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Friday, September 2, 2011

EDITORIAL 02.09.11

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: editorial@samarth.co.in

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month september 02, edition 000826 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. THINK BIG
  2. LEGISLATIVE OVERREACH
  3. BAD MANNERS, GOOD DEMOCRACY - DIPANKAR GUPTA
  4. 'MUMBAI'S BEEN ON MY MIND AS A MYTHIC OBJECT' - MONOBINA GUPTA
  5. THE YOGA OF TEACHING - NARENDRA MODI

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. BIRDY DUMB-DUMB
  2. KEEP SCORE, NOT TABS
  3. A BOON FOR BOOKWORMS - PP WANGCHUK
  4. IT'S A TIGHTROPE WALK - SOLI SORABJEE
  5. ALWAYS HUNGRY FOR MORE - MURAD ALI BAIG

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. THEY'RE PARALYSED, TOO
  2. HERO HAZARE
  3. MLAS OF WRATH
  4. 'ARUNA ROY PRINCIPLES, COMBINED WITH ANNA DESIRE, GOVT DESIRE, CAN GIVE US WONDERFUL BILL' - SHEKHAR GUPTA
  5. WHEN GLEE IS COMPLACENCY - JAITHIRTH RAO
  6. PHOTOCOPYING THE PAST - SUNIL ABRAHAM
  7. TURNING AROUND BRAND MANMOHAN - CHARULATARAVIKUMAR
  8. WHAT TO DO WITH GADDAFI
  9. DAVID KAYE
  10. THE ANNA EFFECT - SEEMA CHISHTI

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. STOCK IN TRADE
  2. BEWARE THE CHINAMAN
  3. AUDITOR CAN'T HEAR THE TREE FALLING ON SINO-FOREST - JONATHAN WEIL
  4. WHO'S GOING TO FIX SEBI'S CREDIBILITY? - SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. SPORTS BILL STIRS HORNETS' NEST
  2. FOUR FURLONGS TO THE PROMISED LAND - UJAL SINGH BHATIA
  3. COMEDY OF MANNERS - SHASHI THAROOR

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. SMALL POWER PROJECTS
  2. PAKISTAN'S EID GIFT TO BEIJING - BY K.N. PANDITA
  3. REORGANISATION OF ANIMAL SECTOR - BY TAHIR KHATANA
  4. FAILED BY OUR POLITICIANS - BY TAVLEEN SINGH

THE TRIBUNE

  1. CANNON FODDER
  2. TAPPING SOLAR POWER
  3. TURBAN TO THE FORE
  4. THE ANNA HAZARE CHALLENGE - BY KULDIP NAYAR
  5. CONDITIONS APPLY! - BY B.K.KARKRA
  6. VIOLENCE MOST FOUL

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. TIME TO COME CLEAN
  2. GENERAL AND GENERALISTS
  3. THE PAIN BEHIND CREATIVITY - MADHUKAR SABNAVIS
  4. PUBLIC LOSS, PRIVATE GAIN? - BHUPESH BHANDARI
  5. MARUTI'S LABOUR PAINS - SHYAMAL MAJUMDAR
  6. TRICKS OF TRADE - T S VISHWANATH

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. SPORTS BILL STIRS HORNET'S NEST
  2. DEGREES OF INNOVATION
  3. RAJIV KILLING CASE: KEEP POLITICS OUT
  4. WHAT TO DO WITH GADDAFI
  5. THE TEXAN RAINMAKER
  6. FOUR FURLONGS TO THE PROMISED LAND

THE STATESMAN

  1. RAHUL GAME-CHANGER
  2. SHORT OF A BUDGET...
  3. A FRACTURED LIBYA
  4. RUNAWAY INFLATION - BY DIPAK BASU
  5. IT'S ONLY WORDS  - OFF LIMITS ~ SEEMA MUSTAFA 
  6. THE CANINE QUOTIENT  - SHABBIR AHMED
  7. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. WORTH A LAUGH
  2. SHORT STAY
  3. FIERCELY ON GUARD  - DASGUPTA
  4. TIME FOR A CHANGE  - BONAFIDE: MALVIKA SINGH

DECCAN HERALD

  1. ATTEND TO THIS FAST
  2. UAL TIME ZONES
  3. QUALITY AND RELEVANCE  - ALOK RAY

OHERALDO

  1. IS RAJIV GANDHI CASE SETTING A PRECEDENT?
  2. IMC'S AMENDMENT BILL 2011 - DR GLADSTONE A D'COSTA

HAARETZ

  1. ISRAEL MAY HAVE MISSED ITS CHANCE FOR MIDEAST PEACE - BY YOEL MARCUS
  2. GO OUT AND DEMONSTRATE  
  3. ISRAEL'S SOCIAL UNREST MEANS THE PEOPLE ARE BACK ON TOP  - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  4. THE FULL FORECAST FOR SEPTEMBER  - BY YOSSI SARID
  5. RISE ABOVE THE ONE MILLION  - BY DORON ROSENBLUM

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. OH, GROW UP
  2. PROTECTING INNOVATION AND COMPETITION
  3. A VITAL LIBERTY
  4. REVERIE IN YELLOW
  5. THE VIGOROUS VIRTUES - BY DAVID BROOKS
  6. ERIC AND IRENE  - BY PAUL KRUGMAN

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. THE ENDGAME IN LIBYA
  2. NEW ROLE FOR GEN. PETRAEUS AT CIA
  3. WHERE IS LABORATORY PROOF OF EVOLUTION?

THE SOUTH'S FAVORITE SPORTS SEASON

  1. HOUSING COLLAPSE AND 'RIDICULOUS' LENDING
  2. CONGRESS SHIFTS, BUT DOESN'T ELIMINATE, FEES

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. SHARING LIBYA?
  2. THE SWINGING PENDULUM
  3. THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY VOTE: A TURNING POINT IN THE PALESTINIAN ISSUE?
  4. TURKISH-ISRAELI TIES ON BRINK OF COLLAPSE
  5. A FEW QUESTIONS ON 'FREE LIBYA'
  6. OPEN LETTER TO PLATINI
  7. LIBYA: IS FORCE AN INSTRUMENT OF LOVE?
  8. THE TWO LIBYAS

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. IN KELLY'S LAST WORDS, SUCH IS LIFE
  2. PM'S BLAME GAME SHOULD END WITH A LOOK IN MIRROR
  3. ABBOTT TURNS HIS MIND TO REFORM

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. FAIR DOLLARS FOR FAIRER SCHOOLS
  2. OFF OUR FACES
  3. THE AGE AND THE WIKILEAKS CABLES
  4. ALMOST 40 YEARS ON, STILL LESSONS TO BE LEARNT

THE GUARDIAN

  1. POLICING IMPROVEMENT AGENCY: A BOTCHED EXECUTION
  2. DEFENCE CUTS: IMPERIAL ECHOES
  3. IN PRAISE OF … THE NED KELLY LEGEND

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. RESTRUCTURING POWER DISTRIBUTION
  2. PROTECTION OF CYBERSPACE
  3. U.S.-CHINA 'WIN-WIN' GAME - BY ANDREY BORODAEVSKIY
  4. FROM THE NEED TO KNOW TO THE NEED TO SHARE - BY ZOE BAIRD BUDINGER AND JEFFREY H. SMITH

 THE JAKARTA POST

  1. GROWING PAINS
  2. THE ROLE OF RELIGION AS SOCIAL CRITIQUE
  3. ACHMAD MUNJID
  4. SRI MULYANI UNDER THE SILHOUETTE OF CARSON - BUDI WIDIANARKO   

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

THINK BIG

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's upcoming visit to Bangladesh - along with the chief ministers of five bordering Indian states - is ground-breaking in more ways than one. For far too long, India's South Asia policy had a single-minded focus on Pakistan. While the latter is indeed important, it has taken away attention from fostering healthy ties with other neighbours. Nurturing mutually beneficial relations with all countries in our immediate neighbourhood would not only create a virtuous model of regional interdependency, it would also highlight the potential that lies in normalised India-Pakistan ties. In this respect, Bangladesh can be our equal partner in bringing about a paradigm shift in regional relations.

Until recently New Delhi viewed its eastern neighbour through the prism of illegal migration and terrorism, while
Dhaka saw India as a regional big brother apathetic to its interests. This prevented the two sides from fully harnessing the benefits of mutual cooperation. However, over the last two years, huge strides have been taken by Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina to reduce the trust deficit. Her government has systematically cracked down on anti-India elements and separatist groups like the Ulfa, earning a massive amount of goodwill in New Delhi. Today, India and Bangladesh are presented with a historic opportunity to herald a new era in bilateral relations.

The challenge for Singh and his entourage will be to make India-Bangladesh ties irreversible. This can be achieved through a series of significant steps that reinforce Indian generosity, while also making overtures to opposition parties in Bangladesh. The recent $1 billion line of credit extended to Bangladesh is symbolic of new faith in two-way ties. The run-up to Singh's visit has seen a slew of high-level diplomatic meets between the two sides, paving the way for a host of crucial agreements. It is welcome that a formula for water-sharing of Teesta and Feni rivers and swapping of territorial enclaves is in the process of being finalised. A resolution of these issues should not elude Singh's visit.

Transit is another important issue where both sides can make significant gains. Having agreed to grant transit facilities to Bangladesh for trade with
Bhutan and Nepal, India expects transit access to the northeast via Bangladeshi territory. Easy movement of goods and people would provide a huge fillip to the regional economy, ushering in the benefits of trade integration and investment inflows. Similarly, there is a strong case for India to remove the quota limit on the import of Bangladeshi garments and trim the negative import list. It is imperative that Singh's visit capitalises on the current moment. It must think big.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

LEGISLATIVE OVERREACH

 

While judicial overreach is a theme legislators are fond of belabouring, the Tamil Nadu assembly's resolution calling for a pardon of Rajiv Gandhi's killers is a clear example of the reverse phenomenon - legislative overreach into the domain of the judiciary. And it's stirred a hornet's nest elsewhere. Sikh bodies now want the Punjab assembly to pass a similar resolution with respect to Devinder Singh Bhullar, convicted of a terror attack in Delhi which killed nine people. Likewise, Omar Abdullah is toying with the idea of asking for a similar pardon for Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. While the BJP has, predictably, slammed Abdullah for his controversial tweet on Guru, it too has no compunctions about obstructing the judicial process when it comes to terrorists or communal killers from the Hindu community. Similarly, expect Digvijay Singh or the SP to jump into the fray whenever terror suspects who happen to be Muslim are nailed. With such relentless politicisation of terror cases on flimsy ethnic grounds, does the judicial process stand a chance?

It's been said about corruption that unless trials are speeded up and the guilty punished, we can kiss goodbye to any prospect of curbing corruption. The same holds for terror. Unless India can demonstrate the capacity to prosecute and punish terror attacks, it faces a losing battle in the years ahead. It should be the last arena, therefore, for political parties to indulge their competitive populism. Instead of impeding judicial processes the legislative and executive arms of government should help by facilitating the setting up of fast-track courts to try terror cases, and pushing through long-pending police reforms that will increase the effectiveness of security agencies.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                TOP ARTICLE

BAD MANNERS, GOOD DEMOCRACY

DIPANKAR GUPTA

Kiran Bedi and Om Puri types populate all liberal democracies. As they come with the territory, politicians are expected to suffer them and, if possible, outwit them. A well-behaved public and tea-party style journalists exist only in autocracies, dictatorships, and worse. When a democracy has its ducks forever in a row, it is time to get worried.

Clearly, our parliamentarians are either unaware, or uncomfortable, with this reality. Spoilt as they are by fawning sycophants, they can stomach neither ridicule nor irreverence. Why else should some of them even think of moving a privilege motion against Puri and Bedi? For best results, a democracy needs an occasional dash of bad manners.

From the way some parliamentarians have reacted to being called liars and illiterates, you would think they were raised in a convent. The official records, however, tell us that a number of them come from the school of hard knocks. In the 15th Lok Sabha, as many as 153 MPs have criminal records, 74 of them with serious charges, like murder and abduction, against them. So when this crowd gets prissy because somebody called them boors or liars, it does sound rather precious! Is it more honourable to be a big-time hood than a small-time cheat?

Against the backdrop of Anna Hazare's fast, getting a buzz by deriding politicians should have been the easiest thing to do. Yet, watching the Bedi and Puri lampoons on television made us long for a commercial break. But now that they are threatened with a privilege motion, we are condemned to view reruns of their antics.

A disastrous anti-Hazare campaign ought to have warned the UPA against needless aggression. The fact that five of the seven who moved the privilege motion against Puri and Bedi were from the Congress does not bode well for this party either. Right or wrong, popular perception has it that every Congress member must get the high command's permission to take a long breath. How, then, could certain Congress MPs move a privilege motion without support from the top?

Moreover, a bit of bad mouthing never did any democracy any harm. During the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) was routinely greeted by the chant: "Hey, hey, LBJ, How many kids did you kill today?" His successor, Richard Nixon, had enough abuses and vile names thrown at him to fill a fat book. In more recent years, George Bush has been called a "serial killer" and some placards in
Washington DC even suggested: "Kill Bush, Bomb White House".

It was not just the rabble that Bush exercised. Vincent Bugliosi, one of America's best attorneys, said in a signed article that Al Franken had called Bush a liar on a David Letterman show. He also brought to his readers' notice that in a 2005 CBS-New York Times survey, the majority believed Bush had "intentionally lied" about Iraq. Did Bush go after the press or individuals for the broadcast sullying of his name? No, not even Bush!

By American standards, the Puri and Bedi show was actually quite mild. Bush has been called a "Nazi", a "chicken hawk" and even a "monkey boy". Why, a particular kind of slime mould beetle has also been named after him.
Tony Blair too faced a hostile public; some even spelt his name B-liar. During his prime ministership, he was all too often called a liar for his pro-American Iraq policy. A wide cross-section, from Tariq Ali to British MPs like Adam Price and Claire Short, repeatedly hurled this epithet at "Teflon Tony". Did Blair move a privilege motion? No, not even Blair - no matter how you spelt his name.

In India, by contrast, parliamentarians are not content with just the privilege motion. Even if Bedi and Puri apologised and presented themselves as political dead meat, our MPs would still not have had their pound of flesh. This is why the government is now thinking of introducing a special
media accountability group to rein in journalists of all kinds. If such a step actually gets under way, it will take our democracy even further away from civilised governments elsewhere in the world.

It is not as if politicians in western democracies are easy with the media. Blair once said that the "press is a feral beast". In 2007, the French daily Liberation called Sarkozy a "bling-bling President". Across the Atlantic, American Democrat Howard Dean confessed he was "terrified of the media". He went on to say that if "you want to hear anybody's true views, you cannot do it in the same room as the press". Republican Scott McLellan remarked that the media makes matters worse by its obsession with "black and white story lines and seven-second sound bites".

Still, is any responsible politician in Europe or America threatening the media and the opposition with dire consequences? Such a thought would not cross their minds for they live in the real world. After all, not everybody can be as godly as the Archbishop of Canterbury. The worst he could say about Tony Blair was that the man's character was "un-Dostoevskyian". This withering sentence requires not just good breeding, but good spelling too.

Then again, in a society of saints, who needs democracy?

The writer is former professor, JNU.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                    Q&A

'MUMBAI'S BEEN ON MY MIND AS A MYTHIC OBJECT'

MONOBINA GUPTA

In his latest book, Mumbai Fables, historian Gyan Prakash weaves a fascinating narrative around India's 'city of dreams', using sources like tabloids, films and architecture. Dayton-Stockton professor of history at Princeton University, Prakash spoke with Monobina Gupta about how he has studied the legendary city's vibrant history and politics:

How did you make the transition from academic historical writing to the more popular form you've now adopted?

I didn't set out to write popular history. The form adopted in
Mumbai Fables emerged from the nature of my engagement with the city. Mumbai had been on my mind since childhood as a figure of imagination - not just a big city - but a fable, a mythic object.

I was moved by its images, the stories the city told about itself and others narrated about its rise from seven islets to a single island city. A centre of business and industry - and the nursery for radical working-class politics. A centre of liberal constitutionalism and a magnet for writers, artists and journalists, the home of Hindi cinema and many others. As a historian, i wanted to understand where these stories came from.

You have written about the popular tabloid Blitz within Mumbai's culture. How central is the tabloid in understanding a city?

I was initially drawn to Blitz because of its sensational stories. But the more i read, the more convinced i became that its sensationalism said something vital about the city. Journalists often act as ethnographers, digging under surface reality to decode the urban labyrinth.
Tabloids take this to another level. With their screaming headlines, shocking stories and photographs, they present the city as a place of sensations.

Did the Shiv Sena's rise mark a shift in Mumbai's political culture?

While the Sena's political fortunes may rise and fall, the populist politics around the rhetoric of the 'Marathi manoos' fashioned by Bal Thackeray certainly transformed Mumbai's landscape. Even the Congress does not have the spine to resist. Consider its abject surrender to demands for the withdrawal of Rohinton Mistry's novel, Such a Long Journey, from the univer-sity curriculum. However, this anxiety to claim Mumbai solely for the Marathi manoos also expresses its impossibility. Bombay was also Mumbai and Bambai before being officially renamed Mumbai. Mumbai remains Bombay and Bambai. The political culture championed by the Sena cannot trample over history and the city's reality as a place of immigrants.

Indian cities like Mumbai and Delhi are experiencing severe stress today. Could urban crisis generate productive changes?

The frame of crisis serves as the basis for imagination and action. It brings forth a range of interpretations and solutions. The key is the political process by which different understandings are heard. If the politics of managing crisis privileges those viewing cities as industrial and financial organisms, business machines, then you'll get 'Mumbai to Shanghai' fantasies. What's important is to think of urban life. Infrastructure and transportation are only part of that.

Has urban studies changed the way historians write about cities?

No single discipline can deal with the dazzling range of experiences in modern cities. A historian has to draw from
architecture and urban planning, sociology, anthropology, econo-mics, literary and cinema stu-dies, art history and criticism... I could not have interpreted the history of narratives and images in Mumbai without multidisciplinary insights.

 

 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                            TOI BLOGS

THE YOGA OF TEACHING

On September 5, it is customary to celebrate India's former president Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan's birthday as Teacher's Day. This celebration gives the teaching world an opportunity to introspect. It also gives an opportunity to teachers, students and the education world to do something new and innovative.

When i was a student i really loved celebrating Teacher's Day. Students were given a chance to become teachers for a single day. We observed our teachers and their way of teaching. This chance observance gave us an insight into building our future lives.

After becoming chief minister, i had two desires. I located some 25 of my childhood friends and called them to my house. The second strong desire i had was to call all my teachers to my home and show my love to them and acknowledge their contribution in shaping my life. I got that chance on November 17, 2005 during my book Kelave te Kelavani's release function, where i called all my teachers. I publicly bowed to them in deference for being my tutors once. On this function, a 90-year-old teacher of mine along with over 35 others gave me their blessings which deeply touched me.

I am sure the teaching fraternity and public at large would be interested in knowing what is happening in Gujarat in the field of education. In the past decade, many new initiatives have been introduced and newer heights have been scaled.

Our prime focus was on 100% enrolment of children, girls in particular. Hence, every year in June since 2003-04 the government has been organising Shala Pravesh Utsavs (school enrolment) and Kanya Kelavani (girl child enrolment) drives. During these enrolment drives, all arms of the government visited different schools across various talukas.

In 2009, we also launched "Gunotsav" as a quality evaluation drive for primary teachers in which the performance of schools is evaluated, with an aim to grade school teachers accordingly. There's a special focus on improving infrastructure in schools and providing human resources. Gujarat has taken great strides not only in primary education but also in higher and professional education.

The literacy rate has risen from 69.14% in 2001 to 79.31% in 2011. The female literacy rate has risen from 57.80% in 2001 to 70.73% in 2011. And the dropout rate has decreased remarkably among students of 1st to 5th standard from 20.93% in 2000-01 to a meagre 2.09% in 2010.


During the past nine years, 1.2 lakh teaching staff have been recruited to help realise the state's dream of inclusive education and 13,000 more are to be recruited this week. Also, over 10,000 teaching assistants have been recruited since the inclusion of Standard 8 under primary education.

Kanya Kelavani Rath Yatra and Shala Pravesh Utsavs have helped achieve nearly cent per cent enrolment of children of admissible age in the state; 64,000 new classrooms and over 43,500 additional sanitation blocks have been built. Remarkable growth has been registered by all tribal districts in female literacy indicators. Nearly 65,000 seats have been added in professional engineering courses. The number of universities in Gujarat has risen from 11 in 2001 to 39 in 2011, giving a boost to higher and professional education. Numerous specialised universities have also been set up in recent years.

When the country is celebrating Teacher's Day, there is an urgent need for our coming generation to switch to learning mode from the teaching mode. On the happy occasion of
Teacher's Day i also wish you all a happy Ganesh Chaturthi, Ramzan Eid and Paryushan.

In Jain tradition there is a custom to say "Michhami Dukkadam" during the Paryushan festival. Michhami Dukkadam means i ask forgiveness for any hurt i may have caused you by thoughts, words or actions, knowingly or unknowingly. Michhami Dukkadam to you all.

The writer is chief minister of Gujarat.

To comment, log on to http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/narendra-modis-blog/entry/the-yoga-of-teaching.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

BIRDY DUMB-DUMB

Miss India Universe Vasuki Sunkavalli may not be the next Miss Universe in Brazil, but the lady has already made a splash. The 27-year-old quietly lifted the tweets of Wall Street Journal columnist Sadanand Dhume and sent them in her own name. After years of fighting the cliché, are we seeing the return of the cerebrally challenged beauty contestant?

While posting the tweet from her account, Ms Sunkavalli did not click on the 'retweet' button that clarifies that a comment has been re-posted because the Twitter account-holder found it interesting. When Mr Dhume found out that his tweet has been nicked without his knowledge, he, not as pretty as Ms Sunkavalli or perhaps as desirous of world peace, made his displeasure known. But now, we are told, everything is alright between the two and a new word seems to have been coined: 'twagiarism'. Later, the graceful lady admitted that she did not know that there is a 're-tweet' option (refer to line above: 'cerebrally challenged'). Considering it wasn't one tweet that she twatted but seven first posted by the columnist, we wonder whether there's a business model here for us to consider.

In the meantime, we plan to send Ms Sunkavalli a copy of that book on international property rights. That should be perfect beach reading. In perfect beachwear, of course.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

KEEP SCORE, NOT TABS

Sports minister Ajay Maken is right. There is no reason why a sports administration body such as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should not be made transparent and accountable. Even as an 'independent' body, it enjoys subsidies through land leases and facilities from state cricketing bodies, not to mention tax waivers. So, the courts can argue that as an organisation "financed, directly or indirectly, by the state or central government", it can fall under the purview of the Right To Information (RTI) Act. But even outside all this legalese being now debated, it makes sense for the BCCI - and other similar sports administration bodies - to be transparent in a professional manner. Mr Maken has already faced the familiar barrier of obfuscation and obstruction and he is sure to face more along the way. But at the same time, the Union Cabinet's concerns about the draft National Sports (Development) Bill 2011 is understandable. There are parameters that need to fleshed out in the draft Bill - especially with regard to RTIs seeking explanations into digressionary micro-issues such as questioning a selection process that lie in the realm of subjectivity. But these queries can be easily addressed and solved, now that the initial draft of the Sports Bill has been returned to the sports ministry for amendments.

At stake here are matters pertaining to the accounts of sports bodies and conflicts of interest. A case in point illustrating the later recently involved TV commentators being in the BCCI's payroll; and no one needs to recall the serious fallouts involving the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee directly under the government or the Indian Premier League fiasco last year. As for the bogey of the 'sarkari takeover' of sporting bodies, this is a red herring being used to scare off sports administration reforms in the name of anachronism. What Mr Maken is suggesting is not a nationalisation of National Sports Federations (NSF) including that of the BCCI. He is demanding accountability. But to reassure critics that no  government can act on any 'takeover' plans, the Bill should ensure that government non-interference in the NSFs remains the cornerstone of Indian sports administration.

The BCCI's resistance to public scrutiny is not surprising, considering the body has more than its fair share of politicians, not to mention Union ministers. The fact that some of them even attended the Cabinet meeting to discuss the Sports Bill, thereby pointing to a conflict of interest, underlines the need for a less murky set of affairs in Indian sports. There have been many politicians who have contributed positively to sports administration, both within the ambit of cricket and outside. So surely, they understand not only the need for more transparency in such bodies but the logic of having a retirement age and a minimum number of administrators from the sporting world. These are not radical demands but obvious ones to make sports a more professional affair in the country. With some sports administration scandals still fresh in the national memory,

Mr Maken's proposals are not about 'more government' or 'less government'. They are simply about doing the business of sports transparently and deterring bad umpiring.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

A BOON FOR BOOKWORMS

PP WANGCHUK

The e-book 'wave' is catching up fast. Though I remain loyal to the traditional 'physical' form of books, the knowledge of the benefits of e-book reading recently tempted me to get a 'taste' of the other form. I came across an e-book reader that promises a storage capacity of 10,000 books and costs only a little over Rs6,000. When I told this to a  colleague, he said that if I could pay a little more, say Rs9000, I can have a reader that can store 15,000 books. I was so fascinated by the idea that I dashed off to the nearest store.

But on my way to the store, better sense prevailed upon me. My attachment to tangible books is so strong that nothing could force me to make the transition. At least for the time being. Since then I have learned a lot more about the positive aspects of e-books. One can easily download books from websites and get into a happy reading mode for hours. And the good news for readers - though a bad one for authors and publishers - is that an e-book costs less than half the price of its print avatar. Recently, Amazon announced that its website had become a great hit for e-book buyers, whose numbers is slowly growing bigger than those who continue to purchase printed books.

Though the e-book 'business' started about a decade ago, it is just about a year since it has come to capture readers' hearts and minds. And though some websites boast of possessing great collections of e-books, only 10% of the total titles are currently sold in the form of e-books. The rest are available in their printed versions.

A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers in the US, Britain, Netherlands and Germany found out that only 15% people in these countries read 50% or more of all e-books. This means that there is a great scope for expansion. So it won't be surprising if many 'traditional' readers among us ride on the e-book wave in the days to come.

There were reports that JK Rowling, the author of the famous Harry Potter series, has announced that all the seven parts of her series will be available in the e-book form soon -  a good news indeed for all book lovers. Whenever it happens, it will help readers enjoy Potter-mania in both the digital and paperback forms, which, in turn, will give a complete experience of reading books.

Be sure that the demand to 'give both' will grow stronger as the digital book industry grows. The ultimate winner of the tough competition among print publishers and their digital counterparts will be the readers. This idea excites readers like me, who are longing to re-read their all-time favourites like A House for Mr Biswas by VS Naipaul, The Circle of Reason and Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh, My Experiments With Truth by Mahatma Gandhi and The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru. After all, if Pottermore is around the corner, can Gandhimore or Nehrumore be far behind?

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

IT'S A TIGHTROPE WALK

SOLI SORABJEE,

Acute dissatisfaction verging on disgust with the behaviour and performance of some Members of Parliament and members of Legislative Assemblies has generated a debate about enacting a legislation for recall of elected members.

Under the present law, an MP or an MLA has a fixed term of office for five years. Articles 102 and 191 of the Constitution specify the contingencies in which a person shall be disqualified for being a member of Parliament or a Legislative Assembly. For example, if he is validly disqualified under the anti-defection provisions in the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution or if he is of unsound mind and so declared by a competent court.

At present there is no provision in the Constitution or in the Representation of People's Act 1951 for the recall of a duly elected member. In essence, recall is a mechanism for voters to un-elect an elected MP or MLA. It thus curtails his fixed term of office. The impelling rationale of a recall mechanism is the belief that the errant MP or MLA should be shunted out of the House.

Any proposed recall legislation would raise several important issues. For example: who should be vested with the power of recall? If power of recall is to be vested in the voters of the member's constituency, what should be the number of registered voters who are signatories to the recall petition? The voters who did not vote for the elected candidates would naturally demand his recall. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that sufficient number of voters sign the recall petition. What is that sufficient number? In Canada, under the Recall and Initiative Act 1995, the requirement is of more than 40% of the voters. The constitution of Venezuela enables the recall of an elected representative if at least 20% of the registered voters are signatories. In Philippines, the number required is at least 15% of the registered voters of the last election. In different states of the US, the number varies. Introducing a power of recall in its manifesto, the Conservative Party in Britain thought that signatures from 10% of the local electorate would suffice.

Another issue will be about the limitation period for filing a recall petition. In Canada, the legislation prohibits applications for recall petitions during the 18 months following general voting day in order to give the MPs sufficient time to demonstrate their abilities. Besides, such a limitation would discourage the phenomenon of a 'sore loser' sponsoring a recall immediately following an election simply in an effort to overturn the results. Most state jurisdictions in the US have similar limitation periods.

A more serious issue is whether grounds for recall must be specified in the recall petition such as some form of malfeasance or misconduct while in office or unsatisfactory performance like irregular attendance, chronic unpunctuality, sleeping during parliamentary proceedings or not having made a single speech or an intervention during the entire session. These grounds are merely illustrative and may be added or deleted. But there must be specific grounds. A member cannot be unseated merely on the basis of number of signatories to the petition, which is a highly fluctuating factor.

Recall legislation in Canada has led to a host of problems and also legal proceedings. In March 1998, the BC Civil Liberties Association filed a constitutional challenge in the British Columbia Supreme Court. The group asserted that the recall legislation infringed a citizen's right to vote under Section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because a recall petition is not a secret ballot and the votes of those not signing a petition are not counted. However, the challenge was withdrawn in June 1999. The Association reconsidered a legal challenge in May 2003, but ruled it out because of limited resources.

Recall is fraught with serious consequences to the member who is sought to be recalled. A vexed issue is whether the concerned MP or MLA should not be given an opportunity in keeping with the principles of natural justice to deal with the specified grounds in the recall petition. Again, who will decide whether the alleged grounds in the recall petition are justified or not: civil courts or an Election Commission or any other authority? In any case, it will be a time-consuming exercise.

A formidable objection to recall provisions is that it subjects the elected member to the supervision and control of his constituency. That would impair the free and independent discharge of his functions in keeping with his conscience. The electorate may be carried away by the frenzy of a popular issue and it would be undesirable to subject an elected member to the changing mood and temper of the electorate. Above all, it must be remembered that if a member is recalled there has to be a byelection in his constituency. The time and the expenses involved is a vital factor to be kept in mind.

The problem of delinquent MPs and MLAs is real and it is necessary to find a proper solution for exiting them from the House. If the electorate exercises its franchise in a wise and sensible manner, and elects the right person, there will not be any need for recall legislation. Alas that is praying for an Utopia. Therefore, if recall or similar legislation has to be enacted, remember that such legislation is complex, has many constitutional and legal implications and requires full and thorough debate prior to its enactment. We should analyse and learn from the experience of other democratic countries which have opted recall mechanisms. It cannot be enacted in a hurry, least of all under the coercive pressure of indefinite fasts.

Soli J Sorabjee is former Attorney General of India. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

ALWAYS HUNGRY FOR MORE

MURAD ALI BAIG

After his successful campaign for the Jan Lokpal Bill, Anna Hazare is now targeting electoral reform to curb corruption. While politicians were his main target, few realised that it was the bureaucrats who had enabled the politicians to abuse the system. The war on corruption needs drastic administrative reforms to curb the enormous power of the petty babus. The good intentions of prime ministers, the commitment of good officers and the draconian powers of emergencies and ordinances can all be sand-papered to death by these millions.

According to 2007 data, India today has about 5,600 IAS officers who, with about 80,000 category 1 officers, are supposed to manage some 18 million babus. For the common man, the government is the tehsildar, thanedar, patwari, dealing assistant and inspector - officials who have few compunctions about fully exploiting the opportunities provided by their positions.

There is no Indian who has not witnessed the tyranny of these 'chhota babus'. The village patwari does not work only to earn a small government salary. The fate of valuable properties, inheritances and taxes are often decided by his little notings. Thus, laws may be passed, rules issued in gazettes but all of it might become ineffectual in his hands. No order can be signed by a senior administrative officer unless the file has been prepared and put up by the clerks in the concerned section. A typical file has to move slowly from a dealing assistant to a section officer, divisional clerk, deputy secretary, under secretary, joint secretary, secretary to a minister and then back down that ladder before orders can be issued. A file may need 50 or more clearances so it is not surprising that applicants must have agents to speed their files through the labyrinth.

Any police thana will show a wide variance between the high principles of our constitution and the ground reality. Postings at sensitive police thanas are routinely auctioned. Court clerks can ensure that legal cases are indefinitely delayed by missing witnesses, misplaced documents and other technical hitches. The petty bureaucrats hold the country to ransom. The electoral officers who manage the electoral process are also petty babus only too willing to favour officials or politicians who benefit them most.

Officials are insulated from the consequences of their inaction, incompetence, dishonesty and rudeness by the certainty that they cannot be sacked. They are highly accountable for their smallest action, but not for inaction or delay. Placing an order for a rupee higher than the lowest quoted tender would invite departmental inquiries, public accounts committee investigations and even questions in Parliament. But if procedure is followed, no one is accountable even though it might involve months of delay and crores of additional expense.

And while there is public outrage at corruption in 'high places', there seems to be a complacent acceptance of the petty corruption of petty bureaucrats.

Senior bureaucrats from the ranks of the IAS, IFS or IPS often harbour a high level of idealism and integrity. But over a period of time, many realise the futility of trying to buck the system and recognise the limitations of their authority over their subordinates. Most officers lose the initiative and get caught in the trappings of their authority.

Politicians are a major element in corruption. No politician is content to merely conform to his constitutional position. In fact, the appeal of politics lies in its ability to interfere in executive functions, often with the help of these petty babus. The much vaunted British system of checks and balances has been streamlined for efficiency in Britain and Singapore but thrives in India.

If we are to break free of the web of corruption, we must drastically reduce the number of rules, along with number of gatekeepers needed to manage them. Computers in government departments will anyway enable us to allow quick and effective approvals with minimal human intervention. It would be cheaper to let babus draw their salaries and stay at home than allow them to block India's progress and growth.

Murad Ali Baig is a Delhi-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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

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

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

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THEY'RE PARALYSED, TOO

 

Whether President Obama speaks to the US Congress about his economic programme on Wednesday or Thursday of next week would seem a minor issue. Yet the rejection of his choice — Wednesday — by Republicans, forcing him to move it to Thursday, will be viewed as far from insignificant. It will, again, raise doubts that the American political establishment is capable of working together to do what the world needs it to do in order to stave off a double-dip recession. It is now generally accepted that the recovery of the world economy is spluttering; and fears of another downturn have built up considerably. The next few months will be crucial for the restoration of confidence. Given that the EU and the eurozone are deeply politically divided and Japan is still unable to emerge from its decades-old slowdown — besides having had six prime ministers in four years — the onus is on the US to get growth momentum going. But the US political establishment does not seem capable of delivering growth.

The sources of this inability are easy to see. US public debt is at $14.3 trillion, 96 per cent of its GDP. Suspicions have grown that this path is fiscally unsustainable; but America's sharply divided polity has not been able to agree on how to break out of it. The danger is that Republicans in Congress, spooked by the right-wing challenge within their party, will win the argument for spending cuts that will, in the short term, make any recovery impossible. Indeed, a sharp and immediate reduction in spending and benefits will further weaken demand, hurting both the US economy and those of its trading partners.

While it is true that there is little fiscal space for the kind of extraordinary measures possible and implemented in the immediate wake of the 2008 financial crisis, it is also true the US economy cannot be allowed to flounder. This is, interestingly, a situation not too distant from India's, where political paralysis has kept the only possible solution to weak growth — reform — from being implemented. The White House, last week, proposed streamlining 500 regulations; but more will be needed. High-end immigration serves to grease the engines of innovation; trade liberalisation is a win-win — even for US domestic jobs, if it is implemented with a proper, nationwide retraining and re-skilling package. The world needs America. At crisis points like this one, Obama and the Republicans cannot think small.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

HERO HAZARE

 

After a 13-day fast that riveted the media and got the government to yield to many of his demands, Anna Hazare has become a case study and inspiration for many movements across India.

Hazare's support was solicited by Irom Sharmila, fasting for over a decade in Manipur to get the Armed Forces Special Powers Act repealed in the region. Akhil Gogoi, a prominent member of India Against Corruption has held out the promise that Hazare would visit Manipur and throw his support behind the cause. Meanwhile, Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has requested Hazare's intervention to make sure the recently revealed facts about unmarked graves in Kashmir are fully investigated, and justice is done. In other words, it's acknowledged that there is no complex, gnarled issue that Hazare cannot cut through. His faith, and his fasts, can move mountains, bring resolution and understanding to Kashmir and the Northeast, and any other worthy cause he sets his mind to. As he threatened when he ended his fast, Hazare might just have set himself up as a permanent conscience of the nation.

Hazare's campaign was remarkably open-ended, and open to all persuasions. While agitating for a specific version of the Lokpal bill to be legislated, it made a giant rhetorical leap, suggesting that this was the solution, or at least a solid start, to all entrenched corruption. The Ramlila tent made room for all kinds of disaffections with the system, which both enlarged its appeal and made it near-impossible to rationally negotiate with. So it's little surprise others across the country holding out for a hero should be drawn to him, as iron filings to a magnet. With his simple certainties, his impatience for the government's guff as well as for nuance, and his readiness to use hunger-strikes as a weapon against the state, Anna Hazare could be a useful model for other aggrieved constituencies. The question is, will such brinkmanship work again, or will its edge be blunted by overuse?

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MLAS OF WRATH

 

Tomorrow, when the kids complain again about being sent to school every day, parents can find inspiration in Delhi's MLAs, and gently rebuke their wards with the picture of these paragons of adult longing for the bricks on the wall or the decorated dais. In this season of serial legislative embarrassments and even privilege notices, the capital's MLAs are a miffed lot, having discovered to their displeasure that government schools in their assembly constituencies these days are not necessarily bothering to invite them — the people's elected representatives — to annual valedictory programmes.

So in the aftermath of an actor's recent misconceived and foul-mouthed crassness about the educational qualifications of MPs, what do Delhi's MLAs do to inextricably tie themselves to the bedrock of enlightenment — the school? They get the state's education department to issue an order that makes it mandatory for each state-funded school to invite its presiding legislator at least as a guest at its ceremonies, if not necessarily the chief guest. BJP MLA Sunil Kumar Vaidya, one of those legislators who pursued the offence, claims that although he has taken the initiative to visit schools in his constituency to check on their developmental requirements, those self-same school authorities don't bother to invite him for their functions.

The protocol requiring the invitation of legislators to government school functions now stands bolstered by the official order. Nevertheless, it may not be out of place here to ask whether a little ego-massage is the price MLAs and the state education department ought to extract, even as they consider ways to qualitatively improve state-aided schools in the capital — assuming, of course, that much legislative thought and energy are expended on salvaging the abysmal state of such schools in the first place.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

'ARUNA ROY PRINCIPLES, COMBINED WITH ANNA DESIRE, GOVT DESIRE, CAN GIVE US WONDERFUL BILL'

SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

I am Shekhar Gupta in Bangalore and my guest is not just Bangalore's first citizen but one of the most respected people in India. Mr Narayana Murthy, on a really gloomy day like this, the best thing that can happen to one is a conversation with you, because you are always smiling.

Thank you.

And nothing changes in your life. You know, just a couple of days back you had your farewell at Infosys and I still see you wearing the Infosys shirt.

You can't take Infosys out of me... It's like your daughter.

But sir, are you also gloomy like so many in the country?

I am, yes. I am saddened because we are at a point today where there is that old man who is 74 years old — his health is not good, he is fasting. We have a government which consists of a lot of well-intentioned people. The Prime Minister wants corruption to be fought like Annaji wants.

And they are both clean people.

They are both clean people. There is no doubt about it. And from my own interactions with the UPA president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, she is a very open-minded person, very courteous, very concerned about the country. And therefore, in spite of all these wonderful people coming together on a mission, somehow we have let the situation come to this point. I think it's very sad.

How did this happen, sir? You managed tens of thousands of people and clients and businesses. What has gone wrong, do you think?

Well, I think, first of all, we must all recognise that we are at a unique point in the economic history of India. For the first time in the last 300 years or so, India has received some respect from the international community. For the first time in the 60 years after Independence, there is a certain level of confidence that we will indeed solve the problem of poverty, we will indeed bring inclusive and equitable growth. Therefore, at this point, every well-meaning Indian will have to say that we will do whatever is necessary to fight corruption. Because corruption creates uncertainties, corruption takes away confidence, corruption creates a bad impression for the country. Therefore, the government, the opposition parties, the business community, civil society, all of us have to come with one voice, one mind and one soul to say that we will root out corruption.

And at this point of time, somehow, we created a situation where it was seen as civil society versus the government. And number two, I think all of us must realise corruption in some way takes away our fundamental rights. Let's say, if I go to register my property and the sub-registrar wants some money and therefore he delays doing it. What he is actually doing is, he is compromising my right to property. Therefore, corruption in essence is compromising our fundamental rights. I feel that all of us had realised it and had created an environment of harmony, courtesy and dignity in discussions, and both parties had to go there with a spirit of give and take — both Annaji's team and the government interlocutors.

But somehow that was not done. It became a situation of tu tu main main, anger, name-calling.

Unfortunately. Given that both parties are good people, both parties are interested in reducing corruption, it's sad that we have reached this point.

Who is more at fault in letting these negotiations become so unpleasant?

Well, I don't want to go into the past. As I said at my farewell speech, they were expecting me to speak about all the past, about reminiscing, all of that. I said no. The past is dead and gone, I want to use the lessons of the past to act better in the present to create a brighter future. Therefore, all that I would say is this: it's not too late. We have to create an environment where there is confidence in Annaji and confidence in the government that we can hold discussions in a way that we will come out with a Lokpal Bill that makes everybody happy. It is possible. To do that, I only wish both parties create a committee of highly respected, non-political individuals — some retired bureaucrats, some retired judiciary people, some academicians.

Civil society.

Absolutely. If they did that — and I have a feeling that it would be acceptable to both parties — then this committee can sit down and quickly, maybe in a matter of a week or so, come out with a Lokpal Bill that is acceptable to all the people and then pass it on to the standing committee. Because, at the end of the day, we have to go through parliamentary procedure. We can't compromise the power of Parliament.

That's now becoming a discussion — saying Parliament doesn't matter, standing committee doesn't matter, just pass it.

No, that is not right. I have a lot of respect for Annaji, I have a lot of respect for members of his team, but I don't think so. Then we will be hurting ourselves in the long run.

Because well-meaning as they may be, tomorrow this precedent may be used by people who are not well-meaning.

Exactly. We can't afford to do that. However, we can't say they are undemocratic because Nehru, in August 1962, almost 50 years ago, said democracy is not just about Parliament at the top; democracy is all about empowering people at the lowest level. He was addressing state ministers of the Panchayati Raj and he himself said that. Therefore, it is not proper to say it is undemocratic. As long as it is peaceful, as long as there is give and take, it is fine.

But do you think it can still be done in a way that preserves Parliament's dignity?

It is extremely important that we preserve the dignity of Parliament, that nobody should compromise the power of Parliament. Because the day we do it, our democracy is finished.

Are you concerned that we are headed that way right now, if you watch the negotiations right now?

Looks like we are headed in that direction. But I only wish that all the well-meaning people who are actors in this drama come out and say, let us select a group of people who are acceptable to the government and to Annaji's team, let these people take three months, let them hold lots of discussions, let them come out with a Lokpal Bill that is acceptable to all the parties. Then they can submit it to the standing committee. Because I don't think this can be done in half a day, a day when that respected old man is fasting, when his health is not good.

So how large should this committee of eminent people be?

I think maybe 9 or 11 people should be sufficient. They should all be non-politicians, because then nobody can say they have vested interests. As long as they are not politicians, as long as these are people who are highly respected by civil society, as long as both Annaji's team and the government have a hand in picking the 11 people — and give them three months — I am positive we will come out with a good Lokpal.

It may be tougher to find talent to fill this 11 than to fill the Indian cricket team right now.

I hope this isn't as bad as the Indian cricket team right now... In a nation of 1.2 billion people, if we can't pick 11 respected people, then it's a sad commentary of the country. I am very confident that we can get the 11 people because today its has become government versus Annaji.

And it must not become Parliament versus Annaji in any case?

It cannot become. I don't think Annaji would want to subvert the power of Parliament because he is too much of a patriot. He understands democracy, he has understood the power of peaceful protests. Therefore, I think peaceful protest is fine, but parliamentary democracy requires that Parliament is supreme, that a standing committee has its rule, and that we put forward to this standing committee a good draft.

So, if I start counting this 11, like the cricket eleven in good times, about five or six select themselves. So in this 11, one who selects himself first of all is Citizen Narayana Murthy, three days into retirement [Narayana Murthy protests]... So, if you get the call, are you willing to do it?

Well, I am an Indian first. Therefore, of course, I will give up anything else and participate because I have tremendous respect for our Prime Minister. I have tremendous respect for lots of ministers in the government. They are all wonderful people. I have respect for Mrs Sonia Gandhi, for Annaji, I have respect for the NDA coalition. So there is no doubt I will, of course, as an Indian.

So are you surprised that nobody has reached out to you as yet, because you are just the kind of person everybody should have reached out to, because everybody listens to you?

I don't know if I should be so presumptuous. All that I would say is that I will be ready any day to add value. But, more important, I don't think — let me take myself out of the equation — the more important thing is that we have to create confidence in Annaji's team and we have to create confidence in the government's team, that whatever will be arrived at, will be arrived at by a set of most patriotic Indians. That is the key. But this decision has to be taken by the Prime Minister quickly.

Now, if you get a call, if you are among the 11, you will take the first flight to Delhi?

Oh, absolutely.

And if you go there, what will you tell either side? What will you tell Anna Hazare, and what will you tell the Prime Minister?

The most important thing is, we have to create an environment of dignity, mutual respect and harmony first. We have to use parliamentary words, we cannot use words that communicate that one party is superior to the other. Second, there will have to be this give and take... As long as whatever compromise we make is legal and ethical, as long as it will lead to a better scheme for combating corruption, we should accept give and take.

Negotiation is all about compromise.

Exactly.

Do you think some of that wasn't done in this case? Because things seem to have hardened.

Again, Shekhar, I don't want to go into the past.

But you always learn from your mistakes.

Yes, we learn. But as I said earlier, the lesson that I learnt from watching this episode is that somehow we created a situation where trust was lost and we can't do that…

Was the government more at fault, and the Congress party? Because lately it would look like that — the arrest, the allegations thrown at Anna Hazare and his team.

I have known Dr Manmohan Singh extremely well; I have so much respect for him. Therefore, it is very difficult for me to somehow reconcile with the man that he is, the kind of people that are there in the government, and whatever has happened. I am confused why whatever has happened, happened.

So when you meet the Prime Minister, is that the question you will ask him? That in spite of you and this fine team, how did you do this? That's exactly the question we should be asking M S Dhoni and his team — in spite of you and such a fine team…

No, as I told you earlier, I don't want to go into the past. My desire is that if the Prime Minister desires, this is a good way forward. Those 11 people he chooses must then say in the future, how do we come out with a Lokpal Bill that satisfies the aspirations of everybody?

Can you suggest some more names for the 11?

No, I don't want to, because who am I? It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister.

As a citizen?

No, I don't want to say that. But we must also realise that Aruna Roy has come out with a very good set of designed principles. I went through them... If we can use those principles and if we combine these with the desire of Annaji and the desire of the government, I am positive we can come out with a wonderful bill.

Tell us a little bit more about the art of negotiation, because you have negotiated with the most difficult clients around the world, people who cut the price to the last cent; you have negotiated with many chief ministers in Karnataka, not all of them loved you.

I think the first rule is, never let the other party lose its face, never. Never let the other party feel that they have been taken for a ride. Third, never let the value system be compromised in any negotiation. As long as these three principles are adhered to, then it is possible to find alternative methods which indeed lead to the same result wherein both parties feel that they have won. The most important thing in any negotiation is, as you and I walk out of it, you should feel that you won and I should feel that I won.

And basic courtesies must never be dispensed with.

That is extremely important. We should not use language that would hurt the ego of people, that would hurt the respect of people. We should be very courteous to each other. You and I can have the fiercest discussion, the fiercest disagreement, but once we walk out, or in doing so, we must be nice. We have a saying at Infosys: "You can disagree with me as long as you are not disagreeable." Unfortunately, what has happened is some of the people on either side have been disagreeable.

Since we are working in real time, what is the one thing that you will say to the Prime Minister and the one thing you will say to Anna Hazare's team?

I would say that it is not a good a thing to bypass the standing committee or to bypass Parliament or to force it without too much of debate and discussion.

Or without grace.

Or without grace. Therefore, it is very important to appoint a committee which is seen as impartial, which is seen as highly respected, which is seen as not having vested interests.

Because it is one thing to get the government to lose its face and quite another to have Parliament lose its face.

No we can't, even the government. After all, these are the people who have made tremendous sacrifices — a lot of politicians I know, they are wonderful people. So we cannot let them lose their face.

All that I would say is the need of the day is to reach out, is to say that look, let us not do anything that we may regret later on, let us not do anything that posterity will hold us responsible for, let us not do anything that our children and grandchildren will say, "These guys went ahead and did something which is not good for our country, which in some way damaged our democracy."

You've dealt with young people, bright young people, a lot of them engineers. You've made tens of thousands of them very rich. What gets them impatient? Or have you seen this impatience in them?

Oh yes. I'll tell you what has happened in the last year or two — unfortunately, this government has been put in a very embarrassing situation because of the Adarsh society scam, then the 2G scam and CWG. Therefore, all the pent-up emotion that people had — because when they went to get services from the government, they had to pay bribes or were denied — all the pent-up emotion is now released because of these three big scams. And now they're saying that this is the time to fight, so that we won't be harassed anymore.

I have a suggestion for you. I know you've just come back from Mumbai, your bags are in your car. Take the next flight to Delhi, you are needed there.

You are very kind. I am honoured. Thank you.

You are too valuable to be left to Bangalore alone. Just your smile and positivity can light up a gloomy day and I must say that in Delhi we've had too many gloomy days already.

— Transcribed by Chaitanya Gudipaty
(This interview took place before Anna Hazare broke his fast at the Ramlila grounds)

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHEN GLEE IS COMPLACENCY

JAITHIRTH RAO

 

I notice some glee and schadenfreude (taking pleasure in the sufferings of others) among many of my friends who are a tad happy that England had been facing riots. Riots, after all, are supposed to happen in India, in Nigeria, in Guyana — not in England, the country imagined for us by P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie and Neville Cardus. But before we start taking pleasure in the troubles of Hackney and Birmingham, let's pause for a minute and look at our own prospects.

Despite the unintelligible statistics that emanate from our Yojana Kremlin Gosplan Bhavan (the members of this body live on a planet of their own making), one thing has been clear for some years now to all of us who live in this country: any young person who wants work can find a job. This is especially true in urban and metropolitan India. And if you have some useful skills (the most useful being a smattering of English) you can get a job making much more wages early in life than your parents late in their careers. You can work in a call centre, in a retail mall, in a fast-food outfit, in a hole in the wall that sells cell-phones, in a beauty parlour (the fastest growing industry in our slums), in a coaching class that teaches "computers" or English, in a security agency that supplies ill-equipped guards to assorted middle-class gated ghettos, in an outfit that makes ill-timed sales calls to persons who would buy insurance if only they knew better, in an event-management firm that stages absurd show business events, in TV channels that get started at the rate of one a week — in short, in many sectors where our economy is growing robustly. Many of these are "contract" jobs; some are not jobs in the old-fashioned sense, but activities that require a one- or two-person entrepreneurial set-up.

All these jobs, all this frenetic economic activity mean that young folks with high testosterone levels do not have much incentive to congregate in an Indian Tahrir Square or break shop-windows in our many-splendoured ugly shopping malls. All this has been possible because of the 8 per cent growth rate — the lagged result of the freedoms given us by the late unlamented Narasimha Rao and substantially carried forward by the understated Vajpayee. Tarry a minute — what would happen if our growth rate dropped to 5 per cent or, God forbid, to 3 per cent? If the educated, the half-educated and more-or-less educated youthful powder kegs of urban India saw no more call-centre jobs, no more fast-food outlets or beauty parlours or opportunities to become temporary drivers or contract security guards, what would happen? Let's guess: Hackney would look like paradise. Urban India could explode on a scale that none of us can even begin to visualise. The violence, which will be a direct result of the slowdown in economic activity, may take different ugly turns. People may turn on migrants from other states (we have seen ominous dress rehearsals); caste-based violence may grip many of our smaller towns; Hindu-Muslim riots (that curse of our country for centuries) may start on an unprecedented scale with our major cities having territorial enclaves following the Beirut pattern.

Let me not go on. Suffice it to say that a decline in growth rates could result in catastrophic social consequences in urban India and, apart from Leninists in our midst, nobody relishes this frightening prospect. While we cannot influence lunatic Tea-Party fanatics or rigid EU bureaucrats who may precipitate a double-dip global recession, which will inevitably hit us hard, we can at least take steps to mitigate the situation and minimise the negative consequences of a fragile global economic scene.

Here are some steps I can think of:

Get GST implemented in a hurry. BJP: For heaven's sake, cooperate with the UPA in the interests of patriotism. This one step alone can give a fillip to growth and to fiscal revenues.

Reinvigorate the Vajpayee-Khanduri highway plan. Dr Singh: Just because the NDA started it, it does not mean that you should go slow on it. Remember Akbar built on the fine foundations laid by his father's adversary, Sher Shah.

Declare all land up to 20 km deep on the sides of all highways and all land up to 60 km from metropolitan centres and all land up to 30 km from other urban centres (except designated forest lands) as automatically available for residential and commercial construction (or to use bureaucratese, change them from "A" to "NA" status) with some subsets available for factories. This will right away result in farmers getting higher prices for their land with no government intervention; it will drive down the prices of peri-urban housing and trigger off a lot of economic activity. (Disclosure: the columnist is an entrepreneur in the affordable housing space.)

Open up mines to transparent leases involving royalties that are on a revenue-sharing basis to only publicly listed companies where promoter shareholding is less than 40 per cent. The government will gain strong allies in SEBI, stock analysts, and institutional investors who will all help to make sure that promoters or firms do not loot the nation's valuable mineral resources.

Increase the FDI limits on insurance. Put on hold multi-brand retail where there is no consensus. We don't need bitter battles on this one.

Appoint a Telecom Settlements Commission. Resolve all past issues through fines and selective licence cancellations. Put a closure on all matters. Let the industry move forward.

Award bank licences to groups of professionals backed by PE and VC funds. Do not indulge in crony capitalism and award licences to business houses and conglomerates.

If we do all of these (all easily and eminently doable, I might add), we may just be able to avoid a slippage in growth rates and keep our urban young away from violence, the prospects of which are truly frightening. Will our leaders grasp the nettle or take the risk of doing nothing and possibly precipitating Hackneys in Mumbai and Delhi?

The writer is an entrepreneur
jerry.rao@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

PHOTOCOPYING THE PAST

SUNIL ABRAHAM

 

There is no single correct position when it comes to intellectual property or IP. In fact, there are at least five correct positions that you could possibly adopt based on who you are — a pro-creator position, a pro-entrepreneur position, a pro-government position, a pro-consumer position and a public interest position. Therefore, before you progress any further, dear reader, you have to first decide which of the above you are. If you are an average Indian, then you are almost certainly a consumer or a member of the general public. Next, it would only be fair for me to tell you when I am coming from: I work for a policy research organisation that focuses on protecting consumer and public interest in the digital era. Before I proceed any further, also note that not all creators prefer profits to public adulation and therefore creators' interests are not necessarily always opposed to consumer and public interest.

At this point, popular imagination is captivated by meta-regulation, issues of corruption and transparency. Few seem interested in the configuration details of property regimes that we are all implicated in: tangible property, capital and, in our increasingly dematerialised world, intangible property such as IP or spectrum. Unfortunately the complications of spectrum, banking and IP make our eyes glaze over and there is almost zero attention being paid to the copyright act amendment to be discussed in Parliament this week.

For the government, achieving a compromise is the primary objective, and then, perhaps a distant second, raising taxes. This is not a static compromise, since each generation of new technologies precipitates a new round of negotiations between the stakeholders. So while it is easy to be Anna Hazare, it is difficult to be Kapil Sibal. An optimal compromise position as in the world of capital and tangible property protects the production, circulation and consumption of IP. A sub-optimal position results in practices that are in conflict with policy — anti-competitive behaviour or infringement.

Unfortunately when it comes to evidence-based policy-making, there is little funding for public interest IP research in India and the pockets of the lobbyists of rights-holders are deep. The funded research that they tout claims that government loses significant taxes because of piracy or non-maximalist IP policies. Yet rights-holders, especially multinationals in the software business, are experts at tax avoidance through techniques with names like the "Double Irish" and the "Dutch Sandwich".

Like any compromise, the latest amendment is a mixed bag for consumers and the general public. With regard to "digital rights management," — or what consumers' advocates refer to as "digital restrictions management" — the government has yielded to the TRIPS-plus agenda even though it is not a signatory to the WIPO Internet treaties. And with regard to the exception for the disabled, the Indian exception is both disability- and works-neutral making it much more robust when compared to the treaty for the visually impaired currently being discussed at the WIPO.

However, one particular compromise — the volte-face on Section 2 (m) on parallel imports of books — is particularly distressing for book-lovers and students. As part of the latest amendment, this new section was introduced in 2009. The standing committee report gave the section a thumbs-up, but strangely it has gone missing in the latest version of the bill circulated to the MPs in preparation for the Rajya Sabha debate this Friday.

Section 2 (m) is a provision that would have saved us from the uncertainty created by what some consider flawed jurisprudence around parallel importation of copyrighted works. As the standing committee report on the copyright amendment puts it, "nobody can deny the fact that the interests of students will be best protected if they have access to the latest editions of the books." To date, I have never met an IIT or IIM graduate untainted by photocopied books. I would claim that the lack of quality education in our country is still at the level of an epidemic. The indigenous publication industry has benefited from our progressive copyright regime.

Wouldn't it be appropriate to afford them maximum flexibility in a future rife with technological shifts? Are all the books that you wish to read available in the libraries and book shops you have access to? Have you ever been forced to photocopy a book because of time constraints? Would you like to see greater choice via increased free-market competition, and reduced state-sanctioned monopolies and enforcement? Does your definition of human rights include the "right to education" and the the "right to entertainment"? Shouldn't the disabled in India benefit from the $500 million spent each year making books accessible in the US? And finally, shouldn't a nation providing leadership to the development agenda at WIPO, walk the talk at home? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, you should demand that people are placed before the profits of foreign publishers.

The writer is the executive director of the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

TURNING AROUND BRAND MANMOHAN

CHARULATARAVIKUMAR

 

If Anna Hazare is a great example of how to build an iconic brand (as I explained before in 'Branding Anna Hazare', IE, August 20)) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a disappointing case study of how to destroy a great one. How does a man responsible for the largest democracy's turnaround in 1991 come to personify inaction, inefficiency and tolerance of corruption when clearly these were never his brand values?

Here are lessons from Brand Manmohan Singh's last two decades and its downfall that marketers just can't ignore. And some plausible solutions that Brand MMS could quickly adopt to make a turnaround.

Don't shift your identity away from what you stand for: Specially when the nation has hailed you as a symbol of its Great Middle Class story. Dr Singh has to pull himself out of the trap of Machiavellian politics. Bata, one of the strongest brands ever, during its struggle times, couldn't decide whether to stand for high fashion or the masses. And in trying to be both, it rapidly lost connection with its consumers.

Solution: Brand MMS must quickly reach out, particularly to loyal old consumers in the urban middle class. Shed the public-speaking phobia and speak out his thoughts, through set-piece speeches, if not interviews.

Don't forget to remind people of what your brand does: Without Dr Singh's reforms, India would not have emerged as a confident global power. But no one can rest on past laurels. Nirma, a brand success, changed the game for the big ones and shook up any monopoly in the washing powder segment. Today, it exists in the minds of only a few and it's spectacular past is at best a case study in marketing books. Nirma couldn't move beyond its initial killer price offering. The momentum was lost and so was its success.

Solution : So many reforms still remain on India's agenda. Dr Singh should look at those and particularly address areas of governance to keep the momentum going. Dr Singh and the Congress party must communicate their actions and its impact to people. Act first. Talk later.

Stay focused on core strength: Dr Singh was India's Dr Reforms. In the past seven years, he has shifted focus, by force or by choice, to taking all brickbats, not only for poor performance but also for overlooking corruption. He has lost his own identity.

Solution: It's not too late, though defending yourself too much will only make things worse. All public statements and appearances must exude confidence, honesty and renewed responsibility. To start with he needs to hire a good speechwriter.

Don't fool around with your flagship brand: Dr Singh was the Congress' star brand, which rode on his name and image for two elections. Whether it was the party's own insecurities or foolishness, he has been kept subdued ever since he became prime minister. By design, by default or by daftness, the damage is done.

Solution : Dr Singh has to go beyond being a symbol : Of reforms, of the party, of disarray. He needs to quickly regain glory by new action.

Don't bank on one brand alone: Markets are cyclical. No brand is spared a downturn. Nor is it always possible for one brand to extend its appeal to all. Dr Singh's appeal, while targeting the middle class, could not extend itself into the rural and tribal "markets". The party should have created a flotilla with strong sub-brands flanking the flagship, to satisfy an electoral market as diverse as India's. The Gandhis' constant scurrying off to empathise with rural areas has somewhere resulted in middle-class India believing it is left to fend for itself. Instead, the party should have created a portfolio to cover the entire market opportunity.

Solution : Currently the Congress party seems disjointed, with each key leader pursuing a personal agenda. A clear strategy for the Congress needs to be evolved. And an equally clear plan must be implemented.

Face and manage any brand image erosion immediately: Dr Singh's image was tarnished not because of his actions but rather his inaction. Silence is quiet acquiescence — and a perception of acquiescence to corruption is lethal. Brands have their most graceful moments when they speak up, accept their shortcomings, and address an issue. In 2011, Toyota pulled 2.17 million cars from the US market for a defect that "could" endanger the driver. They had earlier withdrawn 14 million cars from around the world for another possible risk. No wonder, then, that Toyota continues to be one of the most trusted brands ever.

Solution : All is not lost. The first thing Dr Singh needs to do is to address the people immediately, touching upon all that has irked us about Brand MMS of late.

Today, this brand is making attempts at revival. But becoming defensive is not the answer. Confidently facing the challenge and taking charge will need more than just one parliamentary intervention. A brand leader must act like a leader. Always. Or else it could prove to be its Waterloo.

The writer is CEO, Product of the Year India

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WHAT TO DO WITH GADDAFI

DAVID KAYE

Libya's rebel leaders say they want to try Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libyan courts. In principle, Libyans deserve the satisfaction that only domestic justice can bring. National trials would advance the rule of law and allow Libyans to fully own their political transition.

One problem: the International Criminal Court, based 1,400 miles away in The Hague, has issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son and second-in-command Seif al-Islam, and his intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi. The UN Security Council, recognising that Gaddafi's alleged crimes were not just against Libyans but against humanity, asked the ICC in February to investigate the situation in Libya. Now the ICC legitimately wants to try the three for atrocities committed since the uprising in Libya began last winter.

Some argue the new Libyan government would be legally bound to transfer Gaddafi and his associates to The Hague. Others argue that the ICC must defer to Libyan authorities if they are willing and able to try Gaddafi fairly in their own courts. A better option should satisfy both ICC partisans and the new leaders of Libya: allow the ICC to try those indicted, but to do it in Libya.

As important as national trials are, post-Gaddafi Libya wouldlack the infrastructure necessary for such complex prosecutions. As in Iraq soon after Saddam Hussein was ousted, the willingness to adhere to basic due process could be severely tested.

The ICC has the experience, expertise and legal infrastructure to try mass crimes. It has put significant investigative muscle into documenting crimes committed since mid-February. A fair trial process could start soon.

Where the trials should be held is another question. Trial in The Hague would face limitations. ICC proceedings normally take place far from the scene of the crime, in a foreign language, often according to rules and procedures that may be impenetrable to victim communities. And the court has had difficulty educating local communities elsewhere in Africa about its work, a problem that didn't occur for the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Phnom Penh, which are hybrid courts that have elements of international and national law and personnel.

An ICC trial in Tripoli would have practical and symbolic benefits. It would be closer to the communities that most need to see justice done. It could involve more Libyans in the proceedings, a step that would afford the ICC greater access to victims and give young Libyan lawyers and other professionals experience with a modern system of justice. It would give the ICC's staff members an opportunity to engage directly with the society for which they are doing their work, while serving as a platform for the international community to help Libya rebuild the rule of law.

Trial in Tripoli, with significant Libyan participation, could also signal a new direction for Libya, one that favours the rule of law and integration with the institutions of international life. It could foster criminal prosecutions of lower-level perpetrators and truth-and-reconciliation processes at the national level, as well as investigations of any serious crimes by rebel forces, a signal that the new government believes in fairness within a unified society. It could give new Libyan leaders some breathing room as they build their new system, while not precluding them from later trying Gaddafi for the crimes of the past.

An ICC trial in Tripoli would require resources to build or renovate court facilities. NATO or other forces blessed by the Security Council could help arrange security for defendants in custody. The ICC would require strong security, lest it become a target for remnants of the old regime. The Security Council, which was happy to refer Libya for investigation, should help now by authorising this kind of support and identifying sources of funds and expertise for the trial. At the same time, not all proceedings need to take place in Libya; pre-trial proceedings could begin in The Hague while preparations for the actual trial move forward in Tripoli.

None of this should seem extraordinary. The Nuremberg trials after World War II drew much of their power from the fact that they took place in the country responsible for the worst crimes of the 20th century. And the ICC's charter, the Rome Statute, leaves open the possibility of trials outside The Hague.

After decades of oppression and six months of war, Libyans deserve the opportunity to bring their oppressors to justice. The international community should support that, and reinforce it by assuring the basic norms of international law. For Libyans, trial by the ICC in Tripoli should be a bridge toward taking ownership of their future.

The writer is the executive director of the international human rights law programme at UCLA

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

THE ANNA EFFECT

SEEMA CHISHTI

 

The Anna effect

The daily Inquilab, published from Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur and Bareilly, writes in its editorial on August 29: "The politicians have been left with no choice except to ensure effective steps are taken against corruption. Corruption has constrained the potential of this country." It adds: "After these ongoing celebrations die down, the secret behind Anna Hazare's support will have to be revealed — was it voluntary or deliberately secured? If the latter, what were the objectives of those who secured it and why did they not come out in the open?"

Written a day before Anna announced the end of his fast, an editorial in Hyderabad-based daily, Munsif, says: "India is a democratic country where the citizens are king-makers. But it is also necessary that the people protect the honour of the elected government, the dignity of people's representatives and institutions."

The daily Siasat, published from Hyderabad and Bangalore, writes in its editorial on August 25: "It appears the government had not made any preparations to deal with this challenge... The UPA now stands exposed before the people." Delhi-based daily, Hamara Samaj, in its editorial on August 30, writes: "Whether Team Anna won or lost is not a big issue, but the fact remains the government was defeated. The most dangerous aspect of the movement is the understanding between the Congress and the BJP, their praise of Hazare and their readiness to give legitimacy to illegal and undemocratic demands by providing Parliament's seal."

Delhi-based daily Jadeed Khabar comments in its August 29 editorial: "It was the effect of the non-participation of Dalits and Muslims that Hazare ended his fast with the assistance of Dalit and Muslim girls, so that he could send the message that these two sections are also with him."

Haren Pandya verdict

The Gujarat high court's acquittal of the 12 accused in the Haren Pandya murder case has been welcomed, even lauded, in the Urdu press. Rashtriya Sahara, in its editorial on August 31, writes: "Even though the high court has held the accused guilty under Sections 307 and 120 (b), the comments made on the CBI's working need consideration. The court has said that the CBI's wide-ranging "theory" does not seem credible. Significantly, it held the investigating officers responsible for destroying the lives of so many people and wasting the government's money in the process."

White applauding the "honesty of the judiciary" in the Haren Pandya case, the daily Hamara Samaj, in its editorial on August 31, also refers to the verdict of Mumbai's special court, holding the activists of Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Jana Jagran Samiti guilty in the 2008 bomb blast case: "A message has gone to the people that it is wrong to make allegations against Muslims in every act (of terror)."

After Gaddafi

Commenting on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's appeal for an end to the war in Libya, Rashtriya Sahara writes in its August 30 editorial: "The UN is appealing to the world community to cooperate for peace in Libya, to reduce the difficulties of the US and NATO. The question is, when the US and Europe did what they wanted in Libya, isolating the world community, why there is a need for the world community now... The UN's irresponsibility that allowed the US and NATO to trample upon Libya like a camel without a rein (be-nakel oonth ki tarah)."

Noted Urdu litterateur and journalist, Hasan Kamal, in a commentary in Jadeed Khabar on August 29, writes: "After witnessing the plight of Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad must also feel his military wall will not be able to stop the wave of political consciousness that has been unleashed in the Arab countries. If Assad is farsighted, he will give up power on his own, instead of clinging on like Gaddafi. This would be good for him as well as for the Syrian people."

Compiled by Seema Chishti

***************************************


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

THE ANNA EFFECT

SEEMA CHISHTI

 

The Anna effect

The daily Inquilab, published from Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur and Bareilly, writes in its editorial on August 29: "The politicians have been left with no choice except to ensure effective steps are taken against corruption. Corruption has constrained the potential of this country." It adds: "After these ongoing celebrations die down, the secret behind Anna Hazare's support will have to be revealed — was it voluntary or deliberately secured? If the latter, what were the objectives of those who secured it and why did they not come out in the open?"

Written a day before Anna announced the end of his fast, an editorial in Hyderabad-based daily, Munsif, says: "India is a democratic country where the citizens are king-makers. But it is also necessary that the people protect the honour of the elected government, the dignity of people's representatives and institutions."

The daily Siasat, published from Hyderabad and Bangalore, writes in its editorial on August 25: "It appears the government had not made any preparations to deal with this challenge... The UPA now stands exposed before the people." Delhi-based daily, Hamara Samaj, in its editorial on August 30, writes: "Whether Team Anna won or lost is not a big issue, but the fact remains the government was defeated. The most dangerous aspect of the movement is the understanding between the Congress and the BJP, their praise of Hazare and their readiness to give legitimacy to illegal and undemocratic demands by providing Parliament's seal."

Delhi-based daily Jadeed Khabar comments in its August 29 editorial: "It was the effect of the non-participation of Dalits and Muslims that Hazare ended his fast with the assistance of Dalit and Muslim girls, so that he could send the message that these two sections are also with him."

Haren Pandya verdict

The Gujarat high court's acquittal of the 12 accused in the Haren Pandya murder case has been welcomed, even lauded, in the Urdu press. Rashtriya Sahara, in its editorial on August 31, writes: "Even though the high court has held the accused guilty under Sections 307 and 120 (b), the comments made on the CBI's working need consideration. The court has said that the CBI's wide-ranging "theory" does not seem credible. Significantly, it held the investigating officers responsible for destroying the lives of so many people and wasting the government's money in the process."

White applauding the "honesty of the judiciary" in the Haren Pandya case, the daily Hamara Samaj, in its editorial on August 31, also refers to the verdict of Mumbai's special court, holding the activists of Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Jana Jagran Samiti guilty in the 2008 bomb blast case: "A message has gone to the people that it is wrong to make allegations against Muslims in every act (of terror)."

After Gaddafi

Commenting on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's appeal for an end to the war in Libya, Rashtriya Sahara writes in its August 30 editorial: "The UN is appealing to the world community to cooperate for peace in Libya, to reduce the difficulties of the US and NATO. The question is, when the US and Europe did what they wanted in Libya, isolating the world community, why there is a need for the world community now... The UN's irresponsibility that allowed the US and NATO to trample upon Libya like a camel without a rein (be-nakel oonth ki tarah)."

Noted Urdu litterateur and journalist, Hasan Kamal, in a commentary in Jadeed Khabar on August 29, writes: "After witnessing the plight of Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad must also feel his military wall will not be able to stop the wave of political consciousness that has been unleashed in the Arab countries. If Assad is farsighted, he will give up power on his own, instead of clinging on like Gaddafi. This would be good for him as well as for the Syrian people."

Compiled by Seema Chishti

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

STOCK IN TRADE

 

The OECD trade data which shows a slowdown in growth of merchandise trade of major economies in the second quarter of 2011 is bad news. The seasonally adjusted data at current prices and exchange rates show that the growth of exports of the G7 and Bric countries has slowed down from 7.7% in the first quarter of 2011 to 1.9% in the second quarter. And the fall in imports was much sharper with the growth sliding down from 10.1% to 1.1% during the period. Among developed countries, the worst affected was tsunami-hit Japan. In the US, export growth was cut by more than half to 2.6% while growth of imports fell to less than a third. Only Germany was able to at least partially stem the trade slowdown by containing the export dip to 6.1% and that of imports to 7.4% in the latest quarter. Among Bric countries, the worst affected was India where export growth dipped down by more two-thirds to 3.5% in the second quarter of the year and imports fell to 4.6%, just around one-fifth the levels touched in the previous quarter. In the case of China, the trends were disparate. While export growth surged from 2.9% in the first quarter to 10% in the second, imports growth slipped from 11.1% to just 0.7%.

The good news is that though the slowdown in world trade will negatively impact global growth, the magnitude of the fall in global output is likely to be much slower than the fall in trade. This is mainly on account of two factors. One is that the goods most affected by a global slowdown like industrial machinery and consumer goods have a larger share in global trade than in global GDP. And secondly, global supply chains push trade several times across national boundaries during the production process and this magnifies the fluctuations in trade much more sharply as compared to the GDP.

The bad news is that the recent trends show that a slump in global trade is more likely to affect the developed countries more even as their growth still remains anaemic as the instability in the financial markets increases uncertainties. So a quick shift to more credible fiscal consolidation plans and efforts to stimulate consumption may do a lot more for a recovery in trade and global growth.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BEWARE THE CHINAMAN

It is just as well that the prime minister has appointed Anil

Ambani as the head of the Indian side of the India-China CEO's Forum, a body where tricky trade/investment issues get thrashed out at a business-to-business level—in the case of the US, the CEO Forum has been an important factor in relations between the two countries, and hopefully the India-China CEO Forum will do the same. At a time when there is a cry to 'balance' the 'unequal' trade relations between the two countries—The Indian Express carried a story on Thursday on how various government departments were formulating a plan on this which included raising import duties and using non-tariff barriers—Ambani will inject a dose of much-needed realism. Chinese telecom equipment suppliers are acknowledged to be among the best in the world, a fact that can be ascertained by their rising market shares, and there is little doubt this has played a factor in lowering telecom costs in India. Apart from spending large sums on Chinese telecom imports, Ambani has also lowered his power generation costs by importing Chinese power equipment. Generous loan agreements have accompanied the deals. Any attempt to slow down or raise costs of Chinese exports to India, it has to be kept in mind, will not be without costs—so the government's plan of action must keep that in mind.

There is little doubt the structure of India's exports to China is very different from that with the rest of the world. Primary goods comprise 13% of India's exports to the world but are 56% of India's exports to China. Similarly, while India exports mainly raw materials to China, it imports mainly manufactured goods. To the extent this is due to non-tariff barriers for India's manufactured exports, India has to approach the WTO; to the extent there is dumping, India has to prove this and levy anti-dumping duties. But a large part of this surely has to do with the fact that China is a lot more competitive than India in the manufacturing space—the procedures are a lot simpler, the work force is more educated/skilled and China's intellectual property is far superior to India's. Only becoming more competitive will take care of this imbalance.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

AUDITOR CAN'T HEAR THE TREE FALLING ON SINO-FOREST

BLOOMBERG
JONATHAN WEIL

The credit rater Standard & Poor's may have been late to throw Sino-Forest Corp into the wood chipper when it withdrew its opinion on the company's debt this week. At least it wasn't last. The end seems near for Sino-Forest. The Chinese-Canadian timber company's bonds are priced for a default. Securities regulators in Canada have accused the company of fraud and suspended trading in its stock. One question lingers: Which of the company's paid opinion merchants will be the last to step aside? Will it be a credit rater? Or will it be the company's auditor, Ernst & Young LLP in Toronto, which has yet to rescind any of its reports on Sino-Forest's finances?

So far Ernst looks like the favourite, with only one rating company left in the hunt. Think of it as a contest between giant tortoises to see which one is slower. This time-honored ritual—of market gatekeepers waiting to blow the whistle until long after a scam has been exposed—has become so familiar, we might as well revel in the spectacle.

Fitch Ratings withdrew its junk rating on Sino-Forest on July 14, six weeks after the short-selling research firm Muddy Waters LLC released a lengthy report accusing the company of fraudulently overstating its timber holdings in China. S&P pulled its rating this week after downgrading the company to CCC-, three levels above default, citing "heightened information risks". That's a euphemism for, "We have no idea what's going on here."

This leaves just Moody's Investors Service and Ernst, both of which, like S&P and Fitch, are paid by the same companies on which they render opinions. Moody's this week downgraded the company three steps to Caa1, its fifth-lowest mark. That's well into junk territory. So, at least Moody's is on record saying that Sino-Forest is a very high credit risk.

Ernst is still clinging to its position that Sino-Forest's books are clean, under the accounting profession's usual pass- fail standard. Beyond that, the firm refuses to speak publicly about its audit work for the company, whose board includes two former Ernst partners.

There's every reason to believe Muddy Waters' call was spectacularly correct. Once again, a Big Four accounting firm seems to have been caught with its pants down, having told the investing public for years that a multibillion-dollar enterprise's numbers could be trusted, only to see its imprimatur discarded by the markets and its conclusions upended by government investigators. Even the lowly credit raters, notorious for being slow to pull the trigger on dying companies, have been quicker on the draw this go-around.

Canada's main securities regulator, the Ontario Securities Commission, suspended trading last week in Sino-Forest's shares. The commission said Sino-Forest, as well as certain officers and directors, seem to have misrepresented the company's revenue, exaggerated its timber holdings and engaged in acts "they know or reasonably ought to know perpetuate a fraud".

As if that shouldn't have been enough to shake Ernst's confidence, Sino-Forest said this week that its chairman and chief executive officer, Allen Chan, had resigned, pending completion of an internal review of Muddy Waters' allegations. The company placed three other employees on leave "after certain information was uncovered during the course of" the review, without saying what that information was. In its August 28 news release, Sino-Forest said "the allegations made in the OSC's temporary order, while unproven, are of a serious nature".

Ernst's only public response has been to say nothing of substance. "We are aware of the OSC's temporary order and the company's press release, and are evaluating these developments," an Ernst spokeswoman, Amanda Olliver, said in an e-mail. "Our professional obligations prevent us from speaking more specifically about client matters."

Surely the company's officers and directors must be grateful to Ernst for keeping their secrets from the public's prying eyes. Meanwhile, the only thing investors have to go by from Ernst is the form letter it signed on March 14 attesting to the company's year-end financial statements. Whatever evidence Ernst had to support its view that Sino-Forest's books were kosher, it's hard to imagine the firm's partners could be so sure now.

Ernst does have options, aside from bracing for the inevitable years of litigation and investigations. It could resign, explain why it is doing so and face criticism for acting too late. It could withdraw its previous audit opinions. It could insist to Sino-Forest's directors that it be permitted to answer questions from the public about the work it has performed, as a condition of remaining onboard. Or it could hang on in silence, as it's doing now, and watch its reputation endure more damage.

That it's choosing the last of these approaches—and eating even the credit raters' dust in the process—reinforces the perception that Ernst fell down on the job and may have something to hide. No client could be worth this, no matter how much it's paying in fees. A plug-pulling is long overdue.

jweil6@bloomberg.net

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHO'S GOING TO FIX SEBI'S CREDIBILITY?
SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

The amount of money RBI ends up pumping into or sucking out of the market through any open market operation is usually less than 1% of the total broad money supply in the economy. But it works to give a direction to the market as banks and others read the signals carefully. The same goes for a regulator like the Securities and Exchange Board of India. It does not need, and neither does it have, the authority to clap offenders away in irons, but when it imposes a puny fine of R25 lakh on companies and brokers, the lesson is salutary.

In other words, the tap from the regulators for white collar crimes is based on the authority they command from those whom they supervise. The authority, in turn, takes years to develop through a carefully cultivated array of decisions, which are backed fully by the government of the day. That equation has got strongly impacted by the current spate of troubles at Sebi. The possible loss of authority will hurt most the retail investors of the country and consequently their faith in the ability of the market regulator to take upon itself the role of an unbiased referee vis-a-vis corporate shenanigans.

Controversies around Sebi are, however, not new. Each market scam since the 1993 Harshad Mehta one has created a demand for removing the then head of Sebi. From GV Ramakrishna to

M Damodaran, every chief has realised how hot the corner office at the market regulator is. But this is the first time, where two successive chiefs, CB Bhave and UK Sinha are in trouble apparently for things that have little to do with any market scams. Indeed, the markets are doing fine. Rather their troubles are related to the way they have gone after corporate wrongdoings or prevented them. This is where the government has possibly failed to support them.

At a time when there is a huge amount of informed discussion in the media on the over-arching role of corporates (for instance, should they enter the banking space), this is a serious perception problem. But the responsibility for the matters to have come to such a head mostly lies with the way the finance ministry has handled relations with the regulators in the past couple of years.

The current spate of accusations made by former Sebi member KM Abraham against the ministry in particular, accusing it of taking sides in corporate issues and the response by Sebi chief UK Sinha, can be traced back to Pranab Mukherjee's handling of the Sebi-Irda spat of 2010. Differences between regulators on the territory they cover are not unusual in economic literature. But the Sebi-Irda spat was singular for India as it was the first time when two financial regulators differed publicly. At that point, instead of intervening, the finance ministry strangely asked them to sort it out through a court battle. There is no reason, and certainly no precedent, in India why the courts needed to come into the issue at all, especially as successive finance ministers have assured Parliament that there is a high level committee on capital markets where all regulators are represented to sort out any differences.

To make matters worse, Mukherjee then decided to issue an ordinance, following it up with an order to settle the dispute. The ordinance was immediately objected to by RBI as it constituted a new financial sector development council to be headed by the minister. To settle this new row, the ordinance was modified to set up a sub-committee under the rubric of the council to be headed by the RBI Governor, which was in essence a reinstatement of the high level committee. The embers from that spat still linger. The latest is the emerging differences between Irda and Pfrda over which of them should regulate the pension market. It does not help that in the finance ministry, Pfrda and Sebi are under the secretary, economic affairs while RBI and Irda work with the secretary, financial services.

The loss of credibility hurt Sebi. The subsequent leaks of ministry file notings over the tenure of Bhave and Sebi members showed up the differences. Some of the companies that were to be hauled up promptly tapped these differences to try to save themselves. The issue was complicated as around the same time NSE's numero uno position in the equity market was sought to be challenged by MCX, where again going by Abraham's letter there are serious differences between the ministry and Sebi. That case, incidentally, is up for judgment in the courts next week.

The Abraham letters basically revolve around this fundamental issue, viz whether Sebi's ability to glare at corporate wrongdoers has got eroded.

Unlike other ministries, finance has had a long history of dealing with regulators. But as the setting up of the FSDC shows, in recent years it has tended to forget that history. The root of the problem lies there. That it has to face Parliament is no reason why it should usurp the role of the regulators. The government must only govern, leaving it to the regulators to resolve issues among those regulated.

As far as Abraham's accusations are concerned, there is no way they can be dismissed as trivial. If they are, there is no reason why the Sebi chief was asked to respond to them by the finance ministry and why the finance ministry in turn decided to issue a long release. Each of the Sebi members wield quasi-judicial authority and to dismiss their statements regarding some of the orders passed by them, would put under question the orders too. Surely that cannot be the government's intention.

Instead, the best course is to put every file on the issues in the domain of an investigating authority. That authority should ideally be the sub-committee of FSDC, where the Sebi chairman could recuse himself. This body has the eminence and the understanding of the financial sector that not even the CVC has, to come to a considered decision. It will also bring the clock back to where it all began, for retail investors to believe sanity has been restored in the conduct of the financial markets.

subhomoy.bhattacharjee@expressindia.com

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

SPORTS BILL STIRS HORNETS' NEST

Predictably, sports minister Ajay Maken stirred up a hornets' nest by placing an overarching National Sports Development Bill before the Union Cabinet, and then seeing it summarily rejected after strenuous objections by at least three other ministers. He has now vowed to present a new document taking into account the objections raised at Monday's meeting. Mr Maken has gone a step further, affirming the recast bill will retain three key clauses from the first draft: that all sports associations and federations must agree to come under the Right to Information Act to ensure transparency, that they must put in place a cap on the age and tenure of those holding office, and finally, that at least 25 per cent of executive committees seats in all national sports bodies must be reserved for former sportspersons and athletes. What got the goat of his senior Cabinet colleagues — Sharad Pawar and C.P. Joshi (who represent the interests of the Indian cricket board) and Praful Patel (All India Football Federation president) — is the RTI Act clause. At the Cabinet meeting that rejected the initial draft, it was labelled an "instrument of control", which was not acceptable to his colleagues holding key positions in various sports federations. In a sense, Mr Maken is walking a well-trodden path in seeking to make national sports associations accountable, particularly when almost all of them (though not the BCCI) are dependent on government funding. Earlier sports ministers have attempted to do so and come to grief, mainly over the apparent infringement of the Olympic Charter, which holds out a fair degree of autonomy to such federations.
In the past, such opposition was led by now-disgraced Suresh Kalmadi, who effectively used communiqués from the International Olympic Committee to deflect these endeavours — and in the process probably contributed to the mess that eventually enveloped the Delhi Commonwealth Games last year. But Mr Maken's draft bill certainly has put the wind up the BCCI, particularly on the question of transparency. Defenders of the board's position have a point in that it is one outfit that takes no government funding whatsoever, and this does not need to be clubbed with or treated like other associations or federations. But this is an argument that can cut two ways: the BCCI is looking to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds in seeking to represent India, yet accept none of the strings that go with the status, as the sports minister has pointed out. In any case, with neither side keen to give ground, no early solution appears to be in sight.

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

FOUR FURLONGS TO THE PROMISED LAND

UJAL SINGH BHATIA

The recent developments around the Lokpal Bill have captured the imagination of India's middle class, which clearly perceives poor governance and corruption to be a threat to its global aspirations. The middle class has demonstrated that it intends to play a decisive role in determining the terms of the national political discourse.

However, if this new-found energy is to lead to a revitalisation of the Indian democracy, it must satisfy two conditions. First, a recognition that holistic solutions can only emerge if the problem is addressed in all its complexities, rather than merely seeking symptomatic relief. Second, taking on board the pent-up frustration in the other India, which has silently suffered the consequences of misgovernance for long. The issue of land administration in India provides an eloquent illustration of such deep-rooted misgovernance and corruption.
There are, at least, four facets of land administration which are relevant to an understanding of the ramifications of poor governance and corruption.
The first is about recording and maintaining land records in a transparent, concurrent and fair manner, which provides security for landholders, sub-tenants and others with traditional rights of usage. The lack of importance accorded to this vital area of governance in most states has been truly breathtaking. The consequences of this neglect have been felt disproportionately by the poor who eke out precarious livelihoods on lands on which they often find it difficult to establish their rights.
There have been significant improvements in some states like Karnataka and Gujarat due to a combination of leadership and technology. The National Land Records Modernisation Programme (NLRMP) aims at an ICT-powered, real-time, conclusive land titling system with title guarantee, throughout the country. But whether such an ambitious objective, which requires significant legal, administrative and attitudinal changes, can be achieved against the backdrop of decades of neglect remains to be seen.
The second facet has to do with the administration of forest lands. The Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, sought to correct historical injustices by conferring tenurial and forest management rights on forest dwellers who were denied the rights for long. However, as the recent report of the national committee on the FRA highlights, the historical baggage of the colonial era forest administration which held that the forest was the property of the sovereign and the forest dweller an interloper, remains to be fully discarded. As a result, the objectives of improving livelihood security of forest dwellers and forest governance have not been achieved. An exercise that aims at establishing legal rights without a firm foundation of land surveys, measurement and demarcation cannot be expected to yield the best results.
The good intention of conferring rights on forest dwellers has in many states been negated by the faulty constitution of gram sabhas under the Panchayat Extension to the Scheduled Areas Act (Pesa), 1996. Most states have constituted gram sabhas at the panchayat level, thus diluting the authority of the real stakeholders in the governance of community resources.
The Pesa and the FRA are two of the most progressive pieces of legislation in independent India, but until their provisions are implemented honestly and without distortion, the forest dwellers will remain poor and marginalised.
The third facet has to do with the mining industry. A large part of India's mineral endowments is in tribal and forest areas where land administration is the weakest. In non-forest mineral-bearing areas, the quality of land settlement is typically poor and outdated.
In forest lands, recognition of tenurial rights has, till now, been a rare exception. As a result, forest dwellers are easily displaced when mining operations start, often resulting in their extreme impoverishment. These problems are further compounded when the mining is done by illegal operators who have no interest in the welfare of the local inhabitants or the local environment. The government's failure to rein in the mining mafias in several states has had a devastating effect on local communities.
The fourth facet is about land acquisition, an issue that has occupied much headline space in recent months. Here, too, the issue is essentially about an antiquated approach to the concept of public interest which arms the state with enormous discretionary powers to divest owners of their land. It remains to be seen whether the new enactment can strike a balance between all stakeholders, including those championing the cause of development.
The many tragic consequences of the monumental neglect of land administration constitute an important part of the essence of the failure of governance and the spread of corruption in India. The Maoist threat in many parts of the country is a direct consequence of this neglect. While elements of an enabling policy framework, as manifest in the FRA, Pesa, NLRMP and the draft Land Acquisition Bill, now exist to reverse the situation, there is a long way to go before intentions can be translated into practice. Sustained pressure from an informed civil society will be essential if this is to happen.

Ujal Singh Bhatia is a retired civil servant

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

COMEDY OF MANNERS

SHASHI THAROOR

Few things in international affairs are more agreeable, all round, than the non-official dialogues diplomats refer to as "Track-II". New Delhi played host this month to a visiting delegation of Pakistani parliamentarians, brought here by an enterprising Islamabad NGO called PILDAT (the Pakistan Institute of

Legislative Development and Transparency). The high-powered delegation, which included a vice-chairman of the Senate, a deputy speaker, former ministers and a serving information secretary of the ruling party, was in fact reciprocating a visit to Pakistan by Indian MPs in January. On our side of the parliamentary border, the meeting was co-chaired, in a commendably bipartisan spirit, by Mani Shankar Aiyar and Yashwant Sinha. I was what the Americans so delightfully call "the skunk at the garden party".
Don't get me wrong: I'm all in favour of Indo-Pak peace and bonhomie. I've seen a lot of it in my decades abroad — many is the time a Pakistani cab driver in New York has attempted to decline my money for the fare, saying that I was a brother (this of course always won him a bigger tip, but the spirit was genuine). Indians and Pakistanis overseas are almost always the best of friends, since being in foreign lands enhances their consciousness of what they have in common, which vastly exceeds what divides them. I would love to see a time when Pakistanis and Indians can cross each other's borders with the insouciance of Americans and Canadians, work in each other's countries, trade freely with each other and contribute equally to each other's films, music, clothing and creative lives, just as they did before 1947. I would be happy if that time came sooner rather than later. But I am only too aware that it's not now.
The problem with Indo-Pak Track II dialogues of the kind I witnessed in the capital this month is that they are essentially built on denial. They focus on making the visitors feel welcome, emphasise the feel-good aspects of their presence in our midst, celebrate the many things we have in common, and try to brush the real problems under a carpet (not a Kashmiri carpet, since that might provoke disagreeable thoughts). In other words, they are a self-fulfilling exercise in self-vindication. Their success depends on denying the very disagreements that make such dialogues necessary in the first place.
The event began with a somewhat odd opening panel discussion, where members of the audience rounded on the moderator, News X's Jehangir Pocha, for moderately raising some real questions, when his job had apparently been intended to be to orchestrate a paean of pious homilies to peace and brotherhood. So when I took the floor late in the next morning's session, I had been fairly warned. But after listening to several bromides from parliamentarians of both nationalities, I felt a dose of candour was necessary. So I pointed out that there were some genuine obstacles to be overcome if the peace and love we were all affirming was in fact to take root, rather than briefly blossom in the illusory sunshine of Track-II. And those obstacles all lay in Pakistan.
First, India has long been in favour of placing the Kashmir dispute on the back-burner and promoting trade, travel and the rest; it is Pakistan that has taken the view that there cannot be normal relations with India until Kashmir is settled, on terms acceptable to Islamabad. So inasmuch as there is hostility that such dialogues attempt to overcome, the hostility starts with Pakistan, which wants a change in the territorial status quo, and not with India, which is perfectly content to leave things as they are. Unless the Pakistani MPs present were willing to advocate a policy of across-the-board engagement with India despite the lack of a solution to the Kashmiri dispute, our words would be just so much hot air.
Second, the Pakistani side's tendency to equate the two countries' experience of terrorism — "we are bigger victims of terrorism than you are," one visitor said; "if you can cite Mumbai, we can point at Samjhauta," added another — omitted the basic difference that no one from India has crossed the border to inflict mayhem on Pakistan. Indians can and should sympathise with Pakistani victims of terrorism, but their tragedies are home-grown, Frankenstein's monster turning on its creator; whereas Indians have died because malign men from Pakistan, trained, equipped and directed by Pakistanis, have travelled to our country to kill, maim and destroy. There is no moral equivalence, and to pretend there is builds the dialogue on a platform of falsehood.
Third, friendship has to be built on a shared perception of the danger — of a sincere acceptance by the Pakistani military establishment that those who attacked the Taj in Mumbai are just as much their enemies as those bombing the Marriott in Islamabad. This would require more than fuzzy words from parliamentarians — it needs genuine cooperation from Pakistan, including useful information-sharing, and real action to arrest, prosecute and punish the perpetrators. The Samjhauta plotters are in jail in India, while Hafiz Saeed is still at large in Pakistan, preaching hatred.
If Islamabad genuinely shared the Manmohan Singh vision that the highest strategic interest of both countries lies in development and the eradication of poverty rather than in military one-upmanship, we could cooperate across the board, not just in trade (which would be of immense benefit to a Pakistan that currently pays a premium for Indian goods imported via Dubai, and which would gain access to the gigantic Indian market) but even in geopolitics. Until then, Track-II initiatives will feel good, but will remain on the wrong track.

Shashi Tharoor is a member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram

***************************************


THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

COMEDY OF MANNERS

SHASHI THAROOR

Few things in international affairs are more agreeable, all round, than the non-official dialogues diplomats refer to as "Track-II". New Delhi played host this month to a visiting delegation of Pakistani parliamentarians, brought here by an enterprising Islamabad NGO called PILDAT (the Pakistan Institute of

Legislative Development and Transparency). The high-powered delegation, which included a vice-chairman of the Senate, a deputy speaker, former ministers and a serving information secretary of the ruling party, was in fact reciprocating a visit to Pakistan by Indian MPs in January. On our side of the parliamentary border, the meeting was co-chaired, in a commendably bipartisan spirit, by Mani Shankar Aiyar and Yashwant Sinha. I was what the Americans so delightfully call "the skunk at the garden party".
Don't get me wrong: I'm all in favour of Indo-Pak peace and bonhomie. I've seen a lot of it in my decades abroad — many is the time a Pakistani cab driver in New York has attempted to decline my money for the fare, saying that I was a brother (this of course always won him a bigger tip, but the spirit was genuine). Indians and Pakistanis overseas are almost always the best of friends, since being in foreign lands enhances their consciousness of what they have in common, which vastly exceeds what divides them. I would love to see a time when Pakistanis and Indians can cross each other's borders with the insouciance of Americans and Canadians, work in each other's countries, trade freely with each other and contribute equally to each other's films, music, clothing and creative lives, just as they did before 1947. I would be happy if that time came sooner rather than later. But I am only too aware that it's not now.
The problem with Indo-Pak Track II dialogues of the kind I witnessed in the capital this month is that they are essentially built on denial. They focus on making the visitors feel welcome, emphasise the feel-good aspects of their presence in our midst, celebrate the many things we have in common, and try to brush the real problems under a carpet (not a Kashmiri carpet, since that might provoke disagreeable thoughts). In other words, they are a self-fulfilling exercise in self-vindication. Their success depends on denying the very disagreements that make such dialogues necessary in the first place.
The event began with a somewhat odd opening panel discussion, where members of the audience rounded on the moderator, News X's Jehangir Pocha, for moderately raising some real questions, when his job had apparently been intended to be to orchestrate a paean of pious homilies to peace and brotherhood. So when I took the floor late in the next morning's session, I had been fairly warned. But after listening to several bromides from parliamentarians of both nationalities, I felt a dose of candour was necessary. So I pointed out that there were some genuine obstacles to be overcome if the peace and love we were all affirming was in fact to take root, rather than briefly blossom in the illusory sunshine of Track-II. And those obstacles all lay in Pakistan.
First, India has long been in favour of placing the Kashmir dispute on the back-burner and promoting trade, travel and the rest; it is Pakistan that has taken the view that there cannot be normal relations with India until Kashmir is settled, on terms acceptable to Islamabad. So inasmuch as there is hostility that such dialogues attempt to overcome, the hostility starts with Pakistan, which wants a change in the territorial status quo, and not with India, which is perfectly content to leave things as they are. Unless the Pakistani MPs present were willing to advocate a policy of across-the-board engagement with India despite the lack of a solution to the Kashmiri dispute, our words would be just so much hot air.
Second, the Pakistani side's tendency to equate the two countries' experience of terrorism — "we are bigger victims of terrorism than you are," one visitor said; "if you can cite Mumbai, we can point at Samjhauta," added another — omitted the basic difference that no one from India has crossed the border to inflict mayhem on Pakistan. Indians can and should sympathise with Pakistani victims of terrorism, but their tragedies are home-grown, Frankenstein's monster turning on its creator; whereas Indians have died because malign men from Pakistan, trained, equipped and directed by Pakistanis, have travelled to our country to kill, maim and destroy. There is no moral equivalence, and to pretend there is builds the dialogue on a platform of falsehood.
Third, friendship has to be built on a shared perception of the danger — of a sincere acceptance by the Pakistani military establishment that those who attacked the Taj in Mumbai are just as much their enemies as those bombing the Marriott in Islamabad. This would require more than fuzzy words from parliamentarians — it needs genuine cooperation from Pakistan, including useful information-sharing, and real action to arrest, prosecute and punish the perpetrators. The Samjhauta plotters are in jail in India, while Hafiz Saeed is still at large in Pakistan, preaching hatred.
If Islamabad genuinely shared the Manmohan Singh vision that the highest strategic interest of both countries lies in development and the eradication of poverty rather than in military one-upmanship, we could cooperate across the board, not just in trade (which would be of immense benefit to a Pakistan that currently pays a premium for Indian goods imported via Dubai, and which would gain access to the gigantic Indian market) but even in geopolitics. Until then, Track-II initiatives will feel good, but will remain on the wrong track.

Shashi Tharoor is a member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SMALL POWER PROJECTS

 

An imaginative proposal has been floated by the Minister for Higher Education for conducting a survey for the feasibility of harnessing waters of nullahs and streams in Jammu region in order to produce electricity from small hydro power projects for local consumption with less cost of production. It is now an admitted fact that there is the State has no shortcut to the solution of power shortage. Demand is heavy and supply is not likely to increase in future in commensurate with the demand. There have been serious flaws in the entire policy of power generation in our state despite the fact that the state is rich in power resources. Perhaps there is now realization among the authorities that dreaming of big hydro power projects should be replaced by more practicable and realistic schemes with quicker results. Our mega power projects have remained elusive for a number or reasons. If the completion of a mega power projects procrastinates, the cost of production increases manifold. Without denying their utility in case these projects were completed on time, we need to diversify our search for meeting power requirements of the State. Since it is the policy of the government to bring electricity to each and every home in the State, one can visualize the quantum of power that is needed to meet this target.
Alternatives have to be looked into and complementary schemes have to be undertaken. It is good that a cabinet rank minister has called a meeting of senior officials of Power Development Department and senior officers concerned and placed the proposal before them for consideration. He wants a survey to be conducted about the feasibility of harnessing the water of nullahs to produce electricity for local consumption which would reduce the load on main power supplying channels. It will be reminded that some of the European countries like Netherlands have successfully tried the windmills for generating power. The US has also imitated the plan in some of its states like California where windmills have been set up and power generated. We don't have strong and permanent winds as Netherlands have but we have the alterntive source of energey that is water. If the study of harnessing the available water is conducted with all earnestness, which we hope will be the case, then the State government can take a decision to do the experiment with generating power through small hydro power stations. If the scheme is declared feasible, it would help reduce power deficit to considerable extent. In case the experiment succeeds, it can be expanded to cover large rural areas of both Kashmir and Jammu regions, at least the hilly regions. There is urgency in pushing the survey through. Power deficit is a big roadblock in the quest for industrialization of the State. Unless we have assured supply of power, no industry can grow and develop into a viable project. And unless we have industries, poverty, unemployment and economic debility cannot be overcome. It is something like vicious circles. Authorities should have taken up the case of small hydro power stations much early. Nevertheless believing that it is never too late to mend, the initiative should be welcomed with the hope that the experts will be able to give teeth to the proposal.

***************************************


DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SMALL POWER PROJECTS

 

An imaginative proposal has been floated by the Minister for Higher Education for conducting a survey for the feasibility of harnessing waters of nullahs and streams in Jammu region in order to produce electricity from small hydro power projects for local consumption with less cost of production. It is now an admitted fact that there is the State has no shortcut to the solution of power shortage. Demand is heavy and supply is not likely to increase in future in commensurate with the demand. There have been serious flaws in the entire policy of power generation in our state despite the fact that the state is rich in power resources. Perhaps there is now realization among the authorities that dreaming of big hydro power projects should be replaced by more practicable and realistic schemes with quicker results. Our mega power projects have remained elusive for a number or reasons. If the completion of a mega power projects procrastinates, the cost of production increases manifold. Without denying their utility in case these projects were completed on time, we need to diversify our search for meeting power requirements of the State. Since it is the policy of the government to bring electricity to each and every home in the State, one can visualize the quantum of power that is needed to meet this target.
Alternatives have to be looked into and complementary schemes have to be undertaken. It is good that a cabinet rank minister has called a meeting of senior officials of Power Development Department and senior officers concerned and placed the proposal before them for consideration. He wants a survey to be conducted about the feasibility of harnessing the water of nullahs to produce electricity for local consumption which would reduce the load on main power supplying channels. It will be reminded that some of the European countries like Netherlands have successfully tried the windmills for generating power. The US has also imitated the plan in some of its states like California where windmills have been set up and power generated. We don't have strong and permanent winds as Netherlands have but we have the alterntive source of energey that is water. If the study of harnessing the available water is conducted with all earnestness, which we hope will be the case, then the State government can take a decision to do the experiment with generating power through small hydro power stations. If the scheme is declared feasible, it would help reduce power deficit to considerable extent. In case the experiment succeeds, it can be expanded to cover large rural areas of both Kashmir and Jammu regions, at least the hilly regions. There is urgency in pushing the survey through. Power deficit is a big roadblock in the quest for industrialization of the State. Unless we have assured supply of power, no industry can grow and develop into a viable project. And unless we have industries, poverty, unemployment and economic debility cannot be overcome. It is something like vicious circles. Authorities should have taken up the case of small hydro power stations much early. Nevertheless believing that it is never too late to mend, the initiative should be welcomed with the hope that the experts will be able to give teeth to the proposal.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN'S EID GIFT TO BEIJING

BY K.N. PANDITA

 

China's Asian client-state Pakistan is faced with unprecedented ire from Chinese authorities for giving room to terrorists on her soil and then exporting it to Xinjiang, or Eastern Turkistan, contiguous to PoK territory. China's official media on Tuesday prominently highlighted Kashghar government's statement indicting Pakistan-trained militants in violence in the city, while demanding stern action to deal with terrorism.
Commentators say this is the first time that Beijing has formally named Pakistan as source of terrorist organizations with agenda to export religion-based terror to Muslim dominated regions.
Xinjiang shares a border with Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK); China blames the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) for fomenting trouble in the province. This organization is based in Germany.
An English Chinese newspaper carried the editorial from a Kashghar newspaper blaming that ETIM activist were receiving training in terrorist camps in Pakistan and then infiltrating into Xinjinag clandestinely obviously after crossing the eastern border of Xinjiang with Pakistan Occupied Kashmir territory. Beijing issued a strong warning to Pakistan to stop training of ETTM.
Given the agenda of Pakistan-based but US banned Theo-fascist organizations, there is every likelihood that incursions of these terrorists and their affiliates will increase in days to come, not only in selected towns of Xinjiang but also in almost all parts of Xinjiang. The Pakistan-based Islamist organizations claim they have a strong reason to instigate the Uighur Sunnis of Xinjinag. Drastic demographic change in which the Uighur Muslims have been outnumbered by Hans Chinese is the major irritant. Moreover making the Uighur Muslim community compatible with Communist life style in Xinjiang also adds fuel to fire.
It appears that China is taking a strong notice of Pakistan giving freedom to its home-bred terror to expand fangs in China's eastern province where it has openly said the Uighurs are receptive to subterfuge.
When clashes occurred in Khotan and elsewhere a month back, Chinese President had called President Asif Ali Zardari and alerted him against the elements of ETIM who, he emphasized, be not given any quarter in Pakistan.
This seems to have upset Pakistan civilian government. In a unique move, the Pakistani President, accompanied by the Prime Minister of Pok and the Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, and additionally by his son and daughter, paid a visit to Urumqi, the capital of the disturbed province of Xinjiang. He prayed in a mosque in Urumqi on the day of Eid. This has been considered as Eid gift of Pakistan to China.
Before we proceed to unravel the purpose of this mysterious visit and especially the composition of the high powered delegation, let us remind our readers that China has been eyeing space in the Gilgit-Baltistan region under illegal occupation of Pakistan. Building of Karakorum Highway over tortuous Karakorum Mountains, indeed a marvel of engineering, was the first indication how seriously Beijing considered the region to her strategy in the Eastern province. Pakistan has already ceded over five thousand square kilometers of Siachen area to China to facilitate connectivity to Tibet.
Early this year reports came in that China had sent more than 17,000 troops of PLA into Gilgit-Baltistan. China and Pakistan both publicized it as workers engaged in infrastructure building in the region. Of course, Beijing did give out some of the main plans of providing infrastructure in the area.
But observers have not minced words in explaining that China has been converting the Karakorum Highway into a strategic link and dotting it with missile bases aimed at Indian strategic installations and right up to the Gulf area where the western countries have significant naval presence.
Neither the administration of Gilgit-Baltistan area nor of PoK has issued a word of protest against the inroads of Chinese troops into their territory. Obviously, China wants to have a strong role in Afghan crisis and the connectivity gives her the facility to monitor the situation in Af-Pak region from very close quarters.
There has not been any direct reaction either from Washington or from Moscow to this strategic move of China in the foothills of the Karakorum, the Pamirs and the Hindu Kush. The US is bogged with inconclusive war in Afghanistan, and Moscow studies the situation by juxtaposing it to what is obtainable in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, two countries contiguous to Gilgit-Baltistan region.
Reverting to Pak President's visit to Urumqi, this is the first time that a Pakistani President has visited the place which has caused much irritation between his country and its bosses in Beijing.
More significant are two things; one is that the President is accompanied by the PM of PoK and the CM of Gilgit-Baltistan. This is something very interesting as none of them visited the region earlier in their official capacity.
The PoK Prime Minister has been given a proper visa by the Chinese and not a visa on a separate sheet of paper as they are doing with Kashmiris. This means that Beijing has formally recognized PoK as part of Pakistan and not a separate entity. This de-recognizes PoK's claim that the struggle in Kashmir Valley is for independence of entire pre-1947 State. At the same time it not only neutralizes but makes the Kashmir valley so - called freedom movement meaningless and irrelevant. Chinese visa to PoK Prime Minster is forthright acceptance of division of J&K along the LoC which was the real purport of Shimla Agreement.
Carrying the PM of PoK and the CM of Gilgit-Baltistan with him to Xinjiang and offering a prayer in an Urumqi mosque reflects a shrewd and double- edged move by the Pakistan President. It means to assure the Chinese authorities that the heads of the government of the region wherefrom they suspect ETIM training and infiltration are committed to curb these anti-China activities. In other words the President wanted the Chinese authorities to elicit an undertaking from both that they would ensure no violation of Chinese territories and no fomenting of communal and ethnic disturbances in Xinjiang is allowed to flourish on their native soil.
Secondly, this is an indirect hint to the Uighur Muslims of Xinjinag that Pakistan is not unconcerned about their problems and plight like demographic change, suppression of freedom of faith, discrimination and other debilities. It depends on how the Chinese take the visit in its totality.
However, in conclusion one or two inferences merit clarification. By the gimmicks of Pak President's visit in accompaniment of two henchmen is not going to be taken very seriously by the Chinese. Beijing knows the limitations of the Government in Islamabad and Beijing also knows the prime motivators behind the terrorist groups in Pakistan like LeT or JM or TTP. At the same time Beijing knows or should know that these ultras are not going to show any relent in their mission of fomenting widespread disturbance in Xinjiang on religious count and thus pave the way for what they visualize the Caliphate from the Dardanelles to the Straits of Malacca. Beijing will have to re-think her entire relationship with Pakistan.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

REORGANISATION OF ANIMAL SECTOR

BY TAHIR KHATANA

 

Much has been written and spent on developing animal sector of Jammu and Kashmir. A state which was exporting live animals and animal products just six decades back when it acceded to India and governed in a democratic way is a net importer now. The decay in the affairs of animal sector has resulted into a vicious cycle of destruction of our exclusive animal heritage not found any where in the world. We have the best Pashmina producing goat, bakerwali dog, a prolific disease resistant Poonchi sheep and huge population of native buffaloes and cattle. Apart from it we have skilled communities exclusively engaged in livestock rearing like the pastoralists, bakwerwals/gujjars, paharies, chopans, gaddies and changthangies. Livestock rearing has the economic linkages to poor unprivileged communities, landless, marginal, small farmers and social groups. There are huge stakes involved in production of animals and animal products as per a surveys conducted recently there are more than 80 % people rear animals in the state and more and more unemployed educated young people and corporate houses are interested in indulging in animal husbandry - to open more and more animal farms - the government on the other hand has discussed the issue on the floor of the assembly for the last two years to give inputs and tax concessions to boost this vital sector of economy contributing 11% of the GDP.
Unfortunately, the things haven't moved an inch and the rot which was set in the 60 is going on unabated. The Animal Husbandry department was bifurcated and an independent functional Sheep Husbandry department in the 60's was created and funded liberally. This proved counterproductive to the interests of animal farming communities of the state and the production is declining day by day.
Department of Sheep Husbandry started breeding projects predominantly for sheep and started with wool projects by importing exotic Merino breed from abroad and this policy too failed. The deficiency in meet production is met with huge import of live sheep and goats from all over north India involving Rs. 2000 crores annually. The policy went astray as it was imposed on the farmers who were more interested in breeding goat. The very survival of exotic fragile breed of Australia and European goat was not taken into account and this breed couldn't survive in harsh environmental temperatures of the State. With massive import of S/G breeds also came the dangerous diseases which took their toll on a massive scale and now the conditions are so worse that our own magnificent breed and sheep and goats are threatened and need conservation by breeding them in specialised farms under close control of scientists.
The flaws were deliberately allowed to ripe to harvest corruption in the two departments and no policy was devised to stem the rot. The degradation of forests and pastures coupled with rise of human population and climate change has pushed this sector in a blind alley. Now, the Wool Board has collapsed and its employees have been deputed to other departments to draw their pays as no wool is available to sustain the activity. The same is the story of Milk federation and slaughter houses. There is a nexus of retail and wholesale Kothidars in the business of Sheep import and sale of retail meat in the state with political patronage and lucrative business interest in whole of the business. The Idgha slaughter house situated on the outskirts of the Srinagar city was not allowed to function by the vested interests and the machinery worth corers of rupees has gone waste. The apathy of the Government in this vital sector gave an opportunity to the corrupt officers to get massive commissions in purchase of medicine, equipment, feed and fodder and transfer of Government official and their attachment from one place to another. The whole show of the sector is run by medicine and meat mafia. Now, things can't move to the right directions and people who don't fit in this unholy nexus are removed or transferred to insignificant posts within few months.
The practice of community farming is existent here from ancient times in shape of chopans of Kashmir valley and ajaries or bakerwals but, due to decreasing profits and increasing fodder prices have forced these communities to switch to other activities. A multi crore project to breed a meat producing Sheep varsity Dorper was started few years back at Jammu by advanced embryo transfer technology but serious corruption charges are being investigated by allotting this project to a Canadian firm through an Indian front man. All the schemes conceived by the government in animal sector have been tried but failed miserably. The way out is the - reorganisation of this sector on scientific ways by merging the two departments into a single unit of Animal Husbandry department and relocating the overlapping dispensaries and VAS offices to uncovered areas of the state, covering each panchyat by a trained veterinary doctor to streamline the administration and scientific breeding and treatment of farm animals, doing away with medicine purchases by the department and instead providing tax free quality drugs through community medicine outlets in each panchayat to remove the medicine supplier mafia, removing middleman in procuring and sale of milk and meat through self help groups and cooperatives, commissioning of slaughter houses in all the municipalities and corporations, managing wool board and government farms on private public partnership basis.
Animal sector is a vital engine of growth in the economy of Jammu and Kashmir and needs priority review by the government. A sub committee of cabinet is needed for the reorganisation and revamping the sector in a time bound manner. The local communities to monitor the attendance and social auditing of the animal sector with strict government control on day to day basis has to be initiated to regain the lost glory of the sector and to provide employment to the unemployed.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FAILED BY OUR POLITICIANS

ON THE SPOT

BY TAVLEEN SINGH

 

Now that Anna Hazare's supporters have disappeared from the streets of Delhi serious political analysis of the Anna effect is beginning to happen in political circles. Still reeling from the Ramlila reality show we were subjected to after the government made the inexplicable mistake of arresting Anna politicians in this city are now beginning to question what happened and why. The thing that puzzles most analysts more than any other is why a government that has some of the most intelligent, educated ministers in it should have behaved like a bunch of amateurs facing the first political crisis of their lives. The question is not easy to answer but I am going to give it my best shot.
To do this we need for a moment to go back to 2009 when after the Congress Party won more seats in the Lok Sabha than it has done in twenty years it triumphantly formed a coalition government, known popularly as UPA-2, without the encumbrance of needing the support of a powerful group of Marxist MPs. In its first incarnation in government please remember that the United Progressive Alliance was so dependent on the support of these Marxist MPs that it could not move without their permission. The Marxist support became so tyrannical that when they threatened to pull the government down over the Prime Minister's decision to go ahead with a civilian nuclear deal with the United States he stood his ground. This moment could be described as Dr. Manmohan Singh's finest as prime minister and in the eyes of many Indian voters it was the prime minister's image that played an important role in how they voted in 2009. Sadly, the Congress Party's in-house analysts did not see things this way and convinced the party's royal family that it was their 'charisma' and their good works for the poor (read NREGA) that had won them the most seats the party has won since that election in the summer of 1991 when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.
Sonia Gandhi believed them and after the victory of 2009 concentrated on preparing her son to take up his inheritance. Rahul Gandhi was everywhere and the media followed slavishly in his wake documenting the nights he spent in the humble huts of Dalits, his speeches to University students in different cities and the many populist excursions he made on the spur of the moment. Sometimes into the wilds without his security and sometimes doing normal, urban things like hopping on to a local train in Mumbai. These escapades always made front page news and Rahul was, without question, the Darling of the Indian media.
While all this was going on the prime minister retired quietly into the background making it abundantly clear that he did not even have the right to appoint his own ministers and officers. His ministers flaunted their allegiance to 10 Janpath and the prime minister's role in running the government continued to diminish. Until last November's election in Bihar. In this most crucial of assembly elections not only did the Gandhi family's charisma fail miserably but in the constituencies that Rahul visited personally most Congress candidates lost their deposits.
This humiliating defeat coincided with the Commonwealth Games scandal and the 2G scandal and Rahul's leadership was seen to be less than adequate. But, not nearly as bad as it has been in the face of Anna's accidental, urban revolution. When he finally spoke in the Lok Sabha, at the height of the Ramlila maidan reality show, he read from an uninspiring speech that sounded as if it had been written for him by his college tutor. Grandiose phrases were used to conceal content so banal that gloom quickly spread through the ranks of the Congress Party and the consensus was 'Pappu fail ho gaya'. This phrase was the most popular on the city's grapevine provoking laughter in drawing rooms and such deepening gloom in political circles that by the time I sat down to write this the political bazaar was rife with rumours of the government's demise. One of the people who passed the rumour on to me said, 'Nobody wants an election so its more than likely that a new government will be formed out of the present Lok Sabha.' When I checked this out with a BJP friend the reaction was surprise but this is because our leading opposition party is, if anything, in worse shape than Congress.
It is on account of this that a party filled with some of the most corrupt politicians in the land is backing fully an anti-corruption law that is dangerously totalitarian. Anna's team seeks powers to police, investigate, tap telephones, seize property and punish. These powers are based on the assumption that the thousands (between 20,000 and 50,000) of officials who will be needed to man the vast machinery that the Lokpal will create will all be angels. During the course of the debate in the Lok Sabha it would have been interesting to hear someone point out that if all officials and politicians in India were deemed to be corrupt by definition then where were the Lokpal's officials going to come from. Another planet? Unfortunately, the only purpose of the debate seemed to be to come up with a temporary solution that would persuade Anna to end his hunger strike which by then was on its twelfth day.
Anna's team members, meanwhile, now spend their time flaunting their new celebrity and behaving as if they were the only moral and ethical people in India. The only person who has dared puncture their smug bubble is their fellow traveler, Arundhati Roy, who declared on CNN-IBN last week that the NGOs run by Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi received huge funds from abroad. She went further and pronounced that Anna Hazare had only been used by his team and that he was an 'empty vessel'. Wow. In the more than twenty years that I have known Arundhati I have never agreed with anything she has ever said, written or supported. This time I do. Even though I do not see Anna's movement from her leftist viewpoint. Anna is no leader but has managed to become one because our political parties at the moment are filled with heirs and courtiers rather than real politicians. The only good thing that may come out of Anna's movement is that our political class wakes up to its dismal situation.

 

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

EDITORIAL

CANNON FODDER

CHILD LABOUR THRIVES DESPITE LAWS

 

If only laws could solve a problem, India's children should have all been in schools instead of toiling in inhuman conditions all over the country. But tough laws in this regard seem to be there only for ornamental purposes, which hardly act as a deterrent. The unfortunate consequence is that the country has the ignominy of having six to 12 crore child labourers, with 1.2 lakh new ones entering the formidable army every year. Things have come to such a pass that the laws, which are fairly tough and comprehensive, are rarely put to use. The Minister of Labour, Mr Mallikarjun Kharge, has himself admitted in the Lok Sabha that the country of 1.2 billion people had witnessed only 8,364 inspections this year which found 239 violations. Then comes the real shocker. There has been no conviction at all under the child labour prevention laws!

 

Child workers are everywhere but somehow they are invisible to the enforcement agencies. Why, they can be seen working even in canteens of some government offices. Some of them may be even serving tea and snacks to the very officials whose responsibility it is to carry out raids on the establishments employing children, but when it comes to looking into their own backyard, they turn blind. Interestingly, many children were "rescued" by officials during the "Child Labour Eradication Week" from June 12 to 18, but the fervour died down after that.

 

There are three reasons for this sorry state of affairs. One is that the officials are notorious for their lack of sense of responsibility. The second is that the sight of child labourers is so very common that the hearts of some just do not melt at their sorry plight. The third and most important factor is that there is such grinding poverty in some areas that if children do not work, they do not even get to eat. So, when it is a choice between school and life, many are forced to opt for the latter. While on the one hand, the labour laws have to be implemented diligently, on the other, the country has to at least ensure two square meals and meaningful education for those who are "forced" not to work.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TAPPING SOLAR POWER

HARYANA SHOWS THE WAY

 

Farmers in Haryana's Rohtak district are offered a solar pump costing Rs 8.25 lakh at just Rs 3.28 lakh to irrigate their fields under a Centrally subsidised programme. Even this may not tempt farmers, given the low returns from agriculture. Despite heavy subsidies the sale of solar devices has not picked up. For one, solar energy-producing devices are expensive, requiring a large one-time investment. Not many have such ready cash to spare. Farmers with low incomes are averse to experimenting with clean energy. The investment-return ratio has to be in their favour. Then the users need a certain level of education and training for the operation and upkeep of solar instruments.

 

There are hurdles and challenges but none can dispute the need for promoting renewable sources of energy like hydro, biomass, wind and solar. India is still heavily dependent on coal and oil, which are polluting and the domestic reserves need to be supplemented with imports. Worldwide the emphasis is on green, clean energy and India too is pursuing this goal. It plans to spend Rs 30,000 crore to enhance its clean power generation capacity this year. Under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission there is a target to produce 22,000 MW by 2022. Foreign firms too are evincing keen interest in India's alternative energy sector and have invested Rs 4,933 crore between 2009 and 2011.

 

While the maximum share of funds is invested in tapping wind potential in India's coastal areas, northern India is suitable for solar and organic power for which government investment is still inadequate. Institutions are installing solar water-heating systems and solar photo voltaic lighting systems are also visible, but at the individual level the progress is limited. In the predominantly agricultural states of Haryana and Punjab biomass can be a major source of power for which the Central and state agencies need to make coordinated efforts. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

TURBAN TO THE FORE

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM SHOULD BE ACCOMMODATED

 

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken a bold step which shows the city's commitment to religious freedom, by signing into law the Workplace Religious Freedom Bill. It asks employers to make "reasonable accommodations" for the religious beliefs of their workers. The bill found support among a number of religious groups in New York. City Councilman Mark Weprin, who sponsored the bill, is quite right in saying that the new law would strengthen religious freedom in the workplace by allowing employees to not have to choose between practicing their religion and performing their job. It also imposes a heavy civil penalty against defaulting employers.

 

The new law will be applicable to the city itself, and thus now New York's Finest will become more inclusive by bringing in turban-wearing Sikhs into their ranks. The New York City police department had been under fire because it did not, till now, allow its Sikh trainees to wear a turban and exempt them from cutting their facial hair. Similar was the case with the NY Transit Authority, and both bodies were sued by Sikhs who had been discriminated against.

 

Post 9/11 discrimination against Sikhs wearing turbans has been on the rise, within and outside the US. Mayor Bloomberg's act gives rise to hope that a wind of change has started from Manhattan and that it will have an impact on federal organisations and other city and state governments in the US. The European Union in general and the French government in particular should also take a cue from the note of accommodation that Mayor Bloomberg has stuck. Any ban on wearing a turban violates Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which maintains that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, worship and observance. New York has shown the way, others too should follow. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

THE ANNA HAZARE CHALLENGE

WHERE CONGRESS WENT WRONG

BY KULDIP NAYAR

 

I TOO had tried for conciliation between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Gandhian Anna Hazare on the Jan Lokpal Bill (anti-corruption ombudsman). This was on the fifth day of Hazare's fast and his movement against corruption had brought thousands of people on the streets throughout the country.

 

Soon after I heard Dr Manmohan Singh saying on television networks that the government was open to a "discussion or dialogue" on the Lokpal Bill placed before Parliament, I saw an aperture of opportunity. That very afternoon, I went to meet Hazare whom I knew a bit. I found him prepared for a compromise provided the three basic conditions were substantially met.

 

The first condition was the independence of the judiciary. I told him to have a Lokpal exclusively for the judiciary. Hazare readily agreed to it. The second was the Prime Minister. Hazare was willing to divide the office in two parts, one relating to governance and the other to acts of corruption. He only wanted to pursue the instance of corruption if prima facie a case was established as enunciated in the Lokpal Bill, Hazare's version. The third condition was the independence of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Hazare agreed to place the organization under the Supreme Court until the modified Lokpal Bill was passed in Parliament.

 

I did not speak to the Prime Minister directly, but someone who knows him personally conveyed what Hazare had conceded. The Prime Minister's reply was not helpful. He said that Hazare should go before the Parliament Standing Committee which was discussing the matter. The plea that he should invite Hazare to a special sitting of all political parties was also rejected by the Prime Minister. I find that what the government has agreed to after three days of my initiative is more or less the same. The Prime Minister and the CBI will come under the ambit of the Lokpal. The judiciary will be independent of the Lokpal, under a judicial commission to be finalised in consultation with Hazare.

 

One thing that came out clearly from the brief exercise that I undertook was Hazare's humility and the

government's arrogance. And I do not know why it believes that by running him down it would be in a better position to deal with him.

 

First, the Congress party's Young Turk, Mr Manish Tewari, abuses him. Mr Tewari is followed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal who do not use foul language but make fun of Hazare. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was more cynical and characterises his methods as "misconceived". The Prime Minister should know that Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, went on indefinite fasts many times and offered Satyagrah against the British rulers during the freedom struggle.

 

As if abuses were not enough, the government and the Congress have told the nation, no more gullible, that Hazare is being helped by a foreign hand. Will it give us any proof since the government talks about transparency day in and day out? Indira Gandhi, who imposed the Emergency and detained 100,000 people without trial, called Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan, the spirit of the movement at that time, a CIA agent. The Congress was defeated at the polls as it looks happening in the 2013 general election.

 

All this is probably history. But the nation should also learn a lesson. One cannot fix the date or insist publicly on treading a particular path. The consensus is important and there has to be a give and take so that the majority and the minority are brought around to accept the compromise formula.

 

The Congress has never liked dissent or defiance. It treats every popular movement as a law and order problem. That is the reason why it has not yet understood the rationale of any popular outburst. Hazare is only the face of people's resentment against the government. The government is still oblivious to the countrywide resentment against it. Either its intelligence agencies are deluding it or it is merely reflecting the mentality of dictators.

 

For the youth, the movement has been a catharsis of their failings, not having ideals any more or not following any value-based system. It has seen in Hazare's movement a chance to restore the line that Indira Gandhi had erased between right and wrong, moral and immoral. They have rediscovered the Gandhi cap which has represented self-sufficiency and our assertion against the rulers' suppression. The Congress should have commended the awakening among the youth instead of using wrong tactics to defame the movement.

 

The youth is confused by Ms Aruna Roy's open criticism of Hazare's Lokpal Bill. He himself realises some of its limitations. But the activists cannot afford to show division in their ranks when the government is out to crush a movement that has caught the people's imagination. I respect Aruna's integrity and the tremendous work she has done to get the Right to Information Act on the structure. But I felt disappointed that she had to voice her opposition at a time when the movement was facing the government's hostility. I am glad she has put before the nation a third draft of the Lokpal Bill. But it too suffers from many limitations.

 

Foreign media again got it all wrong. It has been conveying that India was going the way of the Arab countries and might throw out the government. This is not true. The Arab nations have never enjoyed democracy. People there want freedom to govern themselves. In India, people have that freedom already they express themselves the way they want. They carry no guns like the Arab countries. The behaviour of America or the UK after 9/11 has been undemocratic and anti-people. Because of their fear of terrorists, the two nations have accepted the restriction on individual freedom and adopted such laws as make a mockery of their traditional right to say.

 

Dr Manmohan Singh could have probably retrieved the situation if he had been his own master. Since the return

of Congress Secretary-General Rahul Gandhi from America, where his mother, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, has had an operation for cancer, the entire strategy of the government has changed. Power has shifted to 24 Abkar Road, the Congress headquarters.

 

Today, everything around the Prime Minister has fallen and he is a lonely person. But he has to blame himself for the dismal surrender by the government. He refused to make up with Hazare when the latter was willing to meet him more than half way. The Prime Minister can take the stand that he had to take along the Congress President and his Cabinet members. But posterity will blame him for having kept the nation on tenterhooks for a week unnecessarily.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CONDITIONS APPLY!

BY B.K.KARKRA

 

CORRUPTION really runs deep in our system and people are absolutely fed up with this state of affairs. It, however, is not limited to politicians and bureaucrats alone. It permeates our entire society.

 

A few years back, I purchased an airconditioner from a company that promised that I would be provided three-day free stay for two in hotels at different destinations within or outside the country according to my choice. After the purchase, the shopkeeper assured me that I would soon receive vouchers from the company in performance of their promise.

 

As they appeared to have conveniently forgotten about their commitment, I reminded them about it and they did send me the vouchers loaded with their conditions. I was to pay a substantial amount towards service charges, give them a long notice with three choices in terms of destinations and the time period and certain premium periods were out-of-bounds for me. I complied with all these.

 

There was no response from the representatives of the company till the last moment. It was abundantly clear to me that besides the escalated price of the AC with the lure attached to it, it had also misappropriated some more money in the name of service charge for the promised tour. The notice that I gave them for their fraudulent ways was taken by them in their stride.

 

I had to thus file a case against them in the District Consumer Forum which has its own requirements. I was first told to have my petition retyped leaving sufficient space on the top for the forum to do some scribbling and also attach a postal order for Rs 100 with it. I complied with this all. The forum then demanded that I should produce the copy of the advertisement of the company offering free stay for tours. This had already been trashed by me. But, as an advocate, I was able to convince the forum that the promise to provide free stay at various destinations was, indeed, made by the company.

 

They kindly agreed to issue a notice to them. However, their office insisted that they were out of funds and I should issue the notice on their behalf myself. They, however, agreed to put the stamps of the forum on the envelopes.

 

This finally made the company to offer me free stay for the promised tour and also five thousand rupees towards expenses. I, thus, got even with them so far as my own case was concerned. But, all this left me thinking that it was a rather easy getaway for the fraudulent company. They should have been proceeded against criminally, as they must have made substantial money by duping others. It was thus abundantly obvious to me that corruption was not limited to the governments — the whole of the country was knee deep in it. This is how Anna has emerged as the darling of the nation today.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

VIOLENCE MOST FOUL

RAPE, A WIDESPREAD CRIME AGAINST WOMEN, SHOWS LITTLE SIGNS OF ABATING. THE UNBEARABLE TRAUMA THAT A RAPE VICTIM HAS TO BEAR IS FURTHER COMPOUNDED BY THE INSENSITIVE LAWS AND THE "COULDN'T CARE LESS" ATTITUDE OF THE LAW-ENFORCING MACHINERY. UNTIL RAPISTS ARE DEALT WITH SEVERELY, THE OFFENCE WILL CONTINUE TO BREED AND GROW
SHREE VENKATRAM

 

Rape is one of the most heinous crimes, impacting the victim for life. Given its enormity, it should be considered next only to murder. Sadly, it has not been given the attention it needs by social scientists, law makers and justice dispensers. When two Class IX boys attempt to rape a Class I girl, as in a Bathinda school recently, it is time society introspected. What kind of signals are we sending out to our young?

 

The National Crime Records Bureau had termed rape "India's fastest growing crime". We have complete figures for 2009, when according to the NCRB, a total of 21,397 rape incidents were reported countrywide. Add to this, 25,741 cases of kidnapping and abduction of women and 38,711 cases of molestation, and you get 235 reported cases of molestation/rape/ abduction of women every day. These are just the reported cases. Most, especially molestation and rape cases, go unreported in the name of guarding 'family honour'.

 

Convoluted sense of justice

 

Let us examine some recent sentences proclaimed by our justice dispensers and the messages these have sent out to society. A few months ago the Supreme Court decided to let off three farmers, who had been convicted of gang raping a woman in Ludhiana district. A sessions court had awarded a 10-year imprisonment to them. The Punjab and Haryana High Court had upheld their conviction, following which, the criminals appealed to the Supreme Court. Their sentence was cut short after a few years under a "compromise formula" that entailed paying Rs 50,000 each to the victim.

 

The rapists had appealed to be let off as "they and the victim were happily married to their spouses" and "wanted to live peacefully". The fact that the victim is "happily married" is no credit to the rapists. Did the judges ascertain the happiness quotient of the criminals' marriages? Did they speak to their wives? Men who rape, make for draconian and violent husbands. As far as "wanting to live peacefully is concerned", it is easy to say that after committing a violent crime. The fact that they can indulge in rape makes them dangerous criminals. If they could do that to one woman, they can inflict themselves on another. How does the court ensure that this does not happen? The National Council for Women has asked for a review of the case for it sets a bad precedence of reaching a compromise in rape cases, where conviction rates are extremely low anyway.

 

Wrong signals embolden rapists

 

It is not surprising that such a judgement should come from our highest court. The former Chief Justice of India, K G Balakrishnan, is reported to have said that society and the state must respect the decision of a rape victim if she chooses to marry the rapist. His words as reported by a newspaper: "Due regard must be given to their personal autonomy since in some cases victims may choose to marry the perpetrator." Imagine the trauma of a woman having to spend her life with a man who has raped her? It is like inflicting a lifelong sentence of mental and physical cruelty on her, while the man goes scot free. And then, what would prevent the rapist from marrying the victim to escape punishment and then deserting her? This kind of a mindset furthers the warped view society holds that marriage is the be all and end all for a woman. And that it is better to marry a man who has raped you than not marry at all!

 

Now look at the punishment a panchayat in Ghaziabad meted out to an rapist uncle: It ruled that five smacks with a shoe was enough punishment for raping his niece. In another case, also in Ghaziabad, a five-year-old was raped by her 19-year-old cousin. But the family chose to keep quiet, not even getting medical attention for the little girl.

 

She was sent to school the next day where she complained of abdominal pain and died. It was only then that the parents approached the police. The girl's mother said she had raised an alarm when she saw the cousin raping the child. The family elders had caught him, slapped him and let him off. Consider now how these family elders and panchayats handle youngsters who marry outside their caste group or marry within their own gotra. The punishment has ranged from social ostracism to even death! Obviously, rape is considered a minor crime compared to violation of caste and kinship lines.

 

Compounding victims' trauma

 

The law as it stands today is weak and archaic. Apart from woefully inadequate sentences, it only recognises vaginal rape and does not believe that children below 12 can be raped. Women's groups have been demanding its amendment but though decades have passed, the bill is still in a draft stage.

 

The Aruna Shanbaug case illustrates the complete warpedness of our justice system. While Aruna, the nurse who was raped and maimed for life has been lying in a hospital bed for the last 37 years, the rapist, ward boy Sohanlal Walmiki, is a free man today. He is said to have changed his name, moved to Delhi with his family where he works in a hospital. He was imprisoned for only seven years for attacking her and stealing her jewellery, but not for rape as it was anal and not vaginal rape he indulged in as Aruna was menstruating at that time. What kind of justice is this?

 

The death penalty awarded to rapist and murderer Santosh Kumar Singh was commuted to a life sentence because of what is termed as "mitigating circumstances". Among them were that he was "young, just 24 years old" at the time of his crime. At 24 years, one is an adult! The fact that he was "married" and "the father of a girl child" were the other "mitigating" factors. Now, how does this help either the wife or the daughter? They have to fend for themselves anyway and live with the knowledge of having a rapist and murderer as a husband and father for the rest of their lives. In fact, the law should give the wife and children of a rapist the choice to walk off from the relationship with no legal binding on their part, while retaining all their rights on the family property. If the wife has the option of being legally freed of the relationship, she can think of starting her life again. It is extremely traumatic for a young girl to grow up knowing her father is a rapist. In fact, such men are best kept away from their daughters.

 

We have also had judgments where the sentence was commuted when the rapist passed a civil services exam. What is the message that went out? That if you pass the exam, all will be forgiven and you will occupy an important government post. In fact, the opposite should be the case. Convicted rapists who have served their term in jail should be debarred from holding a government job.

 

Need for unorthodox methods

 

The law must acknowledge that rape mars a person for life. The condition has been recognised as Rape Trauma Syndrome where the victim suffers from phobias and nightmares and feels emotionally crippled, unable to form meaningful relationships and friendships for life.

 

Kamini Lau, Delhi's additional sessions judge, recently called for a public debate on "chemical and surgical castration" of child rapists and serial offenders as an alternative punishment. She said this while delivering a sentence for a man who raped his minor step daughter for four years.

 

Chemical castration is being used in parts of United States and many European countries, with the rapist's consent. Sweden, France and Germany are among them. In Poland it is mandatory. A province in Argentina is the latest to adopt it. It involves an injection of an anti-pregnancy drug every three months to lower libido and uncontrolled sexual impulses. There is much evidence in the medical and psychiatric world that a rapist cannot be cured unless there is a medical intervention. It is time to act. There can be no compromises with a rapist.

 

The writer works in the development sector 

 

 

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

COLUMN

TIME TO COME CLEAN

MR ABRAHAM DESERVES A HEARING AND AN EXPLANATION

The charge of government interference in the functioning of the Securities and Exchange Board of India made by its former member K M Abraham is serious and he deserves a fairer hearing from the powers that be in New Delhi than has been the case so far. To paint him as a disgruntled and corrupt element, because he was denied an extension of term and had invested in an apartment in Mumbai built by someone who had business dealings with the National Stock Exchange, as the Union finance ministry has done, is both unfair and unconvincing. It is shocking that when Mr Abraham approached the then Union Cabinet secretary and the principal secretary to the prime minister for help, the correct thing to do by a member of the Indian Administrative Service, he was asked to beseech the very person against whom he was complaining, namely Omita Paul, advisor to Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Whatever the facts of the case, and both the charges and counter-charges require further investigation and clarification on the part of the government, the unseemly spat between the capital market regulator and the Union finance ministry was uncalled for and was a highly retrograde development. At a time when there is so much public concern about good governance and transparency in government functioning, and worries are being expressed about the independence of regulators and autonomous organisations, this kind of interference and attack is regrettable.

If the charges levelled against Mr Abraham by the finance ministry through a press release earlier this week are true, then the ministry itself owes an explanation as to what action it took before Mr Abraham went public with his criticism. The entire episode raises two important questions about public policy and the functioning of the finance ministry. First, there is the larger issue of whether appointments of regulators and heads of autonomous institutions should be made on the basis of a "three plus two" principle, under which an initial appointment for three years is followed by an extension of two years. Former finance minister Jaswant Singh did the right thing when he discontinued this principle in the case of the Reserve Bank of India Governor and gave Y V Reddy a full five-year term. If governments are uncomfortable granting a five-year term to one person, then the appointment should be made for a fixed period of only three years. To use the "three plus two" principle as a way of keeping regulators on a short leash and rewarding them for "good behaviour" with an additional two years is not a healthy practice. Second, l'affaire Abraham once again draws attention to the role and functions of an "advisor" in the finance ministry. Mr Mukherjee would do well to clarify the role of an advisor and her administrative jurisdiction in dealing with officials of the ministry, of agencies under the ministry and regulatory institutions. In the absence of such a clarification, vested interests could make a mountain out of a molehill. The finance ministry is a key instrument of central government policy and functioning. If the ministry adopts good governance practices, it would inspire the rest of the government to emulate it.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

GENERAL AND GENERALISTS

AN IAS VS COS EGO CLASH SHOULDN'T GET POLITICISED

Despite the clear delineation of the line of command between India's civil and military leadership, a clash of egos between chiefs of staff (CoS) and senior civil servants has been a recurrent problem for India's political leadership since the days of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Many an army general has clashed with a defence secretary and vice versa. Sometimes the armed forces leadership has directly clashed with the political leadership. Such differences of opinion are understandable and should normally be handled through established codes of civil-military conduct. It is, however, regrettable that a purely administrative and institutional matter pertaining to the procedure for ascertaining the date of birth, and hence the longevity of tenure, of Army Chief General V K Singh, is being sought to be politicised by General Singh. His public statements, and some recent statements by other senior defence staff, are clearly outside the acceptable norms of conduct, given India's civil-military relationship. General Singh has every right to petition and seek a change of his date of birth, but he also has the duty to adhere to existing systems and not have them questioned in the name of civil-military jurisdiction and raising questions about public support for one institution or another. The government is duty-bound to take a view based on established procedure and that should be the last word. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did well not to entertain the politicisation of this issue by a group of members of Parliament who sought to submit a memorandum on behalf of the army chief.

Though the army chief is clearly in the wrong on the manner in which he has been lobbying his case and deserves to be upbraided for his attempt to invoke the name of Anna Hazare, the fact also remains that the civil and political leadership in the Union defence ministry has failed to respond to the needs and hopes of the armed forces. More importantly, the mindless bureaucratism and file-pushing proceduralism that have come to grip the Union defence ministry in recent years have also contributed to a souring of civil-military relations. Other developed country democracies offer a larger role to their armed forces leadership in policy making. In India the obsessive and jealous guarding of turf by joint secretaries and lesser officials in the defence and foreign ministries has resulted in shutting out, or stunting the role of, armed forces leadership in national security planning, strategic policy making and military diplomacy. While successive national security advisors seem to have understood the new policy role that chiefs of staff must play, the defence ministry remains a laggard. Perhaps the time has come to develop a new framework for civil-military relations so that the armed forces are re-assured and the talent within the forces is used more effectively in national security, defence and diplomacy.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

THE PAIN BEHIND CREATIVITY

THERE ARE STORIES BEHIND THE STORIES WE SEE AND ENJOY

MADHUKAR SABNAVIS

Each time I watch the video of "The making of Aladdin" (the 1992 Disney version) – I've seen it over 50 times – it gives me goosebumps. It is as entertaining as the full feature film but definitely more insightful for a professional like me. Apart from the fact that a well-known story can be retold very charmingly, the video provides a great perspective on creativity.

First, inspiration comes from unusual places – reflecting the true meaning of creativity – which connect seemingly unconnected things to create something completely new. The visualisation of Aladdin was inspired by M C Hammer; the portrayal of Jasmine by the younger sister of the animator; and the representation of the wrongdoers Jafar and Iago was based on a cobra and a parakeet.

Second, there is much perspiration before the final inspiration. It's idyllic to believe that creativity is the product of a "flash in the mind". That is actually true, in a literal sense. However, before the flash there is deep immersion into facts and data from which the "flash" is sought to come up with something new. The look and feel of both the characters and the set-up of the film emerged after the director and the animators immersed themselves in over 1,800 pictures of the Arabic world and studied the art and craft of both calligraphy of the time and famous caricature artists. What we see is a final concoction of connections that makes it look both authentic and different from what we have seen in the past!

Third, the final creative output – the film – was a product of bringing together many bits and pieces done by individual artists and put together by the director. There were individual animators for each character in the film; and voices, music and backgrounds were all brought together to create a magical experience of a film for a viewer by the vision and craftsmanship of the director. Every individual did his own piece and the director – like the orchestra conductor and composer – painstakingly put the notes together so that the audience could see his final vision and dream.

Eminent ad film maker Prasoon Pandey provides an interesting perspective on the role of detail in film making. When you cast real people with very distinctive faces, their faces reflect a backstory of the life of the character that is often not understood openly by viewers but is decoded unconsciously. For a candy commercial set in a barber's shop, he got the set designer to design not just a barber's shop but also a place that was perhaps first a pharmacy and was then transformed into a barber's shop by the next generation, thus giving it character. It may at one level look like a hairdressing salon, but the pains into the design reflect a character that a viewer may not articulate but can definitely feel!

The power of detail is well illustrated in the now legendary story of K Asif, the maker of the epic film Mughal-e-Azam. He ordered a pair of special shoes from London, supposedly costing upwards of Rs 10,000, in the 1950s, for his Salim to wear on screen. When the producer asked him for how many minutes it would be seen, he said nonchalantly that it wouldn't be seen at all, but Salim had to wear the shoes to walk with a royal air and be seen as truly royal!

Simply put, there is a lot of detail and pain that goes into any creation — be it organisation building or products or advertising. When physical products are made – like a car or a mobile phone or a shampoo sachet – visuals of factories and assembly lines come to mind, giving the product idea substance. However, when it comes to creative forms, like films or advertising, the final output doesn't reflect the gore that has gone into it. The story behind the story is often lost in the glamour and glitz of the output. The attitude of "casual brilliance" of many creative people adds to the belief that creativity is quite easy. Not surprisingly, many clients are insensitive to the time and resources needed to put a high-quality advertising campaign together. Tight deadlines and budget crunches affect the quality of the final output.

This brings me to the point of collaboration — a paradox that creative minds would need to grapple with in times to come. Creativity – conceiving the idea – has often been an individual exercise. In the traditional media world, bringing the idea to life was relatively clean and simple. Advertising could work like manufacturing units, the only key "manufacturing" partners being photographers or film makers. However, as we move into a multimedia, specialised world of technology, channel and messaging are merging and so are ideas. The new-age media is evolving all the time with new possibilities and understanding the possibilities is important while generating ideas. No one can do everything single-handedly. And the process of "creation" from ideation to execution is no longer about people sitting in an agency conjuring up ideas and sourcing partners for execution. Ideas emerge through active collaboration with multiple partners, though the ownership of the idea will remain with the originator (and co-ordinator), like the director of Aladdin. A communication idea, in the coming age, is a product of combustion among many specialists and then craftsmanship by the creative leader. Traditional manufacturing can still outsource parts of process once the product idea is patented; however, in advertising it has to be a process of "connect and collaborate" to get the appropriate output. This is one more gore – part of the story behind the story – that needs to be understood. Ideas are not created in isolation but through a complex web of people working together to make them happen. Much of this collaboration doesn't happen within a "formal" structured organisation. It often takes place with people coming together on a project basis and working together to provide a solution to a problem.

As we enter into a new era of creativity, it is worthwhile to recall a story behind another masterpiece — Michelangelo's fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The work was carried out in extremely uncomfortable conditions; he even had to work with his head tilted upwards. It took four years to put the power and beauty of the nine scenes from the Genesis together.

There are stories behind the stories we often see and enjoy. We need to appreciate the effort that goes into their craftsmanship.

The author is country head, discovery and planning, Ogilvy and Mather India Views expressed are personal madhukar.sabnavis@ogilvy.co  

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

PUBLIC LOSS, PRIVATE GAIN?

IF THERE IS NO LOSS TO THE GOVERNMENT IN THE 2G SCAM, AND TELECOM FIRM OWNERS HAVE MADE NO MONEY, WHAT REALLY IS THE CBI PROBING?

BHUPESH BHANDARI

So the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI has said that it does not have any evidence of a money trail between Sanjay Chandra of Unitech and former telecom minister A Raja to suggest a quid pro quo. Mr Chandra and Mr Raja are in jail over the so-called 2G spectrum scam. Unitech conspired with Mr Raja, the allegation goes, to get telecom licences (and inexpensive spectrum) ahead of others, and then made pots of money by selling a majority stake to Telenor of Norway — the money that should have accrued to the government was fraudulently pocketed by Mr Chandra. But now, after CBI's confession, the conspiracy theory looks shaky.

The lawyers of Mr Chandra, and those of Shahid Balwa of Etisalat DB, have been shouting from the rooftops that they did not sell a single share in their venture — what they sold was fresh equity to overseas partners, which results in the money flowing into the company and not into their personal coffers. So there was nothing for them to gain from "trading in spectrum".

A few other things also don't quite add up. One, CBI has yet to file its third and final charge sheet on the issue; it now says that it will do so by September 15, after having missed earlier deadlines. As a result, trial has begun, even though investigations are going on! Two, one charge sheet names all: Mr Raja, Mr Chandra, Mr Balwa and 14 others. Was there a grand conspiracy hatched by all of them to deny the government what was rightfully its money? There is nothing in the charge sheet to suggest there was collusion between Mr Chandra and Mr Balwa, who are in a sense business rivals.

Also, Mr Raja is in the dock for handing out spectrum cheap to 12 companies (under new licences as well as cross-over licences), which caused the government a serious "loss" of revenue. Why have just two companies, Unitech and Swan (now Etisalat DB), been charge-sheeted for this loss? These two, according to CBI's calculations, caused only 22 per cent of the loss of Rs 30,984.55 crore to the exchequer. What about the others? Hasn't it been standard practice in the industry to offload equity to strategic partners at a premium?

In fact, the whole question of the loss to the government because of the spectrum sale looks murky now. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in November last year, quoting the assessment of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India or Trai, that 2G spectrum was really 2.75G spectrum and hence not very different from 3G spectrum, and if the same yardstick as last year's auction of 3G spectrum is used, the loss could be as high as Rs 1,76,645 crore. This was more than what anyone had imagined in one's wildest dreams and far ahead of any other scam in size — many times more than Bofors, Satyam and Commonwealth Games put together.

But is that the right thing to do? Didn't the telecom operators who bought 3G spectrum in the auction overpay? Many of them have acknowledged that the auction drove up the prices, and the revenues that have resulted do not justify those high prices. So, was CAG right to use 3G spectrum prices as the benchmark for calculating the loss in the sale of 2G spectrum?

There is a further twist to it. In 2008, CBI had said that the loss caused by Mr Raja was of the order of Rs 20,000 crore. It then revised the figure to Rs 30,984.55 crore in its charge sheet filed earlier this year. (The Enforcement Directorate, on its part, has put the loss at Rs 40,000 crore.) CBI also asked Trai to look into the number. It now transpires that Trai has communicated to CBI that it is not possible to arrive at the amount that the government could have got had it chosen to auction the spectrum.

Trai had said, as late as in August 2007, (the Department of Telecommunication under Mr Raja had handed out the licences in January 2008) that auction was not the right way to give out spectrum. An auction, the argument went, would push up the price of spectrum and thus put the newcomers at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the incumbents. This also ran the danger of making telecom services expensive. In no directive or policy paper was it ever mentioned that the government should use 2G spectrum to fill its coffers.

It is a matter of record that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in Parliament that there was no loss from the sale of 2G spectrum. The point was reiterated by Home Minister P Chidambaram, who was at that time the country's finance minister, and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal. So, if there is no loss to the government, and Mr Chandra and Mr Balwa have made no money, what really is under probe? Whose brief does CBI really hold? It's quite possible that there was some impropriety and irregularity in the award of licences — which must be investigated and those guilty should be brought to book. But that matter is different from all the talk of public loss and private gain.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

MARUTI'S LABOUR PAINS

GOOD CONDUCT BONDS AND CONTRACT WORKERS WON'T HELP

SHYAMAL MAJUMDAR

The management of Maruti Suzuki may have every reason to feel miffed with workers at the Manesar plant since they have hit the company when it hurts the most. The latest standoff comes at a time when India's largest car maker has just launched an upgraded model of the Swift ahead of the festive season. Also, it's just about two months since a 13-day strike at the plant crippled production, as a result of which Maruti lost 12,600 cars valued at about Rs 630 crore.

But it's debatable whether the management's insistence that all workers must sign a "good conduct bond" is the ideal way of solving the crisis. The bond says workers would follow discipline, not get involved in absenteeism, not resort to go-slow tactics, follow the production principle and not sabotage production or indulge in activities that may hamper normal production.

But let's look at the legality. Schedule 5 of the Industrial Disputes Act says "to insist upon individual workmen, who are on a legal strike to sign a good conduct bond, as a pre-condition to allowing them to resume work is an unfair labour practice". What could queer the management's pitch further is the fact that the workers at the Manesar plant have not called a strike — illegal or otherwise.

The Maruti management says tough action (which includes suspending 16 workers and dismissing 12 technician trainees) was warranted because workers were sabotaging production and deliberately causing quality problems in the vehicles produced at the plant last week and that the situation has reached a stage at which it was directly harming customers' interest and trust. The company has since sealed its premises.

The quality issues are undoubtedly grave: several vehicle doors fell off on the assembly line because they were not properly clamped, wiring harnesses had cuts, bodies had dents and critical components were improperly fitted. Between August 23 and 25, Manesar was supposed to produce 3,700 units. The actual production was around 1,570 units. Of that, only 969 units received quality clearance, that is only 62 per cent cars produced.

There is no quarrel with the fact that these are serious charges, but where the company has probably erred is in thinking that "behaviour bonds" will solve the problem. In the past, such attempts have been held to be an act of "force" and "coercion" by the courts.

It was no surprise, therefore, that the trade unions were quick to point out the illegality of the lockout and the conduct bond. The New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) has pounced on the management by saying Maruti has failed to disclose its actions as required by the Companies Act, 1956 and other related legislation. Until the end of the working day, the management had made no disclosure including to the stock exchanges, which "companies are duty bound to make and was thereby intentionally sought to keep away from the markets, what is in every sense of the term, price sensitive information," the union has said.

Some of these allegations are huge exaggerations, but the Maruti management could have handled the problem with more care and better HR planning. For example, it is strange that the company is openly talking about resuming production in the Manesar plant with the help of 200 ITI-trained people who will be employed on a contract basis. It is also ironic that the management is banking on fresh contract workers to restart operations in the plant, given the fact that one of the main demands of the unions during the strike in June was permanent absorption of contract workers. Maruti's Manesar factory already has a total of 2,500 workers, of which 40 per cent are contract or temporary workers. These workers are now becoming aware of their rights and want at least the same working conditions and social security benefits as regular workers.

The hard reality is that Maruti's is nothing but a political crisis and no amount of one-upmanship by the management or the unions will help resolve the issue. The Haryana government has so far insisted that the Maruti labour problem is nothing more than a political conspiracy by the Left parties to incite industrial unrest in the state. That may be true, considering that one of the major unions has been seeking affiliation with the All India Trade Union Congress, affiliated to the Communist Party of India.

So finally, there has to be a political settlement of the issue. "Good conduct bonds" and using contract labour can hardly be long-term solutions for Maruti's labour pain.

According to market research firm J D Power, the Indian auto industry already lacks as many as 300,000 skilled workers. And in labour market efficiency, India ranks 92nd among 139 nations in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index 2010-11. Politicking over cases such as Maruti will only speed up the slide towards rank 139.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

TRICKS OF TRADE

T S VISHWANATH

Environmental protection must not become an ally for countries to boost market access for industrial goods

Can countries protect the environment while advocating and practising policies that liberalise trade in goods and services? The Doha Work Programme of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) calls for "enhancing the mutual supportiveness of trade and environment" and broadly called for negotiations on three issues: (i) the relationship between existing WTO rules and specific trade obligations set out in multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs); (ii) drawing out procedures for regular information exchange between MEA secretariats and the relevant WTO committees and; (iii) working on the reduction or, as appropriate, elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to environmental goods and services.

The Committee on Trade and Environment in the WTO has held discussions on these issues. But the main issue that has been of interest to industry across the globe has been on the reduction or elimination of tariffs on environmental goods and services.

This issue has been given some thought in a recent paper by Singapore at the WTO. The paper titled "Promoting Mutual Supportiveness between Trade and Climate Change Mitigation Actions: Carbon-Related Border Tax Adjustments" takes a broad look at several issues related to trade and environment.

One area of focus in the paper that needs considerable amount of debate and discussion to address emerging market access issues for concluding the Doha Round will be the issue of identifying environmental products on which duties can be reduced or eliminated over the next few years.

Countries have looked at various approaches to identify the products that can be listed for tariff reduction or elimination. These include a list approach, the project approach, the request-offer approach and the hybrid approach. Singapore supports the hybrid approach, which it claims combines the benefits of the project approach and the request-offer approach. However, a hybrid approach can also lead to confusion on the products to be included. India has supported a project approach.

Even as negotiators may be of the view that progress has been made in the negotiations over the last decade and some of the issues have been sorted out, there may be a need to look at some important issues closely so that industry remains tuned to the current situation. Since many critical negotiations in the Doha Round have remained moving targets due to some major countries bringing in proposals, the issue of tariff reduction or elimination on environmental goods also needs another look.

To begin with, it is important to fix the issue on whether there would be a reduction or elimination of tariffs. Given the fact that there have been divergent views on the criteria to be adopted to identify the products, countries may first agree to the fact that unless proved necessary for some products, there would only be a reduction of tariffs in majority of cases. This may help countries move quickly in finding a solution to identifying the list of products. There could be a debate on what should be the level of reduction based on the applied tariffs on that product in each country.

Second, the focus has to be on which products protect the environment and not about market access for industrial goods. Industry has been of the view that many of the products on the list approach were not even close to being termed an environment product. The criteria have to be that the product's use will help protect the global environment and not boost market access for the largest exporter of that product.

Third, there is a need to ensure that technology transfer for high-technology products should be looked at so that developing and least developed countries do not lose out because most of the products identified are high-technology products that are produced in the developed world. The modalities of the technology transfer can be worked out to help the companies that spend for developing these high-technology products.

There is no doubt that countries have to be vigilant about protecting the environment and if trade liberalisation can aid in that effort then the WTO can play a role on the issue. However, if environmental protection becomes an ally to boost market access for products then there is a need to step back and reconsider the issue. This issue can be a low hanging fruit for negotiators and a good confidence builder for the Doha Round if countries approach it pragmatically.

The author is Principal Adviser with APJ-SLG Law Offices

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

SPORTS BILL STIRS HORNET'S NEST

 

Predictably, sports minister Ajay Maken stirred up a hornet's nest by placing an overarching National Sports Development Bill before the Union Cabinet, and then seeing it summarily rejected after strenuous objections by at least three other ministers. He has now vowed to present a new document taking into account the objections raised at Monday's meeting. Mr Maken has gone a step further, affirming the recast bill will retain three key clauses from the first draft: that all sports associations and federations must agree to come under the Right to Information Act to ensure transparency, that they must put in place a cap on the age and tenure of those holding office, and finally, that at least 25 per cent of executive committees seats in all national sports bodies must be reserved for former sportspersons and athletes. What got the goat of his senior Cabinet colleagues — Sharad Pawar and C.P. Joshi (who represent the interests of the Indian cricket board) and Praful Patel (All India Football Federation president) — is the RTI Act clause. At the Cabinet meeting that rejected the initial draft, it was labelled an "instrument of control", which was not acceptable to his colleagues holding key positions in various sports federations. In a sense, Mr Maken is walking a well-trodden path in seeking to make national sports associations accountable, particularly when almost all of them (though not the BCCI) are dependent on government funding. Earlier sports ministers have attempted to do so and come to grief, mainly over the apparent infringement of the Olympic Charter, which holds out a fair degree of autonomy to such federations. In the past, such opposition was led by now-disgraced Suresh Kalmadi, who effectively used communiqués from the International Olympic Committee to deflect these endeavours — and in the process probably contributed to the mess that eventually enveloped the Delhi Commonwealth Games last year. But Mr Maken's draft bill certainly has put the wind up the BCCI, particularly on the question of transparency. Defenders of the board's position have a point in that it is one outfit that takes no government funding whatsoever, and this does not need to be clubbed with or treated like other associations or federations. But this is an argument that can cut two ways: the BCCI is looking to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds in seeking to represent India, yet accept none of the strings that go with the status, as the sports minister has pointed out. In any case, with neither side keen to give ground, no early solution appears to be in sight.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

DEGREES OF INNOVATION

 

A four-year degree course in innovation and hands-on learning in India is too perplexing to be welcomed outright and too positive to be dismissed forthwith. It appears that colleges now will attempt to break the mould of school years of rote. But hold up there. When was the last time you heard of someone with a degree in inventiveness? The fact that it is to be a degree course itself implies the uncomfortable strait-jacket of curriculum. No idea expands in a suffocating narrowness. The greatest inventors didn't need such degrees; most, indeed, were known as crackpots. Nikola Tesla, the winner of the War of Currents whose theories and patents made AC current possible, dropped out of two important universities. Despite his pioneering work, towards the end of his life he was dismissed as a mad scientist by colleagues of more conventional thought processes. No one has since heard of his defamers, but he is honoured today with the tesla, the unit for a magnetic field. The greatest experimentalist of them all, Michael Faraday, was the same; he barely went to school, forget college, and today the farad, the unit for capacitance, is named after him. Even Edison. The last untrained genius India produced was Srinivasa Ramanujan, whose letters to the mathematician G.H. Hardy led eventually to more unsolved problems than solved ones. Invention doesn't need a degree. Its only requirement is the freedom to think. Okay, so most people don't have the IQ of a genius. But can you really teach innovation? If so, Delhi University should consider head-mounted light bulbs instead of those funny convocation hats.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

RAJIV KILLING CASE: KEEP POLITICS OUT

 

The Madras high court granting an eight-week stay of execution to the three convicts on death row for helping to assassinate former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi will leave many questioning it, although it is evident that there is something quite seriously wrong with the system at present. The three — Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan — were convicted by the Supreme Court in 1999. Their guilt cannot thus be a matter of conjecture, as many in Tamil Nadu are now trying to suggest. The three sought a presidential pardon after being sentenced. It is a sad commentary that it took Rashtrapati Bhavan close to 12 years to decide to confirm the death sentence and deny clemency. Since so much time has elapsed, the counsel for the convicts have pleaded that their clients had undergone deep "mental agony" and should be spared death. Their plea is that the death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment. If this is granted, we may be quite certain that the three will then seek discharge from prison on the grounds that they have already been in prison for 20 years since being committed, following the dastardly crime. It is clear enough that Parliament should step in and lay down that the President must take a view on clemency pleas within a stipulated time so that there is no scope for absurdities to be entertained, as we are now witnessing in Tamil Nadu. Twelve years is long by any stretch of the imagination. In effect, the delay has been that of the Union home ministry, which has to advise Rashtrapati Bhavan on such matters. L.K. Advani, Shivraj Patil and P. Chidambaram, who have held that charge in this period, have some answering to do. We also do not know if Rashtrapati Bhavan made enquiries with the home ministry in this matter and in respect of other long-pending cases. The President cannot in such matters remain a passive recipient of advice. It is a great pity that political elements in Tamil Nadu have summoned parochial and communal grounds to intervene in this discussion. It is this that has given rise to the political sentiment that parties like the DMK and MDMK are seeking to irresponsibly spread. By implication, such elements are suggesting that the Tamil people were being sought to be penalised for the crime of killing a former Prime Minister. The passage of the resolution in the state Assembly urging commuting of the SC verdict unfortunately invokes the same imagery. Under our law, individuals are charged with a crime, not their communities. If the matter is not allowed to rest on this premise, we will be opening a Pandora's box.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

WHAT TO DO WITH GADDAFI

 

Libya's rebel leaders say they want to try Col. Muammar Gaddafi, if and when he is captured, in Libyan courts. In principle, Libyans deserve the satisfaction that only domestic justice can bring. National trials would advance the rule of law and allow Libyans to fully own their political transition. One problem: the International Criminal Court (ICC), based 1,400 miles away in The Hague, has already issued arrest warrants for Col. Gaddafi, his son and second-in-command Seif al-Islam, and his intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi. The United Nations Security Council, recognising that Col. Gaddafi's alleged crimes were not just against Libyans but against humanity, asked the ICC in February to investigate the situation in Libya. Now the ICC legitimately wants to try the three for atrocities committed since the uprising in Libya began last winter. Some argue that the new Libyan government would be legally bound to transfer Col. Gaddafi and his associates to The Hague. Others argue that the ICC must defer to Libyan authorities if they are willing and able to try Col. Gaddafi fairly in their own courts. A better option should satisfy both ICC partisans and the new leaders of Libya: allow the ICC to try those indicted, but to do it in Libya. As important as national trials are, post-Gaddafi Libya would, at least in the short term, lack the infrastructure necessary for such complex prosecutions. As in Iraq soon after Saddam Hussein was ousted, the willingness to adhere to basic due process could be severely tested. The ICC, however, has the experience, expertise and legal infrastructure to try mass crimes. It has put significant investigative muscle into documenting crimes committed since mid-February. A fair trial process could start fairly soon. Where the trials should be held is another question. Trial in The Hague would face limitations. ICC proceedings normally take place far from the scene of the crime, in a foreign language, often according to rules and procedures that may be impenetrable to victim communities. And the court has had difficulty educating local communities elsewhere in Africa about its work, a problem that didn't occur for the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Phnom Penh, which are hybrid courts that have elements of international and national law and personnel. An ICC trial in Tripoli would have practical and symbolic benefits. Most important, it would be closer to the communities that most need to see justice done. It could involve more Libyans in the proceedings, a step that would afford the ICC greater access to victims and give young Libyan lawyers and other professionals experience with a modern system of justice. Trial in Tripoli, with significant Libyan participation, could also signal a new direction for Libya, one that favours the rule of law and integration with the institutions of international life. It could foster criminal prosecutions of lower-level perpetrators and truth-and-reconciliation processes at the national level, as well as investigations of any serious crimes committed by rebel forces, a signal that the new government believes in fairness within a unified society. It could give new Libyan leaders some breathing room as they build their new system, while not precluding them from later trying Col. Gaddafi themselves for the crimes of the past four decades. An ICC trial in Tripoli would undoubtedly require substantial resources to build or renovate court facilities. Nato or other forces blessed by the Security Council could help arrange security for defendants in custody, and the ICC. At the same time, not all proceedings need to take place in Libya; pre-trial proceedings could begin in The Hague while preparations for the actual trial move forward in Tripoli. None of this should seem extraordinary. The Nuremberg trials after World War II drew much of their power from the fact that they took place in the country responsible for the worst crimes of the 20th century. And the ICC's charter, the Rome Statute, leaves open the possibility of trials outside The Hague. After decades of oppression and six months of war, Libyans deserve the opportunity to bring their oppressors to justice. The international community should support that kind of effort, and reinforce it by assuring the basic norms of international law. For Libyans, trial by the ICC in Tripoli should be a bridge toward taking ownership of their future. David Kaye is the executive director of the International Human Rights Law Programme at the University of California, Los Angeles

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE TEXAN RAINMAKER

 

I happened to spend several weeks in Texas earlier this year, while the Lone Star State lay under the pitiless glare of an unremitting drought. After a protracted arid interval, the state's immodest governor, Rick Perry, announced that he was using the authority vested in him to call for prayers for rain. These incantations and beseechments, carrying the imprimatur of government, were duly offered to the heavens. The heavens responded by remaining, along with the parched lands below, obstinately dry. Perry did not, of course, suffer politically for making an idiot of himself in this way. Not even the true believers really expect that prayers for precipitation will be answered, or believe that a failed rainmaker is a false prophet. And, had Perry's entreaties actually been followed by a moistening of the clouds and the coming of the healing showers, it is unlikely that anybody would really have claimed a connection between post hoc and propter hoc. No, religion in politics is more like an insurance policy than a true act of faith. Professing allegiance to it seldom does you any harm, at least in Republican primary season, and can do you some good. It's a question of prudence. Or is it? Since his faintly absurd excursion into inspirational meteorology back in the spring, Perry has begun to show signs of starting a religious auction on the Right, with himself as the highest bidder. His Day of Prayer and Fasting on August 6 took the form of a rally of the faithful assembled under the big tent of The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis. It featured traditional groups like the American Family Association and also less familiar and even more consecrated outfits such as the New Apostolic Reformation. More interestingly, it was the near-equivalent, in time and space, of Perry's announcement of his intention to run for the presidency. We are therefore justified in saying that religious rhetoric is not merely decorative or incidental to his campaign. As usual, though, there is some built-in wiggle room. In 2006 he said that he believed the Bible to be inerrant. He also said that those who did not accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour would be going to hell. Pressed a little on the sheer wickedness and stupidity of that last claim, the governor did allow that he himself wasn't omniscient enough to be sure on such doctrinal matters. He tells us that he is a "firm believer" in the "intelligent design" formulation that is creationism's latest rhetorical disguise, adding that the "design" could be biblical or could have involved something more complex, but is attributable to the same divine author in any event. Whether he chooses to avail himself of the wiggles or not, Perry can be reasonably sure that the voting base of the theocratic right has picked up his intended message. In this same auction, his chief conservative rivals are somewhat disabled. Mitt Romney is in no position, and shows no inclination, to campaign on matters spiritual. His own bizarre religion is regarded as just that by much of the mainstream, and as heretical at best by the evangelical Christian rank and file. Advantage Perry — at least among Republican voters. Republican Michele Bachmann, if she is still seriously considered as being in the race, can also only lose from the comparison: Her religious positions are so weird, and so weirdly held, that they have already made her look like a crackpot. (Or revealed her as such: The distinction is a negligible one.) And Perry, no matter what his other faults, does not look like a fringe or crackpot character. He has enough chops as a vote-getter and — whatever you think of the Texas "economic miracle" — as a "job-creator", that even his decision to outbid all comers on questions of the sacred and the profane can be made to seem like the action of a rational calculator. And this is what one always wants to know about candidates who flourish the Good Book or who presume to talk about hell and damnation. Do they, themselves, in their heart of hearts, truly believe it? Is there any evidence, if it comes to that, that Perry has ever studied the theory of evolution for long enough to be able to state roughly what it says? And how much textual and hermeneutic work did he do before deciding on the "inerrancy" of Jewish and Christian scripture? It should, of course, be the sincere believers and devout faithful who ask him, and themselves, these questions. But somehow, it never is. The risks of hypocrisy seem forever invisible to the politicised Christians, for whom sufficient proof of faith consists of loud and unambiguous declarations. I am always surprised that more is not heard from sincere religious believers, who have the most to lose if faith becomes a matter of poll-time dogma and lung power. My bet would be that, just as Perry probably wouldn't have tried to take credit if there had been rain after his ostentatious intercessions, so he doesn't lose much actual sleep over doctrinal matters, personal saviourhood and the rest of it. As with his crass saber-rattling about Texan secession a season or so back, or his more recent semitough talk about apparently riding Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke out of town on a rail, it is probably largely boilerplate, and mainly for the rubes. Which leads one to slightly rephrase the question above: Is it better to have a candidate who actually believes in biblical inerrancy and the extreme youthfulness and recency of the Grand Canyon, or a candidate who half-affects such convictions in the hope of political gain? Either would be depressing. A mixture of the two — not excluded in Perry's case — would lower the tone nicely. Christopher Hitchens, an internationally acclaimed author, journalist, political commentator and literary critic, recently wrote Hitch-22

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

FOUR FURLONGS TO THE PROMISED LAND

 

The recent developments around the Lokpal Bill have captured the imagination of India's middle class, which clearly perceives poor governance and corruption to be a threat to its global aspirations. The middle class has demonstrated that it intends to play a decisive role in determining the terms of the national political discourse. However, if this new-found energy is to lead to a revitalisation of the Indian democracy, it must satisfy two conditions. First, a recognition that holistic solutions can only emerge if the problem is addressed in all its complexities, rather than merely seeking symptomatic relief. Second, taking on board the pent-up frustration in the other India, which has silently suffered the consequences of misgovernance for long. The issue of land administration in India provides an eloquent illustration of such deep-rooted misgovernance and corruption. There are, at least, four facets of land administration which are relevant to an understanding of the ramifications of poor governance and corruption. The first is about recording and maintaining land records in a transparent, concurrent and fair manner, which provides security for landholders, sub-tenants and others with traditional rights of usage. The lack of importance accorded to this vital area of governance in most states has been truly breathtaking. The consequences of this neglect have been felt disproportionately by the poor who eke out precarious livelihoods on lands on which they often find it difficult to establish their rights. There have been significant improvements in some states like Karnataka and Gujarat due to a combination of leadership and technology. The National Land Records Modernisation Programme (NLRMP) aims at an ICT-powered, real-time, conclusive land titling system with title guarantee, throughout the country. But whether such an ambitious objective, which requires significant legal, administrative and attitudinal changes, can be achieved against the backdrop of decades of neglect remains to be seen. The second facet has to do with the administration of forest lands. The Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, sought to correct historical injustices by conferring tenurial and forest management rights on forest dwellers who were denied the rights for long. However, as the recent report of the national committee on the FRA highlights, the historical baggage of the colonial era forest administration which held that the forest was the property of the sovereign and the forest dweller an interloper, remains to be fully discarded. As a result, the objectives of improving livelihood security of forest dwellers and forest governance have not been achieved. An exercise that aims at establishing legal rights without a firm foundation of land surveys, measurement and demarcation cannot be expected to yield the best results. The good intention of conferring rights on forest dwellers has in many states been negated by the faulty constitution of gram sabhas under the Panchayat Extension to the Scheduled Areas Act (Pesa), 1996. Most states have constituted gram sabhas at the panchayat level, thus diluting the authority of the real stakeholders in the governance of community resources. The Pesa and the FRA are two of the most progressive pieces of legislation in independent India, but until their provisions are implemented honestly and without distortion, the forest dwellers will remain poor and marginalised. The third facet has to do with the mining industry. A large part of India's mineral endowments is in tribal and forest areas where land administration is the weakest. In non-forest mineral-bearing areas, the quality of land settlement is typically poor and outdated. In forest lands, recognition of tenurial rights has, till now, been a rare exception. As a result, forest dwellers are easily displaced when mining operations start, often resulting in their extreme impoverishment. These problems are further compounded when the mining is done by illegal operators who have no interest in the welfare of the local inhabitants or the local environment. The government's failure to rein in the mining mafias in several states has had a devastating effect on local communities. The fourth facet is about land acquisition, an issue that has occupied much headline space in recent months. Here, too, the issue is essentially about an antiquated approach to the concept of public interest which arms the state with enormous discretionary powers to divest owners of their land. It remains to be seen whether the new enactment can strike a balance between all stakeholders, including those championing the cause of development. The many tragic consequences of the monumental neglect of land administration constitute an important part of the essence of the failure of governance and the spread of corruption in India. The Maoist threat in many parts of the country is a direct consequence of this neglect. While elements of an enabling policy framework, as manifest in the FRA, Pesa, NLRMP and the draft Land Acquisition Bill, now exist to reverse the situation, there is a long way to go before intentions can be translated into practice. Sustained pressure from an informed civil society will be essential if this is to happen. Ujal Singh Bhatia is a retired civil servant

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

RAHUL GAME-CHANGER

PALACE COUP IN THE PLOTTING?


HAD internal democracy and accountability been integral to Indian political parties no suspicions, indeed not even the proverbial eyebrows, need have been raised by a previously little-known member of the Lok Sabha demanding an inquiry into government's bungling over the Anna Hazare agitation. Yet it has to be seen in a certain context ~ and that suggests it is directed not merely against the likes of Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram (who were seemingly cut to size) but actually targets the Prime Minister. Was there not mischief afoot in Praveen Singh Aron addressing his complaint to the man who declared that his take on the Lokpal legislation was a game-changer? In fact questions could now arise if the "change" was stated in relation to issues larger than setting up an ombudsman system. Parliamentary watchers recall the amazement, detachment and the absence of even a trace of enthusiasm on Dr Manmohan Singh's face while Rahul Gandhi was speaking at Zero Hour. For what the rising son outlined was a course entirely at variance with what the Prime Minister had charted as an ice-breaker. And almost immediately thereafter did the younger elements of the party set about projecting themselves: on the floor of the House, on television etc. How much influence they wielded in fashioning the eventual compromise is not clear, but it was apparent that babalog were asserting themselves (though it was left to Pranab Mukherjee to perform the salvage act). It is yet to be determined if a change of leadership was being signalled, whether in the immediate future or after the UP election proved Rahul's vote-catching credentials. Is the youth versus experience contest not reminiscent of the line taken by Indira Gandhi when she split the Congress some four decades back? Of course things were a trifle different then: the persons who were ousted were all of proven political might, so they put up a fight. Today almost all ministers accept that they serve at the pleasure of the Congress president ~ or that of her designated successor.
Not that too many tears will be shed if Dr Manmohan Singh does call it a day. Much of his aura has dissipated by his inability to assert himself politically, and his offering alibis such as coalition compulsions and lack of a magic wand to avert a situation in which, while nobody questions his personal integrity, everybody notes he heads the most corrupt government in history. It is no accident that Anna Hazare's campaign flourished on the disgust of the masses. But back to the game-changer: his absence from the House as the issue approached its climax not only confirmed a reluctance to shoulder responsibility, but was also as much a denigration of Parliament as the fulminations of some of Hazare's henchmen.

 

SHORT OF A BUDGET...

... FINANCE BILL AN INSUFFICIENT EFFORT

WEST Bengal's finance minister ~ "under the guidance of the Chief Minister" ~ has played it safe while presenting the Finance Bill. It was perhaps inevitable that he would find it unable to present a full Budget, given that three decades and more of the Left's innovative accounting has left everyone ~ including the former finance minister ~ clueless about real receipts and expenditures. To summon the expression Amit Mitra used in another context, this is "unprecedented ad hocism" that is expected to take care of the 2011-12 fiscal with two votes-on-account (first CPI-M and then Trinamul) and a Finance Bill. Having inherited a stuttering economy ~ that has worsened markedly since May ~ Mr Mitra has tapped sources which no one can argue against publicly. The tax on foreign liquor has been increased for the second time this month. In parallel, a higher VAT will hike the price of "tobacco-related products" though the bidi has been excluded from the tax net out of consideration perhaps for the BPL segment. These imposts will hopefully help the government to mop up additional revenue of Rs 6390 crore. Yet the finance minister has studiously stopped short of specifics; the actual gain to the exchequer has been left delightfully vague. As in several other spheres, notably land reforms, education and health, a degree of tentativeness is manifest in fiscal management as well.


The move to ensure "higher compliance" with the tax regime is welcome and this ought to yield revenue despite the significant reduction of stamp duty ~ from seven to two per cent ~ on family property settlements. The hike, it bears recall, was effected by Dr Asim Dasgupta to boost revenue consequent upon the sale of property. The simplified rate ought to ensure higher compliance and minimise the scope for misrepresentations. Transactions are frequently passed off as "gifts" to lower the tax commitment. A lower stamp duty will reduce such mis-statements to irrelevance. "People will be happy to pay the two per cent duty and partition their property,'' is the finance minister's raison d'etre. This is doubtless a positive feature of the Finance Bill. The minister has kept stamp duty rates low, hoping to impart a degree of efficiency to tax administration. Further, he has done  away with way bills for goods of up to a certain value brought into the state; way bills caused harassment and bred corruption. Overall, the Finance Bill has been an insufficient effort towards resource generation. Bengal must keep its fingers crossed as it waits for the budget, hopefully next year.

 

A FRACTURED LIBYA

TIME FOR TRUE 'HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION'

THE second phase of the struggle in Libya has only just begun. For sheer survival after a turbulent phase, the country is direly in need of reconstruction and the West ought now to think in terms of picking up the tab. Humanitarian intervention since April was a glaring contradiction in terms; by its very nature, military intervention can scarcely be humanitarian. Muammar Gaddafi, in the manner of Saddam Hussein in 2003, has met his eclipse under the relentless pressure of international policing, palpably buttressed by the groundswell of domestic opposition to his regime. The offensive transcended the express purpose of "protecting civilians". The West was intent on a regime change and in the process civilians ~ far from being protected ~ perished in the air raids. And they included members of Gaddafi's immediate family. The regime has eventually been ousted. Which explains the gloating response of  David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and Hillary Clinton, if not Barack Obama quite as eloquently. A new chapter opens in the history of the Afro-Arab world. Libya will have to be brought back to the rails again, a daunting task that confronts the Transitional National Council, riven by rivalries and inter-tribal discord. In terms of international relations, it would be only legitimate for the West to assist in the reconstruction effort. Having ousted the repressive dictator, the TNC plainly doesn't have the wherewithal to bring this about. In defeat, Gaddafi poses no less a challenge. Specifically, the task of tracking him down though he is generally believed to be in Algeria. The other challenges relate to the basics of survival ~ the availability of drinking water and clearing the mounting garbage. Libya has reached a grim pass, and will be double-crossed in the tragic event of an epidemic. Post-Gaddafi, the West will have to help out as a mark of true humanitarian intervention. It cuts both ways. There is no indication though of this in the almost celebratory responses of the Western leaders. Helping out the country will hopefully be uppermost in the agenda of the "Friends of Libya" summit in Paris this week. Over time though Libya, with the largest oil reserves in Africa, will find a way to fend for itself.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

RUNAWAY INFLATION

INDIA MUST AVOID IMF'S ANTIDOTE

BY DIPAK BASU


THE Government of India has not been able to control inflation. The Prime Minister pleads that the phenomenon is imported. Therefore, the State can do little but control the money supply by increasing the interest rate and making it more difficult for the banks to lend by increasing the reserve ratios.
The antidote is not new; it is the classic remedy that is prescribed by the International Monetary Fund to reduce money supply in the face of  inflation. India has not learnt any lesson from the economic crisis that had affected several countries in East Asia ten years ago. The symptom was similar as was the cure suggested by the IMF and with disastrous results. Confronted with the same problem, both the USA and the UK are using a different antidote despite the fact that American and British economists are in control of the IMF.
India's huge deficit in the balance of trade is compensated only by the remittances of NRIs. The economy is marked by high inflation and foreign debt. In 1998, the IMF defended its approach of squeezing the domestic economies of their client countries through high interest rates, tight monetary policies and cuts in the government's budget. It was argued that this was necessary to restore the confidence of foreign investors and thus strengthen the countries' currencies.


A similar justification has been advanced by the Reserve Bank of India. When a developing country carries out financial liberalisation before its institutions or knowledge base is prepared to deal with the consequences, it becomes vulnerable to  shocks and the instability associated with inflow and outflow of funds. To this can be added the changes in the global financial system, specifically the financial de-regulation and liberalisation; the increasing inter-connection between markets and the speed of transactions through the computer; and the development of large institutional financial players such as the speculative hedge funds, the investment banks, and the mutual and pension funds.


In consequence, there has been a sizable shifting of short-term capital flowing across borders in search of quick and high returns. This has been estimated at  $2 trillion a day. Of this, only one to two per cent is accounted for by foreign exchange transactions relating to trade and foreign direct investment. The rest is meant for speculation or short-term investments.


These massive financial flows have continued since mid-1985 with dramatic results. They are subject to the "herd instinct". This triggers a panic withdrawal by large institutional investors and players.
The sequence of events leading to the East Asia crisis in 1998  is similar to what has happened in India in the aftermath of the economic reforms. First, the countries concerned carried out a process of financial liberalisation. Foreign exchange was made convertible with local currency not only for trade and direct investment, but also for autonomous capital inflow and outflow (i.e. for "capital account" transactions). This was largely deregulated. This facilitated the large inflow of funds in the form of international bank loans to local banks and companies, purchase of bonds, and portfolio investment in the local stock markets. This in turn contributed to an asset price boom in property and stock markets in East Asian countries. When that build-up of short-term debts became alarming, Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea had to contend with a sharp depreciation of their currencies. And when  the currencies depreciated, the burden of debt servicing increased.
India's external debt  has risen substantially in recent years largely because of borrowings by the private sector. The rise in short-term debt, particularly due to increasing oil imports, and dollar depreciation during the year contributed to the surge in the external debt. Funds borrowed from abroad by Indian companies, called external commercial borrowings (ECB), comprise nearly half of India's total borrowings. Short-term debt rose on account of larger trade credits and higher imports during the year, particularly that of oil.
Interest rates have been rising as the Reserve Bank has tightened money supply to control the runaway inflation, forcing banks to raise their lending rates. The liberalisation of rules regarding foreign capital inflow and the reduced taxation of capital gains made in the stock market has implied that while monetary policy is independent of fiscal policy, it is driven by the exogenously given flows of foreign capital.
The net inflow of foreign institutional investments into India's stock and debt markets has led to accumulation of reserves. This makes it extremely difficult for the central bank to manage money supply and  formulate a monetary policy in accord with its principles  and objectives.


In February 2005, the government liberalised the laws relating to FDI. Non-Resident Indians and Overseas Corporate Bodies can invest up to 100 per cent in the real estate sector. Foreign Direct Investment in real estate is now possible without the Foreign Investment Promotion Board's clearance. Currently, FDI is targeting townships, housing and construction projects in general, and built-up infrastructure etc. The government repealed the Urban Land Ceiling Act in 2001, thereby opening up large tracts for construction. Investment is also allowed for smaller projects covering only 25 acres.


Low interest rates and a stronger rupee have given a boost to consumer demand. The excessive global liquidity fed by US dollars in the world economy has facilitated buoyant growth of money and credit. Crucially, this incremental flow of foreign exchange into the country has resulted in increased credit flow by the banks.
The RBI's strategy to deal with excessive liquidity through the Market Stabilisation Scheme provides few safeguards against the flood of foreign money that is coming in. The increase in "repo rates" and CRR rates have been ineffective as policy interventions given the huge foreign exchange inflow. The sustained flow of foreign money, due to the excessive global liquidity, has fuelled the rise of the stock markets and real estate prices to unprecedented levels.


Short-term borrowings are highly volatile aspects of the financial system. They normally create a speculative bubble, which can burst before long. In that event, it could lead to serious recession and render the economy bankrupt. It is not possible to control such speculative flows by raising the domestic interest rates and making credit difficult to obtain. It can only be controlled through restrictions on short-term borrowing from abroad and on the entry of foreign financial institutions in domestic money markets whether stock market, pension funds or real estate business. At the same time, the Reserve Bank should reduce the interest rates and make more credit available for productive investments, through selective credit controls.


The experience of Britain in 1992 and the East Asian countries in 1998 revealed the damage that short-term monetary flows can cause. It normally pushes up domestic prices so that export prices can also go up,  resulting in increased balance of payments deficits. As a result, the value of the rupee will start falling, leading to an outflow of short-term money. That could lead to a further fall of the rupee, and very soon the government will be unable to repay the foreign debt. Such a situation has ruined the economies of the East Asian countries. India should try and avoid the wrong medicine prescribed by the International Monetary Fund.

 

The writer is Professor in International Economics, Nagasaki University, Japan.

 

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THE STATESMAN

IT'S ONLY WORDS

OFF LIMITS ~ SEEMA MUSTAFA 

If J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah's tweet on Afzal Guru reflects his inability to act, as most of his tweets have in the past. He simply issues cyber statements to absolve himself of patent inaction

Chief ministers are elected to govern. Not to tweet policies. More so, when there are no policies in sight or signs of good governance, but only a profusion of tweets. Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mr Omar Abdullah has been more visible in cyber space than on the streets of Kashmir. His latest, on Afzal Guru, reads: "If the J&K Assembly had passed a similar resolution (as the Tamil Nadu Assembly did for commuting the death sentence of those held responsible for the execution of Rajiv Gandhi) for Afzal Guru, would the reaction have been as muted? I think not."

The tweet exposes a childishness that the state is already paying the price for. It is true that the reaction of the rest of India to a similar resolution by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly would have been very different. But while such a tweet is justified from an ordinary citizen of the land, coming from the chief minister of the sensitive border state ~ it can and did evoke a hostile reaction from political parties such as the BJP. Though no such resolution has been passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, an irresponsible reference by the head of the state government and subsequent hostile reactions only serve to widen the gap between Srinagar and New Delhi, and unfortunately, even between communities.

Also, implicit in the tweet is Mr Omar Abdullah's suggestion that though such a resolution for Afzal Guru should have been passed by the Assembly, it couldn't be for fear of adverse reactions. If the chief minister feels so strongly about such a resolution, he should have summoned the courage to move it in the House and have it passed just as Tamil Nadu chief minister Ms Jayalalitha had done in case of the Rajiv assasins in teeth of the Centre's disapproval. But Mr Abdullah did no such thing, he merely tweeted.

 His tweet reflects his inability to act, as most of his tweets have in the past. Mr Abdullah simply issues cyber statements to absolve himself of patent inaction. His this particular tweet was positioned to appeal to the local sentiment ~ the quintessential good guy not allowed to get on with his good work by "those chaps." To give him his due, "those chaps" at the Centre, particularly Union home minister P Chidambaram, would never really allow Mr Abdullah to make an independent move, but then, he knew that right from the beginning. It was a choice between the people or the corridors of power. Mr Abdullah simply chose the latter.
Significantly, the tweet has not added to the chief minister's popularity. This columnist put it to test on Facebook and these are some of the responses that ought to make the chief minister sit up and take notice. Writes Hawa Bashir: "Come up openly Omar…paheliyan na bhujwaon." Junayal Rafiqi: "That Twitter kid is busy with his iPad while the Centre is ruling the state." Bilal Ahmad: "Tweeter Abdullah is wasting time nothing else. He has done nothing neither we expect he will do something for the betterment of people (sic)." Javid Samad: "He is a chief minister but only for his father and the Government of India." Mohammad Ashraf: "Omar got many opportunites ~ to come out openly for Kashmiris but for some unknown reasons, he always shirks. He again has an excellent opportunity… if only he could muster enough courage!"
 The issue thus, is of courage and the wisdom to act in a manner so that the interests of the people of Kashmir are preserved without confrontation, so that justice is done and rights are protected. The Kashmiri people, like people everywhere else, are not stupid; they are not swayed by tokenism and can differentiate between genuine action and vacillation.

 Congress scion Mr Rahul Gandhi who is a good friend of Mr Omar Abdullah, seems to suffer from a similar inability to see things clearly, even accurately. He saw mass graves in Bhatta-Parsaul, a village in Uttar Pradesh, while such graves exist in reality in Kashmir, the Valley that everyone in Delhi seems to have forgotten about. It simply does not exist for the powers-that-be save when security forces claim to have "foiled" a infiltration bid or to have killed or apprehended a "terrorist."

Mr Gandhi should visit Kashmir, not on a holiday, but to meet the people, to feel their grief, their heart-wrenching sorrow. Thousands of persons have disappeared in the Valley since the 1990s with their families still hoping against hope, unable to get a closure. Many such bereaved people this columnist spoke to only wanted to see the bodies of the missing persons so that they knew that their dear ones had truly departed. The uncertainty has taken a heavy toll on their mental and physical health.
Ms Parveena Ahangar, a brave woman who turned her grief into a weapon to found the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, is still grieving and hoping. Her 16-year-old son was picked up by security forces in Srinagar's Batamaloo neighbourhood 20 years ago, and she has not seen him since. And her efforts to trace him has thrown up 63 similar cases. This encouraged her to form an association that has been relentless in keeping memories and the issue alive. As she told this columnist, she had not given up hope and never would.
The Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) revealed that 2,730 bodies had been found in 38 unmarked graves across north Kashmir's Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora districts. Relatives still shudder to think of those days of vicious anti-insurgency operations in the 1990s when husbands, fathers, or sons would be picked up randomly never to be seen again. A few ~ a little more than 500 ~ of the bodies in these graves have been identified, spelling closure for some and reopening the wounds for many.
The state government, that resolutely ignores Parveena, couldn't wish away the SHRC. It has pledged compensation for the grieving relatives but this will not take away the years of anguish, fear and economic deprivation that they have endured. The columnist has met widows in Kashmir who used to lead a middle class life before turning destitute following the disappearance of their husbands. Can mere compensation wish away the trauma of more than two decades? And, what about justice? Who will bring to book those responsible for arresting and killing innocent people, including young children?
The people of Kashmir face a level of rejection, even negation, almost unheard of in a democracy. One cannot find a single home in the Valley that has not been singed by decades of upheaval. The anger of the youth is palpable as they have seen their grandparents and parents suffer as they struggled to cope with loss and strife. What also unsettles them is the fear of being picked up at random, never to return, to be consigned to the statistics of missing persons. Fear has been the key for far too long in J&K. It's time to put the people above the PC, Mr Abdullah.

The writer is Consulting Editor, The Statesman

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

THE CANINE QUOTIENT

SHABBIR AHMED


Mr Matthew Offord, an MP from Britain's ruling Conservative Party recently entered the House of Commons with his pet dog named Max. When he was told by officials that dogs are not allowed inside parliament, he threatened to invoke Article 8 of Britain's Human Rights Act to overturn the ban. "This is a ridiculous rule. Max doesn't do anyone any harm. He doesn't bark and he's great for taking the stress out of the day. If they try to push this, I will invoke the Human Rights Act because they are breaching my right to a private, family life," he said. The controversial Article 8 which guarantees each person, Briton or immigrant, the "right to a private or family life" is used by foreigners to dodge deportation on the ground that they have a spouse, children or even a pet living there. This Article was successfully used by a Bolivian immigrant in 2009 to escape deportation on the ground that he had to stay in Britain to look after his cat.


Man's canine companion is being increasingly used as a stress-buster and health booster. We practise yoga to keep ourselves in good shape but yoga with our dog apparently works wonders and keeps us fit as a fiddle. Suzi Teitelman, a Florida-based instructor, has shown the world that yoga with your pooch is the best balm for mind, body and soul and calls it doga. "I consider it partner yoga," says the doga instructor. She stumbled upon doga because her dog liked to lie under her while she practised. "When you feel good, they feel good. They want to be around your goodness" Suzi said. She has been teaching doga since 2002. It is her lifelong passion. She has trained more than 100 people in doga, some from China and Japan. DVDs and training manuals are available in the market.


Doga is the latest addition to the long list of trendy hybrids like disco yoga, kid yoga and spin yoga. Now that canines have joined the yoga, can felines be far behind? It cats and dogs bond together, it would indeed be a perfect match and a new yogic experience. While the dog will make our life livable, the cat, with its famous Cheshire grin, will make it happier and longer. A cat has nine lives and perhaps it could spare a few for the practitioners of the art of yoga.


Things do not appear rosy for our best friend. A new study has found that the personal computer is slowly replacing the dog as the man's constant companion. According to a report published in the Daily Mail, researchers found that just six per cent people believe "most people rely more on their dog than they do on their PC", while 67 per cent think the opposite to be true. Thirty eight per cent dog owners confessed to relying more on their computers than on their dog. Seventy-one per cent of 18 to 24-year-old dog owners relied more on their computers. The researchers surveyed 2,000 British adults to gauge the change modern technology has brought to their daily life.


Paul Allen, editor of Computeractive Magazine, which conducted the study with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was quoted as saying: "These days, you can even take your PC for a walk, provided you a have a laptop. It's only a matter of time until the first PC that fetches your slippers." The difference between a laptop and a lapdog will soon disappear and the PC will fetch our footwear, socks and ties ~ a job now done by many dogs.


The PC may overtake the dog in the rat race to become man's best friend. But the pooches and the poodles; Dalmatians and Dobermans will continue to make their presence felt on the doggy matrimonial websites. Marriage is a decaying institution among humans but the concept of marriage has found instant favour with dog lovers who run websites called dogshadi, petshadi and candyromeo. Before the "marriage" is fixed, the prospective brides and grooms are given a chance to sniff each other. Absence of a growl or an yelp from either side signifies acceptance. After the match is fixed, wedding celebrations take place. The dogs are dressed up for the special occasion with their tails wagging excitedly. Many dog owners are doing a brisk business of selling pups born out of such unions.
The most expensive dog wedding ever was held on 8 April, 2011 in Bradwall-on-Sea, Essex, England. The wedding was for Louise Harris's six-year-old terrier, Lola, who wore a £1000, specially designed wedding dress, decorated with crystals. Louise hired a wedding planner who oversaw decoration, food and security for 80 guests who attended the lavish do. The owner of the dog spent £20,000 on the event.
History was made in south India when Selva Kumar (33) from Sivaganga married a dog to atone for the sin of stoning to death mating canines 15 years ago. He lost hearing in one ear and his legs were paralysed. To cure Selva of the curse, he was married to a stray bitch who was christened Selvi. Selva and Selvi are enjoying marital bliss now. Such matrimonial bonding of a man and an animal is perhaps the first of its kind in the world. Those who run with the hare and hunt with the hounds are warned by law not to give a dog a bad name and hang him.
In Kolkata, a bus driver has been put behind bars for allegedly beating up a street dog with a bamboo stick at Chetla. He had been booked under Section 428 of IPC which states that whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning or rendering useless any animal or animals of the value of Rs 10 or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both. The proposed Animal Welfare Bill 2011 is more stringent and carries a much heftier fine between Rs 10,000 and Rs 25,000 and/or prison term of up to two years for hurting animals.
Dogs have many qualities and in certain respects, they are superior to humans. Since a dog's sense of smell is 100,000 times stronger than that of humans, it can locate RDX and drugs. Dogs can ever track down murderers. They succeed where two-legged creatures fail.
The dog can also act as a doctor and can be of considerable help in detecting lung cancer by smelling human breath samples. Some German doctors and dog trainers have come together to train sniffer dogs to detect lung cancer. The findings, published in the European Respiratory Journal, confirm that the study is the first wherein canines had been used for breath analysis to detect cancer. The researchers are now trying to identify the organic compounds which are linked to lung cancer and which the dogs can easily smell out. The dog's foray into the domain of diagnostics will hopefully go a long way in combating cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Rin Tin Tin was the first canine Hollywood celebrity with 22 films to his credit. He apparently signed his movie contracts with his paws. A dog named Crab is one of the characters in Shakespeare's comedy Two Gentlemen of Verona. He is described as "the sourest-natured dog that lives". But he, along with his clownish master, happens to provide the sweetest humour.

The writer is a freelance contributor

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

100 YEARS AGO TODAY


In discussing the question of the sugar cane crop in India, Mr Leather, the Imperial Agricultural Chemist, points out that in the tropical parts of the country the outturn per acre is much larger than in the United Provinces and the Punjab. Here, he suggests, may lie one of the keys of the situation. By far the greater part of India's sugar-cane area is outside the tropics, and concurrently a lower yield per acre is realised. The question then arises, Mr Leather observes, whether it is reasonable to expect that these sub-tropical districts can ever produce such yields as tropical countries do. India's cane, he emphasises, is not of low quality in so far as the proportion of sugar in the juice is concerned. The average in Java is from 15 to 17 per cent, which is not higher than that of Indian cane. The defects of the Indian crop are a small weight of cane per acre and a high proportion of fibre in the cane which causes, especially in a single crushing, a low yield of juice. But the question of improving the cane is by no means a simple one. Nothing, says Mr Leather, has been more striking than the sensitiveness of newly introduced canes to novel environment. Two varieties of cane, for instance, which were brought from Mauritius did well at Poona, so far as weight of cane was concerned, but instead of giving juice containing 18 per cent of sugar they yielded no more than 10 to 12 per cent. At Pusa the same canes gave juice containing 18 to 20 per cent of sugar. The most important conclusion which Mr Leather has arrived at, however, is that so long as India's principal sugar-cane area lies outside the tropics so long will the yield per acre remain far below that of the principal producing countries.

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THE TELEGRAPH

WORTH A LAUGH

The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, perhaps does not realize that he has a jester as a ministerial colleague. This is the most positive spin that can be put on the recent utterances of Ajay Maken, the sports minister. Mr Maken believes, in all seriousness though, that the Board of Control for Cricket in India is a public body since the public pays money to watch the matches that the BCCI organizes and also because it selects a team that represents India. This ingenuous argument overlooks the simple fact that the BCCI takes no money from the national exchequer. By this definition alone it is not a public body. There are corporations in India who produce commodities that are bought and used by large sections of the people: are these corporations to be considered public bodies? Mr Maken's second argument is even more absurd. In one sense, every single person or body that exists in India represents India; does this mean that the Indian State has the right to interfere in the actions of all individuals and institutions? This would make a mockery of democracy. Mr Maken, for reasons best known to himself, wants to interfere in the BCCI's affairs and thus to regulate it, but he does not understand that he has no right to do this in a democracy.

The prime minister, when he was the finance minister, began the process of liberalization, the aim of which, inter alia, was to pull back the frontiers of the State. The State's presence should be felt less and less in various spheres of activity. The first area to feel the impact of this radical move was that of business and entrepreneurship. It was expected that the State would also gradually withdraw from institutions which were to be considered independent and autonomous. Now it appears that there are moves afoot to interfere in sports bodies, especially the BCCI. The cabinet, fortunately, rejected the proposal mooted by Mr Maken. But the very fact that such a proposal was tabled and is still being supported by the minister concerned with the most risible of arguments is proof of the persistence of a mindset that is utterly out of tune with liberalization. The prime minister must be careful about his choice of ministers. A minister like Mr Maken earns him nothing — either politically or in terms of goodwill — unless the prime minister values comic relief in serious cabinet meetings.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

 

SHORT STAY

The arrivals and departures of Japan's short-lived prime ministers expose much more than political instability. They underscore a nation's search for a way out of its deepening economic and social crisis and for a leader to find it. The new prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda — the sixth in five years — may not be the leader who is cut out for such a role. His past records in financial management and diplomacy do not inspire much confidence for the recovery that Japan desperately needs. It appears that he was chosen for the top job because his rivals in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan were even more controversial. The problems that Mr Noda faces, though, are a legacy of the recent past. He has the tough job of rescuing an economy which has been in decline for nearly two decades. Rifts within the DPJ and a divided parliament make his tasks even harder. He is known as a fiscal conservative but the opposition, the Liberal Democratic Party, which has a majority in the upper house, may tie his hands. His predecessor, Naoto Kan, who had inspired a brief spell of hope at the time of assuming office, could not survive the popular anger caused by his inept handling of the situation following last March's earthquake and nuclear disaster.

As if these problems were not enough, some of Mr Noda's past comments threaten to complicate things for his reign. His view that Japan's convicted wartime leaders honoured at the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo should no longer be treated as "criminals" could reopen old wounds in China. His election as prime minister has already stirred muted hostility in China. The last thing he needs is a sour relationship with China, which is now Japan's biggest trading partner. Given Japan's massive national debt and its growing dependence on exports to China, a fresh stand-off between the two countries could have a devastating effect on Tokyo's plans for an economic recovery. Mr Noda would do well not to push relations with China to the brink in the manner that Junichiro Koizumi did between 2001 and 2006 with his visits to the Yasukuni shrine. Instead, he could gain much by settling territorial and other disputes with Beijing. The recovery of the world's third-largest economy is crucial to the fight against another spell of global recession. This surely is no time in Japan for nationalistic brinkmanship.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

FIERCELY ON GUARD

PARLIAMENTARY PRIVILEGES NEED TO BE REVIEWED AND CLARIFIED SWAPAN DASGUPTA

For the past fortnight, the 'majesty' and 'dignity' of Parliament have been repeatedly invoked by notables unsettled by the assertion of 'people's power' on the streets of urban India. The agitation led by a septuagenarian Gandhian may have triggered a spontaneous outburst of anger in India's assertive middle classes, but its insistence on the immediate enactment of a jan lok pal bill has led critics to question the movement's commitment to parliamentary democracy. Although many of these doubts were expediently brushed under the carpet last Saturday when both Houses of Parliament met and affirmed their commitment to Anna's three demands, the simmering anger of the members of parliament manifested itself two days later.

The immediate provocation was two speeches made to the tricolour-waving audience in Delhi's Ramlila Maidan by supporters of Anna. The first was a rambling and somewhat inchoate intervention by the actor, Om Puri. Clearly swayed by the anti-politician mood of the audience, Puri described India's Parliament as largely made up of "uneducated bumpkins". The other performance was by former Indian police service officer, Kiran Bedi, who dwelt on the duplicity of politicians in a manner that would have done a professional stand-up comic proud. Both speeches were widely telecast by news channels that had a ball covering the 12 days of street protests.

Many MPs, not least those who felt humiliated by the insolence of ordinary people, protested angrily in Parliament. They demanded that Puri and Bedi be charged under powers vested in Parliament by Article 105(3) of the Constitution with breach of privilege — a potentially punishable offence where Parliament is both the accuser and the judge. The issue is before the Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha chairman who may refer the matter to the privileges committees of the two Houses.

India's Parliament has been inclined to be rather prickly in its condemnation of individuals who are outspoken in their attack on MPs and their conduct. In 1981, The Times of India was referred to the privileges committee for an article in which the author claimed that "[d]acoits, smugglers and bootleggers are now honoured Members of the Legislatures". The publication escaped censure and possible punishment because the Rajya Sabha chairman cleverly noted that the claim was not a libel of any particular MP or any House but "a libel in gross". In August 1986, MPs were agitated by the assertion of Acharya Rajneesh (Osho) that "MPs are mentally under-developed. If investigations are made they would be found to have (a) mental age of 14". The Rajya Sabha Chairman deflected the problem by stating that "[i]t is inconsistent with our dignity to attach any importance to the vituperative outbursts or irresponsible statements of a frustrated person". Godmen, he said by way of a parting shot, should leave good men alone.

The examples can be multiplied but in most cases they have been resolved by either the accused tendering an unqualified apology or the presiding officer asserting that the House is contemptuous of reckless attacks. Apart from the case involving the Lohiaite activist, Keshav Singh, whose jailing by the Uttar Pradesh assembly in 1964 triggered a clash between the legislature and the judiciary (the matter being resolved by a presidential reference to the Supreme Court), cases of privilege involving 'disrespect' to the legislature have largely been resolved without ugliness.

Yet, despite the apologies by offenders and displays of generosity by the presiding officer, Parliament has fiercely guarded its nebulously defined privileges that extend to society at large — as opposed to those privileges and immunities necessary for the smooth internal functioning of both Houses. Article 105(3) stipulated that the special privileges of Parliament shall be defined "by law" and "until so defined" shall be those that prevailed before the enactment of the 44th amendment in 1978. Prior to 1978, it was defined by the precedents set by the House of Commons until 1950.

It is revealing that in the past 60 years, Parliament has turned a blind eye to its obligations and not lifted a finger to codify its privileges and immunities into law. When the subject was last debated in 1994, most MPs were opposed to codification. This was in sharp contrast to Canada, Australia and New Zealand — countries that also traced their parliamentary privileges to the Bill of Rights (1689) — that have enacted laws defining parliamentary privilege.

In the United Kingdom, a seminal report by a joint parliamentary committee on parliamentary privilege, chaired by Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, has become the de facto rule book on the subject. The Nicholls report defined parliamentary privilege as "the rights and immunities which the two Houses of Parliament and their members... possess to enable them to carry out their parliamentary functions effectively". It did not list privileges. Instead, it specified the functions legislative privilege sought to achieve — passing laws, holding the executive accountable and voicing the concerns of ordinary citizens. Protecting the reputation and dignity of Parliament was missing from the list.

The Nicholls report, in fact, suggested doing away with the right of the House to punish non-members. It suggested that disputes could be heard by the high court under existing laws of libel and defamation. In any case, the last occasion a non-MP was committed by the order of the Commons was in 1880.

A possible reason why India's Parliament has shied away from codifying its privileges and immunities is the fear of judicial scrutiny. In 2005, there was a celebrated case in Canada centred on the arbitrary dismissal of the Speaker's chauffeur. It was claimed that the chauffeur was not subject to normal labour laws and his appointment and dismissal was the privilege of Parliament. The Canadian supreme court disagreed. It insisted it was necessary to establish "the existence and scope of a category of privilege. Once the category is established, it is for Parliament, not the courts, to determine whether in a particular case the exercise of privilege is necessary or appropriate". The message was clear: Parliament could not use its privileges and immunities arbitrarily.

In a similar vein, the Nicholls committee made parliamentary privileges subject to a "test of necessity". Parliament, it noted, "should be vigilant to retain rights and immunities which pass this test, so that it keeps the protection it needs. Parliament should be equally vigorous in discarding rights and immunities not strictly necessary for its effective functioning in today's conditions."

This expansive liberalism appears to be missing in India. The Rajya Sabha at Work stipulates that "Any investigation outside Parliament of anything that a member says or does in the discharge of his parliamentary duties amounts to serious interference with the member's freedom of speech in the House. Therefore, to attack a member or to take or even threaten to take any action against him… on account of anything said or any vote given by him on the floor of the House would amount to gross violation of the privileges of a member."

Throughout the fortnight-long Anna stir, many Lok Sabha MPs were heard complaining in private of their inability to return to their constituencies and face irate people. At the same time, they also grudgingly acknowledged that these spontaneously exuberant protests were a facet of a democratic process that can't be put under wraps in the interregnum between two elections. Tragically, this is precisely what the official guide to MPs privileges prescribes. And it is this mindset of aloofness that explains the strange determination of the Establishment to check dissent using Parliament's extraordinary extra-judicial powers. Some of these powers are necessary but many are now woefully dated.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

TIME FOR A CHANGE

BONAFIDE: MALVIKA SINGH

From the reports floating in and around the public space, the Congress appears to be in complete disarray with groups pitched against each other. Perhaps because the time has come to cleanse it from within and help it enter a new and appropriate phase in keeping with the changing reality. The mindset needs an overhaul. Rhetoric needs to be replaced with calibrated, time-bound action. The 'we-know-it-all' attitude that has been the mantra of the senior leaders also needs to be thrown out.

Our great oral tradition of sharing news through tried- and-tested story-telling techniques, defined as 'gossip' in alien parlance, informs us that crude and mean remarks have overwhelmed the party. Colleagues are going at each other, attacking the jugular, hoping to succeed in the 'kill'. Action to prevent all of this seems frozen in time. Political judgment and skilled manoeuvring appear to be non-existent, and the players have shown themselves to be disconnected from the reality of politics within and outside Parliament. They have failed to address the desperate demands of astute rajniti. Old hands in the Congress continue to play the game as they have for decades, oblivious of the fact that times have changed radically, as have the aspirations of India and Bharat. They will no longer tolerate either neglect or exploitation at any level of governance.

For 60 years and more, the majority in India has been patient and silent. That period is now over. The sooner political entities accept this new truth, the better. There is a fervent demand for smooth, inclusive and efficient governance that will facilitate the growth of wealth and prosperity. Parliamentarians have to shift gears and alter their modus operandi as Indian democracy matures. It is time to get down to the task of nation-building and indulge in hard work. Committee meetings, empowered or not, have proven to be inconsequential. India is yearning for a leadership that will address the basic needs of citizens in rural and urban areas.

New truth

If a 'liberal' dispensation does not begin to overhaul a decayed machine, chances are it will be replaced by a dictatorial, fascist and hardline alternative because that will be the easier option in the short term. History has shown, time and again, that such aberrations generate trauma and are inimical to human freedom and choices, forcing citizens to become frightened zombies till their anger bursts forth. Therefore, in order to align itself with public sentiments and dam the decline in probity and governance, the Congress must change guard now and reinvent its 'persona' to lead during changed times.

Any delay in overhauling the machine and reforming the methodologies that have maimed it will help spread the illness further. This is the moment for the next generation to take over, even stage a much needed coup. Indira Gandhi had rejuvenated a frail and fading Congress, led by old stalwarts, when she split the party and reinvented it. She was called a goongi gudiya, was denounced and demeaned by all and sundry in the political class, but she paid no heed to any of the allegations and marched ahead. Whether you agreed with her or opposed her, two things were clear — she ruled India, and she cared for India. The Congress is ripe and ready for another such 'takeover' to bring around a compelling 'makeover' if it is to represent an India that is raring to move on and be on a par with China and other Brics players.

We need governance without the baggage of past failures. We need 'inexperience' for a radical cleansing of a near-fatal disease. We need 'old' leaders to recognize this truth and pass the baton. Sacrifice, rather than greed, needs to dominate.

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

EDITORIAL

ATTEND TO THIS FAST
''WE MUST EMPATHISE WITH THE NORTHEAST.''

There is a stark contrast in the way India has responded to the fast by Anna Hazare and that by Irom Sharmila. Anna's fast received 24/7 coverage by the media. For over a fortnight reportage of Anna's fast was relentless; it was as though nothing else happened in the country during that period. Tens of thousands flocked to the venue of the fast not only to express solidarity with Anna's anti-corruption campaign but also to be a part of an event that had become media spectacle. The government too sat up. Several delegations were sent to negotiate with the Gandhian and to get him to halt the fast. An anxious government eventually conceded Anna's demands. However, few outside India's northeast are even aware of Sharmila, who has been on a fast unto death for the past 11 years, demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Sharmila has been kept alive through nasal drip administered to her by the Indian armed forces. Every two weeks jail officials produce Sharmila before the court to seek an extension of her judicial custody on charges of trying to commit suicide. Unlike Hazare who was surrounded by thousands of his supporters, Sharmila is held in a prison hospital. Even her family members are kept away from her and they must get court permission to visit her.

The AFSPA gives the armed forces the power to shoot-at-sight or arrest without warrant. It provides legal immunity to the armed forces operating in the northeast. It is this draconian law that Sharmila wants repealed. The entire northeast is behind her demand. Sadly the rest of India isn't paying attention to their call. 

Unlike corruption that touches every Indian, AFSPA's deadly impact is felt only in India's conflict zones. Consequently, calls for its repeal have not resounded elsewhere in the country. It is a pity that injustice perpetrated in regions far away from the nation's capital does not stir Delhi from its slumber or strike a chord with us 'mainlanders'. This must change. Northeasterners are Indians and we must empathise with each other's suffering. We must make their cause our own and champion it the way we did the anti-corruption campaign. Just because it doesn't affect us directly doesn't mean it isn't an issue of serious concern. Delhi must respond to Sharmila's call.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

UAL TIME ZONES

''DIFFERENT TIME ZONES HELP CONSERVE ENERGY.''


The recommendation made by a parliamentary standing  committee on transport, tourism and culture to reschedule flight operations from the North-Eastern states to take advantage of the early sun rise in those parts has revived the debate about the need for dual time zones in the country.  The suggestion goes beyond the changes in logistics and time tables of travel, which would benefit tourism and transport-related sectors in the North-East, and is an implicit recognition of the gains many other sectors can make if there is a separate time zone for the region. The debate on time zones is as old as independence. The many practical advantages of the proposal have been ignored  because of the notion that a single time zone for the entire country would promote national integration. The existence of many secessionist movements in the region has contributed to this. But there is no evidence that the prevalence of different time zones has created divisiveness in any country.

The most persuasive economic argument in favour of a separate time zone is that it will significantly reduce the wastage of power. The two-hour difference in sunset time forces offices to keep the lights on and this results in unnecessary overuse of power. Major savings can be effected in consumption in these times of energy shortage if offices close when the day light is still on. It is also noted that the people of the region undertake their normal daily activities like eating and sleeping two hours earlier than people in the rest of the country. It is argued that the misalignment between the biological and the official clocks creates many inconveniences.

There was a recommendation by another parliamentary committee in 2007 for a separate time zone for the North-East. This was after an expert panel appointed by the government had rejected the idea in 2001. There has been a strong demand in the entire North-East for a separate time zone. It is a common practice with many countries to adopt different time zones depending in the size of the country and the change of seasons. Bangladesh adopted the daylight saving time in 2009 to conserve energy.  It has even been argued that India should have more than two time zones. The proposal for a separate time zone for the North-East may be considered again in view of the benefits which it may give to the region.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

QUALITY AND RELEVANCE

ALOK RAY


Many students can't pay back loans with the meagre salaries they earn with degrees from low-rung institutes.
Years ago I was travelling in a local train.  A coconut vendor sitting on the floor of the compartment was talking to others: "Everyday I bring and sell a few coconuts in the market and I earn enough for subsistence. I am quite happy, except that I have one big regret. I could not get myself an education. So, I can not follow what the educated, knowledgeable people talk about."  I was so impressed with this man.  Here was a poor old man somehow making both ends meet. Yet, he had no complaints regarding his economic condition. All that he yearned for was some education and that too not for any financial gains. Such people are rare — rarer in today's  increasingly materialistic world.  


Of course, nothing wrong if people want education to be employable. But a question  being asked in many countries is: what kind of education is needed for that purpose?
Since our education system is increasingly following the American model, it is instructive to look at the US experience. An average American student spends about $17,000 each year as tuition fee and those who finance education with bank loans graduate with an average loan of  $23,000.

 Imagine the plight of such a person if he fails to get a job which would give him enough earnings to cover his living costs and loan repayment. A large number of college graduates are being forced to take up jobs like bartenders or salesmen (which were traditionally reserved for school graduates or even dropouts) at wages which would be enough for survival but would not enable them to get out of the debt trap. At the same time, on average, a college graduate earns about 50 per cent more than a school graduate and a school graduate earns about 45 per cent more than a school dropout.
So, more education pays in the sense that if the person gets a job commensurate with his acquired skills, he would earn significantly more than a less educated.

The key lies in the quality and relevance of education. In the US, as in India, there are high class colleges along with lots of bad colleges. With the mushrooming of private engineering and management institutes in India, students who otherwise could not pursue higher education are now able to enroll in some technical college by paying much higher fees than those charged by government colleges. Student loans are also being offered generously by banks. With the economy growing at 8-9 per cent per year, many types of jobs are being created.

Diversity of earnings

The result is that most of the students from lower-tier technical colleges are eventually getting some jobs but at salaries at  a fraction of those earned by students passing out of  the first-tier institutes. Thus, we see enormous diversity of earnings among people with B. Tech or MBA degrees. In India, too, many students are finding it very difficult to pay back education loans with the meagre salary they are able to earn with degrees from low-rung institutes.

A vicious cycle is operating. Most of the students entering the low-tier colleges have low educational attainments from school levels. They are less prepared and often less motivated to learn. Attendance at classes is poor. The college authorities will certify the minimum percentage of attendance in any case to be allowed to sit for the university examination. The teachers feel little pressure to teach as students are not interested.

 They are primarily in the college for a diploma which they consider a matter of right in return for the lakhs of rupees they are paying as fees. The exams are lax, hardly anyone fails, grades are inflated. The employers know it — hence they have little faith in these grades and degrees. Basically, they treat these college as places from where they would pick up a few students on the basis of written tests and personal interviews at low salaries, without incurring the cost and trouble of calling up a large number of jobseekers at the company office for interviews. Since they know that in any case they will have to train these people extensively they would pay low salaries to cover their training costs.  

The government takes the easy, politically expedient road of reserving seats for an ever increasing circle of new classes/ castes in premier institutes, launching  new IITs and IIMs in almost all the states and even renaming existing colleges as IITs/IIMs. The acute shortage of quality faculty even in the established IITs/IIMs is the crucial bottleneck, which, spending money on physical infrastructure would not solve. More substandard IIT/IIMs are serving to destroy the brand that such institutes have built over the years. A devalued brand would make it more difficult to attract top quality faculty to these institutes.

The basic solution lies in improving the quality of school level education – particularly in rural areas – and  providing career counseling and vocational courses. Otherwise, substandard and irrelevant education will make a lot of  people more unemployable. The son of the doorman of our apartment building has passed BA exam with Bengali, Sanskrit and History as subjects from a college in rural Bengal. He is not willing to be a farmer or a doorman anymore nor is he like the coconut seller I met decades back. But what kind of job can such a graduate hope to get in today's India?

(The writer is a former professor of economics at IIM, Calcutta)

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

IS RAJIV GANDHI CASE SETTING A PRECEDENT?

There have been as many as 18 mercy petitions filed by death row convicts or their next of kin. This has been kept pending by the government for years on end.
And now comes another stunner. The Rajiv killers got a reprieve on Tuesday when the Madras High Court stayed their executions which were due to be carried out on September 9. It was surprising to note of the jubilation that occurred outside the court hall on hearing the news of the staying of the execution. There is a difference of opinion among political parties as to the severity of the crime committed by the Rajiv Gandhi killers. The Tamil parties believe that the crime committed by the three isn't grave enough to warrant death penalty.
If one may recall, they were convicted for their complicity in a crime in which a female suicide bomber blew herself up at the dais where Rajiv Gandhi was scheduled to address an election rally at Sriperumbudur, which killed the erstwhile Indian Prime Minister and scores of others.
This was in retaliation for Rajiv's decision to send peace keeping force (the IPKF) to Sri Lanka to contain and prevent the strife between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government. The decision earned the wrath of the LTTE, as it perceived the IPKF as supporting the Sri Lankan government.
The Indian government has certainly delayed the matter vis-à-vis executing of Rajiv's killers in time.
One may wonder why the Tamil Nadu government adopted a resolution recommending commutation of the death sentence. Obviously, it is a reflection of the people's sentiments, which Jayalithaa has exploited for political gain. It could also mean that she is out to score brownie points.
But behind all this, this begs the question:what about the lives of those Tamils who were killed along with Rajiv?
They would certainly desire justice for their loved ones. If the Union government's counter in eight weeks fails to convince the court, and their sentences are commuted to life imprisonment, it will open the doors to a flood of clemency petitions.
The government must come down firmly as this mass killing in the case of Rajiv Gandhi and the others, comes under the rarest of rare of crimes.
This was an operation carried out in cold blood, was executed with precision, and had achieved its target in the most bloodiest manner. Also, the deterrent factor must also be weighed in.
Although capital punishment is slowly being done away in many western countries, one must not forget that commuting sentences to life imprisonment would weaken the deterrent value of law against wannabe criminals of meticulously planning dastardly crimes, with the sure knowledge that they will survive the death row with a clemency bid.
At such times, executing deadly criminals is absolutely necessary. Our judicial process is a time consuming exercise, and that is what delays punishments.
In the Rajiv Gandhi case, the death penalty should be implemented without further delay. The arduous wait in keeping the case in limbo would not do the government any good.
They should be hanged as soon as possible, so that the deterrent value of law is maintained.

SPORTS REGULATION BILL

NELSON LOPES

The performance of India as the nation is dismal when compared with even smaller nations. Our standing in the Olympics is pathetic to say the least. We had only one creditable medal won by Abhinav Bindra. In a population of a billion plus people, we do not find any worthy material to spot and train. The money allotted for CWG was not spent for strange reasons. Imagine the loss incurred by the government in organising CWG alone. The government's intention to bring this bill appears to milk the cash rich cow of BCCI. It is the lure of money that attracts their interests, as the amount with the organisation is more than the annual budgets of some Indian states. Naturally, they want a pie of this cake. The government reputation in the field of sports management is disgraceful. The government does not encourage and adequately finance any sensible sports activity. The federation and bodies are avenues for the politicians to head as a matter of honour and privilege. Hockey, which was once a sure gold medal hope, has now lapsed into oblivion, with in fights among the officials. The winning disciplines of weightlifting are privately funded. We are no where near any discipline to reckon with, in world competition. The bill was discussed with ministers that had a conflict of interests, heading sports organisations and was naturally rejected. The BCCI is, by and large, well administered, except for a few aberrations of IPL involving unsupervised individuals, who were given a free hand in good trust.


The cricket associations, which are part and representing BCCI, have constructed huge stadiums promoting cricket as a sport. The international sports events have augmented in India, the much needed infrastructure in recent times. The government intentions to interfere in well managed sports discipline is suspect. Look at the facilities provided during training and mere subsistence allowance sanctioned to them. The government will do well to support such organisations that are doing commendable work.

 

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

IMC'S AMENDMENT BILL 2011

DR GLADSTONE A D'COSTA

On the 18th August 2011, Parliament passed the "Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill 2011" by virtue of which the tenure of the reconstituted MCI was extended till May 2012. Following the arrest of the president of the MCI, Ketan Dessai, on charges of corruption, the council was dissolved and a Board of Governors was appointed by an MCI(Amendment) Bill 2010. The tenure of that Board ended in May 2011, but instead of an extension, the entire Board was summarily dismissed and replaced with a new Board. The debate in parliament lasted over four hours; Sanjay Jaiswal (BJP) demanded a firm timeline for restoring the MCI. Why was a statutory, elected body superseded; and why was similar reasoning was not applied to SEBI, TRAI and IOA following more serious corruption? Jyoti Mirdha (Congress) hoped this would be the first and last extension as such "supersedence of a democratic organisation was undemocratic". So how did the HM get himself into such a pickle with drastic action against a Board appointed by himself, comprising some of the finest in our profession whose only "fault" was their enthusiasm in setting things right?
His plans to introduce a "National Council for Human Resources for Health" (NCHRH), had been delayed he said, without elaborating that the delay was a result of a turf war between the Health, HRD and Education Ministries all of whom seek to control the golden goose of medical education. Personally, I feel it was an act of childish pique by the HM (and the ghost of the past president?) over changes which would have far reaching consequences, correcting the plague currently afflicting the medical profession.
The dismissed Board proposed a national common entrance examination for the MBBS similar to the Bar Council and IITs. Unfortunately, of the 271 medical colleges in India, a little over half are privately managed; some with political heavyweights as godfathers and stakeholders.
On March 7 2011, the Supreme Court ordered the Central government to hold a single eligibility-cum-entrance examination for MBBS.
The bench of justices R V Raveendran and A K Patnaik said that the admission test will be applicable countrywide, including private medical colleges, except the state of Tamil Nadu where Madras High Court has granted injunction against the common admission test.
Noting the Solicitor-General, Gopal Subramaniam's statement that the Health Ministry has not "granted its approval" for the test, the bench said: "We fail to understand why they (MCI) need government approval. Nothing more is required to be done by the MCI after two notifications", clarifying that the MCI, as the apex regulator for medical education, is competent to act independent of the government on the issue.
What of the NCHRH? This grand daddy of all "big brothers" will "subsume" the MCI as well as state councils, dental, nursing councils etc. The draft proposes a Council with a chairperson and not more than four members all appointed by the government; whose "Search Committee" will forward names to a "Selection Committee" who will forward to an "Appointments Committee". Amazing! They will oversee seven administrative departments, Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Public Health and Hospital Management, and Allied Health Sciences. All related acts will be repealed and existing State Councils will be replaced by State Registrations and Ethics Boards, who will maintain registers and regulate all matters including professional conduct and ethics.
We sincerely hope this "super" council does not collapse under its own weight.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ISRAEL MAY HAVE MISSED ITS CHANCE FOR MIDEAST PEACE

SLOWLY BUT SURELY THERE IS AN INCREASING SENSE THAT TERROR IS RETURNING, ACCOMPANIED BY CLAIMS AROUND THE WORLD THAT WE DIDN'T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE TIME TO REACH AN AGREEMENT WITH THE PALESTINIANS.

BY YOEL MARCUS

 

We have five submarines and some of the most sophisticated planes in the world, with the last word - the F-35 - on the way. According to foreign sources we also have a nuclear capability. But still one Arab equipped with a knife can cause havoc in an entertainment district in south Tel Aviv. Nobody sent him, it came from his heart. We have one of the best armies and intelligence services in the world, and still terrorists set up a bloody ambush on the road to Eilat and catch us unprepared.

The new Egyptian leadership hasn't even had time to promise us that the peace agreement will be preserved and the hate-filled shabab demonstrates in front of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. They even found somebody to climb up and take the Israeli flag down from the roof, with the impassioned masses embracing him as a hero.

Our sophisticated air force is good at large and distant strategic targets, but not against Ahmed, who rides a donkey, hides behind a tree, launches a mortar and returns home. Maybe he hits the target and maybe not, but he certainly scares the residents of the south.

Low-level violence is dictating the volume of our lives. Look how an intelligence warning that terrorists were on the way disrupted the lives of people accustomed to driving on the Mitzpeh Ramon-Eilat highway and stopping at the rest stops. They are exhausting us with the most primitive of weapons. Their war is over awareness. Our long coma is ending.

We are entering September under the least convenient circumstances. The world is tired of Israel, whether or not there is a social-welfare demonstration of a million people in Tel Aviv and the nation is tired of its leaders and the unjust distribution of the economic and defense burdens.

Slowly but surely there is an increasing sense that terror is returning, accompanied by claims around the world that we didn't take advantage of the time to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. A combination of terror and international diplomatic pressure is the last horror scenario we need for our current problems.

The army and the police are preparing for every eventuality, they reassure us. They are preparing, for example, for the possibility that violent Palestinian demonstrators will try to break into the settlements, whether en masse or in small groups. When they say "preparing" they mean that the army is teaching the settlers how to protect themselves from a Palestinian infiltration. A kind of "tower and stockade" as in the old days. But if you think twice about this brilliant proposal, you'll discover that the settlers might use the knowledge they get from the army against the army itself when it has to evacuate people in any land-swap agreement.

The world is urging us to take advantage of the time until September 20 - when the United Nations is supposed to officially recognize the Palestinian entity as a state - to enter last-minute negotiations with the Palestinians. Unfortunately, we are confronting a weak American president who is fighting tooth and nail for his second term. Barack Obama has reached the point where Americans complain about him no matter what the situation. He prepared for the hurricane as if embarking on a world war, and now he's being accused of being a panic-monger. If he hadn't taken the storm seriously and a catastrophe ensued, they would have claimed he neglected the people.

In such a situation, with such a president and as far as our fate is concerned, it's very important for Israel to be the leader and the strong one so that the UN General Assembly decision won't turn into a harsh international statement against Israel; so that it won't blame Israel for everything happening in the region.

Experts on the region say the Palestinian Authority will be wary about violence against Israel. Its interest is to prove that it's the party that wants an agreement and Israel is the recalcitrant one. The army now ruling in Egypt also has an interest in preserving the peace agreement with Israel, on condition of course that Israel is not accused of denying the Palestinians their right to an independent state.

Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaida and the Iranians are waiting in ambush to exploit Israel's stubbornness. The principle of doing nothing espoused by former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has turned out to be lethal. And it's continuing in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The Iron Dome anti-rocket system will not save us when the voice of Israel is the voice of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The long coma is coming to an end with a bang.

We're entering September under the least convenient circumstances. When the war is over awareness, the stage cries out for an alternative leadership.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

GO OUT AND DEMONSTRATE

 

If hundreds of thousands of citizens play their civic role and take to the streets Saturday, the government, the politicians and big business will be incapable of ignoring their demands.

The social protest movement is holding its "million-man" demonstration in Tel Aviv's Kikar Hamedina tomorrow evening. After eight weeks of continuous protest that incorporated many different segments of the population, all eyes are now focused on the square in north Tel Aviv: Will it be inundated by masses calling for social justice, chalking up yet another remarkable achievement for the largest popular movement in the country's history? If hundreds of thousands of citizens play their civic role and take to the streets Saturday, the government, the politicians and big business will be incapable of ignoring their demands.

The protest movement already has an impressive resume. Israel's public discourse has changed. A civil society has been created that is no longer willing to be passive, to accept whatever is thrown at it as if it were a divine decree. That is why it is so important to come to this demonstration, which could become a milestone on the road to a longed-for change in society.

Two fundamental issues are on the agenda: a new political language in which all citizens, and not just politicians, have an important say in what happens in this country; and a new, fairer distribution of wealth. One need not agree with each of the dozens of the demands voiced by the protest movement in order to go out and demonstrate; it is enough to support its underlying principles, which have garnered widespread public support. Now is the time to translate that support into a grand display of power.

Participating in tomorrow's demonstration means caring and involvement; not participating means complacency and willful blindness to the ills of Israel's society and economy. There is little dispute over the need for change, and that near-unanimous recognition must be given forceful expression Saturday.

Saturday's event in Kikar Hamedina will determine the character of our society: Will it remain comatose, submissively accepting the injustice that has pervaded it, or will it rise up in tenacious struggle? Will Israelis consent to go on living in a society where they pay too much and receive too little, and where most of the wealth is concentrated in too few hands, or are they set on change?

No one will do anything to effect change unless Israeli citizens take their fate into their own hands and go out to protest. That is why we are urging from this platform: Go out and demonstrate!

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ISRAEL'S SOCIAL UNREST MEANS THE PEOPLE ARE BACK ON TOP

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS CHANGED. THE PUBLIC UNDERSTANDS THAT IT HAS POWER BOTH VIS-A-VIS THE GOVERNMENT AND VIS-A-VIS THE MONOPOLIES AND THE CARTELS. THE POLITICAL DISCOURSE HAS CHANGED.

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

 

Public pressure has effected change. National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau has capitulated and been forced to sign an order lowering the gasoline retailers' profit margins by 19 agorot per liter. This is a significant decrease, and one that Landau truly did not want to sign. Over the past two years, he has become an enthusiastic supporter of the wealthy and of large monopolies, and he has forgotten his role representing the public.

In fact, in early 2010, Landau took steps to dismiss the chairman of the Energy Authority, Amnon Shapira, simply because he dared to instruct the Israel Electric Corporation, a monopoly, to reduce its tariffs after cheap natural gas was introduced to its production system. Later, he waged war on the Sheshinski committee to prevent it from raising taxes, to the degree that it recommended, on oil exploration companies. Now he has stood behind large fuel corporations and for months prevented their exaggerated profit margin from being lowered - that is, until the social protest movement defeated him.

For many years, the large fuel companies collected an excessive profit margin, accumulating enormous profits at the expense of the public. But in January, after the price of gasoline passed the NIS 7 mark, public outcry erupted, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Landau to examine the fuel companies' profit margin. Landau appointed a committee that determined the margin must be lowered by 21.5 agorot per liter - but then he refused to accept the committee's recommendation, accepting all kinds of fabricated claims proffered by the fuel companies.

The companies also approached ministers and Knesset members from Likud, asking them to put presure on Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to save them from the abhorrent decree, but Steinitz declined. The companies frightened their employees by threatening that, if the margin was lowered, they would have to become more "efficient"- which is to say, they would be dismissed - and the terrified workers held a demonstration. Ofer Eini, chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, also intervened to prevent the margin from being lowered. Eini of course knows how to speak in lofty terms about the high cost of living, but when it comes to actions, he supports the big workers' committees and, in this case, the committees at the Paz, Delek and Sonol companies - and, through them, the wealthy people who control those companies.

However, when the pressure continued to mount, Landau discovered the real culprit: the treasury. According to Landau, the Finance Ministry is "the biggest tycoon that exists," since it takes 53 percent of the price of gasoline in taxes. It is true that the Finance Ministry takes a great many taxes, but where do these taxes go? They are earmarked, for example, to provide many billions of shekels for the cost of the settlements, an expenditure that Landau actually supports. They are earmarked for the increase in the Israel Defense Forces' budget, so that it can be ready for any operation or war forced upon us, since Landau is not prepared to even dream of any peaceful solution to the conflict that entails giving up territories. The taxes also go toward supporting new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, which Landau also is in favor of, since they vote for the Yisrael Beiteinu party. If all this is so, why does he complain that the taxes are so high?

One thing is certain: Without the social protest movement, the fuel companies' profit margin would not have budged by even one agora. Until the drivers started raising their voices, the Fuel Authority kept quiet, and so did the Finance Ministry. But it is not only the fuel companies who understand now that the rules of the game have changed. The entire economy understands. The supermarket chains would not have dropped the price of cottage cheese from NIS 7.3 to NIS 5.9 were it not for the social protest organized on Facebook. Nochi Dankner, who has the controlling share in Super-Sol, would not have met with a group of young people who threatened a boycott and would not have promised to bring down prices. The CEO of Super-Sol, Efi Rosenhaus, would not have hastened to meet with a few students from Tel Aviv University and vowed to lower the prices of 30 items by 20 percent. And lo and behold, Mega too is lowering the price of 32 basic products.

Of course, we have not forgotten about the promises made by Netanyahu immediately after the protests began to build cheap housing, nor have we forgotten about the Trajtenberg committee, which is planning to introduce changes in the areas of taxation, competition, cost of living and apartment prices. In other words, the balance of power has changed. The public understands that it has power both vis-a-vis the government and vis-a-vis the monopolies and the cartels. The political discourse has changed, and it will have an influence on the results of the next elections.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE FULL FORECAST FOR SEPTEMBER

THE SETTLERS HAVE ALREADY SWORN THEY'LL KNOW HOW TO MANAGE WITHOUT THE IDF, AND THE PA WILL HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THE DEMONSTRATIONS THAT ARE MEANT TO BE PEACEFUL.

BY YOSSI SARID

 

September is here and we still don't know what the month will bring. But why isn't it clear when we can clearly see what's coming? We no longer need the astrologers in the intelligence services to warn about the evil, which it's too late to prevent. It's also unnecessary to ask the parties about their intentions because their influence on events is marginal. We're marching toward disaster with our eyes open.

The Palestinian Authority declares that it has no intention of launching a third intifada, the Israeli government announces that it has no intention of causing a bloodbath with its decisions, and both can be believed in this case. The defense minister revealed this week that we've bought nonlethal riot-control equipment, and the Israel Defense Forces is training the security coordinators and emergency squads in the settlements to deal with defiant parades.

None of that will help, and we'll remember what September did to us, though this year September is liable to fall in October or November. The conflagration isn't always immediate. The Israeli government and the PA don't really have control over the territories, which for a while now have been a no-man's-land.

In around 20 days the request to recognize Palestine as a state and a member of the United Nations will be submitted. The results of the vote are known in advance: With or without an American veto in the Security Council, a huge majority will support the proposal. President Shimon Peres would do well to spare himself and us his pathetic rearguard speech, which won't divert a single country from its position. And it's not a good idea for him to be seen as the servant of two masters: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The president should let the foreign minister reap the storm sowed by his whirlwind.

I remember November 29, 1947 very well. I was a boy of 7, and I too was overcome by overwhelming joy. My mother forbade me from dancing in the streets - it's dangerous there outside with a war approaching - but the circle swept me up. People will be swept up in Palestine too. True, there is no focused writing on the wall, because the entire wall is the writing: Very soon they will be disappointed over there to discover that their miserable lives aren't changing. But for a few days they'll ignore the subjugation and celebrate the redemption.

For us in Rehovot there were no roadblocks in the center of the moshava, or settlements surrounding it. Had there been, it's quite possible the joy would have had us climbing the fences. Maybe soldiers won't be the first to fire at the boy climbing. But settlers will fire at him, collecting a "price tag" for everyone to see. They won't allow those unruly kids to behave with chutzpah and have already sworn they'll know how to manage without the IDF. The PA will have no control over the demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful. And the Israeli government has no control over the settlers. And why be naive: On both sides there are people seeking a little more blood, which will grease the wheels of the decision - one more battle and we've won the war.

So what else isn't clear, then? The PA will collapse after Israel cuts it off from its financial pipelines, and Congress, which is drunk on tea rather than wine, will dry up the U.S. assistance. The new-old situation will force the Palestinian leadership to give up its fictitious rule and return the keys to Netanyahu. It must be urged to do so and bring down the curtain on the farce.

Israel will assume the burden of occupation with all its tasks and fears; it will renew its days as of old, just when there's a new spirit, another discourse and a different order of priorities. Instead of free education for preschoolers in Israel, Israel will invest billions abroad - in education, health and garbage collection in Nablus and Hebron.

There is no way of removing the yoke from our necks without breaking the head; there is no way of getting rid of the territories entirely without one more round of withdrawal symptoms. And we're cured.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

RISE ABOVE THE ONE MILLION

THERE IS NOTHING NEW IN THIS INFATUATION BY A PARTICULAR SEGMENT OF THE POPULATION WITH THE GENRE OF DEMONSTRATING FOR THE SAKE OF DEMONSTRATING. THIS IS THE CHIEF WEAPON OF ALL THOSE WHO SHY AWAY FROM ACTUAL POLITICAL ACTIVITY.

BY DORON ROSENBLUM

 

It is not clear who the wise guy was who threw out this number in the first place - perhaps because of hubris and gluttony after the demonstration of the 300,000, or perhaps due to the influence of television quiz shows, where a prize of less than one million is considered insignificant. But it is clear that even one million wise men will not be able to pull the "million-man demonstration" out of the problematic corner into which it is liable to be pushed on Saturday night.

After all, "one million" people won't be there, at least not an empirical one million about which everyone can agree. And even if this is the biggest demonstration in the history of the state, if not the history of mankind, it is not clear how much it will influence Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who understands only the language of politics and images, or how it will improve the undisputed achievements of the demonstration of the 300,000.

But the tension is tremendous, like that before the drawing of the big prize in the lottery: Will the record be broken? Will we reach one million on Saturday night? Every single potential participant certainly feels this tension in his own body: Will I come up to expectations? Will they count me if I stand on my toes? Or perhaps I'll clone myself (staying away is obviously out of the question ) so that the demonstration won't be declared a total fiasco if only 800,000 turn up?

On the other hand, anyone who is openly or secretly lying in wait for the "protest" to fail - that means the settler right and Netanyahu's bureau - does not need the facts on Saturday night to do the math and claim that not only won't the demonstration even approach a quarter of a million, but also that fewer people will be there than were at the show of support for indicted singer Margalit Tzan'ani.

Two typical Israeli traits could undermine the protest movement. One is overkill - the tendency to use excessive force and worship quantitative might. The other is the desire to embrace absolutely everyone.

Indeed, there is something fetishistic about the effort to expand the sea of heads as an objective in itself, whether through "attractions" and crowd pleasers (rumor has it that if there is a real emergency, if only half a million show up, even Arik Einstein will be pulled out as the doomsday weapon ) or through a white-out of politics that aims to stretch the fabric of agreement to cover absolutely everyone. (It's therefore not surprising that the issue of Gilad Shalit was also brought into the fray. Why not also donations to Libi, the soldiers' welfare fund? )

There is nothing new in this infatuation by a particular segment of the population with the genre of demonstrating for the sake of demonstrating. This is the chief weapon of all those who shy away from actual political activity - for the most part, people from the center or left of the political map. They hurry home to read the reviews of the demonstration, to hear "how many came" and to hope that "someone up there" will be impressed and do something about it.

Meanwhile, on the stage where the real action takes place, there are Israelis who are up to their necks in political activity - mainly on the right, among the ultra-Orthodox and settler communities. They are smart, seasoned, diligent activists who love politics and know how to speak its language, "teeth-pullers" who know just how to squeeze or maneuver or juggle anything electoral or parliamentary. In short, people who know how to use political power.

And one look at the clear order of priorities adopted by this government and most of its predecessors is enough to understand that in the long and permanent run, the country's fate is determined in political kitchens, not in the city squares, with their candles and performances.

From a political standpoint, the protest organizers might be wise to put the "million-man demonstration" sword back in its sheath at the last moment, before the effect that has already been achieved is lost, and leave it there as a potential back-up. And yes, I do mean a "political" standpoint - for after all, it would be better if the new generation stormed into actual political action.

Indeed, instead of counting heads in the trunk of the car, why not try to gain control of the driver's seat and the direction in which the vehicle is traveling - by counting votes? What, is that only for the Bibis and the Liebermans?

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

EDITORIAL

OH, GROW UP

 

Whenever we think Washington couldn't get more cynical or more craven, it proves us wrong. So we will resist the temptation to say it's hard to imagine anything more base than the food fight over President Obama's planned speech to Congress.

 

The contemptuous reaction from the House speaker, John Boehner, to the president's request to address a joint session next Wednesday — the day Congress returns from its summer recess — was appalling. No matter how he feels about Mr. Obama personally or politically, there can be no excuse for his lack of respect for the office, to which he is second in the line of succession. And it was distressing to watch President Obama fail, once again, to stand up to an opposition that won't brook the smallest compromise.

 

What made this even more appalling is that the president will be speaking on the country's most pressing problem — the need to create jobs and stave off another destructive recession.

 

Mr. Obama's request should have been routine. And The Times on Thursday quoted a White House official as saying it was: Obama aides consulted Boehner aides and then sent a formal request for a joint session on Wednesday. But Mr. Boehner said the date wasn't convenient, a rebuff of the chief executive that the Senate historian's office said seemed unprecedented.

 

It's possible that the White House failed to seek Mr. Boehner's back-room agreement before making its formal request. That's hard to believe, even from an administration that is maladroit politically, to put it kindly.

 

But even if that were true. So what?

 

Mr. Boehner said there are votes scheduled on Wednesday evening, but they seem to be profoundly unimportant and, in any case, this is the same speaker who repeatedly postponed votes on whether to save the nation from default. What could possibly be so pressing this time?

 

It's also possible that the White House failed to notice that the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination have a debate on Wednesday, or deliberately tried to upstage it. If either is true, shame on the White House.

 

But, again, so what?

 

The Republican candidates did not seem to care. Some seemed eager to be up against Mr. Obama on television. And a presidential address on jobs and the faltering economy certainly trumps one of 20 planned debates among the contenders for the Republican nomination.

 

Mr. Obama's people negotiated with Mr. Boehner's people behind closed doors. When they emerged, the White House caved, to no one's surprise. The speech will take place on Thursday.

 

One day won't make a difference, but the political spectacle and the final result only served to further underscore the president's weakness. Worse, the vital importance of the speech — and the need for Congress to take its full responsibility for creating jobs and reviving the economy — was upstaged by yet another Washington soap opera.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

PROTECTING INNOVATION AND COMPETITION

 

After a decade-long merger spree in which AT&T and Verizon amassed more than 60 percent of the nation's cellphone subscribers, the Justice Department was right to call a halt to the consolidation process, filing an antitrust suit on Wednesday to block AT&T's $39 billion attempt to buy the nation's fourth-largest carrier, T-Mobile.

The merger poses a clear anticompetitive threat. Not only would it give AT&T more than 40 percent of the market, it would take out a scrappy and innovative rival that competed profitably by offering cheaper service plans and took risks others would not. For instance, it introduced the first smartphone based on Google's Android, which today is the leading mobile phone operating system.

 

The Justice Department's antitrust division rightly concluded that T-Mobile's cheaper service would be one of the first victims of a merger. And allowing the number of national service providers to shrink to three posed too great a risk to development of wireless computing, slowing innovation on the frontier of information technology.

 

AT&T's argument that a handful of small local and regional rivals amount to vibrant competition is unpersuasive: the Justice Department found that, after a merger, 96 of the nation's top 100 markets would be "highly concentrated." AT&T's claim that a merger would result in substantial consumer benefits is equally unconvincing.

 

AT&T's main argument is that buying T-Mobile is essential for it to address a looming spectrum shortage and to quickly expand its 4G network to virtually all of the population. This fit the Obama administration's desire to expand high-speed broadband access.

 

But there are ways to make more efficient use of available spectrum. Verizon, which has less spectrum than AT&T, is way ahead of AT&T in building out a 4G footprint and has a plan to cover almost the entire population. What's more, an AT&T filing in the merger process revealed that the company had plans to expand the coverage to 97 percent on its own for $3.8 billion — a tenth of the merger cost. It rejected them on multiple occasions on the grounds that they were too pricey.

 

The suit, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, presents a very serious threat to AT&T's plans. But the merger could survive. AT&T is calling for an expedited trial. And it is likely to try to negotiate a settlement with the Justice Department. Some analysts say the market will consolidate to three national carriers regardless of the outcome. They reason that T-Mobile and Sprint, which is No. 3 in the industry, have been losing subscribers to the two leaders and can't survive.

 

That's dubious. Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's owner, didn't invest in the company because it had priorities in

Europe. But there are other deep-pocketed companies with an interest in wireless broadband — from cable to satellite TV firms — that could be drawn to a cellular company with spectrum in major markets and 33 million subscribers.

 

Blocking the merger entails some costs. Buying T-Mobile would allow AT&T to expand more quickly. It would

also reduce some costs. But the benefits to subscribers are more doubtful. The Justice Department's decision was the right one for consumers and technology.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A VITAL LIBERTY

 

In an important decision last week, a federal appeals court affirmed that the First Amendment protects the right to videotape the activities of police officers in public. When three officers arrested a man in Boston Common one evening in 2007, a bystander named Simon Glik, concerned that the officers were using excessive force, pulled out his cellphone and made an audio and video recording of the arrest. Unhappy about being recorded, one officer handcuffed and arrested Mr. Glik, too. He was charged with wiretapping, along with other crimes.

 

After the charges were dismissed, Mr. Glik sued the Boston Police Department for violating his constitutional rights under the First and Fourth Amendments. The officers claimed immunity from the lawsuit because they were performing official duties.

 

The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit wisely rejected that argument. It explains in a strong opinion that Mr. Glik was exercising "a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment." It did not matter that Mr. Glik was not a journalist because "the public's right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press." His use of a cellphone made "clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status."

 

Public officials are entitled to limited immunity from lawsuits when they are operating in their official capacity. But they can be sued if they should have known that their conduct violated a constitutional right. The court allowed Mr. Glik's suit to go forward because it found that the officers misused their authority in arresting him.

 

The First Amendment clearly protects Mr. Glik's right to videotape public events. The Fourth Amendment protected him from arrest without probable cause; he was obviously not engaged in illegal wiretapping since he made his recording openly. The officers tried to turn Mr. Glik's exercise of his rights into a crime. By turning his cellphone camera on them, he held them accountable for their conduct.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

REVERIE IN YELLOW

 

Most New Yorkers depend on public transportation. And when it is suspended — as it was during Hurricane Irene — we realize just how much we need it. But there are times when, if you can afford it, only a taxi will do. You raise your arm, a cab pulls over, and off you go. Sometimes it occurs to you that if you raised an arm at the curb on most of the streets in America, nothing would happen. Someone might wave, but that's about it. Sometimes you realize that in most of America, two adults in a car almost never ride one in front, one in back.

 

You may have important thoughts to think in that taxi, papers to review, calls to make. But it's almost impossible to resist the seduction of the passenger window, the chance to gaze privately at the city sliding past. There is a certain inertia in taxi-gawking. At first, you merely glance out the window and then turn back to your own concerns. But after a block or two, the window demands all your attention. It is like snorkeling through a crowded coral reef. So many colorful creatures getting on with their living, making their way, such elaborate structures, such curious relationships to observe.

 

That is the nature of New York City — to realize, now and then, that there is something extraordinary in the very things you take for granted. And as the traffic slows near Times Square, you sink even deeper into your reverie, forgetting that to all the tourists on the street, your cab is just one fish in a school of yellow fishes, part of the scenery that tells them the city looks just the way they imagined it.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE VIGOROUS VIRTUES

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

There's a specter haunting American politics: national decline. Is America on the way down, and, if so, what can be done about it?

 

The Republicans, and Rick Perry in particular, have a reasonably strong story to tell about decline. America became great, they explain, because its citizens possessed certain vigorous virtues: self-reliance, personal responsibility, industriousness and a passion for freedom.

 

But, over the years, government has grown and undermined these virtues. Wall Street financiers no longer have to behave prudently because they know government will bail them out. Middle-class families no longer have to practice thrift because they know they can use government to force future generations to pay for their retirements. Dads no longer have to marry the women they impregnate because government will step in and provide support.

 

Moreover, a growing government sucked resources away from the most productive parts of the economy — innovators, entrepreneurs and workers — and redirected it to the most politically connected parts. The byzantine tax code and regulatory state has clogged the arteries of American dynamism.

 

The current task, therefore, is, as Rick Perry says, to make the government "inconsequential" in people's lives — to pare back the state to revive personal responsibility and private initiative.

 

There's much truth to this narrative. Stable societies are breeding grounds for interest groups. Over time, these interest groups use government to establish sinecures for themselves, which gradually strangle the economy they are built on — like parasitic vines around a tree.

 

Yet as great as the need is to streamline, reform and prune the state, that will not be enough to restore America's

vigorous virtues. This is where current Republican orthodoxy is necessary but insufficient. There are certain tasks ahead that cannot be addressed simply by getting government out of the way.

 

In the first place, there is the need to rebuild America's human capital. The United States became the wealthiest nation on earth primarily because Americans were the best educated.

 

That advantage has entirely eroded over the past 30 years. It will take an active government to reverse this stagnation — from prenatal and early childhood education straight up through adult technical training and investments in scientific and other research. If government is "inconsequential" in this sphere, then continued American decline is inevitable.

 

Then there are the long-term structural problems plaguing the economy. There's strong evidence to suggest that the rate of technological innovation has been slowing down. In addition, America is producing fewer business start-ups. Job creation was dismal even in the seven years before the recession, when taxes were low and Republicans ran the regulatory agencies. As economist Michael Spence has argued, nearly all of the job growth over the past 20 years has been in sectors where American workers don't have to compete with workers overseas.

 

Meanwhile, middle-class wages have been stagnant for a generation. Inequality is rising, and society is stratifying. Americans are less likely to move in search of opportunity. Social mobility has been flat for decades, and American social mobility is no better than European social mobility.

 

Some of these problems are exacerbated by government regulations and could be eased if government pulled back. But most of them have nothing to do with government and are related to globalization, an aging society, cultural trends and the nature of technological change.

 

Republicans have done almost nothing to grapple with and address these deeper structural problems. Tackling them means shifting America's economic model — tilting the playing field away from consumption toward production; away from entitlement spending and more toward investment in infrastructure, skills and technology; mitigating those forces that concentrate wealth and nurturing instead a broad-based opportunity society.

 

These shifts cannot be done by government alone, but they can't be done without leadership from government. Just as the Washington and Lincoln administrations actively nurtured an industrial economy, so some future American administration will have to nurture a globalized producer society. Just as F.D.R. created a welfare model for the 20th century, some future administration will have to actively champion a sustainable welfare model for this one.

 

Finally, there is the problem of the social fabric. Segmented societies do not thrive, nor do ones, like ours, with diminishing social trust. Nanny-state government may have helped undermine personal responsibility and the social fabric, but that doesn't mean the older habits and arrangements will magically regrow simply by reducing government's role. For example, there has been a tragic rise in single parenthood, across all ethnic groups, but family structures won't spontaneously regenerate without some serious activism, from both religious and community groups and government agencies.

 

In short, the current Republican policy of negativism — cut, cut cut — is not enough. To restore the vigorous virtues, the nanny state will have to be cut back, but the instigator state will have to be built up. That's the only way to ward off national decline.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

ERIC AND IRENE

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

"Have you left no sense of decency?" That's the question Joseph Welch famously asked Joseph McCarthy, as the red-baiting demagogue tried to ruin yet another innocent citizen. And these days, it's the question I find myself wanting to ask Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, who has done more than anyone else to make policy blackmail — using innocent Americans as hostages — standard operating procedure for the G.O.P.

 

A few weeks ago, Mr. Cantor was the hard man in the confrontation over the debt ceiling; he was willing to endanger America's financial credibility, putting our whole economy at risk, in order to extract budget concessions from President Obama. Now he's doing it again, this time over disaster relief, making headlines by insisting that any federal aid to the victims of Hurricane Irene be offset by cuts in other spending. In effect, he is threatening to take Irene's victims hostage.

 

Mr. Cantor's critics have been quick to accuse him of hypocrisy, and with good reason. After all, he and his Republican colleagues showed no comparable interest in paying for the Bush administration's huge unfunded initiatives. In particular, they did nothing to offset the cost of the Iraq war, which now stands at $800 billion and counting.

 

And it turns out that in 2004, when his home state of Virginia was struck by Tropical Storm Gaston, Mr. Cantor voted against a bill that would have required the same pay-as-you-go rule that he now advocates.

 

But, as I see it, hypocrisy is a secondary issue here. The primary issue should be the extraordinary nihilism now on display by Mr. Cantor and his colleagues — their willingness to flout all the usual conventions of fair play and, well, decency in order to get what they want.

 

Not long ago, a political party seeking to change U.S. policy would try to achieve that goal by building popular support for its ideas, then implementing those ideas through legislation. That, after all, is how our political system was designed to work.

 

But today's G.O.P. has decided to bypass all that and go for a quicker route. Never mind getting enough votes to pass legislation; it gets what it wants by threatening to hurt America if its demands aren't met. That's what happened with the debt-ceiling fight, and now it's what's happening over disaster aid. In effect, Mr. Cantor and his allies are threatening to take hurricane victims hostage, using their suffering as a bargaining chip.

 

Of course, Mr. Cantor would have you believe that he's just trying to be fiscally responsible. But that's no more than a cover story.

 

Should disaster aid, as a matter of sound public finance, be offset by immediate cuts in other spending? No. The time-honored principle, backed by economists right and left, is that temporary bursts of spending — which usually arise when there's a war to fight, but can also arise from other causes, including financial crises and natural disasters — are a good reason to run temporary budget deficits. Rather than imposing sharp cuts in other spending or sharply raising taxes, governments can and should spread the burden over time, borrowing now and repaying gradually via a combination of lower spending and higher taxes.

 

But can the U.S. government borrow to pay for disaster aid? Isn't the government broke? Yes, it can, and, no, it isn't. America has a long-run deficit problem, which should be met with long-run budget measures. But it's having no problem at all borrowing to pay for current expenses. Moreover, it's able to borrow funds at extremely low interest rates. Notably, right now the interest rate on the benchmark 10-year U.S. government bond is only slightly more than half what it was in 2004 when Mr. Cantor felt that it wasn't necessary to pay for disaster relief.

 

So the claim that fiscal responsibility requires immediate spending cuts to offset the cost of disaster relief is just wrong, in both theory and practice. As I said, it's just a cover story for the real game being played here.

 

Now, Mr. Cantor may end up backing down on this one, if only because several of the hard-hit states have Republican governors, who want and need aid soon, without strings attached. But that won't put an end to the larger issue: What will happen to America now that people like Mr. Cantor are calling the shots for one of its two major political parties?

 

And, yes, I mean one of our parties. There are plenty of bad things to be said about the Democrats, who have their fair share of cynics and careerists. There may even be Democrats in Congress who would be as willing as Mr. Cantor to advance their goals through sabotage and blackmail (although I can't think of any). But, if they exist, they aren't in important leadership positions. Mr. Cantor is. And that should worry anyone who cares about our nation's future.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

 

THE ENDGAME IN LIBYA

There is still much confusion about the future of Libya. Rebel forces clearly are in transcendence. They seem to have effective control of much of the country, including the capital Tripoli, but their grasp on the day-to-day operations of government is shaky. It likely will remain that way until Moammar Gadhafi, the longtime Libyan dictator currently in hiding but still issuing warnings that forces loyal to him will continue to fight, is either captured or killed.

For the moment, though, a certain equilibrium seems to have been established. World leaders have pledged to support the new Leadership, the rebels are consolidating their positions and most Libyans seem content with the situation. There's a general air of celebration and relief that the excesses of the Gadhafi regime have come to an end. The mood of celebration, however, should be tempered by the fact that the rebels have not yet created the kind of formal governmental structure that is required to carry on the every-day business of managing the nation.

The failure to do so is especially worrisome in a couple of aspects. Foremost is growing concern about Gadhafi's immense stockpile of weapons, which includes shoulder fired anti-aircraft devices and, perhaps, nerve and/or biological agents. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed that issue directly Thursday. She said that "Libya's new leadership will need to ... work with us to ensure that weapons from Gadhafi's stockpiles do not threaten Libya's neighbors and the world." It is a timely admonition.

There's worry, too, about who currently controls Libya's treasury and the enormous amount of petroleum-generated income that flows into it. The best outcome, of course, is that the fund be administered by groups and individuals who will use the money to maintain infrastructure like electricity and water service, to continue providing programs like education and health care, and to otherwise improve the lot of ordinary Libyans. At the moment, there's no guarantee of that.

There are reports that at least two groups in the rebel coalition have named their own officials to oversee the multibillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund. Unity in fiscal affairs is far preferable to division.

Much, of course, depends on how long Gadhafi and his forces can hold out. Rebel forces aren't pushing the issue at the moment, wisely extended a deadline for the surrender of forces in Sirte, the dictator's hometown and a place where many believe he could be in hiding. Time and public opinion might be as effective in prompting a surrender as military action.

While no one is willing to offer a timetable for the official end of Gadhafi's claim to power, it is increasingly clear that his reign has ended. The dominant question about Libya now is what comes next -- a gradual transition toward democratic government under the rebel-led National Transitional Council or disputes and disagreements that could lead to civil war or worse.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

 

NEW ROLE FOR GEN. PETRAEUS AT CIA

Four-star U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus came to public prominence with his leadership in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But after serving faithfully and well in those sometimes contentious, frustrating and indecisive efforts, Petraeus was recently confirmed by a 94-0 Senate vote to become head of the CIA, at the age of 58. There is every reason for confidence that his character and experience have qualified him for this important new post.

But he did not retire from the military without a stern warning to Washington that it should not impose budget cuts that would create a "hollow Army" and weaken our nation's ability to defend itself.

Federal deficit spending is obviously a grave problem, but cuts should be focused on unconstitutional spending and on reform of entitlements that are currently going broke. It is vital that we maintain our military readiness, and Petraeus is right to say so.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

 

WHERE IS LABORATORY PROOF OF EVOLUTION?

In your editorial (Aug. 28) on Rick Perry and evolution, you gave a compelling argument for the fact that evolution is an established theory.

As a retired biology teacher, I was taught that a theory must be tested many times in the laboratory producing the same results, to be a theory.

The fossil record is punctuated by large gaps, and there are no fossils to bridge the large gaps between phyla. Evolutionists often use mutations as the vehicle that allows change. Most geneticists would conclude 95 percent of all mutations are harmful or lethal. Biogenesis or life from previous life is a theory Louis Pasteur proved many years ago.

In the Dark Ages, most scientists believed the Earth was flat, that the sun and planets rotated around the Earth and life could arise spontaneously. A few dared to swim upstream. We now know the Earth is round, the sun is the center of the solar system and life comes from previous, pre-existing life.

Would you provide for me and your readers when, where and how scientists have demonstrated over and over again in a laboratory the fact of the theory of evolution?

Today some scientists believe in intelligent design and don't follow the herd.

DAN BRUNER

Dalton, Ga.

'Must have' can't explain evolution

In an editorial in the Chattanooga Times, Aug. 28, Rick Perry is quoted saying that "evolution is 'just a theory.'" The editorial position is, "… most scientists now believe that evolution does occur."

An article in National Geographic, November 2004, attempts to explain the evolutionary steps that led to the development of complex living structures, including the human eye. The author essentially admitted they have no evidence that these steps actually occurred. But he said they "must have." That phrase was used repeatedly in the article.

These "scientists" would have us believe that evolution is not "just a theory?"

LOUIS MAHN

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TIMES FREE PRESS

 

THE SOUTH'S FAVORITE SPORTS SEASON

Though many old-timers, who fell in love with the sport when games routinely started after Labor Day when the weather was a bit cooler, find it tough to accept, it already is football time in Tennessee and the surrounding region. The gridiron season, in fact, has been under way for a couple of weeks.

There's plenty of proof of that in the sports pages of this newspaper and in other media. The Times Free Press sports department already has produced two well-received supplements, the College Blitz and another featuring area high school teams. That's in addition to thorough preseason coverage of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the University of Tennessee, the University of Georgia and other collegiate football programs. That's only part of it.

Collegiate football isn't the only game in town or the region. Most high school teams already have played two games. They've attracted big crowds, despite the heat and humidity of August nights. And pro football teams, despite a protracted labor dispute, are playing, as well. The Tennessee Titans and the Atlanta Falcons have large followings here, too. Given its popularity at all levels, coverage of football is extensive.

It's almost but not quite enough to make the avid fan forget there are other sports to follow at this time of the year.

Sports purists might believe that baseball should hold sway this time of year and that auto racing, tennis and golf deserve attention as their seasons wind down. That might be true, but it is almost impossible to deny the power and attraction of football in this region.

There's proof just about everywhere the sports devotee and casual fan care to look. Crowds at high school games are a precursor of the multitudes that will fill college and pro stadiums in the weeks to come. And if there is ever any doubt about the pull of football in the South, one need only to look toward Knoxville, Athens in Georgia or Tuscaloosa on football game day.

UTC might attract increasingly large crowds at its home games and many high schools report steady attendance, but the real proof comes on Saturdays at the SEC schools. Tennessee's Vols, Georgia's Bulldogs and Alabama's Crimson Tide almost always play to full houses. Indeed, Neyland Stadium, home to the Tennessee football team, usually becomes the state's fifth largest city whenever a game is played there. It won't be any different this week.

Fans might prefer that football be played in the cool and crisp days of fall rather than in the heat and humidity of early September, but that doesn't deter the faithful. If you want proof that football season has really started, look to Knoxville or Atlanta on Saturday. The crowds that witness the Vols play Montana or those who gather in the Georgia Dome to watch Georgia take on Boise State are irrefutable evidence that the South's favorite sports season has arrived.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

HOUSING COLLAPSE AND 'RIDICULOUS' LENDING

The collapse of the U.S. housing market over the past few years would be bad enough if it affected only home builders themselves. But in our complex economy, a downturn in an industry as big as housing construction has serious ripple effects.

The big floor-covering industry just down Interstate 75 in Northwest Georgia has suffered terribly as home building has dropped and demand for carpet and other floor coverings has fallen. In fact, flooring makers have endured "the largest decline in the history of the flooring industry," Jeff Lorberbaum, chairman and CEO of Calhoun, Ga.-based Mohawk Industries, said recently.

From their peak just five years ago, carpet sales have dropped about 40 percent, he added.

He chided the federal government for encouraging lending policies that unwisely gave mortgages to people who were likely to struggle with making payments.

"Government policies were put in place to help people own homes, and we thought it was a good policy," Lorberbaum said during a Chamber of Commerce event in Gordon County, Ga. "We had people with almost no income who were able to buy houses. It was ridiculous." Then, "Lo and behold, you have to pay the piper sooner or later," he said.

Falling sales of carpet have forced layoffs and plant closings. The unemployment rate in the metro Dalton area in July was a staggering 12.5 percent.

Lorberbaum urged politicians to "get out of the way" of job creation. That suggestion is more than sensible, given the fact that government policies helped to create the economic crisis.

Whether lawmakers will heed that advice is an open question, though. All too often, they are prone to doubling down on bad policies, rather than reversing them. President Barack Obama, for instance, wants more "stimulus" spending after the failure of the first stimulus — and he unfortunately has a good bit of support for that among Democrats in Congress.

Government can foster conditions — such as limited regulations and low taxes — that support economic growth. But government is not ultimately what stimulates the economy. That's the free market's job. Government distortion of the free market — whether in housing or any other industry — is the source of so many of our economic problems.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

CONGRESS SHIFTS, BUT DOESN'T ELIMINATE, FEES

Consumers who enjoy the free use of debit cards from their banks may soon have to pay for that service — and they have Congress to "thank" for that.

The Dodd-Frank Act did a favor to merchants by slashing in half the amount that banks are permitted to charge merchants for electronic transactions.

That was wrong in principle because price-fixing is not an appropriate or constitutional function of the federal government.

But it was also wrong from a practical, financial point of view. Why? Because banks are having to find ways to make up the revenue that they will lose from being forced to reduce charges for electronic transactions. One way they are trying to make up the shortfall is by charging monthly fees when consumers use debit cards.

Some banks in our area are looking at fees of $3 to $6.

The problem is that Congress did not think before it acted. Lawmakers assumed — as they often do — that they could intrude in and micromanage the free market without creating a series of economic consequences. But of course, there are always consequences when the federal government decides to give preference to one sector of the economy over another. The disfavored sector has to try to fix the problems created by government intervention, and that affects us all.

In this case, that means millions of bank customers may have to start paying monthly fees to use their debit cards.

While merchants may benefit from having to pay lower transaction costs, consumers will suffer when the new regulation shifts costs onto them.

How many times must this sort of federal meddling create problems before Washington finally realizes that distorting the market is simply a bad idea?

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

SHARING LIBYA?

Yesterday was the 42nd anniversary of the Moammar Gadhafi-led military coup in Libya, where he promoted himself to the rank of "Colonel" and became the ruler of the country.

Gadhafi could not see the 42nd anniversary of his time in power as he is on the run in his own country after sending his family to neighboring Algeria. Yet yesterday he made another call to his supporters for resistance.

While Gadhafi was making his call for resistance, high-level representatives of a number of countries hosted by French President Nicholas Sarkozy were getting prepared for a conference on the future of Libya. Not only countries, but organizations such as the Western defense organization NATO and the Arab League were represented at the highest level in Paris.

The Paris conference of Sept. 1 on Libya has been evidence showing that the winds of the Arab Spring are not affecting all Arab countries in the same way.

We have not seen an international conference on this scale for the future of Tunisia, for example, nor on the future of Egypt. Moreover, having had its transformation in a peaceful manner, Egypt was among the participants in the conference. The people of Libya were represented in Paris by the National Transitional Council, recognized as the legitimate counterpart by countries that participated in the Istanbul conference hosted by Turkey in July.

One reason is that the unrest in Libya has been continuing for more than half a year now. Unlike with the rather short transformations of powers in Tunisia and Egypt, it was obvious Gadhafi would not give his power over on a silver tray to those he believed were after his country's oil and gas.

The fact that Sarkozy agreed to share the hosting chair with British Prime Minister David Cameron in his own capital shows the stakes are really high regarding the future of Libya's mineral resources, as well as the freedoms and rights of Libyans.

British, French and Italian companies might have little to object to in the idea of redesigning the ownership and operation of Libya's oil and gas resources. Countries such as Turkey, for example, have concerns about that. Turkey had billions of dollars worth of contracts, mostly related to construction work in Libya, before the unrest started.

Now, in the shadow of the sharing of the future of Libya, Turkish companies are putting pressure on the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in order not to be downgraded to the subcontractors of French, Italian or American construction firms in the new Libya.

Knowing that and knowing the role Turkey has played in making the NATO intervention in Libya possible, large-scale Western companies and their governments are spreading the word that Turkey can keep its construction share in the new Libya, so they can turn a blind eye to what is going to happen in the field of oil and gas. And considering the concerns of the United Nations Security Council's permanent members Russia and China, the picture gets even more complicated.

It seems one conference may not be enough to solve the Libya question.

* Correction: Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel's surname was mistakenly printed as "Öztorun" in my column "A tale of three generals" in the Aug. 30 Bayram Edition; I apologize for this mistake.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

THE SWINGING PENDULUM

The three-day religious holiday has come to an end, complete with some images in Ankara said to represent the new setting in the country's "advanced democratic atmosphere," reports from Tripoli about the "discovery" of a 50-room "secret basement" that wouldn't be out of a place in a James Bond movie and the very sad news that former Turkish Cypriot President Rauf Denktaş is in critical condition.

At least a small section of Turkish society – not including civil servants who have the luxury of having an extended nine-day holiday thanks to the generosity of the government – will enjoy the happiness of resuming work.

Going from one extreme to the other like a pendulum has been one of this country's national sports. For some reason being at the median is something unwelcome for most of the population. Look at our loves, our enmities! We love death, we hate death! Why? We love to live in the extremes or at least try to show others that we are men of extremes and win their respect… Idiotism as it is, this is a national sport.

Once upon a time civilians were the bosses of the military and the chief of general staff was helping out the defense minister in putting on his overcoat. In democracies, of course, elected civilian governments cannot play second fiddle to the military top brass. The elected prime minister or the defense minister cannot be subservient to a commander – irrespective of who he is – who indeed should have been appointed to that post by the civilian elected government. However, a top military commander should not be asked to help a defense minister dress and thus be belittled by an elected civilian politician.

Of course as a top commander in a Platonic love affair with a lady prime minister once said, the relationship between prime ministers and top commanders should be "The prime minister orders, we obey and fulfill the order immediately…" However, during the fight against separatist terrorism that was contracted to the military and police special teams during the same period, immense success was achieved against terrorism but thousands of people went missing – apparently becoming victims of summary executions before being buried in mass graves…

The president accepted congratulations on Victory Day, the top commander and other commanders of the country paid their respects in full conformity with the "new protocol code" to the president; the photograph of the top commander giving the president what the military describes as "heel salute" were of course outstanding, just because they were the first ever... Were they abnormal? Or were the photographs showing the military top brass "bowing" in front of the elected civilian administration an anomaly? On the contrary, this country was living through examples of anomaly for the past many decades after the military – displaying a revanchist understanding after the 1960 coup – wrote itself a role in which it would be above civilians in the country's policy-making mechanisms or protocol order.

President Abdullah Gül was perfectly right when he said there were scenes that did not suit modern Turkey's image, and with the initiative of the new chief of General Staff, some of those anomalies were corrected. The process of anomaly correction is still not yet over. For example, is there any other country with democratic governance where the chief of General Staff comes before the defense minister in the state protocol? Or, is there any other NATO partner which suffers serious pains before every NATO ministerial meeting regarding how to seat its top military commander; behind the minister, next to the minister or in front of the minister?

Opposition to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, should not blur perceptions… What's being achieved silently over the past few days was indeed of revolutionary importance. Let's hope that we do not go once again to another extreme; instead, let's allow the median approach a chance…

P.S. I sincerely hope President Denktaş will survive this latest health complication and continue illuminating us. My prayers are with him and his family.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY VOTE: A TURNING POINT IN THE PALESTINIAN ISSUE?

September is a critical month for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When the U.N. General Assembly convenes in mid-September for its annual meeting, the Palestinians will ask the assembly to vote on a resolution to recognize Palestinian statehood.

The Palestinian leadership has already given up on peace negotiations and last May reconciled with Hamas. The reconciliation came in the context of the Arab uprisings and was forced upon the leadership by demonstrating Palestinian youth. After the reconciliation came, the decision was made to pursue an alternative path to the recognition of its statehood at the United Nations.

In the past the Palestinians had tried the option of unilateral statehood. The most recent attempt was by the late Yasser Arafat after the failure of the Camp David talks in 2000. At that time Arafat travelled to several capitals, including Ankara, to seek support for such a declaration. That attempt failed when most of these countries advised Arafat to continue with the peace negotiations rather than pursue a unilateral path.

This time the context is very different. There is really very little hope for negotiations. The Arab uprisings have also created a new atmosphere more amenable for the Palestinians. A transformation of the policy of a key Arab actor, Egypt, is very critical. The transition government in Egypt has already called upon the United States to support Palestinian independence. Although the uprisings in the Arab world have not directly addressed the Palestinian issue, it is clear that popular empowerment will force governments in the Arab world to be more sensitive toward developments in the Palestinian issue, as in Egypt. Anyone familiar with Arab politics would know how deep the support is for the Palestinians at the public level.

There have already been declarations of support from different countries around the world. Turkey has also expressed support for the unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. The critical issue here is what the EU countries and the U.S. will do. In a press conference Catherine Ashton, the European Union's high representative, referred to a report and said the Palestinian Authority had made significant progress and that Palestinian institutions now compared favorably with those in the West. In recent months there have been several other reports published by international institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the U.N. that have studied the police force, municipal services and schools, and they say they believe the Palestinians are nearly ready to run their own state.

Even then it would be difficult for the EU to find a common position on this issue. Nevertheless some EU countries could be more supportive. The Barack Obama administration, on the other hand, would be less likely to support such a resolution due to the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel. The fact that the Obama administration is already coming to the end of its first term further complicates the situation.

Palestinian officials haven't announced the wording of the resolution, but they have publicly hinted that they will call for recognition of the 1967 borders. If the resolution proceeds to a vote and passes, the result may not change everything on the ground immediately. As the Palestinian officials also recognized, it would not necessarily mean peace. But especially depending on the support it gets, the resolution may mean the further isolation of Israel.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

TURKISH-ISRAELI TIES ON BRINK OF COLLAPSE

It is clear that the Mavi Marmara incident will color Turkish-Israeli ties, or the increasing lack of them, for the foreseeable future. This is the rock upon which a relationship that was once considered vital for both countries due to the many practical advantages it brought will have finally foundered.

It remains to be seen whether the historical ties between Turks and Jews can survive this falling out. We have emotional nations on both sides and a sense of mutual animosity has filtered down to the consciousness of ordinary people on the street.

The bottom line is that for many Turks, Israel is run by a pack of trigger happy killers of unarmed civilians, while for many Israelis, Turkey is run by a terrorist supporting group of Islamic fundamentalists hell bent on seeing the destruction of their country.

There appears to be no intermediary tones in this respect and neither government appears to have the political wisdom to find a way out of the morass. It remains to be seen whether the much talked about "Palmer Report" on the incident, commissioned by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will finally be released today - as some media reports indicate.

The release of the report has already been postponed a number of times due to either Turkey's or Israel's request (depending on whose media one believes). At any rate it is more than clear at this stage that whatever this report says, Israel is not going to apologize for killing nine Turkish activists on the Mavi Marmara in May 2010, even if this has to be done for the sake of broader strategic consideration.

It is equally clear that Turkey will not let the matter rest either politically or legally until the apology, compensation and lifting of the Gaza blockade by Israel it is demanding is forthcoming.

The bottom line is that both governments - which are religious and/or nationalist hard-liners in their own right - appear to have made a strategic decision about these ties, which also takes a historic severance of relations between the two nations into account. True to the often irrational Middle East, both countries are more concerned today about "national pride" than a rational settlement for the sake of future interests.

So who will lose more as a result of this? It is noticeable that there is hardly any debate about this particular question in Turkey, while the Israel media is rife with commentary about the pros and cons of "apologizing to Turkey." Perhaps the answer to this question lies in this fact.

There are also commentators abroad who believe Israel - whose international isolation will become even more pronounced following the UN vote on Palestinian independence this month - stands to lose out significantly as a result of this situation.

An op-ed piece in the Boston Globe (Aug. 29) by Alan Berger is a case in point, and must be taken as reflecting some of the official thinking in Washington. Berger had the following to say on the matter:

"From Homer's Iliad to Machiavelli to Don Corleone, it has long been clear that a wise leader should divide his enemies and unify his allies. But when the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently declined to apologize to Turkey for killing nine Turkish nationals last year aboard a flotilla headed for Gaza, it was breaking that fundamental rule of statesmanship."

Pointing to the souring of ties between Ankara and Damascus over Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown against demonstrators, Berger added, "Netanyahu ought to welcome Turkey's invitation to repair relations, thereby strengthening a tacit Arab-Turkish-Western-Israeli alliance working to end the Assad dynasty - and roll back the Iranian tide."

It seems however that back in Israel, where the best that senior government officials can do is come up with populist remarks such as "God forbid that we apologize to Turkey," no one is listening.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

A FEW QUESTIONS ON 'FREE LIBYA'

Explaining regime change with oil may be "so 2003," but on Libya and considering the "party line" being fed in the global media, it is compelling to assume the role of the annoying mnemonic.

Libya has nearly 45 billion barrels of oil reserves, 3.4 percent of the world's known supply. Four-fifths of this top-quality oil is in the vast Sirte Basin. Natural gas reserves are estimated at near 55 trillion cubic feet. Until Col. Moammar Gadhafi was removed from his throne, most of the nation's oil exports went to Italy – 32 percent of foreign sales as of 2009. Other top destinations were Germany, France, Spain and China.

The possibility of a cancellation of existing energy deals seems small – it will create too many problems with the West, to which the "National Transitional Council" owes its victory. However, exploration and extraction licenses for new fields may show who's the new boss. According to an Aug. 29 Bloomberg Businessweek story, for example, Italy's Eni is fearing that French giant Total will get the lion's share in natural gas fields, given Nicolas Sarkozy's "obsession" in bombing Tripoli to bits.

Western energy companies could also request a "fine-tuning" of existing contracts. According to the Gadhafi-era deals, 90 percent of oil revenues belong to Libya, while oil firms get 10 percent. This "injustice" will surely be corrected. If need be, the $154 billion of frozen Libya assets worldwide would make a good carrot!

As was the case in Iraq, energy is only one aspect of Operation Libya, and the more complex the story gets, the more the hypocrisy. Have you read The Times of London's piece on Britain's contributions to regional democracy? Last week, the newspaper reported that U.K. arms sales to regimes in the Middle East jumped 30 percent during the Arab Spring. Arms sold between February and June amount to 30.5 million pounds, the report says, noting that these include weapons that could be used to suppress domestic protest.

Britain is not alone. According to Der Spiegel, Berlin recently sealed an agreement to sell 200 Leopard 2A7+ tanks to Saudi Arabia for 1.5 billion euros.

Of course, the United States accepts no rival on this front. In October last year, Washington announced a deal to sell up to $60 billion worth of military aircraft to Saudi Arabia over the course of 15-20 years – talk about a long-term commitment!

Between 1999 and 2006, the U.S. averaged $5.8 billion per year in arms sales deals with the Middle East and South Asia, according to armscontrolcenter.org. Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and Bahrain rank high alongside Saudi Arabia in this list.

I wish this were the end of the annoying contradictions, but it is not. I'd like to learn, for example, how come a listed "terrorist organization," the Libya Islamic Fighting Group, is at the forefront of bringing freedom and democracy to Libya. Here's the United Nations list, updated Aug. 22: www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/pdf/AQList.pdf

The group apparently has changed its name to the "Libyan Islamic Movement" and its "emir," Abdelhakim Belhadj, is today the commander of the Tripoli Military Council. The emir has had quite a journey, from jihad in Afghanistan to a CIA "interrogation" chamber in Thailand. "CIA rendered Abdelhakim Al-Khoweildy [his other name] to Libya on March 9, 2004," says a Human Rights Watch report. According to press reports, he was kept in prison on death row until March 2010 but was released on the insistence of Gadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam.

It seems that as Col. Gadhafi got a "downgrade" from eccentric statesman to ruthless dictator, Mr. Belhadj advanced from terrorist to freedom fighter!

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

OPEN LETTER TO PLATINI

MAHFİ EĞİLMEZ - MAHFI.EGILMEZ@RADIKAL.COM.TR

Dear President,

In line with the information provided by your inspector you have sent to Turkey, you have made the Turkish Football Federation, or TFF, decide to bar Fenerbahçe from the UEFA Champions League. Because the information and documents submitted to your inspector have not yet been submitted to the defendants and their lawyers on grounds of secrecy, while they are in a waiting period until they are able to prepare their defense, you have caused the violation of one of the fundamental principles of law, the violation of the right to a defense, and have caused a club to be punished while its administrators did not yet find a chance to defend themselves. In law, the right to a defense, "audi alteram partem" that dictates it is a must to hear the opposite party before making a decision is sacred. It is unlawful for a federation that does not have any jurisdiction to reach a decision based on a one-sided opinion.

One of the principles of criminal law is the acceptance that people are innocent until a court decides otherwise. This is called the "presumption of innocence." Match fixing is done by people and those people who do it are punished according to laws. The clubs of those executives who have fixed matches are also responsible and they are also penalized. There is nothing abnormal up until this point. Whether or not a person or persons are guilty would be determined at the end of the trial. If their clubs are punished because of claims that their executives have committed a crime without waiting for this process to finalize, then there is an abnormally. Because, in this case, the presumption of innocence principle is applied to individuals but not to clubs. The banning decision that UEFA wanted was made by the TFF and the presumption of innocence has been violated. In this case, while the arrested president of the club is continuing to be assumed innocent in principle, the club has already been declared guilty.

Match fixing is an act that highly exceeds the concept of a disciplinary crime. For this reason, it is wrong to regulate this with a directive based on a decision of the federation. These have to be subject to laws and action should be taken according to the verdict reached at the end of the trial, taking into consideration the connection of the acts of these people. The thing that must be included in the Football Discipline Order is the topic of what should be done when match-fixing claims are confirmed at the end of a trial. When the federation makes a decision based on opinion regarding such an important event as match fixing, then a punishment is meted out without having to go to court, and this is against the "natural justice principle." The decision you forced upon the TFF has violated the principle of natural justice.

You could not apply it in Switzerland

When the Celtic team informed UEFA of an irregularity of Switzerland's Sion team, you asked the Swiss Football Federation to withdraw Sion from the European League. The Swiss Football Federation's response to you was like a law lesson delivered to us all: "This case is now being tried within the Swiss jurisdiction. Until the case comes to an end, we cannot execute any procedure you wish us to do."

Maybe you are informed of it; we have adopted our legal system from Switzerland to a great extent. Unfortunately, while adopting the system, we have not been able to adopt the courage to properly implement it.

Dear President,

You aimed at releasing UEFA from a possible burden of compensation by making TFF decide that Fenerbahçe should not participate in the Champions League instead of you making this decision. But I can assure you, those who can execute law with courage as in Switzerland, in the case of an adverse development, will not only make the TFF face huge compensation, but you also.

Because I don't know French, I wrote the letter in Turkish. I do hope those persons who have translated the allegations that were published in our press into French and have submitted them to you as evidence will also be kind enough to translate this column and submit it to you.

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

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

LIBYA: IS FORCE AN INSTRUMENT OF LOVE?

Somebody (perhaps a Jesuit) once said: "Force is an instrument of love in a world of complexity and chance." I'd be grateful if someone could tell me where that comes from, but it has stayed with me for a long time because it embodies a kind of truth. Sometimes you have to use force to protect innocent people from harm. Which brings us to Libya.

The war there is effectively over, and the Good Guys won. The dictator's delusional son, Saif al-Islam, still promises that "victory is near," but he will soon be dead, in prison, or (if he is lucky) in exile. The only problem is that the Good Guys who mattered most were actually foreigners.

The National Transitional Council, or NTC, the shambolic proto-government that claims to run the rebel-held areas (now more than nine-tenths of the country) is well aware of the problem. When the United Nations began talking about sending peacekeeping troops to Libya to help stabilize the country, their reply was a resounding "no."

That's understandable. The NTC has enough difficulty getting other Arabs and Africans to accept that their revolution is a legitimate, home-grown affair without having armed foreigners traipsing around the country. It's painful even to admit that NATO functioned as the rebels' air force, and that they could not have won without it. But it's true.

It was the decision by France and Britain to commit their air forces to the defense of the rebels in eastern Libya that saved them from being overrun by Moammar Gadhafi's forces in the early days of the revolt. Other Western countries sent combat aircraft to join them (although the United States drew back after the first few days), and Gadhafi's army was stopped just short of Benghazi.

Equally important was U.N. resolution 1973 in March, authorizing willing U.N. member countries to use "all necessary means" (i.e. force) to protect the Libyan population from its own government. It specifically mentioned Benghazi, the capital of the rebel-held territory, as an area to be protected. And even Russia and China did not veto the resolution, although they had deep misgivings about where it might lead.

They were right. It led to a NATO-led aerial campaign (supported by a few planes from a couple of small Arab countries) that went far beyond protecting the Libyan population from attacks by Gadhafi's forces. His troops were struck from the air wherever they were, on the flimsy argument that they might be planning to attack civilians one of these days.

Similarly, any building with pro-Gadhafi Libyan troops in or around it was designated a "command and control center," and therefore a legitimate target. The targeting was precise, hurting few civilians, but the bombing was intense. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but the Royal Canadian Air Force, with only six F-18s involved, dropped 240 bombs on Libya in the first two months of the operation, all of them 227-kg laser-guided weapons.

It was these relentless air attacks that eroded Gadhafi's forces so much that the rebel fighters in the west were finally able to seize Tripoli last week. The rebels could not have won without NATO. So were NATO's actions legitimate, especially since they stretched the U.N. resolution's terms almost to the breaking point? Even more importantly, were they morally correct?

Let's leave the legality to the lawyers, who will gladly argue either side of that question for a fee. The real question is moral. Was NATO an instrument of love in this instance? Were its bombs?

Cheap cynicism says no, of course. It was "all about oil," or the West seeking military bases in Libya, or French President Nicolas Sarkozy looking for a cheap foreign policy success before next year's election. But cheap cynicism is sometimes wrong.

You don't get oil more cheaply by invading a country: look at Iraq, which has sold all its oil at the world market price for the past eight years despite U.S. military occupation. Why on Earth would the West want military bases in Libya? It already has them nearby, in Italy. And Sarkozy took a very big risk in sending French planes to back the rebels, although he must have known that any political boost he got would be over by next year.

If the foreigners' motives really were humanitarian – they wanted to stop Gadhafi's atrocious regime from killing his own subjects, and thought that Libyans would be better off without him – then they actually were using force as an instrument of love. Not "love" as in the love songs, but love meaning a genuine concern for the welfare of others.

Most resorts to force do not meet this criterion (although those using the force generally claim that they do). The U.S. did not invade Iraq out of concern for the welfare of Iraqis, for example. But once in a while there is a shining exception, and this is one of those times.

The British, French, Canadians, Swedes, Qataris and so on would not have done it if it involved large casualties in their own forces. (In fact, they had no casualties.) Most Western soldiers didn't think the operation would succeed in removing Gadhafi, and the outcome has been greeted with surprise and relief in most of the capitals that sent aircraft. But they did it, and that counts for a lot.

*Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

THE TWO LIBYAS

For Moammar Gadhafi's successors, the hardest task will be making a whole of their country's alienated halves. Libya is a creature of two parts. You start to sense this as you cross the country by road from Benghazi in the east to Tripoli in the west, a drive of a thousand kilometers. Looking east from Benghazi, the Egyptian border is not far away; from Tripoli, west, the Tunisian border is a short drive. In between and below these two coastal cities, which hold 60 percent of Libya's population, is a void of desert the size of two Anatolias. The road connecting Benghazi and Tripoli is a well-paved highway that was used mainly by occasional oil trucks up to the present revolution. It runs straight as a die. On one U.N. trip my Libyan government driver averaged speeds of 250 kilometers an hour for long stretches. He was a westerner sent from Tripoli. As he picked me up he sniffed at the disorder outside the Benghazi airport.

Physical distance isn't the only estranging factor. History and culture have also served to set Libya's two halves apart. Beginning more than 2,000 years ago the territory that is now eastern Libya was penetrated by Egyptian civilization. Several centuries later, Carthaginian and Roman influences shaped the culture of the west. From that time forward in history, neither the Arab Conquest, the Ottoman Empire, nor British and Italian rule did much to change the split nature of the territory, which over the centuries had come to have two names – Cyrenaica in the east and Tripolitania in the west. In the country's 62 years of independence, whether under King Idriss or Gadhafi, real political or any other true union of the two parts has been more fiction than reality.

Gadhafi's regime was sporadically menaced by uprisings that originated in the east, with Benghazi as the hub. He put these down with a brutality that seems fresh in the memory of rebel leaders of the recently Benghazi-based National Transitional Council. As they settle into power in Tripoli, and go about purging their ranks as all victorious revolutionaries do, it will become clear that the revolution was as much an east-west civil war as it was a movement to bring down Gadhafi. Further, that it was driven by the calculation of opportunities that would open to eastern tribes once the oil began to flow again.

The new leadership will come into a governing void as empty as the country's desert. In Egypt and Tunisia there are traditional state institutions and the cartilage of civil society to build from. Those don't exist in Libya. Gadhafi so thoroughly hollowed out Libyan society that only yes-men were left, and he played the yes-men against one another, jailing some, shooting some, raising the once-jailed to high rank, buying off the families of those he shot. Two generations of Libyans learned to swallow his lunatic pronouncements and schemes, and even to believe in them.

Today, at least, the men bidding to lead the new Libya do not impress. It's true that exiles and defectors and even those with blood in their hands can turn out to be acceptable public officials – see Belfast and Baghdad. But one must wonder who the Libyan people can trust among the collection of opportunists and arrivistes thrusting themselves forward today. One of them, Abdel Fattah Younes, the Gadhafi interior minister who defected to take charge of the rebel forces, has already been assassinated, apparently at the arrangement of two of the other presumptive leaders.

All in all, it looks like a snake-pit in the making. Let's hope it surprises us. Let's hope, too, that disagreement about income from the country's oil reserves – most of which lie in eastern Libya – won't spark secessionist thoughts among easterners. We've seen that film before – Katanga, Biafra, and recently South Sudan. All a reeling Libya needs to top off its revolution is a war of secession.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

IN KELLY'S LAST WORDS, SUCH IS LIFE

MORE than 130 years after he was hanged at age 25, outlaw Ned Kelly is still controversial. And he would probably be thrilled that his relatives are bucking a Victorian government proposal to put his bones on public display. Wherever he is finally laid to rest, interest in the identification of his remains through the wonders of DNA science will be intense.

Historical interpretations of Kelly vary from those that regard him as a cold-blooded killer, bank robber, standover thug and gangster to those that depict him more favourably as an Irish-Australian anti-establishment underdog and folk hero. There is truth in both, but it is beyond doubt that the hardened bushranger was responsible for killing three policemen. Kelly's exploits, primitive armour and Jerilderie letter pleading for a fairer deal for the poor have captured Australians' imaginations and inspired great art. His skeleton is a stark reminder of our wild colonial past.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

PM'S BLAME GAME SHOULD END WITH A LOOK IN MIRROR

JULIA Gillard has never been shy about blaming the opposition and the media for her woes. Now, confronting her most humiliating failure, she has taken to blaming the High Court. In comments unbecoming of the office of Prime Minister, she has even sought to highlight alleged inconsistencies by the Chief Justice, Robert French.

The nation's highest court found, in a six to one majority, that the government's Malaysian deal was not within the law. The Prime Minister's response should be to either change the law or change the policy, not to initiate an unedifying exchange between the executive and the judiciary. It is high time Ms Gillard faced up to her own errors and set about correcting her mistakes.

The genesis of Labor's woes stretches back to opposition when it capitalised on discontent from the Left and small-l liberals over the Howard government's tough Pacific Solution. That Labor stood up for the rights of asylum-seekers is laudable; that it saw political benefit in this is understandable. One of the architects of Labor's campaign policy to soften the border protection regime was Ms Gillard, a former shadow minister on immigration. However, mature policy considerations should have come into play when Labor saw that the flow of boat arrivals had stopped and the detention centres had all but emptied under the very policies it was criticising. On coming to power, instead of leaving well enough alone, the Rudd government set about delivering on the expectations of the Left. Given the problem of unlawful boat arrivals had manifestly been fixed, Labor's actions were more about moral posturing than effective government.

Many people have paid a terrible price for the new government's misplaced human rights activism. Since Labor's changes, more than 12,000 asylum-seekers have arrived on 240 boats; detention centres have been opened in every state; a boat has been set on fire, taking five lives, and another was dashed on the rocks of Christmas Island, killing 50; riots, fires and self-harm have repeatedly occurred in the centres; hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent; and important relationships with our regional neighbours have been damaged through the folly of the East Timor "solution" and the overreach of the Malaysian deal. Politically, Labor has undermined its faith with Australians, whether they have supported a soft or a firm approach. By appealing to moral rectitude rather than practical solutions, Labor has created chaos.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen was given the portfolio after order had been lost. The trauma of the Christmas Island tragedy awakened him to the need to remove the pull factors -- denied for so long by Labor -- but his good intentions haven't overcome government incompetence, and a politically driven imperative to avoid the tried and tested policies of the Coalition. Ms Gillard went on an East Timor frolic and then ignored advice by prematurely floating the Malaysian deal. Having conceded on pull factors, the government cannot revert to onshore processing for risk of sending a green light to people-smugglers.

For years, Labor has undermined the potential of Nauru by exaggerating how many of those previously sent there ended up in Australia (in reality, about 40 per cent were resettled here, 30 per cent elsewhere and the rest were sent home). Still, the tiny island of guano, deep in the Pacific, remains the best option. Given Labor's expressed doubts about the legality of Nauru, Ms Gillard should seek a bipartisan policy that would provide the option of being underpinned by legislation, if necessary, with opposition support. There would be the dilemma of more than 4000 people still in detention awaiting processing, with presumably only new arrivals sent to Nauru, but the government would have a plausible policy with some chance of success because the prospect of processing in distant, uninviting Nauru, with no guarantee of settlement in Australia might still prove a viable disincentive. And Australia could double its humanitarian intake as a contribution to the global refugee challenge.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

ABBOTT TURNS HIS MIND TO REFORM

TONY Abbott is too seasoned a politician to saddle himself with baggage as deeply unpopular as a rerun of the Howard government's Work Choices. But he has acted wisely, and not before time, in signalling that a Coalition government would increase the ability of employers and workers to directly strike workplace agreements, without the involvement of unions.

As productivity languishes, manufacturers struggle and retailers demand a realistic system of penalty rates for the real world in which customers shop at the weekends and evenings, the Coalition has no credible alternative but to commit to winding back the Rudd and Gillard government's regressive re-regulation of the labour market.

If Mr Abbott can find a practical mechanism for allowing workers and business to freely strike agreements "which suit themselves" by improving the individual flexibility arrangements that already exist under Labor's Fair Work Act he could save himself a great deal of political trouble. In current economic circumstances, especially, any ACTU campaign against a set of clearly defined improvements need not do significant electoral damage.

Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans's alarmist claims that words used by Mr Abbott such as "flexibility" are "code for Work Choices" will not wash. Voters rejected the excesses of Work Choices in 2007, but the long-term trend away from trade union membership, which stands at just 18 per cent of employees and 14 per cent in the private sector, suggests that most Australians would be comfortable negotiating directly with their employers.

As Mr Abbott and his workplace relations spokesman, Eric Abetz, draft a new policy their reluctance to raise the spectre of Work Choices is understandable. In the national interest, however, they must rule out a continuation of the Fair Work Act's destructive provision that allows unions to "strike first, negotiate later". Unfair dismissal laws, which deter employers in firms of 15 staff or more from hiring the long-term unemployed, should also be revisited. If the social justice brigade really wanted to help the long-term unemployed they would support such reform. Australia cannot afford IR to remain a "no go" area if economic competitiveness and living standards are to be maintained. This is why Mr Abbott's intervention in the debate being led by industry groups and business leaders is welcome.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

FAIR DOLLARS FOR FAIRER SCHOOLS

HOW should governments fund our schools? Not by the present arrangements, which are a confused mess - the result of decades of sectional deals made by different levels of government. That is the starting point for the inquiry - headed by the businessman David Gonski - which has just released four research papers examining aspects of the funding system. The papers draw no conclusions - that is rightly the inquiry's task - but they do illuminate present funding practices, and present options for the direction change might take. It is significant, for example, that one of the papers tries to establish criteria for a student resource standard - a reasonable cost to deliver the service, namely, the education of a student. Such a standard might allow government payments to schools to be tailored to each one according to their resources.

It sounds simple, but it would be hard to achieve. Government funding of non-government schools has a long, difficult history. The issue of state aid for private schools was dynamite from before the Whitlam era, a catalyst for dark sectarian divisions as well as less poisonous disputes over education policy. Mark Latham's famous hit list of private schools that were to lose funding if he were elected prime minister in 2004 showed the rancour the issue still generates in the present century and, in the disastrous electoral consequences for Latham and Labor, its extreme sensitivity.

The Gonski review is not the only basis on which reform will rest. The Labor government - somewhat remarkably, given its clumsiness elsewhere - has laid the groundwork quite carefully for reform in school funding, by improving the information available to the public on the My School website. There, readers can compare not only students' results but also (with some caveats) the resources available to each school. The case for reform is clear. Unfortunately, the latest pronouncements from the Schools Minister, Peter Garrett, and the opposition spokesman, Christopher Pyne, suggest that neither side is serious about the task.

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Garrett has promised that no school will lose a dollar of federal funds. That is a bad enough handicap with which to approach a necessary but difficult reallocation of resources - although the weasel words he used would allow the government to let inflation gradually reduce the value of support to schools that need less. Pyne, astonishingly, has managed to do worse, promising to index independent schools' funding in real terms. Such promises are what created the present mess. A funding system in which payments can only ever be increased, never reduced, cannot possibly respond to changing needs. And with the opposition condemning all new taxes and promising widespread spending cuts, a promise to keep such an inept, unfair and wasteful system is irresponsible and unbelievable all at once.

With deviousness on one side and incompetence on the other, voters and parents may face a dire choice, whatever Gonski recommends.

 

OFF OUR FACES

DESPITE the hopes of all who favoured more relaxed drinking regulations, Australia's relationship with alcohol has never been particularly moderate or benign. The incident at the Ivy, the nightclub in George Street, early last Sunday, disturbing as it was in itself, is yet another demonstration of the difficulty individuals and businesses have in controlling the inevitable link between alcohol and violence, particularly in urban entertainment areas. Coincidentally, the questions raised by that incident are given further urgency by councils in western Sydney, which are chafing under new responsibilities conferred on them by the state government to control the consumption of alcohol in public.

Four people have been charged over the alleged bashing at the Ivy, and no comment can be made about the specific circumstances of that case. But more generally, the fact that a business not only employs an extensive number of security guards, but owns an entire security company to police its premises, indicates that it knows the activities it is engaged in entail a substantial, predictable risk of violence.

This less acceptable underside to Sydney's image as a tourist city, and an entertainment hub, is never far away. The frisson of danger, the buzz this brings is part of the attraction for many patrons. When things go wrong, though, society - in the form of police, hospitals and rehabilitation services - bears much of the cost. Society is entitled therefore to a view on where the limits should be.

It goes without saying that people should drink in moderation. But calls for moderation work only - if they work at all - in cultures where drunkenness is frowned on. That is not so in Australia. Drunkenness is celebrated here, whatever government advertising campaigns say. Binge drinking is more than just acceptable. For some, particularly young people, it is the most desired state. If they cannot drink in clubs or homes they will gather in parks to drink themselves into insensibility. The consequences of large-scale public drunkenness are well known: drunks are dangerous to themselves and others. Western Sydney councils are quite rightly worried that what should be a police matter - handling drunks and confiscating alcohol consumed in public - is being passed to council rangers who have little training in what to do. Police would be happy to shed a messy, unpleasant, possibly dangerous but in the end, mostly trivial, part of their duties. But they are best equipped for the task, and they should stick to it.


Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/editorial/fair-dollars-for-fairer-schools-20110901-1jnyo.html#ixzz1WnFIfbz6

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE AGE AND THE WIKILEAKS CABLES

OVER the past nine months, The Age has published a series of important articles based on secret United States embassy cables provided exclusively by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. These reports, written primarily by contributing correspondent Philip Dorling, have given a rare insight into the American view of Australian politics and politicians, the Australian economy, the state of the US alliance and of regional affairs of particular interest to Australians.

In handling this material, The Age has been mindful of its obligation to balance a commitment to public information with the need to be fair and to avoid reporting what might endanger lives or damage national security. While our reports have generated great interest, any damage has been confined largely to the pride of a few embarrassed public figures and to the notion that state secrets are sacrosanct.

This week, The Age has been accused of deliberately withholding information in its handling of the WikiLeaks material. The ABC's Media Watch has accused us of being hypocritical and of ''hoarding'' source documents. It highlighted a report we published on May 2 about the federal government's secret dealings with the US to weaken an international treaty to ban cluster bombs. Since then, the lobby group Cluster Munition Coalition has sought access to the pertinent original cables supplied by WikiLeaks. Yesterday, The Australian newspaper accused us of withholding such source material for selfish competitive reasons.

Under the terms of our arrangement with WikiLeaks, this newspaper was never under any obligation to publish the original embassy cables as papers such as The New York Times or The Guardian have done, and we were certainly under no obligation to offer the material to third parties (however worthy the causes they promote might be). In addition to the Cluster Munitions Coalition, we have resisted pleas for private access from several other non-government organisations, from federal MPs and from two foreign embassies.

In all of this, our only obligation has been to report the material thoroughly and professionally. It was always our understanding and expectation that WikiLeaks would publish the raw data on their website as they saw fit and at a time of their choosing. That is now happening, with all of the Australian-related material and much of the global archive - due to decisions by the WikiLeaks leadership and, as we report today, by the hackers now hacking the world's most famous hackers.


Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/editorial/the-age-and-the-wikileaks-cables-20110901-1jo5b.html#ixzz1WnFNNCpo

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

ALMOST 40 YEARS ON, STILL LESSONS TO BE LEARNT

This review of school funding offers hope for a fairer system.

IN 1973 the Whitlam government commissioned the Karmel report in an attempt to ensure that equity was at the heart of education funding in this country. Until this year's Gonski review - charged by Schools Minister Peter Garrett with ending the ideological war between public and private schools - there has been no other comprehensive, independent review of school funding. To our shame, education has been allowed by successive governments to become a political football; our elected representatives too often seem more concerned about losing votes than about fulfilling their responsibilities to young Australians whose family and social circumstances make them reliant on inadequately resourced local schools.

It should not have been like this. The Karmel report was intended to be the basis of a fairer system and may well have attained this goal had ideology not intervened. Sadly, good policy can too easily be hamstrung by politics. The initial expenditure program, formulated to meet a ''needs and equity'' criterion, failed after the Senate forced amendments to continue funding for category A schools - those classified by the bill as asset rich and consequently ineligible for funding.

This set a pattern that would impede reform for decades, especially as the Howard government implemented policies that encouraged parents to desert public schools. The socio-economic status (SES) funding system, still in place despite four years of Labor government, further entrenched inequalities. There is no greater responsibility for a state than state education, a principle we urge the Gillard government - which is to be commended for initiating this review - to apply to schools. At the very least it must restore the funding eroded by its predecessor.

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There are promising signs. This week's release of four reports by the Gonski review - which will deliver its final recommendations at the end of the year - engender optimism about the possibility of both equity and quality across the school system. A comprehensive analysis by the Nous Group, comprising work by the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and the National Institute of Labour Studies, deserves close attention. In part, it compares Australia's educational performance - both in terms of achievement and stratification - with other OECD countries. This shows how out of step we are with ''like'' countries, such as Canada, which achieves better results in a more equitable school system.

The researchers conclude that schools achieving above-average results tend to be those that attract the most successful students - which mean that myths about quality, or the lack thereof, can drive parents from schools and so entrench the problems. They propose ''that Australia should aim for more consistently high performance across all schools - regardless of school sector - with improved equity outcomes'' and regard as essential ''addressing the downward spiral of schools by ensuring a safe and well-functioning learning environment, with a positive ethos.'' It urges actively encouraging high-performing schools to take in underperforming students, on pain of losing funding. This is a radical proposal but, if adopted, it could result in a more vibrant and fairer education system.

There is merit in questioning the extent to which wealthy schools - both public and private - should be able to use public money to cement their privileges while students from less advantaged families are forced into under-resourced schools. The discussion should not be avoided for fear of the criticism, regularly voiced, that it fosters class distinctions. That it is a complex subject should not deter the government from acting. The health of the public school system is fundamentally important to the future of the country and must be of primary concern.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

POLICING IMPROVEMENT AGENCY: A BOTCHED EXECUTION

Despite vowing to axe the agency, the coalition may realise that this is a case of a ludicrous label stuck to an important body

As a toe-curling New Labour name, the National Policing Improvement Agency is hard to beat. (It is rumoured that Hazel Blears insisted on including the characteristically upbeat "Improvement"). This no doubt made it a tempting target for the coalition, during its first flush in power, as it embarked on its great blaze of the quangos. And 13 months ago, the Home Office decreed that it would be abolished.

But since sentence of death was passed there has been barely a squeak about how it might be executed, with the silence broken only by targeted briefing about a few questionable purchases on the agency's credit card. The coalition may have realised that this is a case of a ludicrous label stuck to a rather important body. There is no disputing that the NPIA has at times been derided for churning out bumf and for a box-ticking mentality. There might be a case for disbanding it and handing some of its responsibilities elsewhere, though this is not an argument that has been made. Instead, there have been easy slogans about sacking pen-pushers, which disregard the indispensable core of the agency's work – providing specialist services it would be inefficient or infeasible to provide separately in disparate police authorities. These include training, expert support for complex cases and – above all – the suite of databases which keep tabs on everything from missing persons to firearms and, more controversially, suspects' DNA.

Any politician worth their salt ought to know that this IT is important stuff. The great scandals in criminal justice often arise when records fall through institutional cracks, and there is a failure of institutional memory. (Think of the murders at Soham, or the foreign prisoners scandal, which did for Charles Clarke). But despite the obvious dangers of drift, there has been no real direction. Perhaps ministerial attention has been diverted into the still unresolved row about elected police chiefs, or perhaps the No 10 point man on policing, Lord Wasserman, has queered the Home Office's pitch. Either way, the home secretary's vague announcement about a privatised "police-led ICT company" has raised many more questions than answers, while deadlines for news about who will pick up other NPIA functions have been and gone. And, all the while, the condemned agency haemorrhages staff.

From the bungled recruitment of the crime agency's head to the police reform bill's crash course through parliament, the government has paid a price for press-releasing first and thinking only later. Unless ministers get to grips with managing records and shared services, they could suffer more seriously for putting police posturing before policing policy.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

DEFENCE CUTS: IMPERIAL ECHOES

Even with cuts of 8% in the next four years Britain will still be dining at the top table of weaponry

Sergeant Barry Weston, who was killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday, had served in the Royal Marines for 20 years. His much-admired record tellingly illustrates the changing preoccupations of Britain's defence establishment. He served from Northern Ireland to Helmand, via Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Iraq – in at the birth of liberal intervention, and its nemesis. Sgt Weston was named as the 380th casualty in Afghanistan two days ago. Yesterday the process began of telling thousands of his colleagues, along with as many more RAF and Royal Navy personnel and many more civilian staff, that they are surplus to requirements. Their fate is also a telling illustration, but this time of the consequences of hasty change in the absence of an overall strategic plan.

Ever since chancellor Winston Churchill slashed spending on the navy in the 1920s, Britain's retreat from global influence has been less a question of careful deliberation than the product of economic crisis. It is a political truth that Britain fights wars to the extent of its financial capacity. Attempts to realign strategic thinking are doomed to perish in a whiff of imperial nostalgia and lethal accusations of the betrayal of national ambition.

Last year's strategic defence and security review, conducted under the self-imposed time constraints of the government's spending review, was entirely in keeping with the tradition. From the first words of its introduction, it reflected the unresolved tension between global ambition and fiscal constraint. Worse, there was the commitment to maintain Labour's decision to upgrade Trident, a move which even official estimates say will cost £20bn, and one which simply compounded the sense of a policy that lacked any coherent underpinning.

It is true that the Labour predecessors of the defence secretary, Liam Fox, found it no easier to make tough decisions than he has, while the service chiefs have done themselves no favours by taking to the barricades in ill-tempered defence of their territory. With some justice, Dr Fox attacks his inheritance of unfunded commitments and inadequate financial controls. This year, for the fourth year in a row, the MoD's accounts were "qualified"; in July MPs established that an astounding £6bn of equipment had simply gone astray.

But along with the record of military retrenchment driven by necessity is a tendency for events to catch up with fudged thinking at painful speed. In 1982 it was the Falklands. This time the Arab spring found no aircraft carrier available to support RAF operations in Libya, and precious little spare capacity to support David Cameron's ambitions. Last month, in an astonishingly blunt report that damned several decisions on equipment, the Tory-dominated Commons defence committee charged the government with giving up on its efforts to bring commitments and resources into line.

Yet even with the squeeze on spending (8% has to be lost between now and 2015, followed by a further five years of rises of inflation plus 1%), Britain will still be dining at the top table of global weaponry. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the defence budget will still take 2.6% of GDP, well over Nato's 2% objective. That will leave Britain a comfortable third in the league of defence spending, behind only the US and China.

On Wednesday Wootton Bassett marked the handover from RAF Lyneham to RAF Brize Norton; Sgt Weston's body will be the first flown to the new repatriation base. The people of Wootton Bassett say they will travel the 30 miles to continue to bear witness to the human cost of British intervention. But the financial cost needs scrutiny too. The assumptions behind these budgets are crying out for interrogation. This is not merely about bean-counting, but questioning the influence of a military-industrial complex which has very particular reasons for keeping imperial dreams alive.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … THE NED KELLY LEGEND

The identification of the Australian outlaw's skeleton merely adds to the mystery of what his true aims were

"What else can England expect. Is there not big fat-necked Unicorns enough paid to torment and drive me to do thing which I dont wish to do, without the public assisting them?" It gets worse: "by the light that shines pegged on an ant-bed with their bellies opened, their fat taken out, rendered and poured down their throat boiling hot, will be fool to what pleasure I will give … any person aiding … the Police ." The date was 1879 and the place is Jerilderie, New South Wales. The man delivering this 8,300-word threat to a captive audience of terrified townfolk has held Australia in his grip ever since. Ned Kelly's heists were nothing if not grand. The Jerilderie Letter, intended to be published in a local paper, would have been the icing on the cake of a plan to hold a whole town captive before robbing its bank, had the paper's editor not run off. Was its author a cold-blooded killer ballsy enough to use body armour, or a hero of Irish-Australian resistance to British colonialism, a fighter in a bitter struggle for land rights? If his ever more brazen attacks against the police and the banks had succeeded, would he have created a Republic of North East Victoria? The truth is probably paler than the legend, but hardly a year goes by without some addition to it. Now, 131 years after his hanging, his skeleton has been identified, complete with the hole in the right shinbone from a gunshot wound. Not all of Ned Kelly has been found. His skull remains undiscovered, but such, as he told his hangman, is life.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

RESTRUCTURING POWER DISTRIBUTION

Japan's 10 power companies have enjoyed regional monopolies under government protection, controlling not only electricity generation but also electricity transmission from power stations to transformer substations and distribution to individual users.

This system is coupled with the government-backed price setting mechanism, in which the power companies are allowed to pass on the investment cost plus a certain margin (company profits) to consumers, thus enabling them to enjoy stable profits — a factor behind electricity bills that are higher than in other major industrialized countries.

The fiasco at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has exposed the defects inherent in the system. Because there is only one dominant power supplier in one region, the system cannot ensure stable power supply once a major accident like the Fukushima nuclear crisis happens.

The system also hampers the entry into the electricity market of small-scale power generating entities utilizing renewable energy sources.

Since the Fukushima nuclear crisis began, the opinion has emerged within the government calling for breaking up the power companies' exclusive control over both power generation and power transmission and distribution.

The opinion has it that the current system of operating large power plants in the countryside and sending large amounts of electricity to urban areas is likely to become dysfunctional once a large accident happens, and that dispersing a large number of smaller power supply bases utilizing renewable energy sources and setting them up near electricity-consuming areas will reduce risks.

For the proposed system to take root, it is important to separate power transmission from distribution operations, to permit new power generation entities to use the distribution system freely and to let customers choose power suppliers.

This would help promote the spread of power generation through renewable energy sources. Development of renewable energy sources, powerful batteries and a smart grid will enliven economic activities.

The government, politicians and people should actively discuss changing the power industry structure.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

PROTECTION OF CYBERSPACE

Countering attacks on computer networks has become an important security issue for governments. On July 15, the U.S. Defense Department announced a strategy to harden American computer systems against cyberattacks.

The Pentagon established U.S. Cyber Command in 2010 for daily operation and defense of its information networks. In a significant step, Washington designated cyberspace as another "operational domain" protected by the U.S. military in the same way it defends land, sea and air.

Japan's Defense Ministry in its defense white paper released on Aug. 2 said that stable utilization of "international public goods" such as oceans, outer space and cyberspace has become a new issue and stressed that cyberattacks by foreign governments or militaries could have a grave impact on national security.

On Aug. 3, U.S. cyberspace security company McAfeee reported that a single perpetrator had carried out cyberattacks on 72 targets for the past five years. The targets included the governments of the United States, Taiwan, India, South Korea, Vietnam and Canada, international organizations such as the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee and defense industry companies in the U.S. and Britain. It suggested that a foreign government is likely responsible for the attacks.

Japan has not been free from cyberattacks. In January 2000, websites of government ministries and agencies suffered write-overs. After the September 2010 Senkaku incident, in which Japan arrested the captain of a Chinese trawler after he rammed his ship into two Japan Coast Guard patrol ships in Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands, a hackers' group in China predicted a cyberattack on Japan. It is believed that it carried out a limited attack afterward.

Japan has been rather slow in taking full-scale measures to protect its cyberspace against attacks probably because it has not experienced a major cyberattack that could undermine its national security.

But Japan can be a target of such an attack at any time. It may have to step up protection of its cyberspace by deepening information exchange and other cooperation with the U.S.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

U.S.-CHINA 'WIN-WIN' GAME

BY ANDREY BORODAEVSKIY

MOSCOW — In spite of the polar positions of the United States and China in the global system, during the past dozen years their economies have become intertwined to such a degree that one is tempted to speak of an emerging new giant macroeconomic entity with a common metabolism — at least with regard to some of the more important modern industrial sectors like carmaking or electronics.

Integration or "twinning" of the two economies includes as its major process relocation of a considerable part of the U.S. automobile industry to China. This has contributed to almost overwhelming outsourcing practices that have become typical for this multilayered industrial sector of truly global dimensions.

It was conventional economic integration, in its regional form, that helped North American carmaking survive the first surge of global competition in the 1960s when the U.S. market had been challenged by European and Japanese companies.

The Automobile Agreement of 1965 between the U.S. and Canada transformed this vital industrial sector and paved the way for more comprehensive free trade arrangements. The North American Big Three remained intact, while foreign competitors began switching from export operations to building up their production facilities first in the U.S. and Canada, then in Mexico.

In recent decades, it was again the battle for survival that gave strong impetus to U.S. big business to change its production mode, although the scenario was quite different. This time, North American carmakers first began to establish outsourcing relations with the existing cheap-labor producers in Mexico (via NAFTA) and in China, and later to relocate considerable parts of their own operations to the same destinations (mostly through foreign direct investment and joint ventures). Thus "delocalization" of the automobile industry, as well as of some other high-tech sectors, began and gradually took macroeconomic dimensions and a peculiar form of "twinning."

As a result, U.S. production went down from almost 12.8 million cars in 2000 to 11.9 million in 2005 and, under the impact of the global crisis, to 5.7 million in 2009. During the same periods, Chinese output grew from less than 2.1 million cars to 5.7 million, and to 13.8 million (crisis or no crisis). Of course, those were not only U.S. producers that went to China to outsource components and arrange assembly there. European, Japanese and South Korean firms are well represented in "Chinese" carmaking, but it is the scale of American presence that looks so awe-inspiring.

In this connection, it is worthwhile to note that, in the course of the current global financial and economic crisis, it was primarily foreign-owned companies engaged in production of cars and components that first got into trouble in China, with some of them even compelled to declare bankruptcy. One could think "twinning" was in serious jeopardy.

Nothing like it! The bankrupt companies simply changed ownership, coming in most cases under local control without — and this is the most important point — giving up their production profile or existing technological ties. The official China stimulates this process and gives the new owners its backing, helping them survive and go on with fulfilling their international obligations. Thus industrial cooperation and outsourcing practices remain intact and may develop even further through measures directed at modernization and diversification.

New opportunities are opened for such firms — both in the field of satisfying local demand and through enhanced involvement into cross-border technological chains and networks as their reliable and effective links.

In their turn, many Chinese companies in various sectors of manufacturing and services have recently shown ambitions to use their rich cash balances to buy out foreign assets and become the new global challengers. The financial crisis has led to significant discounting in foreign assets. It seems that Chinese companies are no longer satisfied with just producing cutting-edge goods. They want to upgrade, in other words — to create their own intellectual property and to get rid of the reputation of being mere original equipment manufacturers.

To a strong degree, both modern U.S.-China outsourcing and investment capital migration have become streets with two-way traffic — a striking contrast to the pattern of industrial cooperation developing between China and Japan.

Although it has originated from the strict necessity to survive cutthroat competition and the hard times of the global crisis, the widespread system of U.S.-China outsourcing entails important political consequences. It gives impetus to geoeconomic thinking, although the latter has been stimulated also by other factors (such as China's trillion-dollar purchase of U.S. government bonds).

Let us also not overlook the very positive impact of cheap yet high-quality products of Asian origin on the U.S. supply of consumer goods and services, which helps to sustain the high level of living of American citizens.

It seems that geoeconomic considerations and interests, connected first of all with technological specialization and production cooperation, are already stimulating new approaches to traditional foreign policy so strongly that — in the U.S. case at least — an integrated geo-political/economic doctrine is now obviously in the making. The 21st century will probably come under the strong influence of rivalry between the U.S. and Greater China. There are some economic and political issues that make this relationship especially sensitive to the smallest changes.

At least two vivid examples of such stumbling blocks — China's still undervalued yuan and the human rights issue — come to mind.

Yet, serious frictions between the two great powers are very unlikely and armed conflict is not even feasible — if for no other reason than to keep intact the independent status of Taiwan.

An increasing number of people in China including members of its party elite can see that tight and long-standing bilateral cooperation with the U.S. is indeed a "win-win" game. It seems that due attention to geoeconomic principles would also serve well many other countries including Russia, which is in bad need of working out a positive foreign economic and political strategy.

Russian professor Andrey Borodaevskiy is coauthor of the recent monograph "Russia in the Diversity of Civilizations" (Moscow, 2011).

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THE JAPAN TIMES

FROM THE NEED TO KNOW TO THE NEED TO SHARE

BY ZOE BAIRD BUDINGER AND JEFFREY H. SMITH

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — At a time when government seems unable to address our most pressing problems, we are about to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks with rare evidence that Washington can work.

In the decade since 9/11, the U.S. government has answered the threat of terrorism by transforming itself in important ways. Much more remains to be done, but there is real progress to acknowledge and lessons that can be applied to other national security threats, such as economic security and cybersecurity.

In hindsight, it is clear that our failure to discover the Sept. 11 plot was in many ways a failure of information sharing and a lack of skill at empowering our best and brightest. Ten years ago, our law enforcement and intelligence communities were driven by a Cold War "need to know" culture that stovepiped information and stymied cooperation. The lack of major attacks over the past decade, along with a string of notable intelligence successes, is a testament to the fact that things are changing.

There has been a virtual reorganization of government, a shift in thinking that inspires reform in the way agencies, people and technology collaborate and communicate. The need-to-know culture is being replaced by a need-to-share principle; information is increasingly decentralized and distributed. Informal and flexible groups of analysts from different parts of government and the private sector are able to work together and share expertise.

A great deal of collective thought by national security officials, civil liberties experts and the private sector went into figuring out how to use new IT tools to innovate rapidly. Today, our government functions in hubs and spokes and distributed networks, empowering people at the edges of agencies instead of working in hierarchical pyramids. Information is shared, and teams from disparate parts of government go in and out of the National Counterterrorism Center and fusion centers nationwide.

Ad hoc pursuit teams of experts or concerned officials form and disband as they see problems needing attention. The adoption of powerful social networking tools allows analysts to connect with colleagues throughout government.

No longer must all information or requests for authority go up a chain of command or come down from on high.

This flexibility and openness is what allowed the Defense Department and the CIA to work together to find Osama bin Laden. It is also how the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the New York and Denver police departments worked together in 2009 to stop an al-Qaida plot to bomb the New York subway system.

The virtual reorganization that changed counterterrorism can make a difference in other national interests, especially as economic and fiscal challenges heighten the need to reduce government's cost and improve its function.

The transformation we are seeing in counterterrorism is built on principles and practices that can be extended to other areas so that they, too, work in a more modern, decentralized, public-private manner.

In the terrorism sphere, these reforms have not come easily. Bureaucracies resist change, and some agencies resent their loss of control, in part due to the unauthorized release of classified information through WikiLeaks. But WikiLeaks is not an argument for less information sharing, which would compromise our national security. Rather, as we improve our capabilities to better share information, we should apply better policies and technologies to control, discover, access and use information.

Progress in counterterrorism must continue to ensure that information can be located by analysts who need it, regardless of which agency has it.

The concept of "discoverability" must come with the principle of "authorized use" so that before analysts can access the information, they must establish that they are "authorized" to use the data based on their role, mission and a predicated purpose.

When combined with strong protections of individual liberties and privacy, it minimizes the risk to American civil liberties and the security of the information. Such a system of checks and balances builds trust that information is used in accordance with our nation's core values, enables greater public-private cooperation, and pushes decision making and initiative to the edges of the system — to local police, for example — where threats are most likely to be seen.

The challenges confronting the U.S. are in some ways greater than they were 10 years ago. The world is more complex and our resources more limited.

Our intelligence assets — indeed, all the assets of government — must be deployed in a way that is smarter, more networked and efficient, and in line with our core values. The task remains enormous, but our progress in intelligence sharing since Sept. 11 points the way.

Zoe Baird Budinger is president of the Markle Foundation and co-chaired the Markle Task Force on National Security in the Information Age. She served for eight years on President Bill Clinton's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Jeffrey H. Smith, a member of the Markle task force, was general counsel of the CIA from 1995 to 1996.

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THE JAKARTA POST

 

GROWING PAINS

There is always a strong correlation between economic expansion and growth in the construction industry. No wonder, the demand for building materials such as cement and steel also have been increasing by more than 12 percent a year since 2009.

State-owned Semen Gresik, the country's largest cement producer with an annual capacity of 20 million tons, has been operating at full capacity since last year, riding on the back of the economic expansion of 4.5 percent in 2009 and 6.1 percent in 2010 and even a higher growth of 6.5 percent in the first half of 2011.

On top of that, property development also has been expanding rapidly on the back of the declining interest rate. Our low average cement consumption per capita of around 175 kilograms, compared to 395 kilograms in Vietnam and 565 kilograms in Thailand, should provide ample room for growth.

The government expects a higher economic growth of 6.7 percent next year, but many analysts foresee an expansion of almost 7 percent despite the indications of an economic slowdown in Europe and the United States.

For sure, this greatly positive development will further bolster demand for building materials, especially because the government has allocated the bulk of its investment budget for accelerating infrastructure development such as roads, airports and seaports and power generation.

The Indonesian Cement Association has warned that the national cement capacity, which currently is 54 million tons, should be increased to meet swiftly rising consumption – totaling 46 million tons – otherwise there could be a shortage in case one or two plants go down either for periodical maintenance or unexpected technical problems.

All the largest cement groups — Semen Gresik, Indocement and Holcim — have quickly tapped this positive development by expanding their installed capacity in anticipation of the rising consumption.

Semen Gresik in East Java, for example, embarked on its expansion in late 2009 to add 5 million tons to its capacity under a US$600 million investment program, scheduled to come on stream next year.

Likewise, the country's steel producer, state-owned Krakatau Steel, in Banten, is also building new steel mills in a joint venture with South Korea's Pohang Steel Corporation, which will more than double its annual capacity to 6 million tons in 2013.

The problem, though, is distribution. How will all of these additional millions of tons of goods be distributed across Java, which accounts for more than 55 percent of national steel and cement consumption, if new road construction work remains at its current snail's pace.

Traffic gridlock is already a daily sight in Jakarta and its surrounding towns, with long lines of trailers hauling container boxes in and out of the Jakarta port of Tanjung Priok slowing down freeway traffic to a halt.

Unfortunately, the indications so far are not so encouraging with regard to the construction of new toll roads in Java, where more than 20 freeway projects have stalled for years due to problems in land acquisition.

Worse still, the bill designed to cut down the red tape in land acquisition for public interests will likely not be enacted this year.

Even if this bill is approved later this year, its full-fledged implementation will start only six months later at the soonest, taking into account the time needed for issuing regulations on technical details.

If the cement and steel plant expansions come on stream in 2012 and 2013, as scheduled, and the freeway networks do not see signification expansion, we will be in for total gridlock on the highways.

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THE JAKARTA POST

THE ROLE OF RELIGION AS SOCIAL CRITIQUE

ACHMAD MUNJID

In offering its system of meaning, religion has two dialectical functions in public life: social critique and instrument of legitimacy. When the first function doesn't effectively work, the second one will go unchecked, and religion becomes prone to abuse of power. We can find this in the history of world religions and in our Indonesian reality today.

Sociologically, most major religions emerged in times of crisis initially and primarily as ethical, moral and social critiques of the status quo. Founders of religions are strident social critics who, at times, have to suffer alienation, persecution, expulsion or even crucifixion.

As such religion emerged as a radical challenge and prophetic alternative to the existing confining social praxis, moral decadence, corrupt tradition and false system of consciousness. In this way, religion also provides inspiration, social energy and vision to create sociological imagination.

Sociological imagination, to reinterpret C. Wright Mills (1959), refers to a creative ability to see the big picture beyond the perceived unalterable web of circumstances and relationships between personal story and social history in a given society.

In Abrahamic traditions, as social critique, the principle of ethical monotheism of Judaism freed generations of enslaved Jews under the ancient Egyptians to become "the chosen people". Christianity empowered a handful of marginalized people, entrapped by first century Jewish violent sectarianism and Roman oppression, to become exemplary people espousing altruism and love.

Islam also liberated seventh-century Arabs locked up for generations in raw materialism and tribalism, creating a strong community united by transcendental humanism based on the principles of justice, compassion and peace.

This social critique function of religion declines when religion is overly co-opted by established authority. As a consequence, religion serves more as an instrument of legitimacy. Instead of providing sociological imagination, religion is turned into a set of doctrines and closed theology consisting of anti-historical rules, along with an
unquestionable reward-punishment mechanism.

It happened to Christianity from the period of Constantine onward. It also happened to Islam soon after the death of Muhammad. The same story applied to Confucianism when it became the state orthodoxy under the Han dynasty in the second century BCE.

We need to remember, however, that the pendulum between social critique and instrument of legitimacy always swings back and forth in the history of any religion. That is why we witness the waves of heresies and reformation movements in all religions. Such individuals as Martin Luther, Siddharta Gautama, Mahavira, Confucius and other reformers will come on to the scene when religion functions more as an instrument of legitimacy.

Since Islam is the religion of the majority here, the case of Islam is instructive in an Indonesian context.

The emergence of so many "false prophets" over the past few years is a symptom of how religion (Islam) has increasingly become an instrument of legitimacy. Look at our religious forums in mosques, public gatherings, on TV and radio programs or any mass media, and you will see how most clerics are desperately selling obsolete images of heaven but losing almost all connection with the actual problems of their audience.

Some even believe there is one simple normative solution to solve all problems, such as the implementation of sharia in its very narrow sense. The option left is either sharia today or hell in the hereafter.

We are a society in deep crisis surrounded by a great many problems: high poverty and unemployment rates, poor education and environment, unanticipated frequent natural disasters, annual epidemics, etc. Many people are suffering in "hell" every day. They don't need encouragement merely to follow blindly a set of obsolete rules from ancient times.

What they need is spirit and energy to change reality and transform their lives. We must stop religious bullying and religious hoax from spreading further.

If minority groups are being denied the right to practice their religion or even being persecuted, as in the many instances of church banning/burning and attacks on Ahmadiyah and Shiite communities, what is that if not "religious bullying"? This can sew the seeds of greater violence, even terrorism, in the name of religion.

Formally, our public space looks much more Islamized today. By looking at their physical appearance, you might assume that Indonesian people are much more religious now than ever. Islamic political parties and missionary organizations are multiplying and becoming very aggressive. Islamic products, signs, institutions and groups are
everywhere.

However, when we look at the widening gap between rich and poor, high crime rates, worsening corruption at all levels (including by Muslim politicians), the more intolerant attitude toward others as shown by current findings of the Pew Research Center, all things that are contrary to the central message of Islam, what connection can we make?

Of course, Islam and Muslims are not solely responsible, but if the observable phenomenon of Islamization is not to be simply a rebranding of the same old stuff to make it look nicer in mainstream discourse, there needs to be fundamental change in this majority Muslim society. If not, that is what I call "religious hoax".

The function of religion as social critique is not working. Over the past two decades, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, the two largest Muslim organizations, seem to have lost support especially among the young due to their declining vitality in presenting Islam as social critique. Sadly, the groups that are promoting Islam as social critique, and therefore more attractive to our youth, are the exclusivists with a narrow sociological imagination. While sounding attractive to some, their final orientation will not fit, it may even endanger, our diverse society.

We are grateful to have had such figures as Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid who presented religion as a struggle to create a just and peaceful society for all, Y.B. Mangunwijaya who used his faith as a force to defend the marginalized against all kinds of domination, Th. Sumartana and Djohan Effendi who dedicated their lives to nurture religious diversity as a means to develop democracy, and many others who share their visions.

Certainly, we need many more individuals and groups like them to keep the primary function of religion as social critique working properly.

The writer is president of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Community in North America.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

 

SRI MULYANI UNDER THE SILHOUETTE OF CARSON

BUDI WIDIANARKO

A new political party has just been founded (The Jakarta Post Aug. 4, 2011), named Serikat Rakyat Independen, abbreviated as SRI, which seems to refer to a World Bank managing director and former Indonesian finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati (SMI).

SRI's mission is very clear: To endorse SMI as a presidential candidate for the 2014 election. Without delay, some circles expressed belief that her nomination could be hindered by the Century case.

Until her last days before leaving Jakarta for Washington, SMI stamped her footprint of resistance with strong remarks, such as the difficulties of collecting tax from rich Indonesian folk (Kompas, May 14, 2010).

She also satirically said, "Leaders should not sacrifice their subordinates" when appointing several Finance Department officials (Kompas, May 7, 2010). Given the situation at that time, it is easy for the public to speculate that those two remarks were tinted with irony.

How could they not? Just one day after the announcement of SMI's move to the World Bank by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the public was shocked by the news that Aburizal Bakrie, better known as Ical, was appointed vice chairman of the Coalition Parties' Joint Secretariat.

Tensions between SMI and Ical have long been public knowledge. The Dec. 10, 2009 edition of The Wall Street Journal printed SMI's grumble about Ical.

She said that investigations on her in the Century Bank case by the legislature were politicians' efforts, especially from the Golkar Party, to discredit her. In the same article, she even overtly said, "Aburizal Bakrie is not happy with me." "I'm not expecting anyone in Golkar will be fair or kind to me during the probe."

SMI reminds me of Rachel Carson (1907-1964), a researcher-cum-environmental activist who bravely fought against the power of the American pesticide industry in the early 1960s. Two years before she died of cancer, Carson published her book, The Silent Spring (TSS).

TSS is the book which inspired the birth of environmental movements in the West. This book is even said to be one of the books that influenced the history of the world. Time magazine also fashions her as among the most influential thinkers of the 20th century.

Carson believed pesticides — particularly DDT — not only endangered wildlife, but also humans — from embryo to death.

Of course, the chemical industry did not accept the criticism. Velsicol, which manufactured two renowned insecticides at that time, threatened to sue the publisher, Houghton Mifflin.

Interestingly, the publisher did not budge — even though they asked for toxicologists' help to check the facts in the book before copies were sent to bookshops (Alexander, 1962).

Immediately after TSS was published, Carson was attacked insistently by the chemical industry. One company rudely branded Carson a "hysterical woman" (Payton, 2002).

Not only were intimidating remarks made to TSS' publisher, the industries also used various agriculture and trade journals to attack TSS before it was even displayed in bookshops. They also threatened to withdraw advertisements from magazines and newspapers if they printed good reviews of TSS.

Interestingly, those attacks did not bother the public at all, and they believed TSS instead. The denials just made TSS popular. The attacks on Carson from all sides didn't result as the attackers hoped.

Thanks to the book, not long after it was published, some US and then global environmental regulations on the chemical trade finally adopted prohibitions on the usage of the 12 "evil" pesticides.

The founding of the Environmental Protection Agency in the US in 1970 was also believed to be one of the fruits of TSS. At least two new laws were triggered by TSS: the Pesticide Control Act (1972) and the Toxic Substance Control Act (1976).

It is interesting to note that Carson, who did not marry, was often rumored to be a lesbian and a communist (Spowers in Rising Tides — The History and Future of The Environmental Movement, 2002). She was also deemed unable to understand the knowledge she wrote herself. Carson was accused as having mystical bonds with nature. She was branded a hysterical moron, an emotional doomsayer and many other sarcastic names.

She consciously fought against some of the most powerful corporations in the world, but she seemed unbending in her stance because of her desire to realize change.

Although in different fields, there are same patterns in SMI and Carson. They are both intelligent. They faced the same enemies: (the political) power of corporations. Their enemies used the media ruthlessly to destroy both of them.

In Carson's case, the media were "only" threatened in that they were denied advertisements; in SMI's case it has been more radical — the media unashamedly voiced their owners' interests.

The changes that Carson and SMI strived for threatened the vital foundations of corporations' power. Carson fought against lucrative chemical manufacturing,

SMI pioneered policy reformations and acts firmly to deny corporations' greed. Kompas, in its May 6, 2010 edition, mentioned that on assertiveness and courage in cleaning her corrupt officials, and the speed and accuracy of her decision-making, SMI is unrivalled.

Carson and SMI's femininity was seen as an easy target for their attackers. Rude names were given to them, including depictions of SMI as a dracula-like figure and other villainous characters on protesters' posters. Seeing on television how SMI's "trial" by a bunch of congressmen and imagining that her fate was in the hands of SBY and Ical, it is difficult for me not to see it representing a battle between men and women.

In Carson's case, the phrase "a woman named Rachel Carson" was clearly a dig toward her gender – or in Spowers's (2002) words, Carson was attacked because of her "nature of being a woman".

Indeed, for the moment, the results of those two women's struggles are different. Not long after TSS, the public and the US government experienced a renaissance of environmental awareness, which resulted in several policy, law and behavioral changes.

The US government at that time was brave enough to oppose the corporations. As time goes by, individuals with environmental ethics eventually pop up in the corporations.

How about SMI? After her move to Washington, DC, will this country wake up and fight against the existing hegemony? The answer remains to be seen.

The writer is a professor at Soegijapranata Catholic University, Semarang

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