasive power, creativity and business brain are apparent in legendary hardware and software achievements across three decades of work.
Jobs' invention produced smash hits like the Macintosh computer, with the mouse and Graphic User Interface (GUI) into prominence, Walt Disney's Pixar Animation studios, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad II. The latest in its showcase is the iPod tablet. The last named has some music, video and WWW there.
Steve Jobs ranks among the few non Americans who saw the American dream and chased it successfully. Though he relinquished his post as the CEO of Apple, and continues as the chairman, this is a void, which Apple would now have to learn the hard way. Tim will have to cook up some thing new.
It is like standing on your own feet, but at the end of the day, one can still count on Jobs for inspiration, and lean on it. This will be the future Apple saga of success.
IBM, Linux, OS and POS manufacturers, dig this?

 

CAUSE & CURE OF CORRUPTION

IBONIO D'SOUZA

The current nation-wide movement against the evil of corruption and the demand for a strong Lokpal Bill is a vital step in the right direction of establishing morality and integrity in the country. While India has been fortunate to have an entire generation that dedicated itself to the cause of freedom, there is another that has driven the country into the morass of corruption and crime.
Corruption originates in greed, which has been described as one of the gateways to hell. In our country today, we see the distressing scarcity of necessities among the have-nots being exacerbated by the blatant misappropriation of taxpayer's money by the powers that be, who keep increasing their sickening flaunting of luxuries. There is rampant corruption at three levels of society; the first level is in the minds of the general public. Secondly, there is bribe giving and taking at the official level. The third level of corruption is at the ministerial level. To combat this greed, manifesting as corruption, spiritual wisdom recommends measures at two levels: material and spiritual. In that light, a disciplinary body like the Lokpal with teeth to punish the corrupt is vital for curbing and combating the evil of corruption. Social trends seep rapidly from top to the bottom, so corruption at the top inevitably perpetuates, even multiplies, by the time it reaches the bottom. Therefore, providing the disciplinary body with powers to ensure accountability among the top leaders of society will go a long way to ensure accountability among all segments of society.
The material solutions alone however are not enough to combat greed or corruption. We must acknowledge the deep-rooted human frailty to succumb to temptation. There is the need for spiritual education and training for overcoming this frailty. The re-spiritualisation of human consciousness enables one and all to experience that real fulfillment in life comes through gratitude, not greed; through service, not exploitation; through sharing, not grabbing. Such re-spiritualisation among political rulers is essential for establishing and maintaining righteousness, moral and spiritual integrity, in society.

 

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

PORT INFRASTRUCTURE & SERVICES

NITIN KUNCOLIENKAR

 

The role of port used to be that of provision of services to ships and their cargoes, and the facilitation of the movement of goods and passengers between land and sea. Previously, we looked at the historical aspect of ports. Now, its time to look at port infrastructure and services and the ideal port setups.
Port infrastructure and services create and maintain different kinds of infrastructure. These are: (a) maritime access infrastructure, (b) port area infrastructure, (c) port super structure, and (d) land access infrastructure.
The maritime access infrastructure facilitates ships to access port services. It includes channels for ships, sea defense (breakwaters and locks), and signalling (light houses, lighting, and buoys that keep the ship afloat). Port area infrastructure consists of berths, docks, basins, storage facilities and internal connections like roads. Ports have both fixed and mobile super structures at its areas. Terminals, sheds, fuel tanks, and official buildings are fixed super structures while super structures like cranes and carriers are mobile. Infrastructure and super structures located at the port site enable the egress and ingress of merchandise. Lastly, land access infrastructure like road connectivity, railway connectivity, inland navigation channels etc., enables the distribution of ingress merchandise and collection of egress merchandise at port site.


Port services can be classified as (a) berthing services, (b) cargo handling services, and (c) others. Berthing of a ship requires services like pilotage, towing and tying. Pilotage covers the operations required for a ship to enter and exit a port safely. Towage is the operation of maneuvering a ship using tugs.
Cargo handling services includes all those related to the movement of cargo to and from ships and across port facilities. Stevedoring i.e., moving goods within a ship and loading, moving goods onto a ship from the jetty has been clubbed as stevedoring service due to the availability of modern cargo handling techniques like containerisation. Because specialised techniques for handling each type of cargo have evolved, specialised cargo handling equipment and terminals are being created.


Ports provide ancillary services like supplies to ships such as fuel and water, cleaning, and refuse collection. Further, a range of services is provided by agents who handle the documentation for shippers, the health clearances, import and export requirements, and customs duties.


The present monograph is meant to give a comprehensive view of the present state of ports, shipping and maritime logistics in India. It attempts to bring out different issues associated with the performance of this sector. In line with this objective, the monograph provides a sketch of Indian ports, their functioning and associated aspects. We need to look at the shipping industry in the future and what it constitutes and means to Goa. The composition of the shipping industry in India, issues of policy relevance that govern the shipping industry have to be dealt with. The policy framework that governs both ports and shipping sectors in India is of utmost importance. Only with strong and business oriented policies can the industry be governed better and help to contribute to Goa's economy. The state of the port infrastructure and maritime logistics should be covered as well. The critical aspects of performance of ports and shipping industries along with the efficiency of maritime logistics in India need to be discussed and I will be examining all of the above in the future and putting forth my views on how the ports should be operated and governed, as well as summarising this and suggesting possible solutions for improving the services of ports.

 

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HAARTEZ

A NEW ORDER IN THE SINAI

One of the major stumbling blocks during the peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt from 1977 to 1979 - aside from the question of linking Israeli-Egyptian peace to a solution of the Palestinian problem - was the limitation on Egyptian sovereignty in the Sinai Peninsula after Israel withdrew. Israeli security concerns were addressed via a gradual demilitarization, a dilution of forces and an international security force.

But the terror attack north of Eilat a week and a half ago demonstrated what was already known for a while: Israel's limitations on the Egyptian military presence in the Sinai could also be to Israel's detriment.

The arid peninsula had never been of much interest to Cairo; at best it was important for the regime to secure the tourist sites on the coast, an important source of income. This is also why they are terror targets.

The Egyptian government was even less interested in what happened between the Israelis and the Palestinians in Gaza. Fearing an escalation, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was inclined to ignore the treaty's limitations on Israel (mainly for symbolic reciprocity ), and allowed the Israel Defense Forces to deploy an armored force along the Philadelphi route. This permit became meaningless when the Sharon government withdrew from Gaza and abandoned it to the mercy of Hamas.

Egypt's desire to send more forces into the Sinai to deal with the growing - and mutual - threat posed by the Bedouin living there, global jihad organizations and Palestinians coming from Gaza has met with Israeli hesitation. The fear of setting a precedent - both regarding a change in the peace treaty's security appendix and possible events while an augmented force is deployed - is understandable.

But to make a decision, one must ask why the limits were set on the Egyptian forces. These restrictions were meant to prevent the threat of invasion by Egyptian armor, backed by fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles. Such a threat is far from being realized at present.

The mutual threat against which the Egyptian infantry plans to act endangers Israel and Egyptian-Israeli peace. A string of terror attacks and retaliations is liable to deteriorate into a clash between the two countries' armies. On balance, it's preferable to allow a limited, lightly armed Egyptian force into the Sinai now to avoid a confrontation with a much larger, heavily armed force in a battle that could be sparked by an escalation on the border.

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HAARTEZ

WE'RE NOT REALLY FREE

BY MERAV MICHAELI

 

The economic discourse, which began following the massive protests, begins with the question of whether the changes will be made within the current budget or beyond it, through the question of whether the time has come to alter the entire economic approach. However, it appears that the mainstream agrees that the debate is over different legitimate economic methods, and is "merely" a matter of taste and worldview. The time has come, therefore, to say that the economic method that Benjamin Netanyahu and the Tea Party crowd love, which aspires to an entirely "free" market, trickle down economics and zero regulation, is illegitimate.

This method lacks legitimacy first and foremost because of its results: Growth remains in the hands of the wealthy few who were gifted it; it does not trickle down. The majority keeps earning less and is compelled to spend more to get by, and millions live in poverty even though they are working in essential jobs. People lack rights as workers, consumers and citizens in a state that is relinquishing its responsibility. A method that brings such results cannot be legitimate. Any other act that would do this to people would be considered criminal, no debate needed.

Of course the results could be considered some sort of mistake; good intentions that went awry. But as in every trial, once there is a body, the question is the motive. And there is definitely a motive: The logic is to give to those who have a lot so that they "increase the pie," so "everyone gets more." In other words, the haves will have much more, but the have-nots will have a little more. A former top treasury official admitted to me in no uncertain terms, "This is a method that increases inequality."

This is not a matter of finding out in hindsight that oops, the results are not what we planned. On the contrary: This method knowingly and intentionally creates inequality. Letting a few get much richer in order to leave a few more crumbs for the rest cannot be considered "good intentions" or "good faith." This sort of thinking assumes that some are more equal than others, some are more deserving of money than others.

There is no good faith here: This is a premeditated attempt to let the minority benefit from the majority's labor. This cannot be considered legitimate.

The western world prides itself in being the First World, first and foremost because of the values it gradually adopted over the past few centuries. Topping them are freedom and equality. However, the male-dominated regime has found a way of bypassing these values through the economic method, and thus is creating serious inequality followed by a lack of freedom. Even nowadays westerners lack genuine freedom of choice in most areas of life, while democracy, which relies on these principles, is weakening and dwindling.

Even now it is not really clear who is running Israel and the U.S. - the "elected public officials," or those who control great wealth and set things in practice? The latter were not elected by the voters.

There is no "free market." During the 19th century, England's free market included child labor, for example, and proponents opposed banning this. The Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang explains that all economies are based on many regulations that enable them to function, rules that define how they work. Usually people consider these regulations to be obvious and don't even see them, he notes, but the rules and the regulations are created by the power of political will.

Therefore, it does not matter what the method is called; what matters is the political will behind it and its goals. An economic method that knowingly creates inequality and exploitation cannot be considered legitimate. For some time, equality has been considered to have genuine value and importance to quality of life, for all of us and for society. There are plenty of famous economists who criticize the current system and offer alternatives. A leader who is unable to understand what economic method is needed cannot be a legitimate leader.

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HAARTEZ

THE MOSHES' MISTAKES

BY ELIA LEIBOWITZ

 

Israel has had three Israel Defense Forces chiefs of staff named Moshe: Moshe Dayan (1953-1958 ), Moshe Levy (1987-1983 ) and Moshe Ya'alon (2002-2005 ). After their demobilization from the army, the first Moshe and the third Moshe entered politics in a big way. Dayan served, among other things, as defense minister and foreign minister; Ya'alon is currently the minister for strategic affairs and vice prime minister.

By virtue of their status, the statements such people make represent the worldview of the government to which they are a partner. By virtue of their prestige as former chiefs of staff, they also influence public opinion, and to a large extent determine the prevalent worldview in broad sectors of the population.

For example, Moshe Dayan is remembered for saying: "Better Sharm el-Sheikh without peace than peace without Sharm el-Sheikh." Today there is no need to reiterate the extent to which this statement has been disastrous for the State of Israel. It embodies two fatal mistakes - in terms of values and in practical terms. History proves that both parts of this statement were indeed wrong.

The mistake with respect to values concerns the identification of what is good: It is doubtful whether there is even one sane citizen today who thinks the situation of the State of Israel would better if the IDF or a Jewish settlement were now in Sharm el-Sheikh, embroiled in a perpetual battle with Egypt, even on a "low flame."

Dayan's second mistake was the assumption that Israel was capable, militarily, politically, socially and economically of holding on to Sharm el-Sheikh forever. History showed the magnitude of that mistake within just six years.

The country is now in the horns of a dilemma that is equally or possibly even more fateful for the state than Dayan's. The dilemma now facing Moshe Ya'alon, the government and all the citizens of Israel is nearly identical to Dayan's. One must only replace Sharm el-Sheikh with Ariel, and ask: Is Ariel without peace preferable to peace without Ariel?

Ever since the city in the West Bank was founded, all the governments of Israel and, in fact, everyone coming out with a publicly expressed opinion on the subject has come down on the same side as Dayan: Better Ariel without peace. Moshe III expressed this very well, when according to a report on January 24, 2011, he said: "They [the Palestinians] are trying to push us into an agreement that is not peace and is not the end of the conflict, but we must not budge from a single millimeter of territory."

In this statement Moshe III made the same two fatal mistakes as Moshe I: He too assumes that it is within Israel's power not to budge from a single millimeter of the territory for all eternity. Although this assumption has not been refuted as quickly as Moshe Dayan's declaration, many Israelis have already been its victims - never mind the vast amount of money invested in realizing it over the course of the past 30 years, which is all destined to go down the drain. Ya'alon's second mistake is identical to Dayan's mistaken assessment in identifying what is good, and is evident particularly in what he did not say.

Judging by the aggregate of actions, statements, economic steps, military deployments and diplomatic moves Israel has made, there is no doubt that the government, in which Moshe III is a vice prime minister, has declared in principle that Ariel without peace is better than peace without Ariel. And this is despite the attempt that has been made, for example, by Ya'alon, to blame the decision of the government on the other side of the conflict.

The price the State of Israel paid, and especially the personal price paid by many thousands of its citizens, for Dayan's strategic error was too heavy to bear. But that price will be dwarfed by the full price the country and its citizens will pay for Ya'alon's mistake. Of Moshe I it can at least be said that he presented the alternatives with understanding and his decision was made with honesty.

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HAARTEZ

FOR LIFE, NOT DEATH

BY URI TUVAL

 

This protest is not just about housing. Nor is it just about education, health or solidarity, nor about peace or narrowing gaps. The supreme value on behalf of which we have taken to the streets is the value of life. This is a one-time thing and it is happening now. We want to lead a decent life. A life of joy, creativity, partnership and hope. A life that is based on thought, during which we learn about the good and the bad from the past, and build a better future.

We are aspiring to a worthy life of human beings, not of "survivors." But since 2000 we have been battling for survival. That decade began with the bursting of the dot.com bubble and the collapse of the peace process here, which led to a cruel intifada. The decade became covered in the debris of the Twin Towers and plummeted into a dangerous recession; locally, it continued through the painful disengagement and the embarrassing Second Lebanon War and culminated in the collapse of the economy, in Qassams and Operation Cast Lead, and in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has not given his nation, in any realm, even the slightest glimmer of hope for a better future.

Now the generation of young people has arisen and is saying: Enough. These should be our most beautiful years. Time after time we have been required to give up the essence of our being in order to stand firm against decrees dictated from outside - as if we we could have done anything to prevent them. The "free" market, which transferred welfare from the many to the few, transformed existential unease into economic distress, until we suddenly remembered: It isn't for this that we were born. It isn't for this that the state was established.

It's necessary to rethink from the beginning.

The protest of July and August is an explosion of life. It has reached a peak while it was popular and without a leader, because it has been erupting from the soul. It has established a pluralistic, solitary and tolerant Israeli community that is willing to learn, which is abandoning cynicism in favor of meaning. In contrast ot the previous decade of death, it is presenting an alternative of the realization of the good in human beings, which we thought was not possible here.

This aspiration to live crosses ideologies and sectors; it crosses classes and tribes. But the powers that see the individual as a survivor and nothing more are still here. There are those who see the human being as solely an economic creature who, in an effort that is actually beyond his ability, navigates by himself in a market that is all about "big fish eating little fish." There are those who see their purpose as constantly battling enemies, who not only have interests opposed to ours but also exercise logic different from ours. And there are those who see the - Jewish - individual as only a link in a chain that will experience redemption in the future, not in his lifetime.

These are strongly entrenched perceptions, but they have become too powerful, because they see the individual as a survivor in a violent world - not as a growing and developing entity in an environment that makes that process possible. Our enemies know this just as well as we do, and by pressing a rocket-launcher button or initiating a terror action, they operate our self-inflicted death mechanism, so that we will give up hope and go back to speaking their language - the language of survivors.

They want us to fight for the existence of life, whereas we have embarked on a fight for the value of life. Because this is our life. It is a one-time thing and it is now. And this is not a matter of self-indulgence or a refusal to delay gratification: This is an aspiration for something bigger than ourselves: for a humaneness which recognizes that in each of us there is something good, which should be nurtured. These are not luxuries - this is a war of no choice and it must not be stopped. Life must overcome death.

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

EDITORIAL

THE NATION'S CRUELEST IMMIGRATION LAW

 

The Alabama Legislature opened its session on March 1 on a note of humility and compassion. In the Senate, a Christian pastor asked God to grant members "wisdom and discernment" to do what is right. "Not what's right in their own eyes," he said, "but what's right according to your word." Soon after, both houses passed, and the governor signed, the country's cruelest, most unforgiving immigration law.

 

The law, which takes effect Sept. 1, is so inhumane that four Alabama church leaders — an Episcopal bishop, a Methodist bishop and a Roman Catholic archbishop and bishop — have sued to block it, saying it criminalizes acts of Christian compassion. It is a sweeping attempt to terrorize undocumented immigrants in every aspect of their lives, and to make potential criminals of anyone who may work or live with them or show them kindness.

 

It effectively makes it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant in Alabama, by criminalizing working, renting a home and failing to comply with federal registration laws that are largely obsolete. It nullifies any contracts when one party is an undocumented immigrant. It requires the police to check the papers of people they suspect to be here illegally.

 

The new regime does not spare American citizens. Businesses that knowingly employ illegal immigrants will lose their licenses. Public school officials will be required to determine students' immigration status and report back to the state. Anyone knowingly "concealing, harboring or shielding" an illegal immigrant could be charged with a crime, say for renting someone an apartment or driving her to church or the doctor.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department have also sued, calling the law an unconstitutional intrusion on the federal government's authority to write and enforce immigration laws. The A.C.L.U. warns that the law would trample people's fundamental rights to speak and travel freely, effectively deny children the chance to go to school and expose people to harassment and racial profiling.

 

These arguments have been made before, in opposition to similar, if less sweeping, laws passed in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia. What is remarkable in Alabama is the separate lawsuit by the four church leaders, who say the law violates their religious freedoms to perform acts of charity without regard to the immigration status of those they minister to or help.

 

"The law," Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile said in The Times, "attacks our core understanding of what it means to be a church."

 

You'd think that any state would think twice before embracing a law that so vividly brings to mind the Fugitive Slave Act, the brutal legal and law-enforcement apparatus of the Jim Crow era, and the civil-rights struggle led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But waves of anti-immigrant hostility have made many in this country forget who and what we are.

 

Congress was once on the brink of an ambitious bipartisan reform that would have enabled millions of immigrants stranded by the failed immigration system to get right with the law. This sensible policy has been abandoned. We hope the church leaders can waken their fellow Alabamans to the moral damage done when forgiveness and justice are so ruthlessly denied. We hope Washington and the rest of the country will also listen.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY TO GRADE TESTS

 

A task force appointed by the New York State education commissioner, John King Jr., is to report next month on ways to improve the integrity of the state's educational testing system. New York has thus far escaped cheating scandals like the one that exploded in Atlanta. But troubling new developments have shown weaknesses in New York's testing system that need to be fixed.

 

The annual standardized tests given in the lower grades and the Regents examination that high school students must pass to graduate now play a crucial role in decisions about how schools are rated and how principals are evaluated. In the future, teachers will also be judged, in part, on how students perform on state tests.

 

With the tests counting for more, attempts to tamper with them will most likely grow. The state recognized that problem this year when it ended the practice of having schools rescore the Regents exams of students who fell just below the passing level. The intent was to make sure that students weren't failed by mistake. But an analysis by The Times showed that lots of students were getting the minimum score needed to pass, which suggested cheating. The state has ended rescoring by schools, but it permits superintendants to correct errors.

 

That change does not cure the far bigger problem. The Regents exams are typically scored in the same school where they are given, often by a student's own teacher. The state Education Department has allowed this practice to go on because the exams are given very late in the academic year — often just days before graduation — so that it is convenient to have the schools grade the tests. The threat to the integrity of the results is obvious.

 

For the Regents to be taken seriously, this practice must end. The state needs to find a way to have the exams scored by a neutral party.

 

This could be accomplished by administering tests online or scanning them into computers and having them graded elsewhere.

 

Scoring of tests for the lower grades varies from district to district. In New York City, they are administered at the schools and sent to regulated, neutral sites for grading. But this is an expensive procedure that costs the city between $20 million and $25 million a year.

 

If all districts are going to take this approach, the state should assume the costs. Similarly, if the state wants school systems to use inexpensive test validation procedures — like computerized erasure analysis to check for fraud — it must not foist the costs onto the already underfinanced schools. Even in the difficult fiscal climate, the state has to ensure that student test results are reliable.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

DIDN'T THEY LEARN ANYTHING FROM WHITEY BULGER?

 

Cutting deals with criminal informants may, at times, be a necessary if unsavory part of law enforcement. But the benefits must outweigh the costs, and it is not clear the F.B.I.'s Boston office has mastered that balance.

 

A police wiretap referred to in documents filed in a Boston court shows the Mafia capo Mark Rossetti telling his F.B.I. handler that "he knows he will be protected for the crimes he has been committing with the knowledge of his handler."

 

The crimes he was talking about include running a heroin and loan-sharking ring, for which Massachusetts indicted and locked him up last year. He is also being investigated for six murders. The Boston Globe reports that the Massachusetts State Police only learned about his link to the F.B.I. through its wiretaps of Mr. Rossetti.

 

The F.B.I. has long used confidential informants — and protected them when they committed crimes — on the justification that criminals in league with other criminals can help catch bigger fish. The Justice Department's guidelines for managing F.B.I. informants, first issued in 1976, are supposed to keep the worst crimes in check.

 

They require the F.B.I. to "authorize" crimes to be committed by an informant and do an annual review to decide whether the informant has committed "unauthorized" crimes — including those that involve violence — and whether to end the relationship. In Mr. Rossetti's case, it appears the F.B.I. either authorized worse crimes than the rules allowed or failed to figure out what he was doing.

 

The guidelines were tightened in early 2001 after the bureau's epic mismanagement of the James (Whitey) Bulger case in Boston. He awaits trial for 19 murders committed during the 20 years he was under F.B.I. protection. The Rossetti case may be another Boston problem — or a warning of wider problems. The bureau needs to explain how it justified working with Mr. Rossetti and why it signed off on any of his crimes.

 

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

'INDEPENDENTS' CANDIDATES REALLY LOVE

 

There was no little dog Toto to pull back the curtain, but the fiction was clear when the presidential candidate Mitt Romney dropped by an event run by a political "Super PAC" with the Oz-like name of Restore Our Future.

 

The Super PAC, which by law is supposed to be strictly independent of the Romney campaign, happened to have been formed by some of his closest political aides so they can drum up unlimited donations from individuals and corporations. But, for the life of us, we can't figure out what's independent about it.

 

Mr. Romney and his loyalists aren't the only ones playing this game. Which is still no excuse. All the major Republican candidates are bolstered by Super PAC machines. Some of President Obama's closest political veterans have eschewed his official campaign in order to mine unlimited money via a supposedly independent entity called Priorities USA Action.

 

The law's requirement for independence and lack of coordination between candidates and Super PACs is being turned into a cynical joke. And far from objecting, the Federal Election Commission, which is supposed to be policing such abuses, has ruled candidate drop-bys — like Mr. Romney's Super PAC visit — are permissible. Candidates can even solicit money at these events up to the smaller campaign limits, while the deep-pocketed enthusiasts can write second, far bigger checks in the name of Super PAC independence. The coming machinations will make the Swift Boat schemers look like pikers.

 

The Romney Super PAC has already been blessed with mystery million-dollar donations, including one via a dummy corporation that had to be hurriedly disclosed lest it violate the law. "No harm, no foul," Mr. Romney assured voters about the donation, sounding like a candidate for the F.E.C.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHEN ROOMMATES WERE RANDOM

BY DALTON CONLEY

 

EAGER to throw off my nerdy past and reinvent myself at college, I wrote "party animal" on my roommate application form where it asked incoming freshmen whether they wanted to bunk with a smoker or a non-smoker. When I told my mother about this later, she laughed and bought me a T-shirt that sported the image of Spuds MacKenzie, the 1980s Budweiser beer mascot, under the words "the original party animal."

 

I ended up with Tony from Sacramento, a very quiet, Republican son of a judge. (I suppose it's good policy to separate the party animals from those who request them.) I learned to appreciate his taste in music (U2 and The Smiths, as opposed to my predilection for reggae and jazz), and we agreed to disagree about politics during the reelection campaign of Alan Cranston, then one of the most liberal members of the United States Senate. I had never met anyone like Tony. And I'm pretty sure he hadn't come across many half-Jewish, Democratic children of New York artists. We learned to get along that first year at Berkeley, and every now and then even tried on each other's values and beliefs, just to see how they fit.

 

Today I am a college professor, and I am sad that most of my students will not experience what I did back when Mark Zuckerberg was in diapers. While the Internet has made it easy to reconnect with the lost Tonys of our lives, it has made it a lot more difficult to meet them in the first place, by taking a lot of randomness out of life. We tend to value order and control over randomness, but when we lose randomness, we also lose serendipity.

 

As soon as today's students receive their proverbial fat envelope from their top choice college, they are on Facebook meeting other potential freshmen. They are on sites like roomsurf.com and roomsync.com, scoping out prospective friends. By the time the roommate application forms arrive, many like-minded students with similar backgrounds have already connected and agreed to request one another.

 

It's just one of many ways in which digital technologies now spill over into non-screen-based aspects of social experience.  I know certain people who can't bear to eat in a restaurant they haven't researched on Yelp. And Google now tailors searches to exactly what it thinks you want to find.

 

But this loss of randomness is particularly unfortunate for college-age students, who should be trying on new hats and getting exposed to new and different ideas. Which students end up bunking with whom may seem trivial at first glance. But research on the phenomenon of peer influence — and the influences of roommates in particular — has found that there are, in fact, long-lasting effects of whom you end up living with your first year.

 

David R. Harris, a sociologist at Cornell, studied roommates and found, in 2002, that white students who were assigned a roommate of a different race ended up more open-minded about race. In a 2000 study, the economist Bruce Sacerdote found that randomly assigned roommates at Dartmouth affected each other's G.P.A.'s.

 

(Of course, influences can sometimes be negative. Roommates can drive each other's grades up or down. In 2003, researchers at four colleges discovered that male students who reported binge drinking in high school drank much more throughout college if their first-year roommate also reported binge drinking in high school.)

 

These studies are important because we know that much education takes place not through the formal classroom curriculum but in the peer-to-peer learning that occurs in places like dorm rooms. 

 

Other than prison and the military, there are not many other institutions outside the college dorm that shove two people into a 10-foot-by-10-foot space and expect them to get along for nine months. Can you think of any better training for marriage? In fact, in my research with Jennifer A. Heerwig, we have found that Vietnam-era military service actually lowers the risk of subsequent divorce.  It's possible that the military teaches you how to subsume your individual desires for the good of the collective — in other words, how to get along well with others.

 

The drive to tame randomness into controllable order is a noble impulse, but letting a little serendipity flourish isn't such a bad thing. Nor is getting to know someone different from yourself. All colleges should follow the lead of Hamilton, where roommate choice is not allowed. And if you end up with the roommate from hell? You'll survive, and someday have great stories to tell your future spouse, with whom you'll probably get along better.

 

Dalton Conley, a sociologist, is the dean of social sciences at New York University and the author, most recently, of "Elsewhere, U.S.A."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

 

DANGEROUS WHITE STEREOTYPES

BY PATRICIA A. TURNER

 

Davis, Calif.

ONE of the most noteworthy movies of the summer is "The Help." Set in Jackson, Miss., in the early 1960s, it focuses on the relationships between white upper-middle-class women and the black domestics who took care of them and their children. Although many reviews of the film were quite positive, numerous critics, including some African-American commentators, have lashed out against it, arguing that the film does not deserve the accolades it has received.

 

To some extent, they have been angry that the movie is based on a novel by a white woman, Kathryn Stockett, and they question whether she is capable of telling that particular story. Some have also complained that the movie reinforces stereotypes about black Southern households. The black heroines speak with a dialect that disturbs some viewers; the audience never sees an intact black household, and a black man's abuse of his wife is all the more chilling because we never see him, only the pots he hurls and the scars he leaves.

 

One maid's close bond with the white toddler she cares for has been decried as a re-enactment of the misconception that maids nurtured their white charges while denigrating their own black offspring.

 

Not all blacks are unmoved by "The Help." Indeed, among my friends, relatives and colleagues a wide range of views have been shared, including comments that some of us might want to establish a support group for strong black women who liked "The Help."

 

It is unfair to the filmmakers and cast to expect a work of fiction to adhere to the standards of authenticity we would want for a documentary. But we also recognize that precious few works of art tackle the Civil Rights era, and what people coming of age in the 21st century learn about this era often stems from fictive rather than nonfictive sources.

 

Forty-eight years after Martin Luther King Jr. was accompanied by tens of thousands of black domestic workers to the National Mall in Washington to demand economic justice, it is not all that difficult to render black fictional characters with appealing attributes and praiseworthy talents. What is more difficult to accomplish is a verisimilar rendering of the white characters.

 

This movie deploys the standard formula. With one possible exception, the white women are remarkably unlikable, and not just because of their racism. Like the housewives portrayed in reality television shows, the housewives of Jackson treat each other, their parents and their husbands with total callousness. In short, they are bad people, therefore they are racists.

 

There's a problem, though, with that message. To suggest that bad people were racist implies that good people were not.

 

Jim Crow segregation survived long into the 20th century because it was kept alive by white Southerners with value systems and personalities we would applaud. It's the fallacy of "To Kill a Mockingbird," a movie that never fails to move me but that advances a troubling falsehood: the notion that well-educated Christian whites were somehow victimized by white trash and forced to live within a social system that exploited and denigrated its black citizens, and that the privileged white upper class was somehow held hostage to these struggling individuals.

 

But that wasn't the case. The White Citizens Councils, the thinking man's Ku Klux Klan, were made up of white middle-class people, people whose company you would enjoy. An analogue can be seen in the way popular culture treats Germans up to and during World War II. Good people were never anti-Semites; only detestable people participated in Hitler's cause.

 

Cultures function and persist by consensus. In Jackson and other bastions of the Jim Crow South, the pervasive notion, among poor whites and rich, that blacks were unworthy of full citizenship was as unquestioned as the sanctity of church on Sunday. "The Help" tells a compelling and gripping story, but it fails to tell that one.

 

I have dim recollections of watching Dr. King in 1963, with the black maid who raised me — my mother. If my father wasn't in the room, he was working to make sure there would be opportunities in my future. I have benefited enormously from their hard work and from the shift that American culture has undergone as the scaffolding of discrimination was dismantled.

 

My parents, and the countless other black Americans who not only endured but thrived within the limited occupational sphere granted them, would have been proud of what has been accomplished since 1963, but they would not have wanted us to whitewash that earlier world.

 

Patricia A. Turner is a professor of African American studies and the vice provost for undergraduate studies at the University of California, Davis. Her most recent book is "Crafted Lives: Stories and Studies of African American Quilters."

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A BAYRAM MORNING

Today I want to re-publish a slightly revised article that I wrote earlier about my feelings as a young boy, 40-plus years ago, about the religious holidays.

Waking up early in the morning and attending the bayram prayer at the small village mosque together with the elders was something I very much aspired to when I was a small kid. Was I a religious boy? It probably had more to do with communal psychology. Those were difficult times during which the only toys we had were wooden rifles. A community, smaller in size in a bi-communal state that faces constant threats, humiliation and oppression, unavoidably develops an inward looking character and strengthens solidarity among its members; in a way, it becomes like a clenched fist, ready to defend itself against any eventuality.

Going to the mosque would demonstrate that I was grown up. Praying together with the elders at the village mosque would show that I had become one of them. But I was a small kid, and a child must be at least 7 or 8 before he can be taken by his father to the mosque for bayram prayers. But although my mom was a devoted practicing Muslim, my father – may Allah forgive him and rest him in peace – was not a mosque-goer. He was a typical Turkish Cypriot; he worked during the morning hours, rested in the afternoon and went to the trenches outside the village in the evening to join the other men of the village and defend us – the children, women and the elderly – against a possible Greek Cypriot attack. A man meets with a Bektashi and they start talking about life. "How often do you drink (wine)?" he asks, and the Bektashi replies, "From niiight to niiight." He continues, "How often do you go to mosque?" The Bektashi replies, "Every bayram, every bayram." That, indeed, somewhat represents the pattern of behavior for Turkish Cypriot men during those years. Perhaps because of the islander character, despite all the difficulties of life, they were always "successful" in finding a little time to spend some happy moments at a bar, drinking and joking with their friends. What else they could do anyhow?! Going to the mosque was so rare for them; they usually went "every bayram." Perhaps that is why going to the mosque, and not the bar, or the trenches, which the men did every day, had become synonymous with being a grownup for me. My father did not go to the mosque even on bayrams, but my grandpa and uncles did.

Had I known that in a few months' time I would start my primary education at the mosque – that year the primary school of my neighborhood was converted into a military barracks to host the Turkish regiment compelled to relocate itself in our "secure" neighborhood from the region it was deployed side by side with the Greek regiment in accordance with the 1960 founding treaties of the Cyprus Republic – perhaps I would not have pressed my grandpa so hard to take me to bayram prayers that year. I had just turned 5. My new shoes were shining. With my trousers and dark brown jacket, I was confident that all the beautiful girls in the village would fall in love with me after seeing me walking out the front door of the mosque as a grown up. I was 5, but had already learned how to read and write thanks to my mom. I was able to recite, by heart, many sections of the holy Quran. Süleyman Çelebi's "Vesilet-ün Necât" or as is publicly known "Mevlit," a poem on the life story of the Prophet Mohammed, was very much like an alphabet for me. With my grandpa holding my small hand firmly and dancing from stone to stone to avoid mud splashing on my shining shoes, I finally made it to the mosque that bayram. I was proud of myself. I was a grownup.

During those years, after bayram prayers at the mosque, the family gathered at my grandpa's house for an extended breakfast. That year, as the "elder son" of the "elder son" of the family, I was like a paşa. And, of course, I immediately issued my first order as the new paşa of the family: Bayram pocket money for kids under 5 years old would be two shillings, but for those over 5, it would be five shillings. It was a great day.

I wish all our readers a happy holiday.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

RAMADAN AS 'NATIONAL EVENT'

Turkey becoming more conservative or "Islamic" has been a major concern since the Justice and Development Party, or AKP came to power. Some academics and intellectuals have debated if there is increasing "social pressure" in the name of religious conservatism or if the present government enforces conservative pressures. In response, the government party assured those who were concerned that their belief in secularism and tolerance for different lifestyles is firm. Besides, most Turkish democrats defined these concerns as the paranoia of the "anxious moderns" who are intimidated by the rise of conservatives as a new urban class.

In fact, Turkey suffered from secularist paranoia for a long time. Any expression of piousness was labeled as "reactionism" and "the end of the secular state" up until recent times. Moreover, the Republican regime has long enforced a cultural hegemony that was very keen on a secular, modern and Western identity for Turkey. Any sign and symbol of Islam was considered "backwardness." The Republican definition of cultural, social and political identities created a lot of tension from the beginning of the regime and has been one of the reasons of the "democratic deficit." Now, it seems that everything is changing with the conservatives in government with firm power.

The "anxiety" of secular moderns partly stems from this major change as it is claimed by the government party and those Turkish democrats who support them. Yet, it may not be considered all and only as an unjustified paranoia and should be debated more objectively. Since it is bound to be a long debate I do not suggest debating it here. I just remembered and wanted to remind readers of the debate with the occasion of the end of (the holy month of) Ramadan.

It seems that now Ramadan has turned into a "national event." Almost all institutions, companies, people of power competed with each other to express piousness during Ramadan. I am the last person to complain about the expression of respect for religion in general and for Islam in particular. I think one need not be religious or even to be a believer to be respectful of the beliefs of others. Besides, the majority of Turkey is Muslim and conservative and it is very natural that Ramadan is a social phenomena. It is also a matter of manners to be respectful of the atmosphere of the holy month.

Nevertheless, this over sensitivity concerning Ramadan seems more to be gravitated to the orbit of the conservative government than "normalization." This is why Ramadan seems to turn into a "national event" rather than an expression of an occasion of social harmony. The extreme skepticism of secularists has always been misplaced and unjustified since it was intimidation from religiosity of individuals. One needs to be more concerned about religious events turning into national events. Otherwise, one official ideology may be replaced with another and create another kind of democracy deficit.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

NEW MILITARY, NEW TURKEY

SONER ÇAĞAPTAY - ATA AKINER

The resignation of Turkey's top military brass July 29 was a momentous shift, aligning the military with the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government that came to power in 2002.

For the past decade, a military vs. AKP dichotomy has shaped most analysis on Turkey. A new framework seems necessary now.

Policy differences between the AKP and the military leadership will now melt away, with the two joining around a nationalist foreign-policy line. In this regard, the governing party and the military will coalesce around the AKP's foreign-policy doctrine, containing a nativist streak that the AKP has implemented to make the country a regional power.

Accordingly, there will be close cooperation between the government and the military on key foreign-policy issues, ranging from Cyprus to ties with Israel, and to handling the crisis in Syria.

On Cyprus, abandoning its erstwhile attitude on the issue of the divided island, the AKP will increasingly confront the Greek Cypriots on oil and gas exploration and drilling projects in the Eastern Mediterranean. Whereas Greek Cypriots are proceeding with plans to issue licenses to international companies for oil or gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey objects to this, claiming that this violates international law.

In one of the latest statements along this line, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu warned the Greek Cypriots on Aug. 5 that if exploratory drilling goes ahead, Turkey would react with the "necessary response" against such an action.

A recalcitrant tone on the Cyprus issue chimes well with the military, but would be a further block to Turkey's European Union accession process by providing fodder to those countries, such as France, that object to Ankara's EU membership.

Given that the drive toward EU membership has almost entirely died in Turkey – more Romanians (61 percent) support Turkey's EU entry than do Turks (42 percent), according to a 2011 Eurobarometer poll – rising tensions with the Greek Cypriots, who will take over the EU's rotating presidency in July 2012, might serve as the effective death knell of Turkey's EU negotiations process.

On a variety of other foreign-policy issues, the AKP is likely to take the lead, with the military following, along a nationalist stance.

Thus, Turkey's policy on Syria will be determined by the AKP, hardening along the way, with the military helping in the execution of this policy. Along these lines, even though unrest in Syria should help align threat perceptions in Turkey and Israel, mutual ties, in a downward spiral since the Israel's May 31, 2010, attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla killed nine Turks, will remain tense, with the government pursuing a policy of cold peace with Israel, and the military moving along these lines.

On the domestic front there will also be close alignment in the security realm. With terror attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, on the rise, the AKP and the new military will pursue closer cooperation against the PKK, including likely potential attacks against the group's bases in northern Iraq. Given the deteriorating relations between the AKP and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, a group that has open sympathies for the PKK, the AKP will push back against the PKK, providing the military with political support for kinetic action to this end.

As it leads on foreign-policy issues, the AKP might even leave domestic security to the military, with the fight against the PKK becoming the military's chief mission.

Since 2002, Turkey has been at a turning point in terms of its politics. While the country has been experiencing bumper economic growth and a gradual, if zigzagging, ascent to regional power status, the AKP has emerged as the country's dominant political force. With the unceremonious removal of what was considered a political check and balance, the military, from politics, the AKP's preponderance in Turkish politics may have reached its zenith.

* A longer version of this column appeared in Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst on Aug. 18. Ata Akiner recently completed his master's degree at the University of Cambridge and is a freelance researcher.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

LIBYA: WHAT NOW?

In war, the morale is to the physical as three to one, said Napoleon, and the Libyan rebels certainly demonstrated the truth of that. Col. Moammar Gadhafi had more soldiers, they were better trained and much better armed, and they did not lack courage. But the rebels firmly believed that they were bound to win, and once Gadhafi's troops also became infected with that belief their resistance collapsed.

However, Napoleon also said that God is on the side with the best artillery, and the rebels had nothing bigger than light anti-aircraft guns. Their real artillery was the NATO air forces that conducted a five-month bombing campaign on their behalf.

Even though there are technically no foreign "boots on the ground" in Libya, this heavy reliance on foreign military support makes the rebels forces beholden to the West in the eyes of some Libyans and many other Arabs. So they are, but as the leaders of the revolution try to make the tricky transition from dictatorship and civil war to an open and democratic country, the influence of the foreigners may prove useful.

Consider the tasks that the revolutionaries now face. First, the rebel leaders must prevent their victorious troops from taking revenge on the regime's erstwhile supporters. The last thing they need is a bloodbath in Tripoli or anywhere else.

Then they must choose from thousands of today's ragtag fighters to serve as a conventional and disband the rest of the militia forces that sprang up to fight Gadhafi's army. A lot of people who fought for the revolution are going to feel cheated, and they still have guns.

The revolutionaries must then find a way of dealing with Gadhafi (if and when they catch him) that does not deepen the already grave divisions in Libyan society. Many people from Gadhafi's tribe and its allies fought for the regime, and half the families in the country include someone who worked for Gadhafi's government at some point during his 43-year rule.

Then they have to write a constitution, hold a free election, and form a legitimate government to which the National Transitional Council, or NTC, will hand over all its powers. They also have to restart the economy and get money into people's hands as quickly as possible. Many Libyans have not been paid for four months now.

That task will be a lot easier if the country's foreign currency reserves, much of which are held abroad in accounts that were frozen by the United Nations during the conflict in order to cut off Gadhafi's cash flow, are now released rapidly to the new Libyan government. It will also want to borrow a lot of money abroad to repair the oil facilities that were damaged in the fighting and get exports moving again.

That money will almost certainly be made available, because Libya has enough oil reserves to repay it 10-fold, if necessary. But then the going gets harder.

Many people in the rebel leadership understand that the country's strong tribal loyalties are divisive, but keeping them out of democratic politics is not going to be easy. It's especially hard because there are no powerful civic organizations (professional associations, trade unions, etc.) to serve as an alternate focus for political activity.

Moreover, the revolution succeeded early in the east (Cyrenaica), while most of the west (Tripolitania) stayed under Gadhafi's rule almost down to the end. So the NTC, which is only now moving from Benghazi in the east to Tripoli in the west, has a strong eastern bias. Yet the west has two-thirds of the population, and it was the fighters in the west who carried the main burden of the fighting.

Libyan society was atomized under Gadhafi, quite deliberately, in order to make each individual isolated and powerless when dealing with the regime. Now all those horizontal links that are collectively known as "civil society" must be recreated, without allowing tribal and regional loyalties to take over. And this is why the fact that the revolution has powerful foreign supporters could be useful to Libya.

Britain and France, in particular, have committed a great deal of political capital to the success of the Libyan revolution. They carried out more than half of the air strikes in support of the rebels, while other European democracies and Canada, all NATO members, did the rest. (The United States only contributed surveillance capabilities and occasional Predator drone strikes after the first few weeks.)

These European allies need to justify their intervention to their own people, so they will do everything in their power to make sure that there are no massacres, that Gadhafi and his close allies, when caught, are handed over to the International Criminal Court for trial (much better for the stability of the country than trying him in Libya), and that the process of building a democratic government in Libya goes as smoothly as possible.

They have a great deal of leverage over the rebel forces at the moment, and they will use it to keep the revolution on the tracks. Despite all the obstacles to a smooth transition that Libya faces, the outcome here could be surprisingly positive.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHY CAN'T STIMULUS PACKAGES STIMULUTE?

Why haven't stimulus packages stimulated household expenditures both in the U.S. and in some trouble-free European countries yet? They cut interest rates, reduced taxes, invested in infrastructure and even put extra money into consumers' pockets. However all these measure could not and still are not convincing people to spend more. Why?

It is understandable for countries with deficit and debt problems, where there is no intention to stimulate people to spend more. On the contrary, governments in those countries advise abstinence. However, some other countries, especially the U.S., are trying to convince the people that spending more is the only remedy for curing unemployment and insufficient growth maladies.

This is a well-known vicious cycle that appears during every serious economic crisis. Both unemployed and employed people instead of spending more prefer to keep extra monetary advantages given by stimulus packages in their pockets for the unknown future. This is same for private businesses that hesitate on new investments even if the interest rate is near zero.

Another important point is the reaction of the people against the new offers brought by stimulus packages. This reaction might be called elasticity of spending against interest rate cuts and tax reductions. If interest rates are comparatively low and the tax rates are again comparatively moderate in the beginning, further cuts in interest and tax rates might not induce extra spending. This is the case in the U.S. as compared to some leading European economies.

To break the vicious cycle, it is generally believed that some extraordinary phenomenon must happen. Years after the 1929 crisis, people on the street still were inclined to think that World War II is what changed everything. The scholars said state interventions implemented by the President Franklin Roosevelt administration broke the vicious cycle. This is still an endless discussion; however, long after Keynes published his famous book and especially after the 1950s, his ideas about the virtues of state intervention to cure any chronic unemployment problem are generally accepted.

Then why aren't stimulus packages effective now? It is not rational to wait for an extraordinary phenomenon to convince people to spend more. However ordinary good news might be useful. For example if the Republicans and the Democrats in the U.S. can give the impression that there will be no more fruitless fighting over projects of national interests, people might lessen the intensity of their pessimistic expectations for the future. For example, President Obama's new initiative to create new jobs might help to change people's mind. In addition some solutions for international political problems might change positively, even in a lesser degree, people's view about the future of the national economy. However to be realistic it must also be accepted that the political difficulties are bigger than technical ones to realize these acts.

In short, when people are unhappy about the present situation and uneasy for their future, it is quite difficult to convince them to spend more money. Even some people who have a guarantee for their future might think that it is shameful and maybe even sinful to spend mindlessly when some of their relatives, friends and neighbors are jobless or penniless. This was the case and widespread behavior of the simple people especially in the U.S. during the 1929 crisis and it was understood that to change that behavior was more difficult than convincing Congress for the need for state intervention.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TURKEY'S MYSTERIOUS REFORM AGENDA

At $9 billion, the July trade deficit came in much better than expectations of $9.5 billion, raising hopes that the current account adjustment promised by the Central Bank has finally begun.

Given the trade figures, the July current account deficit will likely turn out to be around $5.5 billion to $6 billion. While the 12-month rolling deficit will still increase because of base effects, it is likely to start falling in the last quarter of the year, as base effects start working in the opposite direction. Lower oil prices, the slowing economy and the weaker lira will all contribute as well.

Does this mean that Turkey's current account deficit problem will be solved by itself? Not at all! Even if you pencil in the strong slowdown in imports implied in a recent Yapı Kredi research note, it is easy to see that it will be quite a while until the deficit falls even a couple of percentage points.

Besides, once growth picks up, or the real exchange rate starts appreciating, the deficit will start rising again, so complacency is not really an option. Neither is expecting more from the exchange rate. As the Central Bank notes as well, further depreciation is unlikely to boost exports and curb imports. It could in fact undermine earlier gains by increasing inflation.

This is where the mysterious reforms come in: Because Turkey's chronic current account deficit is the results of its savings gap, structural reforms are often given as the solution. But what do reforms mean exactly?

My esteemed colleagues talk about education reforms and moving up the value chain by producing (and exporting) more technologically advanced products. Having coordinated a World Bank report on higher education, I could not agree more with such noble aims, but even if the government kicked off an ambitious agenda today, it would take several years before the measures could have an effect.

On the other hand, there are several reforms that could have a more immediate impact. For example, Turkish labor markets need to be more flexible, as World Bank Doing Business rankings show. Average severance pay is among the highest in the world, and regional minimum wages would probably be a good idea. The wedge between actual wages and labor costs could be narrowed, while at the same time continuing the fight against the informal economy.

A tight budget would be an even quicker fix, despite claims that higher government savings would be offset by lower private savings. In normal times, that would have been the case, but I just don't see much appetite for spending in the current global environment, especially if the domestic economy loses pace considerably, as I think it eventually will.

Luckily, the government is aware of all this. All the items I noted above were in the priority list disclosed by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan after his meeting with his economy team early in the month. The difficulty lies in implementation, as most of these actions are costly in political terms. For example, I wonder if the government would go for serious fiscal restraint if it is planning to push for a new Constitution in a referendum.

But if deed does indeed follow word, good times might be ahead for the Turkish economy.

Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Follow his blog, the Kapalı Çarşı, at www.economonitor.com/emredeliveli/.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ARE OUR CHILDREN VICTIMS OF CEREALS?

MEHMET ALTAN

The Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, was developed to evaluate how well 15-year-old students in OECD countries have been prepared to meet challenges they might face in today's Information Society after receiving their obligatory education.

However, the quality that PISA tries to measure is not about the extent to which students learn the subjects presented in their school curriculum. It is about their ability to utilize their knowledge and skills in situations they could face in real life circumstances, their ability to analyze their ideas, to reason and whether they can communicate effectively by using the science and math concepts they learn at school.

When the OECD declared the results of PISA toward the end of 2010, it turned out that Turkey was among those countries that realized the greatest gains in their score counts, but still failed to climb up to a higher tier.

 Turkey ranked in the second tier in both 2003 and 2009, where the first tier represented the lowest level and the sixth tier the highest. In short, we keep trailing at the bottom of a list of some 40 countries that partake in the assessment. Experts are questioning Turkey's inability to jump up to a higher tier by boosting its score count as a whole, despite the measures and the positive steps that were taken.

In a milieu where even friendly criticism toward the institution of politics is met with incredible intolerance, and excessive eulogizing and raving to the point of worship are persistently presented as natural facts of life, the Education Ministry has been making some very sober assessments. According to the ministry, the Turkish education system is unfortunately not receptive at all to the scientific and economic facts of the world. As the ministry is jubilantly declaring a new strategy to overcome such weaknesses, it also reminds us that the per person education spending in EU countries stands at about $ 4,000, against some $390 per person in our country.

The Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, or TEPAV, speaks of the need for a more comprehensive, more different and deeper investigation into the causes of Turkey's lack of success in PISA.

TEPAV researcher Selin Arslanhan has conducted a survey entitled "How Does Food Distribution Structure Affect the Results of the Student Assessment Programme (PISA)?"

She has observed a differentiation between various countries' food consumption structures in relation to their per capita national income levels.

Arslahan makes this observation:

"For Turkey, it is meat and cereals that are worthy of attention in terms of differences in consumption [patterns.] Despite an increase in recent years, Turkey's consumption of meat is quite low in comparison to countries with a similar level of per capita income. Turkey ranks in 53rd place with 24.4 kilograms of meat consumption per person between the 56 countries whose performances are measured by PISA. When we glance over the relationship between meat consumption per person and the results of PISA in 2009, one can observe an increase in the math and science scores of those countries with a higher rate of meat consumption. Cereals, one of those foodstuffs consumed more frequently in Turkey than in other countries with a similar order of per capita income, are at a remarkable level, and no notable changes were observed in per person cereals consumption [in Turkey] since the 1970s.

Between the 56 countries whose performances are measured by PISA, Turkey ranks in second place in terms of its annual consumption of cereals with 221 kilograms per person. When one looks at the relationship between cereal consumption and PISA scores, one can discern a fall in the math and science scores in PISA rankings, as countries' consumption of cereals begin to increase, in contrast to meat consumption. It is clear that there is a correlation between the countries' level of meat and cereal consumption and their PISA scores."

It further increased my interest in a subject that I was already concerned about that TEPAV's findings confirm [journalist] Çetin Altan's view that "in poor countries, of course there is also a problem of nutrition regarding [people's] mental energies as well."

And I once more asked this fundamental question:

Are we making our children the victims of cereals for nothing, sometimes by means of careless behavior caused by desperation?

*Mehmet Altan is a columnist for daily Star, in which this piece appeared on Sunday.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

MIRZA'S BOMBSHELLS

 

Maverick PPP leader Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, a close aide and friend of President Asif Ali Zardari, has opened up a can of worms which have been described by some as bombshells and others as mini nukes. He has resigned not only from the Sindh government and the Sindh Assembly but also from his position in the PPP. His words have thrown the already complex Karachi situation into a state of greater flux and uncertainty. In his 100 minutes of live TV harangue on Sunday, he levelled serious charges on not only the MQM but also the interior minister and, by implication, the entire PPP government. The countless questions raised by his press talk and resignation will certainly make life impossibly difficult for his own party as well as its opponents. Mirza's outbursts were initially dismissed as an angry man's cry of anguish, but the swiftness with which the Sindh government accepted his resignation, and his claim that he had discussed the entire situation with President Zardari two days ago and had also informed his aging father a day earlier, indicate that the event was thoughtfully considered and properly planned. The immediate cause of Mirza's wrath was considered to be the Rangers operation in Lyari — a PPP stronghold in Karachi. Mirza hardly mentioned the operation during his talk, but indirectly criticised it when questioned. His body language and the confidence he expressed in President Zardari showed that the PPP leadership might have given him a tacit nod to go ahead.

What happens now is unclear. Mirza, who said he was ready to share each and every 'secret document' with the media, has unmistakably accused the Sindh government of complicity in serious crimes he says have been committed by the MQM, which he called a terrorist organisation. He swore on the Holy Quran that MQM chief Altaf Hussain spoke of the breakup of Pakistan at the behest of the Americans, a claim which many will find impossible to digest. But in a way Mirza has strengthened the hands of President Zardari in his ongoing political bargaining with and against the MQM. Mirza has also made the task of the Supreme Court, which begins hearings on Karachi today, a bit more difficult. The SC now will have to call Mirza as a witness, not just as a former Sindh home minister, but also for him to explain and corroborate the serious charges he has made on solemn oath. He has put the MQM chief on the spot; Altaf Hussain will have to explain his own position and tell the nation what he thinks and will do about the former Sindh minister's grave accusations of his party's involvement in the murders of MQM's Imran Farooq and journalist Wali Khan Babar, and about the allegations of corruption against ministers belonging to the MQM.

Interior Minster Rehman Malik will have to prove — harder perhaps than he appeared to be doing in his press talk following Mirza's frontal attack — that he is not a liar. President Zardari too will have to justify the continued role he has assigned to Malik in handling the MQM and the Karachi situation. If the MQM reacts violently, bringing Karachi again to a halt, Mirza again will have to share the blame. Whatever the outcome, the maverick Mirza has brought the simmering political intrigues and conflicts between the PPP, the MQM and others into the open. If he is not reprimanded by his party leadership, the impression of complicity and the whole drama being part of the PPP and Zardari strategy would gain strength. Politics in Sindh, Karachi in particular, may not remain the same after the Mirza bombshells.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE BIG SWITCH-OFF


Astonishing as it may seem, the government has yet to find a way of stopping the country from becoming a power-free zone in the coming days. As has already been noted in previous editorials, the power crisis is fast reaching a peak, and the eternal puzzle is why the government and the various concerned agencies have been unable to prevent their collective slide into chaos and eventually, darkness. It is the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) that have made the move which took us to the tipping point. They have, in simple terms, run out of money and also run out of the chances of getting any more to purchase the fuel with which they generate their (expensive) electricity. They have also run out of patience with the government to whom they are contracted which has failed to honour its power purchase agreements – or rather failed to pay for the power it has taken from the IPPs. Now nine of the IPPs have served a legal notice on the government seeking redress for the defaulted payments, and if redress is not forthcoming then the IPPs will encash the sovereign guarantees the government gave them, a move that will have international repercussions.

The nine IPPs collectively generate 1,800MWs which will be lost to the grid sometime between August 28 and Eid, leaving 180 million people with little to celebrate. Other IPPs are considering a similar move, and although the IPPs are minority contributors to the national power bank, their withdrawal from it could have serious knock-on effects. Coincidentally, the problem is about to be exacerbated by the shutdown of the Qadirpur gas field for annual maintenance, which means that gas-fired IPP stations will have no fuel. They have been told to run on diesel in the interim – which they cannot afford to buy anyway. Circular debt has been allowed by the present government to grow from being a minor fiscal inconvenience to becoming an existential threat to the entire power generation and supply industries. It is worth noting that circular debt has its origins in the government's inability to honour the subsidies it was to pay the power generation companies. Over the last three years the government has injected a trillion rupees in the form of subsidies to cover line losses and 'mismanagement' – essentially throwing good money after bad. The economy already loses two percent of GDP as a direct result of loadshedding. The IPPs are disappointed not to have heard any more of the Rs25 billion that the prime minister had recently ordered to be released, which now looks like yet another unfulfilled promise by a government that promises fervently but delivers little.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE POLITICS OF ANTI-SECULAR SCHOLARSHIP

 AFIYA SHEHRBANO


 The lack of academic debate over the role and place of religion, Islamist politics and secularism in our society, has created an intellectual vacuum in Pakistan. This has recently been filled in by a spate of post-9/11 scholarship by Muslim diasporics working on such themes.


Much of this post-modern Islamic revivalist literature is engaged in exploring, redesigning, redefining and reinventing Islamists through anthropological lenses but they refuse to take account of their materialist, sociological or political positionality vis-a-vis the Islamist cause.


This reinvention of Islamism as described by such scholars is attractive to Western academia. The academic manipulation, of the mundane but escalating political violence that Islamist parties and militant organisations have routinely demonstrated in Pakistan over the last 60 years has allowed for a "repackaging" through such scholarship. Such scholarship now offers reconstructed readings that regard (1) Islamist militancy as potentially liberatory and/or, (2) Islamists as free agents, and (3) even a proposal that Islamists are, in fact, propagating secularisation in Pakistan.


Whether this suspension of political reality from academic flights of imagination are due to whimsical negligence in the pursuit of career-enhancement, or an instinctive response to a Western market hungry for such voyeuristic peep-shows into the world of Islamists, or in fact, academic cunning, is of course, for the reader of such scholarship to decide. However, when the surface of such academic proposals (that is primarily targeting a Western audience) is scratched, the views of such scholars, who are well-known to us in the native context, becomes clear.


They espouse anti-secular politics and are critical of Western liberal secularism, as well as the humanist-based universalism that fuels human rights and women's rights movements internationally. This allows for an academic rejection of the various forms of natal secularisms or pockets of secular resistance that exist in Pakistan currently, as "imported". Ergo, for such scholars, the Islamists, while not the best alternative, should be recognised as possible agents of social change who may offer the appropriate kind of secularisation that Pakistan really needs.


The recent publication, "Secularising Islamists? Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat-ud-Dawa in Urban Pakistan" (technically though, just in Lahore), suggests that, "Islamists who oppose secularism may be, inadvertently perhaps, facilitating secularisation." The evidence is traced through what the author considers "deep, conscious and critical questioning of the role of religion – a secularisation" – of the JI and the JuD in Pakistan.


The misleading suggestion, that there is critical questioning of the role of religion which is robustly and freely debated in public fora in Pakistan, belies the reality that, increasingly, there is little or no tolerance or space that enables secular points of view (on the role of religion) to be expressed. Instead, all argument, advertisement, morality, legal codes and even products have to be wrapped in the garb of religion to be successfully sold.

This is not to say that people don't circumvent religion, religious oligarchies or laws. There are many spontaneous rights-based movements (such as the lawyers' movement and the nationwide lady health workers movement, the fisher-folks movements) and routine lives which are neither motivated, take no recourse nor impulse from religious sentiment, nor use religious props or support from piety. Some pay with their lives for speaking out on the issue of separating religion from politics or policies.

One example of the de-privatisation of religion that the author, Humeira Iqtidar, considers as exemplary of "secularisation" is highlighted through a dialogue with one or two women members of the JuD. One such case is that of "Saima", who fails at a secular career but succeeds in securing a place in the JuD markaz and who is likely to have her marriage arranged within the fold of the JuD. This, according to Iqtidar, affords her greater choice in selection of her spouse than may be possible under "secular" arrangements of marriage.

Similarly, the fact that "Rabia" is able to defy her brother-in-law's disapproval of her veiling, leads the author to conclude that while Islamist parties may be oppressive for some, for others they may serve as liberating sanctuaries.

To suggest that the experiences of these woman of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa are indicative of secularisation because they activate their private (pietist) agency to inform their public relationships/careers, is akin to suggesting that the local maulvi who has been co-opted by UNFPA to promote contraceptives in the community is also "secularised" or contributing to secularisation of society. This instrumentalisation of religion, as a potential method of achieving supposedly secular ends (secularisation, in Iqtidar's definition), is a completely ill-considered proposal.


With reference to this particular example, it has simply (re-)created a dependency on male clergy for something as simple (and secular) as, access to a basic health option for women. The requirement of the approval and involvement of and mediation by local clergymen, has resulted in what I call, "rent-a-maulvi projects."

The justification to use any method to gain entry into the community and not just accept but actively appoint, a local clergyman as the gatekeeper to women's reproductive options, also negates other potential aspects of social empowerment. It also reinforces the authority of religion and anti-secularists at community levels and reasserts their privilege over issues of morality, such as women's sexuality. On the contrary, his religiosity allows the clergyman to manoeuvre a (secular) career in addition to, and through promotion of, his self-acclaimed (very political) piety, rather than surrendering it towards some imagined secularisation. The author is correct – Islamists are rational and modern, especially when it comes to co-opting secular strategies and then subverting them towards Islamist ends.


If this is the kind of merger of piety and the secular that Iqtidar seems to be offering as the recipe for a "Pakistani", culturally appropriate secularisation, then it is a seriously dangerous political project rather than a simple academic exercise. Her rider in the introduction to the book warns towards this in a sort of copout when she suggests that, "Islamist secularisation is likely to be extremely different from the products of secularisation in other contexts." No kidding.


The abandonment and license with which diasporic academics flirt with such theories allows them to either ignore or elide over the rightwing and pietist subject's politics, or indeed romanticise and indulge in cultural revisionism with no anxiety at all about the overlap of their project with the conservative agendas within natal contexts.

Academic license aside, I don't think we can ignore how this bolsters local conservatism. If, indeed, scholarship is now in the business of rescuing rightwing agency, it should be honest enough to simultaneously break its silence on their political agendas/performance too. Especially the ones that actively reverse, viciously attack and consciously refute secular possibilities, resistance or even the questioning of Islamic interpretation, laws, modes or norms as the Islamists define them. Anti-secularism is the one thing that all competing strains of Islamists agree upon and concertedly act against, repeatedly.

Is it an honest academic proposal, then, to suggest that their "inner agency" will accidentally contribute to the political project of the secularisation of Pakistan?

The writer is a sociologist based in Karachi. Email: afiyazia@yahoo.com



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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

NOT THAT SERIOUS YET

 HUSSAIN H ZAIDI


"As you are aware, the situation in Karachi is not normal. A few people have died here and there and a handful of vehicles torched. But the media is creating the impression as if all hell has broken loose, the writ of the state had ceased to exist and the city was heading for chaos. The government is being charged with twiddling its thumbs and letting people be killed. Calls to hand over Karachi to the armed forces have been made. I see all such stuff as simply an attempt to malign and unseat the popularly elected government. Therefore, it is our foremost duty to thwart the attempt."

"As always, you have hit the nail on the head. People are born and pass away. It is a law of nature. Then why make a fuss about the death of a few people in Karachi, as if Karachiites are not supposed to die because they have drunk the elixir of life? A few days back I had candidly stated that wives and girlfriends were behind most of the casualties in the city. But instead of being praised for revealing the truth – the fruit of tireless efforts by my intelligence agencies – I was condemned for lack of seriousness."

"Never mind. I myself run the gauntlet every now and then. But this strengthens my resolve rather than weakens it. Actually our people are wont to creating storms in a teacup. The silly, incorrigible people! But let us hear what our law wizard has got to say."

"Ever since our government was installed, conspiracies are being hatched to have it booted out. Efforts were made to pitch the executive against the judiciary and create a constitutional crisis. But we have been too smart for the conspirators. We have defied several judgments of the courts but still got away with that." "Yes, I know. But right now I want you to explain whether the call to invite the army in Karachi is constitutional."

"Article 245 of the Constitution provides that the armed forces shall work in aid of civil power when called upon to do so. Therefore, the army can be asked by the federal government to help the provincial authorities improve the situation in Karachi. But the armed forces cannot do so on their own."

"This means it is up to us whether to call the troops in Karachi. If we think that a situation has arisen where the deployment of the armed forces in the city is warranted, we may do the needful. So has such a situation arisen? Let us ask our friend from the provincial government."

"The federal government is the eyes and ears of the provincial government. We see what you want us to see and hear what you want us to hear. If you see no evil, we see no evil; if you hear no evil, we also hear no evil. I have nothing more to say."

"You need not. Yes, my dear friend-our trouble-shooter-I want to hear from you now." "Sir, Karachi is a megalopolis and gangs and mafias operate in every megalopolis. Don't we watch Hollywood and Bollywood movies? They frequently depict gang wars in New York and Mumbai in which scores of persons perish. Obviously, the movies wouldn't portray such things if they didn't exist. The point that I wish to drive home is that what is happening in Karachi has nothing extraordinary about it. Yes, during the last few weeks the enormity of the problem has gone up, but it hasn't reached a dangerous level yet."

"You mean to say there is no political problem in Karachi and it is only a gang war that is playing havoc with the city's peace?" "Tut, tut. You are talking like a desperate politician unable to make it to the corridors of power. No one is playing havoc with Karachi's peace and no one can do so as long as we are in charge of the situation. Yes, the gangs and mafias are patronised by political parties and that makes the problem political – if you insist."

"But what is the way forward? Are we not going to act against the mafias because they have politicians as their masters?"

"Well, politics in Karachi has become so criminalised that a political party which says farewell to arms will lose ground to others. While no political party of note, including ours, will confess in public to having a militant wing, it is a fact that they all have. Since Karachi's is a turf war, no party would like to yield an inch."

"Pardon me, sir, but if the entire city is de-weaponised, then none will give ground to others." "That's easier said than done. Who will de-weaponise? The police? The Rangers? Neither can do that. The army? Maybe. But calling the troops out to do what is essentially civilians' job will create more problems, particularly for the government. We all know what those problems are, so I will not go into that. Unless there is consensus among political parties to have their militant wings disbanded, the city can't be rid of weapons. However, such consensus will never arise, I tell you. The problem then, as I see it, is not that Karachi is bleeding but as to how we can counter the propaganda that we are not alive to the situation. In politics, perception is more important than reality. I believe one of our colleagues has drawn up a plan. Just the outline, please."

"Here is the plan, in essence. We must first dispel the impression that the Karachi situation is getting out of control and that only the armed forces can set things right. Two, the perils to democracy and human rights that handing the city over to the army will entail need to be highlighted. Three, the government must come out with a categorical statement that the troops will not be called out in the city and that the situation can be handled by the law-enforcement agencies. Finally, an operation needs to be launched against miscreants in which every day a few of them are nabbed, so that we have something to sell to the media and the people."

"Excellent! The plan is hereby approved."

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad. Email: hussainhzaidi@ gmail.com




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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

WRONGDOINGS IN RAMAZAN

  DR A Q KHAN


 During the last few weeks our activities, our despicable behaviour and our character during the holy month of Ramazan has put us, as Muslims, to shame. We all know how so-called "Muslims" are killing other innocent Muslims in Karachi.

It reminds one of the Sarajevo of 20 years ago when fundamentalist and orthodox Serbs were literally butchering the Muslims. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic openly helped the Serbs with men and weapons while the Western countries looked the other way. The biggest crime the Muslims had committed at the time, as put to me by the then foreign minister, my dear friend Dr Haris Sladjic, was that they did not lose the war quickly enough and fought with tenacity and courage. Then-prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif granted me permission to give massive aid to the Bosnians. KRL supplied them with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, rockets, anti-tank mines and laser range-finders. POF also supplied massive aid. Within days the tide was turned and the Muslims routed the Serbs. Seeing this turn of events, the West forced a ceasefire detrimental to the Muslims. Their president, Alija Izetbegovic, their prime minister and other ministers and their army commander were very grateful and never forgot our timely help. Whenever any of them came to Islamabad, they always called on me and unfailingly thanked me.

While in Bosnia it was Serb against Muslim, in Karachi it makes one hang one's head in shame to see one's own people killing each other – Muslim against Muslim. One fails to understand how they can act in such a beastly, savage manner. They don't seem to realise that most of the victims are poor people, often sole breadwinners of their large families. Such families are then doomed to poverty and starvation. While our religious scholars are willing to preach about any topic on earth, they are unable to stop this carnage. Sometimes they themselves are brutally murdered. Perhaps no other religion has put so much emphasis on tolerance and forgiveness as Islam has done, but we behave more like wild dogs – hyenas even. Here are some edicts from Allah for us to ponder upon.

• So forgive and overlook (2:109)

• So, O Muhammad, pass over their faults and ask for Allah's forgiveness (3:159)

• (O Muhammad) Hold to forgiveness, command what is right but turn away from the ignorant (7:199)

• (O Muhammad) Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness (15:85)

• Tell (O Muhammad) who believe to forgive those who do not look forward to the days of Allah. It is for Him to recompense (for good or for evil) each people according to what they have earned (45:14)

• And the remission (forgiveness) is the nearest to forgiveness (2:237)

• Indeed, if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will (42:43)

• The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree), but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, he will be rewarded by Allah (42:40)

• Those who spend freely, whether in prosperity or in adversity, who restrain anger and pardon (all) people (will be rewarded). For Allah loves those who do good (3:134)

• Nor can goodness and evil be equal. Repel evil with what is better. Then will he, between whom and you was hatred, become as he were your friend (41:34)

The greatest example of forgiveness was demonstrated by our Prophet Mohammad (pubh) during his last sermon at Mecca when he forgave all, including his most bitter enemies – even Hinda, who had cut open the chest and chewed the heart of Hazrat Hamza (RA), uncle of the Prophet (SA). It was an example that was not only highly appreciated by the Muslims, but it also won acclaim from Christians and Jews. Since we have ignored the edicts of Allah, the devil has taken hold of our souls. We have become like beasts, killing our own people at the slightest pretext. It is appropriate to remind everyone of the Divine edict which says that whoever kills an innocent Muslim for no just reason is doomed to live in hell forever and it is indeed a painful abode.

Another serious curse threatening the health of the people is the practice of adulteration of edibles and medicines. Many spices are mixed with highly injurious substances and markets are flooded with spurious medicines. This has become a billion rupee business. Manufacturers as well as officials are minting money at the cost of the health of the masses. Just the other day the MD of Utility Stores was reported to have complained of receiving adulterated spices and tea. Even in the poorest African countries one will never find adulterated edibles. In Islamic countries all over the world the prices of commodities are reduced by 20-25 percent just before and during Ramazan. Not so in our country. On the contrary, prices are increased even before Ramazan starts. We are the only "chosen" ones to have been "blessed" like this. We are not afraid of either Allah or Doomsday.

The media has been playing an extremely important role in the country by pointing out the corruption, nepotism and illegal acts of the government and government officials. It has also pointed out the immoral activities being practiced by manufacturers, suppliers and retailers. My earnest request to the various TV channels and their anchorpersons is that they devote at least one hour per week to highlighting these wrongdoings and strenuously request people to desist from indulging in immoral practices. Religious scholars and imams can also play a very constructive role in this campaign. They should not only show expertise in oratory and knowledge of religious matters. Anchorpersons are in an ideal position to host such programmes.

While studying in Berlin, I met a Pakistani working in a porcelain factory. He used to drink beer without a second thought and without any inhibitions. However, he reacted quite angrily when one day his friend put a plate of pork in front of him in the canteen. He was, he said, a Muslim and did not touch pork and his friend should have known that. Somewhere in his heart he was still a Muslim and had fear of Allah.

There is an investigative lady journalist working for a private TV channel. She has been waging a crusade against adulteration of edibles, spurious drug factories and hoarders and price hikers. It is a good, informative programme and interesting to see how this energetic lady goes about her work.

However, I would request her to use persuasion and a softer touch to convince wrongdoers to desist from their despicable acts and sins. I am sure that if anchorpersons devoted some time to exposing these wrong and harmful practices and suggesting rectifying measures, many people would listen and some at least would follow their advice. It would be a small step in the direction of creating a better society.

Email: ali4drkhan@gmail.com


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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

TIN HAT TIME

 CHRIS CORK

 

 We touch the void, us strangers who live here. Those of us that are left are here by choice, nobody forces us to stay. There are writers and teachers, social workers and housewives. Leading quiet and unobtrusive lives this dwindling band of souls does its best to fit in and make a positive contribution to the country most now call 'home'. As a group, perhaps the tiniest of the minorities clustered together on the white part of the national flag.

The void that touches us is the green portion of the flag beyond the boundaries of whatever lives we have made for ourselves. Disparate as we are I cannot speak for any other member of this collectivity of rugged individualists, but this was a week when my vulnerability gave me a nudge - and perhaps a few others as well.

Some of us, me included, have a slightly higher profile than the rest. We are a tiny bit famous, Z-list celebs in our own worlds. And it is that visibility, coupled with an up-front liberalism and a strong streak of moderateness (a clumsy word) in most of us that marks us out. Takes us into the void marked 'target'.

It has been a bad year for strangers. The murder of Salmaan Taseer got it off to a grim start and it has been downhill all the way since. Last Friday his son was kidnapped in Lahore. He was no high-profile liberal who spoke publically about the iniquitous blasphemy laws and supported imprisoned Christians sentenced to death under them; he was something in the financial world. He does not seem to have been energetically politically active and had nothing obvious to mark him out.

We do not know who took him or why. It could be a simple matter of ransom, or a business deal gone bad or an old enmity - but it could also be that he was guilty by association of the same 'crimes' that saw his father murdered.

Whatever it was there was a pricking between my shoulder-blades in the hours afterwards. Because I am a member of another minority outside of the merely foreign, the minority that speaks against extremism, that argues for a school curriculum fit for the 21st century rather than one rooted in the distant past, that argues for a secular society and a separation of church and state and that stubbornly persists in believing that women have an equal role to play in the national life.

This group has a foot in both the green and the white parts of the flag. Mostly middle-class, well-educated and literate, articulate in print and long-time denizens of cyberspace, they are the ones who show up outside press clubs in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi to protest whatever latest outrage against common sense and decency has been perpetrated either by the state or its functionaries and proxies.

They are tolerated because they present no threat to the status quo and occupy no political space. They command no mass support or popularity outside of their bubble and can be safely ignored by those who hold the reins of real power.

The state may choose to cast a benign eye lit by patronising indulgence over them, and it certainly presents them with no threat beyond routine harassment, but the void will have spotted them. And me.

The void is not a tolerant space, and cannot handle cognitive dissonance, the holding in balance of conflicting ideas, and would seek to erase that perturbation of its dark paradigm. The state also touches the void. The void senses the touch of a friend.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@gmail.com


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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

NO WAY TO BUILD BRIDGES

 ASIF EZDI THE WRITER IS A FORMER MEMBER OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE


Nawaz Sharif's speech on Aug 13 at the Safma seminar "Building Bridges in the Subcontinent" continues to make waves two weeks later. Media attention has focused mainly on some of his observations which seem to question the basis of Pakistani nationhood. These remarks have caused surprise and consternation even among some long-standing supporters of the PML-N, which claims to be the successor of the party which led the Pakistan movement in pre-partition India. Hardly anyone from the top ranks of the PML-N, apart from the newly appointed spokesman, has sought to defend the party leader's verbal escapade.

Pakistan and India, Nawaz said, had the same culture and heritage, ate the same food, spoke the same language and shared the same way of life. Despite the many things the people of the two countries had in common, he said, they were now separated by "a border".

Even when allowance is made for the fact that Nawaz was addressing a mixed audience of Pakistanis and Indians on building bridges between them – in itself a totally desirable enterprise – his statement is offensive. And it is untrue because, though the Muslims and Hindus lived on the same soil for centuries, they inhabited two different spiritual worlds. Nawaz was in fact repeating many of the points made by the Congress Party of India – and refuted by the Quaid-e-Azam – during the Pakistan movement.

Almost as outrageous as Nawaz's assertion about the Indians and Pakistanis having a common culture is his assertion that they worship (pujte hain) the same God. The Quran says something very different in Surah al-Kafirun: The believers worship not that which the non-believers worship, nor do the non-believers worship that which the believers worship. Nawaz should also know that the Muslims do not perform puja, as the Hindus do, but ibadat.

My friend and former colleague Khaled Ahmed, who has a great sense of humour, wrote in a piece that what Nawaz Sharif actually meant was that the people of Pakistan and India were not animists. Perhaps Khaled should advise Nawaz to offer this explanation himself.

As if Nawaz's pronouncements on the shared culture of Pakistan and India were not enough, he also delighted the Indians in several other ways. He distanced himself from the struggle of the Kashmir people for self-determination; held the Pakistani army largely responsible for the non-resolution of the dispute; and called for a reduction of the defence budget. This was not entirely new. In May, he had said that Islamabad must stop treating New Delhi as its "biggest enemy".

Now he has gone further. He called for moving away from the "60-year-old stated position" on Kashmir, exactly as his nemesis Musharraf used to say after he changed course on the issue in 2004. Nawaz also implicitly blamed the army for getting the country "stuck" in this position.

Pakistan's "stated position" – which our government these days increasingly refrains from stating – is based on UN Security Council resolutions. Does Nawaz realise that it is only because of these resolutions that Kashmir is treated by the UN and the international community as disputed territory, and that, without them, Pakistan's claim on Kashmir would be far weaker?

Nawaz was very impressed, as he said, by the sincerity of Vajpayee at the Lahore Summit in 1999 in seeking a resolution of the Kashmir question. Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of Indian policy knows that the only "solution" that India would be prepared to contemplate, whether it was under Vajpayee or under the present government, is a formalisation of the existing division along the Line of Control. If Nawaz does not know it, he should seek some good foreign policy advice. If he knows it, he should come clean and tell the public, explicitly and openly, that this is a "solution" that he also advocates.

Nawaz would also like Pakistan to cut its defence budget. He is right about spending more of the nation's resources on economic and social development. But that money should come from the country's rich and corrupt ruling classes who do not pay their taxes and, through loot and plunder, have amassed huge amounts in their overseas bank accounts and properties. Nawaz himself belongs to that class, as do Zardari, Gilani and countless others.

Our defence expenditure, as it is, is insufficient to meet the threats to our security. We need to spend more to improve the equipment and training of our conventional forces. We also need to allocate more resources to develop (a) a second-strike capability in case of a pre-emptive attack on our nuclear assets; and (b) tactical nuclear weapons to give us the possibility of a flexible response to an Indian adventure, such as that which their Cold Start doctrine envisions. Upgrading of our nuclear deterrence is essential for its credibility to be maintained, especially in view of the India-US nuclear deal and the Indian ballistic missile defence programme. No country in the world has to depend for its security on its nuclear capability more than Pakistan.

Savings should indeed be made by cutting down the lavish perks enjoyed by the top brass: the housing estates, agricultural lands, the golf courses and cushy jobs on retirement, to name just a few. Besides, generals like Musharraf who subvert the Constitution should be brought to justice. But to reduce the defence budget in our current security environment would amount to punishing the nation for the misdeeds of our rulers.

Nawaz also advocated freer trade with India and the opening of the Wagah route to Indian transit trade. If he had read Clinton's Madras speech last month, he would have known that these are also steps that the US is pushing Pakistan to take – in order to help India achieve domination over Central and South Asia.

Unfortunately, our media has not discussed these issues. Much of the focus has been on the allegation that Safma is funded by Raw. In the absence of evidence, we should refrain from such allegations. But there can be no doubt that Safma pursues a political agenda going beyond its declared purpose of promoting press freedom among South Asian countries, which it does somewhat selectively. Safma's silence on press curbs in Occupied Kashmir is one piece of evidence.

Nawaz's political judgment – never very sound, as seen in his selection of Musharraf as the army chief and then in the ham-fisted manner in which he tried to fire him – has been warped further by the trauma of his overthrow in 1999 and subsequent forced exile. That may be understandable at a human level. But such a flaw can be fatal in a national leader. If Nawaz cannot overcome this shock, he should return fulltime to his family business and leave politics to others.

The Indian government and media are delighted, and understandably so, at Nawaz's Safma speech. But so also is a small section of the Pakistani media and "civil society" which labels itself pretentiously as the "liberals". The newly coined English word lumpen-intelligentsia would be a more appropriate description for them. One of them, a star TV commentator, claimed last week that 99 percent of the people of Pakistan agreed with what Nawaz said. The remaining one percent, whom this analyst dismissed as the thekedar (self-appointed guardians) of the two-nation theory, were itching to nuke India, as he claimed. So much for objectivity and informed analysis.

Pakistan and India should indeed give up confrontation, learn to live as peaceful neighbours and try to build bridges of understanding. But denying the foundations of Pakistani nationhood, ignoring the threat posed by India and abandoning the Kashmir cause is certainly no way of going about it, as Nawaz seems to think. If he does not retract the unfortunate remarks he made on these issues, it is to be hoped at least that others in his party would disown them.

Email: asifezdi@yahoo.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SHARIF'S STANCE

 AREEBA MALIK


This August 13, at a Safma (South Asia Free Media Association) event entitled "Building Bridges in the Sub-continent," we got a sense of the introspection and well-reasoned thinking that sometimes hides beneath the lilt of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif's rhetoric. His speech, the crux of which was to emphasise that Pakistan and India need to resolve bilateral issues and increase trade for the betterment of the people of the two countries, has turned controversial in the hands of the loud voices and opinions on prime-time slots and editorial pages. But did Nawaz really say anything all that contentious?

Nawaz began his speech by calling for trade between India and Pakistan and emphasising the need for both sides to unhinge themselves from the arms race they have been fighting for decades and because of which social sector development, particularly in Pakistan, has suffered. Looking at the figures for poverty and unemployment in this country, what reasonable person will not wonder why we are engaged in a fierce arms race with a neighbour when there are immense gains to be made? Why should we not prefer butter to bullets or care more for the well-being of our people rather than the quality and quantity of our arms? Nawaz has asserted that the quickest route to economic revival would be to trade with India. This option needs to be pursued.

Countries with adverse political relationships, without giving up their principled stand on disputes, have engaged in cross border investment, trade and movement of people. Over time these activities have helped in fostering better understanding of each other's viewpoints. This is all Nawaz has said. What reasonable person would disagree? What rational person would not support the idea that we need to move towards a more holistic, comprehensive view of national security that encompasses not just the security of the state but also views things from the human prism?

Next, Nawaz asserted that there are centuries-old, deep-rooted historical, cultural and even religious affinities between Pakistan and India and all that separates them is a man-made border. The guardians of national security have gone up in arms, accusing Nawaz of undermining the two-nation theory and hence questioning the very basis of Pakistan's existence. Nawaz has not questioned the validity of the two-nation theory; what he has perhaps questioned is that while the Muslims of India achieved their independence and carved out a country based on a theory should that theory subsequently lock them into enmity for all times to come? Nawaz has not questioned that Pakistan came into being on the basis of the two-nation theory; what he has challenged is the 65-year-long practice of making enmity the basis of the Pakistani state. What reasonable person can disagree?

But there are some who have disagreed and it is important to note who they are. Not even one of them is a mainstream political party with a substantial presence in the electorate. The disagreement has come from the Jamaat-i-Islami and from a few, lone hawks in the media. And this is what Nawaz has said: on India, we should not be listening to those who are instinctually averse to the idea of peace with India because it would challenge their institutional or ideological power inside Pakistan.

For ratings and self-gratifying rabblerousing, primetime hosts have found India to be the ultimate godsend, allowing them to undermine what should be a rational, institutional thinking process. Those who say that peace and prosperity are unacceptable at the expense of sovereignty and honour should not be allowed to forget is that national honour is not just about making free choices or about chest-thumping; it is also about being able to give the people under your charge the basic things people in other independent countries take for granted.

The unnerving commitment of the political class and the rightwing to a 'realism' that renders peace 'idealistic' and unnecessary has to be challenged and balanced by a civil society that helps cut through the fossilised positions. The need is to work to change political cultures, and foster the sense that solutions are available and attainable. We need to find a middle ground in Pakistan-India interactions instead of becoming obituary writers of the subcontinent's peace constituency. With his speech, Nawaz has taken a big step in trying to find this middle ground. He must be supported.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

IT WAS NATO'S RAID NOT AFGHANS

 

ATTACK from across the border in Chitral on Saturday once again highlighted the fact that some sinister campaign is in the offing to further pressurize and destabilize Pakistan. Though different accounts of the casualties are being given but officials have admitted the killing of 25 security personnel and capture of two border posts by the militants who simultaneously attacked seven check posts.

The attack by about 300 armed men is being given a new colour that it was carried out by Afghan based militants but one thing is for certain that this was done by the backing of occupation forces in Afghanistan. NATO and US forces are deployed all along the border with Pakistan and with sophisticated intelligence gadgets, it is not possible for a big group of people to cross the Durand Line without their knowledge. Cross border raids from Afghanistan started in April this year and so far about 75 troops and civilians have been killed in at least six such attacks. Some people argue that the incursions were planned and executed by militant leader Fazlullah who is reportedly hiding in Kunar and Nooristan provinces but one is certain to say that he cannot make sanctuary there without the backing of anti Pakistan intelligence agencies. It was an organised military like operation which one cannot imagine by a stray group of militants and it is also totally unacceptable that they have the capability to fight for long hours or capture Pakistani posts. In the past too similar attacks were carried out and the matter was raised with Afghan government and the NATO command. We are of the considered opinion that this type of attacks from the Afghan side are indicators to the beginning of a new war. It is therefore essential that the security posts along the Afghan border must be beefed up with additional deployment of manpower and armaments so as to give a befitting response to the aggressor. At the same time we would impress upon the government that the incident should not be taken in routine and a diplomatic protest is lodged because it hurt the sovereignty of Pakistan and President Asif Ali Zardari must raise it with President Obama urging him to direct the American forces to stop all types of incursions from the Afghan side of the border.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THE ERODING TARBELA AND MANGLA

 

THE two main water reservoirs of the country have almost been filled to capacity and the authorities have started releasing downstream the entire amount of inflow of water. According to Federal Flood Commission sources the largest water reservoir Tarbela Dam on Saturday reached its uppermost limit while Mangla Dam is also nearing storage capacity and amid expected more monsoon rains, the possibility of floods cannot be ruled out.

According to a research-based report of Pakistan Observer, 30% storage capacity of Tarbela Dam has been eroded due to sedimentation and silting is taking place in Mangla Dam as well. Had there been a couple of major water reservoirs, the country would have been able to conserve precious water and saved vast lands and population centres from the destruction of floods. Last year more than 20% of the cultivatable area of the country came under floods that damaged standing crops and destroyed infrastructure in addition to loss of innocent lives. Billions of rupees were spent for the rehabilitation of the displaced people and as a result the country came under additional financial stress. What is surprising is that these losses are not being given any weightage because the money goes out from public kitty and not from an individual's pocket. It is regrettable that the incumbent government which had claimed to launch medium size water storage dams in the four provinces is showing criminal negligence after foundation laying ceremony of a couple of them in Sindh. Had we constructed the Kalabagh Dam, we would not have suffered the colossal damages that we faced in the floods last year. The entire world is focusing on how to store water but unfortunately the four provinces of Pakistan have yet to reach consensus on building dams and in fact construction of dams has become a thing of the past as if there is no need for them. Construction of Akhori and Bhasha dams would increase our capacity to some extent but that would still be much lower than our requirements. Today the importance of dams is not being fully realized but with the silting of Tarbela and Mangla in about two decades, vast tracts of land in Sindh and Punjab would become barren and then it would be too late because a reservoirs of the size of Tarbela takes at least ten years to complete. We would therefore impress upon the government to give up its apathy and accord priority to dams because the agricultural and economic future of Pakistan would be in jeopardy unless we build more dams.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

HAZARE WINS HALF BATTLE

 

THE self styled Gandhian activist Anna Hazare who is campaigning to bring an end to vast corruption in India broke his 12-day long fast on Sunday morning after the two houses of Parliament bowed to his campaign powered by a groundswell of popular support for a strong and independent anti corruption institution.

With Parliament agreeing to the demand of Anna Hazare, we think he has won half the battle against corruption. The parliament backed a resolution to push for a law to create an independent ombudsman with wide ranging power to investigate lawmakers, the judiciary and bureaucrats. While there is greater awareness about corruption and the losses suffered by India, in Pakistan we are lagging far behind. Institutions of National Accountability Bureau and Ombudsman are there but they have been made in effective. Though there are often reports in the print and electronic media about cases of corruption at the Federal, Provincial levels and in public sector corporations but no action is being taken. As a result exploiters are having a free hand to plunder the national wealth while the country is meeting its day-to-day expenditure through domestic and international borrowings. We wish there is a strong institution under the control of the Parliament which could take suo motu notices of corruption cases and have the powers to even look into allegations against any person holding even the highest position and prosecute him if it considers it appropriate. Unless and until the corrupts are punished and their ever increasing assets are confiscated, it would be impossible to eradicate the menace which has spread in the society like cancer.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

AFGHANISTAN RETURNING TO BRINK

AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)

 

Six months ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had put forth three corner stones for American policy in Afghanistan; a strong military effort to defeat al-Qaida and support Afghans as they secure their sovereignty, a civilian push to promote economic development and good governance, and a diplomatic surge to support an Afghan-led reconciliation process.

To pursue these ends, United States has been focusing its exit strategy on a triad of conflicting parameters: attacking the resistance forces to decimate them; while at the same time putting up a facade of negotiations with break-away factions; it has invested heavily in building Afghan security forces for enabling them to take over the bulk of dirty fighting assignments from NATO/ISAF. However, these efforts have reached a dead end.

The window of opportunity that propped up after NATO/ISAF started handing over district wise control to Afghan security forces appears to be shutting off fast by the reports about a dubious Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which the United States is trying to impose on Afghanistan. SOFA is aimed at allowing the US military presence in Afghanistan until 2024. An effort to secure 6-8 military bases is also on, though in a hush hush manner. As a reaction, Afghanistan is back to brink.

Afghan resistance elements no longer trust American sincerity towards negotiations and consider it as a ploy for gaining time to weaken them militarily. The multibillion-dollar training of the Afghan national army and police force may at best be taken as a waste of money. This year alone, $12 billion will go down the drain in an effort to develop effective army and police forces in Afghanistan. Despite tremendous investment, Afghan security forces are nowhere close to the mark. During poppy cultivation and harvesting seasons, security personnel desert their units to participate in these better paying activities; they return to their units during intervening periods!

Perception at senior levels of the Afghan intelligentsia has it that the United States wants to use Afghanistan indefinitely as a spring board for power projection in Asia and the Middle East. An increasing number of Afghans consider American counterterrorism operations as a venture aimed at 'look busy do nothing.' Independent analysts opine that America and its Western European followers are adamant at not letting Asia and the Far East benefit from the natural resources of Central Asia. And for this they are working hard to keep Afghanistan and Baluchistan (including Iranian portion) on boiling pot. Since American advent in Afghanistan, a number of oil and gas pipelines have become functional connecting Central Asian oil and gas to Europe and beyond.

Contrary to the upbeat rhetoric about progress in counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, the situation points toward a military and political deadlock. Afghanistan is in a deep perpetual crisis; country's fragile democratic institutions are crumbling. In a desperate attempt to strengthen his constituency, President Karzai has recently dissolved the 'Independent Election Commission' that was looking into the frauds during recent parliamentary election. Certainly, tainted parliamentarians would be more pliable for the approval of upcoming SOFA. Situation stays hazy as to what the US expects to achieve by simultaneously wanting to target and talk to Taliban leaders. In this 'kill-capture-or-reconcile' strategy, the US expects Pakistan to assist by facilitating contacts and at the same time take action against Taliban leaders unwilling to oblige.

Amid rapid deterioration in security across the country, recent spate of effective operations and high profile assassinations by the Taliban indicate that the Western-backed government in Kabul may not survive very long after the foreign withdrawal. These attacks look like an armed campaign with the tinge of a nationalist movement, directed against the foreign occupiers and their local extensions. Afghan majority now tends to believes that America is the part of problem and it no longer wants to be a part of the solution; lest the solution comes by.

To come out of this impasse, the United States needs to come clean about its objectives in Afghanistan, indicating a political track in synch with military strategy. America must support Afghanistan's institutions and democratic forces. It should employ its leverage more effectively to encourage political and economic reforms.

The US unwillingness to propose any confidence-building measures like suspending night raids in return for the Taliban's cessation of assassinations reflects continuing inconsistency in American policy making structures. Different components of the Administration seem fixated to different ends. While the White House and the State Department appear to support the reconciliation process, Pentagon still feels that talks with Taliban amount to an admission of failure. Thanks to internal dysfunctions in Washington, military strategy is still at odds with its declared objective of seeking a negotiated end to the war. Escalating special operation missions prompts the Taliban to continue fighting and not abandon it in preference for talks. The notion that more fighting will force the Taliban into negotiations means pursuing elusive battlefield gains.

The historical record of peace processes suggests that they start with some form of agreed stand down leading to a negotiated cease-fire. Mutual reduction of violence will help to create the political conditions for dialogue. Such a roadmap for an Afghan-led peace process could involve various phases, starting with a reciprocal de-escalation of violence to create the conditions for peace efforts. If America resorts to mutual cessation of violence as a necessary starting point, a sustainable plan could be crafted for a peace process.

Another American rhetoric about interlocking trio of defence, diplomacy and development is equally lopsided. Congress has allocated $1.3 trillion to the Defence Department for war spending through fiscal year 2011; whereas annual budget of State Department is $27.4 billion.

Unfortunately, America and Pakistan view the Afghan conflict through different prisms. Pakistan is making an effort to work out an Afghan led and Afghan owned political solution, also acceptable to all immediate neighbouring states of Afghanistan. America on the other hand is attempting to coerce the Afghans to a militarily imposed solution, underwritten by prolonged presence of American military in Afghanistan. It is not without reason that ethnic composition of Afghan Army and Police is quite similar to the Northern Alliance militia of yester years.

—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

GLOBAL AGENDA WITH ECONOMIC DEBT

DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN

 

Under the current scenario, once US is in a fix, mainly because of its worst economic crisis, and a total failure on Afghan front, it badly needs a scapegoat to satisfy the American audience and its European partners. While it might find the scapegoat in the form of Pakistan and Afghan Pashtuns, its European partners and masses back home are getting tired and are highly critical to US policies of global imperialism. There is a growing realization among the European nations that some of their influential rulers have made them hostage to US policies over the years. Feelings of US masses are not very different from the Europeans.

The economic debt, U.S is suffering and the global hate, it has earned for itself is because of its ill-conceived global agenda of controlling the globe and its resources, which necessitated over-stretching of its military might out of proportion. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), United States has increased its "military spending by 81 per cent since 2001, and now accounts for 43 per cent of the global total, six times its nearest rival China. At 4.8 per cent of GDP, US military spending in 2010 represents the largest economic burden outside the Middle East." As per the latest figures provided by SIPRI, the top four military spenders of the world are United States with; $698 billion, China; $119 billion, Great Britain $59.6 billion, and France $59.3 billion.

American masses have their serious reservations, as to why the taxpayer's money is being wasted in areas like Afghanistan, Iraq and West and East Asia, from where they get back nothing except bodies of their loved ones. The families of those soldiers, who lost their lives in Afghanistan or Iraq for the baffling mission are now questioning US war wagers as to what did US get in return of these body bags. They perhaps are not aware of the gains of oil and gas contractors and the neo-conservatives, supported by CIA, Pentagon and the owners of arms factories. US masses and independent analysts feel that if at all these overseas American wars were designed to support the US economy, why this global giant is facing worst economic crisis of its history; indeed, it barely sustained an economic collapse.

Alongside Americans, the new European generation have developed two perceptions about US global policies and undermining of European role. A section has the feeling that, this US policy might be result of its retribution of once being a European (British) colony in its early. Whereas, the majority has the feeling that, while being on the extreme corner of the world and remaining safe, US is deliberately keeping its soil free from the global mess, whereas, using European landmass and resources for its vested interests elsewhere in the world. They do realize that the Trans-Atlantic Military alliance (NATO) is a tool in the hands of United States to be used as per US desires, mostly to the disadvantage of European nations.

Some of the EU countries like Poland, Denmark, Germany and Italy have desired immediate pullout of their troops from Afghanistan, the moment the drawdown start in July 2011. As per a Guardian report, in March 2011, the former Defence Secretary had shown US annoyance over this thinking. He even said, "Unfortunately, some recent rhetoric coming from capitals on this continent is calling into question that resolve. Frankly, there is too much talk about leaving and not enough talk about getting the job done right." European also have a feeling that America is the biggest hurdle in a true European integration on political and economic fronts. The present arrangement of EU cannot be called as the real integration, its leaders once envisioned.

It is worth mentioning that most of the European countries are dependent on Russian Federation and Middle East for their growing energy needs like oil and gas. They therefore, feel that their future stakes are linked with this resource rich Eurasian landmass, still having largest area because of its geographical extent. Thus, Europeans are very much desirous of improving their relations with the former super power, indeed a resurgent power. United States however, is pitching the Europeans against Russia, using the strategies of cold war and presenting the later as of having the mindset of Communist Russia. US lure in some of the Eastern European countries having the experience of living under the Communist Russia, for giving them protection against the Russian missile or even the least expected use of nuclear attacks from Russia. In order to sustain its rapidly worn-out war industry, U.S has offered them anti-missile shields and most sophisticated weaponry to fight Russian military might.

Away from Europe, United States is maintaining symmetry in its imperialistic and discriminatory policies. In Asia, the growing economic hub, it sees rising power of China as the biggest threat, thus, made strategic alliances to offset it, right in the region. South Korea and Japan together with Taiwan (a Chinese territory) are being prepared to take on China in East Asia and Pacific. U.S has established strategic and military ties with these countries and has provided them enormous firepower to challenge the growing military might of China. On its part, China believes in a peaceful rise and mutual coexistence with economic interdependence. At regional level, Japan has come up as its biggest trade partner, whereas, at the global level, US enjoy this position with China.

Besides, the super power is collaborating with ASEAN countries and trying to bring them under its security umbrella against China. These countries are being pushed to begrudge Chinese domination of the South China Sea. U.S has concluded a civil nuclear deal with Vietnam, on the pattern of Indo-US nuclear deal. On the South Asian front, US is rapidly enhancing the Indian military might to counter its peer competitor, China. In lunacy of developing its strategic alliance with India, U.S has sufficiently degraded its cold war ally, Pakistan, which still supports its military operations in Afghanistan as a front line state and has suffered a lot on economic and security fronts. Indo-US nuclear deal and massive armament of India, has enhanced the threats to the security of Pakistan.

Besides, US is promoting Indian role in Afghanistan to a decisive level, thus further increasing the security threat for Pakistan along its western borders. In a way implementing strategic encirclement of Pakistan by India supported by US. While being in Afghanistan, it can easily take care of Afghan and Central Asian front with China, besides fuelling insurgency in Western Chinese region (Xinjiang) on the name of Islamic militancy by ETIM, but trying to involve Pakistan for creating a rift between Pakistan and China. This is being done to penalize Pakistan for not siding with U.S against China. In Africa, and Middle East, this super power is hauling out the regional resources by creating internal strife, either between the states or intra-state. Besides its military presence in Middle East, its African Command is poised to take care of any other global actor, attempting to challenge the US authority.

The question arises, should U.S continue pursuing its agenda of global domination with its worsening economic condition? Certainly, the people of America have to decide this. However, they have to remember that, it was economic debt, which forced disintegration of former Soviet Union in 1990, and Britain could not maintain its super power status after WW-II, owing to its heavy expenditures on overseas wars. Should not US policy makers read the writings on the wall and learn from histories of once super powers?

—The writer is an International Relations analyst.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

PARENTS: RIGHTS & OBLIGATIONS — 28

MONTH OF BLESSINGS

SIRAJUDDIN AZIZ

 

In Surah Bani Israel, verse 23, Allah after exhorting mankind to worship Him alone, says, "…And that ye be kind to parents, whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them but address them in terms of honor." The positioning of these words in the verse, where Allah having ordained worship only to Himself, chooses to instruct how parents are to be dealt with, is quite significant; for in the scheme of Allah, anybody who worships Him alone, has to necessarily be kind and grateful to one's parents. It is indeed incomprehensible that a true Muslim, will ever even imagine being disrespectful to parents.

"And out of kindness lower to them the wing of humility and say, "my lord! Bestow on them thy mercy even as they cherished me in childhood" (XVII 24). A mere observation of how a bird looks after or feeds its off spring, gives a deep insight into the spiritual meaning of this verse. "Lowering of wings'' has metaphorical meaning keeping under shade, protection and safe custody. A baby, upon arrival, is totally dependent, despite presence of all the blessed faculties, that in later years allows for growing strength and understanding, but at that moment, these faculties are of no use. Only a mother would sacrifice her peace and mid night sleep, to ensure that her off spring on the contrary would sleep comfortably and calmly. As a child, we receive unadulterated love, care and attention from our parents, that is when we are in a stage of complete helplessness, so therefore when they grow old and infirm, the least a child can do, is to reciprocate with equal love, warmth, respect, care and attention towards them. Approaching parents with utmost humility is a cardinal principle of Islam- no remonstration or words of 'fie' to any of their demands, barring invitation to disbelief, is permissible. In acknowledgement and recognition to the service of Parents towards their children, this beautiful verse, ends with a supplication, seeking Allah's mercy on them just as they (Parents) cherished the children in their childhood.

"We have enjoined on man, kindness to parents, but if they (either of them) strive to force thee to join with me in worship. Anything of which thou hast no knowledge obey them not" (XXIX: 8). Obedience towards parents has been in very clear terms made subservient, to the cause of worshipping none, but the True One Allah. Abraham, who even Allah the most merciful, refers to as a kind hearted man, was admonished, when he supplicated for his father Azar, "Forgive my father, for that he is among those astray" (XXVI-86). In further reference to his father, "Abraham said; Peace be on thee: I will pray to my lord for thy forgiveness, for He is to me most Gracious" (XIX:47). For the love of his father, Azar, Abraham had promised to pray, but his prayers even though he was Khalilullah, were not accepted, as is beautifully and lucidly explained by the Quranic verse, "it is not fitting for the prophet and those who believe, that they should pray for forgiveness for pagans, even though they be of kin…" (IX:113) "Abraham prayed for his father's forgiveness only because of a promise he had made to him. But when it became clear to him that he was an enemy to Allah, he disassociated himself from him, for Abraham was most tender hearted, forbearing (IX: 114). These verses clearly establish that, anybody including parents, if they ever beguilth their progeny from the path of Allah they are to be disobeyed and disassociated with.

In Islam, the stature of parents, is placed on the highest pedestal of good behavior. Besides respecting and showing kindness to one's own parents, it is incumbent for Muslims to show similar respect and kindness to parents of even our friends and friends' of our parents. Abdullah bin Umar, in consonance with Allah's apostle's statement, that the finest act of goodness on the part of a son is to treat kindly the loved ones of his father, was always gracious towards the friends of Hazrat Umar bin Khattab.

In verse 15 of Surah Ahqaf, the stature of the mother is recognized. We have enjoined on man, kindness to his parents; in pain did his mother bear him and in pain did she give birth to him." (XLVI: 15) and further, "at length, when he reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years, he says, "O my lord, grant me that I may be grateful for thy favor, which thou hast bestowed upon me and upon both my parents and that I may work righteousness" (XLVI : 15). Abu Huraira has reported that a person asked, "Allah's messenger, who amongst the people is the most deserving of my good treatment? He said: your mother, again your mother, again your mother, then your father, then your relatives according to the order of nearness." In Sahih Muslim, it is reported (6814), Abdullah Bin Amar said that a person came to Allah's apostle (Pbuh) and sought permission to participate in jihad, where upon, the prophet said: you should put in your best efforts in their service". In Surah Luqman, verse 14, Allah says, "show gratitude to me and thy parents; to me thy final Goal." (XXXI:14).

Blessed are children, whose parents are living- Allah Subhanahu Tala offers them, an opportunity to be of gracious service to them. Allah exhorts in the same verse to show gratitude to Him and parents- Oh! What stature parents have! Imagine a society that respects, loves and shows gratitude to parents, it is inevitable that such off springs will usher peace, Tolerance, equity and justice in their system. O Muslims, never say 'fie' to parents- fear Allah. Gratitude to parents must manifest itself in the quality of service, children need to perform. Ingratitude as a trait of character, invokes the anger and displeasure of almighty Allah. Unfortunately human history is replete with tales of ingratitude. "Blow, Blow thou winter wind, thou art not so unkind, as man's ingratitude". (Shakespeare)

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

DECENTRALISATION & ECONOMIC GROWTH

RIAZ MISSEN

 

Political parties of Pakistan, after doing wonders like NFC Award, provincial autonomy and the restoration of Parliamentary supremacy through 18th amendment in the Constitution, seem to be in hurry to undertake another uphill task: redrawing boundaries of the four provinces, established through a decree of General Yahya Khan in 1969, with the effect that some new federal units are created. While this step is vital for the proper management of the state vis-à-vis law and order and sustainable economic development, the only issue to be settled is the criteria to form a province.

Since March 13 when Premier Gilani, in Jalalpur Pirwala, announced support of his party for Saraiki province, no solid opposition to the idea of creating more provinces has come to the forth but public opinion stands sharply divided as to whether the new provinces should be carved out on linguistic / ethnic basis or not.

The PML-N has raised the question as to why only Punjab should be divided, that too on ethnic grounds. While its leadership says Punjab should be divided into five provinces, the other provinces should also undergo this change for the sake of good governance. Within the Saraiki belt, the leadership of Bahawalpur has unanimously drawn lines and has vowed to resist any move other than reviving the region's provincial status.

Pakistan has been embroiled too much in the international politics since its inception and has been serving the role of frontline state for the liberal world led by America. The complexity of relations between two of Pakistan's giant neighbors, India and China, and the US interest in the region kept Pakistan's decision-makers too much obsessed with international politics. While the country was made to serve the interest of everybody around, its own people kept on suffering from poverty, disease and injustice.

When the situation has eased on international front and Pakistan finds a space to maneuver, its economy is simply in tatters. Except few – telecommunication, banking, oil and gas — all sectors of economy are in dire straits. The worst damage has been done to the economy and environment as population has increased six fold and blind exploitation of natural resources has disturbed the desired balance in the nature. The mismanagement of natural resources turned streams, lakes and rivers polluted; the forest cover has become too thin to sustain a fast growing population. The hydrological facts are changing fast making the country swing between floods and droughts. The worrisome monsoon trend, whereby it has started earlier than the time and hit new regions and abandoned the others, has grave vis-à-vis human settlements, health and food. The climate change can put humans and wildlife on flight either due to droughts or floods.

When agriculture, the main source of country's livelihood, seems to be unsustainable, one can't aspire for the growth of industry and, consequently, jobs. No government, no matter who is in charge, can guarantee peace and security, whether internal or external, when economy keeps on sinking down. The crime rate — name it militancy, robbery, black-marketing or whatever one may like —is bound to rise in this situation. Investors will be shy of developing stakes in the country and foreign direct investment is simply unimaginable.

The mismanagement of natural resources and their irrational use has dangerous implication for the integrity of the state. It is certainly a time to rethink security when the country, due to heavy spending on defense, can only manage to spare 3% of GDP for the provision of basic amenities of life. The political forces have done a commendable job by decentralizing administrative and fiscal resources on to the provinces but the benefits have ultimately to be passed on to the regions lying far off the provincial capitals — Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi. It is vital to invest powers in the hands of the people so that they can decide about the issues related with the socio-economic development of their specific regions.

Pakistan is a diverse region in terms of landscape and crop patterns. The hilly regions' economy heavily depends on forests, deserts' on livestock and flood planes' on agriculture. Culture is simply about co-existence with climate and geographical realities.

Contrary to the past, when the politicians could play on ethnicity, the question right now is how to repair the ecosystem that has been destroyed due to the unsustainable growth strategies. The dominance of agriculturalists in decision-making process has set the agenda of country's politics so far. The inequalities have been sustained through unrestrained use of violence against the aggrieved groups. Centralization has been used as tool to suppress the dissenting voices.

Last but not the least, dividing province from the viewpoint of good governance and economic development, not ethnicity, will result into the boosting of nationalism which has been missing till now but is prerequisite to rational decision-making vis-à-vis socio-economic development of the country.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

OBAMA'S WORST NIGHTMARE

JOHN HUGHES

 

What would be the mother of all nightmares for Barack Obama before next year's presidential election? A nuclear-armed Iran. President Obama has declared he will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear-weapons capability. But his options are limited. A strike against Iran's nuclear installations? That would mean starting another war in the midst of the US election campaign. Unlikely.

Dissuade Israel from striking Iran – an attack that would necessarily involve US moral and practical support during campaign season? For Israel, a nuclear-armed Tehran is a death sentence. So reining in Israel is also unlikely. Accepting the reality of an Iran with nuclear weapons, but publicly warning Tehran against using them? Possible, but dangerously weak-looking for a president up for re-election who promised not to let this happen. I hope someone in the White House is working on this. I hope Iran is not able to do it. Iran may have overcome the problem of the "Stuxnet worm," planted, probably by Israel, to cause its uranium-enriching centrifuges to run wild. Iranian nuclear scientists may have substantially accelerated their ability to make a type of nuclear fuel enabling them to produce bomb-grade material in a hurry. William Hague, the British foreign minister, speculated recently that when Iran has accumulated enough uranium enriched to the 20 percent level, it would take "only two or three months to convert this into weapons-grade material."

What better time for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon than the middle of the US presidential campaign, when the American president is hobbled in his options? Could Iran be so foolishly provocative? Reason would say no. But can we count on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Mad Hatter of Iranian politics, currently embroiled in a shoving match with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for power, to be rational?

Endless American and European negotiations with Iran to halt its suspected race to acquire nuclear weapons have gone nowhere. Tougher sanctions have caused some Iranian discomfort but no cessation of nuclear development. Russia has proposed a new approach, but it involves no tougher sanctions and is unlikely to be fruitful. Russia has major economic interests in Iran. Indeed, the Russian plan curtails sanctions to reward Iran if it addresses international concerns about its nuclear program.

For a regime that seeks to impose its will on the Islamic world, Iran's leaders must be in a calculating mode. Iran is a lingering autocracy in the midst of upheaval in the Arab world. It is estranged from many of its own people, whose protest Green Movement may be dormant but not dead. Syria, its most important ally, may be lost as a platform for projecting support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza. Iran is reportedly helping Syria repress social media networks and put down opposition demonstrations, but the outcome is uncertain. As it takes stock of its role in the Islamic world, the Iranian regime must ponder how its friends and enemies in the region would react to its possession of nuclear weaponry. Saudi Arabia would be appalled and probably seek nuclear weapons itself. Syria, which has sought to develop a nuclear program, would presumably laud Iran as long as Bashar al-Assad's regime stays in control. An unfortunate consequence could be nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

Although many Muslims deplore much about the Iranian regime, a surprising number, both inside and outside Iran, might laud a nuclear breakthrough. I remember how many strongly anti-communist Chinese throughout Southeast Asia celebrated when Communist China joined the nuclear-weapons club. They were not celebrating communism. They were celebrating Chinese prowess.

With the exception of his gutsy decision to take out Osama bin Laden, Obama – fairly or unfairly – has gained a reputation for being weak-kneed in foreign affairs. He should send a confidential message to Iran's leaders that he would react strongly in the event of an election-eve Iranian nuclear surprise. That way, he keeps his options open and Iran on notice. — Courtesy: The Christian Science Monitor

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

THE POLITICS OF DEPRESSION

REGRETS are as useless in life as in politics but the Liberals' Andrew Robb is entitled to a few, given his very late diagnosis of depression a couple of years ago at the age of 58.

The opposition finance spokesman had soldiered on since his teenage years, afflicted by a morning malaise and anxiety, as he managed family and hugely stressful political and leadership roles. By any standards, he was an outstanding success but as he suggests in the extract from his book, published in these pages today, who knows how much more he could have done had he confronted his depression earlier? Like millions of other Australians who have denied this debilitating illness, Mr Robb awarded himself a huge handicap by holding back from the help that could have saved him decades of pain.

Fear and shame play a part, but Mr Robb's generation faced another hurdle in the social and medical ignorance about depression. Thankfully, we now know more about the illness and there are more services available.

Destroying the stigma has proved harder: Mr Robb's book Black Dog Daze: Public Life, Private Demons is a brave addition to that process of changing public attitudes. His account shows that while specific treatments are needed for individual cases, the best medicine is to address depression as we would any other illness.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

GLOBAL REACH OF EXTREMISM

AS welcome as the news is that another top al-Qa'ida leader has been killed in Pakistan, the optimism that the organisation really is on the ropes needs to be tempered by reality. The audacious suicide bombing of UN offices in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, demonstrates al-Qa'ida's stepped-up activities in Africa. Boko Haram, the extremist Islamic movement responsible for the bombing, is akin to the Taliban. It proclaims Western education and culture to be sinful.

With backing from within the 50.4 per cent of Nigeria's 156 million people who are Muslim, including, it is claimed, members of the security services, it has linked with North Africa's al-Qa'ida in the Mahgreb and the al-Qa'ida-allied al-Shabab movement in Somalia to fight for Sharia law and an absolutist Islamic state.

Oil-rich Nigeria is a crucial Western ally. It is an African powerhouse situated where majority Muslim North Africa meets largely Christian sub-Saharan Africa. Cunningly, Boko Haram has sought to exploit long-standing religious sectarianism that was a major factor in Nigeria's Biafran bloodbath of the 1970s. It has recruited strongly among Nigeria's impoverished Muslim youth. Recently, the militants' grievances gained new momentum when Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian, became president, replacing a Muslim northerner.

In the recent past, Boko Haram militants have launched mass uprisings in the northeast, defying concerted government attempts to suppress them, and staged drive-by shootings and bombings, including a suicide attack on police headquarters in Abuja.

The bombing of the UN offices, modelled on an attack against UN offices in Algeria, is its biggest assault so far. It follows a warning from US Africa Command head General Carter Ham that Boko Haram is co-ordinating its actions with al-Qa'ida in the Mahgreb and al-Shabab and is a further worrying sign that al-Qa'ida, through its surrogates, has lost none of its potential to wreak havoc, despite the reverses regularly inflicted in Pakistan, especially by US drone attacks.

The death of the latest high-ranking al-Qa'ida figure killed in Pakistan, the Libyan Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a close aide of Osama bin Laden who became second in command following bin Laden's assassination in Pakistan in May, will lend further weight to the optimistic assertion last month by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta that a strategic defeat of al-Qa'ida is within reach.

At the same time, as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, there is a need for caution about such assessments. The deadly assault on the UN in Abuja is evidence, yet again, of the continuing global reach of Islamic extremism, despite the recent successes against al-Qa'ida, and the need to deal with it decisively -- be it in Pakistan or Nigeria -- before it wreaks even more havoc.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

BUSINESS AND BANK ARE ON SONG ON PRODUCTIVITY LINK

TO paraphrase a line from a pop classic, everybody's talking at Julia Gillard about productivity and industrial relations but the Prime Minister is not hearing a word they're saying. The latest voice to join the chorus is Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens, who warned that the nation is growing lazy about productivity reform thanks to the prosperity flowing from China Inc. It was not the first time the governor had noted the boom was masking a slide in productivity growth, but it will be harder for the government to brush aside his comments on IR made at the House of Representatives economics committee in Melbourne on Friday.

There was a predictable response yesterday from the ACTU suggesting the RBA was out of touch with the real economy, but the government should not be blindsided by this reaction. Business and the RBA are singing from the same song sheet about boosting productivity and workplace efficiency. Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson has also warned that we need a new wave of reform to lift productivity.

Until now, Ms Gillard and Wayne Swan have downplayed business calls for the reform of IR. At times, they have tried to argue that black is white and that there is no pressure from business for change, yet for at least six months business has been vocal on the IR system that Ms Gillard fashioned when she was deputy leader and workplace minister in the Rudd government.

In March, Heather Ridout, the chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, used a 15-page speech to outline the changes she wants to the Fair Work Act; in May, Westfield boss Steven Lowy and Seven Group executive chairman Kerry Stokes used a forum run by The Australian and UBS and attended by the Prime Minister to argue that the industrial system was constraining productivity; last month, the Business Council of Australia said much the same. Then last week, the dam wall broke as business leaders -- including National Australia Bank and Woodside chairman Michael Chaney; Future Fund boss David Murray; Macquarie Group and Origin Energy chairman, Kevin McCann; Telstra chief executive David Thodey; and Orica managing director Graeme Liebelt -- added their voices, publicly or privately, to the demands.

The demands from business vary but boil down to a couple of key points -- removing the right under the Fair Work Act to "strike first, bargain later" and the reintroduction of some form of individual agreement to provide an alternative to collective bargaining and allow more flexible pay and working conditions where appropriate. No one is asking for a complete rewrite or a return to John Howard's Work Choices, but as the RBA boss said on Friday, it makes sense "to get the heads together" and discuss the issue. Business might be wrong on its assessment but "careful consideration" had to be given to the issue.

This is a measured approach from the RBA, and it is time for Labor to acknowledge the concerns about the link between declining productivity and the reinsertion of unions into a powerful role in the IR system. Ms Gillard has stated that improved productivity is a goal, but has given no indication of how Labor hopes to achieve this. IR remains the no-go area.

Yesterday, the Treasurer was on Australian Agenda on Sky News, talking up Labor's economic record. Jobs were his government's top priority, he said, without addressing the elephant in the room -- an IR system that has turned the clock back 30 years and is inhibiting the economic growth needed for job creation.

Mr Swan spoke about keeping tabs on global developments to ensure Australia avoids any double-dip recession. That's fine, but the Treasurer should shift his gaze closer to home and look at some of the domestic hurdles facing the Australian economy.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

HOPING FOR THAT OLD OBAMA MAGIC

THE word that the White House is working on a visit to Australia by President Barack Obama in November gives Julia Gillard something to look forward to. Otherwise she faces a rather long and bleak haul to next July, when the Labor government hopes its carbon pricing system will take effect and everyone discovers it's not too bad after all - thus blunting Tony Abbott's warnings that the sky will fall in on Australian enterprises and households.

However, if Obama does decide to push further across the Pacific from the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Hawaii, it will be a far more subdued affair than the love-in of liberalism and reform originally foreseen after his inauguration in January 2009. Then it was to be Obama the American rejuvenator joining Kevin Rudd the Australian re-investor in human capital, after the perceived neglect and foreign distractions of the George Bush and John Howard years. Now Rudd is gone, and Obama's popularity ratings have fallen to the extent where his re-election next year is being questioned, even with the dubious line-up of Republican hopefuls.

Obama had the misfortune of coming to office just as apparently benign economic paradigms became discredited, making his political situation uncomfortably like that of Jimmy Carter, the president elected in 1976 amid the stagflation caused by the Vietnam War, the first oil shock and rising Asian competition. The Rudd-Gillard experiment reminds some here of the Whitlam government, which came to office around the same turning point.

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But this is not always the fate of centre-leftish political parties in the English-speaking countries. Bob Hawke, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair arrived at auspicious times and grasped their opportunities to achieve long incumbencies. Gillard and Obama are unfortunately at a moment when the public sees the glass as half-empty rather than half-full.

In America's case this is more understandable, with economic growth very low and unemployment at 9.1 per cent. Australia has the pressures of the high dollar, but with unemployment below 5 per cent and skill shortages a more pressing problem, its government's popularity is more a matter of trust. As deputy prime minister Julia Gillard seemed to have the popular touch lacking in the scholarly Rudd, but this has not translated well into the prime ministership - principally because of the method of her ascension. Obama and his advisers will no doubt be wondering who will be here to greet him if he comes. The odds are Gillard and Labor's add-ons will still be sticking it out - and hoping for any residual Obama magic to rub off.

 

Libya after Gaddafi

BY ANY standards, the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year dictatorship in Libya has been a remarkable story. It comes less than a year after the Arab Spring unleashed popular uprisings in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt. Only eight months ago, Gaddafi went on Libyan television blaming the Tunisian revolt on WikiLeaks, and urging Tunisia to adopt the Libyan model of government as "the final destination for the people's quest for democracy". His display was both comical and chilling, two traits that marked Gaddafi's engagement with his own people and the wider world. Now he, too, is gone, barely a week after rebels took control of his final stronghold in Tripoli. Once the gunfire and euphoria in the capital die down, hard questions must be faced about Libya's future after Gaddafi.

The country's new political direction is a key one. For the most part, the Libyan uprising followed the pattern of others in the Arab world as a grassroots revolt against authoritarian rule. In Libya, the rebels' victory was hastened by United Nations-sanctioned NATO air strikes, ostensibly to protect civilians but more often to blunt the onslaught of Gaddafi's loyalist fighters. Even now, British special forces in Libya are said to be helping the rebels track Gaddafi down. Nonetheless, victory will give the National Transitional Council, the rebel body, greater legitimacy in establishing a new rule than the model in Iraq that followed Saddam Hussein's overthrow by American-led forces.

How that rule unfolds is still unclear. Libya does not have the sectarian divisions of some other Arab countries. But there are still worries that a power vacuum could be filled by insurgents or extremists. The various groups comprising the rebels, including mercenaries who may now melt away, were unified mainly in their common desire to get rid of Gaddafi. Making the transition to representative government will be harder. The council says it is committed to democracy. That, at least, is encouraging.

More pressingly, Libya's battered infrastructure must be restored, especially water, fuel and other life necessities in Tripoli. Oil accounts for about 95 per cent of Libya's export earnings. Under Gaddafi, many of Libya's 6.5 million people saw little, if any, of these riches. About $US53 billion of Libya's assets were frozen during the conflict.

More of these will now have to flow than the $US1.5 billion the UN voted to release last week. Outside countries must also offer help.

The horrific scenes of perhaps 200 bodies left to rot in a Tripoli hospital were testimony enough of the humanitarian task that lies ahead.


Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/editorial/hoping-for-that-old-obama-magic-20110828-1jgeb.html#ixzz1WNdPv8hZ

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

A $180BN REASON TO RETHINK WOMEN'S WORK

The economic side of gender equity has been neglected.

GENDER equity has long been argued in terms of fairness; it has been understood as a moral issue. It still is, quite rightly, but Australia must confront the neglected economic costs of inequity. Given that slightly more than half the population is female, it should not surprise that the costs of constraints on women's workforce participation are anything but marginal. The latest estimates, reported in The Saturday Age, demand the attention of anyone concerned about skill shortages and productivity.

Goldman Sachs chief economist Tim Toohey reported that closing the gap between male and female workforce participation would boost economic growth by at least 13 per cent. Australia has more to gain than most developed nations - the equivalent increase for world leader Sweden would be 8 per cent. The sheer size of the economic payoff, about $180 billion, illustrates the folly of treating equal pay, parental leave, childcare, flexible working hours, female career paths and political and executive representation as essentially women's or social policy issues.

Mr Toohey estimates lifting female workforce participation to 45 per cent boosted economic activity by 22 per cent since 1974. The other side of the coin is this: ''Australia is only two-thirds of the way to unlocking the hidden value of the female labour pool.''

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Alarmingly, Australia slipped back in recent years. The pay gap is as wide as it was two decades ago. This cannot be explained by gaps in ability and education. Women are more likely than men to graduate from university. Australia leads the world in women's educational attainment, but is way down the rankings for workforce participation and gender equality. Much of the national investment in education and training is effectively wasted at a time when employers are crying out for skilled labour.

How can Australia tap the ''hidden resource'' of female workers? The obvious answer is to learn from nations that have done better, starting with the Scandinavian countries. They put Australia to shame with their provisions for parental leave, childcare, family-friendly work conditions and female leadership roles.

Sweden has an 85 per cent workforce participation rate for women aged 50-54 compared to Australia's 73 per cent. For the 55-59 group, the figures are 80 to 55 per cent. For ages 60-64, Sweden's 57 per cent almost doubles Australia's 31 per cent. Workforce participation by women with children aged under six is 10 points below the OECD average. Regulatory pressure has lifted the proportion of women on company boards from 8.3 per cent to 12.7 per cent since 2009, but that's way below Norway's 40-plus per cent.

Those who object to the policy costs need to consider the benefits; the most ''generous'' nations are prosperous and productive. The Productivity Commission sees female workforce participation as a critical element in reversing the decline in productivity and the skills shortages that have emerged over the past decade. Looking ahead, the demands on the budget of an ageing population add to the pressure to make better use of the talents of women of working age. The pool of unemployed is not the place to look for big gains: an estimated 60 per cent of this group, who account for only 5 per cent of the workforce, lack the language, literacy or numeracy skills to do the jobs that employers require.

Australia must recognise the transformative potential of using the talent and training of women more widely. We tend, for instance, to think of careers in mining and construction as men's work, when higher-value skills require brains not brawn. We need to rethink the roles of women and men - in the home and at work - in conjunction with policies to promote and retain women in the workforce.

This is a complex process, but other nations benefited from taking up the challenge. A nation that subscribes to the fair go should have applied it to women in the workplace. It is now an economic imperative.

 

Uneasy and untimely fits the Crown

AT the start of last week, Helen Coonan, the last Howard government cabinet minister still serving in the Senate, gave her valedictory speech. Ms Coonan, who resigned her term three years early due to a family illness, was generous towards her colleagues past and present. ''The day will come when no matter how long one serves and no matter at what level, it is time to move on,'' she told the upper house. ''For me that time is fast approaching.''

The word ''fast'' is particularly germane. What Ms Coonan didn't say then, but what was revealed just four days later, was that the just-retired Liberal senator for NSW is to join the board of casino operator Crown. The nomination committee of Crown's board, chaired by James Packer, has recommended Ms Coonan's appointment for approval by gambling regulators. The company, which has told the stock exchange Ms Coonan would ''bring her finance, regulatory, technology and government relations skills to the Crown board'', hopes she will be able to take her place at the board table by the end of the year.

Timing is of the essence as far as Crown is concerned. Mr Packer is anxious to strengthen his company's lobbying power to combat key independent MP Andrew Wilkie over his plan to introduce mandatory pre-commitment limits on poker machines. Crown recently hired former ALP national secretary Karl Bitar as a lobbyist, and Ms Coonan's appointment as a non-executive director can only be seen as further fortification. For this, Ms Coonan will receive a payment of $100,000 a year, plus potential bonuses of up to $80,000 for sitting on board sub-committees.

This is not the first such move by a newly retired politician. Indeed, many from both sides of various chambers, state and federal, have left office and entered the private sector with what anti-gambling advocate Tim Costello described as the ''indecent haste'' of Ms Coonan.

It should be remembered that it was Ms Coonan, as communications minister in 2006, who relaxed foreign ownership media rules, to James Packer's considerable advantage. Although no connection is suggested between this and Ms Coonan's Crown appointment, public perception may differ. The Age has long argued for the legislation of a cooling-off period, similar to those in Britain and the US, during which ex-politicians would be barred from dealing with governments in areas of former responsibility. It needs to happen here




 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF ... SWIMMING THE CHANNEL

A special sort of madness is needed to take this challenge on

Think of great human endeavour. Add changing tides, relentlessly cold water and wild currents. Then know that August is a traditional month for Channel swim attempts. In the first recorded successful "solo" swim in August 1875 – sustained by beef tea, and employing a steady breaststroke – Captain Matthew Webb reached Calais in under 22 hours. Since then, the Channel Swimming Association cites 900-odd solo crossings. This August, there will be 33 attempts at the 22.5 miles from Shakespeare Beach to Cap Gris-Nez. For each, "one hat, one costume, goggles, grease and earplugs". No wetsuits allowed. Claimed records include a youngest swimmer of just 11, an oldest of 70 and a "Queen of The Channel", Alison Streeter, with over 40 crossings to her name. Meanwhile, a 28-hour and 45-minute effort by Jackie Cobell last year, inadvertently earned her the longest swim record. Tides and winds can increase the distance covered towards 40 miles; other hazards include jellyfish, super-tankers, seasickness and hypothermia. Even with nutritional comforts unavailable to Webb – carbohydrate drinks and jelly babies, administered via long poles so swimmers don't breach the bar on physical contact – a special sort of madness is needed to take all this on. You can insulate yourself mid-sea by singing a familiar tune; you can emblazon "tomorrow" on your forearm to steel yourself for the struggle; but you must obey just one instruction: follow the boat. On a clear day you can see France. On a great day you swim to it.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

AUSTRALIA: A POISONOUS POLITICAL CLIMATE

Climate change protests could be drowned out by the clamour against plans to curb pollution generated by big companies

Among the indigenous peoples of islands that few have heard of in the Torres Strait, off the north-eastern tip of Australia, there are fears that climate change may soon overwhelm them, with communities vanishing under rising seas. But these islands are 1,700 miles from Canberra, and their protests risk being drowned out by the prevailing clamour against Julia Gillard's government's plans to curb pollution generated by the nation's big companies.

When parliament returned recently, there were 2,000 protesters outside, equipped with placards bearing slogans such as "ditch the witch". The opposition leader, Tony Abbott, partly distanced himself from such language, but demanded Ms Gillard scrap her planned carbon tax and call an early election. And last week lorry drivers converged on Canberra to demand an instant poll.

This has long been a toxic issue in Australia. Ms Gillard's once famously popular predecessor as Labor leader, Kevin Rudd, lost first that popularity and then his leadership partly because he failed to steer through the legislation he had promised to deal with what had earlier been called "the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time". Ms Gillard, who led the plot to displace him and took on his job, was more sceptical. At the August 2010 election, she specifically promised voters: "no carbon tax".

The issue had done for an opposition Liberal leader too. Malcolm Turnbull, leader of the conservative coalition in which the Liberals are the dominant force, ordered his troops to support the government's plans to combat climate change. He was toppled, and replaced by a man – Tony Abbott – who no doubt on the basis of long and subtle scientific analysis dismisses the whole case for man-made climate change as "crap".

In the August 2010 election Labor clung to power only by deals with the Greens and two independents. To win their support, Ms Gillard had to ditch her previous promise and proceed with a carbon tax, thus allowing the opposition to charge her with deception. Mr Abbott's intention, which opinion polls suggest is being fulfilled, is to use the issue to prise Labor's blue-collar voters away from the party. Additionally, the Liberals now hope a developing scandal surrounding the Labor MP Craig Thomson, a former union general secretary, involving his alleged misuse of its credit card in a Sydney brothel, may come to deprive Ms Gillard of her majority.

On any assessment, her position is precarious. It may make little sense in those distant islands, but, as often in climate change debates, while most scientific assessments point to one conclusion, politics points to another.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

RIGHTS AND WRONG'UNS

Tory rhetoric after the riots shows the party regards shelter and social security as privileges to be withdrawn, rather than rights

"You're either with us or against us," so said George W Bush. The polarising logic of his war on terror is now being applied in a very different context – policing London's streets. On Saturday, the Guardian reported on the Met's Operation Connect in Waltham Forest. Officers use intelligence to draw up a hit parade of the horrible – the borough's most dangerous gangsters – and then pay them a visit to ask: which side are you on? Suspects who show some interest in realigning with the community are punted towards all sorts of help with housing and finding a job; those who show none are informed they will be pursued to within an inch of their life for every tiny transgression.

Connect draws on experience in Boston and Glasgow, where gangs have also been tackled by presenting their members with a clear fork in the road – with one path pointing up to the bright hills of rehabilitation, and another descending to the dark vale of damnation through endless surveillance. From Massachusetts to Strathclyde, great things have been achieved by making an offer of support and then defying gangsters to refuse it. Binary morality has its place in confronting carefully targeted individuals, so long as it is clear that they will not offend against it unless they personally transgress the criminal law. After the riots, however, echoes of Dubya's menacing rhetorical contrast have been heard much more widely across the policy front. And it is not only individuals but whole families, even entire communities, which the right reckons have now been revealed as so indelibly wicked that the country can simply forget about the obligations it previously owed them.

David Cameron's talk of evicting rioters from their council homes was one nod in this direction, another more determined gesture came from Iain Duncan Smith, when the welfare secretary suggested rioters could have their benefits stopped. Such proposals are so wrongheaded it is hard to know where to begin. Not, perhaps, with pressingly practical questions about the inevitable recourse to crime after people's livelihooods are entirely cut off. For an even stronger objection is the failure of this underclass-baiting to respect the separateness of persons. What would Mr Cameron say to the good girl who would prospectively be forced from her home because her sister had stolen some trainers? And then there is the supposed trump card of the victim perspective. Why should people who have been robbed or worse in other contexts see their perpetrators escape special punishments devised for rioters? And why should a shopkeeper whose windows were smashed by a young mechanic or student see them punished less severely than an unemployed yob who attacked another store?

The only answer is that the coalition's Tory wing does not believe in rights to shelter or social security, viewing these things instead as privileges to be earned – or if need be withdrawn by rough justice. No wonder leading Lib Dems aired so much anxiety about a backlash after the riots, and no wonder Labour was reported in yesterday's Observer to be planning to draw attention to the Nasty Party's return to old form. In practice, the dafter suggestions made after the disorder are likely to be dropped because they are impractical. After a discreet interval, they will go the way of Tony Blair's much-hyped march to the cash point, and David Cameron's own hot-headed and now retracted hints about closing down Twitter.

But bad policies that never get anywhere could still augur deeper problems if they indicate the opening of a wider philosophical schism. Nick Clegg's better-late-than-never intervention to defend the Human Rights Act from Tory attack in Friday's Guardian might suggest he may be starting to sense that danger. The point could soon be reached where every self-respecting liberal will want to say to the government: you're either with us or you're against us.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

'GRATUITOUS' BOMBING OF A DEFEATED ENEMY

BY HIROAKI SATO

NEW YORK — The International Center of Photography recently had an exhibition, "Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945," and I attended the panel discussion. This month 66 years ago the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Back in 1995, I had attended another ICP panel discussion on Hiroshima, which was part of the exhibition "The Pacific War." That year was the 50th anniversary of the war's ending.

As I recall, the three main speakers on the earlier panel were historians, and each offered a different reason why the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

Gar Alperovitz argued that the U.S. wanted to assert its military superiority in the upcoming Cold War, that is, to intimidate the Soviet Union.

Barton Bernstein posited that the U.S. dropped the bombs for domestic reasons. President Harry Truman feared that the American taxpayers would revolt if, with the war ended, they discovered he had not used the products of the horribly expensive government R&D venture, the Manhattan Project. It had cost $2 billion, today's $20 billion.

Ronald Takaki said the U.S. motive was largely racist.

The 1995 exhibition was to show the Pacific War through Life magazine's coverage. The selection of Life photos included the famous one of a young woman contemplating the skull of a Japanese soldier, pen in hand. Apparently she was writing to thank her boyfriend who had sent it to her.

The ICP exhibition this time was of a special selection of photos of the bombed-out Hiroshima. How special?

As Adam Levy, one of the three panelists of the day told it, the show had a fascinating detective story quality, with a grand operatic denouement.

Levy, after agreeing, in 2003, to be part of a plan to make a BBC documentary on Hiroshima, first read Richard Rhodes' award-winning book, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" (1986). When he came to the section citing some of the survivors' words, he was sickened and sauntered out, finding himself in a bookstore.

There, on a bookshelf, he spotted "a thin black book with a mysteriously blank spine." Pulling it out, he saw the book was titled "After and Before: Documenting the A Bomb." Its first half showed photos of nuclear explosions; the second half, those of "extraordinary devastation."

The skinny book had little explanation except to note "Hiroshima photographs courtesy of Don Levy." The publisher was the New York gallery Roth Horowitz. This led Adam Levy to seek out Don Levy (no relation). Don Levy, who runs Deluxe Town Diner, in Watertown, Massachusetts, told him how he came upon the photos.

One rainy night, when he took his dog out for a walk, he saw a battered suitcase in a garbage pile in front of a neighbor's house. A "connoisseur of found objects," he took it home. When he opened it, he found batches of black-and-white photos of "devastated buildings, twisted girders, and blasted bridges."

With some research and luck, Adam Levy found that the photos originally belonged to U.S. Navy Lt. Robert L. Corsbie, and learned much about the man.

Corsbie was a civil engineer and architect who had become a member of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey's Physical Damage Division. The PDD's sole purpose was to record and measure damage that the atomic blast had wrought on the buildings and other structures.

As John Dower details in "Cultures of War" (2010), among the web of motives for dropping the A-bomb was the physicists' desire to learn the "effects" of the fruit of their efforts in an actual war. It was for that reason that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were selected: The cities had not been damaged by carpet bombing, and their population density and topographies were just right.

That's why the photos, with accompanying notations, may appear "clinical" but utterly devoid of humanity.

The work for the PDD over, Corsbie returned to civilian life, but was called back to assess the effects of nuclear tests in Nevada — exclusively on building structures. He became a leading advocate of bomb shelters and reinforced structures. As a consultant to the Atomic Energy Commission, he was prized as the "most expert of the experts" in the field of "civilian effects" of nuclear bombs. He thrived in his business.

That advocacy and expertise, however, killed R.L. Corsbie in a conflagration. One January night in 1967, his house — a nine-bedroom Tudor mansion on a high cliff in the tony neighborhood of Ossining, New York — caught fire. "Almost 200 volunteer firefighters, four pumper trucks, and a hook-and-ladder [were] called to fight the blaze, but to no avail."

Forty-four years later, the assistant fire chief at the time still remembered the incident. "The house was built like a fortress." Breaking into the house to create ventilation was nearly impossible.

A likely reason for the fire? A candle.

Mr. and Mrs. Corsbie had thrown a party and, after their guests left, probably had a nightcap and dozed off on their sofas. One of the candles fell and set a drapery on fire.

Why did the discovery of photos in Corsbie's possession become the impetus for "Hiroshima: Ground Zero?"

Because the U.S. government had put tight control on information on what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In 1947 the government did put together "The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan," and made hundreds of the PDD photos part of the three-volume report, but classified it.

As Richard Parker tells it in "John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics" (2005), the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) had an ironic history. The advocates of large-scale bombing as the surest means of defeating the enemy set up the survey team exactly to prove their point.

But as Galbraith and George Ball learned soon enough, in Germany, the production of ball bearings, tanks and warplanes actually increased after Britain and the U.S. started and intensified their "area" or "strategic" bombings.

In Japan, the survey team also cast in doubt the efficacy of bombing in forcing Japan to surrender, but for a different reason: It was not so much the wholesale bombing as the naval destruction of Japan's supply lines from overseas that did the work.

Most likely, before the U.S. planned the invasion of Japan on Nov. 1, the USSBS concluded, "Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped." Many U.S. military commanders had expected the same.

Yet Gen. Henry Arnold assembled the largest air armada ever of 1,014 aircraft to bomb Tokyo after Japan accepted the surrender terms. The motive was purely "vindictive" and "gratuitous," Dower notes.

Hiroaki Sato is a translator and essayist in New York.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

BUDGET REPAIR AND LIBERAL DEFIANCE

BY GEORGE WILL

MADISON, Wisconsin — The residues of liberalism's Wisconsin Woodstock — 1960s radicalism redux: operatic lamentations, theatrical demonstrations and electoral futilities — are words of plaintive defiance painted on sidewalks around the state capitol.

"Solidarity forever" was perhaps painted by a graduate student forever at the University of Wisconsin.

"Repubs steal elections" is an odd accusation from people who, seeking to overturn the 2010 elections, cheered Democratic lawmakers who fled to Illinois — a congenial refuge for labor-subservient Democrats — in order to paralyze the duly-elected Legislature.

The authors of the sidewalk graffiti have at least read Jefferson: "The tree of liberty is watered by the blood of tyrants."

The tyrant is Gov. "$cott Walker American Fa$ci$t," who, on a recent morning, was enjoying the view and the turn of events. From the governor's mansion on the shore of Lake Mendota, you can see on the far shore the famously liberal university, from which came many of those who protested Walker's "budget repair" bill that already seems to have repaired many communities' budgets, in addition to the state's.

Ostensibly, the uproar was about Walker's "assault" — Barack Obama's hyperbole — on union rights. Walker's legislation does limit the issues subject to collective bargaining and requires teachers and most other public employees to contribute more of the costs of their health and pension plans. Hitherto, in Wisconsin's school districts, teachers contributed on average 5 percent or less to their health premiums.

Having failed to prevent enactment of the Walker agenda, which voters had endorsed, unions and their progressive allies tried to recall six Republican senators. If three had been recalled, Democrats would have controlled the Senate, and other governors and state legislators would have been warned not to challenge unions.

Fueled by many millions of dollars from national unions and sympathizers, progressives proved, redundantly, the limited utility of money when backing a bankrupt agenda: Only two Republicans were recalled — one was in a heavily Democratic district, the other is a married man playing house with a young girlfriend. Progressives also failed to defeat a Supreme Court justice. An especially vociferous progressive group calls itself "We Are Wisconsin." Evidently not.

During the recall tumult, unions barely mentioned either their supposed grievance about collective bargaining, or their real fears, which concern money, particularly political money. Teachers unions can no longer bargain to require school districts to purchase teachers' health insurance from the union's preferred provider, which is especially expensive. This is saving millions of dollars, and reducing teacher layoffs. Also, unions must hold annual recertification votes. And teachers unions may no longer automatically deduct dues from members' paychecks.

After Colorado in 2001 required public employees unions to have annual votes reauthorizing collection of dues, membership in the Colorado Association of Public Employees declined 70 percent.

In 2005, Indiana stopped collecting dues from unionized public employees; in 2011, there are 90 percent fewer dues-paying members.

In Utah, the end of automatic dues deductions for political activities in 2001 caused teachers' payments to fall 90 percent. After a similar law passed in 1992 in Washington state, the percentage of teachers making such contributions declined from 82 to 11.

Democrats furiously oppose Walker because public employees unions are transmission belts, conveying money to the Democratic Party. Last year, $11.2 million in union dues was withheld from paychecks of Wisconsin's executive branch employees and $2.6 million from paychecks at the university across the lake. Having spent improvidently on the recall elections, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the teachers union, is firing 40 percent of its staff.

Progressives want to recall Walker next year. Republicans hope they try. Wisconsin seems weary of attempts to overturn elections, and surely Obama does not want his allies squandering political money and the public's patience. Since 1960, no Democrat has been elected president without carrying Wisconsin.

Walker has refuted the left's sustaining conviction that a leftward-clicking ratchet guarantees that liberalism's advances are irreversible. Progressives, eager to discern a victory hidden in their recent failures, suggest that a chastened Walker will not risk further conservatism. Actually, his agenda includes another clash with teachers unions over accountability and school choice, and combat over tort reform with another cohort parasitic off bad public policies — trial lawyers.

As the moonless night of fa$ci$m descends on America's dairyland, sidewalk graffiti next to the statehouse square drinking fountain darkly warns: "Free water ... for now." There, succinctly, is liberalism's credo: If everything isn't "free," meaning paid for by someone else, nothing will be safe.

George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com. © 2011 Washington Post Writers Group

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THE JAPAN TIMES

FUTURE OF NONVIOLENT UPRISINGS AFTER GADHAFI

BY GWYNNE DYER

LONDON — "Brother Colonel" Moammar Gadhafi's time is up, but Libya has seen six months of fighting, at least a thousand deaths, and foreign military intervention in support of the rebels. This is not the kind of nonviolent revolution that we have come to expect in the 21st century.

Are the rules changing again?

From Lisbon in 1974 to Manila in 1986, East Berlin in 1989, Moscow in 1991, Jakarta in 1995, Belgrade in 2000, and Cairo early this year, popular revolutions using nonviolent tactics have driven dictators from power.

Violent revolutions have been commonplace for over two centuries now, but the great discovery of our own era has been how to make the dictators quit without shedding blood.

The success of the early nonviolent revolutions was a surprise to almost everybody, including those who led them, but as time passed and the list of successes lengthened, we grew to think of them as normal. Now, in Libya, we seem to have a throwback to an earlier time. It's a good thing that Gadhafi is finished, but nobody can claim that this is a success for nonviolence.

What lessons should we draw from this, especially at a time when several other attempts to use nonviolent techniques to bring about a democratic revolution, notably in Yemen and Syria, are struggling to survive? Are there places where these techniques simply won't work?

Nonviolent revolutions can succeed when the great majority of people in a country share the same basic identity. If we all belong to the same society, then it is an act of great moral import for its members to kill one another, or for the rulers to kill the citizens.

So long as the rebels do not resort to force, it is surprisingly difficult for even a cruel and repressive regime to start using lethal force against peaceful protesters.

We had a vivid demonstration of this in the Egyptian revolution early this year, when the protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo and elsewhere defied Hosni Mubarak's regime. He did kill some of them, but he did not dare to use the police or the army.

The killing in Cairo was done by plainclothes thugs, mostly at night, because President Mubarak simply could not openly repudiate his duty not to kill his fellow-citizens.

The Egyptian revolution triumphed when the army publicly announced that it would never use force against civilians, and Mubarak and his close associates are now on trial for murder.

But Bashir al-Assad clings to power in Syria and uses the army openly to kill the protesters there. Yemen is even messier, and in Libya it took six months of war (and foreign military intervention) to get Gadhafi out.

What's the problem?

Nonviolence works much less well in countries whose populations are deeply divided by language, religion or ethnicity, since it depends heavily on people having a shared identity.

Syria, for example, has a Kurdish-speaking minority, and even the Arabic-speaking majority is divided into Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims (including the Alawite minority who dominate the regime), Christians and Druze.

Yemenis all speak Arabic, but their society is divided into Shiites and Sunnis and riven by tribal rivalries of long standing and great complexity.

Libya is homogeneous in language and religion and much more prosperous than Syria or Yemen (thanks almost entirely to oil), but it is not a fully unified society despite all that. It's an urbanized, seemingly modern country, but for a great many Libyans, tribal loyalties come first. So the revolution in Libya was violent from the start.

In Syria, the protests began nonviolently and have largely remained so, but the regime has not felt constrained to avoid the use of force and some 2,000 civilians have been killed.

In Yemen the students who launched the protest movement were trying to emulate Egypt's nonviolent democratic revolution, but they have been sidelined by powerful tribal rivalries.

This is regrettable, but it is not actually surprising. Nonviolence works best in fairly cohesive societies, which is not what we are dealing with here.

The remarkable thing in Libya is not that the revolution has been violent, but that the revolutionaries have worked so hard to keep the tribalism from taking over. What they are aiming for, quite explicitly, is a Libyan society that is not only democratic but posttribal. If the fall of Tripoli is not too bloody, they stand a reasonable chance of creating it.

The remarkable thing about Syria is that after five months of official killing, the protesters are still avoiding violence, and are also resisting the regime's attempts to play on sectarian and ethnic divisions.

Even more remarkably, Yemen has not toppled into full civil war, and the students who started the prodemocracy protests are still there, camped in the centre of the capital.

Nonviolence has mostly run out of easy societies to transform, which is a measure of how successful it has been in the past forty years. But even in the most divided societies it has a role to play, and people who are willing to risk their lives to make it work. This story has some distance to run.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

LIBYA FACES PERIOD OF RELIANCE ON FOREIGN HELP

BY BARAK BARFI

BENGHAZI, Libya — Six months after Libyan rebels took up arms against the country's leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, they have finally toppled him.

But while victorious on the battlefield, they have not been triumphant in political and economic terms. If the rebels are to ensure their revolution's long-term success, they will have to overcome the weaknesses that plague them.

In the days following the start of the uprising in Feb. 17, the rebels formed a political body known as the National Transitional Council (NTC) and a Cabinet known as the Executive Committee. Though drawn from across Libyan society and staffed by people with technical skills, the groups have been hamstrung by several problems.

Critics have derided the NTC's lack of transparency and complained about its opaque decision-making. They have also questioned the criteria used to select its members.

Libyans say the NTC's chairman, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, favors dissidents who spent time in Gadhafi's prisons over those with the training and skills needed to rebuild the country.

If the NTC does not address these concerns, it is difficult to see how it will manage the complex challenges ahead.

It is not only the NTC's policies that could imperil the success of the Libyan uprising. Though admired in parts of eastern Libya under rebel control, Abdel-Jalil is a dour figure who lacks the charisma characteristic of revolutionary leaders. Indeed, he is a provincial player who so far has not communicated a compelling vision of a new Libya.

A shortage of politically savvy leaders plagues the rebel command. Shortly after assuming the chairmanship of the NTC in March, Abdel-Jalil announced that its members would not run for office in future elections. But there has since been very little activity on the political front.

Because activists were reluctant to begin campaigning while rebels were still fighting, they held back on forming political parties. As a result, only two parties have been created in a country that has no experience with pluralist democracy.

At this point, there are very few voices consistently advocating the changes needed to secure the transition from an authoritarian to a democratic regime.

Other problems loom for the NTC. In July, their military chief of staff, Abdul Fattah Younis, was killed under murky circumstances after the Council issued an arrest warrant for him. His tribe has demanded answers that the NTC does not have. People close to the case say that senior NTC officials were implicated in Younis' death.

Although the investigation into the murder of Younis has been muted by the rebels' recent military successes, his tribe is demanding justice and is prepared to seek retribution if the NTC cannot resolve the matter. Such an outcome could split the rebels' ranks and risks plunging Libya into renewed violence at the very moment that hostilities should have ended.

The danger of civil bloodshed imperils a post-Gadhafi Libya more generally.

Already, Libyan rebels in the east have exacted revenge on Gadhafi loyalists, many of whom worked for his feared revolutionary committees.

In western Libya, human-rights workers have reported that Gadhafi supporters have been shot in the hand to mark their treachery. With the NTC unable to impose discipline on its soldiers, such violence is likely to increase as army soldiers and militias evacuate Gadhafi strongholds.

The NTC faces a number of economic dilemmas as well. Before the revolution, Libya produced nearly 1.6 million barrels of oil per day, accounting for 96 percent of the country's export earnings. Since February, the taps have run dry, owing to disruption and damage to the oil infrastructure. In the interim, the NTC has largely survived on international aid and from the unfreezing of Libyan assets by foreign governments.

But these funds have been unable to fuel the economy of rebel-controlled territories. Libyans complain that they have not been paid their monthly salaries. Nightly power outages have left many in the dark in cities like Tobruk, and even the rebel capital of Benghazi has experienced sporadic electricity cuts.

The war's costs extend far beyond repairing oil installations and turning on the electricity. Cities such as Misurata have been ravaged by the fighting and will have to be rebuilt. But Libya lacks the technical capacity to tackle these problems.

Short on skilled experts, a post-Gadhafi Libya risks becoming dependent on foreign assistance, much like the Palestinians, who live largely from international aid rather than from their own economic activity.

The fall of Gadhafi and his authoritarian regime holds great promise for a people bereft of freedom for 42 years. But with the NTC having stumbled so far, it will have to redouble its efforts to ensure that it wins the peace that it fought so hard to secure.

Barak Barfi is a research fellow at the New America Foundation. © 2011 Project Syndicate

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

PALESTINIAN STATE MUST FIELD ISRAELI CONCERNS

BY MICHAEL BRÖNING

JERUSALEM — Israelis and Palestinians are preparing for a showdown at the United Nations in September, when the Palestinian leadership will ask for recognition of a Palestinian state within the borders that existed before the Six Day War in 1967 (when Israel seized control of Jordanian-occupied territory).

The details of the bid remain unclear, and the effort entails serious risks. But a sober assessment of what might follow a U.N. endorsement of Palestine's borders allows for some cautious optimism.

Given the lasting stalemate in bilateral negotiations with Israel, a Palestinian focus on a nonmember state bid at the U.N. General Assembly might very well increase the likelihood of jump-starting the process. The Palestinian plan already has resulted in an unprecedented diplomatic frenzy.

While Palestinians travel the world soliciting votes, Israeli officials are engaged in last-minute efforts to dissuade countries from supporting what they perceive as Palestinian unilateralism.

The diplomatic push has so far yielded somewhat predictable results. While the United States has declared its intention to veto a declaration in the Security Council, several European countries, including the United Kingdom and France, intend to back the Palestinian move should negotiations with Israel remain elusive. In a show of broad Third World solidarity, the majority of states represented in the U.N. General Assembly have signaled clear support for the Palestinians.

These global disagreements reflect competing assessments of the U.N. move in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In Jerusalem, Minister of Defense Ehud Barak has repeatedly warned of a "diplomatic tsunami" and a new wave of violence if the Palestinians do not change course. In the meantime, voices on the Israeli right have threatened to respond to a U.N. vote by immediately canceling the 1993 Oslo Accords.

So far, these warnings have had only a limited effect in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestine National Authority. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas remains determined to move forward. Last Wednesday, Abbas reaffirmed that the U.N. bid would proceed "even if negotiations resume."

From Abbas' perspective, the ground is well prepared. State-building efforts have reformed previously defunct Palestinian institutions, and have enabled significant economic growth. Of course, there are serious budgetary problems. Paying bills is difficult, not only because Israel is slow in transferring customs revenues, but also because promised aid from Arab countries often never arrives.

Still, the World Bank declared this spring that Palestinian institutions are "well positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future." In addition, strong public support and high expectations in the Palestinian territories would make a last-minute change of course politically risky.

Currently, Palestinians oscillate between two options that imply either addressing the Security Council in a bid for full U.N. membership, or appealing to the General Assembly, should a U.S. veto render success there impossible. While the Security Council would be able to grant legally binding membership status, a vote in the General Assembly would simply upgrade a Palestinian entity to the status of a "nonmember state" — like the Vatican.

Confronted with the prospect of a U.S. veto, an increasing number of international observers flatly oppose the Palestinian plan, on the grounds that it is unlikely to generate concrete political gains and would deflect attention from the main requirement of Mideast peacemaking: a return to negotiations.

But a nuanced Palestinian resolution that moves beyond a zero-sum mind-set and embraces legitimate Israeli concerns is possible, and could very well increase the likelihood of a return to constructive negotiations. Such an approach would need to define the U.N. vote not as an alternative to a negotiated solution, but as an important step towards a viable bilateral peace process.

The week before last, Abbas moved in this direction by declaring that Palestinians would "be ready to resume negotiations even after the U.N. vote."

Here, the lack of detail about the U.N. resolution allows room for maneuver. Such an approach would begin with refraining from forcing an immediate vote — and a dramatic U.S. veto — in the Security Council. Instead, a carefully drafted motion in the form of a nonmember state bid in the General Assembly could mark the way forward.

Drafted with reference to U.N. Resolution 181 (which partitioned Palestine in 1947), such a motion would reaffirm the establishment of a Palestinian state and a state for the Jewish people, based on the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed border adjustments and security arrangements. While such an approach would certainly fall short of maximalist Palestinian demands, it would embrace the parameters outlined in May by U.S. President Barack Obama. It would also indirectly address the Israeli government's demand that the Palestinians recognize a "Jewish state."

Such a vote would also address international calls for bilateral diplomacy. Instead of closing doors, such a redefinition of the statehood bid at the U.N. would provide the Palestinian leadership with a much-needed symbolic success, including a framework from which to restart negotiations — a long-standing Palestinian demand.

As such, the U.N. bid might well transform a confrontation into a potentially constructive tool of diplomacy. Focusing on the looming September showdown should not prevent decision makers from looking ahead. Any vote at the U.N. will be followed by the day after. Palestinians and Israelis need to prepare for that day now.

Michael Broning is director of the East Jerusalem office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a political foundation affiliated with Germany's Social Democratic Party. He is the author of "The Politics of Change in Palestine: State-Building and Non-Violent Resistance." © 2011 Project Syndicate

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THE JAPAN TIMES

THE FEUDAL LORDS OF POWER

The inherently arrogant nature of the electric power industry in Japan came to light recently when Kyushu Electric Power Co. tried to influence a public hearing on whether to allow the company to resume operation of its Genkai nuclear power stations in Saga Prefecture. Kyushu Electric urged its employees and subcontractors to submit a large number of emails in support of resumption.

Observers view this as a typical example of the power industry boasting of its ability to manipulate public opinion.

The incident also revealed how naive the industry is, as the utility failed to take any precaution to prevent its tactics from becoming publicly known. One critic drew an analogy between the actions of Kyushu Electric and the plot in "Emperor's New Clothes," Hans Christian Andersen's famous short story.

One factor behind such arrogance is the fact that each of the 10 companies of the power utility industry occupies a prominent position in the commerce of its respective region, where it enjoys a monopoly of supplying electric power.

Indeed, except in the three metropolitan areas around Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, where major companies are concentrated, the utility companies are usually the largest corporations in terms of gross sales in their respective regions. One notable exception is Chugoku Electric Power Co., whose turnover lags that of Mazda Motor Corp. headquartered in Hiroshima.

The typical power structure in each of Japan's 47 prefectures is an "iron triangle" composed of the prefectural government, regional banks and local newspapers. Beneath this triangle are groups of corporations, such as general contractors, that are linked to politicians.

It is noteworthy that, except in Hokkaido and Okinawa, the regional electric company transcends this powerful triangle because it monopolizes the power supply in two or more prefectures. For example, Tohoku Electric Power Co. covers seven prefectures in northeastern Japan, and even Hokuriku Electric Power Co., with sales of less than ¥500 billion a year, serves three prefectures. This fact has led the utilities to think that they are above the prefectural governments.

In prefectures where nuclear power plants are located, tense relationships exist between governors and power companies. Governors often try to prevent power companies from doing as they like concerning the operation of nuclear power plants. At the same time, governors want to avoid confrontations with companies because of their vote-generation potential.

A bitter confrontation took place in the gubernatorial election in Fukushima Prefecture in 1988. In his first bid to become prefectural governor, Eisaku Sato (not the former prime minister by the same name) faced a candidate backed by Tokyo Electric Power Co. After Sato won, severe conflicts ensued between him and Tepco, which has nuclear power stations in Fukushima Prefecture that supply electricity to the areas it serves.

Sato sought to impose rigid conditions on the operation of the Fukushima Nos. 1 and 2 nuclear power plants and on the use of mixed oxide fuel, which contains plutonium, amid local residents' fears of nuclear power generation.

Although Sato also won subsequent elections, he resigned following his arrest in 2006 in a scandal related to dam construction. Tepco did not come out as the ultimate winner either, as its ranking officials were investigated over their alleged involvement in the same scandal.

Confrontations between power companies and governors have various roots, but the main one is that the former are far more powerful than the latter. This overwhelming influence stems primarily from the enormous investments that power companies make to build or renew facilities to generate, transform or distribute electricity. Such investments have been necessary to keep up with the growing demand for electricity.

During the peak year of 1993, capital investment by Japan's 10 electric power companies exceeded ¥5 trillion, with ¥1.7 trillion coming from Tepco alone. In 2009, Tohoku Electric Power Co., which serves the seven prefectures in the Tohoku region, invested ¥274.7 billion, which accounted for 24.4 percent of total capital investment in the region, according to statistics compiled by the Development Bank of Japan.

Comparable figures were 25.5 percent from Kyushu Electric Power, which serves seven prefectures on Kyushu; 22.5 percent from Chugoku Electric Power, serving the five prefectures in the western part of Honshu; and 27.6 percent from Shikoku Electric Power, which supplies power to the four prefectures on Shikoku.

Officials of power companies occupy the top positions of eight major regional business lobbies, except the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren).

Although power companies possess undisputed influence, the way they have accumulated it is unusual in the history of Japan's postwar economic development. By contrast, companies in the steel, oil, electronics, precision-machine, automobile, shipbuilding and other industries have had to battle it out for market share domestically before gaining international competitiveness.

Moreover, since the state-controlled companies in the railway, telecommunications and tobacco and salt industries were privatized in the 1980s, it can safely be said that the electric power industry is now the only one enjoying a monopoly under government protection.

Just as an ironclad triangle exists at the prefectural level, there is an even more strong ironclad triangle at the national level, consisting of the power industry, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and politicians elected with the help of the power industry.

Power utilities help politicians by providing them with campaign funds; METI helps maintain the industry's regional monopolies; and the power companies provide high-paying positions into which former METI bureaucrats "parachute." The politicians and the bureaucrats jointly promote nuclear power generation, which helps protect the vested interest of the power companies.

As long as the power companies are allowed to behave like feudal lords with predominant influence in their respective regions, the emergence of entrepreneurial ventures cannot be expected there. Because power companies, prefectural governments and local banks have absorbed the more talented local people, free-spirited emerging companies go begging for them.

This is an abridged translation of an article from the August issue of Sentaku, a monthly magazine covering Japanese political, social and economic scenes.

**************************************


THE JAPAN TIMES

THE FEUDAL LORDS OF POWER

The inherently arrogant nature of the electric power industry in Japan came to light recently when Kyushu Electric Power Co. tried to influence a public hearing on whether to allow the company to resume operation of its Genkai nuclear power stations in Saga Prefecture. Kyushu Electric urged its employees and subcontractors to submit a large number of emails in support of resumption.

Observers view this as a typical example of the power industry boasting of its ability to manipulate public opinion.

The incident also revealed how naive the industry is, as the utility failed to take any precaution to prevent its tactics from becoming publicly known. One critic drew an analogy between the actions of Kyushu Electric and the plot in "Emperor's New Clothes," Hans Christian Andersen's famous short story.

One factor behind such arrogance is the fact that each of the 10 companies of the power utility industry occupies a prominent position in the commerce of its respective region, where it enjoys a monopoly of supplying electric power.

Indeed, except in the three metropolitan areas around Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, where major companies are concentrated, the utility companies are usually the largest corporations in terms of gross sales in their respective regions. One notable exception is Chugoku Electric Power Co., whose turnover lags that of Mazda Motor Corp. headquartered in Hiroshima.

The typical power structure in each of Japan's 47 prefectures is an "iron triangle" composed of the prefectural government, regional banks and local newspapers. Beneath this triangle are groups of corporations, such as general contractors, that are linked to politicians.

It is noteworthy that, except in Hokkaido and Okinawa, the regional electric company transcends this powerful triangle because it monopolizes the power supply in two or more prefectures. For example, Tohoku Electric Power Co. covers seven prefectures in northeastern Japan, and even Hokuriku Electric Power Co., with sales of less than ¥500 billion a year, serves three prefectures. This fact has led the utilities to think that they are above the prefectural governments.

In prefectures where nuclear power plants are located, tense relationships exist between governors and power companies. Governors often try to prevent power companies from doing as they like concerning the operation of nuclear power plants. At the same time, governors want to avoid confrontations with companies because of their vote-generation potential.

A bitter confrontation took place in the gubernatorial election in Fukushima Prefecture in 1988. In his first bid to become prefectural governor, Eisaku Sato (not the former prime minister by the same name) faced a candidate backed by Tokyo Electric Power Co. After Sato won, severe conflicts ensued between him and Tepco, which has nuclear power stations in Fukushima Prefecture that supply electricity to the areas it serves.

Sato sought to impose rigid conditions on the operation of the Fukushima Nos. 1 and 2 nuclear power plants and on the use of mixed oxide fuel, which contains plutonium, amid local residents' fears of nuclear power generation.

Although Sato also won subsequent elections, he resigned following his arrest in 2006 in a scandal related to dam construction. Tepco did not come out as the ultimate winner either, as its ranking officials were investigated over their alleged involvement in the same scandal.

Confrontations between power companies and governors have various roots, but the main one is that the former are far more powerful than the latter. This overwhelming influence stems primarily from the enormous investments that power companies make to build or renew facilities to generate, transform or distribute electricity. Such investments have been necessary to keep up with the growing demand for electricity.

During the peak year of 1993, capital investment by Japan's 10 electric power companies exceeded ¥5 trillion, with ¥1.7 trillion coming from Tepco alone. In 2009, Tohoku Electric Power Co., which serves the seven prefectures in the Tohoku region, invested ¥274.7 billion, which accounted for 24.4 percent of total capital investment in the region, according to statistics compiled by the Development Bank of Japan.

Comparable figures were 25.5 percent from Kyushu Electric Power, which serves seven prefectures on Kyushu; 22.5 percent from Chugoku Electric Power, serving the five prefectures in the western part of Honshu; and 27.6 percent from Shikoku Electric Power, which supplies power to the four prefectures on Shikoku.

Officials of power companies occupy the top positions of eight major regional business lobbies, except the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren).

Although power companies possess undisputed influence, the way they have accumulated it is unusual in the history of Japan's postwar economic development. By contrast, companies in the steel, oil, electronics, precision-machine, automobile, shipbuilding and other industries have had to battle it out for market share domestically before gaining international competitiveness.

Moreover, since the state-controlled companies in the railway, telecommunications and tobacco and salt industries were privatized in the 1980s, it can safely be said that the electric power industry is now the only one enjoying a monopoly under government protection.

Just as an ironclad triangle exists at the prefectural level, there is an even more strong ironclad triangle at the national level, consisting of the power industry, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and politicians elected with the help of the power industry.

Power utilities help politicians by providing them with campaign funds; METI helps maintain the industry's regional monopolies; and the power companies provide high-paying positions into which former METI bureaucrats "parachute." The politicians and the bureaucrats jointly promote nuclear power generation, which helps protect the vested interest of the power companies.

As long as the power companies are allowed to behave like feudal lords with predominant influence in their respective regions, the emergence of entrepreneurial ventures cannot be expected there. Because power companies, prefectural governments and local banks have absorbed the more talented local people, free-spirited emerging companies go begging for them.

This is an abridged translation of an article from the August issue of Sentaku, a monthly magazine covering Japanese political, social and economic scenes.

**************************************


THE JAPAN TIMES

MR. KIM GOES TO RUSSIA

North Korea's reclusive supreme leader, Mr. Kim Jong Il, has ventured to Russia to meet President Dmitry Medvedev and discuss regional affairs. Mr. Kim repeated his readiness to return to the stalled Six-Party Talks "without preconditions" while Mr. Medvedev reportedly offered North Korea partnership in a pipeline project that would transport Russian energy resources to the Asian market.

Neither the nuclear negotiations nor the pipeline is likely to occur anytime soon. But the meeting itself is a sign of shifting regional political dynamics: Moscow seeks to re-establish itself as a player in Northeast Asia and Mr. Kim is trying to maximize his position if nuclear talks resume.

Mr. Kim last visited Russia nine years ago, when he met Mr. Vladimir Putin, then president and now prime minister. Since then, Pyongyang's diplomacy — ever opportunistic — has focused more on South Korea, at least when there was a leader more sympathetic to North Korea in the Blue House. It also has tried to approach the United States, when it sensed the White House was eager to strike a deal, and China, which seeks to lessen strains on the North to achieve regional stability. Pyongyang has always tried to play its diplomatic partners off each other, and Moscow had little to offer North Korea in either monetary or diplomatic terms compared with Beijing or Seoul.

It is not clear what motivated the two countries to resume top-level dialogue now. While more transparent than in the Soviet days, Moscow's decision-making is still opaque and Pyongyang remains a cipher. Nonetheless, Russia has long sought a more prominent role in Asian diplomacy and has stepped up its efforts in the last few years.

It is more likely that Mr. Kim senses that the moment has come to position his country in the six-party talks. North Korea has been pushing for a resumption of dialogue and tentative steps toward new talks — a meeting of North and South Korean diplomats and a similar get-together of North Korean and U.S. diplomats have taken place. Pyongyang wants to have as many options when negotiators sit down at the table. Mr. Kim also wants aid. North Korea has been under international sanctions since it conducted missile and nuclear tests a few years ago. The impact of those sanctions has been undermined by less than full compliance by China, but they have still managed to bite. Bad weather has also contributed to food shortages, pushing Pyongyang in recent months to ask for international assistance.

Foremost in Mr. Kim's mind is ensuring that his son, Mr. Kim Jong Un, succeeds him as leader. To do that, he needs to make sure that the economy, hampered by energy shortages, as well as by decrepit infrastructure and equipment, gets back on track. The year 2012 is especially important as it marks the 100th birthday of Mr. Kim's father, Kim Il Sung, who, despite his death in 1994, remains president for life and the symbol of the regime's legitimacy. Next year supposedly marks North Korea's emergence as a "strong and prosperous nation," raising the stakes for the regime as it aims to consolidate support for the "Young General."

By all accounts, the meeting in Ulan Ude, about halfway between Moscow and Pyongyang, was a success. Mr. Medvedev hailed Mr. Kim as a "partner," and announced that North Korea is ready to resume the Six-Party Talks "without preconditions."

While that sounds good, it is Pyongyang's way of saying it will not apologize for provocations last year — sinking a South Korean Navy ship and shelling a South Korean island (all told, 50 lives were lost) — nor promise there will not be any more. Moreover, there is no sign that North Korea is prepared to honor its September 2005 pledge to denuclearize and give up its nuclear weapons. Tokyo, Seoul and Washington have insisted that Pyongyang demonstrate that commitment before it resumes talks.

Russia and North Korea also announced that they would form a joint commission to study the prospects for a 1,100-km pipeline that would carry 10 billion cubic meters of Russian gas annually to South Korea across North Korean territ