Google Analytics

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

EDITORIAL 30.08.11

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at:

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month august  30, edition 000823, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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

































































A simplistic assessment of what ails India, or the system of governance in this country, is bound to result in simplistic solutions that may find traction with the ill-informed if not uneducated sections of the masses and fetch unrestrained applause for those who propose them but should cause concern among the thinking classes. There is a case for appointing an empowered oversight authority to ensure that politicians and bureaucrats do not abuse their power to feather their nests, as has been done in recent times by members of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Cabinet and those entrusted with organising events like the Commonwealth Games of last year. But as the experience of similar oversight committees elsewhere (for instance in Indonesia) shows, anti-graft laws by themselves are not sufficient to contain or eliminate corruption — governance reforms are also needed to remove reasons and incentives for giving and accepting bribes. Anna Hazare and his team of civil society activists are not entirely unaware of this necessity and as much is reflected in their statements calling for reforms, especially in the manner of electing representatives to various bodies of governance, from panchayats to Parliament. India does need electoral reforms, along with radical reforms in many other areas, including the judiciary, but it would be dangerous to allow popular slogans that stir emotions in the streets to become the architecture of those reforms.

The right to reject all candidates in an election and the right to recall elected representatives may find a certain resonance with habitual naysayers and those who exult in agitprop as a means of demonstrating their power to force the Government's hands, but the implications of instituting such changes in our electoral system are clearly of no consequence to them. In any event, reforms are not about pandering to populist demands; on the contrary, the best reforms often lack a popular appeal. Also, reforms cannot be seen in isolation, they must be part of a holistic approach towards giving a new direction to governance which, in turn, is decided in large measure by long-term goals that further our national interest.

If we must look at reforms, we will have to do so with great care and caution. Mere tinkering with existing laws does not amount to reforms; what is called for is framing and adopting an entirely new system. For instance, electoral reforms cannot be just about introducing the right to reject candidates in an election or recall elected representatives. That would be self-defeating and utterly meaningless. What we need to look at is a new model of electing representatives that will help eliminate the infirmities of the current system and, more importantly, remove the scope for political corruption.

That would mean looking at the system of proportionate representation based on votes secured by political parties with candidates from pre-declared lists making it to elected bodies. But it would also mean redefining the role of each elected body — if we were to adopt such a model, MPs cannot be expected to nurse constituencies or serve as drain inspectors; they would be full-time policy-makers, which is what they really should be.

This, of course, is only one example. There are many other models available. Let's look beyond slogans to titillate the lowest common denominator.







The death of Al Qaeda's influential second-in-command in the lawless Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan has no doubt served a body blow to the terrorist organisation. It has also, once again, highlighted Pakistan as the default safe haven for terrorists that doubles as the global exporter of jihadi violence. It maybe noted that after US Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad in Pakistan on May 2, there was much discussion and debate on whether the country's civilian-military establishment was aware of the terrorist's presence a short distance from their national capital, if its powerful intelligence agency — now discredited as a terror-sponsoring organisation — was colluding with the chief of the world's most dangerous terror network, so on and so forth. Pakistani authorities had cried themselves hoarse that they were unaware of the world's most wanted terrorist living in a mansion in a high security zone right under their noses. That few across the world believed them is an entirely different matter. At the time, only the US — Pakistan's estranged ally in the war on terror — had offered a somewhat half-hearted consolation that it had no proof of the state's involvement which was clearly a last ditch attempt by Washington, DC to salvage whatever remained of the world's most nebulous diplomatic and strategic alliance. In the four months since Osama bin Laden's death, much has changed. For one, the US no longer pretends to have anything more than a reluctant, use-and-throw relationship with Pakistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, has clearly indicated that it is willing to switch loyalties from the American dollar to the Chinese remnibi. And yet a whole lot still remains the same: Pakistan continues to shelter terrorists within its borders. And the US continues to hunt them down with the CIA then sending in drones to carry out targetted killings of terrorists hiding in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Hence, the killing of another top Al Qaeda leader in a US drone attack in Pakistan should not come as a surprise to anyone. And make no mistake: Atiyah Abd al-Rahman was by all means a terrorist to be feared. He was also one of the few remaining members of Osama bin Laden's core group. Along with Ayman al-Zawahiri, Rahman had been charged with rebuilding Al Qaeda by improving its relations with affiliate terror groups and reframing its recruitment strategy which had taken a beating after largely peaceful agitations to overthrow autocrats in the Arab world. He was also supposed to be planning spectacular attacks on American targets to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. That his August 22 death has come only days before the event has tremendous strategic and symbolic value.









The proposed Lokpal Bill, incorporating the demands of Anna Hazare, will create a frightening supra-Government with sweeping powers.

There is startling synchronicity between Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi's speech on the Lokpal issue in the Lok Sabha on Friday and the draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill. This lends weight to suspicions that one objective of the Ramlila Maidan blitz is to destabilise Mr Manmohan Singh and elevate Mr Rahul Gandhi to the Prime Minister's Office.

Mr Gandhi advocated that the Lokpal be made a statutory institution like the Election Commission. The Jan Lokpal positions itself as a statutory body with draconian powers over all organs of the state, with zero checks and balances.

Some points deserve mention. Team Anna was curiously willing to allow the septuagenarian to continue his fast. Once the Government said that ending the fast was the responsibility of Anna Hazare's associates, the latter strangely opted to continue the fast, and the 'failing' leader stabilised his health and stamina. One wonders if the refusal to allow Government doctors to examine Mr Hazare, as mandated by the Supreme Court, has anything to do with this.

Corruption is as destructive of nation and society as terrorism. But for an effective response, the nation perhaps needs a policy of no negotiation with blackmailers, as with terrorists. This would give the Government and legislators the freedom to study the anti-corruption issue seriously and enact just laws. Given the shrillness of the media and NGOs on the issue, both must come under the ambit of the proposed law.

As for the draft Jan Lokpal Bill, it decimates all normal courts and police stations in the country as the Lokpal assumes powers to "detect corruption by expeditious investigation and to prosecute offenders". Indeed, the Lokpal elevates itself into a dangerous supra-Government.

Corruption, under this draft, is defined as anything punishable under Chapter IX of the Indian Penal Code or Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, including any offence committed by an elected member of a legislature even in respect of his speech or vote inside the House. This is an assault upon Parliament and democracy; little wonder all political parties have reservations regarding the draft and the motives of those pushing it. In fact, the Supreme Court should suo motu opine whether this perverts a basic feature of the Constitution.

The draft Jan Lokpal Bill also wants the right to inquire into the assets declarations filed by successful candidates after election to any House of Parliament. (This would extend to the States once they pass a similar legislation).

The proposed 11-member Lokpal would have administrative, financial and functional independence from the Government; at least four members would have a legal background. These would be selected (the nepotism of the elite) by a Selection Committee headed by the Prime Minister. But the Selection Committee would have to select members from a panel prepared by a Search Committee, the chairperson of which shall be a person with extensive knowledge of law. The Lokpal, it seems, is conceived as a paradise of crusading lawyers who would likely get lucrative assignments from the said body.

The 10-member Search Committee shall be appointed by the Selection Committee (nepotism) from amongst retired Chief Justices of India, retired Chief Election Commissioners and retired Comptrollers & Auditor-Generals with impeccable reputations. They shall by consensus co-opt five members from Civil Society (nepotism) into the Search Committee. The Search Committee shall invite nominations from such eminent individuals or persons it deems fit (a closed circle; selection by nomination only).

The Lokpal members will have a five -year tenure but can hold office till the age of 70 years; this raises suspicions that the draft sponsors have specific individuals in mind for the posts and hence the haste in pushing the issue. The draft mentions removal of the Lokpal, but there is no right to recall a Lokpal who dissatisfies the people.

Mr Hazare's draft bestows upon the chairperson and members of the Lokpal a salary equal to that of the Chief Justice of India and judge of the Supreme Court respectively, along with allowances, pensions and other conditions of service. The Secretary to the Lokpal will have the rank of Secretary to the Government of India. All expenses of the Lokpal are to be fully charged to the Consolidated Fund of India, with no Government say in the matter.

The question arises, why shouldn't the Lokpals be appointed by the Union Public Service Commission and subjected to the same rules and service conditions as regular Government servants? After all, they want pensions after five years of service.

A major danger comes from the Lokpal positioning itself above the Indian economy, a situation which can favour multi-national corporations seeking to keep Ministers, officials and judges in line. None of the moral crusaders at Ramlila Maidan spoke against the gargantuan corruption in the Commonwealth Games' contracts, but their version of the Lokpal wants the right "to recommend cancellation or modification of a lease, license, permission, contract or agreement, it if was obtained by corrupt means and to recommend blacklisting of a firm, company, contractor or any other person involved in an act of corruption".

One article cannot list the glaring defects in the draft. It wants its investigating officers to enjoy all powers vested in a police officer investigating offences under the CrPC and in the director of Enforcement under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 and Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. It will have the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, which are truly mind-boggling.

Above all, it wants the power to intercept telephones, monitor the Internet and any other forms of communications. The punitive powers are staggering — jail terms up to life imprisonment; fines recoverable as arrears of land revenue (public auction of property); right to deduct fines from salaries of non-conforming Government servants; right to appoint George Orwell-style 'Big Brothers' in every district, and confiscate assets and properties deemed to be acquired by corrupt acts, including parental properties.

This fascist Bill is a recipe for simultaneous paralysis and hyperactivity in all Government departments. No Minister or officer will take a decision that could bring a motivated Lokpal inquiry; officials will gang up against officers who incur the Lokpal's anger to save their own skins and salaries; but deals favoured by one or 10 Little Emperors will have a smooth passage. No wonder there is no right to recall and no clear procedure for removing a corrupt Lokpal. Indeed, the draft does not even envisage the possibility of a corrupt Lokpal.







The CPI(M) finds itself defending the indefensible as skeletons of victims of the party cadre's excesses literally come tumbling out of its cupboard — or, more specifically, are exhumed from the backyards of the homes of its leaders. The Trinamool Congress is leaving no stone unturned to expose the CPI(M), but there is nothing that the Marxists can complain about. If the Left Front had acted in time, such crimes would not have gone unpunished

The blow-by-blow unravelling of the skeleton scandal in West Bengal mimics a village exorcism. Leaders and members of the CPI(M) are evil incarnate and exorcising the body politic of the power that they possessed is necessary to restore West Bengal to normalcy. For a successful exorcism of evil, there has to be the personification of the evil. And, the exorcism has to be performed in the public domain, just as happens in rural West Bengal where the shaman does her bit with a crowd of witnesses to confirm that indeed the evil was driven out.

The daily bulletin on the evil acts of former Minister Sushanta Ghosh of the CPI(M) and his associates (even though some are eager to speedily disassociate themselves from him) is like the unfolding of a marathon exorcism. As more skeletons are disinterred from muddy graves, not the ones already found in Benachapra near Garbeta in West Midnapore, the ritual of exorcism gains in credibility. As also it reaffirms the rightness of the choice made by voters in evicting the CPI(M) from power and vesting their trust in Trinamool Congress leader and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The concentration of evil in the districts of East and West Midnapore is intriguing. The two most controversial leaders of the CPI(M), Mr Lakshman Seth and Mr Sushanta Ghosh, were both larger-than-life, greater-than-the-party leaders from adjacent territories. Mr Seth was pulled off this pillar in the 2009 Lok Sabha election when he lost the Haldia seat in East Midnapore. That left Mr Ghosh as the sole defender of the Marxist bastion in both parts of Midnapore, whose evil had to be undone. His arrest and the investigations currently underway are, therefore, necessary for the exorcism to be completed.

Nailing Mr Ghosh for the crime of killing seven persons is the job of the police and the courts. Nailing him for allegedly organising training camps for Marxist gunmen is a different crime altogether. Therefore, combining the two and producing this giant size evil incarnate has more to do with exorcising the power of the CPI(M) than with criminal investigations. By doing so, the Trinamool Congress is, in effect, on the one hand, magnifying the CPI(M)s capabilities and on the other, discrediting the legitimacy of the party by revealing the desperate means it used to hold on to power.

Serialising the uncovering of crime by the CPI(M) is politically necessary. Despite the ignominious defeat, the party nevertheless received 1.96 crore votes, that is 41 per cent of the total votes polled. That makes it a currently weak, but nevertheless a potentially strong political force. That its shadow looms over West Bengal is evident not on account of what it is doing now, but in the almost constant comparisons that the Trinamool Congress makes as it works on putting its imprint on politics and governance in the state. In demonising the CPI(M), the act of exorcising acquires a greater dimension than is probably necessary, given the disenchantment of the larger part of the population with the regime that was rejected. By using the CPI(M) as the yardstick for comparison, the Trinamool Congress may end up patterning its efforts on what is best erased from political and public life in the State.

The warning issued by the Chief Minister against inactive members of her own Cabinet as well as truants within the party is a grim reminder that in West Bengal, the culture of work has been vitiated. In voicing her misgivings about the activities of some of her party men, the Chief Minister has signalled her 'zero tolerance' approach towards corruption. Membership of the ruling political party has been used in the past to abuse power and enrich those who can represent themselves as closely linked to the powerful. The CPI(M) is finding this out now, whereas the Trinamool Congress is conscious of it already.

The report card of the first 90 days of the new regime is an example of this compulsion to compare. With painstaking care, the West Bengal Government has noted the initiatives and achievements of the new regime, detailing the number of villages electrified in the Sundarbans to the length of roads constructed to the Herculean task of managing the State's chaotic finances.

The worry is that habits of abuse seem to be deeply ingrained. Unlearning these habits may be as difficult as restoring efficiency, impartiality and accountability to the administration. The power of networks, social and political, far exceeds the capability of the existing administration structures to meet the expectations, aspirations and entitlements of the people. By announcing that she will take stock every two months of the progress on plans and programmes of the Government, the Chief Minister is signalling that by compelling the administration to be effective and efficient, she will reduce the risk of abuse.

The need to do so is urgent. As the new Government struggles to fill the vacancies created by the exit of the old order on various committees and in different institutions, the accusation of partisan appointments has already begun to circulate, especially in bodies linked to education and higher education. Inevitable as the accusations are, the need to be seen to be doing things differently has raised the bar for assessing the performance of the new Government.

Early as it is to begin scrutinising the work initiated by the Trinamool Congress Government, the push to do so is emanating from the newly elected regime because it is using the past as a reference. This is inescapable since the Chief Minister is also the leader of the Trinamool Congress. The absence of distinction has some advantages. It allows the Chief Minister to directly and speedily intercede as and when the need may arise, unlike in the CPI(M) where the elaborate systems of management designed to deliver an effective administration malfunctioned disastrously. Therefore, the State Government was paralysed in dealing with gruesome incidents of violence such as the Benachapra killings because it was politically determined as out of bound. Whether or not Mr Ghosh was directly responsible for the deaths of the seven persons in 2002, the fact is that the then State Government did not pursue the case to its logical conclusion.

Cleaning up after the CPI M as the Trinamool Congress must, it has its work cut out because it cannot be seen to be following in the footsteps of its defeated rival. It must dig up skeletons, improve administrative efficiency and be inclusive in its politics — all at the same time.







Far from fulfilling their promises of boosting growth and helping to diversify risk, capital flows are now seen by some as a destructive force, causing crises that take down countries and scorch innocent bystanders in their wake. Yet, capital flows are resurgent once again

The global financial crisis has sparked a reconsideration of the role of unfettered capital flows in the new international economic order. Far from fulfilling their promises of boosting growth and helping to diversify risk, capital flows are now seen by some as a destructive force, causing crises that take down countries and scorch innocent bystanders in their wake. Yet, despite all the opprobrium directed at them, capital flows are resurgent once again. Many emerging markets in fact face the problem of plenty as their strong growth prospects are fueling surges of inflows and creating pressures on domestic inflation, asset prices and exchange rates.

The financial crisis was only a brief pause in the process of global financial integration. External balance sheets are expanding rapidly for virtually all major economies. Rising gross external asset and liability positions imply greater financial integration but also higher capital flow volatility due to currency fluctuations, portfolio rebalancing, and greater exposure to other external shocks. This may increase emerging markets' demand for insurance against external shocks and balance of payments crises.

In the past, foreign-currency external debt dominated the external liabilities of emerging markets. That has now shifted, with FDI and portfolio equity accounting for a majority of liabilities. Even external debt issued by these countries is increasingly denominated in their own currencies. This structure of liabilities is consistent with the objective of sharing risk across countries, with foreign investors bearing capital as well as currency risk on such investment. Emerging markets have thus accumulated enough good karma to cast off their "original sin". By contrast, portfolio debt and bank loans together still constitute the major share of advanced economies' external liabilities.

The asset positions of emerging market external balance sheets (not just for China) are becoming increasingly dominated by foreign exchange reserves, mostly held in government bonds issued by the four major reserve currency areas (the US, Euro Area, Japan, the UK). The recent global financial crisis has, if anything, accentuated the incentives for accumulating reserves for self-insurance purposes that will keep foreign demand for these bonds strong.

Sovereign debts of the major reserve currency areas are on steeply increasing trajectories, with a substantial fraction of the global increase in central Government debt over the next five years likely to be accounted for by advanced economies, especially the US and Japan. As the safety of these assets comes into question, the risk on emerging market balance sheets has now shifted mostly to the asset side. These countries may be forced to rethink the notion of advanced economy sovereign assets as being 'safe' assets, although they are certainly highly liquid.

Self-insurance by countries through accumulation of ostensibly safe assets is becoming increasingly costly. The quasi-fiscal costs of sterilising reserve accumulation and the welfare costs of financial repression are likely to rise as the demand for financial capital increases worldwide. Moreover, the high debt levels of advanced economies imply crowding out of private investment and lower productivity growth in those countries relative to the emerging markets. This implies that emerging market currencies are eventually going to appreciate against those of the advanced economies, which implies a significant wealth transfer (in nominal domestic currency terms) in the future from the former group of countries to the latter.

Emerging market economies need a simple insurance mechanism that is characterized by ex-ante rather than ex-post conditionality in terms of a country's macroeconomic policies, does not involve the stigma associated with the IMF, and involves an unconditional payout at a time of a balance of payments crisis. To minimise moral hazard, the mechanism should offer insurance against liquidity risk rather than solvency risk.

For emerging markets, the major risks from capital inflows are now less about balance of payments crises arising from dependence on foreign capital than about capital inflows accentuating domestic policy conundrums. For instance, foreign capital inflows can boost domestic credit expansions, a factor that made some emerging markets vulnerable to the aftershocks of the recent crisis. New risks from capital account opening are related to existing sources of domestic instability — rising inequality in wealth and in opportunities for diversification and sharing risk. Capital inflows and the resulting pressure for currency appreciations also have distributional implications as they affect inflation and adversely affect industrial employment growth. The right solution to a lot of these problems involves financial market development, especially a richer set of financial markets that would improve the ability to absorb capital inflows and manage volatility, broader domestic access to the formal financial system (financial inclusion), and improvements in the quality of domestic institutions and governance.

--This is excerpted from the introduction to a paper presented by Eswar Prasad at the annual Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Prasad discusses global financial integration and the evolving roles of emerging and advanced markets in the global financial crisis in this paper. Courtesy: The Brookings Institution.







Syria's closest ally, Iran, has warned that a power vacuum in Damascus could spark an unprecedented regional crisis while urging President Bashar Assad to listen to some of his people's "legitimate demands." Thousands of protesters, meanwhile, insisted they will defy tanks and bullets until Mr Assad goes.

The five-month-old uprising in Syria has left Mr Assad with few international allies — with the vital exception of Iran, which the US and other nations say is helping drive the deadly crackdown on dissent.

Last Saturday's comments by Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi were a subtle shift in tone toward comprise by Tehran, which encouraged the Mr Assad regime to answer to its people while reiterating its support for its key ally. Most previous comments focused on a "foreign conspiracy" driving the unrest.

"Either in Yemen, Syria or any other country, people have some legitimate demands and governments should answer them as soon as possible," Salehi said Saturday, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

But Iran's support for Mr Assad was clear. "If a vacuum is created in the Syrian ruling system, it will have unprecedented repercussions," he said, adding that Syria has "sensitive neighbors" and that change in the country could lead to regional crisis.

Syria borders five other nations and controls water supplies to Iraq, Jordan and parts of Israel. Iran's ties with Syria go far beyond the countries' long-standing friendship in a region dominated by Arab suspicions of Tehran's aims. Syria also is Iran's conduit for aid to powerful anti-Israel proxies Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Should Mr Assad's regime fall, it could rob Iran of a loyal Arab partner in a region profoundly realigned by uprisings demanding more freedom and democracy.

In an emergency meeting on Syria that ended early Sunday in Cairo, the Arab League decided to send its leader, Nabil Elaraby, to Damascus to seek a solution. In a statement, the league expressed "grave concern" over the bloodshed in Syria.

More than five months into the uprising against Mr Assad, the conflict has descended into a bloody stalemate.

Human rights groups say Mr Assad's forces have killed more than 2,000 people since the uprising erupted in March, touched off by the wave of revolts sweeping the Arab world. The European Union imposed sanctions Wednesday against an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, saying the Quds Force is providing equipment and other support to help crush the revolt.

Iran's Guard forces were also used to put down a protest movement calling for political and social reform after Iran's disputed presidential election in 2009.

Mr Assad has shrugged off international condemnation and calls for him to step down. Economic and other sanctions could slowly chip away at the regime in the long-term, however. Iran has offered unwavering support for Damascus, and there has been speculation that Tehran is providing funds to cushion Assad's government as it burns through the $17 billion in foreign reserves that the government had at the start of the uprising.

But Iran cannot prop up the regime indefinitely.

Thousands of Syrians held protests overnight and early Saturday across the country of 22 million, according to the Local Coordination Committees, which helps organize the demonstrations.

The security presence was heavy by Saturday afternoon, particularly in the Damascus suburbs, the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, Homs in central Syrian and the coastal city of Latakia.

Sporadic shooting and arrest sweeps were reported. A day earlier, Syrian security forces killed at least two people during protests on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Friday has become the main day for protests.

The Government crackdown escalated dramatically at the start of Ramadan, a time of introspection, piety and dawn-to-dusk fasting. Muslims typically gather in mosques during the month for special nightly prayers after breaking the fast. The Assad Government used deadly force to prevent such large gatherings from turning into more anti-Government protests.

Mr Assad's promises of reforms have been rejected as insincere by the opposition. Although the crackdown has led to broad condemnation, Mr Assad is in no immediate danger of falling. For one thing, the Syrian opposition movement is disparate and largely disorganized, without a strong leadership.

Mr Assad's main base of support includes Syrians who have benefited financially from the regime, minority groups who feel they will be targeted if the Sunni majority takes over, and others who see no clear and safe alternative to Mr Assad.

Mr Assad, who inherited power from his father in 2000, has stacked key military posts with members of his minority Alawite sect.

Mr Assad's backers portray him as the only leader capable of staving off civil war. And while most analysts say Mr Assad is exploiting those fears, few deny that such violence is a serious possibility. The country has a potentially volatile mix of religious groups and sects.

Associated Press writer Aya Batrawy in Cairo contributed to this report filed from Beirut.








Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement has highlighted the need for lawmakers and policy framers to get more proactive than they've been so far on fighting graft. The Lokpal Bill, which is work in progress, is one key weapon in this combat. But other tools need deploying as well to boost systemic openness, which will force greater public accountability. Much of what anti-graft watchdogs do is detect malpractices as they occur and clean up the mess afterwards. Structural reform acts as a preventive: it reduces scope for the mess to be created in the first place.

In this context, let's welcome the government's call for transparency in public procurement. WTO estimates our total government procurement as a percentage of GDP is around 20%, roughly an annual Rs 11 lakh crore. Courtesy red tape and opaque decision-making, award of government contracts offers huge avenues for graft. Be it rules-bending by the defence, power or telecom sector or as witnessed in the
Commonwealth Games run-up, bidding and tender selection processes are routinely manipulated to favour palm-greasers. This impacts investor confidence, choking off funds that could help boost infrastructure and industry. It's good a roadmap's being envisaged to trim room for arbitrary decisions by, among other things, requiring digitised records of procurement-related official communications.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has said, we must also clean up areas like land and mining. Discretionary allotment of land and housing in return for bribes is no secret. Government ownership of land in excess of need, regulatory complexity and outmoded land acquistion rules all favour land mafias. A proportion of state-owned land sold on the market would help treat the problem of artificial scarcity pushing up prices. Land records too must be better kept and digi-tised to check fraud and land grabs. In the mining industry, a similar regulatory jungle facilitates graft-fuelled grant of leases and fronting by state mining firms for private commerce by politicians, bureaucrats and their cronies. Regulatory streamlining besides a crackdown on illegal mining is imperative.

As is tax reform. Introducing the goods and services tax will spur tax compliance while creating a common market that boosts revenue. If politicians were truly serious about curbing black money, they'd shout less about overseas tax havens and more about rolling out GST or reducing stamp duty. It's as important to link delivery of subsidy and welfare benefits to UID and financial inclusion projects, for routing via direct cash transfer or smart cards rather than leaky public distribution channels. Finally, Team Anna has talked about electoral reforms. The political class would do well to take the initiative here, pushing for strict auditing of party finances, mandatory disclosure of poll funding and greater checks on entry of criminal elements into politics.






With the election of Baburam Bhattarai as the new prime minister of Nepal, there is hope of a new chapter opening in Nepali politics. However, much will depend on how quickly the second Maoist-led government in three years delivers on the peace process and a new Constitution. Since 2008, Nepal has been plagued by political uncertainty with the Maoists, the Marxist-Leninists and the Nepali Congress playing musical chairs with the leadership of the Constituent Assembly. The new alliance between the Maoists and the five-party Unified Democratic Madhesi Morcha will need to mark itself out from previous dispensations by reaching out to all political formations. The peace process can only be concluded through an end to the political acrimony that has highlighted Nepali politics so far.

For a start, Bhattarai and his new government would do well to generate consensus on the first draft of the Constitution as soon as possible. This would provide impetus to the much-delayed Constitution writing process as well as pave the way for movement on the vexed issue of the institutional integration of former
Maoist combatants. A recent Maoist proposal seeks to absorb 8,000 of the 19,000 guerrillas into Nepal's security establishment while rehabilitating the rest. Flexibility on the issue, keeping in mind the interests of the Nepali people, is key to finding a solution. It helps that the new PM is seen as a moderate and an able administrator. These are qualities Nepal desperately needs of its leadership at this juncture. In Bhattarai's election, the Maoists have put their best foot forward. There is reason for New Delhi to be optimistic of a renewed synergy in bilateral relations under his tenure.






                                                                                                                                                TOP ARTICLE



Parliament's "Sense of the House Resolution", agreeing "in principle" to a citizens' charter, the lower bureaucracy to be under the Lokpal through appropriate mechanism, and establishment of Lokayuktas in the states, paved the way for Anna Hazare to break his 12-day fast. The impasse was broken after both the government and Team Anna shifted from their maximalist positions. Earlier, the government had taken shelter under administrative and legalistic positions, whilst Team Anna demanded nothing less than the passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill when the fast began on August 16. Eventually the breakthrough came after Pranab Mukherjee took over as chief negotiator with a new team of interlocutors to reach out directly to Hazare.

No one can deny that the
Anna Hazare Andolan (AHA) has raised awareness about the need to combat corruption in the political process. However, the AHA has not defined corruption. Is it about financial wrongdoing and pilfering of public money? Or does corruption involve misuse of power? If misuse of power is an issue then power flows from control of state institutions but also from social and economic inequalities.

Who is benefiting most from corruption? Yes, the politically powerful, but also the economically powerful in industry, trade and business, an aspect AHA has sidestepped. Both these issues are central to the politics of fighting corruption. AHA's solutions to corruption are moral exhortations and legal enactments. Most of the people who thronged the streets against corruption are from the middle classes who support the campaign against corruption but would be averse to upsetting the status quo that benefits the privileged including them.

Laws and institutions are clearly important to the fight against corruption and yet the upsurge of public opinion developed into a strong anti-political and anti-institution sentiment. At the heart of anti-politics is the question of democracy. "Respect the will of the people" was a common refrain. This is majoritarian democracy which is at variance with the established framework of representative democracy, in which the will of the majority is tempered by constitutional, judicial and other constraints. From demanding that Parliament must pass the pre-drafted legislation bypassing the standing committee to statements that it is the people and not Parliament which is supreme, the campaign questioned the sovereignty of Parliament which can result in emasculation of the parliamentary prerogative to legislate.

There is nothing to stop ano-ther fasting leader from mobilising thousands of people to demand instant legislation or reversing of existing laws. The provocative anti-political sentiments of the AHA appealed to thousands of people because Parliament has been ineffective lately. But in the recent past Parliament has enacted the right to information and employment after pre-legislative debate and changes and modification were made in consultation with civil society groups at the standing committee stage. There is no reason why the same cannot be done again with regard to the Lokpal Bill.

For sure, the AHA jolted the political system. With the political mishandling of the situation, starting with the decision to form a joint drafting committee for a Lokpal Bill, the government not only lost credibility but also the trust of the people who came out on the streets to vent their anger. A weakened government had no choice but to offer some concessions to get Hazare to call off his fast even as parliamentary procedures cannot be short-circuited or bypassed. The face-saving formula was the "Sense of the House" resolution which strikes a balance between the need for strong anti-corruption measures and at the same time does not allow Parliament's authority in legislation to be undermined. But the resolution is not binding, the entire proceedings of the House will be sent to the standing committee and there is no timeline for the completion of the process.

In a rare moment of bipartisanship, MPs cutting across party lines sent out a clear message: lawmaking is the preserve of Parliament. After the seven-hour debate the prime minister remarked: "The Parliament has spoken. The will of Parliament is the will of the people." The much-reviled political class rose to the occasion to ask the government to produce a comprehensive Bill containing the best features of all the Bills in circulation, even as Team Anna had insisted that only its Bill should be considered. The Parliament debate did not focus on the nitty-gritty of the Lokpal Bill which will be discussed in the standing committee thus maintaining the sanctity of the parliamentary process.

This sets the stage for the adoption of a strong and effective Lokpal Bill. This would require Parliament to discuss the really important questions regarding the Jan Lokpal draft that have not been adequately discussed, notably, the pitfalls of setting up a super-institution without proper checks and balances.

Finally, like the previous anti-corruption campaigns - the JP movement in the mid-1970s and the anti- corruption "movement" of V P Singh in the late 1980s - the mood was not only against the political class but against the Congress government. The main objective of the earlier campaigns was regime change; both catapulted the BJP to the centre stage of national politics. The RSS claimed that its cadres formed at least 10% of the AHA's mass base. This time also the RSS was presumably hoping to remove an elected government. Corruption ceased to be the prime political agenda after the removal of the Congress from power in the wake of the anti-corruption campaigns. It remains to be seen whether "India will not be the same again" after the third anti-corruption movement, or corruption will be forgotten hereafter.

The writer is professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.





                                                                                                                                                            TIMES VIEW



The story of how a regular English professor found his life taken over by a video game, World of Warcraft, has made news. It's said that, at random moments such as when standing in a grocery checkout line, Ryan Van Cleave would feel he was living inside a game. Finally, he became so obsessed with the game that he started ignoring his family and his job. Now, that may be a fine cautionary tale, and sure to give plenty of ammunition to those habituated to shouting from the rooftops about how dangerous video games are. But it's both unfair and illogical to think one man's excess applies to one and all.

Yes, some people have been known to cause themselves physical harm by playing video games for days on end and getting their tempers frayed and fists loosened. But there are a far greater number of cases of people becoming gambling junkies or risking life and limb racing cars. Should we then stop everybody else from playing cards or driving? Scientific research says some humans have 'addictive personalities': they're unable to exert self-control in dealing with particular stimuli. Others are just plain reckless. Why blame a video game - or, for that matter, any other hobby or activity - for this?

As for their impact on the young, all games ship with a rating, like movies. Parents can use these guideposts to regulate which games their children can access. And far from being trivial pursuit or mindless mayhem, many video games present deeply positive, instructive experiences. Entire genres are dedicated to puzzle-solving, devising winning strategies or creative, interactive storytelling that boost intellectual development. Little wonder that studies have found that gaming can, in fact, increase creativity and lateral thinking skills. Games, much like anything else, can be good for us. But it's up to us to make it so.







Ryan Van Cleave's caution against the destructive thrills of video gaming is highly relevant. The world of gaming is strewn with real dangers. To begin with, the absurdity of exposing children to games containing graphic violence and heightened sexual content should be clear. Few sensible parents would encourage children to think that conflicts should be resolved by blasting opponents with guns - so why expose them to games showing precisely this? It's unreal to say parents must regulate children's games. In an increasingly online world, it's impossible for guardians to be everywhere, all the time. Children can easily access games designed for grown-ups - and going by instances of young gamers playing out video thrills by hurting themselves or others, that's worrying.

As Van Cleave's case shows, the effect of
video games on grown-ups is as bad. Studies record how addiction to gaming can cause the breakdown of careers, health and social lives. In a shocking instance, a South Korean couple addicted to gaming neglected their three-month-old baby who starved to death. Fantasia-laden video games, often played with multiple opponents heightening the rush, can cause gamers to imagine they're 'living inside' them, neglecting the reality they truly inhabit. It's wrong to argue gamers with 'addictive' personalities are to blame - few studies report ex-gamers taking to alcohol, drugs or gambling with a vengeance. When we don't look upon these sources of addiction too kindly, why such latitude towards video games?

Finally, the notion that playing video games improves 'creativity' is laughable. That can be achieved if people read books, learn music, even take a walk. But these activities involve getting off a couch and making a real - as opposed to virtual - effort.



                                                                                                                                                            TOI BLOGS



The internet technology has gathered momentum and now made the virtual world, at times, more powerful and overpowering than the real one. Obviously, politicians in India so far used to the cut and thrust and real-world politics in India also can't ignore the opinion-manipulating possibilities of the tools of virtual media.

An empowered
middle class enjoying the fruits of economic liberalisation has become extremely politically conscious which i feel is quite a healthy sign. But this new-found political articulation is sometimes ill tempered and in several cases extremely partisan and crosses the limits of decent public discourse.

I say this from personal experience. As i have lately been on the receiving end of the abusive hate mail whenever i have expressed my forthright views on right-wing terror.

In such situations, the articulate middle class has its right to dissent against the views of politicians, but should be tolerant enough to listen to the views that they may not agree to without being abusive.

I have always felt fanatic religious or ethnic fundamentalism is the root cause of global terror.

Irrespective of the religion they may profess, the perpetrators of this ideology of fanatic fundamentalism breed hatred and appropriate a self-righteous authority to impose their beliefs on others and then unleash violence against the non-believers. History is full of such examples.

India is a country of tolerance. This is because India has the cultural and spiritual depth that has allowed different religions and ideologies to coexist and over the centuries get assimilated to create a blend that is the essence of the Indian ethos.

We can't allow the idea of "Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam" so closely identified with our history and our culture to be snatched away by these rabid fanatic fundamentalists whether they are Muslims or Hindus.

I have faced the ire equally of both rabid fanatic Hindus and Muslims when i went to Azamgarh and when i went to Barak Valley in Assam. They are the faces of the same coin. They feed on each other in a mutually sustainable way.

Sometimes i see that within minutes of my statement - even in some remote corner of the country - against right-wing terror, there is a flood of abusive comments against me.

I have doubts on their authenticity. Are they sponsored? Have the perpetrators of hate and terror been able to organise themselves through cells/groups that run these 'virtual campaigns' through assumed identities to browbeat anyone into silence who dares to expose their acts of violence?

The fact that the comments are one-sided, and quite often have no other voice makes me feel confident that this is true. Anyway, i am not one of those who would be cowed down by these faceless proponents of
communalism and hatred.

But i would urge upon all those who believe in universal brotherhood, who believe in liberal modern secular India, to react with the same zeal against these communal fascists who through wireless technology have been creating an impression that they represent the majority view in this country.

To me communalism is as dangerous as
corruption. We don't have to look too far as we have in our neighborhood the example of almost a failed state of Pakistan which adopted the path of religious fundamentalism under President Zia-ul Haq.

Let us get together and not allow the fascist communal fanatics to capture the mind and thoughts of the people of this great country through the use of the 'virtual world'.

The writer is Congress general secretary.






An Eid gift with several caveats, but this latest move is something that must have taken quite some courage for Kashmir's chief minister Omar Abdullah. A one time amnesty for stone-pelters with the rider that they should not be taken in by the honeyed words of those who egged them on and have now forgotten them may well be one more step towards a safer and more peaceful future in the state. Mr Abdullah has also grasped the nettle that few predecessors have in saying that he will address the issue of unidentified bodies and unmarked graves which the State Human Rights Commission had brought up. He has gone as far as saying that he is in favour of a truth and reconciliation commission on the lines of the one set up in South Africa. Predictably, this has been rubbished by hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, but then this is not surprising given his uniformly negative stance to any move that might ease tensions in the state.

For years, we have seen grieving families in Kashmir who have had no closure on the subject of family members who have disappeared. It has been no secret that the special powers that the security agencies have in the state have enabled them to pick up at random people suspected of militancy and other violations.

Mr Abdullah has taken the first step towards healing these festering wounds. A very significant proposal that he has made, and has not perhaps got the attention it should have, is to transfer more power to the panchayats. This will go a long way towards empowering the people who have had to live in the shadow of militancy and oppressive security for decades. Mr Abdullah's idea of a truth and reconciliation commission should be taken up as the first step towards an acceptable peaceful settlement to the many issues that are still up in the air in the state. The final report from the three interlocutors may also be helpful in this process. All three have been unequivocal in their findings that the state needs a more inclusive governance system.

Mr Abdullah has often been accused of being less than proactive on the human rights problem that has plagued the state. He is clearly trying to make amends with his efforts to address the issue of missing persons. The post-Eid period has always been troubled and tense in the state. Mr Abdullah is trying to pre-empt this and all those who have a stake in maintaining normalcy in the state should help him along. The situation on the ground is the best we have had in a long time, and Mr Abdullah can really build on this. We have so often written on the winter of discontent in the Valley, but as of now the thaw holds out hope for a prolonged spring.






Liberal types allergic of flagwaving and super-patriotic types doing Jai Hind blackflips, relax. You have nothing to lose but your rules. On Sunday evening, crowds at India Gate in New Delhi amplified what was quite evident throughout the last many days at the Ramlila Grounds: people spontaneously waving the national flag in support of the simple but powerful fact of being like-minded people hanging out together glued by the figure of Anna Hazare. For anyone in the crowds that evening at India Gate - or, for that matter, in any other congregation in another city - it would have been immediately apparent that this was not a Films Division-sanctioned 'patriotic' moment where everyone had to stand to show respect towards the nation. This was about the spontaneous joy of being one with others celebrating the feat of Anna. And the vigorous twirling of the national flag was a sight that lent itself to making even the resident cynic break out in happy goose pimples.

But there were the usual suspects, grumbling about the flag being denigrated - as if the only way to celebrate the symbol of the nation is by being serious and sticking strictly to the rulebook. Whether people were flying 'distorted' or 'torn' flags, it didn't matter. The whole point was to be happy being among one's like-minded and a landmark moment in the country's history. There were some who, like a complaining theologian, harrumphed that the Ashok Chakra was black rather than blue. Emotionless people tend to hang on to silly details like that. Some even fussed about people cheering about with the tricolour wrapped around their bodies. The first lot is obviously as silly as unemployed lawyers looking for a break, while the latter simply possess behinds that are anatomically compressed.

If waving frayed, 'unofficial' versions of the national flag with the gusto people were waving them with on Sunday is seen as insulting the nation, then it's time we change the definition of 'insult'. And 'celebration'. Emotions don't care much for rules. Unless you're a class monitor incapable of being spontaneous and unless you're stuck being a stickler for anachronistic rules.









On Sunday, Indian ambassador-designate to the US Nirupama Rao and former home secretary Gopal Pillai were given a farewell by World Tourism Council. Rao told the gathering that she was going to take over in Washington on September 5, 2011.

As a part of a chain of critical diplomatic assignments, the much-awaited move of Jayant Prasad as India's ambassador to Nepal takes place on August 25. But London will remain vacant for now as Nalin Surie, the former Indian high commissioner to Britain, was refused six months' extension before he demitted office on July 31, 2011.

While Rao is going to take on the high-profile job in Washington, the Obama administration is still to appoint a permanent ambassador to India with Peter Burleigh being only a stop-gap envoy.  A few IFS and buts here.

A R&AW deal for some

The winds of change are blowing in India's external intelligence agency, the R&AW, with chief Sanjeev Tripathi stressing that the primary job of spies was to collect intelligence and not conduct diplomacy. He has quietly passed on the message that agents going to high voltage parties will be viewed adversely and that Indian spies should remain below the social radar.

As a part of his plans, the R&AW chief has proposed changes in the personnel policy with a plan to set up a core team of young officers who will not only remain under cover but also not be seen at all in the diplomatic cocktail circuit. It's certainly an intelligent decision.

From President to PM

The PM's media adviser Harish Khare had a chance encounter with BJP president Nitin Gadkari in a Parliament corridor last week. Khare complimented Gadkari for his style and "free and frank views". Gadkari smiled and thanked him.

Without stopping there, Khare told Gadkari that he would make the best prime ministerial candidate. This could raise some girth, sorry mirth, in the ranks.

All a matter of principal

The hallowed Delhi Gymkhana Club has been a haunt of babus and babu-watchers in the past. Last week it saw Pulok Chatterjee, principal secretary-designate to the prime minister, having a quiet tête-à-tête with his senior and successor-designate in the World Bank Mukesh Prasad just before the crowds gathered for lunch.

Prasad, who has been secretary in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), was sharing notes with Pulok, who takes over the PMO on October 3, 2011 with incumbent TKA Kutty Nair being kicked upstairs as adviser to the prime minister. Now Chatterjee was on a familiarisation trip even though he has worked as additional secretary in the PMO before he was appointed executive director, World Bank.

Watching the two powerful babus talk, many wished Chatterjee best of luck. He replied that he needed all the luck he can get. And all the advice he can get.

Designed to arouse interest

Pakistan's youngest and first woman foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, who got people talking about her impeccable style during her Delhi visit, met senior BJP leader LK Advani at her insistence. That's the disclosure from Advani in his latest book of blogs, As I See It.

She was scheduled to meet only Sushma Swaraj  because she's  the leader of the Opposition. But the Pakistan high commission wrote to Advani, saying Khar wished to meet him and he, of course, readily agreed.

For a change, Advani said he "didn't protest against either cross-border terrorism, or against her meeting with the Kashmiri separatists (that was left to Swaraj)." However, he gave her an account of why the Agra summit failed and how Pakistan's "obsession" with Kashmir is because of its army.

What did she say? Advani is silent on that score. Perhaps, she just smiled and left? The 'heeling' touch, quite clearly.

A very friendly gesture

Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh left many in the Congress red-faced during his recent three-day visit to Orissa by calling chief minister Naveen Patnaik his 'good friend'.

Ramesh went on to say that "he [CM] snubs me and at the same time praises me". Senior state leaders raised the issue at a meeting with Ramesh at Congress Bhavan in Bhubaneswar. Among them, Suresh Kumar Routray forcefully objected to such public expression of friendship, saying this would affect the party in the state.

On his part, Ramesh explained that personal friendship and political rivalry are altogether different things and assured them he would soon visit Orissa again and strongly raise the issue of corruption in the state. He was not to be nipped in the buddy.





The fate of Muammar Gaddafi's son wasn't inevitable. There was a choice and a decidedly better one. In February, as the Arab Spring unfolded, he dispatched an op-ed to several American newspapers, expressing a willingness to move toward a more open Libya. Every paper rejected it. But if that lost piece had been published, perhaps the dictator's son, Saif al-Islam, would have found a place among the rebels. After all, other Gaddafi loyalists switched sides to pursue what Saif said he wanted: a Libyan constitution.

"Saif was the best hope the Libyan government had," says Sarah Leah Whitson, a Libya researcher for Human Rights Watch. "But when push came to shove, he abandoned even his pretend principles and chose to stand by his father to retain power, no matter how brutal and ruthless the cost."

Perhaps the decision wasn't surprising, given Saif's upbringing and temperament. Like his other six siblings, Saif, 39, was a puppet of his father, who ruled his family like he ruled Libya's tribes: playing one against the other.  The Gaddafi children, for their part, carved up the country's wealth.

Muhammad, the oldest son, controlled telecommunications. Hardliner Mutassim served as the national security adviser until he lost his father's favour. Saadi, perhaps the best-known brother, captained the national soccer team. His sister, Aisha, served as a lawyer not only for him but also for Saddam Hussein, a family friend. The two youngest brothers, Khamis and Saif al-Arab, got lost in the shadows of their older siblings. Of them all, it was Saif al-Islam, the self-styled artist, who enjoyed life outside Libya the most. His father used him as a slick ambassador to the West. And Saif loved this role, which allowed him to travel abroad and hang out with his Israeli girlfriend.

When Jessica Stern, a Harvard University professor, travelled to Libya last year as a guest of the Gaddafi Foundation to observe Saif's pet project of deradicalising jihadis, she noticed a Hip Hotels guidebook on a coffee table at Saif's villa. "I felt strongly that we were being manipulated to see him as the last hope for Libya," Stern recalls, "even as I also wondered if he might be just that."

A cosseted son of a billionaire father intent on ensuring the empire's future, Saif might seem the Libyan version of James Murdoch, Rupert's 38-year-old son. But whereas Murdoch the Younger still has a shot at redemption, Saif is in more dire straits. On February 21, he told horrified Libyans that "rivers of blood" - their blood - would soon run in the streets. In spring, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant "for his alleged criminal responsibility for the commission of murder and persecution of civilians as crimes against humanity." Gone are the days when he partied with Nathaniel Rothschild, dabbled in falconry with Arab princelings, and frolicked on the lawn with his tiger cub that he kept in his villa. And to the parade of policy wonks, businessmen, and journalists who'd lately trooped through Tripoli to see the 'new Libya', Saif's enthusiastic embrace of his father's destructive mission is mystifying.

How, in a matter of months, did Saif devolve from ardent democracy promoter to religious conservative? When I met him last year in Tripoli, Saif wore George Clooney stubble and a debonair air that vanished when he found himself off a practiced point. He seemed more confused than crazy when pushed on reform specifics or on why, despite talk about human rights, no one had been tried for a massacre at the Abu Salim prison. On TV last week, Saif looked less like a hedge funder and more like a fist-pumping militant in fatigues, as he brandished an AK-47 and taunted his fellow citizens as "rats". Various explanations have been offered for why Saif would give up the high-flying life to become a warrior for his father's lost cause. It's well known that he's a notoriously bad decision-maker, who makes rash choices or stalls at critical moments. But there's also the theory that perhaps Saif is as mentally unsound as his father.

To any Libyan, the tyrant's overthrow was unthinkable. The brutal regime was simply a fact of life. And just as this seeming fact of nature disheartened many Libyans, it bred a sense of untouchability in the dictator and his children. And ultimately for this son, being a Gaddafi trumped all. "Saif tried to prolong the life of his father's regime by giving limited freedoms to the media, releasing political prisoners, and calling for 'reform,'?"says Omar Ashour, a University of Exeter lecturer who knows him. "But once a real chance emerged, Saif chose mass murder and repression." Now, with the conflict headed for its bloody conclusion, Saif clearly doesn't grasp the gravity of what's befallen him. Telling the International Criminal Court to "screw" itself, he still believes he's in control of a world that has decisively turned against him.

Eliza Griswold is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, and author of The Tenth Parallel

© 2011, Newsweek/Daily Beast Company

The views expressed by the author are personal





Theo Van Gogh was murdered in 2004 by a vengeful Islamist who determined that death was the punishment for making a film critical of the Muslim treatment of women. The year before he had made a film called The Interview which examined the cult of celebrity.

The film features the encounter betw-een a serious political reporter and a celebrity actress whose ego is inflated by fame and whose breasts are inflated by silicon. Laurens Postma, a Dutch-British director friend who has worked in India thought he saw the celebrity cult being replicated in India and wanted to produce an Indian take on The Interview. He asked me to write the screenplay.  

Cover Story, our Hindi film, is not an adaptation of The Interview but is a cultural transliteration which follows its basic plotlines. The difference stems from the fact that though celebrity is accompanied by much the same obsession and even hysteria in India as in the US or Europe, there are differences in its function.

The cult of celebrity is the universal villain and its protagonist is intelligence, taste, culture, seriousness and the attention to real achievement. The cult commits the sin, above all, of frivolity.

To enquire into what precisely Hugh Grant hired a prostitute to do to him is to waste the potential possibilities of your existence in masturbatory fantasy. You should instead, it is implied, be reading articles about how the Arab Spring anticipates an Arab winter or how to determine exactly what a Grecian should earn.

The American attack on the cult has a twist. In the culture in which you do unto others as they would do unto you, only try and do it first, celebrity is seen as an illusion on the road to damnation. Elvis gets fat and dopey with drugs, Moham-med Ali's brain is battered into infantilism, Michael Jackson dies of drugs and dementia, accused of paedophilia, JFK's celebrity marriage is exposed as a cruel fraud, Tiger Woods? We all knew what they were like! All epitomise the vanity of American wishes and a modern Juvenal could have predicted their ends.

The British addiction to reading about celebrity is somewhat different. Gossip begins with royalty and the doings and foibles of Princess Diana, the Duchess Fergie and now Wills and Kate Middl-eton and even the size and substance of Kate Middleton's sister's bum.

It is understandable that those who sing or act or play well have some accompanying fame. So do the unabashed wealthy and the powerful. It was ever thus. But TV and the realityshow have brought us those who are famous 'for being famous'.

In India Page 3 means something quite different. Newspapers publish photographs and comments about the famous, the wealthy, the well-connected and anyone in that narrow band of the Indian population who may be considered, in a borrowed argot, a 'celebrity'.

Indian Page 3s combine movie stars and cricketers with the bald and paunchy capitalist and his hard-faced wife or with second rank politicians.

It isn't at all evident that anyone apart from those who appear on Page 3 bothers to turn to it. The aam junta are not in the least interested in whose party was atte-nded by whom. Their interest in capitalists and politicians extends to wanting them exposed for corruption.

Our real celebrities are film and TV stars and our sportsmen and women. Film was India's first modern lingua franca and TV has very neatly assumed part of that function. Sport very early became the field representative of nationalism. As such, both worlds, of the screen and the pitch, are temples and these celebrities have taken the place, not of Amy Winehouse or Lady Gaga, but of the ancient deity. We look up to them and not down in a perusal for feet of clay. If there are scandals about our stars, they fuel disillusion with the public dream. In the US they justify the national moral of the skull beneath the skin. In England gossip about their couplings is a substitute for the veneer of national sterility.

What if one of our cricketers was exposed, as Tiger Woods has been, for serial infidelity? The Indian media wouldn't dare. It hasn't yet made the distinction between admiration, reverence, idolatry and 'celebrity' and so it wouldn't indulge and revel in the exposure-and-fall in the way the US media did for Woods.

Farrukh Dhondy is an author, screenplay writer and columnist based in London.

The views expressed by the author are personal




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

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

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

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






The Unique Identification project is a mission of surpassing ambition — it aims to provide every Indian citizen a unique 12-digit number that can be used to call up basic demographic and identity information through biometric scans. The government sees it as giving every Indian an acknowledged existence, ensuring that no one is locked out of social entitlements for the lack of a scrap of official paper. It hopes to ensure sharper targeting of welfare programmes, minimise leakages and collapse the many cumbersome IDs currently in use, into a single number. Critics of the project have focused on the privacy hazards and surveillance possibilities of the scheme. The UIDAI's rationale has been that the clear benefits outweigh potential dangers to privacy, which can, in any case, be averted by strong safeguards.

However, the philosophical battle apart, the UID has a more concrete cost-benefit analysis to contend with. The project's cost has escalated many times since it was first conceived in February 2009. A single UID, earlier estimated to cost around Rs 31 per person, may now end up in the Rs 400-500 territory. First, the finance ministry balked at the new levels of spending — partly data compilation costs, from designated registrars — and suggested the UID mesh its efforts with the national census wherever possible. It also wants to trim the biometric technology costs — the iris scan has nearly tripled the UID's price tag. While the UID defends its choices, and says the high volume of iris devices and software demanded by India will bring the price down, others in the Planning Commission claim the iris scan was intended as an extra measure to prevent duplication, not thrown in with every ID. These are not arguments to be settled on notions, and it would be timely for the UID to make a persuasive case for its choice. The Planning Commission has also expressed its concern about the UID's registrar system (which includes public and private companies), asking for clear lines of responsibility and supervision. The UIDAI had even suggested a cash incentive for some of these registrars, a plan that met with serious objection.

Those are valid questions, and the UID authorities must be prepared to defend their decisions. Even though, as they claim, the UID's long-term benefits in efficiency might justify the money spent, it should not let its own phenomenal scale blind it to the opportunity for frugality, and for dispensing information to the public, at every point.






Mamata Banerjee has a plan. Conscious of the promise of economic revival she had made for a post-Left Front West Bengal, she has announced a "student brigade". Anybody who enrols for a two-year stint of rural work will be guaranteed a job, through an employment bank. And as with all of Banerjee's big ideas, come January this one too will be capped by a rally.

Indeed, caught up in her own rhetoric, she said — at a gathering organised to mark the foundation day of the Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad — that Bengal's young people need to venture out to other parts of India in search of employment.

More than three months after she took over as chief minister, Banerjee continues to betray an alarming tendency to slip into oppositional slogans, high on rhetoric and very low on detail. Indeed, for the long years that she rallied the streets and countryside against the Left Front government, such tactics had the effect of showing up the hollowness of the state under communist rule, with the party having annexed much of the state's role and cadres used to carry out tasks of the state bureaucracy. Yet, instead of rebuilding the state, Banerjee seems far too amiable to doing as the Left did, and insinuating her cadres as an interface between government and the people.

Put simply, Bengal's problem is not that the right people cannot be found for jobs, as her rural work scheme suggests, but to create jobs in the first place. It's a tough ask: the Left's late effort to attract industrialisation exposed its internal flaws, in a way preparing for Banerjee's last assault, but the factors that made such outreach imperative for Bengal's economy remain. Fuzzying the line between party and state will not help her or, more crucially, Bengal.






Nepal has a new prime minister, and a renewed cycle of worries. The relatively speedy election of Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai is indeed welcome, given that it took seven months and 16 attempts for Bhattarai's predecessor, Jhalanath Khanal, to become prime minister — seven months of a governance vacuum. But the mechanics of Nepal's politics that brought about Khanal's resignation earlier this month, which had also helped him become prime minister in the first place, remain apparently just as acutely unworkable. Bhattarai's election is the result of a compromise, externally, between the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) and the United Madheshi Democratic Front (UMDF), and, internally, between the new prime minister's faction and Maoist chief Prachanda. Bhattarai's tenure will depend on the give-and-take between the UCPN-M, the UMDF and the smaller left parties which voted for him. Moreover, he will have to constantly watch his back, keeping Prachanda in good humour even as he tries to work with the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) and the Nepali Congress.

Factions within the major parties — Khanal, very close to Prachanda, was forced out by his own CPN-UML — have, of late, overwhelmed the long undermined political momentum that had emerged from the historic transformation five years ago. Of Nepal's two imperatives — the promulgation of the new constitution and the completion of the peace process — neither is close to being home and dry. Bhattarai has promised giving them "top priority", but those are the very tasks every prime minister (Bhattarai is the fourth in three years) has ignominiously failed in. The four-point agreement between the UCPN-M and the UMDF may have pre-empted a rational, considered conclusion of the peace by proclaiming the withdrawal of all human rights cases against Madheshi activists and Maoists, eclipsing major provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2006.

Nevertheless, difficult as things and discredited as political parties in Nepal are, the road ahead is not impossible. Nepal can only move forward, from whatever has been achieved so far, and that's an optimistic thought. It has a new prime minister, and now Kathmandu must regain its focus.







Indian democracy's strength is its protean capacity for reinvention. It can turn crisis into renewal. Moments of extremism generate a counter-movement to produce a new equipoise. New alliances are constantly being formed. Arrogant power can be humbled. Powerlessness can give way to a new consciousness of power. Hope and disappointment chase each other like shadows. The consequences of the Anna Hazare movement will only emerge in the fullness of time. But what is a democracy if it cannot quickly turn a mood of self-flagellation into quiet self-congratulation? A democracy, by its nature, only gives partial victories. Anna Hazare's movement can claim that it brought unprecedented pressure to bear upon Parliament. Parliament can claim that it responded to the pressure. But it artfully kept the door open to resisting it.

Ever since the 2G scam broke, the government's conduct has been marked by an odd combination of evasion and arrogance. Anna Hazare's arrest deepened revulsion against government, even amongst those who disagreed with the movement. This context allowed the movement to tap deeper into a widespread sentiment against corruption. Grant the movement its due. It catalysed a new self-consciousness about corruption. Anna Hazare managed to project an unvarnished idealism, unsullied by any attribution of vested interest.

Trust and credibility often matter more than ideas. So the question is this. Parliament has salvaged some of its institutional authority. But will politicians be able to fill the credibility gap this movement revealed? Rahul Gandhi's intervention, whatever its content, was oddly ill-timed, with no real follow-up. The judgment of key members of the cabinet stands discredited. Both the BJP and the Congress were led by the scruff of their necks, though in the end the BJP followed a tad more gracefully than the Congress. Both parties displayed a singular lack of intellectual and political self-confidence. They may still dodge the full force of Anna Hazare's conditions in the select committee; but that dodge has more the imprimatur of scheming than forthright intellectual conviction. The authority of politics still remains at a crossroads.

Parliamentary proceedings were riveting. Sushma Swaraj's deconstruction of government was spot on. It raised the point, why are so many state institutions used to target opponents of the government? Sharad Yadav and Lalu Prasad were giving inimitable lessons in India's political economy. They provided the strangest of juxtapositions: the most ringing defence of parliamentary procedure and constitutionalism with the opportunistic appeal to caste. Sandeep Dikshit, in a powerful performance, suggested that the government had been for a strong Lokpal all along, conveniently eliding the history of government's broken promises. The Left parties were strong on federalism, but typically called for an even greater expansion of state power.

Did Parliament cave in? It can claim a formal victory; it can still consider various proposals. But this debate was more about ending a fast. And debate under the threat of a fast-unto-death produces an anodyne consensus. Whatever the end result, a fast-unto-death remains an imposition on the liberty of those who disagree. Serious disagreement on the fundamentals of the Lokpal no longer remained an option. Someone could have enriched the debate by questioning the inclusion of the prime minister under the Lokpal. Someone could have raised questions about the institutional dynamics of large bureaucracies superintending other large bureaucracies. Speakers referred to how the Supreme Court, in the Jain Hawala case, had unwittingly short-circuited the careers of innocent politicians. Yet the implications of that kind of charge for institutional design were not followed.

The movement, in turn, was an organisational triumph. It tapped into new idioms and aesthetics. There was occasional rhetorical disfigurement. But the fact that there was a platform where thousands could peacefully coalesce around the symbolism of Anna Hazare is not a mean achievement. These signal new forms of mobilisation in future: the combination of the media, urban India, middle-class support is a potent force. All social mobilisations tap into a sense, however temporarily, of empowering citizens. This sense only grows with success.

The catalyst for mobilisation was an apocalyptic vision of corruption. But this is an unfashionable thing to say. Mobilisations happen when things are getting better, not worse. Hitherto, governance had two premises: secrecy and hierarchy. Government could presume that most of its files would remain hidden from public gaze. It could presume that government was so hierarchically ordered that everyone in the system would do its bidding. The Right to Information Act, the play of incentives in the media have now made it very difficult for government to hide things. That a lot of dirt is coming out is a sign of how the premises of governance are shifting, not a sign of things getting worse.

The second big shift is that power is now genuinely divided. A lot of independent institutions — from the SC to the Comptroller and Auditor General — enhance their power by holding other institutions to account. The states have been experimenting from everything from citizens' charter to social audits. The focus on the pressure in the streets must not take anything away from the fact that a system of checks and balances has kicked in, albeit with some delays. There are now too many actors in the system for governments to presume that they can control them.

This narrative is important to remember. We must not create institutional designs that short-circuit a lot of mechanisms already in play. We also need to understand the place of reform in all this. Economic reform is increasingly being blamed for our ills. Certainly, the scale of rents the state has been able to extract from certain sectors which it still has not reformed — real estate, natural resources, mining — is staggering. That extraction only deepens the humiliation felt by citizens in ordinary transactions with the state. The government was right to say that the proper response is fixing the state sector by sector. But its lack of action has left it with no locus standi on the issue. Finally, in the name of democratic power, we need to be careful not to reinstate statism. The political mood is ominously shifting in that direction. A presumptive distrust in politicians is, ironically, paving the way for greater presumptive trust in an elite cadre of bureaucrats and judges.

Our democracy has pulled back from a precipice. Even rival interpretations of what happened allow the game to go on. But the politics of symbolism is not a substitute for the nitty-gritty of what it will take to balance liberty and innovation with accountability. The argument has just begun.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi,










Ironic as it may seem, there is an uncanny similarity between Team Anna and the Congress under Indira Gandhi. In 1967, Indira Gandhi rode to power on the magic slogan of "Garibi Hatao". Today, Anna's call of "Jan Lokpal bill lao aur bhrashtachar mitao" is an equally powerful, beguiling mirage. "Indira is India and India is Indira" has been replaced by "Anna is India and India is Anna". The mindsets are frighteningly similar, and contemptuous of parliamentary democracy.

Anna's team has attacked the credibility of all existing institutions of governance. Now that the team has virtually brought the government to its knees, and is poised to foist its version of the Lokpal bill on Parliament, it is only appropriate that they state their position on some issues that are central to the debate. Here are some questions that Team Anna needs to answer:

Is not the method of using drummed-up public support to intimidate government and Parliament into passing legislation a dangerous precedent for democracy? Will majoritarianism or mob rule henceforth determine public policy?

Team Anna has contemptuously dismissed the proposition that members of Parliament represent the will of the people. As lakhs of people have supported the Jan Lokpal bill, Anna Hazare and his team have decided that the people of India want this legislation, and therefore Parliament must pass it. Extending this logic further, many Indians in Kashmir and the Northeast want secession from the country. Should Parliament accede to their demands also?

It may be recalled that in the 1990s lakhs of people from the same middle-class section of society had swarmed the streets against the Mandal Commission recommendations. Should the then-government have heard the voice of the people and jettisoned the Mandal report?

Anna has said, "It was Gandhiji's vision that every village should have one chamar, one sunar, one kumahar, and so on. They should all do their work according to their role and occupation, and in this way a village will be self-dependent. This is what we are practising in Ralegan Siddhi." Does Team Anna uphold the sanctity of the caste system?

Team Anna has contempt for every existing governance structure: the judiciary, the political executive, the bureaucracy. How will the Jan Lokpal, with a bureaucracy of 20,000 vigilance officials along with scores of clerical and administration assistants, ensure that it will function differently? Will the recruits come from outer space?

Team Anna envisages a tyrannical Lokpal that will be investigator, prosecutor and judge. They are against an official being given a showcause notice and evidence against him before he is prosecuted. Does Team Anna feel that the ordinary requirements of justice should be denied to a person against whom there is a complaint?

Will the judicial officers under the Lokpal have such autocratic powers that their recommendations regarding the quantum of punishment should be accepted even by the president, who is the appointing authority of group "A" officers? Is Team Anna aware that if the disciplinary authority is perforce to accept the Lokpal's recommendation he would be guilty of "non-application of mind"? Such a system would lead to unending litigation.

How does Anna's team explain the fact that the Delhi Metro, with a staff of over 7,000, has delivered a world-class metro with only five vigilance officials on its rolls? Does Team Anna accept that the top management in every organisation is essentially the key to ensuring a clean administration and not an overpowering anti-corruption agency?

Given the federal nature of our polity and the opposition of some chief ministers to the Lokayukta, is it reasonable to expect the Central government to force the states to accept the institution of the Lokayukta, as demanded by Anna's team? Also, Team Anna wants the Lokpal to be armed with powers to tap telephones, the Internet, etc. Does the team not realise that such a draconian clause would be a breach of all privacy?

Finally, is it not ironic that once the Lokpal is set up as conceived by Team Anna, and then things get worse as is likely, there is no accountability attached to the authors? Will they then agitate for a law to dismantle the Lokpal?

I wish to share what a wise old man once said: "In our country we make outstanding laws and statutes and think we have solved the problem. In the event, our statute books will go to heaven but we will have to look for accommodation elsewhere."

The writer, a former civil servant, is secretary-general of the Lok Janshakti Party,







In this Walk the Talk on NDTV 24x7 with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, member of the National Advisory Council and RTI activist Aruna Roy talks about corruption, civil society and the need to widen the Lokpal debate.

My guest this week is someone who has been the leading light of the civil society for decades now and who has given us the most potent gift or weapon we have had so far in the fight against corruption, the Right to Information. Are you feeling a little bit bemused by what is going on?

It is a very interesting period in the history of India, because it is a challenge to our ideas, it is a challenge to what we thought, it is a challenge to the future of democracy, it is a challenge to people's voices, it is a challenge to legislative processes. And I think it is a very learning period for all of us on what to do and also what not to do.

You say 'interesting times' almost as communistly as the Chinese do. Can you elaborate a bit more on this?/

Well, actually, the fight against corruption has never left the social-political scene in this country. We have been fighting corruption in this country—small and big—forever as far as I can remember. When I was in the IAS, when I left the IAS, when I went to an NGO, then when I went to a movement, it has always been an issue. It is extremely interesting and relevant to this country.

You were in the IAS in a very illustrious batch. Many of you have become famous since—you, Wajahat Habibullah, who became the first RTI commissioner, Gopal Gandhi...

Yes. He is also a batchmate. The issue that interests me now is, we have come together and it is a great coming together. The angst has found a kind of expression, but while we say that we don't want corruption—we are all united because it is something none of us wants—the whole issue is the remedy. For Anna saab Hazare to become a point at which we all congregate to express our angst against corruption is a wonderful thing. But how do we see the process of ending corruption is where the debate begins.

Is a debate possible in this environment?

I think the debate should be possible in any environment, and I really go back to Mahatma Gandhi and to a much more tumultuous period which they all lived through, in which there was a foreign government. And even at that time, there was a debate and documents were published which we read now in the archives. Debate, I think, is essential, in political issues.

One of the most fascinating debates I have read is on the Constituent Assembly. You read that and it makes you wonder what a smart group of people we had and how libertarian and how prescient they were and how much they disagreed with each other.

Actually, they disagreed a lot. But, everything was recorded and done within the ambit of a very mature recognition of dissent. Because if I have the right to dissent, I have the obligation to listen. Unfortunately, in some of our public debates on the Lokpal Bill and also on corruption, we say we have the right to dissent but we don't have the obligation to listen. Whether it is the government which doesn't want to listen or a campaign which doesn't want to listen or any of us who don't want to listen. I think an important part of growth is the listening. I always think of Mahatma Gandhi. He travelled the length and breadth of India just to listen to people, to fashion a political discourse.

Has Anna Hazare done that, since there is a comparison with Gandhi made all the time?

Most of the discourse has been not only set by Anna, the discourse has also limited itself largely to the Lokpal Bill, which is an instrumentality and perhaps, can repair to some degree some kinds of corruption.

Or plug some holes.

Yes. But corruption for me is also arbitrary use of power. It's inequality that persists in the country—economic, social, political lack of access. They are all part of a larger system of corruption.

But one area where we might agree with the Anna group is that so far law-making in this country had not been participatory. Elected people and bureaucrats made most of the laws in the past.

Actually for me, the participatory process began in 1992-93 with the Right to Information Act because then we just fashioned a very small discourse in a panchayat, amongst our jan sunvaaiyi. Thereafter the discourse grew and the basic draft of the Act was made by Justice P B Sawant when he was the chair of the Press Council of India. In a way, he did fashion the law and his law went around and was received by legislators, sent to Parliament, to all the Chief Ministers, to the Prime Minister. But there was a huge gestation period because it went through the H D Shourie Committee and it went through various committees. It was debated on by journalists, by the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) in Chennai. In Bombay, Anna himself was party to a big debate on the Maharashtra law. So there were various laws made and through that process, the best practice evolved where I think everybody was involved.

What was your experience with parliamentary processes—Standing Committee, Parliament or MPs?

We were a part of the pre-legislative process when we made the law. Once it (RTI) went to the government, we were out. The Right to Information Act, 2005 came out of a political process. The National Common Minimum Programme brought out by UPA-I made a promise of a better RTI Act. That's how the older law passed by the NDA government was set aside and this law went and got made in a different way by the government. They revised various things that we had said and a weak law was placed in Parliament. But in the Standing Committee, we got 153 amendments made to the law.

Were these 153 amendments made by the MPs to weaken the law or were these mostly amendments made by you and others to strengthen the law? In the end, did we have a stronger law or a weaker law?

A stronger law than what was sent to Parliament and which kind of approximated the law that we had made. Though compared to our draft, there were many things that were not there. We had wanted NGOs included, political parties included, we had wanted everybody included. The government only kept itself and took us all out. That was the first weakness of the government law.

So did you get 90 per cent of your draft, 80 per cent of your draft?

I would say around 90 per cent of our draft. That's not at all bad because it went through due process.

So from where does this complete distrust and impatience of the parliamentary process come now—that the Standing Committee is nothing, Parliament is nothing, just pass this Bill?

The dissatisfaction with all processes of governance is paramount in this country. All of us are disgusted at periods of time. The question is, can we keep democracy intact without a parliamentary process? A democratic institution should be called to book to be accountable. But certain processes, I think, should remain. We should battle with those processes, make them transparent and accountable and make them people-friendly.

But do you have some sympathy for this impatience with the parliamentary process and the government? The impatience that says: 'They only intend to cheat us. Now, we have a bhramastraa in Anna Hazare. Be reasonable, do it his way'.

I completely understand the impatience. All of us sympathise with it. All of us get possessed by impatience but there are certain things we have to be cautious about. One is, how many of us have read the law that has been set up as the Jan Lokpal Bill? What is it in the Jan Lokpal Bill which will perpetuate the system we are fighting and how much of it will combat the system we are fighting are things which must be seriously considered. And there, if differences occur, they must be patiently heard. We can't become offensive and completely dismissive of other opinions.

So if you are not with me, you are with the corrupt or with the corporates...

Or with somebody else but actually it has been very funny. The government tells the campaign that if they oppose the law it's because they are with the Americans or for foreign money or whatever. The campaign tells us if we do not agree with the formulation they make, then we are with the government or with corruption or we are traitors or whatever else it may be.

In the very beginning you said these were 'interesting times'. So a lot of what we take for granted is currently on test or under pressure?

Some of the things we take for granted is on test. One is that I always believed that civil society formations would be very liberal formations. That it would allow for differences, negotiating spaces, a genuine desire to listen and change. Because if you don't change, then that listening becomes a formal exercise just as the government does very often. Calls us to various hearings, just listens to us, does precisely what it wants.

Do you find this under some stress now—this whole openness about the debate, flexibility about moving back and forth or front and back?

Two red herrings have come out of this debate. One is that if you are part of civil society, then you have no right to a different opinion because you break ranks. But we feel that civil society is a very large area. So from Mr Ambani to the peasant, we are all civil society.

Civil society is not one ideological army?

It cannot be.

Because civil society ranges from pro-Naxalite groups to pro-RSS groups.

True. That's where this Lokpal is seen by many of us as also a big debate on centralisation versus de-centralisation. The Jan Lokpal Bill is a very centralised bill.

Also explain the concept of five Lokpals—the baskets.

What we did think was, first of all, if it is a very large formation, we are fighting against bureaucratic diseases of corruption, delay, of various other things. Just those seven years in the IAS have led me to believe that if in fact we do have a large bureaucratic structure, the largeness of it by itself becomes an issue of corruption and accountability becomes a problem. It will carry the same diseases of the large government structure.

Since I studied biology, I can say because it will be cloned from the same tissue.

Yes, because where are we getting it from otherwise? We don't have any other tissue in India. The same kind of people, same kind of system will come. So, we are saying divide it into four plus one. We are saying separate corruption—high-level corruption, including the PM, the Cabinet is one.

But not judiciary in your case?

Yes, including judiciary. We bring them also under scrutiny. But we are saying keep them separate because, many of the senior judges like Justice Venkatachaliah, Justice Verma and many other honest judges have argued and we are somewhat convinced by their arguments.

And these judges are the ones who made the Supreme Court what it is, made the Election Commission what it is?

That is right. They say that independence is of absolute importance to the health of Indian democracy. So the independence of judiciary is absolutely crucial. If the makers of the Constitution felt that there should be separation, I believe that they really toiled hard to look at systems all over the world. Some of these systems don't change with modernisation or whatever else. So just as audits and accounts are always separated, you have to have separate systems for all this. You have to have oversight. The circularity of oversight—like the Jan Lokpal Bill will look at the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court will look at the Jan Lokpal Bill—might lead to a collusion. So we suggested that there must be a special judicial accountability.

So it's like you scratch my back, I scratch yours or you guard my back, I guard yours.

So with that in mind, we suggested that the Judicial Accountability and Standards Bill, which is already there in Parliament, should be strengthened. All of us are unhappy with it. We are unhappy with the Judicial Accountability and Standards Bill, so the government will have to revisit the Bill, which is already in Parliament, revisit also the CVC Bill which will look at bureaucratic corruption. Remove certain things but these are existing institutions and the Lokpal will be a high-level Lokpal. You know, none of us can comprehend virtual corruption, treaties across the world, pay-off systems, external banks. Everything is in a different world. For that you need a very sharp, focused, special set of people who will catch that. Grievances must be separate. (There are) million grievances in our country. Even today if I go and sit in a meeting anywhere, the first thing is "hamari arzii le lijiye", Toh arzii toh bahut hoti hain. Grievances must be separate.

If I understand you correctly, you see the danger that the fight against corruption will get overwhelmed by grievances?

Grievances will just bring it down...and it is also a bottom-up process because grievances have to be settled where people are.

Before I let you go, tell me a couple of things that you will say to your friends from civil society. And what will you tell the government which has taken many mis-steps?

I would say to the government that think before you act. I haven't seen a set of more thoughtless acts than what the government has done—absolutely thoughtless, mindless acts. Having said that, I would say to my civil society friends that we always quote the Buddha, we quote Gandhiji that compassion and tolerance have been the ideals of India. We really need to understand that difference has to be tolerated. If I want dissent, I must listen to dissent.

You have been called many things, starting with jholawallah but one thing you were called was traitor.

It is a new apparatus. It's interesting again to recall the traitor. I'll have to go see the dictionary to see what is a traitor. Traitor to an ideology, traitor to the country? I have never been a traitor to my own principles.

If I may so, our paper is one of the strongest critics of the NAC in so many things. At the same time, we have communicated with you all the time and so have you.

But, the interesting thing is that I believe I have multiple roles and multiple labels. The NAC is two days in a month. Rest of the time, I am a citizen of India, an activist. I am so many things and even in the NAC, I agree with some of the issues that you have raised. The NAC needs to be put into theoretical framework. Today, it is a part of the pre-legislative process but it has never claimed to be a part of it.

Even if we disagree with you on many things, we know that you are amongst people who guarantee our freedom, safeguard our freedoms along with so many millions of others. It has been such privilege that you found time for us. Thank you very much.

Transcribed by Chaitanya Gudipaty






Government officials who've once again begun talking of a 9% growth, for the next Plan period, would do well to take a look at RBI's latest Annual Report where it details the dramatic fall in the financial savings rates of Indian households. These fell from a high of 12.1% in 2009-10 to 9.7% in 2010-11, a level just a bit higher than the 9.6% seen way back in 1997-98—by and large, India's growth trend can be correlated with the rise and fall in savings, though foreign flows like FDI can made a difference if they are sufficiently large. That financial savings would dip in 2010-11 was pretty obvious, given the high level of inflation. Whether things will turn around this year depends on how inflation fares. If it continues to rise, financial savings may once again bear the brunt.

The shift in composition of savings also has interesting consequences. The share of commercial deposits in household financial savings was about 61% in 2008-09 and fell to 47% by 2010-11; investments in shares and debentures, which rose to 4.6% in 2009-10, went to negative territory in 2010-11, meaning that people sold more shares and debentures than they bought or that the fall in the sensex was a factor. The share of life insurance in total savings has gone up from 16.1% in 2004-05 to almost a quarter (24.2%) in 2010-11, an obvious aberration in a middle-income developing country like India. But perhaps it has more to do with the extraordinary boom of Ulips during the period and the non availability of appropriate saving instruments to the vast majority of the population.

While the fall in the share of financial savings that are being channelised towards stock markets, and the overall decline in financial savings doesn't bode well for higher economic growth—theoretically, productivity hikes can negate the impact of financial savings, but such hikes don't happen so quickly—there is still some hope since India can still attract foreign savings. Easier ECB norms and quick decision-taking with respect to FDI in critical sectors such as insurance and retail could just be the panacea in these times when domestic savings are under pressure. Getting in more foreign funds may now become a necessity instead of just a preferred option.





India needs to add another 25,000-30,000 colleges, roughly the number it has right now, if it wants to increase the proportion of college-going kids from around 13% right now to the Chinese level of around 25%. The fact that China has managed a scorching GDP growth rate for so many decades and India is spluttering after less than a decade of high growth is testimony to just how badly India needs to increase its college-going population. Does the government have the funds, and managerial capability, to do in the next decade what has been achieved in the last 65? Clearly not. Theoretically, the private sector can step in, but can it under the current set of laws?

This is where the Planning Commission's approach paper for education in the 12th Five Year Plan comes in. According to a newspaper report, the approach paper suggests the government re-examine allowing of for-profit educational institutions. This has been talked of in the past, and shot down by educationists who argue that for-profit education is nowhere as good as not-for-profit education. They're probably right, even though the fact that the only IIT which was on the list of the world's top 500 universities has just slipped off it is hardly a great testimonial for what government funding can achieve. A good example to cite in this context is that of the for-profit University of Phoenix in the US and the not-for-profit Harvard. No one even thinks of the University of Phoenix when it comes to top-quality education, but it has 200 campuses and nearly 5 lakh students versus just one Harvard after 375 years that has a total of 21,000 students. And yes, universities like Harvard and MIT have operating budgets of around $2bn a year.

It is true private education in India, even though it is not-for-profit, has been expanding dramatically. But the not-for-profit status has to be taken with a pinch of salt—many institutions have devised under-the-carpet ways for taking back the profits. To be sure, there will be, and there should be, genuine philanthropists who will set up colleges, but finding them in sufficiently large numbers is not easy—in any case, having for-profit colleges doesn't mean India cannot have not-for-profit colleges. Since India's biggest challenge right now is to get scale, this requires the large sums of money that stock markets will find it easy to give—even PE investors who are getting in to fund private colleges and universities right now, are doing so keeping in mind an eventual exit route through listing. Once for-profit education is allowed, this will drive down borrowing costs and make raising money easier—along with the attendant benefits of greater transparency that listing always brings.





Perhaps Ben Bernanke has been reading the Financial Times. Last week Professor Michael Woodford of Columbia University and Mohamed El-Erian of Pimco wrote columns for the paper urging the US Federal Reserve chairman, in his keenly awaited speech at the Jackson Hole conference, not to propose a third phase of asset purchases—so-called quantitative easing. Mr Bernanke did as they advised (in that respect). On Friday, at the annual central bankers' gathering in Wyoming, he said the Fed would keep its options open but he made no case for QE3.

This is a pity. I suspect Mr Bernanke agrees. Revised figures show the sluggish US recovery has been even slower than previously believed, and this calls for fresh monetary stimulus. The trouble is, Mr Bernanke would have to convince dissenting members of the Fed's policymaking committee. In the face of gathering political resistance, he would also have to explain the policy to the country—difficult under the Fed's present terms of engagement.

Why did the FT's esteemed sceptics oppose further QE? Prof Woodford put two main objections. He believes that, first, done on a modest scale, QE3 would do little to stimulate demand; and, second, it could do more harm than good by letting the Fed "sidestep calls for greater clarity on its future policy targets".

The answer to the first point is easy: undertake further QE on an immodest scale. The answer to the second is easy, too: last week we got neither QE3 nor further clarification of Fed policy. Prof Woodford is right to emphasise the stabilising power of a clear policy framework. But IS it really better to have nothing at all than QE3 by itself—bearing in mind that, on Prof Woodford's own analysis, episodes of QE convey information about the Fed's aims?

It would be best if the Fed could be explicit about its reasoning. Unfortunately the unannounced inflation target that is said to guide the Fed's actions does not easily justify the required new stimulus. The central bank needs a different rationale for its actions. Prof Woodford advocates a price-level target. I prefer a nominal gross domestic product target, for reasons I explained a fortnight ago. At the moment, these point the same way.

But Prof Woodford has the politics of this upside down. Far from letting the Fed sidestep, QE3 would exert pressure on it to change its goals and say so. This, of course, is what makes QE3 so awkward.

Asset purchases are embarrassing to the central bank in their own right, but not as embarrassing as explaining that a temporary rise in inflation is now Fed policy. (A price-level target and a nominal-GDP target each has this implication.) Ideally, the Fed would grit its teeth and do both: adopt the right target, and use the best available instrument to hit it. But until a new framework dares to speak its name—which may be never—QE3 without the story to back it up is better than no stimulus at all.

Mr El-Erian, chief executive of one of the world's largest bond investors, objects on different grounds. Compared with a year ago, the Fed has less freedom of manoeuvre, he says—inflation is higher, structural impediments to job creation are greater, the external environment is worse, the Fed itself is coming under attack, and financial markets are "less sensitive to Fed shock therapy". Any given dose of QE, in other words, will have less effect.

When a treatment becomes less effective, you might switch to an alternative; if there is no alternative, you increase the dose. Certainly if inflation—in particular, medium-term inflation expectations—had risen significantly, that would weigh against further QE. The Fed sees no sign of it. "We expect inflation to settle, over coming quarters, at levels at or below the rate of 2 per cent, or a bit less, that most [members of the Fed's policymaking committee] view as being consistent with our dual mandate"—promoting stable inflation and maximum employment—said the chairman in Jackson Hole.

If, in referring to "structural impediments", Mr El-Erian meant long-term growth prospects were dimmed, he would again have a point, since that too would suggest caution in the use of QE. (A permanently impaired economy would imply a lower target for aggregate demand.) But since spring 2009, the Fed's estimate of long-term growth in US output has not fallen: it was 2.5-2.7 per cent two years ago, and 2.5-2.8 per cent this summer.

Mr El-Erian is right that there are temporary impediments to the recovery, in the housing market for instance, and these should be separately addressed. However, Mr Bernanke is equally right to say that, if high unemployment persists, longer-lasting damage and lower long-term growth will follow. This argues, contrary to Mr El-Erian, for greater zeal in supporting a cyclical recovery, not less.

Mr El-Erian called on Mr Bernanke to "reframe the national policy debate" and serve as "the warm-up act for President [Barack] Obama's critical speech on the economy next month". The chairman did his best. He emphasised the need for better fiscal policy—short-term caution in curbing deficits, long-term tax and spending reform, better incentives for work, saving, capital accumulation and so on—just as on countless previous occasions.

Quantitative easing is a policy with "questionable net benefits", says Mr El-Erian. The net benefits of having Mr Bernanke instead lecture Congress and warm up the crowd for Mr Obama, I agree, are not questionable. One can say with full confidence that they are zero.





The right to recall elected representatives and the right to reject election candidates figured among the various issues mentioned by Anna Hazare and his group at Ramlila Maidan. Some of the important pros and cons of both suggestions are discussed below.

Right to Recall

The right to recall means that the electorate can ask for their representative to be removed and fresh elections held. Some states such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar have processes to recall corporators. However, these states have restrictive conditions. In Chhattisgarh, the process can be initiated only after three-fourths of fellow councillors ask for a recall election. In Bihar, two-thirds of the registered voters of a constituency have to sign a petition.

The argument for a recall system is as follows. During elections, a candidate is elected to represent the people in his constituency. There is no system for the people to hold the representative accountable during the term of office. The recall system provides an opportunity to do so.

There can be several arguments against the recall system. First, the recall system may deter policy decisions that provide positive results over a medium- to long-term horizon. Having the leeway of a longer term permits representatives to take a long-term view without the fear of being recalled. Indeed, many governments take tough decisions in their first couple of years. An analogy in the corporate sector would be the focus on quarterly results impeding long-term shareholder value.

Second, the recall can work for a person with a very specific role. For example, a corporator is a directly elected executive position, and has a defined role in ensuring delivery of services. The role of an MP or an MLA is much broader. They are part of a larger body with the primary role of making laws and holding the central and state governments accountable. It is difficult to set clear performance targets and hold them accountable.

That said, there can be some ways for the electorate to judge whether their MP or MLA represented their interests. That leads us to the third set of problems due to our current systems. Most votes in our Parliament and state assemblies are voice votes. There is no record of how an individual MP or MLA voted, or even whether he was present in the House at the time of voting. A mechanism that requires votes to be recorded can provide information to the electorate on the voting pattern of their representative. Even in that case, the MP (or MLA) may justify his vote as a response to the party whip and the anti-defection law. It is necessary to revoke the anti-defection law (except for the confidence vote) and for parties to use the whip sparingly before any MP or MLA can be held accountable for their votes in the house.

In sum, the right to recall may be workable for the directly elected executive posts, but is difficult to implement for a legislative role. Even in the former case, there has to be a sufficiently high threshold to provide stability to the representative. For example, in the Bihar case, two-thirds of the electorate has to sign a petition; this is as large as the typical turnout in an election.

Right to Reject

The right to reject proposal stems from the fact that the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system allows a candidate with a minority of votes to win the election. This happens frequently in areas where there are three or four significant political parties. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, only 120 of the 543 winning candidates got more than 50% of the votes in their constituency. The FPTP system also gives a disproportionate share of seats to the larger parties. For example, in the 2009 elections, the Congress won 38% of seats with 29% share of votes, while the BJP got 21% of seats with 19% of votes and the BSP 4% of seats with 6% of votes.

It is not easy to design a 'fairer' system. The proportional representation system allots seats to parties based on their overall vote share. However, in the absence of geographical constituencies, this system breaks the link between the MP and the electorate. It also strengthens the power of the party leaderships with respect to their members. The legislatures of some countries such as Germany and Scotland have a combination of members elected by the FPTP system, and those by a proportional representation system. The British Parliament had recently proposed another system called the 'alternative vote', which ensures that the elected candidate is among the higher preferences of the majority of voters. Individual candidates contest geographically defined constituencies. Voters fill up a list of candidates in their order of preference. If no candidate gets 50% of the first preference votes, the second preference votes are counted, and so on, until a candidate has a majority. This system has the disadvantage of being complicated. Incidentally, in a referendum in May, the British voters rejected this proposal.

The simplest 'right to reject' system would ask for a fresh round of election if no candidate gets a majority of votes. In the absence of a limit for repeating this process, some constituencies may never get a representative.

A more practical, though expensive, method would be a run-off between the top two candidates. Other systems such as the alternative voting method and the proportional representation method are also worth public debate.

The author works with PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi







Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China, isn't a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that's too bad, because Mr. Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the G.O.P. — namely, that it is becoming the "anti-science party." This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us.

To see what Mr. Huntsman means, consider recent statements by the two men who actually are serious contenders for the G.O.P. nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

Mr. Perry, the Governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as "just a theory," one that has "got some gaps in it" — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got peoples' attention was what he said about climate change: "I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change."

That's a remarkable statement — or maybe the right adjective is "vile."

The second part of Mr. Perry's statement is, as it happens, just false: the scientific consensus about man-made global warming — which includes 97 per cent to 98 per cent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences — is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.

In fact, if you follow climate science at all, you know that the main development over the past few years has been growing concern that projections of future climate are underestimating the likely amount of warming. Warnings that we may face civilization-threatening temperature change by the end of the century, once considered outlandish, are now coming out of mainstream research groups.

But never mind that, Mr. Perry suggests; those scientists are just in it for the money, "manipulating data" to create a fake threat. In his book " Fed Up ," he dismissed climate science as a "contrived phony mess that is falling apart."

I could point out that Mr. Perry is buying into a truly crazy conspiracy theory, which asserts that thousands of scientists all around the world are on the take, with not one willing to break the code of silence. I could also point out that multiple investigations into charges of intellectual malpractice on the part of climate scientists have ended up exonerating the accused researchers of all accusations. But never mind: Mr. Perry and those who think like him know what they want to believe, and their response to anyone who contradicts them is to start a witch hunt.

So how has Mr. Romney, the other leading contender for the G.O.P. nomination, responded to Mr. Perry's challenge? In trademark fashion: By running away. In the past, Mr. Romney, a former Governor of Massachusetts, has strongly endorsed the notion that man-made climate change is a real concern. But, last week, he softened that to a statement that he thinks the world is getting hotter, but "I don't know that" and "I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans." Moral courage!

Of course, we know what's motivating Mr. Romney's sudden lack of conviction. According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 per cent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 per cent believe in evolution). Within the G.O.P., wilful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates, one that Mr. Romney is determined to pass at all costs.

So it's now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party's base wants him to believe.

And the deepening anti-intellectualism of the political right, both within and beyond the G.O.P., extends far beyond the issue of climate change.

Lately, for example, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page has gone beyond its long-term preference for the economic ideas of "charlatans and cranks" — as one of former President George W. Bush's chief economic advisers famously put it — to a general denigration of hard thinking about matters economic. Pay no attention to "fancy theories" that conflict with "common sense," the Journal tells us. Because why should anyone imagine that you need more than gut feelings to analyse things like financial crises and recessions?

Now, we don't know who will win next year's presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world's greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that's a terrifying prospect. — © New York Times News Service

The deepening anti-intellectualism of the political right extends far beyond the issue of climate change.





When New Zealand's homegrown news agency transmits its last story on Wednesday, August 31, it will mark the end of a 132-year-old institution that has helped shape the identity of this remote nation.

The New Zealand Press Association (NZPA) is a victim of changing technology and media consolidation.

Two Australian media empires have bought up most of New Zealand's newspapers, and the papers in each chain share stories with each other, reducing their need for an outside news service.

News agencies such as NZPA typically sell their news services to newspapers, broadcasters and online providers rather directly to readers. Like other such agencies, NZPA has tried to adapt in recent years by seeking new broadcast and online customers outside of its traditional base of the newspaper chains, which are also the agency's main owners under a cooperative model.

But in the end, the agency was simply squeezed out. "It's a tough thing when any news agency disappears," said Bill Mitchell, the leader of entrepreneurial and international programmes at the Poynter Institute for journalism in St. Petersburg, Florida. "It means there's one less voice in providing a range of coverage."

In its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, NZPA employed dozens of journalists, including correspondents in London, Sydney, Hong Kong and Washington D.C. New Zealand newspapers also filed stories of national interest to the agency, which would then distribute them to other papers. Author and historian Ron Palenski, who worked for the agency until 1984, said its stories helped establish New Zealand's identity by bringing common concerns to people across the sparsely populated country of four million people.

Some see the move as yet another example of the increasing control that Australian companies are exerting over New Zealand business. — AP






Sri Lanka's decision to lift the Emergency regulations, as announced by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament last week, is a step towards creating a positive environment for national reconciliation. The regulations rode on powers granted to government under the 1947 Public Security Ordinance. They have remained almost continuously in force since the 1971 Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna insurgency in southern Sri Lanka, through the years of the armed Tamil militancy in the North and the East. But there was never any real justification for retaining them after the LTTE's military defeat in 2009. The broad sweep and vague language of the regulations struck fear among the Tamil minority, and curtailed the freedoms of all Sri Lankans. Over the years, and especially after the LTTE's assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in 2005 until the end of the war, the government introduced a welter of overlapping regulations arming security personnel with wide and arbitrary powers to search, detain, and arrest people for "terrorism," which itself was not clearly defined. Draconian in their scope, the regulations undermined the freedom of speech, expression, and movement. The monthly approval needed from Parliament for their extension was an insufficient cover. With the immunity they provided to officials, the instances of misuse were many, especially in the Tamil-dominated areas of Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan government must clarify how it proposes to deal with the people — their numbers are unclear — still detained under the Emergency laws. It also remains to be seen how Sri Lanka will now use the Prevention of Terrorism Act, a law so severe that it more than mirrors the Emergency regulations in its scope and powers; the two were implemented simultaneously or interchangeably. Without losing any momentum, the Sri Lankan polity must now quickly move towards setting up the political framework to address the Tamil question — the just solution to which is wide-ranging devolution of powers within a united Sri Lanka. The 13th Amendment provides a decent start but, as the whole world knows, Tamil aspirations go beyond this. It is certainly time to concretise the 'plus' in the 13th Amendment-plus to which President Rajapaksa committed his government before the LTTE was eliminated as a military entity. In shaping an enduring political solution, the role of the Tamil National Alliance, which decisively won the recent local bodies elections in the North, is crucial. Thus far it has fallen woefully short of articulating a clear vision of a constitutional solution. It is time it steps up to the task.




More than two decades after the first shots of the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir were fired, the bodies of the men whom the fighting claimed could help build the foundations for the restoration of the rule of law. Earlier this month, investigators working for the State's Human Rights Commission reported that 2,730 unidentified people lie in unmarked graves strung along the Line of Control — people the Indian Army and State police claim were terrorists infiltrating across the LoC. That unidentified people alleged to be terrorists lie buried in makeshift graveyards across the State isn't a revelation: indeed, this newspaper has reported the existence of sites that have not so far been documented by investigators. The Army says it has no means of knowing who a terrorist crossing the LoC might be; Pakistan-based jihadist groups, in their own literature, admit to having sent hundreds of Kashmiri jihadists to their deaths. Nor is there evidence that the bodies were buried in a clandestine manner. The J&K Police have already established the identities of 574 of those buried, and another 17 bodies have been exhumed and laid to rest by next-of-kin. Each killing appears to have been recorded in a First Information Report, as required by law. Damningly, however, the post-mortems carried out on those killed were slapdash in the extreme, which means a number of the dead might have been victims of extrajudicial execution.

The debate over the unidentified victims now threatens to turn into an unproductive polemical exchange between human rights groups and the government. But name-calling will do little service to those at the centre of the debate: the hundreds of families whose loved ones have been missing for years. There are concrete things that should be done to give these families a sense of closure and justice. DNA samples could be taken from the bodies of the dead and matched against results from the families of missing persons. Forensic pathologists could re-examine the bodies where there is reason to suspect extrajudicial execution. Such a project would demand considerable resources and also take time: for homicide investigation, police forces face routine waits of over six months for DNA results from the country's overburdened laboratories. But going about this task honestly and thoroughly is important. Models exist for such a project. The United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation, for example, maintains a database that can match DNA from unidentified bodies with the profiles of the relatives of missing persons. In New Delhi and Srinagar, governments and rights activists need to stop scoring debating points, and focus instead on concrete solutions based on humanity and justice.




On January 25, 2011 the Egyptian people demonstrating in "Tahrir Square" managed peacefully, after 18 days, to bring to an end the Mubarak regime that had remained in power for 30 years.

It is almost six months since that day as breathtaking changes have been taking place since then. These changes are being closely watched by the whole world, including India, where, most recently, a number of articles have been published in prestigious newspapers on the increasing influence of Salafis in Egyptian society.

It is worth mentioning that when Egyptians took to the streets to bring an end to the Mubarak regime, they wanted to establish their "Second Republic" with an inclusive democracy, where no political parties or movements be left out or work from behind the scenes. They also aspired to ensure social equality and to fight corruption.

To achieve those aspirations, the Supreme Military Council, that runs the country together with a transitional civil government, worked out a plan to prepare Egyptians for free and fair elections on November 18, three months hence, which will be the first phase of handing over part of the authority, currently being held by the Military Council, to a civilian elected government.

A road map has been agreed on for electing a constitutional society to draft a new constitution for the country. It is to be adopted by a referendum, immediately after the Parliamentary elections, which is going to be the basis for the presidential elections, aiming at the election of a new president to assume his responsibilities, thus allowing the military to go back to its barracks.

Among recent developments, the Egyptian courts have ruled on a number of cases, most important of which is dissolving the National Democratic Party and the State Security Police. Trials are being conducted of the ex-President, his family members and a number of former ministers and officials of the regime on charges of corrupting political life. Draft laws on the full independence of the judiciary and the media are in the making. A new election law, while already enacted, is still under national debate.

Reinvigorating the economy, bringing back tourism levels to previous figures of 16 million in 2010, creating job opportunities and promoting foreign direct investment are top priorities in the coming phase.

The Supreme Military Council and the Egyptian government have reiterated Egypt's position in honouring its regional and international agreements and treaties. While condemning violations of human rights and attacks on civilians, Egypt reiterated its refusal of foreign intervention and respect of the sovereignty of states. Egypt equally expects from the international community to respect its national laws governing the finance of registered NGOs and non-interference in its affairs when it relates to a consensus decision by Egyptians for the establishment of an inclusive democratic system. Unscrupulous comments on the reasons behind selecting a cabinet minister or a governor should be avoided. The coming elections and the ballot box will judge the levels of popularity of political parties and movements in the country. Though political life was weak in Egypt over the last few decades, Egyptians have been following global movements, and contributing in their own way to human development. Just to mention that over the last 40 years, four Egyptians have won the Nobel Prize, one for Physics, another for Literature and two for Peace.

We, Egyptians, are cognisant that the road ahead is not easy and full of challenges, but we also know that our great history and a promising future will keep going on the path we have chosen for ourselves — a Gandhian peaceful way — to achieve our goals and usher in a new era of prosperity, hopefully setting an example for others to follow.

Khaled El Bakly,

Ambassador of Egypt





"The moment that the Libyan rebels entered the Qadhafi compound was astonishing: and it was also slightly eerie. You could see bullets, but no faces. And to me this was symbolic of the Qadhafi regime, of how it has surrounded itself with appearances, and stories.

"This week has been like that moment when you surface from a nightmare and realise that though the nightmare-image is terrifying, it is also incredibly fragile." Such was the description of recent events in Libya by one of the country's leading novelists, Hisham Matar, whose cousin Izz al Arab Matar, a member of the rebel front, was shot dead in Qadhafi's compound on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Edinburgh international book festival, Matar said: "For the first time in our history the idea of democracy is a real, tangible idea, not a fairy tale. Revolutions aren't about negative objectives, about simply getting rid of people. They are about discovering who we are; and what it means to be Libyans."

Matar's family was exiled from Libya after his father, Jaballa Matar, was branded a dissident in the 1970s. Jaballa Matar was abducted by Egyptian agents in 1990, and later brought back to Libya's Abu Salim jail, an event Matar fictionalised in his novel " Anatomy of a Disappearance ." Matar declined to talk to the Edinburgh audience about whether he believed his father was dead or alive.

Any sense of Libyan identity and narrative, he said, had been hijacked by the "nightmare" of the Qadhafi regime; in fact it had been the programme of the dictatorship to capture and corrupt even the minutest details of individuals' stories.

"One of the objects of dictatorship is to create a narrative that defines what it means to be in the present and what the future might look like; in fact it even tries to rewrite history. Dictators are involved in the same thing as novelists: they are involved in narrative," he said.

"The difference is that novelists are interested in narratives that mirror life, narratives that express conflicting empathies, that express the contradictions of what it means to be human, that express emotions, psychology.

"Dictators, on the other hand, write bad novels that are intolerant of change, that are simple-minded. And they do that by entering the most private aspects of our lives, by trying to affect even how people love one another, how people read, think about the future, about their children's education." Where the events in Libya and countries such as Tunisia and Egypt might lead is uncertain, the writer acknowledged. "Islamism," Matar said, "is a very important element of daily life, and part of our heritage ... resistance has to find a language, and the Muslim language is a very compelling, powerful and effective language for many people. I would be very surprised if the Muslim element doesn't form part of the eventual Libyan government." Every aspect of the revolution, he said, has been astonishing. "It seems almost miraculous what has taken place. That you have a deceitful, limitless violence inflicted on a civilian population, and that civilian population has continued to make extra sacrifices and remain articulate and hopeful is astonishing. It is a holy moment. There is something sacred in it." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

He tells the Edinburgh international book festival that for the first time in Libya's history, 'the idea of democracy is a real, tangible idea, not a fairy tale.'





The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, will be in Dhaka on September 6, as part of a two-day official visit to Bangladesh, to cement the historic ties that were initiated by his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, during her visit to New Delhi in January 2010.

It would perhaps be no exaggeration to say that the two countries, with a few hundred kilometres of common border, have embarked on a new journey to rejuvenate their ties — as was seen when India, under Indira Gandhi, extended unequivocal support to Bangladesh's independence.

The official mood in Dhaka over Dr. Singh's visit is positive. Senior Cabinet colleagues of Sheikh Hasina, including her top advisers, hope the visit will yield tangible results, resolving most of the outstanding issues that have remained unresolved for decades.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, main Opposition, traditionally opposed to India-related issues and, now, the recently signed deals with India, including the agreement on transit, has welcomed Dr. Singh's visit too. However, the party and its fundamentalist allies have kept the door open for cynicism. The BNP's position was made known by the former Prime Minister and party chairperson, Khaleda Zia, who demanded that all deals, including those on transit and water-sharing, be made public first.

It is true that many would not like to accept that India and Bangladesh share a relationship based on their common culture, heritage and history. But the general thinking across Bangladesh is that the relationship should see a realistic transformation, to breathe hope into millions in the impoverished country.

Following Sheikh Hasina's visit to New Delhi some 18 months ago, the two countries have witnessed a paradigm shift in their relations. The essence of the new awakening, as all right-thinking people know, is to promote peaceful coexistence and achieve a shared progress. A section of politicians may not agree with this, but the reality that the two countries share a geographical proximity of 4,156 km, cultural and historic bonding and must, therefore, go for greater economic and social interaction for mutual benefit cannot be wished away. Therefore, it is time to go for a peace offensive — both in terms of people's interaction and economic transaction to help integrate the economies and provide larger markets to each other. A strong political will to translate these moves into action is also imperative.

A negative attitude towards neighbours has always proved counterproductive. However, the general perception in Bangladesh is that, as a big economy and the world's largest democracy, India should be more generous towards its neighbour which is a weak economy and a fragile democracy. The overwhelming majority see Dr. Singh's visit as a historic opportunity to rebuild a relationship that could be a model for other South Asian countries.

The two countries have some long-pending issues that need to be resolved. There is a strong indication that the crucial issues of water-sharing from rivers Teesta and Feni, lands in adverse possession and the problem of enclaves, including the demarcation of 6.5 km of land boundary, will be settled. The two countries, for the first time after 1947, recently signed the boundary strip maps to settle disputes along the border. The cross-border trade has got a boost with the opening of new land ports and building of a new immigration building and truck terminal at India's Petrapole port bordering West Bengal.

Effective steps have also been taken to reduce the huge gaps in bilateral trade. Trade and investment have increased substantially. India has decided to invest more in Bangladesh while the Bangladeshi entrepreneurs, too, are keen on investing in India.

For the first time after 1947, the two countries, during Dr. Singh's visit, may decide the fate of 111 Indian and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves, where people have been living virtually as non-state citizens for decades. The opening of 'Border Haats' is another pragmatic step that will benefit the poor along the borders. There is a strong indication that Dr. Singh will announce a 24-hour access to inhabitants of Bangladesh's Dahagram and Angorpota enclaves, fulfilling the Indira-Mujib land boundary agreement of 1974.

Transit, not corridor, for India is essentially an economic issue. However, thanks to a section of politicians and their backers, the issue has assumed a political dimension. But the country's business communities, independent think tanks and civil society are strongly of the view that initiating a regional connectivity through transit would be a landmark step which will not only demonstrate good neighbourliness but also improve the livelihood of millions.

An eminent South Asian expert, Gowher Rizvi, also the International Affairs Adviser to Sheikh Hasina, explains that a transit between the two countries will require no new agreement as the facility has existed since 1947. Interrupted by the 1965 India-Pakistan war, the transit resumed through the Indira-Mujib treaty, he asserts. The two countries now need to sign a protocol for its operation. While rail and waterways are the first priority for transit, Bangladesh will have to develop its roads to open up the land transit, and also determine a fee for the facility. On the other hand, the transit is not bilateral — it is a regional arrangement involving India, Nepal and Bhutan.

India and Bangladesh have witnessed a flurry of high-profile visits in recent months. Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon visited Dhaka, while New Delhi received Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, Mr. Rizvi and Economic Affairs Adviser Masihur Rahman. They talked mainly about the implementation of the 51-point joint communiqué, regarded as Magna Carta by both sides, issued during Sheikh Hasina's visit in 2010.

During Dr. Singh's visit, the two countries are set to sign a framework agreement on a number of issues, including water-sharing, trade, investment, culture and education. The implementation of projects under the $1 billion LOC from India, to be spent mainly on roads and the railway sector, are of high priority. The cooperation in the power sector, including grid connectivity, supply of up to 500 MW of power from India, including 250 MW at a preferential rate, and Bangladesh's request to set up a high technology joint venture thermal power plant of 1320 MW capacity, is also progressing well.

Besides allowing India's Over Dimensional Cargos (ODCs) to move through the country to Tripura to set up a power plant there, Bangladesh has taken a very strong position against India's northeast insurgents. As a lower riparian country, Bangladesh has asked for a water-sharing deal that covers all 54 common rivers. Therefore, to make Dr. Singh's visit a watershed in bilateral relations, many observers hope, the Indian Prime Minister will make substantial announcements.

The history of the divided subcontinent has been a history of distrust and suspicion. 1971 was an exception, and it lasted only a few years — till 1975 — when Bangladesh's founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated. Therefore, a bold but realistic approach from both sides is expected for the durability of the measures.

One of the major issues that have caused immense ill-will is the killing of Bangladesh citizens by the BSF. New Delhi recently gave strict orders against any further civilian deaths along the border. If this position is maintained strictly, it will have a positive impact. Barring exceptions, the reality is that a majority of cross-border intruders are the abject poor who deserve a humanitarian approach.

Dr. Singh's will be a bilateral visit to Bangladesh in 12 years since Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to Dhaka to inaugurate the Dhaka-Kolkata bus service in 1999. West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu accompanied Mr. Vajpayee. Dr. Singh will be accompanied by Chief Ministers of five States bordering Bangladesh, including Mamata Banerjee. The Manmohan-Hasina summit, close observers say, has all the potential to infuse a fresh dynamism into the multi-faceted and multi-dimensional relationship.

South Asia has been a tense region since the Partition of India. The prolonged Kashmir dispute has had an adverse impact. The war in Afghanistan and the growing instability in Pakistan make the region more volatile. Therefore, moves to bring people closer need to be welcomed. India and Bangladesh cannot afford to miss the historic opportunity to be part of a new future.

(The writer is a Bangladeshi author and journalist. His email:

Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka has the potential to infuse fresh dynamism into the multi-faceted relationship between India and Bangladesh.






Libya's priceless historical heritage is in danger of being destroyed in the same way Iraq's cultural riches perished during the United States invasion, a Russian expert on West Asia has warned.

Nikolai Sologubovsky, Orientalist, writer and film-maker, said massive looting and destruction of ancient artefacts was underway in Libya.

Being shipped to Europe

"The al-Jamahiriya National Museum in Tripoli has been looted and antiquities are being shipped out by sea to Europe," the scholar told Russian television.

The National Museum houses some of Libya's most treasured archaeological and historical heritage. The collection includes invaluable samples of Neolithic, prehistoric, Berber, Garamantian, Phoenician, Punic, Greek, Roman and Byzantine culture.

Mr. Sologubovsky, who studied Libya's archeological sites and spent several months in Libya this year as a correspondent for a Moscow tabloid, said cave paintings in the Acacus Mountains that go back 14,000 years were being destroyed by looters.

"They press silk cloth soaked in special chemical solution against rock frescoes and the paint sticks to the cloth and comes off the cave wall," he said.

NATO bombing

The scholar accused NATO forces of destroying some of Libya's most spectacular architectural sites.

"NATO aircraft have bombed Leptis Magna and Sabratha under the pretext that Qadhafi forces were hiding weapons there," said Mr. Sologobovsky, who is deputy head of a Russian committee of solidarity with the people of Libya and Syria set up earlier this year.

Leptis Magna was one of the most beautiful cities of the Roman Empire and Sabratha was a Phoenician trading post. Both are more than 2,500 years old, and are on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Following their bombing by NATO aircraft on August 16 and 17, Mr. Sologubovsky wrote:

"NATO is acting with complete impunity and is methodically turning defiant Libya into desert."

Earlier this summer, the government in Tripoli asked Egypt and other neighbouring countries to block the smuggling of artefacts from Libya, but the looting continued unabated. Egypt's own cultural treasures were plundered when looters ransacked archaeological sites, carrying away over 1,000 artefacts, and stole a statue of King Tutankhamun and dozens of other precious objects from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo during the "Arab Spring" revolution.

Last week, the United Nation's cultural body called for protection of Libya's "invaluable cultural heritage" and warned international art dealers and museums to look out for artefacts that may have been looted from Libya.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement that dealers should be "particularly wary of objects from Libya in the present circumstances."

"Experience shows that there is a serious danger of destruction during times of social upheaval," the UNESCO chief said, "It has taught us to look out for looting by unscrupulous individuals, that often damages the integrity of artefacts and of archaeological sites."

Mr. Sologubovsky said the UNESCO appeal came too late, too little.

"Plunder of Libya's cultural heritage has been going on since February. I'm afraid it faces the same tragic fate as Iraq's antiquities, which were plundered by the victorious U.S. military," said the Russian scholar.

Looters and NATO forces are to blame, says Russian expert on West Asia.








US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke and IMF head Christine Lagarde both sounded alarm bells to the US government and the European Union authorities to wake up to the looming economic growth crisis that is bordering on a recession and afflicting both economies. Ms Lagarde was more forthright in warning that they were in a "dangerous new phase" where the recovery of the fragile economies (of the US and Europe) are in danger of being derailed as the economies "sputter" and government debt burdens "surge". What is interesting about their speeches at the meet at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is the new phenomenon of monetary authorities having to give wakeup calls to their governments to do their job of implementing policies that will spur economic growth. The US and European governments are caught up in their own political exigencies with the result that national interests go for a toss. Mr Bernanke, in a reference to the haggling between elected representatives over increasing the American government's debt limit, warned that such events shake the confidence of global investors to hold US financial assets or to make direct investments in employment-generating businesses. The US saw its triple-A rating downgraded a notch and drew a reprimand from China, the largest single holder of US debt, to set its house in order. Mr Bernanke said the Fed (the equivalent of the Reserve Bank of India), as a financial regulator, ensures that inflation remains low so that there is macroeconomic and financial stability, and is a liquidity provider of last resort. The most glaring ills of the US economy, he pointed out, are nine per cent unemployment, healthcare costs, an inadequate education system, an ageing workforce, etc, and said these need fiscal policies that will promote growth. He even outlined what these policies should be, such as tax polices and spending programmes that spur economic growth, and these are outside the purview of the central bank. It was almost as though he was echoing the RBI governor, Dr D. Subbarao, telling the Indian government about its fiscal responsibilities of managing supply-side constraints to complement the monetary policies and control inflation. But while the fallout of India's problems are restricted to India, the problems in the US and Europe, if not resolved with seriousness, also jeopardise other trade and financial markets. The US and Europe are the largest consumers of global goods and services that usually come from developing countries. Ms Lagarde, chiding the indecision of the Europeans and of American policymakers, has prodded the G-20 countries, which are to meet in November, to address the world's economic woes in a "serious" and "convincing" manner.






So will it be Paschim Banga, Paschimbanga or PaschimBanga? If the third, will the state currently known as West Bengal get a unique place name with a capital letter in the middle of a word? All three spellings have been used in recent weeks to describe the new name of West Bengal, as Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress takes its "paribartan" (change) drive to nomenclature as well.
The story of how Calcutta became Kolkata a decade ago, and of how West Bengal threatens to become Paschim Banga (the literal translation) in 2011, is not just one of a once-colonised community effacing an imperial legacy. It is fundamentally ahistorical and reflects the provincialisation of the Bengalis as a people.
Why is the name Kolkata ahistorical? Simply because there was no great city or metropolis of that name till the British founded Calcutta. This is unlike, say, Patna, which is descended from Pataliputra, a flourishing city in the Maurya era. Patna itself was an important urban location in pre-British India.
This is not to suggest Patna should be renamed Pataliputra. It is only to stress there could be a case, however slim, for making that demand. Yet the evidence and the weight of history that can be cited by Pataliputra's advocates simply cannot be put forward by Kolkata's. To remove the name "Calcutta" amounts to wishing away the British period and pretending it never existed. It is as if Kolkata suddenly appeared on the landscape, without any warning at all. Its link to British-created Calcutta is denied; its link to any pre-colonial city is non-existent.
As an apocryphal story goes, the demand for Kolkata was made in the late 1990s by a Bengali writer who found himself superseded at the literary magazine he worked for. His new boss was a foreign-returned Bengali. This perceived professional slight led the writer to turn against a variety of foreign impulses and influences, including names, and invoked some long-suppressed nativist gene. He began a crusade for the "restoration" of Bengali pride by deleting Calcutta and replacing it with Kolkata. The Left Front government, which had pretty much nothing better to do, quickly gave in.
Admittedly, the term "Paschim Banga" is more problematic. For one, it has provenance. It derives from Vanga or Banga, which have been previous names for part of the territory of West Bengal. Even so, the reasons for renaming that the Mamata Banerjee government has given are just not convincing. It has argued that with a name beginning with W the state is among the last to be considered in any roll-call of states.
This is specious reasoning. Will moving up a few letters to P (for Paschim Banga) remedy matters? Why not drop the "West", which is an obsolete expression since there is nothing called East Bengal anymore, and resort to plain Bengal? This will put the state well up the alphabetical order.
As disputes over geographical indicators bear out, place names can be big and in some cases lucrative brands. "Darjeeling tea" would simply not be the same if it were called "Gorkhaland tea". Australia and California can make top quality sparkling wine, but they can never call it Champagne.
In "Bengal" and "Calcutta", the state currently known as West Bengal has two of the biggest geographical brands in India. These have name recall, legacy and worldwide recognition. Despite West Bengal's abysmal failures in recent decades, the names are still well-known. Many other states, and even countries, would pay a king's ransom for such brand names. Yet it says something about Bengali politicians and the Bengali intelligentsia that both these valuable commodities have been chucked away by the state, without a thought at all.
Calcutta and Bengal once represented the best of India. One was a cosmopolitan city, a business centre home to Baghdadi Jews as much as Bengalis, Awadh's aristocrats as much as Anglo-Indians, Parsis as much as Punjabis. The other was a rich province, among the early Indian industrial zones, with a jute industry that affected fortunes as far away as Dundee.
Gradually both these identities were allowed to be whittled away. The Left Front government accelerated the process in its 34 years of government and made the state and its capital city extremely inward looking. If Ms Banerjee wants to change things in West Bengal, she has to begin by altering this mindset, and this nativist defeatism. Succumbing on the Paschim Banga issue and giving the world its most unpronounceable place name since Ouagadougou isn't the way to do this.
It is nobody's argument that Bengali society should remain obsessed with the Raj. However, there is a difference between moving on from the British legacy and becoming an ostrich society. West Bengal has a future as a modern Indian state that uses economic opportunities of the present, whether in the context of India or of global trade and socio-cultural exchange. Will these imperatives be better served by Paschim Banga or by Bengal?
Perhaps a halfway house can be found. Many places have local as well as world (or "English-language" names). Firenze is also Florence, Misr is also Egypt. As such, Paschim Banga may well be sanctified as the Bengali-language translation, but Ms Banerjee should let West Bengal stay as the official name. For that matter, she should also bring back Calcutta.

Ashok Malik can be contacted at






The lasting legacy of the agitation led by Anna Hazare will not be the yet-to-be-enacted legislation to set up a Lokpal and Lokayuktas in all states, but the attention that has been drawn to the brazen corruption that pervades life in India. Long after the hype and hoopla have died down, what will be remembered is how the government was literally forced to listen to the voices of ordinary citizens despite the arrogance and incompetence of some of its important functionaries. What will, unfortunately, also be remembered in the process is the megalomania of a few representatives of civil society.
If Mr Hazare has emerged as a superstar of sorts, as a person who, willy-nilly, was elevated to the status of a Jayaprakash Narayan who, in the 1970s, united the political Right and the Left against Indira Gandhi's Emergency, much of the credit should go to the utter stupidity and overblown egos of a small coterie of ministers. One obvious example was the silly manner in which Mr Hazare's "preventive arrest" was sought to be "blamed" on the Delhi police. To argue that the police chief of the national capital acted as an agent independent of his superiors in North Block, where the ministry of home affairs is headquartered, is to insult the intelligence of the people of the country. Arrogance, when coupled with stupidity, is a deadly combination, which is why the government had to backtrack in the face of overwhelming public pressure.
Corruption is neither new nor unique to India. Why then has corruption become such an important issue? One important contributory factor is the sheer scale and the brazen manner in which a slew of scandals have taken place in recent years. Let's have a peek at what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in the Lok Sabha on August 25: "…corruption sources are numerous. Until the early 1990s, the biggest single source of corruption was the… industrial licensing system, the import controls and the foreign exchange controls. The liberalisation that we brought about has ended that part of this corruption story. Another major part of corruption was the rates of taxation which were so exorbitant that people were tempted to enter into corrupt practices to reduce their tax liabilities. We, I venture to suggest, ourselves and successive governments, have worked hard to simplify to streamline the taxation system and on balance there is less scope for corruption as far as taxation matters are concerned."
Dr Singh added that ways and means will have to be found to plug leakages in the administration system, "devise new methodologies to ensure that public distribution system will be free of malpractices" in collaboration with state governments, streamline contracting systems by enacting a Public Procurement Act and improve the functioning of "regulatory mechanisms, especially with regard to the management of the infrastructure".
During his August 22 speech on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations of the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata, Dr Singh was categorical: "There are some who argue that corruption is the consequence of economic liberalisation and reforms. This is of course completely mistaken… The abolition of licensing has eliminated corruption in these areas. But corruption has not disappeared from the system. It surfaces in many forms. The aam admi faces corruption when he has to pay a bribe to facilitate ordinary transactions with the government."
"Beneficiaries of government programmes face corruption when those in charge of implementing the programmes misappropriate funds… Wherever there is government discretion in the allocation of scarce resources, whether it be land, or mineral rights, or spectrum, if the method of allocation is not transparent, there is a possibility of corruption... Corruption not only weakens the moral fibre of our country, it also promotes inefficiency and cronyism which undermine the social legitimacy of market economics..."
These statements seek to highlight Dr Singh's concern that corruption has undermined the very basis of his economic liberalisation programme. The Harshad Mehta scandal was a consequence of, among other things, the government dragging its feet on adequately empowering the Securities and Exchange Board of India. We have an apology of a Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board. The Indian Bureau of Mines lacks teeth to act against offenders.
The government has taken years to strengthen the Competition Commission, long after the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission was done away with. A more proactive and independent Telecom Regulatory Authority of India could have checked the spectrum scam and perhaps even prevented the undignified situation we are in today wherein lawyers on behalf of former communications minister A. Raja and member of Parliament K. Kanimozhi are asking Dr Singh to personally depose in court as part of their legal defence.
The short point: even as the government has opened up large segments of the Indian economy to the private sector, it has failed miserably to strengthen regulatory mechanisms, often deliberately weakened their authority and also packed them with pliable former or serving bureaucrats. What Dr Singh has omitted to mention in his recent statements is that the fountainhead of corruption is the illegal pattern of election funding we have at present and the corrupt nexus between politics, business and crime.
There are other important reasons why corruption is the big issue that it is. Corruption cuts across most sections of society and does not respect caste, language, religion or region. More significantly, corruption has come at a time when the bulk of the country's population is reeling from the debilitating impact of high food inflation, which has widened the gap between the rich and the poor and which the government has been unable to check.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator







Three years ago when the Prime Minister flagged off a vehicle in Srinagar for resumption of traffic across the LoC between Uri and Muzaffarabad, there were jubilations among some people on both sides of the line. The Prime Minister called it a step by his Government to improve relations with Pakistan. Nobody doubted his sincerity as it was a statesmanlike step. But there were observers who had a different view. Many thinkers and Kashmir observers expressed their apprehensions that the facility provided with all the sincerity behind it by the Indian Prime Minster could be misused and increase our problems. But little heed was paid to these reservations. Not only that, the government recently moved a step further to increase the days of trans-border trade at one or two points on the LoC in Kashmir like Chakan da Bagh in Poonch and Uri-Chakothi point in Kashmir. The governments in New Delhi and Islamabad called it reinforcing the confidence building motions, and taken on the face value, there could be no doubt that this should have further improved the situation.
But recently State police have made some revelations which tell us a different story about the shady side of transactions across the cease-fire line at Uri. It is revealed that 6 to 7 crore rupees have been passed on by the hawala agents to the militants and separatists in Kashmir to fuel insurgency and disorder in the valley. In this connection, a man arrested and interrogated has made stunning revelations of how money is being passed o n clandestinely. A leading hardliner separatist has also been named by the arrested person to whose close associate thirty lakh rupees in three ten lakh rupee installments have been paid... Firdous Ahmed Dar son of Abdul Rashid Dar R/o Sangam, Bijbehara, Anantnag, was not the only conduit but nearly half a dozen persons had received hawala money and weapons through the cross-LoC route, which had been supplied by Pakistani agencies and some militant commanders for distribution among militant cadres and separatists in the Kashmir Valley and other parts of the State.

One is disposed to believe that Kashmir-related terrorism sponsored by Pakistani intelligence agencies in collaboration with various armed groups in Pakistan and PoK has slipped out of the hands of the regime in Islamabad. This is not surprising because taking into account the chaotic internal situation of Pakistan where large scale killings, arson and related crimes have become the pattern of life the Government has lost control over terrorist gangs and their activities. Therefore to lodge protest with Pakistan on the question of hawala money affair seems to be an exercise in futility. New Delhi should do some re-thinking on this serious threat that provides oxygen to the lungs of insurgency in Kashmir. If the evil is not nipped in the bud, it could lead to escalation of corrupt practice among the security forces and police that are supposed to keep a strict vigil on who crosses the line and what commodities are actually transshipped. Authorities cannot escape the responsibility of ensuring clean and safe trading across the border in consonance with the expectations of home authorities. We would not recommend stopping trans- border trade now that it has been set rolling. But it should be possible for the authorities to ensure that the facility is not misused by trouble mongers. After all such elements in Pakistan as are definitely opposed to any reconstruction of relationship with India are on the prowl to derail the bilateral dialogue process. Such elements have not to be given any quarter. Those who the police can prove are involved in hawala transactions shall have to be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the law. Kid-gloves treatment of these anti-social elements will bring more harm. It will neutralize all efforts of confidence building measures. The Government at Islamabad needs to be told about the details of the hawala racket and urged to take legal action against them. But if the authorities take the development as something non-serious then the people cannot be blamed if they begin to think that authorities are an accomplice in sabotaging peace process in the State.







It has become regular practice with mischief mongers in the valley in general and in Srinagar city in particular to end up Friday congregational prayers into mob violence in which youngsters take to stone throwing on police personnel or police posts. The latest style of pelting tones is of riding motorcyclists. Police explained that they pelt stones at security forces and flee away quickly on bikes. "The typical practice is that such bikes carry three people, one rides the bike, the man in the middle has stones in his lap and the one at the back hurls them at the security forces. And they move at a menacing speed," police said.

Amusingly, it was the Shab-e-Qadr, a blessed night, on which hundreds of youth riding motor bikes set out on a large stone pelting spree in Nowhatta, in downtown and targeted the police station. Shab-e-Qadr is the night for prayers to seek God's blessings and peace. Is it Islamic to desecrate the holy night by attacking policemen who are detailed to protect the praying crowds? Many Muslim ulema have issued decrees that stone pelting is against the teachings of Islam. Maulana Abbas Ansari made it clear in his statement once that he would rejoin the Hurriyat fold only if the leaders accepted that throwing of stones was un-Islamic and should not be encouraged. Even Ali Shah Geelani, too, dissuaded the youth from the practice of throwing stones. Despite all this, if the youth persist with the malpractice, it is obvious they are politically motivated and instigated by hidden elements. As such the government is justified to take preventive measures. It is the duty of the government to ensure law and order in the State. Therefore arrest of about seventy youth and confiscation of about ten motorbikes is fully justified. Not only that, the authorities should definitely take punitive action against violators of peace, law and order. A strict handling of the situation will ensure that the menace of turning Friday congregations into a rowdy crowd is stopped once for all. Authorities cannot afford any more laxity in handling the situation.








India has just celebrated the 64th anniversary of its independence and is struggling to achieve double-digit economic growth through good governance and also reduce corruption, which is metastasising like 'cancer'. The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who addressed from the ramparts of Red Fort talked about reforms but no time frame of their implementation. It is worth reminding him, however, that it was in his first speech from the Red Fort on August 15, 2004, that he had promised administrative reforms but nothing more has been heard about their implementation. This has resulted in high level of corruption due to poor governance in the country.
Interestingly, economic growth, corruption, and governance have moved in opposite directions. It is a fact that when governance was good, growth and corruption was low; now that growth and corruption are high, governance has sunk to an all-time low. The first 50 years after independence showed that while good governance was necessary, the growth and corruption was low. The question that the Prime Minister needs to ask is whether a further decline in governance will eventually result in lower growth and lower corruption. Should that happen India would have the worst of both worlds.
The Reserve bank of India has cautioned that the Indian economy needs to brace up for a difficult year ahead. Inflation now nearing two digit continues to be a macroeconomic challenge due to weak supply response, the central bank said in its Annual Report for 2010-11 released on August 25, 2011. If global financial problems caused due to high corruption and poor governance amplify and slows down global growth markedly, the RBI may have to lower its 8 per cent growth projection.

According to World Bank corruption has a direct impact on the size of the informal economy. It increases the cost of creating new businesses and staying in business within the formal economy - unofficial payments and unpredictability of their size and frequency drive the costs and risks so high that the entrepreneurs prefer to move their businesses underground to avoid bribes that they have to pay for services such as registration, licensing, permits and so on. Corruption in social services makes them less affordable and leads to creation of alternative services in the informal sector.

Weaknesses in governance - governance being defined as the way in which public institutions perform their functions in a country - are strongly correlated with deficiencies in growth. Bad governance is associated with corruption, distortion of government budgets, inequitable growth, social exclusion, and lack of trust in authorities. Inefficiency of formal governance institutions leads to creation of informal institutions that substitute for the functions that the formal ones are unable to perform.

The World Bank has described two broad types of institutional measures available for large samples of countries: evaluative measures and descriptive measures. Performance measures provide assessments of the quality of governance. For example, governments are rated with respect to corruption levels, or predictability of policymaking. Process measures describe the institutional "inputs" that produce governance outcomes. Unlike performance measures, process measures have no normative content. One example of a process measure is the average pay of civil servants (relative to the private sector or to per capita income); whether or not the election of national legislators is governed by proportional representation (PR) is a second example.
There is a real correlation between governance, growth and corruption. Three institutions can be reformed to promote good governance: the state, the private sector and civil society. However, amongst various cultures, the need and demand for reform can vary depending on the priorities of that country's society. A variety of country level initiatives and international movements put emphasis on various types of governance reforms. Each movement for reform establishes criteria for what they consider good governance based on their own needs and agendas.
In India what is good governance for one class can be very bad for another. The cases of land acquisition and job reservation are two conspicuous examples to illustrate this dogma.

Successive Governments have forgotten the key operating principle of good governance, which requires two simple things: speed and fairness. India's institutions of governance have become so inward looking that they have not only lost sight of the citizens but also the objectives. This is the central problem of governance systems in India. They put process before outcome. This makes reform of any sort impossible because procedures have become an end to the means. In that case the growth has gone high and so is the corruption.
The two most essential ingredients of good governance speed and fairness have thus become victims of mere rituals. In such a situation short cuts involving bribes, lead to corruption with a few exceptions. The exception is also a part of the procedure.

There is plenty that is frightening in the Indian scenario: The unending series of scams; the high percentage of elected politicians facing criminal charges; the intolerably rowdy behaviour of MPs and MLAs inside and outside the legislative; the rising tide of riots and loot, often morphing into insurgency and Maoism; the utter lack of accountability, transparency and probity in every field of activity; and the explosive mix of corruption and callousness crushing the aam aadmi.

Every Indian citizen can take legitimate pride in the firm measures to counter political defections, the Constitutional amendment which has brought about a silent revolution by strengthening panchayati raj, the bold move to unshackle the economy from the crippling clutches of Statism, and the immense benefits that will increasingly accrue from the rights to education, employment and information.

Even in the matter of corruption and black money, the tremendous forces unleashed by the people are at work, pushing the Government towards the desired goal. The recent crusade against corruption by Anna Hazare is the step in the right direction to curb corruption in the country.

Anna's hunger strike against corruption through a Jan Lokpal Bill will certainly help the country towards good governance but will definitely reduce corruption and also growth for which the government will have to bring in second-generation reforms. Anna brand of peaceful agitation through nonviolence will be an historical guidance for the future generation in achieving its goals. This is possible through good governance that will reduce corruption.
(The author is Adviser, Institute of Development Studies and Training, Chandigarh.)









The success of horticulture largely depends upon availability of rain or supplemental irrigation, particularly during critical periods of tree growth and development. Feasibility of a rainfed orchard, therefore, exists only in areas having normal and well distributed rainfall to meet the tree requirement. At present, nearly 50 % of the fruit production in India is contributed by such areas despite their low productivity coupled with poor quality fruits. The cultivation of horticultural and medicinal plants are the best source of income for rainfed areas as they require less water than growing of agricultural crops.

In J&K, Jammu province receives nearly 1200 mm rainfall, which after properly conservation can be utilized for orchard management. The wild fruit tree varieties that can be easily grafted to produce edible fruits for consumption either by the population of the area or can be sold within or outside the state. Wild olive (Olea cuspidate), is widely grown in the districts of Udhampur, Ramban, Doda, Reasi, Poonch, in Jammu region and those of Baramula and Kupwara in Kashmir, having an altitude between 1,000 to 1,300 m. These wild species, when grafted with the best varieties of olive (Olea europeae) provides good quality olives for producing oil. Olive oil possesses an ideal fat composition, and as such is preferred edible oil by the Europeans. The oil is not only tasty and nutritious but is also rich in poly-unsaturated fatty acids. It is free from cholesterol and has proved beneficial to the patients suffering from heart disease. It also contains antioxidants like polyphenols which play a key role in warding off some of the various age related disorders. Its fruit is pickled and also used as salad. The district Doda had the maximum area (about 60 per cent) of its total, followed by Udhampur (15 per cent). The area has slightly increased, which was worked out to be nearly 363 ha during 2009-2010, that produced 18.50 tonnes of olives with productivity of 0.05 tonnes per hectare. The concerted efforts of SKUAST-Jammu Scientists and the Horticulture Department resulted an increase in area under this crop in Jammu. The Indo-Italian project at Ramban has also proved to be a mile stone in popularization of olive cultivation in J&K which is evident from the production of 250 kg olive oil produced from olive trees grown in Udhampur, Ramban and Doda Districts. Wild pomegranate, Punica granatum is also of great economic importance in the vast tract of the hill slopes of Jammu and Kashmir.

In J&K, the main areas where anardana is collected are Udhampur, Rajouri, Ramban, Kishtwar and Bhaderwah. It grows in wild state as a large evergreen shrub, 4 to 6 m high and, flowers during the months of May and June. The fruits ripen towards the middle of October and are hand picked, when they are ripe and brownish-red in colour. This fruit is filled with angular hard seeds covered with a juicy, pink or yellowish white sweet astringent acid pulp. Its seeds are sun-dried to give good quality anardana. The wild pear variety (also known as Kainth) in the local language can easily be grafted with the best pear varieties such as Bagugosha, Patharnakh or juicy Nakh which can be used for canning or production of juice.

As Jammu region is fortunate to have several wild varieties of fruit trees which can be easily grafted to produce edible fruits so they must be fully developed to expose their potential. Wild ber germplasm of J&K can also be grafted with the elite varieties. The bud wood of ber cultivars viz., Umran, Gola, Sanaur and Ranjhri are already being used for grafting/budding by Raya Station of Fruit Science. The local people must be trained for grafting techniques in various fruit crops, so that they themselves are able to graft the wild varieties for obtaining the quality fruits. A large number of farmers should be encouraged to take up horticulture as a profession, especially on wild fruit trees. In this connection, the Division of Fruit Science, SKUAST-Jammu and Horticulture Department are providing the trainings to the orchardists under Horticulture Technology Mini Mission project for formulating the package of practices for the wild fruits. It is thus concluded that in future, the research on wild fruits in rainfed areas has open a new vista for rainfed horticulture.







India has gone through a new "August Kranti" (revolution), remarkably non-violent, and on a much larger scale than civil movements of the past, aimed at bringing about a corruption-free society, inspired by the renowned social activist Anna Hazare with his epic fast on Delhi's Ram Lila grounds. A Parliamentary commitment to come up with a toughest law possible to root out the evil at all levels enabled him end his 12-day ordeal (August 16-27) on the morning of August 28, and the nation rapturously celebrated victory.

For the new generations in the post-independence era, Anna Hazare became a new symbol for Mahatma Gandhi, whom he claims to follow. It also signals that civil society may begin to assert itself much more in future than let itself be governed by the whims and fancies of the ruling class. Governments, of whatever political hue, would also be compelled to become more attentive to public opinion.

The triumph for Anna Hazare came after days of hard negotiations between his team of advisers and UPA Government Ministers led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, designated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose own earnest appeals earlier to Mr Hazare to give up his fast on the basis of his assurances that his version of the bill was open for consideration by the Standing Committee were in vain.

The team of Advisers, who negotiated on behalf of Anna Hazare, went on insisting Parliament discuss and adopt with some changes as required, their version of the bill and also get it through in an extended monsoon session. Finally, in direct approaches to the fasting leader himself, the Government through another nominee, Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh, Minister of Science and Technology, could persuade him to narrow down the differences to his three conditions such as applicability of legislation to lower levels of bureaucracy, a citizens charter for grievance redressal and appointment of state Lokayuktas.

Mr Hazare was willing to give up the fast - but continue with his protest - once these conditions were incorporated in a resolution of Parliament. The area of disagreement having been reduced significantly, Mr Mukherjee, as Leader of the House, piloted, on August 27, a motion in the nature of "sense of the House" conveying agreement " in principle" on (1) Citizen's Charter, (2) Lower bureaucracy under Lok Pal through appropriate mechanism, and (3) establishment of Lok Ayuktas in States. Both Houses adopted this by acclamation but without a voice vote, deemed as good as a wholehearted approval.

For the much-harassed UPA Government, it was a great sigh of relief, though for his part, the social activist declared it was only "half a victory" and that his struggle would continue for the duration of the passage of Lok Pal legislation and even beyond. His Team of Advisers will continue to monitor progress in the days to come and expect to pressure the Standing Committee as it looks at all the versions as well as the "sense of the House" of August 27.

Mr Hazare has a wider agenda of reforming Indian society with his eye next on electoral reform with the right to recall MLAs/MPs who are involved in corruption or criminal cases. And, at every step, he might command welcome attention from most of civil society. Equally, it would pose new challenges for Government, already in a state of near paralysis in decision-making on major issues of economy -not simply reforms of wider opening of the economy, the mantra of the pink press-but of land, minerals and other resources, protection of owner rights and infrastructure-building.

The economy has slowed perceptibly - though India still remains a relatively faster-growing market - while ensuring macro-economic stability calls for greater focus on bringing down India's high inflation through both demand management (monetary) and supply side responses. Altogether 2011 is proving to be a difficult year for Government, apart from its blunders on the political front, with prices, industrial slowdown, fiscal over-runs and emerging pressures on the external side to be tackled, amid risks of a global downturn as US and EU wrestle with their deficits and debt and weakening of the financial systems.

The monsoon session is already at its fag end with little accomplished on Parliament's heavy legislative agenda. The Hazare episode could not have occurred at a worse time for the UPA Government. But in confronting the challenge of Mr Hazare, Government had to move warily as the leading opposition party, BJP, seemed to be extending support to the Jan Lok Pal bill and urged the withdrawal of the earlier official bill. It was more of political grandstanding on the part of BJP which seeks to put the UPA Government on the mat for everything. It would now begin to embrace even more of Anna ideas in its power bid, all the more as he has now a mass base.
The Prime Minister's all-party meeting on August 24 was designed to reassert constitutional and parliamentary supremacy and take all parties on board with the proposition that these should not be compromised with in the approaches to the Lok Pal legislation. Its resolution said "due consideration" should be given to the Jan Lok Pal Bill, so that the final draft of legislation provided for a "strong and effective Lok Pal bill that is supported by a broad national consensus". With this, Mr Mukherjee could get to work out the consensus formulation presented to both Houses.

The Government could have minimised its difficulties but for its clumsy attempt on August 16 to arrest Mr Hazare and then, in the face of public wrath, allow him to proceed to Ram Lila grounds to begin his announced fast. The tabling of what BJP called a "sarkari Lok Pal" bill in Parliament, in the first instance, had infuriated the Anna camp. Nor Government was willing to dovetail the Hazare version of Lok Pal bill in its essentials. Now it is left to the Standing Committee go through all the versions including those of civil society leader Mrs. Aruna Roy and others, and propose changes as may be needed.

For twelve days of the fast, the country appeared to stand still, echoing Anna Hazare's call as tens of thousands of people, young and old, kept waving flags and staging peaceful demonstrations all over the country while millions keenly watched the 24-hour coverage on various TV channels.

Was there over-stretch of the Anna Phenomenon? On the one hand, the advisers seemed more insistent than perhaps their leader himself on pushing through the Jan Lok Pal bill to the utmost to the exclusion of other ideas. On the other, there was also a peremptory tone in some of Mr Hazare's own observations so that the jurist Mr Santosh Hegde, associated with the Anna Team, felt that Parliament could not be "commanded" to do things in a particular direction.

"The fight will go on", is the ringing message that the Gandhian leader, being nursed back to health, has left with the people of India, whom he profusely thanked for support and for their peaceful conduct of the movement. For Hazare, the real battle has just begun. (IPA)



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





Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has shown farsightedness by announcing that 1200 young men arrested on a charge of throwing stones at security forces last summer will be released from different jails on the occasion of Eid. These youngsters, mostly belonging to poverty-stricken families, had no hope of getting free soon. They indulged in this peculiar kind of violence after being misled by separatist leaders. Their instigators have been leading a comfortable life, bothering little about these unfortunate souls. Instead of making efforts for their release, hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Gilani had threatened to launch a fresh agitation after the conclusion of the fasting month of Ramzan and the celebration of Eid. Though, apparently, there is no provocation for taking to such a path, extremists like Mr Gilani know how to invent a "cause".


With the help of this bold step, the Chief Minister has taken the wind out of the sails of the separatists. Even otherwise, very few people are nowadays interested in negative programmes because of the fatigue factor. Mr Omar Abdullah has, however, warned the beneficiary young men that they will not be spared if they repeat what they did last summer. They should use the opportunity to rebuild their lives. These misguided youngsters and their families must have realised by now that they cannot gain by indulging in acts of violence. Separatists have their own ulterior motives and they do not hesitate to use the gullible public for this purpose.


Reports had it that the stone-thowers were paid by separatists and this attracted a large number of young men to take the law into their own hands. This, however, showed that people could be prevented from taking to the destructive path by providing them gainful employment opportunities. The Chief Minister himself has admitted that there are nearly five lakh unemployed persons in Jammu and Kashmir. Different measures are being taken to ensure that the number of jobless comes down considerably. The best way to create sufficient employment avenues is to facilitate rapid industrialisation in the border state. This is as essential as are the schemes aimed at making youngsters employable in accordance with the Rangarajan Committee report.









Nepal got its fourth Prime Minister in three years on Sunday when its Parliament elected Baburam Bhattarai over Ram Chandra Poudel of the Nepali Congress by 105 votes. This marks the return to power of Maoists 27 months after Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) resigned in 2009. Bhattarai is known as the moderate face of the party, and his elevation has been welcomed by the common people because of his academic excellence, clean image and efficiency (he is a former Finance Minister). Ironically, he might find the going tough with Prachanda for those very reasons, considering that the latter does not see eye to eye with him on many issues, although he backed Bhattarai's candidature.


There will be hardly any honeymoon period for Bhattarai. In fact, the acid test begins right away. Parliament needs to enforce a new constitution by August 31 or face dissolution. Even if a three-month extension comes through, he will have to win the support of all political parties and prepare the first draft of the constitution by November-end. Not only that, he has also to come good on the promise to disband their 20,000-strong guerrilla army within 45 days of forming a new government. Prachanda had failed to return to power because he backtracked on this promise to demobilise the People's Liberation Army (PLA), return the properties captured by the rebels during the civil war, and bring about peace. These issues have become very sensitive and Bhattarai cannot afford to slip up. Then he has also to deliver on the four-point deal on the basis of which the United Democratic Medeshi Forum voted for him.


Fiftyseven-year-old Bhattarai has been educated in India (Delhi and Chandigarh), but it will be over-optimistic to expect him to improve ties with India. Maoists have traditionally taken an anti-India stand even when there was no need to do so. Positions may be further hardened following the shrill accusation by the Communist Nepal Workers' and Peasants Party — which boycotted the voting — that "Indian expansionism" influenced Nepal's prime ministerial elections.
















It is unbelievable that US Federal Reserve chief Ben Barnanke's word carries so much weight with so many people. Last week what he said at the Jackson Hole conference of central bankers and private economists lifted the economic mood, which immediately got reflected at Wall Street and European markets. On Monday, Asia responded resoundingly. India's BSE Sensex shot up 567 points. Belying expectations, Mr Bernanke did not announce quantitative easing (printing of more dollars). All that he said was the US economy would eventually return to full health. He asked the US government to come out with a long-term economic package and a short-tern fiscal stimulus — the Republicans notwithstanding.


Almost the same message – a fiscal stimulus by the political leadership — was delivered by others, including the heads of the IMF and the OECD, to other governments in the troubled European countries. Over-spending governments and over-stretched welfare programmes funded by debt have caused a euro zone crisis. Banks which have advanced loans to these governments would get a serious hit in case of a default. The PIIGS – Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain – need a rescue from their better-off European partners, mainly Germany and France, which are fighting who should fund bailouts while prescribing austerity measures to the indebted nations. But the health of the rescuers as also the future of the European Union is in danger.


While Ben Barnanke held out hope, others at Jackson Hole were less optimistic. "We are in a dangerous new phase", said Christine Lagarde of the IMF, pointing to the political impasse in the US. The US economy suffers from three other ailments: high oil prices, raging unemployment and a depressed housing market. There is the wider fear that the European debt crisis could worsen, sparking 2008-type financial turmoil. China's export-led growth is faltering. Japan is in an economic and political churning. India is busy fighting corruption as economic reforms are put on hold. In this dark world Ben Barnanke has pointed to light at the end of the tunnel. And many believe him.








Anna Hazare has called it half a victory, but the manner in which he prevailed upon the government and Parliament to bend to his essential demands in principle after he had trimmed his initial impossible proposals is, in itself, a stupendous feat. In the political power play between the government and the Anna Team, the latter won hands down by a combination of a simple idea — fighting corruption — marketed with the aid of modern technology and intimidation — the hoary Indian tradition of a political fast — and a tactic verging on breaking the law such as gheraoing Cabinet ministers and members of Parliament with the central aim of forcing the authorities to listen to it.


Clearly, Anna Hazare struck a chord among large sections of the people, in particular the young, because everyone has been stung by the bane of corruption, in particular those who can least afford it. The Anna movement has shown that it is not good enough to say that the government is trying to cope with the problem and there is no magic wand to make the evil vanish. It is, in any case, an indictment of the political class cutting across the Congress and the main opposition BJP that it has been toying with installing a Lokpal (ombudsman) for 42 years without producing results.


But the happy dénouement of the end of Anna's fast on the 13h day should not obscure the hard lessons the two sides must learn. For much of the time, the Manmohan Singh government seemed rudderless and adrift compounding its initial blunder of arresting Anna and taking him to jail with ministers speaking in different voices unsure of a central directive. The lowest point was perhaps the Congress spokesman, Mr Manish Tiwari, charging Anna with being corrupt, a charge he later withdrew with a public apology. It seemed that the long absence abroad of the main power centre in the United Progressive Alliance, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, and undergoing unspecified medical treatment left the Congress with no one to steady the ship.


It was only towards the end of an increasingly tense drama, with doctors monitoring Anna's condition, that the Prime Minister picked up the threads to reach out to Anna and set in motion a process with the assistance of the man for all seasons, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, in cooperation with the BJP that resulted in Parliament passing a sense of the House pronouncement while allowing the government sufficient room for manoeuvre in accepting in principle the three Anna tenets of including the junior bureaucracy, a citizens' charter and appointment of Lok Ayukats in states. In the process, the government respected the dignity and legitimacy of Parliament by refusing to bypass the established procedure of referring the problem to the Standing Committee.


The role of Mr Rahul Gandhi in the 12 crisis days after he left his mother's bedside in the US to return home for the Independence Day ceremonies was curious. The only intervention he made in Parliament was through a 15-minute speech suggesting the institution of the Lokpal as an independent constitutional authority like the Election Commission — an idea worth studying — and pronouncing the truism that a Lokpal alone would not end corruption. He subsequently absented himself for much of the parliamentary debate on Anna's proposals.


Despite Team Anna's success in outwitting the government in every twist and turn the crisis took, it was skating dangerously close to anarchy and total disregard for the law of the land in instigating the public, suitably charged as it was in fighting the anti-corruption crusade, in order to pile pressure on the government to do its bidding. The most reprehensible was perhaps the conduct of the ex-policewoman, Ms Kiran Bedi, in declaring that "Anna is India and India is Anna", a particularly hurtful throwback to the Emergency chant of "India is Indira and Indira is India". She merely compounded this blunder by later mocking Parliament and parliamentarians as people who wore masks and spoke with a forked tongue.


So insistent was Team Anna in denigrating the government — Mr Arvind Kejriwal seemed to take on the role of the chief instigator — that it got Bollywood actor Om Puri to heap a string of abuses on parliamentarians, an exercise in vulgarity seldom matched in public discourse. But Anna himself became susceptible to the excitement of his success in wrong- footing the government by declaring from the stage to an audience of thousands that the Prime Minister was "a liar". This is not the language one expects to hear from a Gandhian about the country's highest executive authority. He did later apologise for the harsh words he had uttered.


In general, Team Anna's approach to Parliament and parliamentarians was dismissive when it was not abusive. By virtue of the widespread countrywide support Anna evoked on the corruption theme, the Team's effort seemed to be to abuse the very institutions of parliamentary democracy placing the mythical "people" above Parliament and the Constitution. This is a dangerous trend the Team must guard against because it will meet widespread opposition not merely from the political class but from a wide spectrum of thinking men and women.


Anna's movement has also alienated sections of the population, particularly Muslims, Christians and other minorities and the Dalits on two counts: the role the BJP and its mentor, the RSS, has played in supporting and buttressing the protests with a suspected political agenda of its own and the Hindu imagery used by Team Anna in promoting its agitation. In order to retain the support of a pluralist nation, Anna cannot afford to give the impression that his movement is not inclusive. In his post-breaking fast address, he did invoke Dr B.R. Ambedkar's name, but he has much work to do in convincing the people about his inclusive agenda.


Although there is no time limit for Parliament to come up with legislation on the Lokpal, it would be prudent for parliamentarians to debate and come up with a workable Bill with seriousness and dispatch. Anna has already given notice that he will continue to pile pressure on the government by undertaking a countrywide tour, with his new enhanced status as the pre-eminent Gandhian and dissenter.








A journey by road from Gangtok to Yumthang that snakes through high mountains, spawning gurgling rivers giving recurring glimpses of snow capped mountains, took me first to Chungthang, Lachung and finally to Yumthang — all the beauty spots of North Sikkim.


I drove to these places for the alluring prospect of seeing rhododendron flowers, Dopka nomads grazing their yaks, the sulphur spring and the fascinating range of Yumthang glaciers.


Yumthang valley bordering on Tibet opens a vista before you. Its expanse of undulating green fields, rimmed on either side by an unending range of glaciers, red rhododendron flowers, herds of black hirsute yaks — contrasting with the whiteness of the glaciers is a perfect mosaic of nature's beauty that draws you to this heavenly spot. Nature has planted a sulphur spring at a serene and solitary spot — Yumeysamdong. The spring grips you in the warmth of its sulphurous water and leaves a tan which fades slowly.


The humans that inhabit this valley are not much accustomed to mixing with the outsiders from far away towns and cities. Steeped in Buddhism, holding prayer wheels in their hands, robed in the most colourful dresses adorned with jewellery of Tibetan beads, high on their famed beverage "Swe chhang', sipped from 'toonghas', the bamboo containers, growing rice, corn and millets, breeding goats and yaks, they live in this valley which is a world of their own.


The men have striking features, long flowing manes, tall, robust physiques cutting figures like those of Tibetan warriors of yore. The women wearing exotic hats and elegant Bakhus, all figures of exquisite grace and form, ruddy cheeks of the children, toothless smile of tiny tots all are there to make Yumthang a valley of human splendour and abode of beauty.


I met them in a field which was cleared for the occasion. Pipons, the local chiefs from Lama community, welcomed me with traditional courtesy, presented me 'khadas' (scarf), loaded me with vegetables, eggs, fruits and the inevitable 'Chhang' which, as a mark of respect to my hosts, I sipped. I made some humble offerings to greet them. The bonhomie that was generated was more elevating than the spirit that was consumed.


In this setting, the sight of a few policemen, myself included, looked odd and made me think whether the peaceable people of Yumthang need police at all. Perhaps they do not. Nor, perhaps, any other form of governance either. They are governed by their own centuries old custom 'Dzumsa' which regulates their lives, teaches them how to settle their disputes and bond with each other and live a life of harmony and religion which is Buddhism.


I could communicate with them with the help of my PSO who could speak in their Tibetan dialect. Communication was deficient but understanding was near perfect. They asked for nothing. Nature and their custom have given them all that they need.


Religion guides their path, Buddha enlightens their souls, the rivers, snows and yaks bring happiness to these folks of Yumthang.


How happy is this valley.








The existential suffering of the peoples whether identified from outside, or through self- identification as "marginalised, minority, indigenous," bears common features in all continents.


The indigenous have been facing deprivation and dispossession of their natural resource base- denial of access to quality education, healthcare and other citizenship rights apart, they have come to be seen as ' a problem for the development project of modernity.' Going by any parameters of development, these communities always figure at the tail end. The situation of the communities that have been pastoral or nomadic has been even worse.


Considering the immense odds against which these communities have had to survive, it is not short of a miracle that they have preserved their languages and continue to contribute to the astonishing linguistic diversity of the world. However, if the situation persists, the languages of the marginalized stand the risk of extinction. Aphasia, a loss of speech, seems to be their fate.


It is a daunting task to determine as to which languages have come closest to the condition of aphasia, which ones are decidedly moving in that direction and which ones are merely going through the natural linguistic process of transmigration. It may not be inappropriate to say that the linguistic data available with us is not fully adequate for the purpose.


The missing tongues


In India, Sir George Grierson's Linguistic Survey of India (1903-1923) - material for which was collected in the last decade of the 19th century-- had identified 179 languages and 544 dialects. The 1921 census reports showed 188 languages and 49 dialects. The 1961 census reports mentioned a total of 1,652 'mother tongues,' out of which 184 'mother tongues' had more than 10,000 speakers, and of which 400 'mother tongues' had not been mentioned in Grierson's Survey, while 527 were listed as 'unclassified'. In addition, 103 'mother tongues' were listed as 'foreign'.


In 1971, the linguistic data offered in the census was distributed in two categories, the officially listed languages of the 8th Schedule of the Constitution, and the other languages with a minimum of 10,000 speakers each. All other languages spoken by less than 10,000 speakers were lumped together in a single entry 'Others'. That practice continued to be followed in subsequent enumerations.


Considering how complicated the census operations are in countries that have large migratory populations, and particularly how much the accuracy in census operations is dependent on literacy levels, it is not surprising that the data collected remains insufficiently definitive. What is surprising, however, is that as many as 310 languages, including all those 263 claimed by less than 5 speakers, and 47 others claimed by less than a 1000 speakers, should have arrived at that stage. These 310 'endangered' languages were counted among the 1652 'mother tongues' listed in the census of 1961, however debatable the methodology followed in that particular census may have been. In other words, a fifth part of India's linguistic heritage has reached the stage of extinction over the last half-century.


Moreover, the method of survey adopted over the last three census enumerations allows scope for overlooking any further depletion in the numbers. One fears that this may not be the situation in just one country alone, that this may be so practically all over the world, since the contextual factors responsible for language decline in one country also form the context of modernity in other nation states in the world.


Global aphasia


Language loss is experienced in India not just by the 'minor' languages and 'unclassified dialects', but also by 'major' languages that have long literary traditions and a rich heritage of imaginative and philosophical writings. In speech communities that claim major literary languages such as Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada and Oriya as their 'mother tongues', the younger generations have little or no contact with the written heritage of those languages, while they are able to 'speak' the languages as 'native speakers'.


It may not be inappropriate to assume that people all over the world are paying a heavy cost for a globalised development in terms of their language heritage. This linguistic condition may be described as the condition of 'partial language acquisition' in which a fully literate person, with a relatively high degree of education, is able to read, write and speak a language other than her/his mother tongue, but is able to only speak but not write the language she/he claims as the mother tongue.


The reorganization of Indian states after Independence was carried out along linguistic lines and the languages that had scripts were counted. The ones that had not acquired scripts, and therefore did not have printed literature, did not get their own states. Schools and colleges were established only for the official languages. The ones without scripts, even if they had a great stock of wisdom carried forward orally, were not fortunate enough to get educational institutions for them. However, a guarantee for providing patronage was enshrined in the Constitution, Article 347.


Thus, language loss, linguistic shifts and decline in the linguistic heritage cannot be blamed on the structural factors alone. There appears to be another and more overwhelming factor at work, and that is the development discourse in a rapidly globalising world. One notices now in India, and in other Asian and African countries, an overpowering desire among parents to educate their children through the medium of English or French or Spanish in the hope that these languages will provide a certain visibility to the children when they grow up in the international market of productive labour.


This desire has affected the schooling pattern in favour of an education through an international language not witnessed in any previous era. The argument in favour of providing children education, at least at the primary school level, for a healthy development of their intellect is indeed an incontrovertible argument. However, the contrary argument which holds that children not educated in their mother tongues do not achieve a full intellectual development deserves to be reconsidered. If literature is considered to contain the most complex usage of language, one would assume that children who do not get education in their own language will not be capable of fully appreciating, let alone producing, literature in the given language. Historical evidence however shows that such an assumption is not well-founded.


Looming phono-cide


During the early years of the nineteenth century, an interesting debate occupied the centre- stage in the social reform movement in India, in which the Bengali intellectuals kept asking for education through the English language medium, while an English officer like Elphinstone held that the schools in Indian languages would be desirable. The argument came to an end when in 1835, Lord Maucaulay's Minutes on Education recommended that English would be the medium of all serious education in India. Quite remarkably, it was since then that literatures in modern Indian languages showed a significant creativity.


These arguments are not intended to take away any substance from the view that mother tongue education is the most suitable for young learners. I am only pointing to the fact that a lack of access to the mother tongue education is not enough of a cultural condition to destroy human creativity. The more significant condition is of having no hope for survival of a community.


When a speech community comes to believe that education in some other language alone is the way ahead for it for its very survival, the given community decides to adapt to the new language situation. It would be pertinent therefore to consider if there is something inherent in the dominant development discourse in the contemporary world that requires diminishing of world's language heritage, that demands a kind of a phono-cide. And, if that is the case, which is a task for the analysts of political imagination and economies, the future for the human languages is frightening. The communities that are already marginalised within their local or national context, the ones that are already in minority within their cultural contexts, the ones that have already been dispossessed of their ability to voice their concerns, are obviously placed at the frontline of the phono-cide.


Conservation or preservation of languages needs to be seen as being significantly different from the preservation of monuments. Languages are, as every student of linguistics knows, social systems. They get impacted by all other contextual social developments. Language- as a social system has an objective existence in the sense that dictionaries and grammars of languages can be prepared, and languages can be transcribed, orthographed, mimeographed, recorded on a tape by way of documents and objects; but, essentially language does not have an existence entirely free of the human consciousness. Therefore, a given language cannot be as completely dissociated from the community that uses it. Quite logically, therefore, preservation of a language entails the preservation of the community that puts that language in circulation.


Ecology of language


Between the collective consciousness of a given community, and the language it uses to articulate the consciousness, is situated what is described as the "world view" of that community. Preservation of a language involves, therefore, respecting the world-view of the given speech-community. If such a community believes that the human destiny is to belong to the earth and not to offend the earth by claiming that it belongs to us, the language of that community cannot be preserved if we invite the community to share a political imagination that believes in vandalizing the earth's resources in the name of development. In such a situation, the community will have only two options: it can either reject the utopia that asserts the human right to exploit the natural resources and turn them into exclusively commercial commodities, or it can reject its own world view and step out of the language system that binds it with the world view.


It takes centuries for a community to create a language. All languages created by human communities are our collective cultural heritage. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that they do not face the global phono-cide let loose upon the world.


Director, Tribal Training Academy, Tejgadh, Gujarat, and founder-trustee, Bhasha Research and Publication Centre, Baroda, Dr Devy has authored many books.









On Sunday afternoon, as Daegu 2011 was waiting for its most high-profile race, the camera panned across the entire 100m final field, dwelling for a few moments on each athlete as they were introduced.

While some of them waved, or smiled, or waved and smiled, Usain Bolt decided to indulge in histrionics. Looking straight into the lens, he pointed left, shook his head, pointed right, shook his head, and then pointed at himself with a generous Rap-music nod to indicate there would be only one winner.

About a minute later, Bolt was jogging down the track, his t-shirt covering his face. You won't get any tears from me, Bolt told eager TV crews as they followed him on the sidelines, but the fastest man in history must've been disgusted. He had been disqualified because of a falsestart, and the dash, won by his countryman Yohan Blake, had been overshadowed by a new rule that must be repealed in 3..2..1.


Ten years ago, the rules were far too lenient, with each athlete allowed one mistake at the starting blocks. Given a field of eight, it meant there could be eight false-starts before anybody was disqualified. The rule made life miserable for the sprinters, who had to go through their preparation ritual several times.


But it wasn't their frustration that made the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) change its mind; predictably, it was the television networks that impressed upon the governing body that pre-race delays made for bad TV.


In time, a suitable replacement was developed: the entire field would be allowed one false-start, and the next athlete to jump the gun would be disqualified. The TV stations were delighted, and the athletes thought it was fair balance between genuine human error and unreasonable delays.


Over the next few years, however, issues of gamesmanship started to emerge. It was alleged that some of the slower athletes deliberately made the first false start to put the rest of the field under pressure. While it was a small malaise, and an example of how people will try to outsmart any system, the athletics federation thought that this was a serious hazard for the sport.


To crack down on this "menace", in its great wisdom, the IAAF decided that there would be a "zero-tolerance" policy, and one false-start would mean that the offending athlete was done for the event.


This rule, which came into effect in 2010, was tested properly for the first time at the ongoing World Championships. Though the results were damning right from the start (when a number of notables, including Britons Dwain Chambers and Christine Ohuruogu had to bear the brunt) how daft the rule really was became clear when the blue-riband 100m final lost its sheen in a fraction of a second.


While heartbreaking for him, in some ways, Bolt's disqualification was good for the future of athletics.
    First, there is a great irony, since television networks were the first to raise the red-flag on delays, that such a big TV event turned out to be a dud.

Second, the IAAF needs to understand which issues require a strict "zero-tolerance" policy, and which cannot be dealt with as if all athletes are inherently corrupt until proven otherwise. Jumping the gun is not the same as doping, where the world body understandably makes no exceptions. There is no way to tell if a runner, or jumper, or thrower, took a banned steroid by mistake or whether they were willfully trying to cheat. In the case of false-starts, however, there is enough technology available to ensure no one benefits from them.


And finally, if the IAAF is so concerned about gamesmanship, there are several different ways to deal with the problem. One solution would be having a footballlike system where a count is kept of all yellow cards. Two yellows in the World Cup mean you miss the next match; five yellows in the English Premier League and you have to sit out one game. It would be a good way to keep track of repeat offenders, and to tackle the problem at hand, rather than creating a situation where the potential harm is far greater than the perceptible good.

Over in a church in Kingston, where Bolt is The Honourable Usain St. Leo Bolt (Order of Jamaica), a pastor told the congregation what happened in Daegu was a lesson for all. "As human beings prone to error, we need second chances," he preached. "Any rule that only gives you one chance is from the pit of hell."
    The IAAF may not fear eternal damnation, but it must be worried about a similar disaster in London 2012.



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




The jury is still out on whether the global economy is headed for a "double-dip" recession or a prolonged period of sustained economic underperformance, wherein gross domestic product in developed economies grows at no more than one or two per cent per year. While available indicators point to the latter scenario, it is unlikely to offer more cheer than dire forecasts about a "double dip". Ominously, the developed world seems to have blown its ammunition in terms of policy tools to confront the persisting crisis. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's Jackson Hole speech virtually ruling out a third round of stimulus for now was obviously guided by fears of stoking inflation, which would only make a bad situation worse. Either Mr Bernanke was keeping his policy cards close to his chest, or he has no more aces up his sleeve. The effectiveness of monetary policy in the United States is virtually at an end. A US economic turnaround will primarily be driven by improvement in the fiscal scenario, though a road map is far from clear. It would be interesting to see for how much longer the Federal Reserve can resist pressure to print money. The US housing market is still in the doldrums (housing prices are at 2001 levels!) and the official employment rate is just a tad short of 10 per cent — just the kind of situation in which political considerations trump economic reasoning.

The situation in the Eurozone, on the other hand, is made worse by deeper limitations in policy options compared to the US and the burden of a monetary union without the accompanying fiscal consolidation. Japan's economy is not expected to head north anytime soon — the devastation wrought by the tsunami earlier this year has only exacerbated existing problems. A persistent slowdown in the developed economies, characterised by anaemic economic growth, is likely to dampen commodity prices, which should do its bit to rein in global inflation. This is increasingly likely to be countered by rising "resource nationalism" in countries seeking to cash in on the commodities boom. Low interest rates in developed economies (The US Fed has assured that the prevailing near-zero interest rates will remain till 2013) are likely to accelerate capital flows to emerging markets by investors seeking to arbitrage differentials that higher interest rates in emerging economies provide. In response, it is likely that many emerging market economies would come up with a slew of capital controls to discourage unbridled capital flows, following South Korea and Brazil, a few years ago.

India would have to weigh its options carefully. In the near future, the rupee is likely to continue its downward trend, which ceteris paribus will boost Indian exports, currently enjoying a golden run. A persistent slowdown in the West could, however, make this boom unsustainable. If foreign institutional investors flock to India as they did prior to 2008, the rupee will head north posing a new set of challenges. The Reserve Bank of India will then have to calibrate a policy that ensures that the cost of "sterilising" foreign reserves is not prohibitive, while not creating a hostile regime for investors. Clearly, India cannot assume it will not be impacted by global trends. It needs a strategy to strengthen the domestic sources of growth and minimise the impact of external factors.






There is a remarkable difference in both style and substance of the first 100 days in office between Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. To be sure, the two situations are not comparable apart from the fact that both chief ministers happen to be women. Ms Banerjee swept to power on a tidal wave of high expectations of change and progress after three decades of Left Front rule which had become moribund. Ms Jayalalithaa is dealing with a less dramatic situation. Though both are mercurial in their own ways, Ms Jayalalithaa has proved to be more combative in office than Ms Banerjee, who has so far gone about doing her work in a quiet manner. The Tamil Nadu chief minister has declared war on land grabbing by influential people. This has resulted in scores of arrests, including those of several former ministers of the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) regime. Several schemes and projects of the DMK period have been either reversed or replaced. The scheme of distributing free TV sets has been dropped, a new state secretariat-cum-assembly complex is to be converted into a hospital and a grass-roots heath scheme has been redone.

As opposed to this, the new West Bengal chief minister has sought and obtained the co-operation of the Opposition Left Front to rename the state "Paschimbanga", so that it can travel up the alphabetical order and secure better central mind space. Also, Ms Banerjee's Trinamool Congress party has not sought revenge, as was widely feared, and there has been little violence after the change of power. Instead of taking revenge or badla, Ms Banerjee asked her party cadre to play Rabindra Sangeet at public places! The West Bengal government has gone ahead with alacrity in burying the Tata's Singur project to manufacture the Nano by undertaking to return the land to the cultivators as promised during the election campaign. Similarly, a question mark hangs over the development at Rajarhat in East Kolkata and the proposed chemical complex in Nayachar seems as good as dead.

Both chief ministers have asked for financial assistance from the Centre. Though Ms Jayalalithaa would not be as dependent on central revenues as Ms Banerjee, neither can fulfill all their populist promises to the electorate without New Delhi's help. Tamil Nadu is of course better placed to forge ahead on the industrial front than West Bengal. The Trinamool government took its own time to present a Budget and, unfortunately, seems non-serious about raising resources. Ms Banerjee has already sent the wrong signals on water and power charges and has been promising to create thousands of new jobs for teachers and policemen. The latter can be financially ruinous. Thus, while Tamil Nadu can hope to survive the unpredictability of Ms Jayalalithaa, West Bengal is in danger of going down further if Ms Banerjee's populism is not reined in.






China's government may be about to let the renminbi-dollar exchange rate rise more rapidly in the coming months than it did during the past year. The exchange rate was actually frozen during the financial crisis, but has been allowed to increase since the summer of 2010. In the past 12 months, the renminbi strengthened by 6 per cent against the dollar, its reference currency.

A more rapid increase of the renminbi-dollar exchange rate would shrink China's exports and increase its imports. It would also allow other Asian countries to let their currencies rise or expand their exports at the expense of Chinese producers. That might please China's neighbours, but it would not appeal to Chinese producers. Why, then, might the Chinese authorities deliberately allow the renminbi to rise more rapidly?

There are two fundamental reasons the Chinese government might choose such a policy: reducing its portfolio risk and containing domestic inflation.

Consider, first, the authorities' concern about the risks implied by its portfolio of foreign securities. China's existing portfolio of some $1.6 trillion worth of dollar bonds and other foreign securities exposes it to two distinct risks: inflation in the United States and Europe, and a rapid devaluation of the dollar relative to the euro and other currencies.

Inflation in the US or Europe would reduce the purchasing value of the dollar bonds or euro bonds. The Chinese would still have as many dollars or euros, but those dollars and euros would buy fewer goods on the world market.

Even if there were no increase in inflation rates, a sharp fall in the dollar's value relative to the euro and other foreign currencies would reduce its purchasing value in buying European and other products. The Chinese can reasonably worry about that after seeing the dollar fall 10 per cent relative to the euro in the past year — and substantially more against other currencies.

The only way for China to reduce those risks is to reduce the amount of foreign-currency securities that it owns. But China cannot reduce the volume of such bonds while it is running a large current-account surplus. During the past 12 months, China had a current-account surplus of nearly $300 billion, which must be added to China's existing holdings of securities denominated in dollars, euros and other foreign currencies.

The second reason China's political leaders might favour a stronger renminbi is to reduce China's own domestic inflation rate. A stronger renminbi lowers the cost to Chinese consumers and Chinese firms of imported products as expressed in renminbi. A barrel of oil might still cost $90, but a 10 per cent increase in the renminbi-dollar exchange rate reduces the renminbi price by 10 per cent.

Reducing the cost of imports is significant because China imports a wide range of consumer goods, equipment and raw materials. Indeed, China's total annual imports amount to roughly $1.4 trillion, or nearly 40 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

A stronger renminbi would also reduce demand pressure more broadly and more effectively than the current policy of raising interest rates. This will be even more important in the future as China carries out its plan to increase domestic spending, especially spending by Chinese households. A principal goal of the recently presented 12th Five-Year Plan is to increase household incomes and consumer spending at a faster rate than that of GDP growth.

The combination of faster household-spending growth and the existing level of exports would cause production bottlenecks and strain capacity, leading to faster increases in the prices of domestically produced goods. Making room for increased consumer spending requires reducing the level of exports by allowing the currency to appreciate.

Looking back on the past year, the 6 per cent rise in the renminbi-dollar exchange rate might understate the increase in the relative cost of Chinese goods to American buyers because of differences in domestic inflation rates. Chinese consumer prices rose about 6.5 per cent over the past year, while US consumer prices rose only about 3.5 per cent. The three-percentage-point difference implies that the "real" inflation-adjusted renminbi-dollar exchange rate rose 9 per cent over the past year (that is, 6 per cent nominal appreciation plus the 3 per cent inflation difference.)

Although this is how governments calculate real exchange-rate changes, it no doubt overstates the relative change in the prices of the goods that Americans buy from China, because much of China's inflation was caused by rising prices for housing, local vegetables and other non-tradables. The renminbi prices of the Chinese manufactured products that are exported to the US may not have increased at all. 

The renminbi-dollar exchange rate is, of course, only part of the story of what drives China's trade competitiveness. While the renminbi has risen relative to the dollar, the dollar has declined against other major currencies. The dollar's 10 per cent decline relative to the euro over the past 12 months implies that the renminbi is actually down by about 4 per cent relative to the euro. The Swiss franc has increased more than 40 per cent against the dollar — and therefore more than 30 per cent against the renminbi. Looking at the full range of countries with which China trades implies that the overall value of the renminbi probably declined in the past 12 months.

The dollar is likely to continue falling relative to the euro and other currencies over the next several years. As a result, the Chinese will be able to allow the renminbi to rise substantially against the dollar if they want to raise its overall global value in order to decrease China's portfolio risk and rein in inflationary pressure.

The author is professor of Economics at Harvard, was chairman of President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers and is former president of the National Bureau for Economic Research

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011






Indians hardly watch films. According to Hansa Research, which conducts the Indian Readership Survey or IRS, only 80 million Indians watched a film in a cinema hall in the last six months. More than 345 million Indians read a newspaper and 523 million watched television in the same period. The Internet and radio too logged higher numbers. This then makes cinema the least popular and worst penetrated medium.

There is nothing wrong with IRS; it's just that most of us know films are very popular in India. The sheer popularity of films and film music is manifested in the Rs 9,900 crore that mobile companies made by selling ringtones, caller tunes and so on in 2010. It is also emphasised in the cinema-themed programming on news channels, general entertainment channels (GECs) and on online forums.

One reason cinema seems small is in the way we look at the business. The fact is that the 523 million Indians who watch TV are an audience too. Films account for more than 16 per cent of their total TV time. This, according to TAM Media Research data, is second only to GECs, which take away more than half of total television viewership. Then there is the home video market and the legal download one, although somewhat small. All of these contribute to the Rs 14,000-odd crore that Indian films made from various revenue streams last year.

Even if we resist the temptation to compare it with Hollywood's $30 billion, it seems small. For 1,100 films, 2.9 billion tickets and a film-crazy 1.2 billion people, it is indeed a small number. Why?

The film business remains small because of our attitude towards it. In theatres in the interiors it is standard practice to put a stamp on the hand instead of giving a printed ticket. This ticket is sans entertainment taxes and, therefore, cheaper. Many people watch a film on a pirated DVD or on an illegal file-sharing network. Scores of cable networks show pirated copies of a film with local adverts.

If we account for all that is lost to leakages (theatres not declaring revenues) and piracy (consumers stealing films), then the industry should be at least double its size, if not more — or about $6 billion.

For evidence consider that in 1998, when there were no multiplexes or organised theatre chains, official box office collections were Rs 1,680 crore. In 2008, just ten years after computerised multiplex chains spread, the figure was Rs 9,750 crore. Almost all of this growth has come from transparency, full declaration of revenues and rising ticket prices. It has come because revenues that were accruing to the industry have finally started to come into its fold. This tenfold jump has come from just 2,000 new screens. Imagine the impact if all 11,000 screens were accounted for. Since theatres bring 60 to 70 per cent of the revenues in this business, plugging this leakage is crucial. That process is now in motion.

However, capturing the revenues lost to other media – cable, DVD, online and so on – is proving difficult. That is because even among educated people intellectual property remains a soft target for theft. When I bring this subject up, my students, friends and some senior people throw back standard arguments: "we can't afford it", "it is too expensive", "the legal version is not available", "there are no compilations" and so on. Funnily enough, if someone is caught stealing a diamond necklace, it is never justified with the same arguments, though it is the same thing. Internationally, the law equates intellectual property rights with private property ones.

I have written a paper on this issue, attended various seminars, read many research reports, argued, debated and it all comes down to the same thing: consumers do not think there is anything wrong in stealing a film or a piece of music. And no amount of education will make them think otherwise.

For instance, last year the New York-based Rand Corporation came out with a report saying that film piracy was becoming a way to finance terrorism. It draws examples from North America, China, Spain, Italy, Hong Kong and India, among other countries. Organised crime syndicates use the same network that smuggles arms et al to smuggle stolen films and entertainment products. It is safer than drugs and offers better margins.

When you point to evidence like this, most people accuse the research of being biased. The music industry in the West tried very hard to tackle piracy by putting consumers in jail. It still hasn't worked.

This brings me back to the question: why do we steal films? Unless one answers that, it is impossible to get at the revenues lost to piracy.






It is perhaps too early to gauge the full impact of the proposed inclusion of the lower bureaucracy under the Lok Pal. Civil servants have not yet fully internalised what the expanded scope of the Lok Pal could mean for them.

Most importantly, there are legal questions. What would now be the scope of the current law on prevention of corruption by officers of the government and public bodies including public sector undertakings? Will it overlap with the proposed law on the Lok Pal? Finally, if the Lok Pal law covers the lower bureaucracy as well, would it mean the end of the Prevention of Corruption Act or would it reduce its efficacy to a level that makes it irrelevant?

Civil servants would like the government to resolve these issues even as the Parliamentary Standing Committee begins its examination of the Lok Pal Bill after taking on board Parliament's resolution on corruption. Civil servants are likely to have another area of concern. This may arise from Anna Hazare's statement on Saturday. "We have won only half the battle," he said soon after Parliament adopted the resolution that incorporated all the three suggestions made by his team — inclusion of the lower bureaucracy under the Lok Pal, a central law for creating Lokayuktas in states and a citizen's charter for government departments providing public service.

What did Hazare mean when he said only half the battle was won? What is the half that remains to be won? Presumably, the reference was to Parliament's passing the legislation for a Lok Pal that contained all the features proposed by the Hazare team. However, believing that passing the Lok Pal legislation alone will ensure victory in the battle against corruption is naive and tantamount to waiting for Godot.

In other words, this is not the time for the government and civil servants to wait for the magic wand of the Lok Pal to arrive to weed out corruption. Institutions are important, but they alone cannot tackle as pervasive and widespread a disease like corruption. You need accompanying measures with an institution like the Lok Pal to check malpractices and misuse of power. As many civil servants correctly would like to believe, the proposed institution of the Lok Pal is comparable to a physician who usually heals the body after disease has struck. However, prevention is always better than cure.

The Lok Pal may provide the cure, but there is no reason the government should not take advance steps to prevent the disease. Good governance requires that healthcare through hygiene and provision of nutritious food is as important, if not more, to prevent the disease. The approach of the civil society in India is rooted in the belief that the government, its various arms, the political parties and civil servants are incapable of creating enabling conditions that do not allow corruption in the first place — hence the need for a powerful regulatory body like the Lok Pal.

This may be true but the challenge for civil servants in particular now is to come up with a series of changes in procedures of key economic regulations that eliminate the scope for corruption in the delivery of government services. Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, in their separate addresses in Parliament last week, touched upon some of these issues. They underlined the need for simplifying rules and procedures to make the common man's life easier and hassle-free.

Mukherjee hit the nail on the head when he talked about the use of an electronic payment system for releasing refunds to taxpayers. The finance minister has understood the crux of the problem. Indeed, the government can eliminate most cases of petty corruption by removing human contact at the time of service delivery. Tax refunds could be a source of petty and illegal gratification for some dishonest officers as long as they had to deliver or send a physical cheque to the taxpayer. Now, with an electronic system of payment of such refunds into the bank accounts of the taxpayer, the finance ministry has eliminated such scope for corruption.

Similarly, as Mukherjee pointed out in his address, the advent of the unique identity numbers for people, disbursement of funds or financial entitlements under various schemes would eliminate or substantially reduce the leakage seen in the past several years. The point is technology can work wonders in eliminating corruption. Imagine getting your building plans approved through an electronic window or paying your house tax online or getting the driving licence renewed on the basis of declarations and self-certification posted on the relevant government department's website. Citizens will benefit and corruption will be on the wane.

Civil society will, however, still clamour for the Lok Pal and there should be no dispute over the need for such a body. However, civil servants now have the opportunity to use technology and transparent procedures in a wide range of public services and reduce the scope for corruption. That will be a win-win situation for the government, civil servants and citizens. Additionally, it should reduce the burden of huge expectations from the Lok Pal.






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.









The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India's (ICAI) move to write a new code of ethics is welcome, but it can be effective only if it compels auditors to raise their standard of ethics and values. No large corporate fraud has been exposed by eagle-eyed accountants, but by insiders or through a confession — like Ramalinga Raju's mea culpa in the Satyam scam. The new code should raise the level of accountability of auditors. Ideally, auditors of companies should be 'whistleblowers', even as they discharge their fiduciary role. Such a system is in place in the banking sector where the RBI clears the appointment of auditors who, in turn, alert the central bank about frauds. There's no reason why all companies cannot replicate this practice. Statutory auditors are supposed to point out irregularities in audit reports attached to the firm's annual report. Unfortunately, that seldom happens. There is a conflict of interest as statutory auditors are appointed and paid by the company they audit. A better way could be for companies to pay audit fees into a fund maintained by stock exchanges, for listed companies, or with the registrar of companies, for nonlisted ones. Auditors should be paid from this fund, not by any company directly. Rotation of auditors must become mandatory. Whistleblowers need to be encouraged and protected against pressure. A clear-cut policy for every organisation that guarantees protection for whistleblowers makes sense. Prompt action should also be taken against an errant company, based on the auditor's report. Competent statutory auditors, rigorous internal audit, transparency and disclosures combined with strong independent directors and active shareholders will ensure better corporate governance. The government should implement its plan on early warning systems to detect fraud and work for speedy passage of the Companies Bill to make both statutory auditors and independent directors more accountable. It should also reform political funding to usher in transparency in the relationship between companies and political parties. The reform of campaign finance will boost corporate governance as well as political ethics.







Weather reporting on TV used to prompt a bit of a smirk: pretty girls breathlessly tripping over difficult place names even as their fingers fluttered around pointing out rain and shine worldwide or balding men offering nuggets of faint humour as they earnestly outlined isotherms. Ever since confusion and bungling combined to turn Hurricane Katrina into a national calamity, though, this genre of reporting has obviously been invested with a cachet hitherto reserved for gritty or sepulchral commentary from warzones and epidemics. Of all the weather-related retributions that the Earth exacts on us, storms are possibly the safest to cover, as they have a fair degree of inevitability: wind, water, lull, wind, water. Yet, weather warriors, like their colleagues in bulletproof jackets and helmets in battlefronts, now fan out to weatherfronts appropriately attired in 'disaster casuals', in a similar quest for catastrophe.

The air of heroism and stoic public service permeating the reportage of Hurricane Irene that hit the east coast of the US last weekend, however, exposed the danger of depending on something as capricious as a storm for a daily fix of hope amid devastation. The destructive quotients of weather-induced debacles such as tornado trails, landslides, floods and avalanches are easily visible, particularly in the aftermath. But if a rain-bearing cloud system does not live up to its doom ratings (dwindling from a hurricane to a tropical storm before landfall), it can leave TRP-seeking networks and brownie-point-seeking disaster management troubleshooters high and dry — as the Obama administration has learnt to its chagrin. Political storms, though equally unpredictable, offer a more sound option as they can be 'managed' to suit everyone. Even the weather.








Weather reporting on TV used to prompt a bit of a smirk: pretty girls breathlessly tripping over difficult place names even as their fingers fluttered around pointing out rain and shine worldwide or balding men offering nuggets of faint humour as they earnestly outlined isotherms. Ever since confusion and bungling combined to turn Hurricane Katrina into a national calamity, though, this genre of reporting has obviously been invested with a cachet hitherto reserved for gritty or sepulchral commentary from warzones and epidemics. Of all the weather-related retributions that the Earth exacts on us, storms are possibly the safest to cover, as they have a fair degree of inevitability: wind, water, lull, wind, water. Yet, weather warriors, like their colleagues in bulletproof jackets and helmets in battlefronts, now fan out to weatherfronts appropriately attired in 'disaster casuals', in a similar quest for catastrophe.

The air of heroism and stoic public service permeating the reportage of Hurricane Irene that hit the east coast of the US last weekend, however, exposed the danger of depending on something as capricious as a storm for a daily fix of hope amid devastation. The destructive quotients of weather-induced debacles such as tornado trails, landslides, floods and avalanches are easily visible, particularly in the aftermath. But if a rain-bearing cloud system does not live up to its doom ratings (dwindling from a hurricane to a tropical storm before landfall), it can leave TRP-seeking networks and brownie-point-seeking disaster management troubleshooters high and dry — as the Obama administration has learnt to its chagrin. Political storms, though equally unpredictable, offer a more sound option as they can be 'managed' to suit everyone. Even the weather.







Habits die hard. For too long the world has looked West for cues. It is after all not that long since the sun never set on a particular western empire and even shorter since the US led the world in almost every sphere — technology, economic, finance and military. In 1988, the developed world made up 83% of world GDP and even as recently as 2000 this share was 80%. Today the share has fallen to 65% and in another five years will fall below 60%. Thereafter? Modest extrapolations suggest that in another 15 years, it will drop further to 50%. The developing world will have the other half. Is this inevitable? Of course not — nothing ever is.
The late economic historian Angus Maddison estimated that in 1700 both India and China accounted for a quarter each of world GDP. What happened thereafter was not just the success of colonial conquest, but also the abysmal failure of the colonised to protect their interest. The opportunities that present themselves today to India, China and the rest of developing Asia and Africa are as much a consequence of the heroic struggles of their peoples for freedom, the painstaking and slow construction of a modern economy and an educated society, as it is of the relatively easier access to technology and markets today, a product of a globalised world and the enterprise of developing economy businesses.

It is three years since the global crisis broke on the failure of Lehman Brothers over the weekend of September 12-14, 2008. This columnist was, if memory does not fail, the only one who dated the crisis to this turning point. Over the years, it has slowly become the consensus. US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, in his Jackson Hole speech last weekend, noted that "we meet here today almost exactly three years since …." He called it "since the most intense phase of the financial crisis", but in truth what it was "since" the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury failed to anticipate what letting Lehman go would bring in its aftermath. Some $3.5 trillion of federal debt later, three years of lost growth later, three years of unemployment at 9% plus later and with a difficult near-term future ahead — it looks like a measly and ill-considered decision — an avoidable discontinuity.

There is a clear and present danger of triumphalism in those economies that did not dive alongside the West. In Asia there were plenty of smirks, a sense of self-congratulatory satisfaction. One saw that here and I saw it in China — more abundantly there and here. But that may just have been the manner of articulation. China, with national output of $6.5 trillion, is ahead of us ($2 trillion), but both of us (more we than them) are far away from where we need to be so that the majority of our population can even begin to think of themselves as citizens of a moderately developed economy.

In the past decade, all emerging countries benefited from the stability that was lent to world trade, investment and finance by the comfort of a prosperous West. However, today that comfort does not exist and therefore neither does the calming hand in global waters. The seemingly obvious thing that should happen when the engine of growth begins to switch from the West to the developing world is that investment and finance increasingly flows to the latter. However, gradual shifts and disruptive ones are hugely and meaningfully different. Gradual shifts would have meant that incremental flows on investment and finance would have moved direction in line with increments to global output that was located in the developing world. But with disruptive change, it is not only the increments that are affected, but also the stock.

    The not unexpected (in my view, but a nasty surprise to most it seems) slowing down of the US economy (1% in the quarter to June) and similar troubling numbers from Europe are bad news. But that is only half the story. There is the familiar quagmire of the sovereign debt and solvency issue in the eurozone. A script largely written by euro-grandees of French origin decades ago, the bill to be footed mostly by Germany: It seems like the last scene in a great tragedy. Either from it will rise a political union of Europe or a virtual dissolution of the monetary union. Considering that 600 years of war and millions of dead did not succeed in making a united nation of Europe it would be poetic if a financial crisis can. To my mind, the other possibility is more likely. In the US, it is extremely unclear how the fiscal deficit will abate and the federal debt stabilise. It can happen under certain assumptions, as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in a brief released last week showed. Whether such assumptions can materialise is another matter.

Finally, there is the unpleasant and abundantly clear fact. Namely, the conventional tools of fiscal and monetary measures have not worked as expected. Worse, there is no ammunition left — the powder is blown. The combination of weak economic growth and fiscal stress is causing tremors. In this bleak world of uncertainty people are not looking for profit, but ways not to make a loss. The driver of investment and growth is risk taking — the search for profit. Its beleaguered state in what is still the core of the global economy colours the outlook for the rest. Hoping that things will calm down in the West and the atmosphere of 2004-07 will return is futile. Developing nations should understand this well. They do not yet have the capacity to stabilise the core of the global economy, but they can influence matters at the edge. If they seem to be turning into their own variant of basket cases, it will not happen. It will be a hard slog, but we have to live up to this challenge.






Plot Thickens

Kiran Bedi says she told L K Advani that she felt let-down by his party too when Parliament failed to discuss the Lokpal issue on August 26. True, political players were all dressed up for a Friday debate when procedural wrangling, with the BJP insisting on a discussion with voting and the Congress not wanting a vote, consumed the day. This, incidentally, hit the Congress plan to field Rahul Gandhi, facing charges of keeping mum on the issue, during the anticipated debate. A desperate Congress then got the Zero Hour rule stretched a bit to get Mr Gandhi to speak, triggering opposition protests over the method as well as the content of his speech. When the Lok Sabha finally held the Lokpal debate on Saturday, Mr Gandhi was conspicuously absent, prompting sections of the opposition to chide his 'lack of seriousness'. Now the Congress camp says Mr Gandhi was not in the House on Saturday because he had flown out of India on Friday night to bring back his ailing mother. Incidentally, the BJP allowed the discussion to finally start on Saturday under a non-voting rule. Now the Congress camp has started whispering if 'the Friday confrontation' was "also aimed at ensuring that Gandhi did not get a chance to break his silence" during the debate. Talk about plots and sub-plots!

Curious Queries

You can't blame Gopinath Munde and Ananth Kumar for visiting Ramlila Maidan on Friday to try and play peacemaker with Team Anna. After all, how could have these BJP leaders remain unmoved when Congress' Vilasrao Deshmukh started his tango with Anna at the Maidan. It is reflective of the Ramlila audience's lack of understanding of political exigencies that they collectively booed out the BJP duo, demanding the saffron party stop playing foul even as Kiran Bedi started her ghooghat act. Now, wild speculation is on amidst the political class as to how Munde and Kumar managed to leave the hostile scene: with a straight face or by seeking the cover of anotherghooghat? Some in the BJP are particularly keen to find out whether Munde's day out happened with or without the blessings of his "very dear friend" Nitin Gadkari.

Non-stop Struggle

Brinda Karat says "Anna's fast is over, but for the Left, the struggle is far from over…" She spelt out fighting corruption in the bureaucracy and corporate India as the CPI-M's unfinished struggle. We'd suggest she is being modest, given the bigger and critical struggle the CPI-M is facing. Not without reason did a West Bengal CPI-M delegation meet the PM last week, urging him to urgently provide central forces' protection to party workers who are'being chased out' by Trinamool workers. In fact, the Bengal CPI-M, which was always proud about its organisational might, could not even hold the customary pre-state conference 'organisational elections/meetings' at around 60% of its local and branch committees this time because the party's grassroot outfits have been thrashed by the Trinamool brigade. What a price to pay for uniting the Congress and Trinamool by 'waging an ideological war against the imperialist Indo-US nuclear deal'! And in the Kerala unit, such is the factional war that nobody from the central leadership is brave enough step onto this southern battlefield of verbal missiles, factional fury and secret 'camera-eyes'. Certainly, there is no end to the CPI-M's 'struggle' even as Anna relaxes.

Investment Risk

Nitin Gadkari is on a silent drive of 'script-changing' that is making many BJP top guns uneasy. First, the BJP chief tied down the self-floated prime ministerial candidates in the party by declaring his party will have no 'pre-poll prime ministerial candidate in 2014'. And even as many think Gadkari was acting at the behest of the RSS came the next act of bringing back the once-ejected pointsman Sanjay Joshi into the party organisation. Everybody knows the tense relation Joshi shares with the likes of Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley. Incidentally, the three people — Uma Bharti, Sanjay Joshi and Rajnath Singh — whom Gadkari has lined up to pilot the BJP's UP poll project are not only close to the Sangh but are also capable of tilting the factional equations within the BJP. Just hoping all that 'tactical friendship with Gadkari' some BJP leaders have been painstakingly investing in will not go for a toss as the real game begins.







After the end of the Anna Hazare agitation to push for a Lokpal with teeth, the two persons who ought to be most worried are Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. For them, the stakes in the feud between Anna Hazare and the Machiavellian team of the Manmohan Singh government, should be very high indeed.
Far from the glares of cameras and arc lights, people of rural India must be as disgusted as people in Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore on the issue of corruption in public life and the cavalier manner in which political managers of the government mishandled Anna Hazare's agitation from the first day. Nobody in the government today has anything to lose in this battle. Manmohan Singh has imprinted his name in the history of modern India for being the third-longest serving Prime Minister. The No 2 man in the government Pranab Mukherjee has already spoken about hanging up his boots by the next general elections. If there's any ambition that Mukherjee might nurse today, it might be a desire to be the next occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2012. The likes of P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid, because of their relative youth, have a long career in politics ahead of them. However, any dent in the Congress party would directly affect Rahul Gandhi — the man heading the line of succession in the ruling party. That's because the two-phase agitation by Anna Hazare has literally awakened a vast majority of the Indian population, despite claims to the contrary by the likes of Manish Tiwari and Janardhan Dwivedi, who were initially totally dismissive of the entire Anna movement. Arrogance never pays, when in power. Look back at what happened in 1975 and 1977. Jayaprakash Narayan and a whole host of Opposition leaders were picked on the night of June 25-26 in 1975 following the imposition of Emergency. There was not even a whimper of protest by the people. "Not even a leaf fluttered," was the refrain of Congress leaders. In 1977 Indira Gandhi decided to restore democracy by holding elections to the Lok Sabha. While campaigning in Bihar she drew huge crowds for her election meetings. This writer was present in one of her meetings at Ranchi in February 1977. The crowd present listened to Indira Gandhi with rapt attention. She addressed more than half adozen meetings in Bihar and was accompanied by Jagannath Mishra, the then-chief minister and Sitaram Kesri, the then-Pradesh Congress Committee chief. At the end of that day, Indira Gandhi asked Mishra, "Jagannathji, kya lagta hai?" (Jagannathji, what do you think?)
Mishra went overboard, saying the Congress would win at least 45 out of 54 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. Kesri echoed Mishra, but went a step further to say that the party would win 50 seats. "Pata nahin, mujhe aisa nahin lagata" (I don't know, it doesn't seem that way to me), observed Indira Gandhi. Being an astute politician, she had noticed that the huge crowds had listened to her speech without showing any reaction or responding to her slogans. She knew much before the verdict what was in store. When results were declared, the Congress lost all 54 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar and Indira lost power at the Centre.

While few parallels can be drawn between the situation in the 1970s and the situation in 2011, the Congress, and for that matter the political class and all parties, should take note of the strong undercurrent in the country against corruption and the privileges enjoyed by the political class. Recently, an analyst said that it didn't matter if one crore people wave flags on the streets, because another 119 crore people might not support the Anna movement. Assumptions like this might prove costly for the Congress, or for that matter the BJP. What transpired in the all-party meeting chaired by the Prime Minister on August 24, 2011 to discuss the Anna Hazare phenomenon was the solidarity of our parliamentarians. They vowed not to let the Jan Lokpal Bill be tabled in Parliament in the name of safeguarding parliamentary practice and procedure.
They may be right but one should ask them how many times, and this happens ad nauseam, bills are guillotined in the House without even the pretence of being discussed or debated and passed as presented. This is not to suggest that the Jan Lokpal Bill, which suffers from many infirmities, should be adopted by Parliament without modifications. The BJP's ambiguity speaks volumes about its dubious character. No wonder that in the post-Nehru era most leaders of the Congress, the BJP or of any other party are a class apart, pursuing only self-aggrandisement.

A word of advice for Anna Hazare. Float a manch or platform. Campaign extensively for three years to build an organisation to take on the leaders of established parties in the general elections of 2014. It is a stupendous task, yet worth giving a shot. While electing their representatives for Parliament or state legislatures, people are often faced with the Hobson's choice between the devil and the deep sea. They deserve better.


(The author is a senior journalist)









In Admiration for Anna and Some Submissions in The Hindu (August 26) , the author narrates instances of her interaction with a cross section of the people out there: "Sohan Lal from Tilak Nagar is in stone trade and does not give receipts to his buyers. Aditya Gaur from Porta Builders in Dwarka agrees that there is a lot of black money in the business". Her auto driver admits to fleecing his customers.

Another newspaper highlights Monica Bedi, the consort of underworld don Abu Salem, sporting a Gandhi cap and shouting slogans against corruption. The film fraternity too sees no moral dilemma or contradiction in supporting Anna. No doubt, the whole campaign has been orchestrated to an unprecedented crescendo by an unabashed middle-class and celebrities who have been both beneficiaries and victims of corruption. The hypocrisy is hard to miss.We have the Domestic Violence Act, the Anti-Dowry Act, the Prohibition of Child Labour Act and numerous others on the statute books to regulate human behaviour. Has there been any significant improvement? Not much. When important pieces of legislation such as the Right to Information have been passed and the Constitution amended many times, why is it that this Bill could not be passed for 62 years? Were there no sensible people in the 15 Lok Sabhas so far?

Protest is like a tornado

Perhaps, the Anna phenomenon is a text book case of "The Power Of Context" as described by Malcom Gladwell in Tipping Point. It is obvious that the serial scams of 2G, CWG and Adarsh triggered its widespread appeal in 2010-11. Yet, despite this hyperbole, we know that mere laws cannot reconcile human propensities with principles of a corruption-free society. The sincere among Parliamentarians, one can assume, were circumspect about rousing expectations on legislation to such high standards that cannot be achieved in practice. Politicians in a democracy can hardly behave the same way as activist dictators; they have to get elected the next time and have to keep as large a constituency as possible on their side. One-off agitators in a democracy have no obligation at all towards making enduring changes. They just want their wishes to be fulfilled, even if it is at the cost of demolishing the very edifice which brought them together to fight .The protest movement is like a tornado which may have a devastating effect for years to come; for instance, in failing to protect the innocent or permitting risk-taking in public sector with the Damocles' sword of a draconian law dictated literally by a mob.

Cleansing of polity

During the days of Socrates in Greece, Diogenes, an anti-corruption crusader, went searching for a honest man with a candle light in broad daylight. Human nature has not changed much since then. However periodical cleansing of polity has taken place in the form of revolutions, all of them bloody and against dictatorial regimes where the corrupt under the previous regimes are either annihilated or incarcerated.

But, in a democracy, at the aam admi level, experience tells us that perceptions of the youth in terms of equality of opportunity, , in terms of free availability of goods and services, determine the level of corruption.

Finally, law or no law, if everyone is against corruption as they all seem to say ,why should there be any corruption at all?





Market regulator SEBI is quite right to encourage retail investors to take the mutual fund route to the stock market. With wild market swings and the many external risks to corporate performance, stock selection today is a virtual minefield for investors who don't have professional help. However, whether retail investors can be wooed back to equity funds by the simple expedient of bringing back distributor incentives is open to question. The flat transaction fee of Rs 100-150 per subscription proposed by SEBI as an upfront commission on mutual funds may, in any case, do little to entice distributors back to the fold. Though well-intentioned, SEBI's August 2009 ban on entry loads for mutual fund investments caused quite an upheaval for investors. Larger distribution houses and wealth managers have moved affluent clients to a fee-based model since then. But small investors taking their first steps into equities through mutual funds have been left to deal with indifferent intermediaries and deteriorating service levels. This is because many smaller distributors stopped selling mutual funds and migrated to other financial products offering more lucrative commissions.

It appears highly unlikely that these agents will take up marketing of mutual funds just for an upfront transaction charge of Rs 100 or Rs 150 (proposed on all investments above Rs 10,000 for existing and new mutual fund investors respectively). After all, products such as unit-linked insurance plans (ULIPs), small savings schemes and even bonds still offer much higher incentives, ranging from 0.5 per cent to 2 per cent of the investment value. Selling more products to a few wealthy clients is a far easier proposition in today's uncertain market, than persuading new investors to try out equities. If SEBI is keen to ensure that distributors sell mutual funds on the product's merits, the only solution is to re-initiate the dialogue with other regulators to move other market-linked products such as ULIPs to a similar incentive structure.

However, lack of access is only part of the reason why retail investors have little appetite for equity mutual funds. A bigger problem relates to their unwillingness to take on risk after the gut-wrenching ride that stocks have been on over the past three years. Retail investors who poured big money into equity mutual funds at the end of 2007 are yet to reap significant returns from those levels. Despite this, though, there has been a gradual recovery in gross inflows into equity funds from their 2009 lows and an increasing proportion of systematic monthly investments (now about a fourth of inflows). These are positive signs. They show that if equity fund returns improve, retail investors may automatically increase their allocations to them, without much prodding from the regulator.






The Reserve Bank of India has been on an 'interest hike' spree for quite some time now, but inflation has not come down. The misconception that a hike in interest rate can contain inflation is based on monetarism, propagated by Milton Friedman.

The fact is that the Government can do little to check inflation in an open economy. As a corollary, if commodity prices were to fall in the event of a double-dip recession, the government can hardly claim credit for bringing prices under control. It is, of course, another matter whether commodity prices are headed southward at all.


The current spell of high inflation is also driven by high food prices and there are supply constraints in agriculture; hence, not much that can be done in the short run to check inflation. But inflation is a political issue and the government must show that it is taking efforts to check inflation. Hence these rounds of interest rate hikes!

It may be worthwhile to note in this context, that several countries have adopted the so-called policy of 'inflation targeting' since the 1990s.

Several studies have been made in this regard, but there is no conclusive evidence of the effectiveness of inflation-targeting. To be fair, it may be true that some countries, which experienced runaway inflation earlier, often in the excess of 100 per cent, could possibly get a better grip on the inflationary pressure. But the policy of inflation-targeting was never put to serious test.


Unlike the Americans, Indians do not live by credit, and hence a credit squeeze to contain demand may really not be effective in India. When inflation is driven by high prices of food and other basic necessities, a credit squeeze can hardly help, as Indians are unlikely to buy food on credit. Inflation, in India, is also significantly driven by the black money in the economy.

In India, it is quite possible that there is already a significant degree of credit rationing in place, as people sometimes pay a bribe to get a loan sanctioned. In such a situation, an interest rate hike can raise the supply of credit, and since there is already excess demand, total credit in the country will increase.

In fact, even during a period of repeated interest hikes, expansion of credit has been quite robust, as in the last several months. The Indian private sector now has significant access to the foreign credit market, which also means that even if a credit squeeze does happen in the Indian market, it may simply not be effective enough to suppress aggregate demand in the economy.

A steep rise in the interest rate may be counterproductive for inflation as well. Monetarism-induced policy of fighting inflation fails to recognize that credit is an important input in the production process.

So, in a cost-push inflation situation, a rise in interest rate will also raise the costs of production, adding fuel to further inflation. In India, there is significant evidence that pricing in the short run is not market-driven, but of the cost-plus-mark-up type, and hence the possibility of interest rate-induced inflation is quite high.

Moreover, as inflation impacts different sections of the society, with the disadvantaged and vulnerable people being hurt more. The richer sections are not necessarily the hardest hit. Bigger private players may lean towards foreign sources of credit, and small-scale industries will suffer.


The recent data from the RBI shows that despite several rounds of interest rate hikes, segments like personal loans and consumer durable loans have seen higher growth, while growth in the housing loan segment has remained stable.

But priority sector lending, in general, and agricultural and allied activities, in particular, have been hurt. It is not just an issue of depriving credit to the priority sector; its impact on the economy and inflation can be far-reaching.

When we already know that the current inflation is largely driven by high food and raw material prices, squeezing credit to agriculture and allied activities can only make inflation more persistent.

Under the current circumstances, it is highly unlikely that the interest rate hike will have any significant dent on inflation. So, if the government wants to give succour to the poorer sections of the people, the only options appear to be providing subsidies and strengthening the public distribution system.

It is surprising that though the government has often argued that the current spate of inflation is due to factors like high global prices and higher buying power among the people due to social sector programmes such as NREGA and that nothing should be done that can hurt economic growth, it still resorts to "faith healing" in the form of raising the interest rate.

This is not to argue that economic growth is the only priority and inflation does not matter, but it is simply unacceptable that economic growth is hurt while inflation remains unchecked.

The recent downgrading of the US by Standard and Poor's has brought into focus another force that might drive the central banks towards inflation control.

Rating agencies also consider inflation as a factor for downgrading a country. But high inflation and high exposure to foreign debt are not similar and they have different implications in different global situations. Moreover, rating by such financial agencies is not beyond doubt. If higher interest rate is unable to bring down inflation, downgrading would take place anyway.






Imagine an India where every resident, irrespective of location, is able to make financial transactions electronically with anybody, individuals or firms, anywhere in the country. This is the vision spelt out by the Reserve Bank of India in its 'Operational Guidelines - Implementation of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) and its convergence with Financial Inclusion Plan (FIP)', issued on August 12.

This document with its deceptively bland title has some very interesting insights into what is currently the most happening space on the policy front. For all the visionary perspective, the route to this goal appears rather convoluted.

Three pillars

To explain the background, there are three pillars of support being used by the RBI to spread electronic financial transactions in rural areas and lower income segments — Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), Financial Inclusion Plan (FIP) and Aadhar(UID). The EBT began around three years ago, pilot projects were rolled out in a few States to route government social welfare payments through bank business correspondents to the beneficiary, electronically, via handheld devices using biometric smart cards. The implementation ran into teething troubles — the subsidy by the RBI towards the cost of the smart card was withdrawn after a year, while State governments were reported to have a 'nonchalant attitude' towards promoting the scheme.

Also, banks lacked the required network of BCs to cover the assigned districts and the capacity to offer an array of financial services at these locations.

The problems were further compounded by the EBT scheme following the 'one-district one-bank' model, the idea being that one bank is designated as the intermediary for payments. Now this model was seen to be clashing with the FIP that was started last year. The goal of the FIP is to cover all unbanked villages, with population more than 2000, by 2012, and banks had been assigned villages to ensure each unbanked village was covered.

Confusion among banks

Therefore villages could be assigned to one bank for EBT and another bank under FIP and this led to confusion amongst the banks — it was some months before the RBI specified that more than one bank can serve the village.

In addition, whether under FIP or EBT, there is the stipulation of a brick and mortar branch within a 30 km radius from the BC outlets, rising costs for all banks. The latest operational guidelines conclude 'Once banking services are extended to all villages under the FIP, convergence between the EBT Scheme and FIP would be automatically realised. Once FIP is fully implemented covering all the unbanked villages and a UID number issued to each of the villagers, a 'model' will emerge where the customer will have the option to transact with the bank of his choice in any village by using UID-enabled Micro ATMs.'

The question is that if the end-objective is tooffer choice to customers, does financial inclusion really need such micro-management ? It is true that left to themselves and seeing their track record, banks needed to be pushed into providing financial services in rural areas and to the lower income classes; yet such fine-tuning of areas makes the banks even more wary of not crossing the line with the regulator, while adding to their costs, e.g is the rule of 30 km radius between a branch and its BC network really essential?

Halting progress

What does expansion of financial inclusion need? Simply put, financial service providers – banks or non-banks – must have the capacity and capability to service customers across locations across income segments.

While on one hand, there is the vision and the focus, with regulatory space opening up to new players and new technologies; on the other, there is wariness in letting go that is quite apparent. For every two steps forward, there is one step back and there are numerous examples here.

For instance, take the confusion over banks under EBT and FIP just discussed or take the permission for non-banks to act as BCs while still mandating a strict rule of a brick and mortar branch in rather close proximity. Then look at the other end of the spectrum, where the most recent RBI order permits banks to issue mobile wallets to companies for onward issuance to their employees, but limits this to just corporates who are listed on any stock exchange in India.

Of course, rules keep changing and the RBI has to deal with the regulatory dilemma of keeping the balance between maintaining financial stability and not being so prescriptive that innovative models or products are stifled. The road map has been laid out, what it will achieve depends on whether banks see the RBI vision as an opportunity or a business complexity forced upon them.






Sorry to be a party pooper. But on Saturday evening, as the entire nation went into a celebratory mood, with the band and baja, of course, provided by our television news channels, as the 12-day fast of Anna Hazare inched to an end, I found it difficult to whip up enough adrenalin to spring into the air and celebrate the "historic moment".

Of course, it felt great to note that the 74-year-old Gandhian had brought not only the government of the day, but also politicians of all hues, to their knees. And that too on as crucial and burning an issue as corruption and the demand for speed money, which has haunted, frustrated and incarcerated the toughest amongst us at some time or the other.

In an unprecedented move, both Houses of Parliament unanimously resolved to endorse the three key demands spelt out in Team Anna's draft of the Lokpal Bill. These related to the citizen's charter, inclusion of the lower bureaucracy in the Lokpal mechanism and establishment of Lokayuktas in the States.

The breakthrough came after the unyielding and hawkish representatives of Team Anna had done days of hard bargaining with the government's interlocutors, and constantly called their bluff. The entire nation heaved a sigh of relief as not even the worst critics of Team Anna's methods — my way or no way — wanted to see any harm come to the diminutive 74-year old's health through the rigours of a long-drawn-out fast.

Misplaced jubilation

But the jubilation which followed the announcement that the Parliament resolution was acceptable to Anna and he would call off his fast the next morning, was baffling, to say the least.

Hostile TV anchors, who had hitherto been blasting politicians, particularly of the UPA, suddenly changed tack and "congratulated" MPs and spokespersons across parties, for "rising to the occasion" and "raising the bar when it comes to parliamentary debates".

And smug politicians, including some from the Congress, who had been at the receiving end of the scorn of both the media and the masses, preened on TV screens, as though they had already cleaned up the system and wiped out the scourge of corruption. Said one worthy, prompted by a pompous TV anchor: "We took a consensual approach because all of us wanted Annaji to break his fast." Across political divides, from the BJP to the Congress, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MPs slapped one another's backs and "celebrated" the victory of the Parliamentary system. Said one, rather inanely: "Parliament has upheld its own supremacy by saying that Parliament will make the laws." Wow, what wisdom!

Watching the TV debates and the celebrations at Ramlila Maidan, the fast venue, and the cacophony of sound hailing "this historic occasion", "people's victory", "Parliament's supremacy", and so on, one would have thought "people's power" had already conquered corruption!

So what had changed?

So what had changed for such a jubilant mood to set in and drive sedate and sensible people out on the streets to do a victory jig? One could not believe that normally cynical journalists were totally smitten by the speech-making prowess of our politicians. It was one thing for Kiran Bedi, a core member of Team Anna, to tweet, and gush, as she congratulated Opposition Leader in the Lok Sabha, Ms Sushma Swaraj, for making a "brilliant speech".

After all, Ms Bedi's neck was on the line had anything untoward happened to Anna's health, and his fast was not called off at the earliest. But to hear hardened, cynical news hacks crowing about the articulation skills of our MPs was a little too much. Since when has bhashanbazi (speech-making) not been the most precious asset of a politician? Haven't our netas, for decades now, been making the hopes of their poor and hapless constituents take flight on nothing but the wings of their silver-tongued oratory?

Yes, Parliamentary processes have to be respected and cannot be bypassed by one, 10 or 100 fasts. But to think that our netas and babus are shivering in their shoes because some tens of thousands of mostly middle-class/urban Indians have expressed their anguish and angst against corruption, is to live in a fool's paradise. All we have from our politicians, till now, are mere promises.

Instead of hailing our politicians for doing, at long last, their job in Parliament… which is to speak sensibly and debate relevant issues that impact people's lives, as corruption does, we in the media would do well do carry out investigations on whether anything has changed at the grassroots levels.

Level of discourse

The jury is still out on whether even a single sarkari karmachari, small or big, has stopped demanding bribes to get any task done. And this because he/she has either been impressed or shamed by Anna's earnestness, enchanted by the flag-waving or hand-clapping frenzy — often comical — of Kiran Bedi or the fire-and-brimstone stance of Arvind Kejriwal.

As for the "great level" of debate in Parliament that evening, let's take a sample from Bihar's Lalu Prasad. First, there was the irony of Lalu debating corruption; next he expressed his admiration for the fitness of a 74-year old, whose body could withstand 12 days of fasting. Soon after Lalu had relayed from Parliament his admiration for Anna's fitness, the latter retorted, extolling the virtues of celibacy: "What will a man who has fathered 10 or 12 children know about the strength of celibacy?" And then, Anna told the nation how he had considered all women his sisters or mothers and never looked at any woman with lust.

If this is the level of discourse we are hailing, one's democratic right to cynicism should be granted too. And scepticism that our slippery-as-eel politicians, and the rotten system they have entrenched over decades, are going to change in a hurry.






Agriculture is in decline. Crop yields are stagnating. Farming has ceased to be remunerative and no longer attracts people, more so the youth. Fertile fields are being steadily devoured by urbanisation...

There is an element of truth to these statements that add up to a 'crisis' narrative engulfing discussions on Indian agriculture. But the reality, as often, is more complex. The recent period, if anything, has seen the farm sector stage a rebound of sorts — never mind how sustainable a 'revival' this might be.

The table gives output trends for major crops over three phases: 1993-94 to 1998-99, 1999-2000 to 2004-05 and 2005-06 to 2010-11. For each of these six years, the average annual production has been taken, so as to even out the effect of extreme year-to-year fluctuations induced by the vagaries of weather.

Decline reversed

The data are quite revealing. During the last six years, the country has harvested an average 225 million tonnes (mt) of foodgrains, which is about 24 mt more than the corresponding figure for the preceding six years. The latter period, in contrast, registered a rise of just nine mt over the average level from 1993-94 to 1998-99.

The same trend, of a higher production increase in the recent period, is noticeable in oilseeds, cotton, sugarcane and milk or even staple vegetables such as onion and potato. In some cases — cotton, maize and soybean — the acceleration is significant, while in pulses and oilseeds, there has actually been a reversal of the output decline witnessed during the previous period. In 2010-11, pulses production touched a record 18.09 mt, prompting official claims of self-sufficiency being attainable in the next three-four years, thereby obviating the need for imports.

The evidence of a recovery is further borne out from the 'input' side. Consumption of fertilisers has gone up much more over the last six years than they did in the six years ended 2004-05. Likewise, tractor sales averaged two lakh units through the nineties and the early part of the following decade. But between 2005-06 and 2010-11, annual sales jumped from 2.6 lakh to 4.8 lakh units, while averaging 3.45 lakh for the period.

Turnaround explained

How does one account for this overall improved farm sector performance? In some crops, increased yields, courtesy new production technologies, have certainly played a part: Bt transgenics in cotton and single-cross hybrids in maize being the most obvious examples. In most others — rice, wheat, oilseeds, pulses or sugarcane — the productivity gains have been incremental at best, involving no major technological interventions.

The real impetus to the apparent turnaround has come from higher prices and terms of trade turning more favourable for farmers, inducing them to ramp up output. Since 2004-05, the minimum support prices of wheat and paddy have been hiked by Rs 480 and Rs 440 a quintal respectively, whereas these went up by just Rs 90 and Rs 120 a quintal over the previous six years from 1999-2000.

The improved terms of trade for agriculture can also be seen from the last two rows of the table, comparing the average annual inflation in food articles to that in all commodities.

In the last six years, food price increases have far outpaced the general rate of inflation. It was pretty much the opposite in the earlier period, where falling farm prices in relative terms and the absence of yield breakthroughs made it doubly unprofitable to expand cultivation. The question that arises is: Can the present 'revival' — more in the nature of a positive supply response to relative price corrections — be sustained? One can cite at least two impediments here, with potential implications even in the short run.

Constraints and Opportunities

The first is labour, the availability of which was never an intractable problem, despite there being pockets or occasional periods of scarcity. The scenario has completely changed now — particularly in the last two-three years — with high food prices pushing up agricultural wages through a feedback loop and the resultant wage-price spiral turning into a zero-sum game for farmers. That, in turn, has been made possible by economic growth, in general, besides NREGA and other welfare schemes. These have altered old labour equations, enabling even farm workers to pass on their costs.

The second source of renewed erosion of farmers' margins could be fertilisers. For a long time, from 2002-03 to 2009-10, fertiliser prices were kept unchanged. From April 2010, prices of non-urea fertilisers were decontrolled, following which they have become costlier by 30-40 per cent. With the Government planning to decontrol urea prices as well, there would be further cost pressures on this front — from which farmers were largely insulated till recently.

The above challenges, however, also present opportunities for corporates, agricultural departments and research institutes to work closely with farmers: To come out with innovative mechanisation solutions, introduce customised fertiliser products delivering nitrogen or phosphorous more efficiently to plants, and promote water- and energy-saving agronomic practices.

If the latest agricultural 'recovery' phase was a result of price corrections, the next one should be based on raising crop yields and reducing production costs.

Here, there is need for policymakers to be more proactive, especially when it concerns issues of technology. If you and I can have the latest smartphone or iPad, there is no reason to deny farmers the choice to plant herbicide-resistant maize or cotton that helps save on manual weeding costs. Let the farmer, and not those who do not farm and yet claim to speak for him, decide.



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




BJP president Nitin Gadkari has developed a penchant for some truly bizarre pronouncements. He called Afzal Guru the Congress' "son-in-law", termed Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav "dogs who licked the feet of the Congress" and once even compared Narendra Modi to Mahatma Gandhi. Now he has offered support to Anna Hazare, saying the BJP was "ready to march forward under your leadership". This hardly behoves a political party which wants to be seen as a credible challenger to the Congress. It is one thing to support a cause, quite another to blindly follow a non-party leader. As it is, the BJP is often accused of dancing to the tune of the RSS. Either Mr Gadkari has run out of ideas or he feels his party has no hope unless it hitches itself to a popular figure like Anna Hazare. Mr Hazare has got all-out support from the urban middle classes, a constituency that has drifted away from the BJP. But there is no guarantee that this popularity will translate into votes for the party: many of Mr Hazare's acolytes have openly expressed distaste for politicians of all hues. The BJP won praise for its performance in Parliament during the crucial negotiations and debate on the Lokpal Bill. Mr Gadkari's gaffe will not help.






US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke and IMF head Christine Lagarde both sounded alarm bells to the US government and the European Union authorities to wake up to the looming economic growth crisis that is bordering on a recession and afflicting both economies. Ms Lagarde was more forthright in warning that they were in a "dangerous new phase" where the recovery of the fragile economies (of the US and Europe) are in danger of being derailed as the economies "sputter" and government debt burdens "surge". What is interesting about their speeches at the meet at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is the new phenomenon of monetary authorities having to give wakeup calls to their governments to do their job of implementing policies that will spur economic growth. The US and European governments are caught up in their own political exigencies with the result that national interests go for a toss. Mr Bernanke, in a reference to the haggling between elected representatives over increasing the American government's debt limit, warned that such events shake the confidence of global investors to hold US financial assets or to make direct investments in employment-generating businesses. The US saw its triple-A rating downgraded a notch and drew a reprimand from China, the largest single holder of US debt, to set its house in order. Mr Bernanke said the Fed (the equivalent of the Reserve Bank of India), as a financial regulator, ensures that inflation remains low so that there is macroeconomic and financial stability, and is a liquidity provider of last resort. The most glaring ills of the US economy, he pointed out, are nine per cent unemployment, healthcare costs, an inadequate education system, an ageing workforce, etc, and said these need fiscal policies that will promote growth. He even outlined what these policies should be, such as tax polices and spending programmes that spur economic growth, and these are outside the purview of the central bank. It was almost as though he was echoing the RBI governor, Dr D. Subbarao, telling the Indian government about its fiscal responsibilities of managing supply-side constraints to complement the monetary policies and control inflation. But while the fallout of India's problems are restricted to India, the problems in the US and Europe, if not resolved with seriousness, also jeopardise other trade and financial markets. The US and Europe are the largest consumers of global goods and services that usually come from developing countries. Ms Lagarde, chiding the indecision of the Europeans and of American policymakers, has prodded the G-20 countries to address the world's economic woes in a "serious" and "convincing" manner.







So will it be Paschim Banga, Paschimbanga or PaschimBanga? If the third, will the state currently known as West Bengal get a unique place name with a capital letter in the middle of a word? All three spellings have been used in recent weeks to describe the new name of West Bengal, as Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress takes its "paribartan" (change) drive to nomenclature as well. The story of how Calcutta became Kolkata a decade ago, and of how West Bengal threatens to become Paschim Banga (the literal translation) in 2011, is not just one of a once-colonised community effacing an imperial legacy. It is fundamentally ahistorical and reflects the provincialisation of the Bengalis as a people. Why is the name Kolkata ahistorical? Simply because there was no great city or metropolis of that name till the British founded Calcutta. This is unlike, say, Patna, which is descended from Pataliputra, a flourishing city in the Maurya era. Patna itself was an important urban location in pre-British India. This is not to suggest Patna should be renamed Pataliputra. It is only to stress there could be a case, however slim, for making that demand. Yet the evidence and the weight of history that can be cited by Pataliputra's advocates simply cannot be put forward by Kolkata's. To remove the name "Calcutta" amounts to wishing away the British period and pretending it never existed. It is as if Kolkata suddenly appeared on the landscape, without any warning at all. Its link to British-created Calcutta is denied; its link to any pre-colonial city is non-existent. As an apocryphal story goes, the demand for Kolkata was made in the late 1990s by a Bengali writer who found himself superseded at the literary magazine he worked for. His new boss was a foreign-returned Bengali. This perceived professional slight led the writer to turn against a variety of foreign impulses and influences, including names, and invoked some long-suppressed nativist gene. He began a crusade for the "restoration" of Bengali pride by deleting Calcutta and replacing it with Kolkata. The Left Front government, which had pretty much nothing better to do, quickly gave in. Admittedly, the term "Paschim Banga" is more problematic. For one, it has provenance. It derives from Vanga or Banga, which have been previous names for part of the territory of West Bengal. Even so, the reasons for renaming that the Mamata Banerjee government has given are just not convincing. It has argued that with a name beginning with W the state is among the last to be considered in any roll-call of states. This is specious reasoning. Will moving up a few letters to P (for Paschim Banga) remedy matters? Why not drop the "West", which is an obsolete expression since there is nothing called East Bengal anymore, and resort to plain Bengal? This will put the state well up the alphabetical order. As disputes over geographical indicators bear out, place names can be big and in some cases lucrative brands. "Darjeeling tea" would simply not be the same if it were called "Gorkhaland tea". Australia and California can make top quality sparkling wine, but they can never call it Champagne. In "Bengal" and "Calcutta", the state currently known as West Bengal has two of the biggest geographical brands in India. These have name recall, legacy and worldwide recognition. Despite West Bengal's abysmal failures in recent decades, the names are still well-known. Many other states, and even countries, would pay a king's ransom for such brand names. Yet it says something about Bengali politicians and the Bengali intelligentsia that both these valuable commodities have been chucked away by the state, without a thought at all. Calcutta and Bengal once represented the best of India. One was a cosmopolitan city, a business centre home to Baghdadi Jews as much as Bengalis, Awadh's aristocrats as much as Anglo-Indians, Parsis as much as Punjabis. The other was a rich province, among the early Indian industrial zones, with a jute industry that affected fortunes as far away as Dundee. Gradually both these identities were allowed to be whittled away. The Left Front government accelerated the process in its 34 years of government and made the state and its capital city extremely inward looking. If Ms Banerjee wants to change things in West Bengal, she has to begin by altering this mindset, and this nativist defeatism. Succumbing on the Paschim Banga issue and giving the world its most unpronounceable place name since Ouagadougou isn't the way to do this. It is nobody's argument that Bengali society should remain obsessed with the Raj. However, there is a difference between moving on from the British legacy and becoming an ostrich society. West Bengal has a future as a modern Indian state that uses economic opportunities of the present, whether in the context of India or of global trade and socio-cultural exchange. Will these imperatives be better served by Paschim Banga or by Bengal? Perhaps a halfway house can be found. Many places have local as well as world (or "English-language" names). Firenze is also Florence, Misr is also Egypt. As such, Paschim Banga may well be sanctified as the Bengali-language translation, but Ms Banerjee should let West Bengal stay as the official name. For that matter, she should also bring back Calcutta. Ashok Malik can be contacted at







Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, isn't a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that's too bad, because Mr Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the GOP — namely, that it is becoming the "anti-science party". This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us. To see what Mr Huntsman means, consider recent statements by the two men who actually are serious contenders for the GOP nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. Mr Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as "just a theory," one that has "got some gaps in it" — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got peoples' attention was what he said about climate change: "I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change." That's a remarkable statement — or maybe the right adjective is "vile". The second part of Mr Perry's statement is, as it happens, just false: the scientific consensus about man-made global warming — which includes 97 per cent to 98 per cent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences — is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting. In fact, if you follow climate science at all you know that the main development over the past few years has been growing concern that projections of future climate are underestimating the likely amount of warming. Warnings that we may face civilisation-threatening temperature change by the end of the century, once considered outlandish, are now coming out of mainstream research groups. But never mind that, Mr Perry suggests; those scientists are just in it for the money, "manipulating data" to create a fake threat. In his book Fed Up, he dismissed climate science as a "contrived phoney mess that is falling apart". I could point out that Mr Perry is buying into a truly crazy conspiracy theory, which asserts that thousands of scientists all around the world are on the take, with not one willing to break the code of silence. I could also point out that multiple investigations into charges of intellectual malpractice on the part of climate scientists have ended up exonerating the accused researchers of all accusations. But never mind: Mr Perry and those who think like him know what they want to believe, and their response to anyone who contradicts them is to start a witch-hunt. So how has Mr Romney, the other leading contender for the GOP nomination, responded to Mr Perry's challenge? In trademark fashion: By running away. In the past, Mr Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has strongly endorsed the notion that man-made climate change is a real concern. But, last week, he softened that to a statement that he thinks the world is getting hotter, but "I don't know that" and "I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans." Moral courage! Of course, we know what's motivating Mr Romney's sudden lack of conviction. According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 per cent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 per cent believe in evolution). Within the GOP, wilful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates, one that Mr Romney is determined to pass at all costs. So it's now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party's base wants him to believe. And the deepening anti-intellectualism of the political right, both within and beyond the GOP, extends far beyond the issue of climate change. Lately, for example, the Wall Street Journal's editorial page has gone beyond its long-term preference for the economic ideas of "charlatans and cranks" — as one of former President George W. Bush's chief economic advisers famously put it — to a general denigration of hard thinking about matters economic. Pay no attention to "fancy theories" that conflict with "common sense", the journal tells us. Because why should anyone imagine that you need more than gut feelings to analyse things like financial crises and recessions? Now, we don't know who will win next year's presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world's greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that's a terrifying prospect. By arrangement with the New York Times






The lasting legacy of the agitation led by Anna Hazare will not be the yet-to-be-enacted legislation to set up a Lokpal and Lokayuktas in all states, but the attention that has been drawn to the brazen corruption that pervades life in India. Long after the hype and hoopla have died down, what will be remembered is how the government was literally forced to listen to the voices of ordinary citizens despite the arrogance and incompetence of some of its important functionaries. What will, unfortunately, also be remembered in the process is the megalomania of a few representatives of civil society. If Mr Hazare has emerged as a superstar of sorts, as a person who, willy-nilly, was elevated to the status of a Jayaprakash Narayan who, in the 1970s, united the political Right and the Left against Indira Gandhi's Emergency, much of the credit should go to the utter stupidity and overblown egos of a small coterie of ministers. One obvious example was the silly manner in which Mr Hazare's "preventive arrest" was sought to be "blamed" on the Delhi police. To argue that the police chief of the national capital acted as an agent independent of his superiors in North Block, where the ministry of home affairs is headquartered, is to insult the intelligence of the people of the country. Arrogance, when coupled with stupidity, is a deadly combination, which is why the government had to backtrack in the face of overwhelming public pressure. Corruption is neither new nor unique to India. Why then has corruption become such an important issue? One important contributory factor is the sheer scale and the brazen manner in which a slew of scandals have taken place in recent years. Let's have a peek at what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in the Lok Sabha on August 25: "…corruption sources are numerous. Until the early 1990s, the biggest single source of corruption was the… industrial licensing system, the import controls and the foreign exchange controls. The liberalisation that we brought about has ended that part of this corruption story. Another major part of corruption was the rates of taxation which were so exorbitant that people were tempted to enter into corrupt practices to reduce their tax liabilities. We, I venture to suggest, ourselves and successive governments, have worked hard to simplify to streamline the taxation system and on balance there is less scope for corruption as far as taxation matters are concerned." Dr Singh added that ways and means will have to be found to plug leakages in the administration system, "devise new methodologies to ensure that public distribution system will be free of malpractices" in collaboration with state governments, streamline contracting systems by enacting a Public Procurement Act and improve the functioning of "regulatory mechanisms, especially with regard to the management of the infrastructure". During his August 22 speech on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations of the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata, Dr Singh was categorical: "There are some who argue that corruption is the consequence of economic liberalisation and reforms. This is of course completely mistaken… The abolition of licensing has eliminated corruption in these areas. But corruption has not disappeared from the system. It surfaces in many forms. The aam admi faces corruption when he has to pay a bribe to facilitate ordinary transactions with the government." "Beneficiaries of government programmes face corruption when those in charge of implementing the programmes misappropriate funds… Wherever there is government discretion in the allocation of scarce resources, whether it be land, or mineral rights, or spectrum, if the method of allocation is not transparent, there is a possibility of corruption... Corruption not only weakens the moral fibre of our country, it also promotes inefficiency and cronyism which undermine the social legitimacy of market economics..." These statements seek to highlight Dr Singh's concern that corruption has undermined the very basis of his economic liberalisation programme. The Harshad Mehta scandal was a consequence of, among other things, the government dragging its feet on adequately empowering the Securities and Exchange Board of India. We have an apology of a Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board. The Indian Bureau of Mines lacks teeth to act against offenders. The government has taken years to strengthen the Competition Commission, long after the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission was done away with. A more proactive and independent Telecom Regulatory Authority of India could have checked the spectrum scam and perhaps even prevented the undignified situation we are in today wherein lawyers on behalf of former communications minister A. Raja and member of Parliament K. Kanimozhi are asking Dr Singh to personally depose in court as part of their legal defence. The short point: even as the government has opened up large segments of the Indian economy to the private sector, it has failed miserably to strengthen regulatory mechanisms, often deliberately weakened their authority and also packed them with pliable former or serving bureaucrats. What Dr Singh has omitted to mention in his recent statements is that the fountainhead of corruption is the illegal pattern of election funding we have at present and the corrupt nexus between politics, business and crime. There are other important reasons why corruption is the big issue that it is. Corruption cuts across most sections of society and does not respect caste, language, religion or region. More significantly, corruption has come at a time when the bulk of the country's population is reeling from the debilitating impact of high food inflation, which has widened the gap between the rich and the poor and which the government has been unable to check. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator







They were playing "Lose Control", that peppy, foot-tapping track from the mega hit Rang de Basanti when we arrived at India Gate early Sunday evening. The music turned to more sedate, patriotic songs as we got closer to the scene of action — joyous throngs waving the tricolour, ice-cream sellers, channa vendors, hawkers of Anna Hazare memorabilia and dozens of TV crews and OB (outdoor broadcasting) vans which had taken up position to capture the "victory march". Just hours earlier, the 74-year-old Anna Hazare had sipped coconut water and honey, breaking his 12-day fast after members of Parliament had finally agreed to consider his main demands to make a strong Lokpal law in the fight against corruption. Mr Hazare's anti-corruption stir over the last fortnight changed many things on the ground, and in our minds. Corruption is not new. Talking about corruption is not new. What is new is the active engagement of so many more people with the subject. That was what had brought us to India Gate on Sunday evening — to see for ourselves the festival of "people power". At the end, will anything change? Many friends and colleagues are cynical. They argue that every man or woman who was there at Ramlila Maidan or India Gate or any of the other places to cheer Team Anna is not a saint, and has perhaps paid or taken a bribe or two at some stage of his or her life. That is entirely possible. But looking around the excited young faces at India Gate and talking to ordinary families who had gathered, something else was equally evident — the word "possible" had acquired a new meaning. "Anna is a flawed hero. But he inspires me. Everybody in this crowd will not follow Anna at every step. Even if a small percentage pays heed to his broad message, it is progress. He has made us feel that 'everything is possible'. An ordinary person can achieve extraordinary things if he or she has conviction and resolve. That means a lot. Every time I go to a government office and someone asks me for a bribe, the memories of this evening will come back. I think I won't do what I might have done earlier," said a man who worked for an investment firm. "I don't know about others. But I have decided I will not pay a bribe again," said another man. Mr Hazare is neither India, nor a messiah. Neither does one have to agree with every clause of his proposed Lokpal Bill. But there is no denying one thing: whatever be one's views on Mr Hazare, credit the old man with forcing the different Indias to talk to each other. Young boys and girls who had never seen a big political rally or had associated the national flag only with stage-managed formal events were happy waving the tricolour as their friends sang and danced at India Gate that evening. Yes, they were not as erudite about the law or the Constitution as some of the experts who spoke in panel discussions on television. But they had stepped out of their comfort zone, and shown willingness to engage with one of the most important issues of the day. The young people I met at India Gate and earlier at the Ramlila Maidan said such engagement had been a transformational experience. A part of them had changed. Perhaps, their first response in such unfamiliar terrain is "simplistic" or "naive" as some call it. India inspired, however, is not necessarily India committed, nor India responsible. "Victory marches" over, the real battle begins. In the coming weeks, the debate about the various Lokpal bills will continue. An apathetic public has been awakened, and many among them will be vigilant. Team Anna and its thousands of supporters across the country, who are pushing for a strong Lokpal law, will be held accountable to the same high standards of probity as they advocate for the political class and others. This is no time for triumphalism either. One hungerstrike, no matter how influential, does not make for "victory" when the battle is against such entrenched interests. But as so many people said to one another, "Should we not make a start?" Mr Hazare has made us think. We can use what we have learnt in other areas too. After the trip to India Gate, my 13-year-old daughter said, "Imagine, what would happen if we could have a mass movement against female foeticide and dowry. Imagine, tens of thousands hitting the streets, and saying they will not give or take dowry, and actually sticking to it." Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached at








EUPHORIA can prove ephemeral, hyperbole may return to haunt. A few weeks hence the victory chants over the "successful" end to the Anna controversy might ring hollow ~ at least in terms of winners and gains. Reality might actually reveal that the losses will endure more than the hurrahs. Indeed, history might interpret events of the last fortnight as Indian ineptitude at its worst. Indeed, ineptitude was the trigger: competent and clean government over the years would have ensured that corruption never became the festering sore that erupted in the 2G Spectrum, CWG scams etc and ignited the passions that came close to demolishing the system of parliamentary democracy. In some ways it is fortunate that the leadership of the Anna campaign proved as prone to bungling as the government ~ no need to repeat details of what stands out so stark ~ that it too scrambled for an escape route. The pressure of Anna's deteriorating health forced it to also eat crow, back off from pernicious bids to bypass parliamentary processes or dictate terms. Is it not telling that those who took the initial strident postures that exacerbated the crisis were virtually sidelined when the compromise ~ it was no solution ~ was hammered out? Equally telling is that though genuine anti-corruption action is nowhere on the horizon, victory chants were raised. As for trumpeting Parliament's rising high, it is to be condemned on two counts. Was this the first high quality debate in the apex legislature? Were the participants not running scared that if they did not deliver they would be rendering themselves irrelevant? Even the BJP which, legitimately perhaps, wrested its pound of flesh had to settle for not a drop of blood.
Similarly, Team Anna was alive to diminishing returns on its shenanigans. Its "strong arm" tactics spilled over into public inconvenience, and increasingly were the thinking sections questioning its muscle-oriented tactics. Perhaps the most significant, and positive, aspect of the furore was that it shook the middle class out of its lethargy: but will the impact endure till the next election, and prove strong enough to force a break with traditional vote-bank politics? After all flag-waving, slogan-shouting etc. will not suffice to make politicians change their ways ~ only fears of electoral reverses will do that trick. Sadly, what many deemed a dream-in-the-making came close to being a nightmare. The image of the well-meaning though terribly-manipulated social activist breaking his fast will fade from the memory much sooner than the rabble-rousing ranting of Kiran Bedi & Co. If a man is known by the company he keeps, Anna's friends make sure he has no need for enemies.




MAMATA Banerjee has knocked the bottom out of the conveniently specious argument that spiralling, almost unaffordable, prices of vegetables is the inevitable outcome of the vagaries of the weather. Saturday's visits by the West Bengal Chief Minister to Koley market (wholesale) and Gariahat market (retail) threw up certain glaring exemplars of a statewide trend that has little or nothing to do with the monsoon. It has also made the government's inaction obvious. The price of probably every vegetable gets almost trebled (Rs 30 to Rs 80 a kg for instance) from the wholesale mart to the retail, even if the latter is barely a kilometre away. The argument of transport costs and the fuel price hike will cut no ice. Small wonder  that after the visit to the markets, the Chief Minister was compelled to admit the home-truth at Writers', specifically that the abnormal price increase is the result of "machinations of middlemen" in the vegetable trade. Obliquely enough, she has exposed the failure of the food department. Which explains the promptness with which the agriculture marketing minister, Arup Ray, convened a meeting on Sunday; another has been scheduled for later this week. The government has now conceded that between the wholesale and retail sectors, the price ought not to differ by more than Rs 10 a kilogram.
To an extent, Miss Banerjee is right when she alerts the Centre and Parliament that retail market rates directly affect the people, far more than the obsessive concern over an anti-corruption crusader. Indeed, a bumbling national government has deflected the focus from bread-and-butter issues. That having been said, the Chief Minister must accept that the fiddle, verily criminal, from the wholesale to the retail sector across the city comes directly within the remit of  Bengal's food and enforcement departments. And neither can be unaware of the greed that has now been exposed. Miss Banerjee has taken the lid off a pretty kettle of fish; equally does it devolve on her to direct  a crackdown on the price manipulators and hoarders of vegetables. The role of the middleman in this segment is as sinister as the one with a finger in the cereal pie, under the PDS.




IT is a commentary on the fragility of the system in Pakistan that the family of a slain politician is now awaiting news of his abducted son. Nine months after the Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer, was shot 27 times by his bodyguard for blasphemy, his son, Shahbaz, has been abducted. It is still not definite whether the incident is connected with ransom or is linked to the assassinated Governor's campaign against religious extremism. Suffice it to register that the family has been double-crossed and at the hands of the Islamist fundamentalists. Critical are the implications of the killing of the father and the abduction of his son. The establishment suspects the hand of the militant behind the kidnapping; the fact remains though that the national and provincial governments have done but little to prosecute the assassin of the Governor of the country's dominant province. Last Thursday's incident was preceded by the kidnapping of Warren Weinstein, an American development expert, on 13 August. He has not been heard from since. Both incidents reaffirm the inherent contradictions of the government; for all the public protestations against Islamist militants, there is a marked hesitance to bring them to heel. And it is a degree of hesitance that determines attitudes of both the military and the civilian structure; historically, the second functions in dread of the first. Indeed, the government chose to ignore the spin given by fundamentalists to the late Punjab Governor's opposition to blasphemy; it was interpreted as an act of blasphemy itself. Small wonder that several months after the killing and the arrest of the bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri ~ who has confessed with chilling pride ~ the government has not held him accountable. And by not holding him accountable despite the prompt confession, the government has set a lethal precedent, one that has served to steel the resolve of militants.

The latest kidnapping illustrates Pakistan's wimpish stand against such criminal manifestations of religious extremism. Hence the human rights establishment's warning that the failure to prosecute and convict the self-confessed murderer is a sign of both incompetence and an appeasement of extremists. The manhunt to rescue the slain Governor's son may turn out to be a wild goose chase.








THE draft of the amendment to the Land Acquisition Act of 1874 is in the public domain. However, it fails to adequately address the major issues that concern the farmers. The resentment has been articulated by farmers in Orissa, affected by the land acquisition drive for the Posco project.

The draft does provide for compensation, but there is a rider. It states that these provisions shall apply only when (a) the government acquires the land partly or wholly for a public or private project; and (b) if a private party acquires 100 acres or more on its own. However, these provisions do not apply when the private player buys the entire tract and if it is less than 100 acres.

This rider will go against the interest of farmers;  they will not get compensation if the land covers say 80 acres or 99 acres. In Bengal the land-holding of farmers is generally small; for a 50-acre plot, there could be 10 farmers and their families. Will they survive without compensation and resettlement? The rider needs to be deleted.
In urban areas, the compensation will be  twice the market value of land; for rural areas, it will not be less than six times of that value. Actually, however, the value of the land in urban areas increases sharply when it is acquired for industry. In Singur, it had gone up five-fold. The anticipated increase in the price of land on account of  development has not been factored in in the proposed draft. This has also been recommended by Amartya Sen and Pranab Bardhan, Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkeley.

In view of the spiralling land prices, the compensation should be four times the prevailing land price (between 100 and 500 acres) and three times the present land price, if the land acquired is more than 500 acres. This will cover the anticipated increase in the price of land.

A member of a dispossessed family will be provided with a job or a one-time compensation of Rs 2 lakh. It is not clear how the Union ministry of rural development arrived at this figure. Has it been suggested by the National Advisory Council which has worked out arbitrary amounts for compensation? If you consider a farmer's monthly expenses to be Rs 3,000, then the Rs 2-lakh compensation will not last for more than six years.

A one-time compensation for a family must be paid for a period of 33 years. Taking inflation into account, the amount works out to Rs 20 lakh. This will enable the family to survive with dignity.
Since industrial projects yield huge returns to the investor, the government should not hesitate to pay a decent compensation and a job to a member of the farmer's family. It is imperative that the Act provides for a decent  compensation package.

This is also a facet of corporate social responsibility. The Bill should provide equity with justice and this should be one of the prime objectives of the legislation.

The farmers are also demanding a regular means of alternative livelihood so that the present generation and the next can survive on the strength of a job in the factory as they used to do from the land. The draft defines "public purpose" as strategic projects, related to defence establishments, infrastructure and industries that benefit the people. Land is required for planned development, urbanisation, for residential schemes for the poor, educational and health schemes, and to rehabilitate victims of natural calamities. However, conditions apply. Multi-crop irrigated land will not be acquired and the written consent of 80 per cent of the affected families is mandatory for land acquisition to set up private industry. Violation of the land rights of tribals is also ruled out.
In a sense, the people of West Bengal have voted against land acquisition by the private sector. The Chief Minister is against the state acquiring land for the investor. In UP, the High Court has ordered the state to return the acquired land to the farmers. The land acquired in the name of public purpose for developing infrastructure was actually given to promoters. Since the promoters had built houses for the public, can this be called a public purpose? The High Court has turned down such an interpretation.

Can private industry be defined to serve public purpose? The draft Bill needs to revise this term so that land is not acquired for private industries by the state. A clear policy  is essential to avoid delay and litigation. However, if it is a joint sector project, the state may acquire land wherever required.

The new Bill must define such terms as public purpose, public interest and public good. These expressions are loosely used by investors to facilitate acquisition.

The draft states that if acquisition makes displacement inevitable, the area where a family is resettled must have a school, playground, health centre and a post office. Each family will also receive Rs 3,000 per month for a year.

Thus far, the resettlement exercise has been appalling ~ no roads, no drainage, no regular water supply. Most of the houses are incomplete. The typical resettlement colony resembles a slum. A clause must be incorporated in the draft to ensure that the resettlement colony is completed and displaced persons are rehabilitated. The preparation of the land-use map should be made mandatory.

The area available for industry should be demarcated and posted online, so that an industrialist can gather information at the click of a mouse. The government need not be in the business of buying and selling of land, but it must monitor the use of land.

The revised Bill must incorporate a clause on correct land records. The transfer of land must be updated regularly; otherwise it becomes difficult to identify the owner when it comes to payment of compensation. The dispossessed must be provided with alternative source of long-term income. It will be tragic if a land transaction drives them to penury. Industry must generate jobs for those who lose their hearth and home.
The writer is Executive Director, Centre for Human Settlements International







 During my recent visit to Calcutta, my colleagues asked me two intertwined questions about American politics: What is this Tea Party phenomenon? And what happened to Barack Obama?

Let me begin with the first question. Strictly speaking, the Tea Party is less of a "party," in the political science textbook sense of the term, than a value-based movement. However, the party's main slogan, "Get the government off our backs," conveys a common dissatisfaction.

The party consists of four, often overlapping groups: (1) social conservatives, who want to preserve traditional American values of Christianity, family, and love of country; (2) fiscal conservatives, who insist that government should spend less money on domestic entitlement programmes, foreign aid,  and wars in far-off lands; (3) evangelists, who believe that Jesus Christ is the sole Savior of humanity; and (4) libertarians, who value "rugged individualism" as glorified by Ayn Rand in her novel Atlas Shrugged.
Most Tea Party faithful are members of the Republican Party who are older than 50, white, financially secure, anti-immigrant, and anti-minority. They live in the less-populated states of the country, in the Midwest, South, and Southwest. Their political attitudes ~ social, cultural, and fiscal ~ are far right of centre. They fail to acknowledge the paradox inherent in their belief that yearning for a smaller government does not interfere with their own federally (in India, centrally) subsidised medical care (Medicare) and social insurance payments (Social Security). On television recently, an elderly woman in her 80s was seen shouting at her elected official that the government should keep its "hands off" Medicare!

The best way to understand the rise of the Tea Party and its ideology is to focus on the cultural sociological basis of the USA. Americans view their nation as "exceptional" ~ the most gloriously hopeful experiment man has ever attempted. The early settlers from Europe, who left behind class-based monarchies, suspected political authority. The Constitution and its companion amendments ~ especially the first 10, known as the Bill of Rights ~ grant the citizens freedom to pursue the "natural" state of happiness. In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville, a French visitor to the young nation, wrote in his diary, later published under the title Democracy in America, that the average American was suspicious of an unchecked government.

Sociologists have reasoned that "value-based" movements tend to peak in times of rapid social change, particularly when two economic upheavals occur simultaneously: unemployment and inflation. These authors also contend that sect-based protest leaders begin by appealing to the "native" protean passions of narrow cultural values. In America, these passions have usually taken the form of distrust of "big" government. The principal architect of this conservative philosophy was James Madison (1809–1817), the fourth President of the country, who observed that the best way to deliver the public good was to moderate the power of the federal government with checks and balances.

In a 6 August, 2011 article in the New York Times, "What Happened to Obama?" psychologist Drew Weston articulated the key disappointments felt by many of the President's formerly ardent supporters. Weston argues that most of these people are especially unhappy with Mr Obama's job policy. The current national rate of unemployment is officially 9.1 per cent, but it would be 16.1 per cent if the statistics included individuals who only find temporary jobs, and 25.1 per cent if they included individuals who have given up looking for work at all.
During his election campaign, then-Senator Obama promised to enact a fair and balanced income policy that would curb the growing income inequality among the social classes ~ rich, middle-class, and poor. Candidate Obama cited evidence that showed how the hefty tax cut for wealthy American households, which had been enacted by his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, had severely marginalised middle-class families.
In 2008, toward the end of the Bush presidency, the American economy soured because of risky practices indulged in by financiers, bankers, and investment brokers. The multiplier effect of income inequality and the Wall Street debacle caused massive unemployment. Most Americans hoped that Obama would be able to keep his promise by creating publicly financed jobs programs, as was done during the Great Depression of the 1930s. In contrast to the candidate's campaign promise of progressive economic reforms, however, President Obama has enacted a weak jobs programme, which most economists believe only continues to benefit the large corporations and Wall Street investment brokers who caused the havoc in the first place.

In times of social volatility, the disaffected few can be the harbinger of a larger grass-roots protest movement. In recent times, the Tea Party members have mostly focused on the health-care issue, upset that, under President Obama's leadership, the Democrats passed a "mandate" that all Americans must buy health-care insurance. Not surprisingly, the Tea Baggers consider this a grievous assault on freedom of choice. In particular, they cite the Tenth Amendment of the American Constitution, which states that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Some political sociologists believe that the President's economic policies helped to galvanise a small but media-savvy group of politicians and citizens to brew a toxic movement now known as the Tea Party. The first issue that brought them together was their dislike of having a black man in the White House. Some of them, calling themselves "Birthers," questioned that Obama was even born in the USA (a prerequisite for being President), ultimately compelling the administration to release the long form of his birth certificate.
As President Obama gears up for re-election in 2012, he must explain to the American people that public policy is less an exercise in power politics, and more an exercise in improving individual lives. Now is the time for rich Americans to share their economic bounty. In 2009, the year that President Bush left office, the aggregate income of the top 400 people in America had soared to $90.9 billion ~ a whopping $227.4 million each, on average ~ and the tax rate on them had dropped to 21.5 per cent. Meanwhile, the tax burden for middle-class Americans during the same year was between 30 and 40 per cent.

If he hopes to be re-elected, President Obama must remind voters that social diversity is America's finest asset, and that any Constitutional democracy can never be at war with liberty. The state and society are not at odds, because rich, middle, and poor alike share a common challenge in the ordinary functioning of life. A government is a crucible of liberty when all persons find that they have a stake in the process. There is nothing to fear from government when the rights of all are protected.

The writer is a California-based emeritus professor of sociology








My father, a veteran of World War II who later became a photo-journalist, firmly believed that the best way to face a situation was to deal with it on the spot rather than ponder the possibilities before hand. "We will cross the bridge when we come to it," he would often echo the old adage. And he did that when he literally crossed a bridge with us in his Italian Fiat somewhere in Bihar in the early 60s on our way to Varanasi.
We were on our way to the holy city to attend a religious festival. The two-day journey via Grand Trunk Road was planned with breaks in Gaya and Patna. But on the very first day, we had to call it a day on the Bengal-Bihar border owing to a nasty traffic snarl on the highway following an accident. With a day lost, we had to hurry in order to reach Varanasi in time for the festival. After consulting some maps, my father identified a route that will save us some time. It brought us to a narrow and rickety bridge over an unnamed river. As our car approached the bridge, a khaki-clad guard appeared from nowhere and a bamboo barricade snapped into place. We rolled to a stop and he pointed to a weather-beaten signboard  that read, "Heavy vehicles not permitted over the bridge". The guard would not let our Fiat saloon cross the bridge insisting that the car was a heavy vehicle. My father brought out registration papers issued by the motor vehicles department to disprove the guard's claim. But he wouldn't budge and instead kept pointing to the two trunks on the overhead carrier.
The black trunks of Royal Air Force vintage, indeed, looked heavy but contained only some rugs and woolen clothes. We were at a loss ~ there was no question of turning back and making a detour as more time would be lost. Then the penny dropped. We realised that the guard only wanted his palms to be greased. I asked my father if he could try flashing his government-issued Press accreditation card and see if it made an impression.
As the Press card was waved in front of the uniformed sentry, he responded by indicating the government emblem on the signboard. My mother wondered if Rs 5 would do the trick. But the guard was not interested. Instead, he proposed  that we talk to his "superior" on the other end of the bridge and arrive at a figure of mutual approval.

My father readily accepted. The guard lifted the barrier to allow the car onto the bridge and he followed us on foot. There was another bamboo barrier at the other end of the bridge with another guard manning it. In the middle of the bridge, my father suddenly accelerated and reached over to thrust a Rs 5 note into the pocket of the other guard. The guard following us was at quite a distance to notice the transaction and his colleague lifted the barrier with a broad smile as my father revved the engine and hit the road again. We looked back to see the two guards falling over each other. It wasn't an entirely straightforward journey, but we did cross the bridge when we came to it.






The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Mr Tomás Ojea Quintana, said that the new government of Myanmar needed to make greater efforts to address serious concerns such as the continuing detention of a large number of political prisoners.

He noted that Myanmar's newly-convened Parliament had elected a new President and two Vice-Presidents, a move welcomed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Mr Quintana quoted Mr Ban as having said at that time that he hoped the election would lead to the formation of a more inclusive civilian government that was broadly representative of all parties and more responsive to the aspirations of the people.

"This is a key moment in Myanmar's history and there are real opportunities for positive and meaningful developments to improve the human rights situation and bring about a genuine transition to democracy," Mr Quintana said at the end of his five-day Myanmar mission. "The new government has taken a number of steps towards these ends. Yet, many serious human rights issues remain and they need to be addressed," the special rapporteur, who has served since 2008, said. "Of key concern to me and to the international community is the continuing detention of a large number of prisoners of conscience," he was quoted as saying in a Press statement issued in Yangon. He said that during his meetings with the government, he had conveyed his belief that the release of such prisoners was a "central and necessary" step towards national reconciliation and that it would bring more benefit to Myanmar's efforts towards democracy.

Mr Quintana had urged the Myanmarese government to release at least 2,202 prisoners of conscience kept in detention even one month after the freeing of pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Ms Aung San Suu Kyi and pointed out that many of the prisoners were seriously ill as a result of harsh jail conditions. He met Ms Suu Kyi, government ministers and other relevant stakeholders. Mr Quintana also attended the new parliament in session in Naypyitaw and visited Insein Prison to meet the prisoners of conscience. He voiced concern about the continuing allegations of torture and ill-treatment during interrogations, the use of prisoners as porters for the military and the transfers of prisoners to prisons in remote areas where they are unable to receive family visits or packages of essential medicine and supplemental food.

He also highlighted the tensions in ethnic border areas and armed conflict with some armed ethnic groups, which engender serious human rights violations, including attacks against civilian populations, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, internal displacement, land confiscations, the recruitment of child soldiers, as well as forced labour and portering. "I call on the authorities and all armed groups to ensure the protection of civilians in conflict-affected areas and to accelerate efforts towards finding a political solution to the conflict," he said.

Mr Quintana encouraged the government to take the necessary measures for investigating human rights violations in an independent, impartial and credible manner. "Justice and accountability measures, as well as measures to ensure access to the truth, are fundamental for Myanmar to face its past and current human rights challenges, and to move forward towards national reconciliation," he said. Mr Quintana reports to the UN Human Rights Council and works in an independent and unpaid capacity.

Libya aid

The special adviser on post-conflict planning for Libya, Mr Ian Martin, said that the delivery of humanitarian assistance, such as medical aid, was the most urgent priority in Libya as the world body and its partners were finalising a 30-day assistance plan for the country. At a Contact Group Meeting in Istanbul, Mr Martin asked that UN humanitarian agencies and their NGO partners to ensure quick delivery of medical assistance to the wounded and other vulnerable groups, as well as food aid and water to those in need. He also pointed it out that Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) had committed itself to moving quickly towards democratic legitimacy through the drafting of a Constitution and early elections. "We stand ready to bring the extensive experience of the United Nations developed from so many post-conflict contexts to the unique challenge of a country which lacks living memory of an election, let alone electoral institutions and political parties," Mr Martin said. He stressed that any UN role would be in support of national efforts. "The purpose of initial deployment of UN support would be to engage with Libyan authorities and actors regarding their needs and wishes, in order to design longer-term support where requested," Mr Martin said.

He stressed the need for effective coordination of international assistance for Libya in response to a common understanding of the country's priorities. "The international community will do hard-pressed transitional authorities no favour if it presents itself in Tripoli as multiple interlocutors or assessment missions demanding their scarce time, or seeks their participation in multiple fora outside Libya, when their own country demands their leadership," Mr Martin said.

He pointed out that the UN, the World Bank and the European Union had an agreed process for tripartite post-conflict assessment and would be discussing with the NTC when and how that process could best be applied in Libya. "The NTC itself needs to rise to the challenge of expressing a single view of its needs and establishing arrangements to facilitate international coordination. The United Nations is ready to be a partner in this respect," Mr Martin said.

The director-general of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), Ms Irina Bokova, urged the people of Libya, as well as international art and antiquities traders, to protect the country's cultural heritage, warning that invaluable cultural property could be damaged or stolen in times of social upheaval. She stressed that the looting, theft and illicit trafficking of cultural property would contravene Unesco's Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

anjali sharma







There is reason for a feeling of relief. It is good, of course, that Anna Hazare has broken his fast. But the fact that the government can be perceived as having taken over, since the bill is presumably going to be brought up in Parliament — that there is at least a semblance of order — is cause for relief for anyone who believes in democratic processes. Democracy itself is an ever-evolving process. From this point of view, that Mr Hazare commanded a huge following with élan is an event that should be taken seriously and studied with care. The history of the movement in support of what is now being called the jan lok pal bill has been particularly troubled. The government made some bad mistakes, unintelligently arresting Mr Hazare while claiming, rightly, that blackmailing the government because it had not digested Mr Hazare's bill in every single detail was not acceptable. But now that a kind of understanding has been reached for the moment, the government will have to acknowledge the force of the people's anger against corruption, even if the 'people' in question are a tiny fraction of India's population, and largely from its more privileged sections. Instead of knee-jerk reactions and ad hoc solutions, the government needs to think of ways to accommodate — and respond to — the public's feelings, since it has become obvious that the elected representatives in Parliament are not only not up to the job, but are also themselves part targets of the people's anger.

That, however, is the principle behind whatever can be learnt from the recent events at Ramlila Maidan. But there is reason also to be deeply disturbed. The spectacle of accomplished, well-known, urban individuals leading Mr Hazare's band of supporters, and insisting with him that Mr Hazare's bill be accepted in toto even if discussions in Parliament lead to alterations, was very confusing. It was collective blackmail from an extreme position, and a deliberate attack on the constitutional fabric with full consciousness of its disruptive potential. People resorting to a broad-based movement to compel the government to lend an ear to their discontent is one thing, but a group trying to dictate its agenda to the government is quite another. The government must be allowed to work with its own set of rules. That is why it is so important for it to evolve methods to gauge the people's strongest feelings faster.







Two years after its decisive victory against the Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka, the Mahinda Rajapaksa government has announced its intention to allow the state of emergency in the country to lapse. The country, which first had emergency declared in 1971 amid fears of a Marxist takeover of government, has been under martial law intermittently for the past three decades and continuously since 2005 after the Tamil rebels carried out a spate of assassinations. The withdrawal of emergency — which gave sweeping powers to the administration to arrest and detain people without trial and deny them basic freedoms — was expected, and fervently hoped for, after the end of the war in 2009, but the Rajapaksa government refused to comply. The extension of the emergency regulations since then, month after month, have kept alive and fed on fears of the "enemy" amid the people. The law has allowed the Rajapaksa government to throttle dissent, mug the media and justify the concentration of power in its hands. It has done nothing to further the cause of peace or the normalization of ethnic ties in post-war Sri Lanka. Hence the repeal is bound to be welcomed by the critics of the government, by the people of the country and by the international community. Read together with the holding of the recent local council polls in the strife-torn north and east of Sri Lanka, the lifting of emergency can even be seen as indication of the government's determination to allow democracy free play.

But the lifting of emergency alone does not guarantee that. There is suspicion that the Rajapaksa government's move has been timed to generate good publicity for the government on the eve of the meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva next month. There are also fears that whatever the government stands to lose by its munificence can be made up for by the use of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act. The Rajapaksa government has made itself vulnerable to mistrust and allegations of deceit by its steadfast refusal to investigate wartime atrocities and unwillingness to go for a political solution of the ethnic problem. Unless the government backs up the withdrawal of emergency by assuring its people of greater freedom and guarantees the ethnic minority security and their rights as citizens of the country, its moves will always run the risk of being seen as opportunistic.






The recent public debates over State and civil society have led many to ask what civil society is, and some to wonder whether we need such a thing. I am going to begin by asking the opposite question: do we need a State? Stateless societies have been imagined by anarchists, utopians and ideologues of many kinds. Their speculations have influenced the ideas of many people, including Mahatma Gandhi. But stateless societies have also been a part of real historical experience, and they have been observed, described and analysed by social anthropologists for several decades. How do such societies look in the cold and clear light of social analysis?

The operation of stateless societies was brought to the attention of the scholarly world by a group of anthropologists engaged in field studies in Africa. The first full-length study of such a society was a monograph on the Nuer of east Africa by E.E. Evans-Pritchard. The monograph on the Nuer was accompanied by a collection of eight studies of different political systems in sub-Saharan Africa.

The students of African political systems classified the societies they studied into two types, tribal states and stateless societies. Stateless societies were those that had no centralized authority, no administrative machinery and no courts of justice. They were without any kind of pyramidal structure of power. There were no chiefs or councils with the authority to issue commands that would be binding on all. They were described as existing in a condition of 'ordered anarchy'.

The detailed study of the day-to-day affairs of stateless societies served to dispel the idea that the State was the sole and indispensable guarantor of social order, and that without it everything would dissolve into chaos. But the same field studies also put paid to the idea that the absence of the State ensured a life of perpetual tranquillity, with no conflicts, no enmities and no violence. The Nuer, who are the classic example of a stateless society, loved to fight, and they fought hard. What did they fight about? They fought about cattle, about women, and, above all, about honour, much like peasants and herders in many parts of India.

Much of the social and political life of the Nuer revolved around the feud. The feud was a force for division, but it was also a powerful force for union. Feuds were generally settled in course of time. Sometimes a lesser feud had to be settled so that the contestants could unite for a greater one. This is what has been called 'the peace in the feud'. The peace in the feud is maintained without intervention by any kind of centralized authority. No feud continues for ever without any interruption; nor does any peace. Even when a feud is settled and peace restored, the enmities between families and between lineages are never fully forgotten and may sometimes be transmitted from generation to generation. This is not very different from what prevailed among peasants in India in communities that had been described from Munro to Maine as 'little republics'.

Feuds have to be settled and peace restored for the ordinary business of life to continue. The ordinary business of life consists of sowing, harvesting and herding. It also consists of birth, marriage and death, and the rites and ceremonies attendant on them. None of these activities can be undertaken by the individual alone. They all require the participation of others, including those who are on opposite sides in a feud. Perhaps the Nuer were unusually combative. But the record shows that they were also unusually warm and generous.

Now that we have come to understand how stateless societies actually operate, we have little reason to be either repulsed by or enamoured of them. Such societies operate according to their own principles of cooperation and conflict. Many stateless societies existed on the peripheries of States well into the 20th century. Even when such a society came within the perimeter of a State, it did not abandon all the old mechanisms for the regulation of life or adopt all the new ones offered by the State.

Gradually the State extended its reach and brought increasing numbers of stateless societies within its ambit. It will be a mistake to believe that the State always imposed itself on stateless societies through the use of force. Force was no doubt used, and sometimes used recklessly and wantonly, but that was not the whole story. The State brought with it facilities as well as restraints, and often the facilities appeared irresistible, despite the restraints.

The State and its institutions made possible the organization of life on a scale that could never be attained in stateless societies. I am speaking now of the specifically social, and not merely the economic, benefits of such organization. I am not saying that the State is the best agency for organizing schools, universities, banks, hospitals and laboratories, but only that without the legal and institutional framework provided and guaranteed by the State, the activities regularly undertaken by such agencies would be impossible. They would be impossible in stateless societies and difficult in societies where the State is under attack from every side.

The extent to which the State is dispensable calls for our attention now in view of the contention between the State and civil society that has become a part of our public discourse. In this discourse, the State is represented increasingly as the oppressor and civil society as the redeemer.

The term 'civil society' does not have a clear or single meaning. It has come to stand not so much for a set of institutions with clear contours as for social movements of various kinds. Because the State, its agencies and its functionaries are easy to identify, they become easy targets of attack. It is much more difficult to turn such a vague and indefinite entity as civil society into a clear target of attack. The educated middle class has persuaded itself that members of parliament are corrupt, officials of the government are corrupt, and politicians of all parties are corrupt. Since they have no clear knowledge of the antecedents and ambitions of those who speak in the name of civil society, they are willing to give them the benefit of doubt.

Gandhi is acknowledged as the architect of India's independence, and Ambedkar as the architect of its republican Constitution. No two leaders of a single country could have differed more on the valuations they placed on the State and on society. Gandhi viewed the State with mistrust and placed his hopes on the regenerative powers inherent in society. Ambedkar, on the other hand, was mistrustful of Indian society as he had experienced it, and placed his hopes on the constitutional State for the regeneration of the nation. It is hard to tell how he would have judged the disorder set in motion today by popular movements in the name of civil society. Indians have learnt to pay lip service to Ambedkar as the leader of the Dalits. But he was much more than that. He was above all the architect of the constitutional order which cannot be safeguarded if the State is kept under constant attack by every section of an expanding and discontented middle class.

The author is Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, and National Research Professor







What the prime minister should have said and done starting from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15 and then in Parliament from August 16 onwards, he did after much battering and insult, on August 25, ten days too late. The Congress and the government have been severely damaged in the intervening period, making it truly tough for any immediate revival in the forthcoming polls. All the effort in Uttar Pradesh, led by Rahul Gandhi, could come a cropper because of this political blundering at the Centre. There was a lack of political management for ten days, allowing for chaos and anarchy. Equally, the charade that was orchestrated did not let any serious discourse on the subject of the lok pal take shape. Debate and consensus, give and take, set the fine balance for public demands. Astute political play has been missing from the scene.

However, from amidst the mindlessness of decision-making, the new professional, aspirational, moving and shaking middle class of India, crossing the boundaries of caste and faith, demonstrated its strong willingness to be part of the vibrant political process. This class can no longer be taken for granted. Till now, rural India was neglected and exploited for its patience, and urban, elite India was privileged. The divide was clearly defined. That unfair and potentially volatile reality has, fortunately, altered radically with the restructuring of the economy. A new generation of Indian professionals is demanding an active and participative democratic polity that supports it to generate wealth and prosperity.

Warning sign

The political class that peoples our Parliament was quick to pick up the hitherto suppressed sentiment, now raging, that compelled it to conduct the proceedings in the House with dignity and intelligence. Survival instinct. This class seemed to have understood that India would no longer tolerate the supreme nonsense it had been assaulted with by the elected representatives. The arrogance of those representing the State and the counter-charge of the Opposition brigade had reached farcical levels that finally corrected themselves on August 27. Hopefully, this will be the turning point in our democratic and parliamentary history. The personal and intellectual integrity of leaders will now become crucial.

Four years ago, when some of us were writing about the fact that there was a silent sentiment that spoke volumes in its silence as it watched a rapacious reality overtake the public domain, the social scientists were not convinced. No serious surveys were initiated to assess this generational change in thinking. The aged were in command and they had a disdain for the inexperienced young. Respect for those in power had dwindled to pathetically low levels. For a prime minister to have to be described as squeaky clean only proved that it was unusual and rare. We should be ashamed of that truth. Why are the majority of those who rule us not honest citizens doing their jobs? Why, then, do citizens have to live by a different set of rules, policed by those who break the rules with impunity?

The government needs to swing into action immediately and start the transformation of the corrupt machinery. If the government does not begin to correct the delivery systems, there will be a chaotic number of fasts-unto-death, and much more. Action is now an imperative and all the talk that has delayed the restructuring of the laws and rules that govern us needs to be 'actioned' immediately. The political and administrative class is under severe scrutiny. The Congress at the Centre needs to work out two blueprints — one for the lok pal as a Constitutional body and the other for electoral reform, however radical. Both must be time-bound and presented to the people. Our political class needs to get down to hard work and give up its perks.






I attended a conference in Hyderabad's Press Club recently, where advocates of a separate Telangana had gathered to demand the deletion of Clause 14 (F) pertaining to the 1975 presidential order that had turned the city into a free zone for employment. Leaders of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti spoke fervently in Telugu, and their supporters, mostly students, responded enthusiastically with cries of "Jai Telangana". But it was Professor Kodandaram — the convener of the Telangana Joint Action Committee with whom I discussed several key aspects of the movement later — speaking in a low but determined voice, who drew the biggest applause. What struck me as significant, however, was the absence of a Muslim face — student or leader — in the agitation. In his report, Justice B.N. Srikrishna had concluded that Muslims in Hyderabad — constituting 41 per cent of the city's population — unlike Muslims elsewhere in Telangana were against the formation of a new state.

I had visited Hyderabad to ascertain the views of the sizeable Muslim community on Telangana and the reasons behind the duality of the Muslim response that the Srikrishna committee report alluded to. My decision to focus on Muslims had been influenced not only by their numerical strength but also because, in 1969, when the movement for Telangana was in its infancy, Muslims, who at that time comprised 39 per cent of Hyderabad's population, had remained noncommittal, viewing the agitation as yet another expression of Hindu solidarity. The findings of the Srikrishna committee and the absence of Muslims in the press conference seemed to suggest that not much had changed since then. But in the course of my interactions with Muslim students, activists and political leaders over the next couple of days, many of which took place in parts of the ornate and timeless old city, the extent of the shift in Muslim attitudes towards Telangana started getting clearer. Analysing the premise of Muslim support for Telangana would, in my opinion, also illuminate other, broader aspects: the changing nature of movements for self-determination in India, the challenges such movements pose to the country's federal structure; the cynical attempts on the part of the political class to appropriate, and then weaken, people's movements, and so on.

Telangana's underdevelopment, once blamed on the Nizam's indifference to his subjects, in contrast to the prosperity of coastal Andhra Pradesh mirrors the discrimination and deprivation suffered by minorities in Andhra Pradesh. The conjunction would be better understood if one were to go through data pertaining to health, education and employment. There are 666 hospitals in coastal Andhra Pradesh and 270 in the 10 districts that make up Telangana. Telangana's literacy rate is 30 per cent, as opposed to 42 per cent in Andhra; the latter has 26,800 schools while Telangana has 17,954. The Girglani commission report stated that two lakh government posts in Telangana are occupied by settlers from the coast.

How do Muslims fare on these three indices? Only 15 per cent of Muslims in the state have access to private clinics, an overwhelming 80 per cent depend on the cheaper, but poorly-managed, government hospitals. The Ranganath Mishra commission also noted that Muslims had the worst nutrition levels out of all communities. Literacy rate among Muslims is 19 per cent in a state where 60 out of every 100 people know the alphabet. Less than 3 per cent of Muslims held government jobs in 2009. In 1948, the figure was 41 per cent. The controversial sale of an estimated 1,60,000 acres of Waqf property, the demonization of Muslims during communal disturbances and the lack of State patronage for Urdu — 950 Urdu medium educational institutions have been closed since 1948 in Hyderabad alone — have strengthened the belief among Muslims that a separate Telangana state, where the proportional representation of Muslims would be, according to some estimates, 35 per cent higher than that in united Andhra, would help secure their social and economic interests.

To attribute the incorporation of Muslims in the Telangana movement to State apathy alone would be to obfuscate the remarkably inclusive nature of the movement itself. Activists and academics, who form the intellectual vanguard of the Telangana agitation, have played a key role in allaying Muslim insecurities about their future in a new state. Significantly, during their interaction with members of the Muslim community, leaders like Kodandaram seldom shied away from confronting the difficult questions that created ruptures in communal ties and contributed to Muslim aloofness. For instance, views were exchanged regarding the unfortunate silence that prevails over the atrocities perpetrated on Muslims during and after the "Police Action" in 1948 which forcibly united the Nizam's dominions with independent India. The willingness to mend the faultlines of history through discussion and debate played a crucial role in winning Muslim support. Unlike other movements for self- determination — the Gorkhaland agitation in West Bengal, for instance — that have, allegedly, remained indifferent to the aspirations of peripheral communities, the campaign for Telangana seems to have succeeded in forging a loose confederacy comprising marginalized communities — Muslims, Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Tribes and even needy students — and is striving to be truly representative, and hence democratic, by nature. This synthesis among the dispossessed, ironically, signals a kind of social realignment brought about by a despairing acknowledgment of collective deprivation. Kodandaram described the mobilization as a fledgling attempt to retrieve a political ethic that got lost with the corruption of the political class. Dismissed as yet another socialist pipe dream by some sections of the establishment, it yet has the potential to alter India's political landscape.

The Telangana movement serves as a model to review the linguistic underpinnings of India's federal structure and also provides an opportunity to examine changes within identity politics. The states reorganization commission, set up under the stewardship of Justice Fazal Ali, had been driven by the contentious principle that cultural indices such as language propel unity among a people. But culture is also a complex, heterogeneous entity, and the fallacy of the principle of devising unity on the basis of a common language is aptly demonstrated by the peculiarities in Telangana's ties with united Andhra Pradesh. Telugu is spoken in both regions, but people from the coast dismiss the Telugu spoken in Telangana as unrefined. The food eaten in Telangana is spicier, and local celebrations like Batukamma — the festival of flowers — have not found a place in the official calendar. Despite years of cohabitation, these cultural differences, augmented by the State's preference of coastal cultural practices over those in Telangana, were amplified. But what explains the willingness of Muslims — who prefer Urdu over Telugu, dress and eat differently — to be integrated into a new state whose cultural identity and practices would remain different from theirs? Is identity politics then being increasingly driven by the demands of equitable development rather than by allegations of cultural prejudice? Is there then a case for altering India's federal alignment by recognizing the legitimacy of the demand for smaller states which, though culturally diverse, would provide a better chance of a fairer distribution of critical resources?

The other question that Telangana forces us to consider is the distance that separates our political representatives from the people. The Srikrishna committee's controversial claim that Muslims in Hyderabad are against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh may have been a result of its unwillingness to examine a cross-section of views because of political prerogatives. The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, recognized as the political voice of Hyderabad's Muslims, which allegedly derives much of its legitimacy from coercive tactics, had argued forcefully during its appearance before the Srikrishna committee that Muslims in the city are not in favour of a new state. This despite the fact that many Muslims — including an impressive number of women — had turned up on the occasion of 'Telangana Garjana'. A number of Muslim welfare organizations, such as the Movement for Peace and Justice and the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, have also pledged their support to the cause. Most of the respondents confirmed the suspicion that the MIM's view — which is diametrically opposed to those held by many ordinary Muslims — was an attempt to secure the lucrative business interests of the Owaisi clan which virtually owns the party. The difference between the responses of the party and those it claims to represent lays bare a frightening chasm that demolishes smug claims of India being an ideal democratic republic. A judicial committee, appointed by no less than the Central government to look into a complicated matter, but favouring the views of a dominant political party, only goes to show that many of the decisions and policies drafted in the name of the Indian people by the State are taken in accordance with the political prerogatives of the party in power. On my return to the hotel from the old city, I was amused to find the home minister pleading on television that the government respected the sanctity of independent bodies such as the Srikrishna committee.

This, however, is not to suggest that the Telangana movement is free of disturbing traits. There is a worrying absence of discussion and of structured roadmaps to fulfil many of its lofty promises — restoring the production of traditional goods such as textiles and grapes, plugging the gaps in the existing public distribution system, improvement of the educational status of minorities, and so on. The administration of an underdeveloped region as well as the protection of the interests of minority communities such as Muslims and tribal people pose significant challenges. At the moment, the emotive demand of statehood seems to have eclipsed the other challenges that lie ahead.

What is equally troubling is the infiltration of parochial sentiments in the rank and file. On an earlier occasion, Telangana activists had dismantled 12 statues of Telugu icons owing lineage to Andhra, throwing 11 of them into the the Hussain Sagar lake in Hyderabad. The taxi driver at the airport, originally from coastal Andhra, was disgusted with the unceasing disturbances — the frequent bandhs that robbed him of a day's work — and equally candid about his fear of future persecution. His feelings, shared by many other settlers in Hyderabad, undermine the representative character of the movement that has made it unique.

What I remember most from my visit to Hyderabad are the lusty cheers that greeted, not the elected representatives from Telangana, but Professor Kodandaram. Many of the irate students that I spoke to recounted how some politicians in Telangana decided to throw their weight behind the movement only after they were humiliated or assaulted by ordinary people. The resorting to violence signifies an eagerness among citizens to shun enshrined democratic means — elections, for instance — to voice their demands. The violence may be construed as their disenchantment with the polity. But this dangerous disillusionment with a discredited political class also leaves the space open for yet another canny, avowedly apolitical, leadership — such as the one that called the shots from Delhi's Ramlila Maidan recently — to take advantage of the vacuum and use people's movements to secure narrow interests.

The Muslim question in relation to Telangana is crucial on many such counts. But foremost among them is the fact that it is a litmus test of the movement's claims to being uniquely inclusive. Failure in this respect would suggest the collapse of yet another democratic dream under the weight of inner contradictions.





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




Steve Jobs made people change the way they experienced the world, and would be remembered for long for this ability which mark out genius and greatness from mere talent and excellence. He succeeded not only in developing cutting edge technology but in taking it to the world and transforming popular culture with it. That is why he is not just an icon of technology but a signpost of modern culture. The company he founded and nurtured, Apple Computer, has acquired a cult status for the products it brought to the shelves, which went straight to the hearts of people for their simplicity, elegance and their appeal to the changing needs of the world.

Technological cycles are shorter now with increasing competition and faster obsolescence, but Apple could always stay one step ahead because of Jobs' inventiveness and uncanny ability to imagine what the customers wanted.
His was the mind behind every one of Apple's pioneering products. The Macintosh computer was the first to use the graphical computer interface. iPod made music different and other musical devices backward, smart phones were no longer the same after the birth of iPhones and iPad changed the nature of personal computing. What was remarkable was that no one knew these possibilities existed and Jobs almost blurred the line between invention and discovery. He did not hold market research in any great esteem and believed that even customers did not know what they needed. He had the courage to take big risks but a perhaps unconscious understanding of individual tastes and collective needs ensured that he never failed.

The company that he started from a garage became one of the richest and most valuable enterprises in world. The challenge for the new CEO, to whom he has transferred power, is to maintain the momentum.

Steve Jobs has suffered professional setbacks, when he had to leave Apple because of internal problems, and had personal tribulations like a serious health problem which he still has. But he was never cowed down by them. His achievements are all the more remarkable  for a person who had no great family background and did not have even proper college education. He had told his first team to 'make a  dent in the universe.' It was the ambition and self-belief of that call that made him achieve what he did.







What is the difference between the Anna gun, the Maoist gun and the mafia gun? Are some guns better than others?
There will be widespread relief over the ending of Anna Hazare's fast following unanimous adoption of identical 'sense of the House resolutions' by the two houses of parliament. The parliament agreed in principle to take into consideration his three latest demands regarding a citizen's charter for timely delivery of public services, bringing the lower bureaucracy under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal and establishing Lokayuktas in the states.

It was further resolved to transmit the proceedings of the debate to the standing committee "for its perusal while formulating its recommendations for a Lokpal Bill". Final decisions will now obviously be taken by parliament itself as expeditiously as possible but without external deadlines.

Anna broke his 12 day fast on August 28. Government and parliament acted with restraint and statesmanship. Joy on the streets was appropriate and understandable. India had won and democracy had triumphed. However, interpreting the sequence of events as a famous Anna victory and humbling of the government exhibits both hubris and humbug. Team Anna was charging at an open door. The Government had made plain that all variants of the Lok Pal Bill were or before or could be placed before the Standing Committee which would hear contesting views, incorporate such amendments as it considered fit and submit the draft  consensus to Parliament.

Team Anna climbed down on virtually every single point. Looking at the balance sheet of Anna's demands and the outcomes it will be clear that only the Jan Lokpal Bill must be considered and passed and the official 'Jokepal bill' (which was burnt in public) must be withdrawn has been comprehensively rejected. So also the demand to bypass the standing committee of parliament and every aspect of corruption brought under the single umbrella of Jan Lokpal.

The Team Anna also painted parliamentarians and politicians as criminals, corrupt, liars, and 'gavvars.' Neither they nor the government can be trusted.  Hence demand for here and now assurances in writing to Team Anna to accept and do its bidding. It was rejected. But they failed to understand that to abolish politicians would be to abolish politics, overturn the constitution and invite mob rule and anarchy.
 As the pressure mounted the government and parliament agreed to offer Anna a face saving formula. This was gleefully clutched before Team Anna crumbled in consequence of mounting internal dissensions, competing egos and untenable rhetoric and emerging signs of hooliganism by Anna-capped supporters.  

Government bungling

The cry is that Anna won and the government and parliament were worsted. Government repeatedly 'bungled' and the prime minister had to eat a humble pie, his authority diminished. Nothing of the kind!  If the government bungled — and it did mishandle some things — much of it was because it unprecedentedly broke with due process and procedure to invite Team Anna for talks, and later negotiated with Ramdev. Official concessions whetted the ego of Team Anna which assumed an authoritarian and hectoring tone, setting conditions and deadlines or else...! This was fascist in temper and blackmail in substance. Anna's stance was un-Gandhian, with bewildering variants of Anna-speak.

Let it be clearly understood that the health and institutions of democratic India, for which millions struggled and sacrificed for 150 years, come first. Complaints that the right to protest were far removed from reality.

Government leant over backwards to permit protest to the point of licensing potential suicide to the cheers and chants of thousands, amplified by unprecedented carpet coverage by the media of the rally and various sideshows. Much of this coverage and commentary was unprofessional and targeted the official line and all dissenters in provocative and unrestrained language. Child warriors, bunking school and college, were 'interviewed' and feted.

Some argued that a fasting Anna only risked taking his own life for a cause. Compare this  attempted suicide by an Anna strapped to a ticking time-bomb in a crowded national TV maidan with that of a suicide bomber who destroys multiple lives in an instant of madness  for a 'cause.' Comparisons with Gandhi, the man and his times are completely misplaced.   Mature democratic debate and consensus building cannot be had at the point of a gun. What is the difference between the Anna gun, the Maoist gun, the bandit gun, and the mafia gun? Are some guns better than others?

However, everything said, one great good has emerged. People's anger at mis-governance, fraud and unconscionable delay was catalysed around a focal issue, corruption, and a man who flagged it, Anna. People were energised to protest and demand their rights as citizens. Government and parliament, which have prevaricated on and obfuscated and relegated vital issues for years on untenable grounds have been warned that this kind of behaviour will henceforth be met head on by people's anger. That lesson has hopefully been learned.

What remains is to keep chivvying government and parliament to perform and to harness the popular energy unleashed by Anna for national reconstruction and reform to lend muscle and professionalism to fulfilling and monitoring many far-reaching rights-based programmes that are underway or on the anvil. This is what Anna and the government should be talking about.








A crop holiday declared by farmers in the delta area of Andhra Pradesh which is the state's rice belt exposes the vagaries that agriculture is subjected to in the country. The farmers in the region, which has been a showpiece of the Green Revolution, have decided to leave their land idle in the kharif season not because the last crop failed and they are unable to return the loans they have taken from moneylenders.

Distress caused by crop failure is the usual reason for farmer suicides. But farming will not take place in about three lakh acres of the fertile East and West Godavari districts mainly because there is a crisis of plenty. The farmers had a bountiful last crop but they have suffered huge losses because of that very reason. Prices crashed because they could not sell the paddy in the open market. The government did not make arrangements for procurement.  A lot of paddy is still lying in the open fields.

Higher labour cost is another reason. Many farm labourers have migrated to cities where wages are higher. Farmers have also complained that the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has pushed up wage levels in villages. In some places the wages have doubled. The cost of inputs like fertilisers and seeds has also increased and the farmers say that farming has become unremunerative even when production has sometimes doubled. The minimum support price of Rs 1,030 is inadequate in many areas. There is no assured paddy procurement in AP, unlike in some important paddy-growing states. Since private traders did not buy paddy and the decision on exports came very late many farmers resorted to distress sale, incurring huge losses.

The state government has woken up to the problem too late and the response has been to set up a committee to study the situation. When the distress situation developed and the farmers made the crop holiday announcement the government was in fact misguided by officials who said they were only trying to change the crop pattern. Only when the situation became political did the government realise its gravity. The Andhra farmers' plight exposes the paradoxical and difficult position they have to face. Crop failure is bad, and success is sometimes equally so. The fault mainly lies in the lack of official planning and management  which should extend from the stage of planting of seeds to marketing of crops. Governments are responsible for this.







The CBI after managing to get Yaniv Benaim aka Atala, the dreaded Israeli drug lord back to India, is still waiting to get him in their custody for interrogation.  Much time has been lost and it is vital that India's premier investigating agency gets to do what it has set out to. So far CBI officials have been faithful co passengers of Atala on the long haul from Peru to Goa and good delivery boys handing over the drug lord to the judiciary.
The CBI needs to press all the legal buttons it can to be on top of this case. Atala is no ordinary catch. Several policemen in the Goa police have strong links with him involving money. Getting Atala to confess or at least clarify statements he reportedly made in the video supposedly shot by his ex girlfriend Lucky Farmhouse and uploaded by one Orenben Yaish in 2008, will be the key to cracking the police drug nexus case
In the video he details how a senior anti-narcotics cell (ANC) officer, whom he identifies as 'Ashish', regularly sells him drugs recovered from raids. He says in the video, "This Panjim police... this narcotics the chief.. All the time he is giving me five kg charas, ecstasy"
The CBI must understand the seriousness of this case. This is no ordinary case of finding out the activities of one drug lord and bringing him to book. This case is unique in the history of the CBI because this is an investigation into the system of  the police and its apparent conflict with law, in partnership with criminals.
This is perhaps the first investigation of its kind where the state itself, albeit under tremendous pressure has agreed to investigate the involvement of its police with drug dealers and drug lords. Much as we criticize the Goa police and government, this step itself is huge. It's a shameful admission of a serious problem, but the fact that this step has been taken is a way forward. But the proof of the seriousness of this approach lies in how strongly the government pushes the CBI to do this job quickly.
Since the state has asked the CBI to step in to carry out this investigation, it has the moral and ethical right to monitor the progress of the investigations. Every single day counts. The loss of  even a week when Atala should have been in the custody of the CBI rather than the confines of a jail, will prove costly in the long run.
The key to cracking this case lies in reconciling the following. The authenticity of the video tape shot by Lucky Farmhouse. Getting Atala to listen to and respond to comments he made on the tape. Interrogating Ashish Shirodkar and the other policemen who were arrested in this case and checking on the finer involvement of policemen with Atala. This seems pretty straightforward but will be extremely time consuming.
There is a practical reality to this too. Much as the government shows that it wants to clean up its stables, the rot is too deep. The CBI will regularly confront police officials it will need to speak to during the course of the investigation, who will be stumbling blocks because many policemen have, at some stage or the other, been either willing accomplices of drug dealers or were in the knowledge of what was going on.
This investigation is not just about Atala. It's a historic opportunity for the CBI to expose a truth everybody knows but no one addresses.



What would replace our criminal justice system in a Stateless society? The criminal justice system is in fact criminal. The outrages committed by the criminal justice system are consequences of the power relations fostered by the State.

Sure, some states are less destructive than others and some politicians are less tyrannical than others, but State power is ultimately limited by what those in charge think they can get away with. Politicians, economic elites, bureaucrats, and enforcers come to believe in their authority and believe that other people should respect their authority. For those who don't, there are innovative and profitable ways to subdue them so they can be incarcerated.

The criminal enterprises of the state should not be replaced, but instead displaced, by co-operative alternatives. This emphasizes the differences between authoritarian and anarchic functions. Authoritarian systems command obedience to those on top through force, threats, denial of alternatives, and encouragement of conformity. This is their primary function, and anarchists do not intend to create anything to replicate this function.
In general, people tend to prefer to not have much violence in their daily lives. In powerful countries, it's where the least powerful people live that drug wars are fought most vigorously and police most become occupying army intent on scoring points for the precinct's statistics. In countries where most people have few options, they are more likely to risk everything for messiahs of violence or see life as a cheap expenditure. Oppression breeds further crime.

Where people have the opportunity, they agree on rules and expectations pretty frequently and set up mechanisms for dealing with rule breakers.







A girl is sold for ten thousand rupees and, forced into prostitution. When she manages to break free and run away, the dispensers of the Law force 'their law' and themselves on her.  We have seen such horrid scenes a plenty in movies – especially in Bollywood movies.  But to know that it actually happened and that too in Goa, to young girls whoever or from wherever the girls may be, does lower our heads in shame and guilt.
This is not the first such instance who have occured and I am sure it will not be the last.  If we Goans let this continue, even our own women will not be safe.  Today it has been done to others; tomorrow it could be done to our own. Do we want that to happen?  It is  high time that our police realize the significance of keeping their belts buckled and zippers up, every time they see a lady, in distress or otherwise.
There have been a number of occasions when poor people seeking help or justice from the police have instead become victims of their brutality and desires. Even a prostitute is a human being, willing or forced into this trade. As a human being she has certain fundamental rights which include the right to live and the right to protection.
These rights have been violated by all three - the person who sold her, the pimps who forced her into prostitution and of course our police who took advantage of the situation to satisfy their animal urge.
I am sure most of us are familiar with the age old adage "From the frying pan into the fire". This situation seems to have been very relevant in the case of the distressed young lady. Will she ever be able to believe in the police and feel secure with them around?  Physical wounds heal, even though the scars remind us of the pain, and we tend to forget them with time, but it is believed that in the case of victims of rape and abuse, the scars of mental torture and abuse are never wiped out and the memories of those horrific acts inflict pain and fear through out their lives.
In the past, there have been a few outstanding police officers whose integrity, honesty and dedication can never be questioned. 
But today with our politicians controlling the police through recruitment, power and money, they have turned the Goa Police into a force that is powerless against the corrupt and criminal politicians and their goons and even against the money wielding miners and commercial houses.
The Goa Police can only show off their 'power' against distressed prostitutes, the poor and weaker sections of society, whereas they run out of steam against the rich, powerful and the affluent.
 During these last few years we have been reading and hearing about the numerous insidious actions of our men in uniform, each story worse than the previous.
Gambling on duty, drunk on duty, custodial deaths, police-drug nexus, fake currency distribution, prostitutes forced to perform oral sex, atrocities against mines affected people, not entertaining FIRs against influential entities, police brutality, blackmail and of course corruption to name a few escapades of the Goa Police.   Do the men in uniform think that they are above and beyond the law, or a law unto themselves?
The Goa Police will have to buckle it up before the public unbuckle their belts, undo their zippers and strip them naked in public!







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.

 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.







If MK Shelly Yachimovich beats her four male fellow candidates to lead the Labor Party, it will be the first time that two major Israeli parties are headed by women at the same time. The last time that the two main parties were led by women was nearly 40 years ago, when Golda Meir was head of the Labor Alignment and Shulamit Alona led Ratz, the Movement for Civil Rights and Peace.

Unfortunately, both Yachimovich and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni bring to mind the inflexible, arrogant woman who brought about the Yom Kippur War debacle - not her rival, who proudly waved (and still waves) the twin flags of peace and equality. The bad news is that the two of them have joined the masculine-militaristic discourse and are missing a unique opportunity to offer a conciliatory conversation and feminist values. The good news is that the agenda of the female Labor contender and the worldview of the former Likudnik leave a large vacuum that is just waiting to be filled by the left.

In a reasoned response to her critics that appeared in Haaretz ("A woman's place," Haaretz Magazine, Aug. 19), Yachimovich argues that the prevailing political agenda, which until the tent protest focused nearly exclusively on the left and the right, is blindly clinging to the tip of the iceberg. She proposes changing priorities: letting the settlements thrive undisturbed, abandoning the "idle chitchat" of the peace process and uniting around "a deep and genuine social-democratic agenda." Only then, promises Yachimovich, "will the time come for the difficult decisions about the settlements."

Her timetable resembles that of the ship's captain who asks about the dinner menu just as his vessel is about to run into an iceberg.

Yachimovich has managed to convince a significant chunk of the left that "before going to war, or fighting for peace, we must first have a state" that justifies the risks, as she said in a January interview to Haaretz. In that case she should get on the horn to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen ) and ask him to put off the United Nations vote on recognizing a Palestinian state until she finishes her social-democratic revolution. What's the big deal? Next month will mark 18 years since the Oslo Accords, which deepened the occupation. The world won't come to an end if the Palestinians were to wait a few more years. Since September 1993, the number of settlers in the West Bank increased from 110,000 to almost 310,000 - a few thousand more won't matter.

After she persuades Abu Mazen to take the economic inequality issues of the neighbors into account, the contender for Yitzhak Rabin's seat would do well to get in touch with the young Palestinian men who, at dawn, crowd together like sardines at the crossing points into Israel. She should appeal to their emotions and request that they not vote for Hamas in the upcoming election and instead give their electoral voice to the Oslo losers, who promised to peacefully rid their lands of the Israelis. What's the matter, can't they wait until their neighbor completes her war against the tycoons?

And why is Egypt so impatient? Next month will be the 33rd anniversary of the signing of the Camp David Accords, which were supposed to lead to a comprehensive peace arrangement. And what about the Arab League - can't it leave its March 2002 peace initiative in the deep freeze a little while longer, until Yachimovich's Zionist friends finish taking over the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah? How inconsiderate. And we haven't said a word about demographics.

Livni actually champions the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But you won't hear a peep out of her about the construction in Ariel and in Ramat Shlomo, about the logical division of Jerusalem or a just solution of the Palestinian refugees issue. On the other hand, the Kadima chairwoman reprimanded Defense Minister Ehud Barak (on Army Radio), saying, "It's not enough to talk about separating the head from the body that shoots," and she would not settle for the relatively restrained response of the Netanyahu government to the terror attack in the south.

Since her stint as head of the Government Companies Authority Livni's own socioeconomic record would be enough to keep her from winning a tender for leader of the Israeli left.

The Israeli left - Jews and Arabs, members of the middle class and below - in other words, all those who will join the "million-person march" - need a leadership that can lead them with two legs: one of peace, and one of social welfare.







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.







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.







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 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.




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




The hunt for Muammar el-Qaddafi goes on, but his tyrannical 42-year rule over Libya is finished. The Libyan people bore the brunt of the fighting and dying that brought him down. But NATO air power played an important role. Airstrikes in March stopped Colonel Qaddafi's forces from storming Benghazi and slaughtering its inhabitants. Continued pounding degraded the regime's firepower, giving the rebels time to organize and train. NATO's refusal to back away — and its decision to bring the fight to the skies over Tripoli — helped push Qaddafi cronies to switch sides.


The Western allies, especially the British and French forces backed up by the United States, can be justly proud. So can Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and President Obama, who ignored the naysayers who claimed that Libya was a quagmire and the battle not worth fighting.


But it would be a mistake to deny the serious problems revealed by the six-month campaign. This was NATO's first attempt at sustained combat operations with the United States playing a support role. Europe's military capabilities fell far short of what was needed, even for such a limited fight.


President Obama, who pressed hard for NATO involvement, rightly insisted that Europe, along with Canada, take the lead. It is reasonable to expect the wealthy nations of Europe to easily handle a limited mission in their own backyard that involved no commitment of ground troops. Reasonable, but, as it turned out, not realistic.


Shortfalls of specialized aircraft, bombs and targeting specialists plagued NATO operations. The effects would have been even more damaging if Washington had not stepped in to help plug some of these critical gaps.


Apart from Britain and France, most European militaries have failed to keep up with technological advances in battlefield management and communications. They train their forces to defend largely unthreatened borders at home, leaving them unwilling and unprepared to defend common interests abroad, from Afghanistan to Libya.


Even Britain and France have skimped on munitions and targeters, making it hard for them to carry out multiple missions (both are also fighting in Afghanistan). Now, Britain and France are planning force and equipment cuts that threaten their capacity to take part in future extended foreign operations.


For decades, European nations have counted on a free-spending Pentagon to provide the needed capabilities they failed to provide themselves. The Pentagon is now under intense and legitimate pressure to meet America's security needs more economically. It can no longer afford to provide affluent allies with a free ride.


In June, Defense Secretary Robert Gates pointedly told European NATO allies that they risked becoming militarily irrelevant unless they stepped up investment in their forces and equipment. His successor, Leon Panetta, needs to drive that message home.


European leaders need to ask themselves a fundamental question: If it was this hard taking on a ragtag army like Qaddafi's, what would it be like to have to fight a real enemy?







A lawsuit filed in Kansas this month has opened a new front in the legal war over women's reproductive rights. Since last year, 13 states, including Kansas, have enacted laws banning insurance coverage of abortion in the health insurance exchanges created by the federal health care reform law. Some states have gone even further, aggressively restricting abortion coverage even in private insurance plans sold outside the exchanges.


The Kansas statute forbids abortion coverage (except to save a woman's life) in comprehensive insurance plans sold in the state, but permits companies to sell a separate rider covering abortion care for an additional cost. It also bars abortion services in policies sold after 2014 in the new exchanges. That part of the law, which also contains only a single exception limited to life endangerment, does not allow for a separate rider for broader abortion coverage.


The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Federal District Court in Kansas, argues persuasively that the law is unconstitutional because it essentially levies a tax on a constitutionally protected procedure. It also charges that the ban on abortion coverage amounts to sex discrimination because it prevents women from buying plans covering all of their health care needs while imposing no limitations on men's medical needs.


The suit comes amid a flurry of court decisions on other abortion-related restrictions. In recent weeks, federal judges in Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina have granted preliminary injunctions against state measures barring the use of Medicaid and federal family-planning money at Planned Parenthood clinics serving low-income women. In late June, a federal district judge in South Dakota blocked as unconstitutional a state law imposing a 72-hour waiting period for abortion services, the longest in the country. The same law also subjects women seeking abortions to counseling at so-called pregnancy help centers run by antiabortion activists.


In July, a federal judge in Kansas preliminarily enjoined a new licensing law that imposes onerous and medically unnecessary requirements on the state's three remaining abortion providers. Unfortunately, an Arizona state court refused this month to block several bad provisions enacted in 2009, including one limiting the work of nurse practitioners, which has caused Planned Parenthood to scale back its services. These cases, some of which are being appealed, are testing whether the antiabortion movement will get its way. It shouldn't.







Neither rain nor snow may stop the United States Postal Service, but will the abysmally divided Congress? The service is reeling toward default and urgently needs the Capitol's help to modernize and pay its bills.


Congress allots no money to support the service. But lawmakers control its practices — particularly in shooting down repeated requests to eliminate costly Saturday mail deliveries. A combination of the recession and the public's shift to e-mail and online bill payment has devastated the service. Amid steep declines in mail handling, deficits are running to $9 billion this year in a $67 billion budget.


To stay in business, the Postal Service is again calling for doing away with Saturday deliveries to save an estimated $40 billion across a decade. It also wants to cut more than a third of its work force — 220,000 jobs over three years — and study the replacement of 3,650 of its 32,000 post offices with locally contracted retailers.


The Postal Service has already maxed out on its borrowing limit and expects to default next month on a $5.5 billion prepayment for employee health benefits. There are proposals for a quick fix of more borrowing authority, but that hardly deals with the deepest problems.


Like any supposedly self-sustaining business, the Postal Service deserves a chance to modernize. The most controversial proposal would let it tap into a federal retirement fund that managers claim is far overpaid because of a faulty formula. That needs very careful review.


Both houses have bills at the ready and sponsors promising action, even as union forces vow to protect jobs and rural forces vow to protect their post offices. Congress needs to surprise the country and mount a swift and serious debate and then pass a reasonable menu of reforms. Americans want their lawmakers to work for the common good. And they want their mail delivered.







All members of the New York City Council have long enjoyed a slush fund, an annual allowance that is supposed to go to a soup kitchen or senior center or other nonprofit social program in the district. The amount of money for each district seldom depends on need; it comes courtesy of the Council speaker, who holds the purse.


This year, Speaker Christine Quinn has $49.6 million for the so-called member items: $13 million divided equally among Council members; $16.6 million for her own items; and almost $20 million more to spread as she pleases among the Council districts. At the top of her list was Domenic Recchia, whose Coney Island-Brighton Beach district got $1.6 million to spend. The Council districts that got the least — $362,000 — are represented by Helen Foster and Larry Seabrook of the Bronx.


The system is stacked politically. Nothing breeds good will — and more votes — in the local district like a new ballpark, courtesy of the Council member. It has also been an invitation to corruption. One former Council member, Miguel Martinez, was sentenced to five years in prison, partly for stealing member item money. Mr. Seabrook is awaiting trial on charges of illegally routing his share to friends, family and himself but still gets that $362,000.


Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, recently issued a report that highlights the favoritism and capriciousness of the system and calls for scrapping member items altogether. Mr. Stringer, who reportedly has mayoral ambitions, insisted that the report was not aimed at Ms. Quinn, another potential candidate. His study immediately led reporters to ask about his own member items (borough presidents get them too) — $504,000 this year. Both he and Ms. Quinn have been rightly asked how they can justify receiving campaign contributions from some of the nonprofit groups seeking these grants.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo got the State Legislature to do away with its member item pot — $170 million worth — for this year. That was a budgetary move, not a recognition of the system's inherent corruption. Ms. Quinn has worked to make the process more transparent and to require more accountability from groups receiving the money. It is not enough. The whole tainted system should be scrapped and the money doled out openly and fairly through regular city budgets.









Recently I did a little reporting from Kenya and Tanzania before taking a safari with my family. We stayed in seven camps. Some were relatively simple, without electricity or running water. Some were relatively luxurious, with regular showers and even pools.


The simple camps were friendly, warm and familial. We got to know the other guests at big, communal dinner tables. At one camp we got to play soccer with the staff on a vast field in the Serengeti before an audience of wildebeests. At another camp, we had impromptu spear-throwing and archery competitions with the kitchen staff. Two of the Maasai guides led my youngest son and me on spontaneous mock hunts — stalking our "prey" on foot through ravines and across streams. I can tell you that this is the definition of heaven for a 12-year-old boy, and for someone with the emotional maturity of one.


The more elegant camps felt colder. At one, each family had its own dinner table, so we didn't get to know the other guests. The tents were spread farther apart. We also didn't get to know the staff, who served us mostly as waiters, the way they would at a nice hotel.


I know only one word to describe what the simpler camps had and the more luxurious camps lacked: haimish. It's a Yiddish word that suggests warmth, domesticity and unpretentious conviviality.


It occurred to me that when we moved from a simple camp to a more luxurious camp, we crossed an invisible Haimish Line. The simpler camps had it, the more comfortable ones did not.


This is a generalized phenomenon, which applies to other aspects of life. Often, as we spend more on something, what we gain in privacy and elegance we lose in spontaneous sociability.


I once visited a university that had a large, lavishly financed Hillel House to serve as a Jewish center on campus. But the students told me they preferred the Chabad House nearby, which was run by the orthodox Lubavitchers. At the Chabad house, the sofas were tattered and the rooms cramped, but, the students said, it was more haimish.


Restaurants and bars can exist on either side of the Haimish Line. At some diners and family restaurants, people are more comfortable leaning back, laughing loud, interrupting more and sweeping one another up in a collective euphoria. They talk more to the servers, and even across tables. At nicer restaurants, the food is better, the atmosphere is more refined, but there is a tighter code about what is permissible.


Hotels can exist on either side of the Haimish Line. You'll find multiple generations at a Comfort Inn breakfast area, and people are likely to exchange pleasantries over the waffle machine. At a four-star hotel's breakfast dining room, people are quietly answering e-mail on their phones.


Whole neighborhoods can exist on either side of the Haimish Line. Alan Ehrenhalt once wrote a great book called "The Lost City," about the old densely packed Chicago neighborhoods where kids ran from home to home, where people hung out on their stoops. When the people in those neighborhoods made more money, they moved out to more thinly spaced suburbs with bigger homes where they were much less likely to know their neighbors.


In the 1990s, millions of Americans moved outward so they could have bigger houses and bigger lots, even if it meant long commutes. Research by Robert Frank of Cornell suggests this is usually a bad trade-off.


People are often bad at knowing how to spend their money — I've been at least as bad as everybody else in this regard. Lottery winners, for example, barely benefit from their new fortunes. When we get some extra income, we spend it on privacy, space and refinement. This has some obvious benefits: let's not forget the nights at the Comfort Inn when we were trying to fall asleep while lacrosse teams partied in the hallways and the rooms next door. But suddenly we look around and we're on the wrong side of the Haimish Line.


We also live in a highly individualistic culture. When we're shopping for a vacation we're primarily thinking about Where. The travel companies offer brochures showing private beaches and phenomenal sights. But when you come back from vacation, you primarily treasure the memories of Who — the people you met from faraway places, and the lives you came in contact with.


I can't resist concluding this column with some kernels of consumption advice accumulated by the prominent scholars Elizabeth W. Dunn, Daniel T. Gilbert and Timothy D. Wilson. Surveying the vast literature of happiness research, they suggest: Buy experiences instead of things; buy many small pleasures instead of a few big ones; pay now for things you can look forward to and enjoy later.


To which I'd only add: Sometimes its best to spend carefully so you can stay south of the Haimish Line.


Joe Nocera is off today.







Cambridge, Mass.

THE United States became the world's largest economy because we invented products and then made them with new processes. With design and fabrication side by side, insights from the factory floor flowed back to the drawing board. Today, our most important task is to restart this virtuous cycle of invention and manufacturing.


Rebuilding our manufacturing capacity requires the demolition of the idea that the United States can thrive on its service sector alone. We need to create at least 20 million jobs in the next decade to offset the effects of the recession and to address our $500 billion trade deficit in manufactured goods. These problems are related, given that the service sector accounts for only 20 percent of world trade.


To make our economy grow, sell more goods to the world and replenish the work force, we need to restore manufacturing — not the assembly-line jobs of the past, but the high-tech advanced manufacturing of the future.


Advanced manufacturing relies on the marriage of science and engineering in cutting-edge fields. Cepheid, a company in Sunnyvale, Calif., with a market capitalization of more than $2 billion, designs and manufactures sophisticated instruments that use DNA analysis to detect infectious disease and cancer; its products are used by hospitals for diagnoses and by the Postal Service to screen mail for anthrax.


A young company called Lilliputian Systems has developed handheld chargers for mobile devices. The chargers use a recyclable high-energy butane cartridge to replenish cellphones and laptops more efficiently than wall chargers. The company has a pilot manufacturing plant in Wilmington, Mass., plans to expand its production capacity and uses an Intel component that is also made in Massachusetts.


A decade ago, with help from an Energy Department grant, Yet-Ming Chiang, an M.I.T. professor, made a nanotechnology breakthrough by manipulating lithium battery electrodes. He helped start a company, A123 Systems, that now makes millions of batteries each year for hybrid-electric cars and buses and large-scale energy storage systems. The company recently hired its 1,000th employee. About half the workers at its plant in suburban Detroit were unemployed before A123 Systems came to town.


Like the jet aircraft made by Boeing, one of the country's largest exporters, products like these require sophisticated manufacturing equipment, operated by skilled workers, and benefit from the tight integration of design and production. With goods like these, the United States can reassert an economic advantage. If we can find ways for companies of every size to exploit the possibilities of nanofabrication, advanced materials, robotics and energy efficiency, we can create networks of innovation, joining lab research to new production processes and business models.


The United States remains a top producer of advanced technology products. But our dominance has eroded. Ten years ago, we enjoyed a trade surplus in advanced technology manufactured goods; today, that category accounts for an $81 billion annual trade deficit. Countries that used to make inexpensive goods at low cost have developed the capacity to produce high-value goods, making it ever more tempting for American companies to design at home but manufacture abroad.


This not only destroys manufacturing jobs, but also saps our inventive advantage. Manufacturers conduct 70 percent of private-sector research and development and employ 64 percent of the nation's scientists and engineers. But factories abroad attract design and engineering talent; over time, manufacturing off shore leads to innovation off shore. To make matters worse, as the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology recently reported, other nations are investing heavily in manufacturing, while our investments lag.


President Obama asked me and Andrew N. Liveris, the chief executive of Dow Chemical, to lead the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a group of industry, academic and government representatives that will find ways to speed up research in advanced materials and processes and increase our pool of skilled labor.


The private sector cannot do this alone. Since World War II, federal investments in scientific research have set off waves of job-creating innovation in aviation, electronics, computing, the Internet and biotechnology.


We need major innovation investment if we are to achieve similar breakthroughs today. But the recent debt-ceiling compromise could compel some 10 percent in cuts to federal research and development money in 2013. That could lead to a decade of stagnation. We must recommit to innovation if we want to re-energize our economy.


A new era of advanced manufacturing also requires more graduates with greater proficiency in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The National Association of Manufacturers, together with community colleges, recently announced a program to certify a half-million skilled workers in five years and to connect them with manufacturing jobs. We need more initiatives like this.


The prospect of good manufacturing jobs in the United States is not a fantasy. Germany and Japan enjoy high wages and run major surpluses in manufactured goods; so can we. Our economy will thrive only when we make what we invent.


Susan Hockfield, a neuroscientist, is the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a director of General Electric.









As lethal hurricane winds swept across a broad swath of our Eastern coastal areas over the weekend, floodwaters from heavy rain added more deaths, as well as property damage estimated at more than $7 billion.

We are awed and sometimes horrified by the tremendous power of nature when we see storms rage over a large part of the most heavily populated portions of our country.

More than two dozen people were reported to have lost their lives when Hurricane Irene swept along the East Coast and inland from Florida north.

Despite timely warnings seeking to minimize the danger, some chose to ignore those admonitions. And not all of the unpredictable hurricane's perils -- from falling trees to downed electrical lines -- could be avoided even by those who tried to be careful.

Meanwhile, many who fortunately were spared death or injury are nonetheless going to be without power for perhaps several days. Nearly 5 million people had serious power disruptions. That will create inconvenience for most and real hardship for some while repairs are completed.

Densely populated New York City thankfully did not suffer the level of destruction that had been feared. Irene had been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm by the time it reached that huge metropolitan area.

As during other disasters, multitudes of police officers, firefighters, utility workers and emergency personnel -- as well as private volunteers -- worked tirelessly to prevent or alleviate suffering. That fine effort will no doubt continue in coming weeks. Still, it will be an expensive effort to return people in several states to something resembling normalcy.

We do not like to be reminded of how helpless we are in many ways when confronted with nature's wrath. But as we recall the death toll from Hurricane Katrina and other disasters in the United States and abroad in recent years, we are grateful that the destruction was not far worse.









Hurricane Irene, most meteorologists and emergency management and public safety officials now agree, could have been much worse. That's true, but one's view of the storm is a matter of perspective. The tens of millions of people along the U.S. East Coast from the Carolinas into New England who braved the weekend onslaught of wind, torrential rains, waves and storm surge likely have a much different assessment. It was plenty bad enough for them.

What the storm left in its wake is telling.

The hurricane/tropical storm had led to the reported deaths of at least 31 people in 10 states as of Monday afternoon. . Economic losses, including property damage, could reach $7 billion or perhaps more, a high total to be sure, but significantly below the record for a natural disaster in the United States. About $3 billion of the estimated $7 billion will be covered by insurance, industry experts say.

It will take some time for appraisers and experts to precisely determine the losses attributable to the hurricane, but some numbers immediately available attest to the might of the storm. On Monday, afternoon, nearly five million people along the storm's path were without power. That's down from the nearly 7.5 million homes and businesses that were in the dark at the height of the outage. That total is only one sign of the damage wrought by Irene.

In many places, people still can not reach homes and businesses. Flood waters, washed out roads and bridges, downed utility poles, toppled trees and other debris make travel dangerous if not impossible. In some places, individuals can get to their homes and businesses, but they'll remain without essential services for days or weeks. Some officials say full restoration of power in the hardest hit locales -- like Vermont, where the governor said the state had experienced its worst flooding in a century --might take weeks.

In others, high water or flash floods breached water treatment plants, prompting officials to report that they were not sure when service could be restored. Still, activity was returning to more typical patterns in many places where Irene had disrupted the normal rhythms of every-day life. Evacuees were returning to their homes and businesses and transportation systems -- airports, trains, subways -- in most places were slowly returning to regular activity. The prompt return to a semblance of normalcy is a testament to the interaction and cooperation of those in the storms path and the various agencies charged with protecting them.

Forecasters accurately gauged the path of the storm (though they did somewhat misjudge its intensity). Meteorologists provided information early in the history of the storm. That allowed local, state and federal officials to activate plans in a timely fashion. Residents in the affected area almost uniformly heeded warnings and orders. In almost every instance, the systems in place to protect lives worked extraordinarily well.

That task goes on. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies continue to do yeoman work. It's hard to fault its preparation or response. President Barrack Obama said Monday that federal assistance would continue as long as necessary. That's reassuring.

State and local emergency management teams and public and private agencies are working well, too. They provided valuable information and instruction in the run-up to he storm, and have continued to work efficiently and effectively since. The lesson to be learned from Irene, then, is that careful and coordinated planning is an effective way to reduce the toll that can be exacted by a hurricane or similar natural disaster. That's a message that can be usefully applied in the future.







The United States remains committed to partnership in the International Space Station, but it is no longer capable of launching people or supplies into space to sustain it. That was not supposed to be a problem, even after the U.S. space shuttle program ended last month. Instead, U.S. astronauts and supplies would be hauled into space by Russian spacecraft. That plan's in jeopardy after a Soyuz rocket, the usually reliable workhorse of the Russian space fleet, crashed last week.

Though the spacecraft that crashed was not carrying people, it was similar to what is used to ferry astronauts. The failed craft was laden with supplies, including green apples and garlic, which the space station's crew would use to spice up their somewhat bland diet. In the aftermath of the crash, the major problem is not the crew's diet, but the future of the station.

Space officials in Russia understandably grounded rockets in the Soyuz fleet, including one that was scheduled for launch two days after the crash. That spacecraft was supposed to carry a Russian navigation satellite into orbit. Until the question of why supply rocket crashed is answered, it makes sense to ground the Soyuz fleet.

Safety, of course, is the primary concern. There's no reason to risk lives if there is a question about the integrity or safety of a rocket. That's a given. Now space officials in several countries must decide what happens if the Soyuz is not cleared to fly replacement crew members to the station.

There's no problem, yet, in getting those currently aboard the station home. Replacing them is. That, a NASA official says, could prompt astronauts to abandon the international project until there is a safe way to transport replacement crews. The station can continue to operate without a crew, but the risk to the orbiting craft goes up if there's no one there to fix problems as they occur.

Astronauts of various nations have lived aboard the space station since 2000. That tenure is threatened by the failure of the Russian spacecraft. Unfortunately, the United States can do little to change that situation. At the moment, at least, it has no way to transport astronauts into space.





Especially at this time of year, as students have recently returned to school, there is high enthusiasm about their prospects for academic success -- as there very well should be. Our students are not dumb, after all. Young people from the most privileged backgrounds as well as those from the humblest of families are bright, capable and full of energy, and they can achieve amazing things with the right guidance, discipline and instruction.

But we cannot get students on the right path if we do not first acknowledge that too many of them are not yet living up to their intellectual potential.

It is troubling to learn that scores among Tennessee high school students who took the ACT college entrance exam this year were down. The average composite score fell from 19.6 to 19.5. That put our state ahead of only Mississippi in achievement on the ACT.

Unfortunately, things are even worse in Hamilton County. Students here got an average composite score of only 18.7, compared with the statewide average of 19.5. On the positive side, although scores here were lower than they were across the state, there was slight improvement in our local scores, which rose from 18.6 in 2010.

But ACT also issued other warnings about Tennessee students' academic preparation. Not even half of students in the state are ready to do college-level algebra, social science and biology, for instance, and only 58 percent are ready for college-level English composition.

Those troubling statistics put Tennessee far below national averages, and they do not bode well for students' chances of eventually earning a college degree.

"These results are unacceptable, and we have to do more to ensure that our high school students' academic results align with their aspirations," read a statement from Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.

Sadly, it would be hard to dispute that.





There was understandable alarm when the U.S. Commerce Department said that growth of the U.S. economy in the April-June quarter was only 1.3 percent. So the alarm is even greater now that the Commerce Department has further downgraded that figure. The agency says actual growth in the spring quarter wasn't 1.3 percent, but only 1 percent instead. And worse still, for the entire first half of this year, our economy expanded by only 0.7 percent!

What makes that so troubling is that it suggests our country may be headed for another recession. Economic growth of 1 percent or less has preceded almost all of the 11 recessions our nation has endured since World War II, The Associated Press noted recently. So if we're at less than 1 percent growth now, a new recession could be knocking on our door.

And as continued high unemployment shows, what little expansion there has been in the economy just hasn't been enough to provide sufficient jobs to keep up with normal population growth. That means more people are falling further behind as they must rely on government aid or on help from friends and family.

President Barack Obama has made his unwise "prescription" for the economy clear: He wants much higher taxes and a lot more spending.

But that does not mean Congress has to go along with the president. In fact, it is urgently important that Republicans hold the line against big new federal spending -- especially considering the failure of the last "stimulus."

Our nation's economic problems are not being caused by insufficient spending or "too-low" taxes, but by over-regulation, excessive taxation and intrusive government policies that are hamstringing the free market's ability to create jobs and growth.

So long as those suffocating policies continue, we have little chance of seeing real, sustained economic expansion.








On the day that President Abdullah Gül told Turkey's semi-official Anatolia news agency that it was Gen. Necdet Öztorun, the new chief of General Staff who asked him to host the Aug. 30 Army Day, or Victory Day, celebrations, a former chief of General Staff, retired Gen. Necip Torumtay passed away.

I remember the day that Torumtay resigned from his powerful post on Dec. 3, 1990, in protest of the late President Turgut Özal's insistence on getting actively involved in the (First) Iraq War together with the United States, before a United Nations resolution. We journalists were at a press conference at the General Staff headquarters about the allegations of counter-guerilla units within the Turkish Armed Forces operating against the actions of the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The resignation of the late Torumtay had caught everyone in the room by surprise, including the chief of operations of the Turkish military, who was giving the briefing. But that same resignation managed to keep Turkey out of the war.

Years later, another Chief of General Staff, Gen. Hilmi Özkök, was harshly criticized by the United States in 2003 for not pushing enough on the newly elected Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party, or AK Parti, government to let U.S. troops based in Turkish territory invade Iraq from the north. Özkök, on the other hand, as we understand now when looking into the affairs of those days, was busy with dispersing a proto-junta within the higher ranks of the Turkish military that was pressuring him to lead a coup against the government. That would have been the fourth coup since 1960 to discredit Turkish democracy and Özkök almost single handedly stopped it.

In the last days of July 2011, the Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner resigned from his post as well. His resignation had nothing to do with the national security of the country, but was over a row over the new promotions in the ranks under the shadow of detentions of a number of generals and admirals in relation with coup claims of the prosecutors regarding the unsuccessful attempts that were prevented by Özkök years ago. Last week, the Internet release of illegal tape recordings of Koşaner showed that he was criticizing, or self-criticizing, his sub commanders for the incapability and wrongdoings of the Turkish Armed Forces with bitter words, especially regarding the 30-year fight against the PKK.

Gen. Özel was appointed to the post by Gül, following Koşaner's resignation. It seems that the "once in a century or so" reformation of the Turkish military (the nearest two being in 1826 and 1926) would start under Özel. The former two were to keep the military away from getting involved in politics and the third one will follow the same line.

Nations have days of symbolic importance, which sometimes comes with coincidences. This year in Turkey, Army Day coincides with the first day of the Ramadan bayram holiday, one of the holiest festivals for Muslims.

President Gül hosting Army Day celebrations, as an indication of civilian authority gaining control over the military apparatus, does have an importance of that kind.

I wish a Happy Bayram to all of our Muslim readers.





Against the backdrop of a daily news drumbeat among the world's most daunting, it is hard to step back and ponder. Turkey has just emerged from a national election. Killings and tensions are on the rise in the much-troubled Southeast. The economy is still growing in the aggregate but most economists see trouble on the horizon.

Schools and universities are about to reopen amid wrenching debate on the nature of education and schooling itself. Environmental disasters ranging from cancer clusters near Istanbul to the drought on the Konya plain to the collapse of fisheries find a place in public debate from time to time – but only from time to time.

It is hard, as the saying goes, to distinguish the forest for the trees. All the more so in Turkey with so many trees burning, diseased, felled for otherwise worthy projects or just lying across the road. Which is to say nothing of the neighborhood where so many blazes rage among the social and political timbers.

This all suggests the worth of a brief timeout, a look at a project in Australia that is being much discussed in thoughtful environmental and economic development circles for its simplicity and clarity in setting an objective benchmark to ask the question: "How are we doing?

The link is bit cumbersome, but I'll reprint it anyhow:

It is no reflection on the work of the recently reorganized Turkish Statistics Board, or TurkStat, or on the research by universities or the larger municipalities, to suggest the data is often opaque. Other efforts have great value and insight, such as the annual values survey done by Bahçeşehir University.

There is the old standby of Gross National Product, or GNP. Alas it is held in contempt by most economists for the many things it does not measure. But alternatives are elusive. So for purposes of general discussion and debate, a simple tool for intelligent consensus building is hard to find. The Aussies, however, have done so with a "dashboard" of progress. It basically wraps up more than 80 diverse data sets under 15 "traffic light" indicators. These in turn are set below just three "headline" categories: Society, Economy and Environment.

If you check out the site, you will see that under "Economy" the indicator "National Income" is green, signaling progress. Click and you can see clearly understandable charts on income growth, distribution and consumption. Go below the "Environment" headline to check the red "atmosphere" traffic light and you quickly see the country is stuck. Its emissions of hydrocarbons continue to grow.

Among the 15 categories, not all are green, yellow or red. "Democracy, governance and citizenship," "Land" and "Crime" are among those that are still statistical works in progress. They do have inconclusive data that is better than nothing but these await improvement.

Such tools will hardly end our many difficult and divisive debates over the trees. But this is an example of forestry measurement that cries out for emulation by the government or civil society institutions. Such tools won't end our divisive debates. They might make them smarter.





Heading to Kaş on an intercity bus, I could not hide my amazement when I saw the newly constructed marina at the entrance of this Mediterranean town. As he heard me talking about the new marina, the bus driver said, "Tayyip did it. Just like he did this highway." He did not say, "The state did it," or "The government did it," nor did he prefer to mention the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

The majority of the 50 percent of those who cast their votes for the AKP appreciates Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. His resolute manners, which are perceived as authoritarian by some among the other 50 percent who did not vote for him, is what make people like Erdoğan.

"Ever since Turkey entered a multiparty political system, people have been longing for a one-man rule," Professor Yılmaz Esmer told me in an interview.

So in a society such as ours, where one-man rule is highly upheld, it is no surprise to assume that the leader sets an example to the rest of society, even with his private life.

The PM is known as a loving father and a caring, respectful husband. Family is sacred for him. Nothing wrong with that. It is also known that he does not believe in gender equality. He is on the record saying, "I don't believe men and women are equal." For him, the woman's essential mission to give birth and raise children. He has been calling on women to make at least three children. Recently, as he congratulated the Turkish women's youth volleyball team on winning the world championship, he instructed that they be rewarded gold coins. But he added, "This should go to their dowry." The best wish he can have for them is marriage rather than a continuation of a career that can take them to the women's championship.

I can understand the view of a pious conservative like him, while not finding it justifiable. What I don't understand is his silence on women murders. As pointed out by activist Melek Özman in a recent interview, we have never heard him condemn women murders.

On the contrary, he doesn't see anything wrong with paying a visit to singer İbrahim Tatlıses, who was hospitalized earlier this year after being shot in an attempt on his life. Neither did he deem it wrong to distribute the photos to the press showing him next to Tatlıses, a man who is known for having slapped one of his early female partners in public. A man who is suspected of shooting his wife when she sought a separation after she found out that he was cheating on her. She was shot while performing at a casino, a clear message that he does not want her to work. A man who is also suspected of shooting the woman he cheated on his wife with when she also wanted to dump him.

So although I know that all civil servants are trying to show to the head of the government that they are just like him, I was still shocked when I saw recently the photo distributed by the Anatolian News Agency, which is currently run by one of the PM's former advisors. The photo showed what the agency labeled as the "brain team" of the Anatolian Agency. I counted 19 heads in the picture. All men. But then I was pleasantly surprised when our photo editor enlarged the photo. There was one woman at the table, way in the back, squeezed between two men.

Then I realized that in Erdoğan's Turkey, seeing even one woman

in that photo made me happy rather than upset, because one is better

than none.





The "Deniz Feneri" (Lighthouse) case is a test for the government's claim that the Turkish legal system has attained an independence it did not have in the past to go after all forms of corruption and criminality without outside interference.

The "Ergenekon" and "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer) cases against formerly "untouchable" retired and active generals – who together with their civilian collaborators allegedly attempted to topple Prime Minister Erdoğan and his government by illegal means – are pointed to as examples in this respect.

A first glance does suggest that there are new openings in judicial practices, and the large number of ranking soldiers in prison seems to prove it. Independent observers however are worried that the cases against the generals have been turned into instruments to hound opponents of Erdoğan and his government.

The fact that the judiciary has all but been "cleansed" by the government of "Kemalist elements" also reinforces this notion. But the case that seems to confirm the worst fears about "political selectivity" by the judiciary today has been the Lighthouse case.

This started a few years ago with a criminal investigation in Germany into allegation that the Lighthouse e.V. charity organization had funneled money collected in Germany to Erdoğan's Justice and Development party, or AKP, mainly by means of the pro-government TV channel Kanal 7.

But the foot dragging by the Turkish legal system in prosecuting its leg of the case contrasted sharply with the zeal with which the cases against the generals have been prosecuted. German prosecutors have expressed doubts that the Lighthouse case can even be seen in Turkey.

The arrest some weeks ago of high profile figures in connection with this case, including Zahit Akman, a former Kanal 7 executive and presenter, and later the head of Turkey's Radio and Television Supreme Council, or RTÜK, appeared to disprove this.

In the meantime the prosecutors investigating the case were reportedly making headway in establishing links between the AKP and the Lighthouse funds. But while this was taking place the lawyers for the accused applied to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, alleging that the investigating prosecutors were engaged in legal irregularities.

The bombshell last week was that their complaint was accepted, and that the three prosecutors investigating this case had been dismissed and replaced by two new ones.

The chief prosecutor said in a statement later that this move was designed to protect the case against allegations being made about the prosecutors investigating it, an explanation that few took at face value.

The haste of this decision also contrasted sharply with the fact than none of the similar complaints by the lawyers of Ergenekon and Sledgehammer defendants have been taken seriously to date. The inevitable accusation from opposition politicians and independent observers that the judiciary has become a mere instrument for the government was of course fast in coming.

Many believe today that the dismissal of the prosecutors is the first step in having the Lighthouse defendant's freed, with a view to subsequently forcing this whole case into the statute of limitations. The government, which was re-elected recently with a strong mandate, appears not much perturbed about such claims. It believes it has time ahead of it so it can bear the political costs attached to this case.

Unfortunate for the government, however, is that the opposition media is not willing to let the case rest. Erdoğan was greatly annoyed in the past because of this, and went to war with the Doğan Media Group, which also owns this paper, over this issue.

Much to Erdoğan's further annoyance, however, it is clear that any appearance of outside interference in this case will ensure that it does not disappear as more and more people come to believe that there is something truly rotten in this Lighthouse.






Since it has become a much preferred practice before the Parliament recess began, several significant regulations were passed using the power to issue statutory decrees, called a decree with the power of law, or KHK, and we can just as well presume more will come.

We hear that several ministers are queuing up to use this authority that is valid until Oct. 1 and that preparations are under way for many statutory decrees to be issued during the bayram holiday. While the decree that formed the new EU Ministry was being written, several regulations highly irrelevant to the subject were added to it, including a clause that put independent institutions under the administrative and financial supervision of ministries.

We also saw the same articles that banned medical professors from opening private offices, nicknamed the "full-time law," which was canceled by the Constitutional Court, were incorporated in another decree and re-imposed the ban. The Health Ministry apparently considers this a normal procedure, to make such an important change with a decree to replace a bill that had drawn fierce reactions and that has been canceled before.

As if that were not enough, we have learned that the Health Ministry was preparing a statutory decree that would almost change its entire organizational structure. These preparations, which only came under public scrutiny because Health Ministry inspectors determined that their existence were to be abolished by a decree, anticipates comprehensive changes in the ministry's present structure. In this draft decree that almost downgrades the Health Ministry to a formal and representative ministry, there are articles that prescribe serious radical changes such as granting autonomous status to public hospitals.

Another ministry seeking structural changes through a decree is the Energy Ministry. In the ongoing works of the Energy Ministry, the structure of the Energy Market Regulatory Authority, or EPDK, is being changed and the agency divided into two. One agency will only deal with fuel. The fuel sector is said to be not very happy with this change but that the ministry and the government are determined to split the EPDK.

Cancellation by the Constitutional Court expected

It is another subject for debate why such important changes are being made via statutory decrees instead of laws. In political backrooms, the relevant ministers are rumored as saying, "We know that the CHP [main opposition Republican People's Party] will take the case to the Constitutional Court and that the Constitutional Court will most probably cancel those decrees."

It is obvious that the ministers want to start a certain practice with a decree, and even if the Constitutional Court cancels it, it would then become a must to issue a law to replace the decree they wish to continue as such. In this way, apparently, it is not a preferable option for long debates take place in Parliament and certain changes discussed in public.

As a matter of fact, this is the most important reason to be against the issuing of statutory decrees in principle. This means the seizure of the legislative power granted to the Parliament. It also means an important arrangement such as a law that needs to be debated in Parliament on behalf of the country is carried out by the government by issuing a decree without any debate.

These statutory decrees were highly favored during the time of the late Turgut Özal and were criticized. The Constitutional Court does not like the changing of those articles that are in laws through statutory decrees and many decrees have been canceled on these grounds. In fact, many problems have been experienced because laws were not passed on time to replace decrees that were canceled.

*Erdal Sağlam is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece appeared on Monday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff






The European Neighborhood Policy, or ENP, seeks to strengthen the partnership between the European Union and the countries and societies of the neighborhood and to promote stability, prosperity and security in this neighborhood.

As a country negotiating its accession to the European Union, Turkey shares the EU's policy goals and values. Turkey is a close partner of the EU and an important regional player. I believe that Turkey and the EU can develop important synergies to create mutual benefits through their interactions with the neighborhood they have in common.

In 2010-2011, the EU carried out a review of the ENP, which became even more pertinent following the historical changes in the southern Mediterranean this year, which has led to a new policy response to our changing neighborhood.

The new approach is based on the principle of "more for more," that is, more EU support for more reform and democratization in partner countries.

The ENP is also based on mutual accountability and conditionality which works both ways. If a partner country wishes to obtain greater support from the EU, to participate in the EU internal market, to ensure greater mobility for its citizens, then it will have to demonstrate clear commitments to a number of significant political reforms.

Conversely, the EU will be accountable to its partners for delivering on its offers of support for political and economic reform. This includes not only financial support, but also improved and better-managed mobility of people as well as trade integration. Ultimately, the EU hopes to conclude with each partner deep and comprehensive free trade areas, which will allow economic integration into the EU single market.

We will work not only with governments, but also with civil society and peoples. We will look at the creation of a new civil society facility and of a European Endowment for Democracy to support the development of a vibrant civil society and of working political parties as a solid foundation for democracy throughout our neighborhood.

We will adapt our instruments to make them more flexible and more focused, and we will allocate, in 2011-2013, up to 1.2 billion euros in grant money to support the new approach. This is in addition to funds already earmarked for our neighborhood in 2011-2013, which amount to 5.7 billion.

 In June, the EU decided to appoint an EU special representative for the southern Mediterranean. The mandate of the new EUSR will be to enhance the European Union's effectiveness, presence and visibility in the region and in relevant international fora, including through a close coordination with relevant local partners and international organizations.

Turkey's foreign policy principle is often described as a policy of "zero problems with neighbors." Its new regional vision is based on a common security zone, high-level political dialogue, economic interdependence, and cultural cooperation. Like the EU's European Neighborhood Policy, Turkey's foreign policy seeks to ensure the region's stability, prosperity and security, for the benefit of all.

Like the EU, Turkey needs stability in its neighborhood, including a secure supply of energy resources. Turkey will be a transit country for the new Southern Energy Corridor of the EU, which will need to rely on a steady supply of gas from our common neighbors.

Economically, Turkey is a success story. Thanks to its robust economic development, Turkey is expanding its trade and investment relations with its neighbors. Growing economic integration between the EU and Turkey – thanks in particular to the customs union – as well as between Turkey and its neighbors, will promote prosperity and stability across our common neighborhood.

Turkey could be an inspiration for the whole Middle East showing that a Muslim society can have a functioning democracy, with a vibrant domestic political debate, full transparency and accountability.

As an example, Turkey can have a hugely positive impact on Syria, a fellow Sunni Muslim country which shares a long border with Turkey. Turkey could be an important source of inspiration for Syria's future.

In Libya, Turkey is playing a major role, including hosting the contact group meeting in Istanbul on July 15 and proposing a road map for the resolution of the conflict. It is important that EU and Turkey start working on the "day after" the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in coordination with the United Nations, other international organizations and the United States. Turkey can play a very important role helping the new Libyan authorities set up an effective government and a working democracy.

As I see it, Turkey can also be a bridge between Israel and the Arab world. I hope the current difficulties in Turkish-Israeli relations can soon be overcome.

Furthermore, Turkey plays an important role for the stability and security of the South Caucasus region. The opening of all borders in that region would provide new business opportunities and enhance prosperity of all and should be our common endeavor.

There is clear scope for Turkey and the EU to further develop cooperation and to intensify policy coordination in the southern Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, and I will seek every opportunity to discuss our policies with my Turkish counterpart. The new strategic dialogue between the EU and Turkey will also play an important role in this regard. Closer policy coordination in this area will help bring Turkey and the EU even closer together and will improve the impact of our policies on our common neighborhood, to further our mutual interests.

*Stefan Fuele is the commissioner responsible for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy. The original version of this article was published in the Summer 2011 issue of Turkish Policy Quarterly. This is an abbreviated version of the article. For more information, please visit






Watching rebel gunmen rampage through Colonel Moammar Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound – once the Forbidden City of Tripoli – was a strange experience for me.

I spent an evening there with Gadhafi in 1987, a year after it was bombed by U.S. warplanes.

Libya's "Brother Leader" talked about the Mideast, Palestine, North Africa. He led me by the hand through his ruined private quarters, still reeking of fire and smoke, and showed me the bed in which an American 1,000 kilo laser-guided bomb killed his 2-year-old adopted daughter.

We sat in his gaily colored Bedouin tent, talking into the night. He opened up to me about his love for fancy dress and beamed happily when I told him, tongue in cheek, how attractive he was to Western women.

Call this dictator nostalgia – a feeling not of course shared by a majority of Libyans who are now trying to hunt down their deposed leader of 42 years. Few will miss him. Gadhafi was a blight on Libya and an embarrassment to the Arabs.

Meanwhile, Libya is literally turning into a gold rush as the big Western oil firms pile into Libya and pay court to the new government in Tripoli, the National Transitional Council. Police units and troops from Britain, France and Italy may soon follow – all, naturally, as part of the West's new "humanitarian intervention" strategy that has replaced "counter-terrorism."

Libya is in semi-chaos and its economy devastated by six months of conflict. The food distribution system has broken down. Thousands of heavily armed "rambos" make their own law. There are barely any state institutions aside from the national oil company and central bank. The secret police have evaporated.

As a modest historian, I am always delighted when history draws striking parallels. We now see the fascinating spectacle of those old colonial powers, Britain, France, and Italy, starting to move back into their former overseas possessions.

Britain ruled Libya until a young colonel named Moammar Gadhafi overthrew the doddering old British puppet, King Idris. The U.S. lost one of its largest bombers bases at Libya's Wheelus Field. Neither nation was to forgive Gadhafi.

Imperial Britain had seized Libya from Italy's fascist regime in 1943. Italy colonized Libya after tearing it away from the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Italy used concentration camps and poison gas to terrorize Libyans into submission.

France, whose colonial empire included neighboring Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Chad, and Niger, long competed with Italy and Spain for regional domination. Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime pressed claims to Tunisia, Corsica, Nice and Cannes.

An obscure colonial border dispute over Chad's Aouzou Strip dating from the 1920s between France and Italy led to a nasty little Franco-Libyan border war there in 1987.

French Foreign Legionnaires in jeeps, disguised as Chadian nomads, drove the wretched Libyan army from Aouzou in what became known as the "Toyota War." Disguised French special forces and Legionnaires, as well as Britain's SAS, just used the same theatrical tactics in Libya.

The big question now is which foreign power will dominate Libya. The United States, which has waged this little war from well offstage? Italy, which gets most of its oil from Libya? France, where President Nicolas Sarkozy has been hinting at a Mediterranean union – bien sur, under French tutelage?

Oil is a potent aphrodisiac. Libya has vast reserves of premium, low-sulphur oil and gas, and a hundred-year supply of ancient artesian water. Energy-rich Libya will become an important market for European consumer products and industrial exports, as well as a huge major supplier of investment funds from its estimated $50 billion worth of annual oil exports.

There are more prizes to be had: Libya's gold reserves, estimated at $4 billion to 5 billion; and its nearly $100 billion of foreign deposits and investments. And then there are the files of its intelligence agencies, which may reveal the true story behind the bombings of a French and U.S. airliner in the 1980ss. Western intelligence will also want to talk to Gaddafi's intelligence chief, closest confidant and brother-in-law, Abdullah Senoussi, with whom I spent a most interesting evening in Tripoli. France has a warrant out for his arrest for the 1989 bombing of a UTA airliner over Niger.

It's likely U.S., British and French intelligence officers have already grabbed Gadhafi's files.

*Eric Margolis is a veteran US journalist. This article originally appeared on the Khaalej Times web site.






We are fast reaching a point where the mayhem we live in will be impossible to contain; perhaps we are approaching a state of madness so complete that it will be impossible to escape. It is hard to predict what will happen in Karachi in the wake of former Sindh home minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza's frenzied diatribe. But there will be repercussions and reactions. The chief targets of Mirza's onslaught, the MQM and Interior Minister Rehman Malik, have denied the grave charges Mirza made against them. There may be further retaliation as the full impact of a press conference that the US Embassy has described as 'incomprehensible' is absorbed further. However, the charges and accusations by Mirza are so grave that those who stand accused just cannot assume that the ripples created will disappear as time goes by. They will have to come up with responses more weighty and more convincing than just ordinary denials and commonplace statements. In the meantime, what we have before us, is an utterly shocking situation – words fail to convey its enormity and we seem to be running out of suitable adjectives to discuss our ever-worsening predicament. The chaos we face is no ordinary chaos; it is a state of affairs only few nations have found themselves face to face with at any point in their history. Mirza's words have brought home the alarming realisation that we are desperately trying to stay afloat in waters infested with schools of sharks. It is now clearer than ever before that many – perhaps most – of our politicians are criminals involved in murder, treason, and other repugnant acts. Mirza, who brings us these tidings, too has been linked with thugs and Lyari gangsters.

It will be fascinating to observe what the Supreme Court makes of the ex-minister's remarks and how it responds to Mirza's request to allow him to speak at the ongoing suo motu hearing on the violence in Karachi. On Monday, a five-member bench headed by the chief justice of Pakistan sought from the city police chief more details of criminal activity, the presence of weapons and the running of torture cells in Karachi. Hearings are to continue. Perhaps, the court remains our only hope that clarity will finally replace the haze that clouds affairs at present, and offer a sense of direction. For now, there appears only a sense of dread with no one knowing where to go. Mirza has also added to the confusion. We wonder too what it was that inspired the change in his tone and caused him to project himself as the nation's saviour and a friend of the ISI – a force for which he has shown little fondness in the past. His threat to reveal secrets to both, the prime minister and the army chief, is also intriguing. There is no way to say exactly what it is that he has in mind or what proof he possesses within the sheaf of documents he waved at the media to substantiate the alarming accusations he made. But what we can all agree on is that we need stable and honest people to run our country rather than the existing lot in power who appear to have failed in every area of importance.

Mirza, in his tirade, also made an attempt to project himself as a man of the people. This opens up the question of whether he intends to carve out his own faction from within the PPP. Each new wave of tension creates new rifts that tear people further apart. There is no sign that any leader is available to undo the damage, patch up the holes, and move on. The provincial and central governments have both failed to restore normalcy to this ravaged city. And now things seem to be falling even further apart with whatever light may be visible at the end of the tunnel apparently coming from a train speeding forward and threatening to crush anything that falls in its path.






Yet again a substantial force of heavily armed men has made an incursion from Afghanistan into Pakistani territory, this time into Chitral. As of Monday afternoon the number of our military and paramilitary personnel who were confirmed dead as a result was 33, with the possibility that the number may rise. The majority of those who died were local men, recruited from the villages in the area. Four men are reported missing and it is believed that they were kidnapped by the raiders and taken back into Afghanistan. The number of people in the raiding party is differentially reported, but could be 300 of which perhaps 20 were killed. Responsibility was claimed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and there is little reason to doubt this. The diplomatic response has been quick and the Afghan charge d'affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office on Sunday to be told, yet again, that this was unacceptable and such attacks would 'no longer be tolerated.'

Islamabad's protest is strongly worded, and could be interpreted in such a way as to suggest that our own forces may conduct hot pursuit operations into Afghanistan or, stretching the imagination considerably, our air force may strike the raiders before they get across the border if there is reliable intelligence as to their whereabouts. The reality is that we are not going to war with Afghanistan, the air force will stay on the ground and, apart from a little long-range artillery fire, we are not going to be making much by way of a response. Another reality is that we are suffering from a nasty dose of unfinished business. Many of those engaged in the raid are said to originate from Malakand Division and there are other reports that the raids are inspired and led by the likes of Maulana Fazlullah, lately of Swat, and Maulvi Faqir, lately of Bajaur Agency. Both these powerful figures escaped the Pakistani forces and are said now to be operating from Afghanistan's Kunar and Nuristan provinces, allegedly with the cooperation of local Afghan authorities. They remain a significant threat to the stability of our northwestern borders. It is reported that Pakistan has shared accurate intelligence with the Afghans regarding the disposition of militants originating in Pakistan, but to little effect. It is unlikely that the Afghan National Army will take on these 'guests' and these attacks may be expected to continue. Given that there is good intelligence on the whereabouts and activities of the TTP in Afghanistan, it says little for the way in which Pakistan is regarded. And a response that is a little more robust than a diplomatic rap over the knuckles would be entirely appropriate.







Many people should be hiding their heads in shame after Dr Zulfiqar Ali Mirza's explosive press conference in which he made startling revelations regarding the state of affairs in Karachi, Pakistan's commercial hub now sadly described as the murder capital of the world. And heads should roll even if a few of his claims turn out to be true.

There is no reason to believe that Sindh's senior minister and PPP leader would be lying after having resigned from both his government job and his party office as senior vice-president of Sindh PPP. By also quitting as the member of the provincial assembly from his native Badin, he was under no compulsion to save his job. He voluntarily came forward risking his life and putting his party's government in trouble to make disclosures that needed to be made to expose killers masquerading as politicians. His sacrifice would be rewarded if it could prompt the powers that be to take immediate and tough action to restore peace in the country's economic lifeline, Karachi, and in the process save Pakistan.

Dr Mirza made his assertions under oath by holding the Holy Quran over his head. It was probably the first time that a senior politician resorted to such an extreme step to explain the seriousness of his bold move. He was under no compulsion to do this, but he remembered to bring a copy of the Quran with him to the Karachi Press Club and invoke it to look credible. Though people are known to have used the same tactic to save their skin, those are mostly criminals and persons facing serious accusations. In Dr Mirza's case, there are no serious or believable accusations against him. The accusations made by the defensive and stunned MQM against him of patronising killers and terrorists will have to be backed up by evidence.

The MQM, not known to take things lying down, was paying back in the same coin by levelling the same charges that Dr Mirza had made against it and its founder Altaf Hussain. Dr Mirza, on the other hand, claimed to be in possession of evidence with regard to every charge that he made against the MQM and its leader Altaf Hussain, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and others.

The only credible forum where Dr Mirza's allegations and those against him could be judged is the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which mercifully has finally taken suo moto notice of the bloodshed in Karachi and started hearing the case in the city itself. There has been speculation whether it was a coincidence or something planned that the five-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was to begin its proceedings a day after Dr Mirza's news conference.

Either way, the timing was perfect, and the Supreme Court now has a wealth of material and a keen witness like Dr Mirza to assist in its work for exposing those carrying out targeted killings and their sponsors who have made Karachi's population of over 18 million hostage. The Supreme Court owes it to the victims of targeted killings in Karachi, in misplaced revenge or for fun, to provide justice to their bereaved families.

The chief justice also owes it to the families of the around 50 people who lost their lives in government-sponsored violence on May 12, 2007, on the day he was scheduled to visit Karachi as part of his campaign to build public opinion against military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf because they have been denied justice until now.

Chief Justice Chaudhry must have reasons for including Supreme Court judges from Karachi and the rest of Sindh on the bench that is hearing the Karachi case. It would have been better perhaps for it to have judges from other provinces as well, as we all know how dangerous it is for the judiciary to freely give judgments in Karachi against powerful people with political connections, particularly the ones linked to parties accused of patronising murderers.

Not only judges but also people from almost every walk of life, including journalists in Karachi, live in fear if they dare to criticise certain individuals, political parties and pressure groups. Most media organisations are unable to pursue an even-handed coverage of the happenings in Karachi because their headquarters are in Karachi and therefore vulnerable to the strong-arm methods adopted by certain parties that believe in silencing critics.

Dr Mirza is the first politician to name names and single out Altaf Hussain and the MQM as terrorists. This was being said often privately, but nobody had the courage to say it openly. Now that someone has said things that were a taboo and made serious allegations against powerful people of involvement in acts of terrorism, treason and murders, it is the responsibility of all organs of the state to follow up with their own investigations, fix responsibility and punish the perpetrators of crime. The Supreme Court alone cannot handle it and we all know how its verdicts in crucial cases have been ignored and even ridiculed by the country's present rulers.

The PPP-led coalition government will have to rise above political compulsions and do the needful, but its past record doesn't inspire hope. The armed forces and its intelligence agencies remain a ray of hope despite their shortcomings as they possess the capacity to get things done, but army rule shouldn't be considered as an option on account of the harm that previous military dictators did to Pakistan. If the military could undertake operations in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa against militants and terrorists who mean harm to Pakistan, there is no reason not to take on urban terrorists who operate unafraid due to patronage by political forces.

Dr Mirza's sincerity could also be judged from the fact that his tirade against the MQM and Rehman Malik has put his friend and boss President Asif Ali Zardari in the dock and contributed to his woes. His outburst risks isolating him and exposing him to harm. It is a paradoxical situation as he hasn't quit the PPP and is not ready to tolerate any criticism of President Zardari.

But how can Dr Mirza absolve the president of responsibility for the violence in Karachi if he has been making power-sharing deals with the "terrorist" Altaf Hussain and the MQM and sending the "traitor" Rehman Malik as his trouble-shooter to Karachi and London? By indicting Rehman Malik as a protector of killers in Karachi, Dr Mirza has indirectly accused President Zardari of trusting someone who appears to be a "criminal" despite being the country's interior minister.

If one were to believe Dr Mirza, Rehman Malik should be in jail instead of presiding over all of Pakistan's law-enforcement agencies. If Rehman Malik is a compulsive liar, an enemy of Pakistan and a double-dealer, as Dr Mirza is alleging, the country is in serious trouble and President Zardari is equally responsible for the situation because he appointed the former FIA official as interior minister and has been sending him as his emissary to negotiate with world leaders. Besides, Dr Mirza's claim that Rehman Malik was leading a "farcical operation" against those guilty of targeted killings in Karachi is, in fact, a charge-sheet against President Zardari and the PPP government.

Dr Mirza's long charge-sheet is too serious to be ignored. His claim that Altaf Hussain had told him in the presence of PPP leader Agha Siraj Durrani that he was siding with the US in the United States' plans to break up Pakistan also cannot be taken lightly. Durrani is alive and should be summoned to the Supreme Court along with Dr Mirza to verify the claim.

As all these are mere allegations until proven, the Supreme Court will have to provide every opportunity to Altaf Hussain and the MQM to clarify their position. Dr Mirza too needs to answer a few things, including his Larkana speech after Benazir Bhutto's assassination in which he declared "Pakistan na khappay," only to be stopped in his tracks by President Zardari. Dr Mirza may appear impulsive at times, but his disclosures have created an opportunity for the exposure and punishment of those using violence for political purposes.

The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar.








Recently in Lahore, the prime minister issued a confident statement that Pakistan's economy was recovering fast; that the government had not borrowed a single rupee from the central bank in the month of July; and that exports and revenue collection had registered impressive growth. Without going into the minutiae of these claims, I will argue that the prime minister has been grossly misguided by his economic team.

Pakistan's economy is currently passing through the most difficult phase of its economic history. A robust economy has been transformed into a fragile one due to four years of total neglect by the political leadership and dubious policymaking and implementation by a weak and frivolous economic team.

It is an undeniable fact that Pakistan's economy is currently in bad shape. Investment has fallen to a 40-year low and economic growth has slowed to an average of less than three percent per annum over the last four years. Slower economic growth means fewer Pakistanis getting jobs and fewer Pakistanis climbing out of poverty. These are the outcomes of the types of fiscal and monetary policies pursued by the government over the last four years.

With the exception of 2008-09, fiscal indiscipline has been the hallmark of the government. The 'Aspirin' approach to monetary policy has been blindly pursued over the last two years along with an imprudent fiscal policy, deteriorating security environment, continuous political instability, mismanagement of the power sector, lack of communication with the private sector, and bad governance, this approach has been responsible for the state of the economy described above.

Imprudent fiscal policy, as represented by large fiscal deficit, is the 'mother' of economic problems and persistence of this at an elevated level has caused a host of ills to proliferate. Public debt has surged, interest payments have ballooned, private investment has declined, growth has decelerated and unemployment and poverty have risen. In addition, a large budget deficit, when financed through borrowing from the central bank, has contributed to the persistence of higher double-digit inflation. The persistence of a large fiscal deficit has also caused macroeconomic instability. Restoring macroeconomic stability should therefore be key to economic revival for which budget deficit reduction is absolutely necessary.

The prime minister must understand that Pakistan's economy will be revived if, and only if, his government maintains financial discipline and pursues a sound fiscal policy for an extended period of three to five years. He may not witness economic revival during the remaining period of his term, but at least he will lay the foundation for a stable macroeconomic environment that is necessary for a sustained economic recovery.

Assuming that the prime minister is serious about economic revival and decides to pursue a sound fiscal policy, he must ask his economic team to prepare a new fiscal framework which should be based on ground realities, and which treats expenditure rather than revenue as residual item. Revisiting the existing NFC Award must be an integral part of the new fiscal framework. Reduction in fiscal deficit in the range of 2.5-3.0 percent of GDP in the next three years should be the guiding principle of the new fiscal framework. Reduction in deficit must come largely from tax revenue generation through broadening tax bases, reducing tax rates, improving withholding tax regime and strengthening tax administration. Expenditure rationalisation and prioritisation should also be part of the new framework. The fate of the rotten PSEs will have to be decided without wasting any time. These bleeding PSEs are a drain on the national exchequer. They cannot be restructured, and as such outright privatisation, even at Rs1.0 each, is the only viable solution.

Power-sector subsidies have emerged as one of the major components of expenditure. Non-availability of adequate power has also emerged as a major constraint to economic revival. Raising power tariff alone has never been a solution and will not be a solution going forward. By raising the power tariff, the government is perpetually financing the inefficiencies, theft, corruption and overstaffing of Wapda/Pepco and power distribution companies. What is required is an integrated solution that includes power and gas sectors, inclusive of CNG on which my views are well known.

Economic revival can never take place without restoring the confidence of the private sector. The government will have to change its mindset by recognising that the private sector is the engine of growth and that it can produce and distribute more efficiently than the public sector. It is not the job of the government to run steel mills, airlines, grocery stores, utilities, etc. The job of the government is to create an environment through policies and reforms where the private sector can come forward and play its dominant role. The private sector has been sidelined and treated as an adversary over the last four years. Constant interaction of the government with the private sector and addressing its problems on a priority basis will be critical to restoring its confidence.

Karachi – one of the great economic engines of South Asia, the heart of a $200 billion economy, and home to an important seaport of the Arabian Sea is bleeding. Pakistan's economy can never be revived, Mr Prime Minister, without restoring peace and stability in Karachi. If Karachi bleeds, so will the country. Without peace in Karachi, there would be no political stability and hence, there would be no economic stability. For the sake of current and future generations and for the sake of economic revival, peace and stability in Karachi must be maintained at all costs.

Mr Prime Minister! Your desire to revive Pakistan's economy can only be achieved if your government maintains financial discipline, restores private sector confidence, takes politically difficult decisions, ensures availability of power to industry and businesses and brings peace and stability in Karachi.

Are you ready to commit to all this, Mr Prime Minister?

The writer is principal and dean at NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email: ahkhan@







We are living in truly interesting times, as the Chinese would put it. What a remarkable year it has been for the Middle East, and the rest of the world! We will all remember and cherish these historic moments for the rest of our lives, wherever we are or whoever we are. For it's not every day that you get to see history being enacted and mighty men, who have ruled and controlled the destiny of millions of people for decades, come crashing down to the ground.

The Libyan people have finally joined the Tunisians and Egyptians in celebrations and are rejoicing the departure of their tormentor after four decades of vile, total tyranny. And this isn't just their victory or that of the people of the Middle East. This is an epic triumph that belongs to us all – everyone who believes in freedom, human dignity and an individual's and people's right to choose their destiny.

This is the best Ramadan the Libyans have had in decades. And this Eid the Libyans will have their celebrations doubled. Indeed, this will be a special Eid for the Egyptians and Tunisians as well. For there's not a greater gift than freedom – freedom from fear, freedom from tyranny and freedom from indignity.

However, this is also a critical point in the history of the liberated country – and the Middle East. Thanks to the decades of abuse of power and one man's absolute tyranny, Libya today has no functioning institutions and infrastructure. As in the other so-called Arab socialist republics, police and security forces and intelligence agencies have been so abused and accustomed to protecting the powers that be that they aren't good for anything else.

Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, Libya, a largely tribal society, doesn't even have a basic institutional framework in place. On the other hand, this deficiency could also prove a blessing as Libya's new leaders will not have to face the resistance of the forces of status quo, as has been the case in the neighbouring countries.

Libya's new leaders and people won't have much time to celebrate, though. Dethroning Qaddafi may have been the easy part. The real struggle to build a new Libya begins now. The challenges facing the country on all fronts are daunting. But for a people who have managed to surmount the greatest challenge to their existence with their determination and enduring faith in themselves and in a better Libya could transcend any obstacle.

While the Libyans are celebrating their hard-earned victory, there has been much jubilation and back-slapping in the West. Much is being made of the Western support to people's revolt against Muammar Qaddafi. Of course, the Nato bombing targeting Qaddafi's forces – and many innocent civilians – has played a significant role in tilting the scales against the tyrant. However, the credit for this revolution in the end goes to the Libyan people.

Without their initiative, without their steadfastness and, above all, without their monumental sacrifices, this dawn of hope would have never arrived. It's the Libyan uprising that persuaded the West to abandon its appeasement of the dictator for those handsome contracts and billions of dollars of deals and shift its patronage.

Again, it was the infectious courage and resolve of ordinary Libyans that forced the Arab and Muslim nations to give up their cautious indifference. Which wasn't too difficult. Qaddafi had few friends and supporters even among his neighbours. Few tears will be shed for the despot. For all his rhetoric for the oppressed of the world, he offered his own people nothing but endless suffering.

His fate, and like that of his other disgraced peers, should be a wakeup call to others who have all these years abused the sacred trust and responsibility thrust on them. The ignominious end of Qaddafi is almost certain to hasten the departure of the Assads and Salehs. Their collapse is imminent, as inevitable as the sunrise tomorrow. And the longer they drag their feet, the greater will humiliation be their fate.

All those sacrifices by the people of Syria, Yemen and elsewhere will not go in vain. The dawn is nigh. And you could almost smell the sweet freedom, wherever you are and whoever you are.

As Faiz Ahmed Faiz, South Asia's revolutionary poet, would put it, this is the time to demolish all tyranny and oppression:

We shall see

When the insurmountable mountains of oppression

Shall blow as if cotton flakes

And beneath the feet of us common folk

This land will throb with a deafening sound

All crowns will fly

All thrones will fall

Let's hope Libya's new leaders will learn from history and do not end up as other wannabe revolutionaries of the Arab world have – assuming absolute power and turning on their own people to abuse it.

Let's not forget Qaddafi, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Tunisia's Ben Ali, Syria's Hafez al-Assad, whose son is now trying to outdo him in cruelty, and many others had all thrown up previous regimes, promising moon to their people and look where and how they ended up. The road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.

But the Libyans, or for that matter the Egyptians, Tunisians and others, are capable of dealing with future tyrants just as they have dealt with the recently departed lot. And they are equally capable of dealing with all those vultures waiting in the wings – waiting to move in for the big kill.

Western powers do themselves no justice if they believe they could arm-twist Qaddafi's inexperienced successors into signing on the dotted line. The people of Libya are watching. They are in no mood for more clever colonial games. The West mustn't squander the goodwill it has earned itself in Libya with such shenanigans.

The Libyan revolution for once saw the Western nations and Arabs and Muslims on the same side and, more important, on the side of justice and freedom. After a disastrous decade of wars and crimes against humanity, the West finds itself on the right side of history. Which is to be welcomed even by cynics like us.

If this support for Libyan freedom isn't underpinned by the thirst for oil and all the riches waiting to be explored and exploited in Libya, let the United States and its comrades-in-arms across the Atlantic extend similar support to the Palestinians. Let Washington, London and Paris spread the cheer all around and bless the Palestinian demand for statehood when it comes up at the United Nations next month.

While the Libyans have struggled for freedom these past six months, the Palestinians have pined for it for the past six decades. And they aren't any less committed and sincere in their aspirations for freedom and democracy. The Coalition of the Willing has an opportunity to redeem itself.

The writer is a commentator on the Middle East and South Asia.







"It was the birth-night of the Muslim world, that blessed night called "Lailat-ul-Qadr" when the Holy Quran was communicated to our Holy Prophet. That night, God traversed the whole universe and called "Is any of my vigilant servants in need of anything? Speak: I will give him that tonight. Therefore, Believers, thou should sacrifice tonight's sleep and, in prayers, reveal unto the Lord all thy difficulties. Surely He will accede to thy requests."

This message filled me with joy, because I had resolved, a long time ago, to pass this sacred night in meditation and to ponder over my own personal shortcomings and those of the Muslims in general. My soul was saddened by the wide-spread misery and poverty with which we suffer in India and outside it. This thought so engrossed me that I fell in a deep slumber.

I saw myself strolling in the compound of the Jamia Mosque. On one side there was a faint gleam of light. I approached it with a light tread and found an old lantern dimly burning beside a tomb. On one side lay a mat spread on the floor. As I sat on it, the lamp-light flared fitfully: Have I trespassed? I stood up, recited fateha and resumed my place with religious awe. Soon the only sound was the faint flutter of moths. My whole attention was then drawn towards the stately and self-communing sepulcher. I stared at it thoughtfully for a long time. By this time the lantern light had grown very dim.


Then followed a strange thing. I perceived a faint outline suspending against the tomb. It was like an indistinct picture seen intermittently on a screen. My heart, out of awe, sank within myself. It had languorous eyes and a long and well-kept beard. The image looked a remarkable personage in the late seventies or a priest of high status who had to deliver a message of some new order. A close observer could identify this as one of the pictures in the Strachey Hall, for it was an exact replica. The divine figure spiritualised my thoughts and whole being. I felt lost in wandering mazes and heard this message in a semi-conscious state of mind.

"My Boy: be at your ease. I have long waited to deliver a message to a person with a feeling heart, but alas did not come across any. At last I have found one in you tonight. I know when you, all alone, went to Agra to see the throne of Akbar. I saw tears dropping down from your eyes at its sight. I have been marking the feelings which your surroundings have evoked in you many times. But, dear boy what can you do when your Muslim brethren are immersed in negligence.

Muslims of India are committing the same mistake that they committed in Spain. You are illiterate, disunited, needy and powerless. Alas, there are unmistakable indications of approaching disaster. You will be torn to pieces like the Spanish Muslims who in sheer hopelessness prayed to God that He should come to their aid. But the Heavens were deaf to all their entreaties because all this was resorted to at the eleventh hour. My Boy, Age, Virtue and Sword entitled one to kingship. Now we are living in the time of Intellect, Action, Steam, Electricity, Gold, Destructive Ships, Gigantic Railways and Poisonous Gases. Do you not see how Abbysinia was swallowed up and China and Palestine are being tortured?

Since India is demanding Home Rule she, like other countries, will get it some day. This means that Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and others will rule the country jointly. In case a civil war ensues, the country will be ruled by the victor, either by Hindus or by you. In that case look at your political significance. Your fellow countrymen exclusively control every government service but you work mostly as chawkidars and menials. You are losing your traditional leadership in trade. Go to Amritsar and you will find that there are only 10 or 12 Muslim cloth-merchants in the famous trade centre. In the whole jewelry bazaar of Lahore you will not see a single Muslim jeweler. Similarly in Benaras, Dehli, Moradabad, Jammu and even in this Aligarh, trade is monopolised by non-Muslims.

Your co-religionists charge much more for the same commodity because they are unacquainted with the elementary rules of business. Again, you can judge your social significance by the fact that a non-Muslim litigant stands erect before the judge, while your Muslim brother, even when he is the plaintiff, stands in cringing servility. Moreover, disintegration has taken place among the Muslim community. An inner malice has affected their hearts; they have become time-servers. One Muslim does not hesitate to give false evidence, a shameful act, just to receive some remuneration.

Muslims lag far behind in arts and sciences. For an ordinary clerical post there are non-Muslim graduates and MAs competing against a Muslim matriculate. This shows the state of your education towards which your election enthusiast leaders have not paid any attention. A poor Hindu eats parched bread and wears homespun khadi and thus saves something to educate his son. His son aspires to be a collector or a moneyed man, but a Muslim is content to have a menial or a labourer. Thus the eyes of the descendents of former rulers are cast on the earth while those of the once ruled are on the sky. The son of a Hindu patwari becomes a tehsildar or a vakil but the descendent of a great Musalman is seen sauntering in court-yards to procure a drink by giving false evidence in the witness-box.

To be concluded

(This article appeared in the 1938 edition of the Aligarh University Magazine which had a foreword by the Quaid e Azam.)








 Riaz Mohammad Khan is uniquely qualified to provide an insider's perspective on Pakistan's involvement in Afghanistan and the complex interplay between internecine Afghan conflicts and the competing interests of external powers. His latest book, 'Afghanistan and Pakistan: Conflict, Extremism and Resistance to Modernity', is a product of his vast experience and knowledge and essential reading for anyone interested in the subject.

For over three decades Khan dealt with the Afghan issue as an active participant or witness to the tumultuous events that shook and shaped the region and its fortunes. From 1986-92 he was director general for Afghan and Soviet affairs at the Foreign Ministry. He participated in all the rounds of the Geneva talks in 1982-88, which produced the accords that led to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. As foreign secretary from 2005-08 he engaged at the highest policy level with the aftermath of the US intervention and its profound consequences for Pakistan.

His book offers a Pakistani perspective that has been missing from the large literature on the region in the post-9/11 era. In that aspect it is a sequel to his earlier book, 'Untying the Afghan Knot', which covered the period, 1979 to 1989. His new study is more ambitious. It covers a large canvas, combining several themes and weaving them into an exceptionally readable narrative of domestic, regional and global developments of the past two decades that have fuelled the Afghan conflict and the growth of extremism and religious militancy in Pakistan. In this tour d' force Khan discusses the dynamics unleashed by the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the cold war, the rise of radical Islam and the American military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In some respects this is two books in one. The first deals with the conflict in Afghanistan as it developed since the Soviet pullout, examining the missed opportunities as well as a string of failures. The second addresses itself to the growth of extremism in Pakistan. What connects the two themes is the book's central thesis: how conflict and militancy in both countries have been mutually reinforcing.

Khan ascribes the rise of militancy in Pakistan to a combination of external and internal factors. As a fallout of decades of conflict in the region's 'storm centre', Afghanistan. Its indigenous roots, identified in chapter five, include the promotion of religious zeal during the Zia years, growth of madressahs, Afghan and Kashmir-related jihad rhetoric that accompanied these conflicts and official patronage of radical groups. He analyses these complex issues with objectivity and candour.

Most insightful is Khan's discussion of what he rightly identifies as an 'intellectual crisis' in Pakistan. This lies at the heart of the country's present predicament. It reflects the confusion in thinking both in public discourse and at the leadership level (political and military) on issues of modernity and religious extremism. He shows that this confusion "relates to issues and challenges vital to national life and to the country's orientation, outlook and identity". It is at the core of society's resistance to adjusting to contemporary modernising trends. Combined with the dysfunction in governance this inhibits Pakistan's socio-economic progress.

Chapter six examines the manifestation of this intellectual confusion in a range of attitudes and conduct. This includes for example the defence of madressah education or the neglect and stratification of education. These conflicted attitudes are also evidenced in condoning the Taliban's antiquated practices and in complacency towards the Pakistani Taliban's brutal methods to terrorise the population.

The same chapter also recounts religious debates, developments and interests that led successive governments to incrementally cede ground to orthodox and obscurantist thinking. This contributed to fostering an environment that tolerated extremist tendencies and "weakened the capacity of society to gather intellectual strength and courage" to check or rectify obvious wrongs simply because they had the dubious sanction of hastily conceived and politically motivated Islamisation policies. General Ziaul Haq's era, writes Khan, "gave rise to a culture of religiosity" and diminished the space for rational and free discourse.

In describing the present intellectual confusion Khan argues that anger and severity results partly from historical experience, and also from unstable political institutions and systems of governance, insecurity and weak rule of law. The new broadcast media he says has accentuated the tendency for polarised and partisan debate, reflecting a telling lack of balance.

Lack of leadership also emerges as an important theme in the book. Failures of leadership have taken a toll on Pakistani society. Khan connects the dearth of political and intellectual leadership to rising religious extremism by recounting how Pakistan's leaders were unable to measure up to the enormity of challenges. If Zia was blind to the consequences of his policies, leaders of the 1990s showed a "listless disregard" for the dangers brewing and preoccupied themselves with power politics. The army, he writes, confident in the righteousness of its view, "maintained its support of the friendly Afghan Taliban and jihadi militancy in Kashmir." And when religious violence exploded during the Musharraf period, the General displayed diffidence by taking only half measures.

Khan's treatment of Afghanistan – from its history of conflict to the present imbroglio – is impressive. The richest part of this narrative is Khan's recall of various abortive efforts undertaken for a political solution and power sharing once Moscow had decided to pull out. In the critical period between 1987 and 1991 several diplomatic initiatives were frustrated – by hardline Afghan mujahideen leaders and at various junctures by the country's premier intelligence agency.

Even when all parts of the Pakistan government managed to get on the same page in pushing the idea of a broad-based government in Kabul, Islamabad failed to get the mujahideen parties or the Afghan Tanzeemat to accept dialogue. This laid bare the sharp limits of Pakistan's influence. "Our tentativeness and soft culture" he says allowed Pakistan to "become supplicants of those who depended on us." For all Islamabad's control of the Tanzeemat, at every critical juncture "each leader acted autonomously guided by his own narrow self-interest".

This lesson of history is an instructive one as the latest incarnation of an old idea – Afghan reconciliation – is pursued in trilateral talks between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US aimed at reaching out to the Taliban to secure a negotiated end to the war. Expected to play a key role in this process, Islamabad would do well to remember the limits of its influence when it tries to bring the Afghan Taliban into the dialogue process. Continuing instability in Afghanistan hurts Pakistan more than any other country. This fact should be central to Islamabad's approach to Afghanistan, as Khan also argues.

How does he see Afghanistan's future stabilisation? The US military presence is part of the problem and source of instability. He therefore concludes that any open-ended American involvement would prolong conflict and militancy in the region. Stabilisation he says will depend on reconciliation, which must be Afghan-led. In this the primary role has to be played by America as the occupying power and Pakistan, not for any special claim but because of the peculiar demography and the fact that it can urge the Taliban to the negotiating table. But he is also emphatic that Pakistan should not allow attacks into Afghanistan from territory it regards as sovereign.

What about Pakistan's future? That Khan says depends critically on clear thinking in the public discourse about modernity and on the collective vision of its political and intellectual leaders. Few would disagree. But the question is where are those leaders at this moment of grave challenge and national peril? The country's fundamentals are strong and its potential holds much promise. But a state without statesmen today is bereft of the means to realise that promise.

Afghanistan and Pakistan: Conflict, Extremism and Resistance to Modernity, (Karachi, Oxford University Press, 2011)







The essence of Eid-ul-fitr is the celebration of the spiritual cleansing promised by the holy month of Ramazan. That this purging of demons did not take place for many in Karachi who shed blood even on a bigger scale than before underlines the fact, at least for them, Islam is no longer a restraining factor.

That the TPT and other militant outfits, all flaunting green flags, displayed no reverence for human life in the sacred month points to an even greater perversion of our faith. While the killers of Karachi operate either for simple gang aggrandisement or worse still, for parochial, ethnic and racist elements in political parties engaged in a bloody battle of turf, the so-called Islamist terrorists practice murder and mayhem in the name of a religion that made brotherhood and societal harmony its core value.

Unfortunately, so many of our ulema who competed with one another in sanctimonious statements about the virtues of fasting have still not taken an unambiguous position on the moral insanity possessing the terrorists.

Virtue, Albert Camus wrote, cannot separate itself from reality without becoming a principle of evil. The reality for us is the survival of a nation that is under assault from forces that have repudiated its founding principles. For this nation, this blood-soaked Eid has little joy. We noticed the same hollowing out of emotion on the Independence Day. First, said Shelley, our pleasures die.

"{I} have lived most of my life," Hegel once wrote, "in these eternally restless times of fear and hope, and I have hoped that sometime these fears and hopes might cease; but now I must see that they will go on forever; indeed in moments of depression, I think they will grow worse." This moment of despair, the opposite of the usual Hegelian faith in progress through a dialectical process, is upon Pakistan today because one cannot discern a corrective process to set the country on the path to recovery. The latest exposure of the rot came on August 27 when Zulfiqar Mirza delivered an impassioned diatribe against some of his party colleagues, especially Rehman Malik, and the MQM.

The allegations Mirza levelled against named individuals were grave; in fact, it is difficult to see how the higher judiciary would fail to take notice of them. Two strains in Mirza's two-hour long toxic statement, however, must be mentioned here. One, for all practical purposes he presented the MQM as a crime-syndicate that undertakes politics only to divide Sindh and offers its services to foreign powers seeking to harm Pakistan.

This is very disturbing for those of us who now took the reformed MQM as a legitimate party, dedicated to nation-wide middle class interests. Two, Mirza's 'disclosures' made with the Holy Book in his hand, illustrated the unprincipled and amoral approach to coalition-building and its deleterious consequences. In Pakistan, every principle of democratic polity has been turned upside down. On the eve of Eid and perhaps, the Eid day itself, it seems pointless to repeat arguments rooted in so-called scientific analysis.

One may, for a change, go back to basics and stress that Pakistan needs moral regeneration and a return to Jinnah's concept of a sovereign Muslim state that offers a just social compact at home and honourable peace abroad. This will require defeating many of the current political demi-gods, a task that may not be possible without a full political mobilisation of our youth. Only a new generation may be able to cut asunder the present networks of exploitation, corruption and tyranny.

The writer is a former foreign secretary and ambassador.







SUNDAY'S disclosures by Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, made after his resignation from various positions of the government and party are, in every respect, comparable to that of WikiLeaks, which shook many governments around the globe. He made startling revelations, which would continue to remain subject of heated discussion for a long time to come, but his disclosure about existence of a US plot to dismember Pakistan and role of Interior Minister Rehman Malik in exploiting the situation in Karachi are particularly worrisome and need to be taken seriously by all concerned.

It is understood that his statement has caused a severe dent to the otherwise always controversial MQM and called into question the credentials of Rehman Malik. Normally, remarks of Mirza are not taken seriously as he himself has been very controversial but this time round he appeared to be oozing with sincerity and had done a lot of homework on the topics he touched in the emergency press conference. He not only spoke on oath of the Holy Qur'an but also emphatically stated that he was in possession of undeniable evidence, which he can present in the Supreme Court that has already taken suo motu notice of the nose-dive in security environment in Karachi. With this in view, it is duty of all concerned to go deep into these allegations and take the nations into confidence. The revelation about existence of an MQM-backed US plan for dismemberment of Pakistan has raised alarm bells all over the country and all patriotic citizens are genuinely concerned. Therefore, it should not fall on the altar of political expediencies, party rivalries and instead relevant security institutions should carry out investigations on the basis of available information to unearth all aspects of the alleged conspiracy and take steps to counter it with full force. We, however, do not agree for establishment of a Commission to probe these allegations and instead, the apex court, which has already taken notice of the Karachi situation, may give a chance to Mirza to appear before it and establish his case. We are sure the worthy Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary has the requisite capabilities to tackle and resolve such ticklish issues. In view of the gravity and sensitivity of the case, we would urge the Supreme Court to hear the case in double shift (morning and evening) on seven day a week basis so as to decide it in the shortest possible time. The court may give necessary directions to the executive and if necessary, army can also be called to implement the verdict.






IN the backdrop of decaying civil service, some mid-career bureaucrats have formed an association of government servants with the objective of ensuring moral revival. This is an important development as its members vow to stand up against crude interference of the Government in their professional work and perform their duties strictly in accordance with the rules and regulations without any fear or favour or personal considerations.

Mid-career bureaucrats are indeed backbone of the civil service as both newly inducted and those approaching retirement are hardly expected to stand up to the political pressure and incentives, as, with few exceptions, they generally do not take risks that could in any way affect their career. Top level bureaucrats like Secretaries because of their rich experience are also looked after well as we witnessed last week the Prime Minister feting them at a fabulous Iftar dinner. Therefore, the formation of the association by mid-career bureaucrats is a first step to ensure that no injustice is done to them, as presently issues like promotion of civil servants, their representation in different services, foreign postings and postings against prestigious slots were being handled on whimsical manner and not on merit. We may here point out the case of Information Service, which has been marginalized because of vested interests. Information Service assumes great importance especially because of the bad image of the Government but regrettably the authorities concerned keep on taking steps that cause frustration and compound woes of this Group. Apart from induction of outside people for crucial postings abroad, the Government is crudely resorting to appointment of retired people against important positions at home as it did in the case of Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, where a spent force – a retired Information Service man Akram Shaheedi has been preferred over serving brilliant and experienced officers. Such moves block their chain of promotion and cause genuine resentment and frustration, which doesn't augur well for promotion of the cause that the Information Service is required to espouse.







THE issue of liberalisation of trade between Pakistan and India had long been under discussion between the two countries and Islamabad had been insisting that trade ties could expand significantly only once disputes between them including the core issue of Kashmir were resolved. After the agreement on across LOC trade, it appears that Pakistan has adopted a soft approach and reports in the media on Monday suggested that India would be granted Most Favoured Nation(MFN) status during the current year.

At the Secretaries level talks in April last, both the sides agreed to liberalize trade regime which is currently restricted to selected items for trading placed under the positive list. Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has formally invited his Pakistani counterpart Amin Fahim for a visit in September during which there is possibility of an agreement for grant of MFN status to India. Though we support greater trade links between the two countries but there is a political dimension to this issue and Islamabad must keep in view the sensitivities of the people. Also before making a final decision, the government must take the business community into confidence about its merits and demerits. At the same time Pakistan must keep the sensitive items produced by the domestic industry in the negative list, which should not be allowed to be imported from India. With vast production for local consumption, some of the Indian products could be cheaper and their dumping in Pakistan would hit hard our industry. Since India is also a big market and many countries are eyeing on that, Pakistan must also make a bargain that all non-tariff barriers would be removed to allow unhindered access of Pakistani goods. At the same time it is essential that the two Ministers must devise a mechanism so that the enhanced trade equally benefit the two countries, as Pakistan cannot afford trade imbalance with India due to its limited foreign exchange reserves.








Corruption is indeed a crime, which is regarded as one of the most serious obstacle to development, as it discourages private investment and has negative impact on revenue generation and consequently on provision for social sector. No doubt, corruption is a universal phenomenon; it cannot be completely eliminated. However, its incidence can be reduced through measures such as political accountability and punishment of corrupt individuals whether in the Parliament, Executive or Judiciary. But the problem is that when there is corruption in the institutions at various levels, and the government does not take measures to curb it, corruption can neither be eliminated or its incidence can be reduced. It is a matter of grave concern that corruption has deeply permeated in every strata of our society. Scandals regarding corruption, misappropriation, plundering of billions from banks and other federal, provincial and semi-government departments abound.

Lack of courage and lack of interest on the part of general public had left the culprits and the NAB alone to bargain, and as a result the culprits either escaped or were honorably acquitted by the courts due to lacuna in prosecution and investigation, lack of evidence or witnesses. There is no denying that corruption, lawlessness and other social evils exist all over the world, but in Pakistan this malaise has assumed appalling proportions. After overthrowing Nawaz government on 12th October 1999, the then chief executive Pervez Musharraf had unfolded his seven-point agenda which inter alia included across the board accountability of the corrupt elements. People had expected that ill-gotten wealth would be recovered from all those who had looted and plundered the country and exemplary punishments would be awarded to them so that nobody would dare use his position to rob the wealth of the country in future. But that was not to be. National Accountability Bureau did recover a portion of the looted money but because of its lackadaisicalness in providing the evidence to the courts the cases remained pending for over a decade.

Various governments in the past had tried to reduce the incidence of corruption. During Ayubian era, a number of, what was said, corruption-tainted politicians were barred from participating in the elections under EBDO but they were never tried and convicted. During Yahya Khan's martial law, 303 civil servants and government functionaries were summarily dismissed but were not prosecuted. During the Bhutto era, services of around 1200 government employees were terminated without holding any trial against them with the result those involved in serious cases of corruption were let off the hook. There was another package for the corrupt under Pervez Musharraf's watch on 30th April 2000, when Central Board of Revenue had announced Tax Amnesty Scheme to legalize all the hidden assets and black money by charging 10 per cent of the undisclosed income earned on or before 30th June 1999. In other words, no government had tried to set an example to deter others from pursuing corrupt practices.

The problem is that in sham democracies of developing countries, people can only cast their votes, as even person from upper middle class cannot afford to take part in elections. Mostly those who have amassed wealth through illegal means can afford the luxury of elections. Such elements first invest to reach the corridors of power with a view to increasing their wealth, and then they want to be re-elected to protect that ill-gotten wealth. But there is need to take measures to stop unethical and corrupt practices, and to block the corrupt elements' entry to the corridors of power. But who can bell the cat, when a great majority of the robber barons are sitting in the assemblies? The NRO was promulgated by former president Pervez Musharraf when late Benazir Bhutto insisted on 'sterling guarantees' to participate in elections, as she did not like to be prosecuted and unseated later. The spirit behind the NRO was indeed national reconciliation and the pretext was that the PPP and the PML-N had instituted cases against each other as a tool of political victimization and vendetta; but later it transpired that there were some genuine cases of corruption and amassing wealth through illegal means.

Unfortunately, the corruption has not only deprived the national exchequer of its revenues and eroded the profitability of the state sector enterprises but also destroyed the very fabric of society. It is also responsible for having brought the country to the brink of economic disaster. In 1998, late Dr Mehboob-ul-Haq had estimated tax-evasion to the extent of rupees 100 billion through manipulation of accounts, in addition to the tax evasion of around Rs.100 billion by the parallel or informal economy. But reportedly the figure now is around Rs.500 billion. The tiny elite, comprising jagirdars, industrial robber barons, civil and military bureaucracy and rapacious politicians have kept the complete control over the state, its resources and all levers of power. They neither had the vision nor the will to build a modern and egalitarian society, though Pakistan had all the resources and ingredients to achieve the objectives set by the founding fathers. For them Pakistan remained a laboratory for experimenting with various forms and systems of government.

In Pakistan, there is a setup of internal audit in every department, and is also subjected to external audit by Audit and Accounts department headed by the Auditor General of Pakistan who has to check and audit the accounts and financial matters of every department. It is the responsibility of the government to check misappropriation, corruption and misuse of public money. One could ask questions, that barring a few honourable exceptions, why public accounts committees remained silent when national funds were misappropriated? What is the use of audit and accounts department and public accounts committees when billions of public funds are being plundered and misappropriated? It is strange that the accounts of some government and semi-government departments are not within the purview of Auditor General of Pakistan and Public Accounts Committees. The government should review this anomaly and amend the law to make the Auditor General and Accounts Committees more powerful to have its reach to any department at any time.

The corruption has indeed permeated in every strata of society. The semi-feudal semi-colonial system can neither endure nor can it be salvaged by cosmetic measures. The honest and patriotic elements in the government should bear in mind that only a radical reconstruction programme can change the situation for the better. In India, history was made in Parliament on Saturday when the two Houses bowed to Anna Hazare's campaign supported by the people for a strong and independent Lokpal anti-corruption bill. The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha unanimously resolved that the Standing Committee would consider Anna's three demands - including the lower bureaucracy in the Lokpal's purview, a central law for creating Lok Ayuktas in states and a citizen's charter for government departments providing public service. This finally paved the way for Anna's 12-day fast to end. Will somebody outside the Parliament demonstrate courage like Anna Hazare and launch a movement in Pakistan against graft, corruption and plundering of national wealth.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.







For the second month in a row, anarchy is ruling Karachi and the government–central as much as provincial- together with all its so-called law enforcing institutions police and rangers alike are either helpless and incapable or unwilling to deal with the situation. On a daily basis dead bodies are recovered which had been dumped into the nullas and garbage dumps or just left in the streets. Since the start of this new killing spree under PPP rule over six hundred Karachites have fallen victim to murder. Many of the bodies show torture marks and some of them have been even beheaded, others have been literally sliced into pieces by sawing machines; the videos about this barbarian procedure of mutilation have surfaced in different circles of Karachi. And there is no end in sight to this ordeal. All the PPP high command is doing is to announce that the rangers now would carry out a 'surgical operation' in Karachi.

What have they been doing during the last two months until now? Another grotesque announcement by PPP is that the extortionists have been told to stop all criminal and illegal business. This government seems to think that they have the command over the killers and extortionists and all that is needed is to say 'stop' and things will come to an end. While it may well be true that the extortion is going on openly, a worst seen had emerged last year in Shershah market but nothing was done to safeguard the business community from falling victim of different political elements exploiting this situation to fill their party's cashier and the killing may be done by elements in contact with these political groups no body thinks that after letting them loose they want to rule the graveyards. Deliberate confusion has been created in calling the army in aid of civil administration by vested interest groups and the provincial government of sindh is not only divided but totally confused on how to take immediate remedial measures, when the police have already failed in providing safety and security to public their only achievement is in doing protocol duties.

Given this situation and in the face of the non-serious attitude of the sitting government the voices are becoming more and louder who demand to bring the army into Karachi for a clean-up operation. Army has already said they can do it if the government so requires. But this the PPP doesn't want: the risk that the army might take power again is too big and then their rule and looting and plunder would come to an end.

And in this the PPP is supported by people like Ms. Assam Jehangir who says that if the Army came where will be the human and citizen rights of the people, during last years floods in Sindh and Punjab it was only Army, which did the yeomen job without any infringement of civil and human rights propagated by people like Asma Jehangir. Where are the rights of the people killed, of the people abducted, of the people whose businesses have been damaged or destroyed under this 'democratic' government? HRCP is a toothless lion in this entire tragic scenario. So far, it has been decided that the army would not be called in whatsoever the consequence. Rehman Malik announces that things are already much better and army option was for emergency only. What is his definition of emergency? Five hundred dead are no emergency, so how many – thousand, five thousand, hundred thousand?

In such circumstances one can only hope that someone some day will have mercy with the people of Karachi and come to our help. The Chief Justice of Pakistan has taken suo moto notice of the situation under article 184 of the constitution, and after all the army might also take pity on us, when people are developing trust deficit in the so-called democratic system in vogue. Some of us dream about an uprising the way it has happened in the Arab world. But somehow the pious Pakistanis are not ready for that; they think, oh! may it will not hit me… Courage is in scarce supply these days. In 1985-6 when Massacre of Aligargh & Qasba happened I on the very second day mobilized MRD Central leadership to visit the affected areas to console with the poor people who complained that for six hours fire was opened on Aligargh colony from the adjoining hills, killing and burning this poor locality, which we could not even see as a normal citizen, Malik Mohammad Qasim, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, Hakim Ali Zardari, Mairaj Mohd Khan, Fatehyab Ali Khan, Abdur Rahim Mandokhel and others joined us we held meetings with MQM, PPI & held Pakhton Jirga, very pathetic allegations were heard against each other. Malik Qasim then went ahead and held more meetings with MQM & PPI to develop consensus in warring factions and the gulf was narrowed at that time to bring normalcy in Karachi, I was closely associated with Malik Qasim in this exercise. But later results proved otherwise due to political expediency and vested interest of political groups.

Why our national leadership is sleeping when people in Karachi are dying on large scale. When partition took place and division of Bengal was agreed two great leaders Mr. Soharwardy & Mr. Gandhi declared that if one soul is killed in partition of Bengal, we both will give our life so no innocent life was lost in Bengal but Punjab was manipulated by both Hindu, Sikh & Muslim to oust their adversaries from their new dominions for economic and commercial gains, so hundred of thousands of people lost their life as is the situation in Karachi is today. What is happening in Libya & Syria is an eye opener, NATO has destroyed entire infrastructure of Libya to oust Ghaddafi but their fear about Ghaddafi will continue to haunt NATO installed puppets in Libya, I fear that this film might be replayed in Karachi & Pakistan. That is why the situation is so bleak. If all this is going on during the holy month of Ramzan, then what can we expect after Eid? And what Eid would be there for the families of those killed and mutilated?

When we try to make sense of all this and ask 'what is the purpose, who is calling the shots in this drama' every man in the street knows that all this game for destabilizing the country is due to our assuming the role of frontline ally in their proxy war. Some interesting facts that come to light. The killing started shortly after MQM once again left the government. Not all, but many of the victims of this killing are MQM supporters. PPP was desperately trying to lure MQM back into government which was not that easy for the MQM to rejoin the government as before, because by now Altaf bhai is not believing the broken promises of PPP any more. Though PPP doesn't need them for the numbers game in Sindh – for that they have even made a deal with the Chaudhury's, who might have now dumped that antique pen obtained as a souvenir with which Ziaul Haq had approved the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – PPP possibly want them in the government because then they would have to share the political responsibility for the killing, law and order, economic mismanagement and criminal neglects that is going on under PPP rule and in return protect their skin from on going investigation in NICL –Punjab Bank & Hajj mega corruption cases. That is why the prospects for return into government of MQM are not bright especially after Altaf bhai rightly has asked the Prime Minister to resign in the face of his incompetence to deal with this crisis.

But there is another angle also. Why Karachi is center of attraction for outside powers? Pakistan is strategically situated at the crossroads of Iran, Central Asia, India and China and Karachi is the largest port in the region. It was during the Czar's time when they talked of 'warm waters policy', centuries back a Silk Route was developed to connect Europe with the fabulous wealth of the Asian region. Now Motorway project are conceived to transport goods from Peshawar M-1 to Karachi port within 14 hours; China developed Gawader Port to access the Indian Ocean for economic marketing of goods from China; US is eying to transport Oil, Gas & minerals from Central Asia & this region to US & Europe, for that India has constructed a state of art road via Kabul & Herat / Kandahar at a cost of $1.4 billion which can reach upto Choubahar port in Iran or Gwadar port in Balouchistan to forward their shipments, so this could be another reason why is this blood bath in Karachi, while some Ambassadors and High Commissioners have not only expressed concern but offered their services to return peace in Karachi a very unfortunate style of running the affairs of statecraft.

The recent attack on Mehran base, in which we lost PC-3 Orion aircrafts of Pakistan Navy, which use to protect the coastal belt of Sindh appears to be the target. America who was suppose to replace these aircrafts has now backed out from providing the replacement perhaps in a bid to please India or under requirement of the on-going great game in this region, while our rulers are busy in point scoring against each other and playing petty politics, while India+Israel+US nexus is working in full swing. Whatsoever it is, it has to stop before it kills more people and might bring down not only Karachi but Pakistan also. May God help us all.










Serve Allah and join not any partners with Him: and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the way-farer (ye meet) and what your right hands possess: for Allah loveth not the arrogant the vainglorious; - An-Nisaa (4),36. Allah created mankind on the basis of equality to constitute a single fraternity. He hates prejudice and favoritism and clearly mentions that no one Human being is superior over the other due to any aspect but their respective deeds for Allah Subhanahu Taala. He has ordained the duties towards mankind a higher station than duties towards Himself. Huqooq ul Ibad' (duties towards mankind) has such a high regard in Islam that Allah clearly mentions that he shall forgive the sins committed in ignorance of carrying out His commands but in order to seek forgiveness of disregard of Huqooqul Ibad, one will have to revert to the respective person to seek forgiveness first, subsequent to which Allah shall grant his mercy.

In huqooqul Ibad, every relation enjoys a certain status wherein it is characterized by certain obligations and duties towards each other, which if reneged upon elicits Allah's displeasure. The social sphere of our daily lives consists of our family, ties of kinship and blood relations and then neighbors. There is a general code of conduct which Islam guides us to abide by, when fulfilling our obligations towards each group. Neighbors hold a very significant status according to the teachings of the Holy Quran. The Qur'an has divided them into three categories: a neighbor who is also a relation; a neighbor who is a stranger; and a casual or temporary neighbor with whom one happens to live or travel for a certain time. All of them are deserving of sympathy, affection, kindness and fair treatment.

In one Hadith the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, said: Anyone whose neighbor is not safe from his misdeeds is not a true Believer. (Bukhari and Muslim) Again, he said: A person who enjoys a meal while his neighbor is starving is not a true Believer. (Ahmad, Baihaqi). The Prophet (Pbuh), was once asked about the fate of a woman who performed many Prayers and fasted extensively and who was a frequent almsgiver, but whose neighbors complained of her abusive tongue. He said: Such a woman shall be in the Hell-fire. He was, then, asked about another woman who did not possess these virtues but did not trouble her neighbors either, and he said: She would be in Paradise. (Ahmad, Baihaqi) The Prophet (Pbuh) has laid so much emphasis on being considerate to neighbors that he has advised that whenever a Muslim brings home fruit for his children he should either send some to his neighbors as a gift, or at least take care not to offend them by throwing the peelings away outside their door. On another occasion he said: A man is really good if his neighbors regard him as such, and bad if they consider him so.

Islam, therefore, requires all neighbors to be loving and helpful and to share each other's sorrows and happiness. It enjoins them to establish social relations in which one can depend upon the other and regard his life, honor and property safe among his neighbors. A society in which two people, separated only by a wall, remain unacquainted with one another for years, and in which those living in the same area of a town have no interest or trust in one another, can never be called Islamic. It is narrated, Abdullah ibn Amr, a companion who was well versed in Hadith had a sheep slaughtered. He repeatedly asked his servant: "Have you sent some meat as a present to our Jewish neighbor?" When he said that several times, he added: "I have heard Allah's messenger (PBUH) saying: "Gabriel has repeatedly recommended me to be good to my neighbor until I have thought that he would include him among my heirs." It is obvious from this narration that Abdullah ibn Amr considered his Jewish neighbor as entitled to his kind treatment as any other neighbor he may have had. When he is questioned about mentioning him too often, he does not reply that the Jew is a good neighbor or that he has been very hospitable to him, but his only reason for his kindness to that Jewish neighbor is the Hadith he heard from the Prophet.

But we note, however, that kindness to neighbors is taken for granted. There must be something which tells us what is the minimum degree of kindness to neighbors. This is explained in the following Hadith in which Abdullah ibn Abbas, the Prophet's cousin, states that he heard the Prophet saying: "A believer is not the one who eats his fill when his neighbor is hungry." (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Al-Hakim and Al-Baihaqi). This is a very significant statement. It speaks of mutual care by neighbors.

They must know how their neighbors live, and if they are poor, then they must send them food. Indeed, this has been a tradition of Muslim societies which has survived for centuries. The Prophet even gives us a hint of how we can share our food with our neighbors without increasing our expenses a great deal. He tells his companion, Abu Tharr: "If you cook something with gravy, increase the gravy and send some of it to your neighbors." (Related by Muslim, Ahmad and Al-Bukhari). The Prophet is telling us here not to think too little of anything which we can give to our neighbors. Even a person who is not rich can give his neighbors some food which may not be the best they can have, but would be more than useful in a neighborhood where poverty is common.

The neighbor holds a special status in Islam. Islam encourages Muslims to treat their neighbors in a gentle way that reflects the true and genuine spirit of Islam as exemplified in its tolerant aspect especially with people of other faiths. It makes no difference whether the neighbors are Muslim or non-Muslim. Hazrat Ayesha (RA), stated that she once asked the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), "O Messenger of Allah! I have two neighbors. To whom shall I send my gifts?" the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) said, "To the one whose gate is nearer to you." Neighbors have rights towards us. Our actions towards our neighbors reflects our kind nature and our good morals. We should all know our duty towards our neighbors whether it is a neighbor at home or at work. In order to create a solid basis for its closely-knit community, Islam begins by encouraging good-neighborliness. One of the worst social acts a person can commit is to be unkind to his neighbors.

The reasons for this insistence on good-neighborliness are too obvious to need any discussion. In a neighborhood where people quarrel and one set of neighbors try to harm another, there is no chance of harmony prevailing there. Indeed, people try to move out from such an area, peace being the basic condition for development. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Prophet emphasized at every occasion, the importance of good-neighborly relations. Expanding the concept of good neighborliness, we must recognize that even a state, especially those that are Islamic, have a duty towards their neighboring countries. We only need to imagine and recognize, what a beautiful place this world would be, if only such ordained duties and rights become an integral part of our respective foreign polices, when Islam is part of constitution of any state (Islam a religion of peace) such a country would only be a peaceful and peace loving state.









Millions of Muslims who left their hearth and homes to migrate in the tradition of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) to the newly created Muslim State of Pakistan which was won by the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah for the Indian Muslims living under the British rule and the domination of Hindu majority. This country was created through great sacrifices of the Muslims of India who had to wade through rivers of blood to reach their promised land and were called Muhajirs like their predecessors who migrated from Mecca to Medina.

Despite great setbacks, the country has wily Nelly reached the age of 64, but it is still in a great crisis. Its government is weak as well as corrupt. It has failed to handle the affairs of the state wisely. Its economy is in shambles; its foreign policy is in doldrums particularly its relationship with the United States which is its main donor of economic aid as well as its much needed arms and other military hardware. Despite repeated warnings by IMF and the US it is spending much too lavishly on the government. Galloping inflation is too high for a poor country. It has become impossible for the poor to survive while the rich are getting richer by evading taxes and rampant corruption. Terrorism and religious radicalism is taking heavy roll of human life. Only recently some six hundred people were killed in ethnic and political strife in Mohtaram Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan in an Urdu newspaper recently. This column is about two weeks while the government stood by as a silent spectator to the carnage.

This was a prelude to a remarkable column written by finest I have read in a long time. It is straight from his heart and touches the reader's heart equally forcefully. "Dil se jo baat nikalti hai asar rakhti hai'. Dr. Qadeer Khan has mentioned Mr. Bhutto's role in making Pakistan a nuclear state which became possible with the return of Dr. Khan from Holland at Mr. Bhutto's request. I have a little insight into this episode and would like to share it with Dr. Khan.

Soon after he came to power Mr. Bhutto visited a number of Muslim countries including Libya which was the most important port of call. I was covering this visit for Pakistan Television. Imagine the speed of this tour that we offered Eid-ul-Azha prayers in Algeria, had lunch in Tunis and arrived in Libya at night for dinner after which Mr. Bhutto had a long meeting with Mr. Qaddafi, who was a dashing young man at that time and had the same chemistry as that of Mr. Bhutto.

They developed a close relationship in this trip. After dinner Mr. Bhutto called me and ordered that I must interview Colonel Qaddafi before our departure from Libya when the two leaders will meet again to sign the joint communiqué. They were sitting on a sofa as I started preparations for the interview. They were talking informally when I heard a historic conversation. Mr. Qaddafi said in poor English that Israel has nuclear weapons, which is a great threat to the Islamic world. We have a lot of money now but no scientists who could produce nuclear weapons. Mr. Bhutto replied, "Mr. President, you give us the money and we will find the scientists." These two brief sentences were the beginning of the production of what became famous as the Islamic Bomb. Nobody knows this story more than Dr. Khan who is the architect of the nuclear capability of Pakistan.

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan writes in his column: "Look, the time is short. We will have to think and work in the right direction. We are sinking in a morass from which escape is not easily possible. The military dictators and democratic bandits and corrupt nincompoops have thrown our dear country in a gutter. In this situation election will not make any difference. The same mafia will return with different "faces" to plunder the country. Please listen to me carefully and convey it to all Pakistanis that it is our duty now is to get together and bring a "peoples" revolution, through peaceful means. What political parties are doing now on the basis of language differences is nothing but fascism."

This clarion call of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan is worth listening and acted upon. I hope our senior journalists will also comment on Dr Qadeer Khan's message and give their suggestions as well. The media which is doing through its anchors an excellent job of criticizing the government for its wrong policies, it might as well build Dr. Qadeer Khan's message as a slogan for the nation.

A campaign may be launched in newspapers and TV talk shows to highlight the corrupt practices of the rich mafia as well as government leaders top to bottom. Look what Anna Hazaare, a 74 years old leader has done by launching a campaign against corruption in India. He went on a hunger strike in the Gandhian tradition to force Indian parliament to accept his demands. His huger strike which lasted for over twelve days received tremendous support among Indian youth and top film stars. He broke his fast when Indian parliament approved all his demands to wipe out the curse of corruption. Pakistan also needs some such person, "Mard-e-as ghaib broon ayed o care becunad".







The death of Atiyah Abd al-Rahman in an Aug. 22 drone attack in Pakistan may appear to be just another in the revolving-door fatalities among al-Qaeda's operations chiefs. But it was a crucial blow to the core group that once surrounded Osama bin Laden. Rahman was bin Laden's channel to the world. Their correspondence was the most important prize taken from bin Laden's compound when he was killed May 2. They talked about everything: strategy, personnel, operations, political setbacks. Whatever thread still held al-Qaeda together passed from bin Laden through to Rahman.

The Libyan-born Rahman's death blunts al-Qaeda's ability to stage a new mega-attack against America; it brings the top leadership of the group closer to extinction; and it increases the likelihood that the organization's centre of gravity will shift from Pakistan's tribal areas to one of the affiliates, such as the robust al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen. Asked recently to name the most important remaining leader in al-Qaeda, a senior US official had said it was Rahman. He explained that the nominal successor to bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was actually a secondary figure — more a leader of the group's Egyptian wing than of al-Qaeda as a whole. It would be in America's interest if Zawahiri rather than Rahman were dominant, this official said, because Zawahiri was a divisive figure whose ad-hoc tactics were less threatening to America.

One of the subjects discussed frequently between Rahman and bin Laden was whether al-Qaeda's ferociously violent tactics were alienating Muslims in the countries where it operated. That led to a fascinating 2005 missive from Rahman to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, chiding him for targeting Shiite Muslims in his scorched-earth campaign in Iraq against America and its allies. And in more recent years, the two discussed the danger of seeking an Islamic "caliphate" in areas where al-Qaeda appeared strong, since that extremist move would likely alienate other Muslims. Better, they reasoned, to keep assaulting America. Rahman's death is especially important as the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States approaches — and not just for symbolic reasons. Bin Laden had been working with Rahman to plan a spectacular strike against a U.S. target, pegged to the Sept. 11 anniversary. It's not clear how far that planning had progressed, but whatever its level, it will be hampered, maybe even disrupted, by the death of the man whom bin Laden charged with organizing the details of the plot.

Also unclear is how the CIA was able to target Rahman in the Aug. 22 attack over North Waziristan or how he had been maintaining his sanctuary there. The cache of material taken from the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad in May didn't include much that would help pinpoint the location of operatives in the field, according to the senior US official, and Rahman would have understood that anything that disclosed his whereabouts had been compromised. But on targeting and other operational details, US officials are tight-lipped. Rahman fell to a Predator drone attack, the weapon that he and bin Laden had complained about so bitterly in their correspondence.

Rahman had told his boss that this US "intelligence war," as bin Laden had called it, had made it nearly impossible for al-Qaeda to move, communicate, recruit or train in the tribal areas of Pakistan. They had discussed whether al-Qaeda should move its headquarters to someplace safer. That relocation seems more likely, now that the man who anchored the group's presence in Pakistan is dead.

— Courtesy: The Washington Post








AFTER a torrid ordeal lasting almost eight years, Bruce, Denise, Dean and Bradley Morcombe have at last received bittersweet resolution with confirmation that human bones found in Queensland's Sunshine coast hinterland are those of Daniel, their son and brother.

Bruce Morcombe says the family had waited for the news to hit like a sledgehammer since Bradley's twin brother Daniel, then 13, disappeared from a roadside near his Woombye home on December 7, 2003, while waiting for a bus.

At its peak, the investigation into Daniel's disappearance involved 100 officers in painstaking work and a record $1 million reward for information. Under such pressure, many parents would have retreated into reclusive silence. But during their prolonged wait the Morcombes drove the search for their boy and never stopped striving for a breakthrough. In what must have been one of the most harrowing stages, the inquest in October last year brought them face to face with a succession of "persons of interest".

The Morcombes' courage and resilience have been exceptional. They have earned the respect and esteem of all who empathise with their distress and recognise the importance of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation in promoting child safety. Children and parents need to be vigilant, but it would be a mistake to react to relatively rare cases of stranger abduction with moral panic, which only reinforces a culture of fear. Over-protective parenting can limit their children's ability to gain experience and confidence. It would be dangerous if a culture of fear deterred other adults from intervening when a child is upset or uncomfortable in a public place. As Mr Morcombe himself says, it is important to retain perspective and remember "there are more good people than bad".

After visiting the bushland where Daniel was buried -- a place described as "like Hell" by the Morcombes, they will at last be able to lay Daniel to rest. They must also face the trial of Perth man Brett Peter Cowan, 41, who has been charged with murder, child stealing, deprivation of liberty, indecent treatment of a child under 16 and interference with a corpse. His lawyers indicate he will fight the charges.

Australians will not forget Daniel's happy, ingenuous face, nor the stoic determination of his parents to help bring about justice for a lost, precious life.





BEFORE infants learn to read, their mums often put coloured stickers on their nursery school bags to help them identify them -- an animal, a piece of fruit or even traffic lights. Shoppers, who are long past picture books, are puzzled about why former federal health minister Neal Blewett and his food labelling review panel want to insult their intelligence with red, amber and green dots on food and beverage labels.

The Gillard government and the states should ditch this patronising proposal before it costs business millions of dollars promoting questionable nutritional values, drives up grocery prices and the consumer price index and tempts the Monty Python team out of retirement.

Nanny state proponents will rejoice at the review committee's call for "responsive intervention" to help shoppers make smarter food choices. State paternalism, however, has no place in supermarket aisles in a free society. Individuals and families shop on the basis of personal tastes, seasonal factors, budget, health considerations and how much time they have to cook. "Traffic lights" on labels would add nothing to consumers' knowledge. Newspoll shows that two-thirds of Australians find existing nutritional labels easy to understand, and that more than half are guided by them. The only changes needed are for labels to be periodically updated if the use of genetically modified produce, for example, became widespread.

Nor do those who enjoy a healthy glass of wine or two agree with the review that there are "compelling reasons for applying labelling changes to alcohol", a process winemakers estimate would cost them about $9 million a year.

Traffic light coding would do nothing to encourage consumption of fresh protein and fruit and vegetables, or deter those who over-rely on fast food and sugary treats. To the contrary, teachers and others who despair of children guzzling too many soft drinks and sucking too many sweets will be aghast to find that according to the Australian Food and Grocery Council, Coca-Cola would carry three green lights and one red, for its sugar content, compared with just one green dot and three amber dots on milk. And as Nationals senator Ron Boswell warns, sultanas could carry the same codes as confectionary. This psychedelic mess is enough to make us see red.






NOT every ACTU leader will have the charisma of a Bob Hawke or even the steely pragmatism of a Greg Combet, but Jeff Lawrence's attack on the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Productivity Commission and the Henry tax review show how removed he is from the intellectual ambition and vision of that other effective unionist of recent times, Bill Kelty.

Economic illiteracy and outdated protectionism have dominated the ACTU's response to the crisis in national productivity and the loss of jobs in manufacturing. Rather than leading his membership into a sensible public debate on these pressing issues, Mr Lawrence, aided by his president, Ged Kearney, has chosen to attack some of Australia's most highly credentialled and respected economic thinkers, analysts and planners.

The contrast with Mr Kelty, who was ACTU secretary from 1983 to 2000, could not have been more acute. Mr Kelty, who himself served on the RBA board from 1987 to 1996, knew the dangers to ordinary workers of an economy based on an inward-looking protectionism. He understood there were no jobs without economic growth and that labour had to play its role along with capital: the accords he engineered with Mr Hawke and then treasurer Paul Keating were effective responses to unproductive wage rises that were driving down employment.

Mr Kelty, a man not renowned for his PR skills but with a compelling intellect, managed to educate union members about the importance of workers remaining competitive in a global economy. The ACTU of the 1980s embraced reform, as Mr Kelty brokered deals with government that delivered moderate wage rises in return for a "social wage" based on education and welfare, tax cuts and superannuation. Three decades later, the Fair Work Act, with its reregulation of the system, is hindering productivity growth. The mining boom has masked that reality until now, but the game is up and big and small business people are finding their voice. The ACTU response has been to blame everything other than the IR laws. The RBA led by Glenn Stevens is "misinformed and out of touch"; the RBA board is "quite narrow"; the Productivity Commission is staffed by people who know little about IR and it is also "out of touch"; the bank and the commission follow the "employers' agenda". The Henry tax panel was "quite narrow".

This crude characterisation of the debate does not help a Labor government that must urgently address sliding productivity and manage the real problems of job losses without a resort to protection. Populist demands on tax and facile statements from Mr Lawrence about the Fair Work Act assisting jobs growth impede sensible discussion, and only delay the hard decisions on IR. Worse, the ACTU leaders risk an own goal -- alienating mainstream Australia, accelerating unions' descent into irrelevancy and neutering their influence on policy.

Mr Lawrence's response highlights the way unions have squandered the opportunity presented by the clear Labor victory of 2007 to build a more agile labour movement equipped for the times. Instead, the ACTU appears bent on old-fashioned class warfare, a 19th-century notion of "haves and have-nots" that bears little relevance to contemporary Australia.






IT IS not quite an offer to sell us the Harbour Bridge, though we've bought it more than once from the same vendor. But the O'Farrell government's plan for Waratah Bonds to help fund infrastructure such as the suburban rail extensions, motorway expansion, rail freight capacity and light rail lines may find willing takers. It is a financing option that has come in and out of favour for many decades, and now could be a good time to test the interest of investors.

These bonds will be pitched particularly at small investors - those who might in previous times have put part of their retirement nest eggs into blue-chip shares such as Telstra or into the higher-yielding bank term deposits. With the wild gyrations of sharemarkets and the heavy hits to bank assets in the past three years, many of those investors may be looking for a steadier earner with a sovereign guarantee from a top-rated government such as NSW. If a bit of public spirit is part of the decision - putting your money into helping fix the transport mess we all bitch about - well and good.

For the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, and the Treasurer, Mike Baird, it is still borrowing - but probably a shade more expensive than they can get from wholesale lenders and just as repayable. It will add to the total of borrowing that has to be maintained within a certain limit before the state's AAA credit rating is put at risk. The government will have to explain to taxpayers why paying a little more in debt-servicing costs might be justifiable for the sake of more inclusiveness in infrastructure building.

However, more borrowing is certainly on the cards because the public-private partnership alternative model is not always applicable. It works best when a predictable income stream is attached to a particular piece of infrastructure. Even then, income can fall far short of predictions, despite deliberate measures to close down or choke customer choices, as we saw with the Cross City Tunnel. Suburban rail, for example, rarely finances itself except over a very long term, unless the developer is in a position to capture the spin-offs from urban development.

In Sydney's case, there may be ways to exploit redevelopment along new rail lines and extensions, but in existing suburbs increased land values will benefit the present owners rather than the state or the railway. The public benefit will then be in faster, cheaper accessibility to the city, and reduced road traffic. In his first budget next week, Baird must show how state finances can be trimmed to sustain this public investment.






IT SEEMS like a new trend. As we reported yesterday in Raising the Bar, our series on women in the economy, the number of places on company boards now filled by women has jumped. The Australian Securities Exchange altered the rules in 2009 to ensure more women were appointed - and lo! they have been. Those appointed were found, unsurprisingly, among the top-ranked female executives. It is a welcome trend, as far as it goes. The trouble is, it does not go very far.

What seems like something new is in fact a continuation of the same old glass ceiling for most women in a slightly different guise. After the sudden spate of promotions to boards, companies are finding the senior executive ranks have correspondingly fewer women. That suggests Australian business remains male dominated at its core. The familiar male-centred culture which has long worked against women continues to do so. Despite their qualifications and talent, women tend not to move up the corporate ladder as fast, or as far, as men.

There is a cost to this inequity beyond the lack of fairness. As we reported on Saturday, a Goldman Sachs study has found economic activity since 1974 has been boosted 22 per cent by higher female participation in the workforce. Increasing women's participation further could boost production another 13 per cent. But despite the advantages their promotion further up the career ladder might bring, most women remain stuck in lower-status, lower-paid jobs.

Many things militate against women's participation - some inevitable, some not. Women need at least the option to take time off to bear and raise children. In doing so, some women find the reality of family life crowds out their former enthusiasm for their careers. That can be good or bad, depending on the individual. It is simply to be expected, and it may imply that absolute equality is unlikely ever to be achieved. But that should not be an excuse - as it still appears to be - for society routinely to sideline women's talents and accept that their entire careers will be curtailed.

Biology may be unavoidable but other obstacles are not. The culture of workplaces, in which behaviour typical of males tends to succeed, and female behaviour tends to be sidelined, needs to change. Part of that change will come when men accept more of the burdens of domestic life, including childcare, which still fall more heavily on women. The liberation of women has brought tangible benefits; it should be encouraged to bring more.






THE ultimate test of civilised society is its treatment of tyrants and mass murderers. Monsters such as Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden elicit no sympathy. The execution of the Iraqi dictator after a flawed trial and the killing of the al-Qaeda terrorist leader in a US military raid were widely misrepresented as justice. With a price on his head, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is also clearly at risk of summary justice. That would set back the cause of the free and just state that Libyans desire.

The hunger for justice is real and powerful. Libyans share it with all those who have risen up in the Arab Spring, a historic stand against decades of harsh rule. Yet, in the heady time when fear is vanquished and freedom beckons, revenge can be mistaken for justice. The bloodlust of battle stirs when victors have former tormentors at their mercy. With Tripoli fallen, and Gaddafi's home town of Sirt isolated, Libya's new leaders have a grave duty to put their free state on sound foundations.

Dispensing justice after six months' war and 42 years of dictatorship calls for the wisdom of Solomon. Mass graves and other evidence of massacres fuel fears for tens of thousands of prisoners taken by the regime. The gruesome discoveries increase the risk of reprisals and of ''laws'' driven by a lynch mentality rather than principles of justice. A week ago, the National Transitional Council was clear about the treatment of regime leaders and ''the responsibility to protect them and their lives''. They would be ''handed over to the judiciary'', council leaders said as they urged Libyans to ''not take justice into their own hands''. Now a $A1.55 million reward for the capture of Colonel Gaddafi is on offer. Council chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil promises anyone who produces the 69-year-old ''dead or alive'' an ''amnesty or pardon for any crime he has committed''. While the council rejected a belated offer to negotiate - ''We are looking at them as criminals'' - Mr Jalil said Gaddafi could be allowed to go to another country if he surrendered. Neither execution nor exile will provide justice.

Few would shed tears if Gaddafi were sentenced to death by a Libyan court, but the fate of Saddam Hussein offers an unhappy precedent. Like Iraq, Libya is in chaos, without an independent judiciary, let alone a functioning civil society. The Saddam trial was irredeemably tainted. Defence lawyers were killed, witnesses were anonymous and political pressure forced judges off the bench. Video of the condemned man being taunted before his hanging showed revenge took precedence over justice. As a result, his worst crimes were never brought before a court; all the evidence of his tyranny was not heard.